Monthly Archives: March 2008

May I have your attention?

Watch this video:

Remember, what we look for is what we see. It is only when we open our eyes to see everything that we notice what should be obvious.

What are you looking for in your practice? Billable hours? Maybe you should look for something different. You might be surprised at what you’ll find.

You Gotta Try PicLens

Trust me on this one. If you EVER view photos or other images in the web, you’ve got to try PicLens. Easily the coolest thing you’ll see on your computer this year. Don’t believe me? Check out this demo. I love it!

Are your customers, or your employees, always right?

For another worthwhile read this morning, check out the Top 5 Reasons Why "The Customer is Always Right" is Wrong from the Chief Happiness Officer Blog.  Reason Number 4, it results in worse customer service:

[W]hen you put the employees first, they put the customers first. Put employees first, and they will be happy at work. Employees who are happy at work give better customer service because:

  • They care more about other people, including customers
  • They have more energy
  • They are happy, meaning they are more fun to talk to and interact with
  • They are more motivated

On the other hand, when the company and management consistently side with customers instead of with employees, it sends a clear message that:

  • Employees are not valued
  • That treating employees fairly is not important
  • That employees have no right to respect from customers
  • That employees have to put up with everything from customers

When this attitude prevails, employees stop caring about service. At that point, real good service is almost impossible – the best customers can hope for is fake good service. You know the kind I mean: courteous on the surface only.

Do you put your customers first, or your employees?

Need a Vacation?

Brad Feld has a great recap of the ways he takes time off to recharge, including a quarterly, week-long vacation and semi-regular weekend getaway:

Go Dark Weekend: When I find myself feeling burned out, I do a go dark weekend. I turn off my computer and cell phone at 6pm on Friday night and don’t turn it back on until 5am Monday morning. I cancel anything that is scheduled for the weekend and just do whatever I feel like doing. This is usually a once a quarter event; occasionally more frequently depending on how busy I am. I’m considering doing this around each of my marathon weekends also.

Anyone reading this feeling burned out? How about “going dark” this weekend and reconnecting with your kids?

Your Brain Rules!

Want to learn more about what’s going on inside your own head? Check out Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by John Medina. The site (linked to above) has lots of pretty cool, short videos explaining why our brains work the way they do. Working for XPLANE, I especially liked Rule # 10: Vision Trumps All Other Senses, and it contains this rule of thumb for presenters:

You’ll get 3x better recall for visual information than for oral. And you’ll get 6x better recall for information that’s simultaneously oral and visual.

Here’s why:

  • We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.
  • Pictures beat text as well, in part because reading is so inefficient for us. Our brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures, and we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them. That takes time.
  • Why is vision such a big deal to us? Perhaps because it’s how we’ve always apprehended major threats, food supplies and reproductive opportunity.
  • Toss your PowerPoint presentations. It’s text-based (nearly 40 words per slide), with six hierarchical levels of chapters and subheads—all words. Professionals everywhere need to know about the incredible inefficiency of text-based information and the incredible effects of images. Burn your current PowerPoint presentations and make new ones.


Got Anxious Clients?

Think about it. Every client who enters a lawyer’s office is anxious. In fact, they’d probably prefer going to the dentist. That’s why this article on How to Deal with Anxious People is important reading. It sets out some research, with some valuable tips for deciphering visual cues, that every lawyer should know. Here’s why:

The more you talk over or at anxious people, the more pressure you put on their middle brain and the more they will close their minds to what you are saying.

Alternatively, the more you talk to an anxious person — or even better yet, with them — the more you alleviate that pressure and the easier it is to access their upper brain and open their minds to you. Here’s a critical point, though: the approach you may think you are taking in a conversation with an anxious person may not be the approach the other person perceives.

Also worth remembering when you are confronted with that big guy in the bar who accuses you of cheating at pool.

Size Matters

If you are still tooling around with a small computer monitor (or worse, your staff is), check out this post from the WSJ’s Business Technology Blog. It is time to supersize:

Researchers at the University of Utah tested how quickly people performed tasks like editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets while using different computer configurations: one with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor and with two 20-inch monitors. Their finding: People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones. There is an upper limit, however: Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen.

Think Learn Share Do

LexThink 08 is coming. More details next week.

The Devil’s In the Details

The New Yorker has created a series of 10 second animations for several of their cartoons. If you are a PowerPoint (ab)user, check out this one.

Let’s ReThink LexThink

If you head over to the LexThink! site, you’ll see it is “Under Construction.”  We’ll have some more info soon after Techshow.

Notice What’s Right Before Fixing What’s Wrong

So often, we focus (obsess?) on fixing what’s wrong with our selves, our families or our businesses.  For a week, try to focus instead on what’s right.  Make a list of the three things that are the "right-est."  Take your three things and do just one thing this week to make them even better.  Challenge your family, friends, staff and even clients to do the same.  You can always go back to worrying next week.

Heading to Techshow (For Just One Day)

I’m going to be swinging through Chicago this week, and figured I might as well stop by Techshow — my favorite legal conference.  I’m not speaking this year, and will thus be relegated to a free exhibit-hall pass (Tom, can you hook me up?) I’ll be hanging around Wednesday and part of Thursday.  I hope to see you there.  

How to Run Your Law Firm Like a Startup … or Not.

Jason Calcanis heads up Mahalo, a human-powered search engine.  In this post, widely circulating around the tech/startup blogosphere, Jason gives 17 tips on saving money while running a startup that will (I didn’t say should) surely resonate with some BigLaw managing partners.  Some of his “really good” ideas (since toned down a bit in an update to the post):

  • Buy everyone lunch four days a week and establish a no-meetings policy. Going out for food or ordering in takes at least 20-60 minutes more than walking up to the buffet and eating. If you do meetings over lunch you also save that time. So, 30 minutes a day across say four days a week is two hours a week… which is 100 hours a year. You get the idea. 
  • Don’t buy a phone system. No one will use it. No one at Mahalo has a desk phone except the admin folks. Everyone else is on IRC, chat, and their cell phone. Everyone has a cell phone, folks would rather get calls on it, and 99% of communication is NOT on the phone. Savings? At least $500 a year per person… 50 people over three years? $75-100k
  • Buy your hardest working folks computers for home. If you have folks who are willing to work an extra hour a day a week you should get them a computer for home. Once you get to three hours of work a week from home you’re at 150 hours a year and that’s a no brainer. Invest in equipment *if* the person is a workaholic.
  • Fire people who are not workaholics… come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game.  Don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it.  Go work at the post office or stabucks if you’re want balance in your life for realz.
  • Get an expensive, automatic espresso machine at the office. Going to starbucks twice a day cost $4 each time, but more importantly it costs 20 minutes. Buy a $3-5,000 Jura industrial, get the good beans, and supply the coffee room with soy, low fat, etc. 50 people making one trip a day is 20 hours of wasted time for the company, and $150 in coffee costs for the employees. Makes no sense.
  • Stock the fridge with sodas—same drill as above.

Sound like BigLaw to you?  Well, except for the awesome coffee machine.  That’s not a cost like copies that you can pass on to clients.

This Speech Sponsored by …

My pal JoAnna Forshee has (finally) started to do some blogging at her new venture InsideLegal.  She recently hosted the InsideLegal Summit, and it appears to have been a fantastic success.  The one topic that really caught my eye was the debate surrounding the “Pay to Speak” trend.  What is Pay to Speak?  It is when conferences (like LegalTech*) allow vendors to “sponsor” a conference track.  The controversy, which has been brewing in the legal conference industry for a while, is over what level of control the vendors have over their sponsored track, and what responsibility conference organizers have to disclose that control.

Why is this a big deal?  If a (fictional) company XYZ Discovery Solutions pays $25,000 to sponsor the “Electronic Discovery” track at a conference, what do they get for their investment?  More specifically:

  • Does XYZ get to pick the topics for the track?  
  • Does XYZ get to choose the track’s speakers, favoring those who sell or promote XYZ products, and excluding other speakers who don’t?  
  • Does XYZ have a responsibility to present information the attendees want to hear instead of information they want attendees to hear?

If the answers to any of these questions are yes, do the attendees know that the “CLE accredited” sessions they attend are given by a hand-picked roster of sponsor-friendly speakers?  And are any CLE accreditation rules compromised?

Right now, the answers to these questions aren’t clear, and I’m sure each conference organizer and each sponsor approach the “sponsored track” differently.  I don’t think the sponsored track should go away, but I do think some disclosure is in order.  Just as lawyers must avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest (which in some cases can waived by agreement), conference organizers must recognize the inherent conflicts that arise when a for-profit vendor sponsors, designs and staffs a CLE accredited, “educational” session  

At a minimum, the conference must disclose whether the speakers in a sponsored track are chosen by the conference or by the sponsoring vendor, and whether those speakers are paid by the vendor.

I applaud JoAnna and her InsideLegal partner Jobst, for getting this out in the open.  Your comments are welcome.

* I use LegalTech as an example here only because I know they have sponsored tracks, and the InsideLegal Summit happened in NYC at the same time of LegalTech.  I don’t know what the vendors get for their investment and what rules (if any) LegalTech places on the speakers or the content in those sponsored tracks.