Monthly Archives: January 2006

NY LegalTech Blogger Meetup

Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell have organized a blogger meetup at NY LegalTech.  Here are the details:

This is going out to everyone who expressed interest in meeting up (bloggers or otherwise) on Sunday night in NYC. Rather than try to find a restaurant that would fit all of us, we decided that you’re on your own for dinner. Let’s meet for drinks at 8:00 p.m. at the Hilton New York’s Bridge Bar. The address is 1335 Avenue of the Americas. It’s just off the lobby. The Hilton is where LegalTech will be held, so hopefully you’ll all be somewhere in the neighborhood.

See you Sunday night!

I’ll be there a little late.  See you tonight!

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A Different Kind of “Yellow” Pages

Looking for that next great place to … uh … “reach” your male customers?  Decent Marketing may have just the ticket:  Heat Activated Urinal Billboards.  I know, you are wondering how it works, aren’t you?

The heat in a male’s urine will deliver the message and the automatic flush from the toilet will re-set it for the next unsuspecting visitor… A perfect repetitive marketing tactic.

 

Buy a New Desk Every Week

Don’t know if you can bill all this time, but this is interesting:

Studies have shown that a person working with a messy desk will spend, on average, one and a half hours per day either being distracted by things in their view or looking for things. That’s seven and a half hours per week.

Let’s see, at $250.00 per hour, you could buy a new desk every week.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, David

David Maister has a blog!  David has written many of my favorite books on law practice and client service.  His voice is a welcome addition to the blogosphere. 

Test Your Ideas at the Cafe

If you’ve got something you want to get some feedback on, but don’t want to pay for a formal focus group:

The basic idea behind café testing is to situate yourself at a café, put up a sign to attract participants, and test the people that come to you. Because cafes appeal to a wide variety of individuals, and people at a café often have time to spare, café testing can be a great way to perform a quick litmus test in the marketplace.

Kind of like Rosa’s Coffee Tip.

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What Can You Give Away for Free?

Jim Logan has some great tips for making some marketing hay with free offers.  He gives several examples of businesses that have succeeded by giving things away to customers for free.  Here are my favorites:

  • A few consumer electronics companies are letting customers take big screen TVs home for a free 30 day trail, you don’t pay a single cent until the 30 days are over. Delivery and pick-up, if you decide to return the TV, are free. Returns are almost non-existent.
  • A lawn service business cut my grass and cleaned my yard free for one month, before we signed a contract for services. Every week they showed up on time, worked like dogs, and had the place looking and staying beautiful. I signed an agreement at the end of the free service.
  • I was told of a donut shop that gives away donut holes, a dozen free, seven days a week. They report having seen their overall donut sales more than double. The donut holes are a marketing expense.
  • Our carpet cleaner routinely offers to clean one room free, of any size, for new customers. Without obligation to purchase anything, they clean a room and say “Thanks for trying our service. Let us know if we can do anything for you in the future.” The guys told me they almost always are asked to clean additional rooms and are usually called back in 6 months.

The best tip is Jim’s own:

In my own business, I routinely structure consulting projects around defined phases, with payment following completion of the fist phase. It the client doesn’t want to complete the project after the first phase, they don’t pay and we end the engagement. In three years of doing business this way, I haven’t had one client stop a project of fail to pay.

If you are a lawyer and want to set yourself apart, you’d be wise to try Jim’s model with one of your new clients.

Goflockyourselfable Language Test

I’m glad to see Go Flock Yourself is back.  It’s a blog about the absurdity of all things Web 2.0, and pretty funny to boot.  In a somewhat mean-spirited post ripping the use of the term “Syndicatable” in the new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, GFY’s anonymous author shared a pretty useful language tip:

The only people to whom the word “syndicatable” is going to mean anything are the ones who already know what syndication is. Think of it this way, in what I like to call the “Room-full-of-middle-aged-suburban-women-test.” In this test, you walk into a room full of middle-aged suburban women, and say “Blog content is SYNDICATABLE.” Take the number of purely blank stares, multiply it by the number of them that get up and head for the coffee table or the bathroom, and you have a direct index of that statement’s failure to convey even a lick of meaning in and of itself.

As lawyers, how often do we use terms in client conversations that wouldn’t pass this test?

Meet Me in NYC

I’m headed off to NYC for LegalTech New York.  I’ll be around Sunday evening (1/29) through Wednesday afternoon (2/1).  If you are New York, and would like to get together, I’d love to meet you/see you again.  Don’t know if we’ll get a blogger dinner organized this year, but Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell are working on it. 

Don’t Advertise in the Lawyer Section of the YellowPages

Kevin Salwen of Worthwhile Magazine shares this advertising nugget:

What ads get your attention online? Probably not what you think. A new study of online advertising by behavioral marketing firm Tacoda shows that people tend to look at ads if they are not contextually connected to the rest of the information. In other words, if you want your pizza ad to stand out, put it into a technology story, not a food piece.

First exposures to ads for cars, computers and TV displayed out of context generated 17% more looks than when those ads were shown on pages where the content related to the ads, the research showed. And after the first exposure–when consumers are expected to tune out ads–out-of-context ads generated a stunning 54% more looks than in-context ones.

Still paying for that full page ad in the “lawyer” section of the yellowpages?

Get Coached Up!

If you want to make meaningful changes in the way you manage your employees, you have to check out my friend Rosa Say’s Managing with Aloha Jumpstart program

Oh, and did I mention it’s free.

Will All Our Future Clients be Stupider?

Walter Koschnitzke points out a new study that should be scaring the heck out of all professional service providers:

According to a study funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, more than half to students at four-year colleges — and at least 75 percent at two-year colleges — lack the literacy to handle real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers. (Yahoo story)

The study finds that students fail to lock in key skills — no matter their field of study.  They cannot interpret an exercise and blood pressure table, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

If you don’t take this advice, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Write Your Firm Newsletter on a Postcard!

I came across Chuck Green’s Ideabook site yesterday, and once I found myself adding nearly every page of his to my daily links, I thought I’d devote an entry to this amazing resource.  If you want to see how great design can improve business (and client) communication, you have to set aside some time to check out Chuck’s site.  Just one great example:  a postcard-sized newsletter.  Freakin’ cool!

Trade Your Headache

Unless you are among the small percentage of hyper-motivated and totally focused people out there in the world, you know you have at least one “headache” sitting in a pile on your desk or on your to-do list.  It may be that project you keep putting off, that client you hate dealing with, or that phone call you just don’t want to make.  No matter what it is, imagine how happy you’d be tomorrow if it weren’t your responsibility any longer.

Well, odds are your co-workers have similar “headaches” they face every day too.  Here is a way to cope: 

Trade Your Headache.  Every week (or month) get together with your co-workers and bring your number one headache with you.  Identify it, and then trade it with one that someone else brought.  Think of it like kind of a regular white elephant gift exchange.  Just make sure the same headache doesn’t get traded over and over again.

I’m certain you’ll be happier, and more motivated, working to solve a different problem or complete a different task than the one that’s been dragging on you for so long.  Let me know how it goes.

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Salon in a Saloon?

Salon in a Saloon?  That’s one way I’d define the upcoming LexThink Lounge.  From Wikipedia:

A salon is a gathering of stimulating people of quality under the roof of an inspiring hostess or host, partly to amuse one another and partly to refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation and readings.

And saloon?  Well, you all know what that is.  

Keep the afternoon and evening of April 19th circled on your calendars (the day before ABA’s Techshow).  More details to follow.

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Forcast your Future

Jim McGee writes about a speech by Paul Saffo.  In the speech, Saffo shared his rules for forcasting the future.  Though I won’t pretend to understand the meat of Jim’s post — or Saffo’s speach, for that matter — these rules are worth remembering the next time you need to predict the future in your business or your life:

Rule 1. Know when not to make a forecast

Rule 2. Overnight successes come out of twenty years of failure.

Rule 3. Look back twice as far as forward.

Rule 4. Hunt for prodromes.

Rule 5. Be indifferent.

Rule 6. Tell a story or, better, draw a map.

Rule 7. Prove yourself wrong 

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Testing Bleezer

Just testing another blog posting client called Bleezer. So far, I think I like BlogJet better, but Bleezer’s built-in tagging is pretty cool.

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Not blogging yet? Your clients may expect it.

Still looking for a reason to blog?  In this post from the Work Better Weblog titled, Wanted – Real Estate Agents to Blog the author explains why he wants his next real estate agent to have a blog: 

This is what I’m looking for in the next real estate agent I work with:

  • A weblog that’s about 60% ‘business’ – properties, housing market, interest rates, mortgage stuff. With the rest of it more personal and hopefully completely off topic. Ideally, some posts will cross both sides – likes restaurants and events in the neighborhoods they really like.
  • Yes, the weblog needs to have an RSS feed filled with photos so I can automatically stay up-to-date on the home sales in the area.
  • I’d also like an iCal calendar available, so open houses can be loaded into my things-to-do this weekend.

These 3 items help me build a relationship with an agent, on my terms and without the risk of spam and unwanted phone calls. While at the same time, building the agent’s reputation, credibility, and network.

You’ve been warned.  ;-)

What is your ink to data ratio?

Before you prepare your slides for your next trial, or slap together another PowerPoint for a client meeting or presentation, read this article setting out some basic principles of information design from Luigi Canali De Rossi.  In it, the author gives some suggestions on ways to better present data (charts, graphs, etc.) in presentations.  Here are a few:

  • Drop unplanned and unfunctional 3D effects from your information graphic. Unless you are a trained designer drop 3D graphs in favor of the apparently simpler and less fancy traditional 2D graphs.
  • Eliminate all frames and borders. They are not needed. Your data will not escape the newly found free space around it, but it will “breathe” and will provide with a more relaxing and legible visual space.
  • Drop also all unneeded borders of colors, bars, slices. Your eye can tell a column from an empty space without the addition of black ink around every object created by computer software.
  • Cut the prison bars. The horizontal and vertical “gridlines” that many graph tools utilize is nothing short of a visual prison, sold to us with the excuse of helping our eyes better find the value reflected by each bar.
  • Do not utilize bitmap, hatches, patterns to differentiate different bars, columns or slices. These effects are the heritage of the old times when there was no color available to differentiate different graph elements. These solutions are highly disturbing to the eye, they “vibrate” and create so called moiré effects. More than anything they look ugly and old-fashioned.
  • Drop, eliminate, mute or simplify all remaining visual components which serve only decorative or unnecessary graphic-enhancing purposes. Reiterate and improve, until you can actually see that the quantity of ink you are using is truly serving the very purpose of communicating real data.

I know I’ve violated at least four of these rules in presentations over the last few years.  How about you?

Update:  If you want to learn more about presenting data, check out this article about Constructing Bad Charts and Graphs.

If you want a serious meeting, hand out toys.

Kirsten Osolind, back to blogging at Re:Invention, offers several guidelines for team meetings.   Some good stuff, and my favorite is the title of this post.  Welcome back to blogging, Kirsten!

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Get on the Same Level as Your Clients

Jack Vinson shares a suggestion from Sylvie Noel for laypeople communicating with experts:

[I]f you want to understand your local expert, tell her how much you already know about the subject. That way, she can adjust her vocabulary to your needs.

Good advice for starting out a new relationship with a client.  Have them tell you how much they know about the subject first.

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No Gain Without Solving Pain

Are you a lawyer who’s thinking of going solo?  Take this advice from Joel Spolsky:

Don’t start a business if you can’t explain what pain it solves, for whom, and why your product will eliminate this pain, and how the customer will pay to solve this pain.

 

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LexThinking Again?

Nothing written in stone just yet, but circle Wednesday, April 19th on your calendar.  More next week.

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Wanna Go Camping in LA?

I’m going to BarCamp LA, on March 4–5.  If you are in the LA area, and want to get your Geek on, head over to the Website/Wiki and join up.  It’s free!

On another note, I’m putting together a creativity/brainstorming group to meet in February in the LA area.  Anyone interested?

Count the Days by Counting Cards

Here are a few great planning and productivity tips from Eric Maisel, via this post on Worthwhile:

Get seven decks of cards with similar backs. Lay out all seven decks on your living room rug, backs showing. This is a year of days (give or take). Let the magnitude of a year sink in. Experience this wonderful availability of time. (This is a powerful exercise.)

Carefully count the number of days between two widely-separated holidays, for instance New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July. Envision starting a large project on that first holiday (today!) and completing it by the second.

I wish I’d heard about the decks of cards exercise when I was mediating family law cases.  It seems like a great way to convey the healing power of time, or to help couples work out their division of custody (he gets red cards, she gets black, or vice versa). 

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BlawgReview Editor works for American Lawyer Media?

Someone asked me this question, and I pass it along without comment:  “Why does American Lawyer Media own BlawgReview?”  I also got this nugget:  the telephone number listed for “Ed Post” belongs to Jennifer Collins’ at ALM.

Update:  Now it makes more sense.  Here is a post from Lisa Stone on ALM’s Legal Blog Watch referencing the BlawgReview Awards and talking about the Anonymous Editor:

Meet Lady Justice or Themis, as portrayed by She-Hulk and Greg Horn, Marvel artiste extraordinaire. She is your host for Blawg Review Awards 2005, which is most appropriate, given her day job and her not-so-mild-mannered alter-ego. If you don’t know Jennifer’s backstory, then you need to read on.

Update 2:  I really like BlawgReview.  It’s a great concept well executed.  And I don’t know 100% for sure that Jennifer is the anonymous editor,  just a hunch.  Also, I absolutely have total respect for the public contributing editors Evan, Michael, and Kevin.  I’ve just been wondering how ALM’s up-to-now anonymous ownership of BlawgReview (or of the domain, at least) factors in to the whole equation.   In the interest of full disclosure (and it’s all about disclosure, isn’t it?), I used to belong to the law.com blog network.  Any ax grinding I had to do, was done here

Update 3:  The BlawgReview editor tells me I’m wrong.

Wanna Love a Lawyer?

I know, as a married guy, I’m a bit out of touch with the dating scene, but is there an audience for this?  From the website:

Lawyers in Love is the best place to meet successful, brainy lawyers, law students, and other legal professionals for friendship, dating, fun, romance and companionship. If your schedule makes it difficult for you to meet people, if you are still working during happy hours and other social events, if weekends are devoted to writing briefs, you will love this unique opportunity to find romance on the Web.

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My New Favorite Blog

If you like cars, check out The Truth About Cars, my new favorite blog.  The editorials are great (check out this one on the failure of niche marketing by US manufacturers), but if you like good car writing, you gotta read the reviews.  Here are just a few passages that made me laugh out loud:

On the Jeep CommanderAfter five minutes in the Commander’s tippy-up “theater-style” rear seats, full-sized adults will wish they weren’t. Thanks to a foot well that’s shallower than the British Royal family’s gene pool, even polypeptide deficient three-year-olds sitting in the way back run the risk of giving themselves a pair of shiners with their knees (try explaining THAT to social services). The Commander’s third row is like the Porsche 911 Turbo’s cupholders: you may be glad they’re there, but you’d be foolish to use them. And yet you do.

On the Ford FusionIf customers swim into their local Ford dealer’s fishbowl to spawn between $17k and $21k on behalf of a new Fusion, they won’t be doing so because the sedan’s sheet metal haunts their dreams– unless it’s a nightmare about being pursued by a giant razor. … Fire-up the Fusion and it’s immediately evident she’ll do the fandango. Just don’t expect thunderbolts and lightning.

And on the Hyundai SonataYou know what I love about the new Hyundai Sonata? Nothing. You know what I hate about it? Nothing. In other words, it’s a hit. Out there in the real world– away from the elitist, over-educated automotive palate of a professional car reviewer– any vehicle that asks nothing whatsoever of its owner is guaranteed a place in the average American motorists’ affections. If the automobile in question is cheap, reliable, comfortable and inoffensive, millions of people will buy it, love it and, eventually, buy another one. The new Hyundai Sonata is all that, and more. Not much more, but some…

Lisa’s Daily Practice

Lisa Haneberg is starting up her 2 Weeks 2 a Breakthrough coaching program again.  She requires her students to do this “Daily Practice” everyday:

Each day:
- Tell two people about your goal.
- Take two actions that support your goal.
- Make two requests that support your goal.

It is a bit late to include this in my resolution series, but think about how it could help you get off to a great 2006.

Temping in BigLaw

Temporary Attorney writes about temping in BigLaw.  The blog’s author, Tom the temp, has been thinking a lot lately about how law schools report their employment numbers:

Isn’t the legal profession and the law schools one big “Enron” kind of scandel? Think about it. Every year thousands of college graduates decide whether or not they want to “invest” in a legal education. (often a $100,000 proposition). They decide the feasibility of this investment not by relying on a 10(k), but rather by relying on the career statistics put out by the schools. The career statistics are standardized not by the SEC but rather by something called the NALP.

Whether law schools “outright lie” on their NALP forms Tom the temp wouldn’t know. This did get Tom the temp thinking about something he heard recently concerning a recently unemployed 2004 tier 2 law school graduate. Supposedly this woman was unemployed after passing the bar exam. Her career center wanted to know what she was up to because it was time to file their annual NALP employment report. At the time she was working a two day temp job stuffing envelopes in a law firm for four hours a day. Guess what the school reported? They took her hourly rate multiplied it by 2000 and claimed that she was an attorney in a 20-30 person law firm making a “projected” income of $50,000-60,000 dollars per year. Wow! Talk about an arithmetic trick. Under this mathematical model maybe Tom the temp isn’t doing so bad after all. If only the mathematical illusion matched the reality of Tom the temp’s unfortunate existence.

 

Get Started Starting

If you are starting anything, read this.  Tremendous essay.

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Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned

Rob May at BusinessPundit has given up entrepreneurship (for now) and gone back to a regular pay check.  He shares some of the lessons he’s learned in this fabulous post.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Know how you make money. Ideas are great, and I’m all for doing cool things, but cash is still king. How do you get cash?

Your estimates are wrong – Yes, even your worst case estimates.

You aren’t your own boss – Your customers are way more demanding than any corporate boss could ever be.

Nobody cares that you are smart or knowledgeable (and you need to know if you really are) – Why not? Because everyone thinks they are smart and knowledgeable. Everyone is convinced they are good at business. Everyone thinks they can hire a talented team. Everyone thinks they can sell. Everyone thinks there is something special and different about them that will make them successful. But accruate self-evaluation skills are critical to entrepreneurial success. You have to know what you are good at, what you aren’t good at but can learn, and what you will probably never be good at. I think this is a major reason businesses fail.

Daily Links, Yea or Nay?

I’ve been publishing my del.icio.us bookmarks daily for a bit of time and wondered if you liked them or not.   Let me know.

As Our Clients See Us

In his promising new blog, Brian Ivanovick , gives some advice to small business people on dealing with their lawyers.  I found his advice on billable time the most interesting:

Lawyers make their living by tracking something called billable hours. That means every interaction with the client is billed. If you just want an opinion about some non-legal facet of your deal – seek out the advice of friends and colleagues first. Your network should be able to give you some guidance when it comes to how to solve non-legal issues. As mentioned above, a mentor is another perfect place to turn. Treat your lawyer as a specialist – not as a sounding board. Remember that you’ll pay for literally every minute of their time.

When you’ve decided to enter a contract with another party, I would suggest that you come up with a detailed agreement in principle before you get the lawyers involved. Then employ your lawyer to codify your intentions in legal speak. A lawyer is absolutely necessary – but only involve them when you and the other party understand exactly what you want to accomplish.

Pretty sad that our predominant business model discourages our clients from talking to us, isn’t it?  (BTW, I had some problems with the direct link to the post.  It is broken, go to the blog and scroll down for the Lawyers and Contracts post.)

Resolutions for Leaders

Lisa Hanneberg offers a free e-book:  New Year’s Resolutions for Leaders.

Doing Business with Friends and the Cost of Creativity

As the New Year begins, I admit I’m still in a bit of a reflective mood.  Here are some brilliant insights in this post from Speak Up:

Art and commerce have an uneasy balance in all of our lives. Costs and figures and negotiating have a way of blurring the focus we should have towards the work. It is why pro bono work can be so fun. It is why creative directors have so many other things to do during their day besides create.

The stresses. The paperwork. The bad dogs, sick kids, missed busses and fights with our significant other can all factor into a job. Every job brings with it a new set of challenges. Some of which will not come from the work.

Just like there is a cost of doing business, there is a cost of creating. I am still learning how to put a price on that.

Focus Exercise

Having a hard time focusing?  Finding your mind wandering as you interview a potential client or take a deposition?  Try this exercise (from the Communication Nation blog) that “will help you heighten your attention and improve your awareness of your surroundings”:

1. Get a digital camera or sketchbook. If you don’t have either one, you can use a stack of index cards and a paper clip. The digital camera is my favorite for this: one of the reasons I love digital cameras is that there’s no such thing as wasted film — you can take a thousand pictures for virtually the same price as one.

2. Choose a subject — something you intend to notice that day. Your subject should be something you will be likely to see several times during the day, but that you rarely pay attention to. It could be windows, or letters of the alphabet, or triangles — anything that you can search for in your immediate surroundings.

3. For the rest of the day, keep your eye out for your subject. Whenever you see it, take a close look at it and see what you notice. If you have a camera, take a picture of it. If not, draw a quick sketch or make some notes about what you noticed.

You will find that if you choose a new subject each day, you will quickly become far more finely tuned to your surroundings, and you will notice many things that other people simply don’t see.

This is great advice.  I’d highly recommend it to lawyers about to start a trial.

And now back to our regular programming.

If you are just tuning in, I’ve completed the Resolutions for Lawyers, 2006 edition.  I backdated all of the posts to correspond with the appropriate day for the resolution.  You can check out all of the resolutions 2004 & 2005 here.

 

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