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Remember the television show Quincy? Jack Klugman played a Los Angeles medical examiner, and in every episode, his autopsy would reveal that the decedent (who’d seemingly died of “natural” causes) was a victim of foul play. Using the clues he’d gained from his examinations, Quincy would convince the police a homicide had occurred, and then manage to singlehandedly finger the killer. In a pre-CSI world, it was pretty compelling stuff.
So why all this talk about an obscure 70’s crime-drama? Because if you’re really interested in identifying the work you love to do and learning how to serve your clients better, you may want to spend some time each week playing Quincy. Instead of investigating foul play, however, you should closely examine those things you’ve given up for dead in your office: your closed files.
Perform a File Autopsy. Here’s how:
1. Grab at least five old files that have been closed for at least a year. Though you can choose files randomly, it works better if you’ve take some you liked and others you’d rather never touch again.
2. For each file, complete the LexThink File Autopsy (pdf) form. Be brutally honest with yourself as you answer questions, which include:
About the file:
- In hindsight, should I have taken this file?
- Were there any “red flags” I should have noticed?
- What lessons did I learn from handling this file?About the work:
- Did I like the work?
- Was I good at it? How could I have been better?
- If I didn’t like the work, how could I do less of it?About the client:
- Does this client have any other legal work I could be doing?
- How would this client describe me to their peers?
- How could I have served this client better?
About the money:
- Was this a profitable matter for me to handle?
- Did the client feel my fees were fair?
- How could I have priced this matter differently?
3. Every week, grab a few more files and repeat the exercise. If you have staff, ask for their input as well.
4. If you’re seeing common themes (either positive or negative) throughout the files, make sure to note them as well.
5. Once you’ve performed 20-50 “autopsies,” you’ll have a better sense of the kinds of work you like to do, clients you enjoy serving and alternative ways to price your services. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll understand the kinds of work you don’t want to do and learn to avoid taking matters and clients better passed on to your competition.
Smashing Magazine has published a tremendous guide to designing an easy to understand e-commerce checkout process for web sites. If you take credit cards on your site, it is a must-read.
However, even if you don't charge people on the web, you should check out the article anyway, because it explains something about collecting sensitive information from people that we all need to understand: it isn't just the "what," but the "why" that matters:
Even unambiguous fields, such as “Email address,” are great opportunities to explain what you’ll use the data for. “Email address” may be a sufficient description, but most people would want to know how you’ll use their email address. Why do you need it?
In your client intake forms, do you explain why you need all the information you are asking for? Perhaps you should.
As 2009 draws to a close, we all find ourselves with lots of stuff on our "to do" lists for the next year. Whether your thinking about finding time to meet your deadlines, accomplish your goals or even follow your resolutions, there never seems to be enough time to do it all.
As you begin 2010, Resolve to Count Cards, using this this incredibly powerful exercise I first ran across in 2006. From an article in the now-defunct Worthwhile Magazine (by creativity guru Eric Maisel) comes this gem:
Get seven decks of cards with similar backs. Lay out all seven decks on your living room rug, backs showing. This is a year of days (give or take). Let the magnitude of a year sink in. Experience this wonderful availability of time. (This is a powerful exercise.)
Carefully count the number of days between two widely-separated holidays, for instance New Year's Day and the Fourth of July. Envision starting a large project on that first holiday (today!) and completing it by the second.
It also works great with clients! Give it a try.
I’m a fan of Haiku, and have been doing an exercise based upon it for several years now at conferences and law firm retreats. Instead of the 5-7-5 syllable format, I ask my audiences to answer three questions, using just five words for the first question, seven for the second and five again for the…
A few days ago, I wrote about how I was suffering from The Curse of Almost Happy. I realized that being “close to” fulfillment in my life and career wasn’t close at all. So, as I’ve spent this past weekend knocking off several things on my “To Do for Too Long” list, it hit me…
If you’ve got a big client, odds are they’ve got a pet project. Whether it is for a community organization, charity, civic group or volunteer event, supporting the causes your clients do can deepen your relationship with them while benefiting those in need. That’s why, in 2010 you need to Resolve to Take Care of…
I really like Twitter. For those who follow me, you know that I try to share lots of legal-themed tips, thoughts and ideas. In fact, most of my Ten Rules posts started out on Twitter — where I’ll test 15-25 “rules” to see which ones work best before picking the ten favorites. However, there’s lots…
Some of you may know about Kendeo, the design and strategy consulting company I own where I do all my ‘non-legal’ work. I often tell people that “we draw pictures of hard-to-understand things,” and that’s pretty much true. We had some fun with our Holiday card this year and I really wanted to share it…
Do you know all the kinds of things your firm does? Perhaps you should take a page (literally) from the restaurant industry and create a “menu” of your services. Though you may not decide to use it with clients, merely deciding what goes on the menu — and what gets left off — makes you…
Keith Ferrazzi shares a few simple “Relationship Rituals” that should be on every professional’s weekly checklist: 1. First thing every day after you turn on your computer, ping one friend and one acquaintance. 2. Every weekend, invite someone else into an activity that you normally do alone (walks, gym sessions, gardening, shopping trips). 3. Pick…
As 2008 draws to a close, it is natural to think about New Year’s resolutions.* We think about our businesses, our clients and ourselves and resolve to do better next year. If you’d like some help, or just some inspiration, here are Ten Resolutions for the New Year. Enjoy: 1. Resolve to be better to…
I’m going to be re-sharing a few dozen of my favorite posts from this blog over the next several weeks. This is an excerpt from one of my all-time favorites, written in December 2008 as part of my Resolution series. It still resonates with me today. I hope you like it. 1. Resolve to be better to…
Lately, I’ve been giving lots of presentations, and have six more coming up before the Summer ends. I work pretty hard on my speeches (here are a few examples of my slides) and thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learned the hard way in this Ten Rules post. Enjoy! 1. The greatest gift…
If your clients designed your bills, what would they look like? Would they be easier to understand? Contain useful case status information? How about upcoming dates or milestones? Would your bills include information about the people who worked on the case that month? How about a report card seeking monthly feedback about how you’re serving…
Here’s a tech-related tip from this post: How many times has a quick technology fix turned into a day of un-billable time? Trust me on this one, no matter how much (or little) work you have, your time is better spent building your business and serving your clients than it is crawling around on the…
I ran across a funny list of Google Autocomplete “Fails” and thought I’d see how Google would autocomplete a few legal-related queries. Sadly, the results aren’t very promising for lawyers. Here are just a few of the results: My lawyer is … Lawyers are … My Lawyer Won’t … Perhaps none of this comes as…
I’ve been using my “You Decide” fill-in-the-blank invoice, for over a year now. In that time, I’ve found time and time again that my clients pay me more than I would have charged them. And, in situations where clients demand a fixed price, I’m quoting them much higher prices (coupled with a money-back guarantee) than…
If you’re a lawyer who only surveys your clients once the engagement’s over, you’re leaving a lot of information on the table — information that will not only help you serve future clients, but your current ones as well. That’s why, in 2010, you should Resolve To Ask Current Clients More. Institute a regular, ongoing…
Over a year ago, I wrote 15 Thoughts for Law Students. It was one of my first “Rules” posts, though I wasn’t calling them that at the time. Since then, it has been one of the more popular items on this blog, and was even republished in the Canadian Bar Association magazine. I’ve revised it…
Had a great day with the associates from @BryanCaveLLP in their business academy. Can't wait to see their hack-a-thon pitches tomorrow!!
- Friday May 22 - 12:56am
Would your clients applaud your business's strategic plan if they heard it? They should.
- Thursday May 21 - 5:28pm
What do you think have been most innovative leaps in law? http://t.co/tsirVW4c4x
- Thursday May 21 - 4:07pm