Yearly Archives: 2007

Spending My Vacation on You

Now that I’m at XPLANE, I’ve got some real, honest-to-goodness vacation time to use.  So, during the next two weeks, instead of catching up on my usual resolution series, I’m going to be putting together an e-book that will capture “The Best Of” this blog.  I’ve been working on it for a while, and I’m really excited about how it is coming along.  I’ll be sharing it with you right after the New Year.  Happy Holidays!

Big News Coming Tomorrow

I’ve got some big resolution-themed news coming Monday.  Until then, make sure you spend an hour or two with the NY Times Magazine’s annual Year in Ideas issue

NPR = Free Music

Have eclectic tastes in music?  Want some free?  Check out NPR Music.  It is an amazing treasure-trove of cool concerts, studio sessions, musician interviews and profiles.  Awesome! 

Whenever I’m looking for something new (or old) it goes right up there on my “to check out list” with Wolfgang’s Vault.

Some Hiring Advice for Clients

If you are hiring (or advising a client who will be), take a look at these 30 Interview Questions You Can’t Ask (and the accompanying sneaky legal alternatives you can ask to get the same info).

A “Business Card” for Litigators

Do your clients think you are full of hot air?  Here’s a business card that might just prove them right:

Check out several other cool “cards” here.

Ideate for the Holidays

Church Marketing Sucks continues a great series on Lessons in Not Sucking with this post on Building an Ideation Team.  There are some absolutely great tips in the post, including: “Invite People You Don’t Like,” and “Invite People with Unusual Professions.”  Read the post, and then think about ways to do a firm-wide ideation session at your holiday party this year.  That’s right, gather up some of your people and your clients and spend a bit of time thinking of ways to get better as a firm — perhaps by focusing on what your top-ten firm resolutions for 2008 should be.  You might be surprised at the result.

STL Blogger Meetup II

There’s another STL blogger meetup set for December 14th at Lewelyn’s Pub in Webster Groves, Mo.  It starts at 6:30 pm.  The last one was a blast.  Though I’ll arrive late, I hope to see you there.

Some Great Tips for Keeping In Touch

Over at 43 Folders, they share some great tips from the late Leslie Harpold on keeping in in touch.  There are some great client-focused tips in there.  Here’s my favorite:

2. Send Thank You notes.  When you receive something from someone else, it’s important to let them know you appreciate the time and effort it took them to think about you, and reward the courtesy with a little token of thanks. A written note is a much nicer compliment than an e-mail, and it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to write one and mail it away.This step also does double-duty by making you keep track of people’s contact information so you don’t have to continually ask them for it. We tend, in this electronic age, not to remember street addresses and phone numbers, relying on our mobiles to remember who called and what number to call them back. Keeping an address book may seem old fashioned, but doing so allows you to easily send out baby gifts, birthday gifts, anniversary gifts and any other kind of token of friendship and appreciation that allows us to continue to like each other in a monetary fashion.Leslie even thoughtfully provided a step-by-step method of composing and sending thanks at one of her stomping grounds. Take a trip over to The Morning News and refresh your manners.

A You-Tube for Legal Docs? Check out DocStock

Here’s a profile of DocStock, a site allowing people to find and share professional (including legal) documents. 

The profession is changing, my friends.  What are you doing to be ready?

Boise, Idaho … Here I Come!

I’m going to be in Boise, Idaho on Monday (November 5) to speak about innovation for lawyers to the Idaho Bar Association.  If you are in the neighborhood (and really, who isn’t?) come on by. 

25 Ways to Find a Client

OK, so this post from Dumb Little Man is about ways to find a date in the real world, but it has some great advice for finding clients.  Seriously.  I especially liked these success tips (which are in addition to the 25 ways):

1. Have a simple goal of making new friends. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Seek to find a great friend and see where things lead.
2. Commit to saying “Hi” first. Don’t be shy. Perhaps set a goal of saying hi to 5 people a day. Start with one a day and then work your way up.
3. Smile and have fun. Everyone looks better with a smile.
4. Be open to meeting new people anywhere and everywhere.
5. Always be dressed and groomed to meet new people even if you’re just running out to get milk. You just may meet that someone special in the dairy isle!
6. Conversation success tip: Be interested in others and ask lots of questions.
7. Don’t be afraid of rejection. You’ve got nothing to lose!! What’s the worst that could happen? Someone will laugh at you? That’s hardly likely. And even if they do, who cares! Just say “Next!” and move on!
8. Go slow for safety and success. Never rush into anything. Go slow.

Read the entire post.  Just don’t let your significant other catch you doing it.

15 Thoughts for Law Students: A Mini-Manifesto

I’ve written a few mini-manifestos for clients and lawyers before and remain quite enamored with the format.  Here’s one for law students with some random (semi-related) thoughts on law school and the legal profession.  Let me know what you think, and feel free to add your own in the comments.

1.  Law school is a trade school.  The only people who don’t believe this to be true are the professors and deans.

2.  Want to piss off your professors?  Ask them if they’ve ever run a successful law practice.

3.  Being good at writing makes you a good law student.  Being good at understanding makes you a good lawyer.  Being good at arguing makes you an ass.

4.  You can learn more about client service by working at Starbucks for three weeks than you can by going to law school for three years.

5.  Law school doesn’t teach you to think like a lawyer.  Law school teaches you to think like a law professor.  Believe me, there’s a huge difference.

6.  You can get through law school without understanding anything about what it is like to be a lawyer.  That is a terrible shame.

7.  The people who will help you the most in your legal career are sitting next to you in class.  Get to know them outside of law school. They are pretty cool people.  They are even cooler when you stop talking about the Rule Against Perpetuities.

8.  Your reputation as a lawyer begins now.  Don’t screw it up (and quit bragging on Facebook about how drunk you got last night).

9.  Law is a precedent-based profession.  It doesn’t have to be a precedent-based business.  Be prepared to challenge the prevailing business model.  Somebody has to.

10. Experienced lawyers work with clients.  Young lawyers work with paper.  You like working with paper, right?

11. You are about to enter a world where getting your work done in half the time as your peers doesn’t get you rewarded.  It gets you more work.

12. Except for prosecutors and public defenders, nobody tries cases anymore.  Especially not second year associates.

13. You have a choice:  You can help people and make a decent living, or you can help corporations and make a killing.  Choose wisely.

14. There are plenty of things you don’t know, and even more things you’ll never know.  Get used to it.  Use your ignorance to your benefit.  The most significant advantage you possess over those who’ve come before you is that you don’t believe what they do.

15. People don’t tell lawyer jokes just because they think they are funny.  They tell lawyer jokes because they think they are true.  Spend your career proving them wrong.

Web 2.0 Replaces Lawyers Again?

Brian Benzinger at Solution Watch writes about a new service called Tractis, which “allows you to negotiate and execute worldwide legally binding contracts online.”  Significantly, the service also has sort of a contracts wiki that allows folks to upload contracts and templates that can be edited, commented upon, tagged and shared.  Very cool/scary for lawyers.  Find out for yourself and take the tour.

Outsource Your (Non)Legal Practice

I’m a big fan of Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek, though some of his suggestions are a bit impractical for an office-dwelling professional.  That’s why I really liked this post on 43 Folders that gives several realistic examples of ways to outsource your personal and professional life.  Well worth a read, if only for this fantastic advice for those to whom “delegation” is a four letter word:

It’s easy to tell yourself that it would take too long to figure out how to explain a project to someone else than to do it on your own.  After all, you’re the only person who has the grand picture, understands the purpose of the work, and is familiar with the details. But with a bit of pluck and a capacity for seeing projects for what they truly are (collections of discrete actions,) you’ll be astonished at how much you can rid yourself of.  I have often found that what at first seemed daunting to explain to someone else actually just required a few moments thinking about how the problem needed to be approached—which is a process I was going to have to go through anyway if I were ever going to complete the task in the first place.

 

Just GOOG it for Info.

Need to dial directory assistance?  Use Google’s 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) for all your directory assistance calls.  It is FREE and gives you the option of pushing the details of the listing you’re seeking directly to your mobile phone via SMS.  So far, it isn’t ad-supported either.  Program it into your cell phone now.

Thanks to Cool Tools for the tip.

Got er Done!

Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba share a great idea in this post about a condo development that posts huge “SOLD” signs on the outside of each unit, arguing that the signs “are the best possible evidence” that the condos are desirable.

I was wondering if this idea could also work for lawyers.  Imagine a weekly or monthly full-page newspaper ad that shows all the new business formations, real estate closings, or even “newly single” divorce clients a firm helped (with their permission, of course).  Not sure how this works in some jurisdictions, but it is a thought.  What do you think?

Making Partner (Over)Bites!

From Indexed:

“Build a team you shall, young Skywalker.”

Want a team-building activity for an afternoon that "only" costs $500?  Got a few geeks in your office?  Have I got an idea for you:  the LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon.  Check out this post, and make sure to watch the YouTube video of seven people putting one together in just over two hours. 

And if anyone wants to get me something cool for Christmas…

20 Slides. 20 Seconds Each. Pecha-Kucha

How would your next presentation go if you only had twenty slides and could show each one for “only” twenty seconds (for a total of 6 minutes 40 seconds?  A format embracing these very constraints is called Pecha Kucha, and was started by two architects in Tokyo as part of a designers’ show and tell.  It seems like a natural fit for an Idea Market, as a replacement for a panel presentation, or any time a lot of presenters have something to say.

I’m doing a very short speech (nine minutes) on innovation in two days, and am going to give this presentation format a try.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more, check out several examples on You Tube, or this recent Wired magazine article.  If you are in the St. Louis area and want to have a Pecha Kucha night, let me know.

Idea Market in the News

I’ve written about my Idea Markets here before.  Here’s an article from the local Suburban Journal that talks about one I did for the International Association of Business Communicators.

The Mobile Lawyer 2.0

It has been a long while since I’ve been so WOW’d by a business model as I’ve been this morning.  Simply put, this is the BEST template I’ve seen for building a home-based practice from, of all people, a physician.  Dr. Jay Parkinson, MD is building a web-based medical practice.  From his website:

  • I AM A NEW KIND OF PHYSICIAN.
  • I strictly make house calls either at your home or work. 
  • Once you become my patient and I’ve personally met you, we can also e-visit by video chat, IM and email for certain problems and follow-ups.
  • I’m based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  My fees are very reasonable.
  • I’m extremely accessible.  Contact me by phone, email, IM, text, or video chat.  Mon-Fri 8AM-5PM.  24/7 for emergencies.
  • I specialize in young adults age 18 to 40 without traditional health insurance.
  • When you need more than I provide, I make sure you wisely spend your money and pay the lowest price for the highest quality.
  • I’ve gathered costs for NYC specialists, medications, x-rays, MRIs, ER visits, blood tests, etc…just like a Google price search.
  • I mix the service of an old-time, small town doctor with the latest technology to keep you and your bank account healthyl

How much for this service?  According to the "How it Works" on his site, his fee is "far less than your yearly coffee budget but a little more than your Netflix."  His web site also provides "Real Life Examples" that describe, in plain English, how you’d use his service.  Oh, and he’s blogging, too.

Lawyers, if you are looking for a real dose of inspiration (or a glimpse to the future of mobile practice) you HAVE to check this Parkinson’s site and business model.  Simply brilliant.  Great idea, great web site, amazing copy.  If I were still practicing, I’d steal it in a heartbeat.  Look at it now.

Via: Zoli’s Blog.

Travel Tip: Wakerupper

If you are on the road a lot and have grown tired of trusting your hotel’s wake up call, check out Wakerupper.  It is a free service that will call your phone at a pre-determined time and read you the message you asked it to.  Thanks, Lifehacker.

To Make More Money, Charge More Money

Reluctant to raise your fees, check out this article from CNNMoney.com on how to raise prices while keeping customers.  Worth a read.  Here’s a taste:

Many business owners assume that any price increase will drive customers away. But consultants who work with small companies say they often under-estimate their pricing power. Those owners know their costs are rising but sometimes forget that fuel prices are soaring worldwide and that workers are demanding higher wages even in China, India, and other developing countries. Many small U.S. manufacturers, in particular, become so focused on price competition with larger rivals or foreign ones that they don’t appreciate the value of the added quality they offer, their fast and reliable delivery, or other superior services they provide – or could provide – to justify higher bills.

Hat tip to Barry Moltz.

The Five Most Dangerous Words in Business

The five most dangerous words in business, according to Warren Buffett, are:

Everybody else is doing it.

Lose Your Receptionst’s Desk?

Via Brand Autopsy comes a pointer to the Building Better Restaurants Blog’s Top Ten Reasons to Take a Sledgehammer to Your Host Stand.  I think a lot of these are also good reasons to rethink/redesign/remove your receptionist’s desk:

  1. It accumulates clutter that is an eyesore.
  2. It does not have any functional utility for the guest.
  3. It allows staff to “hide” from the guest.
  4. It forces the guest to come to you, and not the other way around.
  5. It becomes a hub for business other than the business of the guest.
  6. It becomes a leaning tool and not a Hosting [verb] tool.
  7. It will force you to talk to your guests and actually “Host” [verb] the guest experience.
  8. It will force more physical contact with the guest and thereby a more meaningful greeting.
  9. It will allow the guest to take in the whole “show” as they enter and immediately be caught up in the experience more.
  10. Because you don’t have one at your house when you host people there!

Justify that Messy Desk

From an 2002 New Yorker Essay from Edward Tufte

Paper enables a certain kind of thinking. Picture, for instance, the top of your desk. Chances are that you have a keyboard and a computer screen off to one side, and a clear space roughly eighteen inches square in front of your chair. What covers the rest of the desktop is probably piles—piles of papers, journals, magazines, binders, postcards, videotapes, and all the other artifacts of the knowledge economy. The piles look like a mess, but they aren’t. When a group at Apple Computer studied piling behavior several years ago, they found that even the most disorderly piles usually make perfect sense to the piler, and that office workers could hold forth in great detail about the precise history and meaning of their piles. The pile closest to the cleared, eighteen-inch-square working area, for example, generally represents the most urgent business, and within that pile the most important document of all is likely to be at the top. Piles are living, breathing archives. Over time, they get broken down and resorted, sometimes chronologically and sometimes thematically and sometimes chronologically and thematically; clues about certain documents may be physically embedded in the file by, say, stacking a certain piece of paper at an angle or inserting dividers into the stack.

But why do we pile documents instead of filing them? Because piles represent the process of active, ongoing thinking. The psychologist Alison Kidd, whose research Sellen and Harper refer to extensively, argues that “knowledge workers” use the physical space of the desktop to hold “ideas which they cannot yet categorize or even decide how they might use.” The messy desk is not necessarily a sign of disorganization. It may be a sign of complexity: those who deal with many unresolved ideas simultaneously cannot sort and file the papers on their desks, because they haven’t yet sorted and filed the ideas in their head. Kidd writes that many of the people she talked to use the papers on their desks as contextual cues to “recover a complex set of threads without difficulty and delay” when they come in on a Monday morning, or after their work has been interrupted by a phone call. What we see when we look at the piles on our desks is, in a sense, the contents of our brains.

Ah, now I know the piles are there for a perfectly good reason.  Thanks to Stephen O’Flynn for the tip.
 

Personal Technology Challenge: 10 Things

I really liked this post in Zen Habits titled The 100 Things Challenge.  The essence is that you cut your personal possessions down to 100 things.  Things that are shared, non-personal stuff, books, and tools don’t count.  It got me wondering about our personal technology burden.  How many different programs, web applications, tools, toys and gadgets do we accumulate?  How many of those do we use everyday? 

I’m going to cut my tech burden down to ten items for the next 30 days.  This includes hardware, software and web apps.  Here’s my initial list:

  1. MacBook Pro
  2. iPod
  3. Treo
  4. Google Reader
  5. GMail
  6. Google Notebook
  7. Entourage
  8. MindManager
  9. Keynote/Pages
  10. ScanR

What’s on yours?

Dis[is the]place to be Creative

My friend Scott Ginsberg has another great post on building your own creative environment.  The best tip:

Make a list of five alternate environments for your creative success. Perhaps your art is more conducive to the park, the bus station or sitting in a public square. If so, great! Experiment by displacing yourself regularly.

Once you’ve narrowed your list down to a few options, visit them regularly. Learn to incorporate various components of creative stimulation into your “portable creative environment.”

That way you can thrive anywhere!

As someone who has been on the road a lot lately, I’m going to give it a try.

Youth Plus Inexperience Equal Success

I ran across a paper published by my friend Betha L. Whitlow, the director of the Visual Resources Collection at Washington University, titled "The Shock of the New: Using Youth and Inexperience as Tools for Success."  In the paper (link to Word document), Betha argues that newcomers to her field of Visual Resources should view their youth and inexperience as distinct advantages to be leveraged, not handicaps to be overcome: 

[Because] there are still many people at your institution who are unable to let go of the previous culture, thus limiting their ability to move forward and offer your institution a new and highly productive perspective … [i]t is my belief that by the very nature of being a [young] Visual Resources professional, you are uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of changes in the culture of your institution. With just a little bit of a brave and diplomatic push forward, [you] can embody the new role of the resource provider, promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning, be the model of the flexible professional, and tread the fine line between providing access to solid yet technologically innovative resources.

Young professionals, take this advice to heart.  There are plenty of things you don’t know, and even more things you’ll never know.  Get used to it.  Use your ignorance to your benefit.  The most significant advantage you possess over those who’ve come before you is that you don’t believe what they do.  Because you’ve never "always done it that way," you’re free to do it differently.  Question the business model.  Deliver products (yes, products) and services your elders would never consider.  Embrace technology.  Innovate.  Revel in your inexperience.  You have but one opportunity to start from scratch.  Don’t waste it.

Back Home and Blogging (for now)

In the last six weeks, I’ve been to Minneapolis, Portland, Boston, Seattle and Anchorage.  Regular readers of this blog have noticed that I’m no longer a regular writer of it.  That’s going to change.  Though I’ve not been blogging a bunch, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about innovation, community and group collaboration.  While I get my thoughts together, you might enjoy this profile of me in Law Practice Magazine.  Check it out.

Idea Market X

The tenth Idea Market takes place Monday.  We are going to be doing some cool things, including working on personal mission statements and learning how to give better presentations by using children’s books.  If you’d like to come, sign up here.

links for 2007-08-27

Best/Worst Law Firm Song. Ever.

Before it goes down, you’ve got to listen to Nixon Peabody’s theme song.  It will make you feel like a winner, too!

links for 2007-08-23

Get Your Clients Home Free

The Springwise Blog has a story on a pilot program in Minneapolis (where I’ll be next week) called Get Home Free.  Here’s how it works:

Launched in eleven Minneapolis suburbs this month, Get Home Free is a flat rate, prepaid cab card that gets its holder home safely. Mainly targeted at teenagers and college students, the concept’s initiators are aiming to help out kids who are stuck with car trouble, have been drinking, or whose ride home has fallen through. Cardholders place a call to the Get Home Free hot line, and a car is immediately dispatched to bring them home, no questions asked.

If your firm is looking for a image-boosting promotion, this one just might work — especially if you regularly represent clients accused of DUI.  Having your firms name and number on the back of each card isn’t a bad idea either.

TED’s 100

From the TED Blog100 Websites You Should Know and Use.  Some pretty cool sites here, especially under the category, “Curiosity and Knowledge.”

Meet Musicovery

I LOVE Pandora, and listen to it almost all day long.  Today (courtesy of VSL), I found Musicovery.  Hard to describe (think Pandora meets a mood ring meets the Visual Thesaurus) but if you like music, check it out.

Funky Fun with Fotos

Here are 15 Crazy and Cool Photo and Video Web Sites.  Worth a peruse.

Congrats to an Inspired Solo

Congratulations to my blog friend Sheryl Sisk Schelin, who’s ventured out into consulting land with The Inspired Solo.  Check it out.

Client Stuff

Paul Graham has another great essay.  This one’s on Stuff — and more particularly, how to acquire less of it.  Here’s my favorite quote:

Another way to resist acquiring stuff is to think of the overall cost of owning it. The purchase price is just the beginning. You’re going to have to think about that thing for years—perhaps for the rest of your life. Every thing you own takes energy away from you. Some give more than they take. Those are the only things worth having.

I can’t think of a better thought to have before taking that next client.  When you take a client — especially that client that your gut tells you not to take — think about the overall cost of having that client.  Don’t focus just on the money you’ll make from them, but how you’ll feel while working for them.  Will their file keep you up at night?  Will you dread their call?  Will you be able to give them your best work?   Search for clients whose personality matches yours and whose work challenges you to do your best.  They are the only clients worth having.

Travel with Children?

This is brilliant.

BlawgWorld 2007

I am honored to be one of the bloggers featured in BlawgWorld 2007, the one-of-a-kind e-book from my friends at Technolawyer that collects the best posts from the best writers in the legal blogosphere. If you’d like to download your own copy for free, you can do so here (pdf).  Enjoy!

Thoughtful Law Blog

David Bilinsky has a great new blog:  Thoughtful Legal Management.  Check it out!

Grow Your Practice by Asking Clients to Leave

Interesting post on the Church Marketing Sucks blog titled “Grow Your Church by Asking People to Leave.”  It is a point I’ve made before: your practice is often far healthier if you stop serving clients you don’t want to (and who are often unhappy with your service anyway).  From the post:

Craig gives an example where he preached on the church’s vision trying to get everybody on board. If people weren’t on board with the vision, he asked them to find another church. He even offered brochures from 10 other churches he knew and recommended. It was a serious challenge and 500 people ended up leaving. Most people would freak out at that thought. Not Craig:

The next week, we had about 500 new seats for people who could get excited about the vision. Within a short period of time, God filled those seats with passionate people. Many of those who left our church found great, biblical churches where they could worship and use their gifts.

Everybody won!

That’s why I sometimes say, “You can grow your church by asking people to leave.”

Craig focuses on making leaving a church a graceful option and a positive thing and not the bitter experience it often is.

I love it!

Portland and Seattle

I’m going to be in Portland on July 22nd and 23rd, and then up to Seattle on the 24th through 28th.  If you are around and would like to get together, drop me a line.

Idea Market is Tonight!

I’ve been so swamped with a couple of cool projects that I forgot to announce one of my favorites:  The Idea Market. Tonight’s takes place at XPLANE’s offices here in St. Louis.  I’d love to see you there.  RSVP Here.

Power “Marketing” Tip from Dale Carnegie

Bert Decker reminded me of this fantastic quote from the great Dale Carnegie that I had to share:

You will win more friends in the next two months developing a sincere interest in two people than you will ever win in the next two years trying to get two people interested in you.

AILA Presentation

Here’s the presentation I did at the AILA convention on Building an Innovative Firm.  I’d love to know what you think, though it loses a lot without my narration to accompany the primarily visual slides.  All but four of the photos used are ones I’ve taken myself. (Direct Slideshare Link)

Did You Know?

Here’s a video you may have seen, as reimagined and updated by XPLANE, my new employer.

PowerPointing Audiences to Death

I’m going to be posting my presentation from the AILA conference later today.  Until I do, check out this video:  How NOT to Make a Powerpoint.

Get Your Message Out

I really like this idea from Seth Godin about how he promoted Squidoo at a trade show:

Here’s what we did: we printed 600 t-shirts with a long, hand-written letter on the front, explaining how Squidoo helps eBayers. And we gave the shirt away to anyone willing to wear it. The incentive? Each day, Megan picked someone who was wearing the shirt and gave that person $9,000 worth of ads on Squidoo.

Within an hour, you saw orange t-shirts on the show floor. By the second day, every single t-shirt was taken and more than 5% of all the people there were wearing the shirts.

Total cost: $3,000. (plus the ads).

I really think something similar could work for lawyers or legal vendors at trade shows.  I’d love to give it a try!

Makin’ it Purty

Spending the next few days tweaking the new design.  Let me know what you think, and forgive the mess.

LinkedIn Tips.

If you are new to LinkedIn, or want to figure out ways to use it better, check out this guide from Web Worker Daily.

What Can Google Do?

Here’s an interesting look at all of the Google Labs products from Mashable.  Worth a look, especially if you spend all your Google time in the search box.

Remind Yourself It is Your Money You’re Not Earning

Just got back from the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association annual convention.  I presented twice there, hosted an Idea Market and an Idea Gallery (more on those later) and hung out with a bunch of cool immigration law practitioners.

One tip I shared at a round table discussion that really resonated with a practitioner who had a mountain of accounts receivables is this one:

Every month, when you print out your bills and your accounts receivable statement, clip a family photo to the top of the stack.  Whenever you are tempted to write down a bill or not try to collect on one, look at your family before you make the decision.  While there are dozens of great reasons to reduce a bill or not collect upon an amount owed, every dollar you don’t collect is a dollar your family doesn’t get to spend on something important, or you don’t get to donate to a worthy cause. 

Boise Idea Market on June 8th

I’m going to be in Boise, Idaho next Friday to speak on innovation to a group of Idaho lawyers.  While I’m there, I’m going to be hosting an Idea Market with Steve Nipper and Tac Anderson for a group of entrepreneurs and technology folks.  Here are the details from Steve’s Blog:

I’m thrilled to announce the Boise Idea Market. It is something I’m putting together with Tac Anderson (TechBoise) and Matt Homann (http://www.realBIGthinking.com). I’m really looking forward to it.

What is an Idea Market™? Think brainstorming + collaboration + networking + happy hour. The brain child of innovation consultant, retreat facilitator and conference planner Matt Homann, an Idea Market is part think tank, part focus group and part social club. At the Idea Market, attendees bring their business challenges, questions and (of course) ideas, and share them with some of the most creative and generous people in the community as they participate in fun exercises designed to cram the most innovation into a two-hour collaborative experience.

Who Should Come: If you are a blogger, entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, designer, webmaster, writer, artist, salesperson, or technologist, you’ll enjoy the Boise Idea Market. We only ask that you be passionate about sharing ideas and helping others. Everything else will take care of itself.

When: Friday, June 8, 2007 at 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Where: Louie’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant, 620 W Idaho St, Boise, ID 83702-5930

Cost: $10.00 (to cover pizza & soda & tip)

How To Attend: We’ll have room for around 35 people for the Idea Market. We’ll use Renkoo to handle the invite process. Email me (snipper@gmail.com) and I’ll send you an invite.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Explaining XPLANE.

As I wrote the other day, I have joined XPLANE as a full time consultant.  I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me to offer me their congratulations and support.  I also want to answer several of the questions I’ve received, and figured it was far easier to do in a blog post.  So here goes:

WHAT IS XPLANE?  XPLANE (Wikipedia Entry) is one of the pioneers in Visual Thinking, which is the process of distilling complex processes and concepts into easy-to-understand and visually striking XPLANATIONS.  In short, XPLANE helps companies improve their business communication.  XPLANE has offices in St. Louis, Portland and Madrid.

WHY XPLANE? Since I returned to St. Louis over a year ago, I have been spending many of my Thursday afternoons at XPLANE’s Visual Thinking School, a weekly design and thinking exercise conducted primarily for internal XPLANE personnel.  I was invited by XPLANE CEO Dave Gray to attend, and found myself intrigued by the way XPLANE used drawing and visuals to communicate complex business processes.  At the same time, XPLANE folks started coming to my Idea Markets, where I began to incorporate many visual thinking and drawing exercises and found it startling how much more effective a little "out of comfort zone" drawing could be than simply a verbal-based exercise.  After several months of VTS, Dave asked me why I didn’t work for XPLANE.  Surprised by the question, I began to consider it.  Six months later, and after a trip to visit the Portland office, I’m here.

WHAT WILL I DO?  My official title is "Consultant," though that really doesn’t describe what I’ll be doing.  Part of XPLANE’s unique process is pairing up a consultant/facilitator (me) with an artist/concept designer (the people with real talent), and going to a client’s office for a day-long discovery session.  Instead of taking written notes, the artist will actually use live drawing to help visualize the client’s story, audience, goals and needs.  By combining this live-sketching with a number of brainstorming and drawing, XPLANE is able to elicit a far more complete picture (literally!) of what the client wants to communicate.  Here’s an overview of the process.

My role is to be the consultant/facilitator in the client sessions.  In addition, I will work within XPLANE to expand the consulting practice and further develop the  process for multiple client scenarios — not just those that need an XPLANE "product" delivered at the end of the engagement.  Finally, I am going to work on a "visual thinking module" that will bring the benefits of visual thinking to workshops, conferences and retreats. 

In short, I get to do the same kinds of things I was doing before, but within a really cool organization, with amazingly talented people, and for much larger clients.

XPLANE will also begin to sponsor the Idea Markets.  More on that soon.

WHAT ABOUT THIS BLOG?  I will keep the [non]billable hour going.  I am working on a redesign, and you will see some cool new things in the next 90 days. I am also going to be re-purposing much of the older content in ways to make it more accessible to newer readers.

WHAT ABOUT LEXTHINK?  Dennis, JoAnna and I will be having a sit down soon to figure out what’s next.  We have too many cool things planned for LexThink to let it go.  Stay tuned.

WHAT ELSE?  If you have any more questions, shoot me an email at homann@gmail.com or mhomann@xplane.com, and I’d be happy to answer them.  I am so excited to be working for XPLANE.  I have spent most of my working life as an entrepreneur, and to find an employer where the entrepreneurial spirit is part of the fabric of the organization is really cool.  Thanks for all your support!

Matt

Sweat the Outline

From the Church Relevance blog come Perry Noble’s 6 Preaching Tips. Two worth remembering for your next speech:

1.  Prepare your messages weeks in advance.  You’d be amazed at what the Holy Spirit will reveal in a month compared to what he reveals in a week.

4.  Sweat the outline not the manuscript.

Time to XPlane Myself

I will have lots more Tuesday, but I want to announce that I’ve joined XPlane, The Visual Thinking Company, as a full-time consultant.  Super cool company, wicked sharp people and a perfect fit for my talents and skills.  Check them out.  I’ll tell you more after the holiday weekend.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Forget Big Associate Salaries

My friend Kareem shares the best three-step compensation scheme ever (from Alfie Kohn):

  1. Pay people well.
  2. Pay people fairly.
  3. Do everything possible to take money off people’s minds.

Law Firm Economics in a Nutshell

From Hugh:

links for 2007-05-16

links for 2007-05-15

OCD for Presenters

Here are some great tips for the road-warrior who does a lot of presentations from Escape from Cubicle Nation.  Too many to list, and all are worth a read.

links for 2007-05-13

Idea Garage Sale: The Technology Bin

These are a couple of leftovers in the tech bin that I’ve found, used and/or just wanted to share:

  • Review Basics:  Online, secure reviewing platform for video, images.
  • CircleUp:  Email or IM a question to a group and get back a single result with everyone’s answer.
  • ScanR:  One of my favorite apps.  Turns your camera or cameraphone into a scanner and business card reader.
  • Jott:  Love this one too.  Call a number, leave a message, and get it converted to a text email sent to you or to someone else.
  • iPolipo:  Schedule meetings automatically, share your calendar selectively.
  • TimeSnapper:  Automatic screenshot journal.  Answers the question: “What the hell did I actually do today?”
  • PlaceSite:  Local wireless platform that could work in conferences or small groups.
  • Gaboogie:  Conference calling service that calls you and your attendees.
  • Fidg’t:  Uses Flickr and LastFM tags to visualize your network.
  • ProfileFly:  Ties all your contact, profile, and bookmark links together on one place.
  • Pando:  Share large files through email and IM.

Also, check out this Google Document with a bunch more links from the ABA Techshow Presentation.

links for 2007-05-12

Learn to Teach, Teach to Learn

From William Glasser:

We Learn:
10% of what we READ

20% of what we HEAR

30% of what we SEE

50% of what we SEE and HEAR

70% of what is DISCUSSED with OTHERS

80% of what is EXPERIENCED PERSONALLY

95% of what we TEACH TO SOMEONE ELSE

Yet More Stuff from the Link Closet

More Idea Garage Sale stuff for you:

  • Should law firm partners open up their email (including sent emails) to associates as a learning tool?
  • Does your business have a plan?  Try PlanHQ.

I have more links coming tomorrow, and some tech links later today!  Enjoy.

Spring Cleaning: Time for Another Idea Garage Sale

It has been almost a year since my last Idea Garage Sale, and it is time for me to clean out my link closet.  Here are some miscellaneous goodies I’ve been saving that I’m giving away, free for a good home.

  • Anybody out there marketing their law firm as Green?  You know, only using recycled paper, reducing your carbon footprint, donating portion of fees paid to an environmental charity, picking up trash by the side of the road?  Just wondering.  Seems like a marketing no-brainer to me.
If you are unable to remember someone’s first name, simply ask them:
“What’s your name?” When they reply with their first name, laugh and
say “Oh no, I knew that, of course. I meant your last name”. This is a
much more acceptable thing to forget–and you still get their full name.

  • Got any car dealers or automotive nuts as clients?  Get them this.
  • For your divorce lawyers out there, here’s a great tool for your clients:  PhotoWipe.  It “magically removes unwanted objects from your photos.”  Or try the Face Transformer.
  • Want to learn more about a client’s industry, search for industry-specific conferences on Confabb.
We find that the most attractive player is equally likely to be eliminated as the average-looking players. The least attractive player, on the other hand, is significantly more likely to be eliminated. The effect is substantial: The least attractive player is almost twice as likely to be eliminated at the end of the first round than any other player. …Less attractive players are discriminated against, for reasons that are uncorrelated with their performance or behavior during the game.

Gotta Lotta Blogging to Do

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, so forgive the ton of posts (starting with this one) that you’ll see today.  My schedule, coupled with a really cool announcement I’ll make Monday, is my excuse — not that you were asking for one.  Thanks!

links for 2007-05-10

links for 2007-05-08

links for 2007-04-28

links for 2007-04-27

Government Resources for Small Biz

Point your clients to some of these 13 Government Resources for Small Business.  Lots of great stuff!

Back Up Your LinkedIn Profile

I caught this tip over on the My LinkedIn Power Forum about backing up a LinkedIn profile.  From the post, here’s how to do it:

1. Print it as a hardcopy. You can click on the [Print] icon
above your headline and print it. This is the most traditional way
of backup and is also strongly recommended to always keep a hardcopy
just in case all your backup softcopies cannot work at the time of
recovery.

2. Save it as a PDF or Word file. You can either click on the
[PDF] icon above your headline and save it as a PDF or cut-and-paste
your profile and save it as a Word file. The latter will have an
advantage of cut-and-paste back to your LinkedIn profile page at the
time recovery.

If you frequent any other social networking sites, it would make sense to back up your profiles there as well.

As an aside, the PDF printout is a pretty slick (and quick) way to build a resume.  It looks great, too!

For Administrative Professionals Day — Let Your Staff Fire a Client

I’ve written about this one before:  the best gift you can give your administrative professional/secretary is to let them fire a client of their choice.  Here’s the post from 2004:

Several years ago, I told my secretary she could fire one client, no questions asked. After she picked herself off the floor, she chose a client that surprised me. Turns out that this client, while perfectly cordial to me, was consistently rude to her on the phone and made inappropriate comments to her when he came into the office. I sent the client a nice letter telling him I would be unable to represent him any longer, and my secretary told me it was one of the best presents she had ever gotten.

The moral to this story is that there are clients who, if they treat your staff badly, don’t deserve your hard work. Every day you work for them sends a message that you value their business more than the happiness of your staff. The trouble is that you probably don’t even know who these clients are. So ask your assistant, and go ahead and give yourself a little bonus and fire your least-liked client too.

Of course, flowers are also nice.

Raise the Roof or Lower the Ceiling?

I found something interesting in a study titled The Influence of Ceiling Height: The Effect of Priming on the Type of Processing People Use (via Science Daily — my new favorite RSS subscription):

“When a person is in a space with a 10-foot ceiling, they will tend to think more freely, more abstractly,” said Meyers-Levy. “They might process more abstract connections between objects in a room, whereas a person in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be more likely to focus on specifics.”

The research demonstrates that variations in ceiling height can evoke concepts that, in turn, affect how consumers process information. The authors theorized that when reasonably salient, a higher versus a lower ceiling can stimulate the concepts of freedom versus confinement, respectively. This causes people to engage in either more free-form, abstract thinking or more detail-specific thought. Thus, depending on what the task at hand requires, the consequences of the ceiling could be positive or negative.

If you are designing your next office or workspace, should you build in different ceiling types and plan to do different kinds of work in each one?  For lawyers, should you take your depositions in low-ceilinged rooms?

links for 2007-04-25

Father’s Day = E-Mail Detox Day

Tim Ferriss suggests fathers take a complete break from e-mail on Father’s Day.  I’m in.  Anybody else?

links for 2007-04-21

Address the Email Last

Quick email tip from Tricks of the Trade:

If you are sending an email with an attachment, add the attachment first, then compose the message, and then add email addresses tothe send line. Now there’s no chance you’ll have to send the ever-popular “whoops, forgot to attach the file” follow-up.

In fact, it’s a good practice to always put the email addresses of the recipients in last, to ensure that an errant carriage return or mouseclick won’t fire off the message half-baked.

links for 2007-04-18

links for 2007-04-17

Idea Market VII is Tonight!

My seventh Idea Market (link to Meetup site) happens tonight, April 16th, at 6:00 pm at Lucas School House.  I’m going to be trying out a new networking/relationship-building activity that I’m really excited about, and we are going to figuring out ways to make the Gateway Arch blue for Autism awareness.  I hope to see you there!

Cool Tool(Bar) for Clients?

How about giving your tech-savvy clients their own firm- (or client-) specific toolbar for their browsers?  Techcrunch profiles Conduit, a company that makes it easy to “roll-your-own” toolbars.  Here’s the Techcrunch Toolbar, for an example.

links for 2007-04-16

An Unreasonable Request

I am a big fan of making Unreasonable Requests — requests that I don’t expect a “Yes” answer to, but that I make nonetheless.

I’m going to be sharing several on this blog over the following months.  Here’s the first:

I need someone to redesign my blog.  I’ve got quite a few projects I’m working on, and need to incorporate them in a new, non-template based site.  I know what I want, but don’t have the HTML and CSS chops to do it myself.  In exchange (in addition to ample credit) I will work with you to make your business better — and I promise you’ll find the trade more than fair.

Extreme Outsourcing

I just happened across Timothy Ferriss’ site (blog) and saw this article on “Outsourcing Life” that I’d like to share.  If you are experimenting with outsourcing work in your firm, check out some of the extreme suggestions on outsourcing a few other things.  Timothy has a book coming out.  I’ve asked for a review copy and will share my thoughts if it comes my way.

links for 2007-04-15

PowerPoint Bullets Kill Comprehension

Garr Reynolds has a good summary of the newest PowerPoint controversy started by this article in the Sydney Morning Herald that describes a study suggesting speakers who essentially read their bullet points from their slides are ineffective communicators.  The study’s author suggested:

It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented.

Copying = Advertising?

An idea on how to use free photocopies to advertise:

An innovative Japanese company is offering university students free photocopies. This free love is made possible by printing ads on the back of the copy paper, which is slightly thicker than normal to prevent ads from shining through. For JPY 400,000, advertisers can have their message printed on 10,000 sheets of paper.

LinkedIn for Litigation?

Guy Kawasaki explains how to use LinkedIn’s Reference Check Tool to avoid bad bosses.  In essence, you can input a company name and a range of years to find people who worked at the company during a given time period. 

This would be a great tool for locating potential witnesses in a litigation action.  Input the plaintiff/defendant company name and the years before, during and after the actionable conduct.  LinkedIn will serve up a list of people who may know a bit about company/facts/etc.  Even better, they may no longer be employed and more likely to help you.

Another way to Bill for E-Mail

Postful is a pretty ingenious service that creates and sends written snail-mail correspondence from e-mails forwarded to the service for just $0.99 each.  This could be a KILLER application for lawyers, especially if confidentiality issues, firm branding and other details could be worked out.  Imagine being able to send real honest-to-God letters from your blackberry, without secretarial help.  Very Cool!

Getting Less Done With a Messy Desk?

Not sure if there is any scientific basis to extend this study to productivity, but people eat less when they can see how much they’ve already eaten.  When there were visual cues (an un-bussed table) of how much food study participants ate, they continued to eat less.

This makes me wonder:  If we can see how much work we’ve already done (a long timesheet, for example), are we less likely to do more?  The same goes for a messy desk.  If we are surrounded by cues of work we’ve done, do we work less?

Unlimited Vacation?

Once lawyers get past the billable hour and are judged on the quality of their work, perhaps their firms may implement a vacation policy like Netflix’s:

When it comes to vacation, Netflix has a simple policy: take as much as you’d like. Just make sure your work is done.

Employees at the online movie retailer often leave for three, four, even five weeks at a time and never clock in or out. Vacation limits and face-time requirements, says Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings, are “a relic of the industrial age.”

“The worst thing is for a manager to come in and tell me: `Let’s give Susie a huge raise because she’s always in the office.’ What do I care? I want managers to come to me and say: `Let’s give a really big raise to Sally because she’s getting a lot done’ – not because she’s chained to her desk.”

Thanks to Creative Class for the link.

Help Clients Worry Less

If you are a lawyer, your clients worry.  They worry about their case, their upcoming deposition, even your bill.  Here is a good checklist to share with them to help them worry less.  I really like this one as a way to keep those daily (hourly?) phone calls from freaked out clients to a minimum:

Write down your concerns and worries in a journal.

    Reserve a time for your worries and concerns at daytime. So you should try to develop a routine and reserved time for all the concerns and problems of the day. By writing your worries you will identify your common negative thoughts and worries. It will be much easier to find solutions when you’ll know the exact content and meaning of your worries.

    Take your time for these worries but not in the evening. The best time might be late afternoon. Sit down with a journal and write down your concerns of the day. This will take at least 30 to 60 minutes. Force yourself to think about all the worries and problems of the past and coming day.

Promise the clients a weekly phone call to go over their journaled “worries” and see how many of those “emergency” issues have already resolved themselves before the call.

links for 2007-04-06

My (Client) Maps

Where are your clients?  Google just announced My Maps, a dead-simple way to create a (public or private) personal map.  You can embed photos, tags, links, etc. to each map.

Here’s a tip:  Add your client’s addresses to a (private) map.  Every time you are running errands or visiting clients, you can check and see if you will be near any of your other clients.  Drop in and say hi.  They will appreciate that you are thinking of them.

I am going to start a legal bloggers map today.

links for 2007-04-05

links for 2007-04-03

links for 2007-04-01

links for 2007-03-30

Ultra-Rapid Focus Group

Kathy Sierra talks about an Ultra-Rapid-Design Party with some great brainstorming tips that I’m going to shamelessly steal for my Idea Markets and Innovation Retreats.  Here’s how she describes it:

Forget focus groups. Forget endless meetings and brainstorming sessions. Throw an ultra-rapid-design party, and do it in a single day. This approach exploits the wisdom-of-crowds through a process of enforced idea diversity and voting, so no consensus, committee, or even agreement is needed. And it’s way more fun.

The Product Design Dinner Party takes 9 people, a pile of diverse “inputs”, and has each of the 9 people voting on–and pitching–one another’s ideas to continuously reconfigured groups of 3 people, letting the best ideas rise to the top. The process is a little complicated, but it’s derived/modified from an existing rapid-prototyping design I’ll talk about later in the post.

Go to the post for a step-by-step guide.  Definitely worth a try.

How to “Black Out” During Your Next Presentation

Bert Decker has a great (and easy) tip to improve your next presentation:  Use Black Slides.  According to Bert, a blacked out slide (as opposed to justing hitting the “B” key) accomplishes three things:

1. Clear the screen.  Once you’re done with the picture, graph or supporting information, you want to remove distraction, and go to a black slide so you can amplify, tell a story, or make an additional point, etc.

2. Black out the screen.  Simply put, so you can walk in front of the projector. Almost all meeting, board and conference rooms are poorly designed so that they have the projector screen right in the middle of the room or stage. It should be at the right or left, so YOU can be in the middle. After all, YOU should be the center of your presentation, not your slides.

3. Totally change your mindset.  Change he creation and emphasis of the presentation. This is by far the most important of all, and needs it’s own paragraph.

Who is Going to Pay for Those 18 Minutes?

NYT article on the perils of multitasking.  The money quote:

In a recent study, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages. They strayed off to reply to other messages or browse news, sports or entertainment Web sites.

There are some other good studies mentioned in the article.  Worth a read — if you’ve got the time.

Pay Per Client?

Not sure where the legal ethics gurus come down on this one (I think I can guess), but Google has now rolled out a Pay-Per-Action advertising service, which requires you to pay only if the user completes a clearly defined action after clicking on an add — such as buying something, joining a mailing list, etc.  Pricier than AdWords, but much more bang for the buck.

The Bonus Boost: Better Peformance

File this one away in the “things that make you go hmmmmm” department.  This article in Science Daily (hat tip: Guy) suggests employee bonuses work WAY better then pay raises in motivating employees:

Giving a 1 percent raise boosts employee job performance by roughly 2 percent, but offering that same money in the form of a bonus that is strongly linked to a job well done can improve job performance by almost 20 percent, finds a new Cornell study on the relationship between pay and performance.

Full study here.

links for 2007-03-29

I’m Sorry for Your Loss. Was He Funny?

A quick tip for meeting the family of a decedent at estate wrap-up time, courtesy of Tricks of the Trade:

If you have to interview a grieving family after a death, a good question to ask is: “Did he have a good sense of humor?”

This will almost always shake the family out of their grief, making it easier for them to talk to you, and bring up an anecdote that really shows the character of the dead person.

Presentation Inspiration

If you want to see some best-in-breed presentations, check out Slideshare’s World’s Best Presentation Contest.  Slideshare is an online, presentation sharing application.  Worth a look.

Building the Perfect Innovation Retreat – Call for Help

Readers, I need your help.  I’m designing an intensive, two-day, innovation-focused law firm retreat that I can sell to medium and large firms.  Before it goes “live” I need to do it at least twice to iron out the kinks and make it hum.

Here’s what I’d like to do:

  • Do the retreat for a firm of 10-20 lawyers, their staff and selected clients (yes, I said clients).  The cost to the firm will be my travel, lodging and retreat materials.  I’ll also ask the firm to pay me an amount commensurate with the “value” of the retreat to the firm — but only if they thought it was the best retreat they’d ever done.
  • Assemble a group of 10-20 small firm or solo lawyers for a two-day innovation retreat here in St. Louis in early June.  Because most solo and small-firm lawyers don’t get the benefits of a law firm retreat, I want to bring several of these lawyers together to collaborate with one another and to bring innovation into all of their practices.  Also, I want to see if the concept of a solo/small firm “retreat” will work.  If I get enough people, I’ll set the fee at an amount sufficient to cover my costs (probably at $250 per attendee or so).  Each attendee will be on their own for travel and lodging.

Let me know if you are interested.  You can e-mail me at Matt@LexThink.com if you or your firm would like to participate.  Thanks.
 

Start Wine-ing in Your Business

Hugh at Gaping Voidingvoid recaps some “lessons learned” in his first two years of working with Stormhoek winery.  Just a few of his points should resonate with anyone (including lawyers) trying to build an amazing business:

14. We can make this as lucrative and as intellectually stimulating as we want to. The ball is in our court.

16. What’s driving innovation and sales on our end is not a technological issue, it’s a cultural issue. Get the right culture going, and the tech looks after itself.

17. When I started working in the advertising business as a young buck in London, back in the late 1980s, Bartle Bogle Hegarty were considered the best game in town, even if they were not the biggest agency. Every young advertising student aspired to have a gig there one day, everyone daydreamed of one day having John Hegarty return their calls. The were considered the Praetorian Guard. Within two years from now, I want every smart, driven young person in the wine trade to be thinking the same way about us. That to me would be a far more worthy definition of “success”, than how many cases we sell.

links for 2007-03-27

Idea Market VII is April 16th

The next St. Louis Idea Market is April 16th at the Lucas School House.  I’m abandoning the CollectiveX Networking Site we’d been using, and instead posting it as an event on MeetUp.com.  Here’s a link to sign up.

links for 2007-03-23

Techshow Blogger Pub Crawl Details

The Techshow Blogger Pub Crawl is all set.  Here’s a map of the crawl with the times for each stop.  Here’s the agenda:

 7:00 pm  Start at the Sheraton Hotel
 7:00 -  8:30  Lucky Strike Lanes,  322 E. Illinois Street, directly across from the Sheraton.
 8:30 -  9:30  P.J. Clark’s, 302 E. Illinois Street, in the same building as Lucky Strike.
 9:30 – 10:30 DeLaCosta, 465 E. Illinois Street, a swanky new bar just down the street from P.J. Clark’s.
10:30 – 11:30 Dick’s Last Resort, 435 E Illinois Street, a fun bar right on the river.
11:30 – ?????  Lizzie MacNeill’s, 400 N. McClurg Court, right next door to the Sheraton.

I hope you can make it.  Sign up here (or just join us on the Crawl).

Techshow Blogger Pub Crawl

I am heading to Chicago this morning for ABA’s Techshow.  This afternoon, I’ll plot a course for the First Annual Techshow Blogger Pub Crawl, and post it here.  We’ll meet at 7:00 pm in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel and Towers and hit 4-5 bars within walking distance.  If you are going to be in Chicago for Techshow, or live there and want to join us, please sign up here.

Oh, and don’t worry if you can’t join us at the beginning.  When I post the schedule, I’ll let you know what bars we’ll be at (and when), so you can join us in the middle or the end.

links for 2007-03-16

Techshow Blogger Bar Crawl

ABA’s Techshow is just around the corner, and we need to do something to get the bloggers together.  Since there’s nothing formal planned for us, I’m organizing the First Annual Techshow Blogger Bar Crawl.  We are going to meet in the Sheraton Hotel’s lobby at 7:00 pm on Thursday, March 22nd and head out on a walking (and drinking) tour of the neighborhood.  I’ll have more info on the places we’ll be soon, but expect to hit between three and five bars.  I will enforce the schedule, so if you can’t make the beginning of the crawl, join us along the way.

I’ve set up a Techshow Bar Crawl page here to register.  Cost is free.  See you next week!

Make Tomorrow E-Mail Free

How about implementing “No E-Mail Fridays” at your office?  Check out this ABC News article to learn why it may be a good idea.

Is Your Business in Local Business?

Just noticed Google’s Local Business Center.  It allows you to add your business’ name, address, etc. to Google’s listings.  It also allows you to offer coupons.  A must-do for all small businesses — including law firms.

Office Motivation Hack: Complete a Puzzle

Here’s another fantastic Parent Hack that could work wonders in an office setting:

My 7 year-old son can be particularly stubborn and no matter how much we beg, plead, or reason with him, he stands his ground. Sometimes I resort to bribery. He likes puzzles so I came up with puzzles to help him do certain things.  It started the summer before Kindergarten — he already knew how to tie his shoes, but claimed that he “forgot” how over the summer since he wore sandals all summer.  So I found a pair of running shoes that he wanted online (I used Zappos.com) and printed out two full-sized  pictures.  One was in color and the other black and white.  I then decided that I wanted him to tie his shoes for two weeks on his own before I would buy him the shoes he wanted so I cut the colored picture into the appropriate number of “puzzle” pieces.  Then every time he tied his shoes on his own he earned one piece that he could tape onto the black and white picture in the correct spot.  When the puzzle was complete we ordered him his shoes.

What are the goals for your office, and what is an appropriate reward when the goals are met?  Can you make a huge "puzzle" for your workers to complete as they reach appropriate milestones?

Cool Client Giveaway

If you are looking for something cool to give to your clients, try to find someone who makes this (courtesy of Autoblog).  It is a feature on the new Renault Twingo, and may not be for sale, but if you can find it and give it away, you’ll be the talk of the conference.  I know I want one.

Does Your Firm Have the Guts to Seek Anonymous Client Feedback?

Mike Arrington posts about The Gorb, a online reputation monitoring service:

Gorb allows, even insists on, anonymous comments and ratings about an individual. Like someone? Hate them? Tell Gorb all about it, using their handy Ajax slider to rate them from 1 – 10 in their professional and personal lives, and leave written comments as well.

According to Gorb:

The professional marketplace in general is inefficient when it comes to distributing information about a person’s reputation. Many of us often make daily decisions based on relatively few inputs, some which are poorly validated. When these decisions begin to form the basis for our perceptions about others that we don’t know, it should be no surprise that there’s a hit-and-miss nature to this “off-line” system!

On the other hand, many of us also use people that we know very well as references to gather information and make decisions about others. The GORB aims to leverge reliable professional references and personal opinions to provide a balanced and widely adopted “online” rating system, that allows us to gauge the reputations of one another.

What do you think?  Would you or your firm tell your clients about The Gorb and ask them for an anonymous review of your services?  Why or why not?  What are you afraid of?

links for 2007-03-15

links for 2007-03-11

Send Your Staff to the Store with Gift Cards

Quick tip from Parent Hacks that would work for office personnel too:

Our nanny does a lot of our food shopping for us. It’s something for her to do with the baby, and she likes helping out. Usually, I give her a chunk of cash that seems like enough to cover things, and then she gives me the change along with the receipts. Last week it occurred to me that I should just pick up gift cards for her to use! She usually goes to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Both of these places sell gift cards (as do most supermarkets). I can put a big lump sum on each card, and then she no longer needs to worry about keeping my cash separate, etc.

Buy Your Clients a Virtual Lunch

My friend Scott Ginsberg (who has some really cool things up his sleeve, BTW) shares this really great way to connect with someone who doesn’t live or work close by.  I’ll let Scott tell the story:

A month ago, I got a surprising email from a woman named Lena West.

Lena lives in New York, which explains why I was so surprised.

See, she invited me to have lunch with her.

A VIRTUAL lunch.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Well, I buy you lunch from your favorite delivery place. Then we eat while chatting on the phone for an hour.”

Hmm. Cool idea.

So, last week we did it.

And our Virtual Lunch rocked.

Lena and I had an enlightening, energizing conversation for over an hour! We talked about websites we loved, books we read, places we traveled, you name it. Other than the obvious physical limitations, it was really no different than having lunch in person.

I challenge you to buy your best, non-local client lunch this week.  Let me know how it goes.

Actual, Actually.

I came across this article on Honda from an old issue of CIO Magazine and really liked the part about Honda’s focus on an interesting Japanese concept:

The collaborative environment at Honda is a byproduct of the company’s emphasis on the Japanese concept of the three actuals—go to the actual place, work with the actual people or part and understand the actual situation. Although it might seem unnecessary or impractical, adherence to the concept helped facilitate the efficient design of the ’98 Accord. When the designers weren’t sure whether a part they were designing could actually be welded, for example, they’d drive over to the manufacturing plant to ask a welder directly . A visit to the site about a specific problem not only prevents engineers from becoming detached from the actual process, it often yields insight into a completely unrelated and unforeseen issue, says Shriver.

I’d highly recommend implementing the same concept when working with clients:  go to their actual place, work with the actual people, and understand the actual situation.

links for 2007-03-10

Talk Really Isn’t Cheap

Lisa Hanneberg writes about the high cost of communication.  Required reading (if you’ve got the time) before you send out that next e-mail to 50 people or schedule that next two-hour meeting.  If you haven’t got time for the whole post, just think about this:

If your department budget was charged $100 for every minute you spent communicating, would you choose your words more wisely? It is likely that the costs are that high or higher.

Chicago Blog Conference in May

My friend Phil Gerbyshak is helming an interesting blog conference in Chicago on May 11-12.  I’m going to try to make the trip up I-55 for the event.  Check it out!

Relationship Economies for Professionals

I highly recommend this essay by Doc Searls on “Relationship Economies.”  In it, he recounts a conversation he had with a Nigerian pastor about markets and transactions:

“Pretend this is a garment”, Sayo said, picking up one of those blue airplane pillows. “Let’s say you see it for sale in a public market in my country, and you are interested in buying it. What is your first question to the seller?”

“What does it cost?” I said.

“Yes”, he answered. “You would ask that. Let’s say he says, ‘Fifty dollars’. What happens next?”

“If I want the garment, I bargain with him until we reach an agreeable price.”

“Good. Now let’s say you know something about textiles. And the two of you get into a long conversation where both of you learn much from each other. You learn about the origin of the garment, the yarn used, the dyes, the name of the artist, and so on. He learns about how fabric is made in your country, how distribution works, and so on. In the course of this you get to know each other. What happens to the price?”

“Maybe I want to pay him more and he wants to charge me less”.

“Yes. And why is that?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You now have a relationship”.

Though price still matters in the developing world, the pastor suggested, relationships matter more:

It’s a higher context with a higher set of values, many of which are trivialized or made invisible when viewed through the prism of price. Relationship is not reducible to price, even though it may influence price. Families and friends don’t put prices on their relationships. (At least not consciously, and only at the risk of cheapening or losing a relationship.) Love, the most giving force in any relationship, is not about exchanging. It is not fungible. You don’t expect a payback or a rate of return on the love you give your child, your wife or husband, your friends.

Read the entire essay the next time you are deciding whether to focus your energies on attracting new clients vs. building stronger relationships with existing ones.

Advertise with the ‘Hood

Roy Williams shares 10 Cheap Advertising Ideas in his Monday Morning Memo.  My favorite:

10. Spray-Painted Signs. In the early 1970s, “Hamp Baker says Drive with Care” was spray-painted on car hoods salvaged from crumpled automobiles, then those hoods were tied with bailing wire to barbed-wire fences across the state. Nobody in Oklahoma had ever heard of Hamp Baker, but his name was soon a household word. When he ran for public office, he won by a landslide.

If I had a personal injury practice — especially in a rural area — I’d think seriously about giving this one a try.  Just make sure you have your state’s disclaimer painted somewhere on the hood too.  ;-)

What About Billable Hours?

John Moore passed on the Jack Welch Quote:

The three most important things you need to measure in a business are customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and cash flow. If you’re growing customer satisfaction, your global market share is sure to grow, too. Employee satisfaction gets you productivity, quality, pride, and creativity. And cash flow is the pulse—the key vital sign of a company.

If Jack Welch ran a law firm, do you think he’d abandon one, two or all three to focus on measuring billable hours instead?

links for 2007-03-09

Can Your Firm Offer a “Genius” Bar?

Thanks to 37 Signals for pointing out a great article in CNN/Money about Apple’s retail stores.  The article talks about the inspiration for Apple’s amazing “Genius” Bars:

When we launched retail, I got this group together, people from a variety of walks of life,” says Johnson. “As an icebreaker, we said, ‘Tell us about the best service experience you’ve ever had.’” Of the 18 people, 16 said it was in a hotel. This was unexpected. But of course: The concierge desk at a hotel isn’t selling anything; it’s there to help. “We said, ‘Well, how do we create a store that has the friendliness of a Four Seasons Hotel?’” The answer: “Let’s put a bar in our stores. But instead of dispensing alcohol, we dispense advice.”…”See that? Look at their eyes. They’re learning. There’s an intense moment – like when you see a kid in school going ‘Aha!’

There are two things about this quote that really hit home:

First, how many law firms ask the same question the Apple store designers did (Tell us about the best service experience you’ve ever had?), and actually modeled their firm on that best-in-breed service experience? 

Second, how could a “genius bar” be implemented at your firm?  Could you open that “bar” at your firm for walk-in clients?  What if they paid an AppleCare-like fee to avail themselves of that service?

 I bet you could make it work.  Let me know if you need help.

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LinkedIn and Gmail

I’ve been a big fan of LinkedIn for quite some time, and since I abandoned Outlook (and LinkedIn’s amazing Outlook plugin), I’ve been using the Firefox and Gmail extensions pretty regularly.  When I logged in today to invite a few of my contacts, I noticed I could import all of my contacts from my Gmail (and Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL mail) address book, and invite them at once.

From your LinkedIn home page, click on the “+Expand Your Network” button on the upper right and follow the instructions.  Very easy and very cool!

Take your Client’s Stakeholders to Lunch

Joyce Wycoff suggests taking internal stakeholders to lunch:

Identify all of your stakeholders … the people who are affected by your work, immediately and at a distance.  Your monthly report may only go to 3-4 people but the information in it may get passed along or acted upon by dozens of others.  Start to invite your stakeholders to lunch one or two at a time and just get to know them.

This is great advice, and equally applicable to the stakeholders in your clients’ organizations.  Just make sure they know you are not billing them for the lunch!

Why Clients Don’t Listen

Wonder why your clients don’t listen to you?  Perhaps this article explaining why men ignore nagging wives may give you some insight.  In short, many people will act in ways that are not in their own best interest, just because they wish to avoid doing what others want them to do.  This is called “reactance,” and is defined as, “a person’s tendency to resist social influences that they perceive as threats to their autonomy.”  The article describes two interesting experiments that demonstrate just how ingrained this behavior can be:

In the first experiment, participants were asked to name a significant person in their lives whom they perceived to be controlling and who wanted them to work hard, and another significant and controlling person who wanted them to have fun. Participants then performed a computer-based activity during which the name of one or the other of these people was repeatedly, but subliminally, flashed on the screen. The name appeared too quickly for the participants to consciously realize they had seen it, but just long enough for the significant other to be activated in their nonconscious minds. The participants were then given a series of anagrams to solve, creating words from jumbled letters.

People who were exposed to the name of a person who wanted them to work hard performed significantly worse on the anagram task than did participants who were exposed to the name of a person who wanted them to have fun.

“Our participants were not even aware that they had been exposed to someone else’s name, yet that nonconscious exposure was enough to cause them to act in defiance of what their significant other would want them to do,” Fitzsimons said.

A second experiment used a similar approach and added an assessment of each participant’s level of reactance. People who were more reactant responded more strongly to the subliminal cues and showed greater variation in their performance than people who were less reactant.

“The main finding of this research is that people with a tendency toward reactance may nonconsciously and quite unintentionally act in a counterproductive manner simply because they are trying to resist someone else’s encroachment on their freedom,” Chartrand said.

Though the article pokes a bit of fun at the husband/wife dynamic, this kind of behavior has very serious implications for advice-giving professionals and our clients.  I’d encourage you to read the entire study (cost:  $30.00).

Cure (Brief) Writer’s Block

Having a hard time writing that brief that’s due next week?  Here’s a great list of tools, toys and inspirational sites to get you from your Statement of Facts all the way to your Table of Authorities — or at least inspire you to write some poetry or the next great American novel.

links for 2007-02-24

Hang Around for Business Clients

Right after I wrote the Sand Imprint Post, I found another clever way to advertise:  Hangvertising.  From the geniuses at Hanger Network come EcoHangers(tm), a recyclable, paper hanger that has advertising printed on it.  Just think, you could find the dry cleaner in the most expensive part of town, and ask them to use the EcoHangers (with your business-appropriate ad) on all business suits they dry clean. 

Dd_1

Brilliant.

Ask Your Clients for Ten Ways You Can be Better

Guy Kawasaki shares a study by Craig R. Fox (pdf) that compares two groups of students, each asked to evaluate an MBA course:

One group was asked for two ways to improve the course; the other was asked for ten ways to improve the course. The group that was asked to list ten ways showed a higher level of satisfaction with the course.

So, when will you start asking all of your clients for ten ways to improve your service?

Footprints (and a toll-free number) in the Sand

Do you practice near a beach?  Here’s a great marketing idea (hat-tip to Church Relevance) that just might get your firm noticed:  environmentally safe ads that are imprinted in the sand.

Of course, it may be hard to “save” the advertisement for those pesky bar advertising rules.

Join Me March 8th for a Teleseminar

I’d like you to join me for a teleseminar on March 8th, titled: Think Real BIG — Ten Creative Strategies for Building an Innovative Law Practice.  It is part of the online-only Career & Practice Development Conference

I will share ten unique and easy-to-implement strategies to help you create an innovative, service-centered law practice that you’ll love as much as your clients do.

The teleseminar takes place from 1:00 – 2:00 pm EST and the cost is $59.00.  You can register here.

I’m Sorry, I Don’t Remember How to Say I’m Sorry

Joel Spolsky shares Seven Steps to Remarkable Customer Service that shares lessons his software company has learned (in come cases, the hard way).  Many make sense for professional service providers.  My favorite, though, is this one

Memorize Awkward Phrases.  

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotional heat of the moment when someone is complaining.

The solution is to memorize some key phrases, and practice saying them, so that when you need to say them, you can forget your testosterone and make a customer happy.

“I’m sorry, it’s my fault.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t accept your money. The meal’s on me.”

“That’s terrible, please tell me what happened so I can make sure it never happens again.”

It’s completely natural to have trouble saying “It’s my fault.” That’s human. But those three words are going to make your angry customers much happier. So you’re going to have to say them. And you’re going to have to sound like you mean it.

So start practicing.

Say “It’s my fault” a hundred times one morning in the shower, until it starts to sound like syllabic nonsense. Then you’ll be able to say it on demand.

One more point. You may think that admitting fault is a strict no-no that can get you sued. This is nonsense. The way to avoid getting sued is not to have people who are mad at you. The best way to do this is to admit fault and fix the damn problem.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole post.  It is really great stuff.

links for 2007-02-07

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Define Your Firm’s Rules of Engagement

Guy Kawasaki shares some “Rules of Engagement” from a company called SuccessFactors.  Here they are:

Rules of Engagement

  1. I will be passionate—about SuccessFactors’ mission, about my work. I will love what we do for companies and employees everywhere.

  2. I will demonstrate respect for the individual; I will be nice and listen to others, and respect myself. I will act with integrity and professionalism.

  3. I will do what it takes to get the job done, no matter what it takes, but within legal and ethical boundaries.

  4. I know that this is a company, not a charity. I will not waste money—I will question every cost.

  5. I will present an exhaustive list of solutions to problems—and suggest actionable recommendations.

  6. I will help my colleagues and recognize the team when we win. I will never leave them behind when we lose.

  7. I will constantly improve Kaizen! I will approach every day as an opportunity to do a better job, admitting to and learning from my mistakes.

  8. I will selflessly pursue customer success.

  9. I will support the culture of meritocracy and pay for performance.

  10. I will focus on results and winning—scoring points, not just gaining yardage.

  11. I will be transparent. I will communicate clearly and be brutally honest, even when it’s difficult, because I trust my colleagues.

  12. I will always be in sales and drive customer satisfaction.

  13. I will have fun at work and approach my work with enthusiasm.

  14. I will be a good person to work with—I will not be an asshole.

I agree to live these values. If my colleagues fail to live up to any of these rules, I will speak up and will help them correct; in turn, I will be open to constructive criticism from my colleagues should I fail to live by these values. I understand that my performance will be judged in part by how well I demonstrate these values in my daily work.

Any professional service firms out there with similar “Rules” for their employees?

Branding on the Cheap

Here is a great resource for web startups that has a few gems for lawyers too:  Little Known Ways to Brand on the Cheap.  Just a few favorites:

26. E-profiles: manage your reputation. If a potential customer types in your name into a search engine, what sort of results will they see in the top 10? It’s key for you to secure the top 10 results in Google, Yahoo and MSN for searches relating directly and indirectly (if possible) to your brand. You need to be the one defining what people see when they search for you, not your competition. Start by building e-profiles on authority domains such as MySpace, Squidoo, AboutUs, WordPress, Blogger/ Blogspot, MSN Spaces, TypePad, Newsvine, LinkedIn, Rollyo, Wikipedia, etc. Don’t let someone else define who you are.

28. Get listed on local authority websites. Many cities will have a large, centrally operated online business directory. A link from a local government site (.gov) will boost your visibility and build your search engine rankings. Often that requires no more effort than doing a GoogleSearch for “(your city) business directory” and emailing the webmaster.

36. Design with a focus on MDA. Design your blog with a focus on visitor experience that leads the user to your MDA (Most Desired Action). Test various designs before launch by asking friends and family to go to the site and see where they click and when.

39. Design for scanners, not readers. I know, you’ve put a lot of time into your content, so you want people to read every little word. But the truth is, people online are scanners, not readers. So if you want to get your message across, you need to tell them your unique selling points in a bullet list or in short crisp sentences.

77. Do something outrageous. Or at very least unusual, and document the action itself and reactions others had to it. Randy’s Affiliate Marketing Programs Blog discusses a few of the more famous outrageous branding ideas, from Alex Tew’s Million Dollar Homepage (the original dollar-a-pixel site) to John Freyer’s All My Life for Sale (a wildly-successful eBay project).

91. Guerilla marketing. Head down to your local library and hunt down books relevant to your topic. Then insert your business card or flyer into the book at the very front. This guerilla marketing can work on an individual level, but the benefits can multiply dramatically if your persistent activity starts to create buzz.

94. Be a star. Call up your local public cable access channel and ask to be interviewed. They are desperate for content and may go for it.

See You in NYC!

Forgive the light posting, but it has been crazy lately.  I’m off tomorrow for ALM’s LegalTech in NYC.  If you’d like to meet up, drop me a line at Matt@LexThink.com or call me at 618-407-3241.  I hope to see you there.

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Cheap Customers = Bad Customers

Some good advice for new lawyers in this article titled Do Cheapskates Make the Best Early Customers.

Hand-y Advertising for DUI Lawyers

Check out this post from Ankesh Kothari about a Bombay nightclub that stamps a public service message on the hands of entering patrons.  DUI lawyers, you’ve got to see the picture, and think about paying a bar to use a rubber stamp with your phone number on it to stamp the hands of everyone who enters the bar.  When they get pulled over later that night, they’ll know who to call.  Not sure if ethics-safe, but inspiring nonetheless.

A Tip for Parents

Here’s an absolutely brilliant tip for traveling with young children from Parent Hacks:

When we go to crazy places like amusement parks and fairs, we just use a Sharpie and write on the kids’ stomachs “My mom’s cell # is….” The kids are all drilled on what to do if they get lost, and we have photos of them at Disneyland and everywhere else, flashing their bellies with the emergency plan.