Here are some of my favorite posts.  I hope you enjoy them.


Thinking Unthinkable Thoughts

Kevin Kelly thinks about thinking the unthinkable:

The futurist Herman Khan introduced the idea of “thinking the unthinkable” as a way to loosen up the imagination in trying to forecast the future. Most time we are unable to guess the future because we are inhibited by conventional wisdom – something that everyone knows is true. For instance everyone (including me) knew that an encyclopedia written by amateurs that could be changed by anyone at anytime was simply a silly, impossible idea. That prevented anyone from forecasting wikipedia. Herman Khan stressed that we should assume what we know is wrong and begin to imagine how the unthinkable might happen.

Looking back even ten years, who would have predicted the legal present we’re experiencing now?  Services like Facebook, LinkedIn, Avvo, LegalZoom weren’t around, and the biggest technology decisions most lawyers had to make was between Wordperfect and Word.

Looking forward to 2020, what is “unthinkable” for law practice?  What things are we absolutely certain won’t happen in the next nine years?  Here are a few of mine:

  • There will be no “medium-sized” law firms any longer.  All lawyers will either practice in firms of less than 10 attorneys or more than 1000.
  • The court system, as a venue for dispute resolution of any kind, will cease to exist.  Every dispute will either be settled in mediation or through submission to a computerized, artificial intelligence system, and parties will be bound by its decision.
  • Thompson/Reuters/West and Lexis/Nexis will merge.  Nobody will notice.
  • Law schools will merge with business schools to actually teach students both to “think like a lawyer” and to run a profitable business.
  • Facebook will introduce a feature that automatically recommends to divorcing couples how they should separate their friends and property.

Leave your unthinkable 2020 predictions in the comments, or tag them on twitter with #2020Unthinkables.  I’d love to hear what you think won’t happen in 2020, too.

Explain the “Why” to Your Clients

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.

Ten Rules of Client Service

Quick, name your favorite customer service class from law school.  Can’t do it?  I’m not surprised.  Most lawyers don’t learn much about client service in school, and the only class that touches upon service at all is Legal Ethics — which is kind of like teaching someone to ride a bike by showing them lots of bicycle accidents.

By delivering great service, you can delight your customers, increase their satisfaction (and reduce malpractice exposure), cut your marketing budget and turn your clients into your best salespeople.  And because many of your peers believe something as simple as returning client calls is optional, the bar to delivering the best client service in your community is set pretty low. 

Here then, are 10 simple “rules” to help you remember that it is your customers who keep you in business, and when you work to delight (instead of frustrate) them, you’ll both be successful.

1.  Just because clients don’t expect great service from lawyers doesn’t excuse you from providing it.

2.  Don’t assume you’re great at service because your current clients don’t leave.  Many remain your clients because they fear their new lawyer will treat them just like you do.

3.  It costs less to delight a client than it does to frustrate them.  You pay to delight them once, but you pay for frustrating them forever.

4.  It is also far cheaper to compete on service than it is on price, because there will always be someone far cheaper.

5.  People tell others about service they receive, not competence they expect.  Ever heard someone brag about how clean their dry cleaners get their clothes? 

6.  The time clients care about isn’t yours, it’s theirs.  Build your practice to save them time and they’ll be less reluctant to pay you for yours.

7.  Though you might be measured against your peers in a courtroom, when it comes to service, you’re measured against everyone.  If your clients named the top ten places they get great service, would your business make the list?  It should.

8.  Eighty percent of your time should be spent on satisfying your clients’ expectations and twenty percent should be spent on exceeding them.

9.  You can’t measure how you’re doing when you only ask how you’ve done.  Improving client service begins with learning how to serve your current clients better.

10.  If your clients can go months without hearing from you, they can go forever without recommending you.  To lawyers, indifference and incompetence are two different things.  To clients, they are one in the same.

If you’d like to see some more posts like this one, check out: Ten Rules of RainmakingTen Tweets about TwitterTen Resolutions for the New YearTen Rules for Law Students, Ten Rules for the New Economy, Ten Rules for New Solos, Ten Rules of Legal InnovationTen Rules of Legal Technology, Ten Rules of Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Also, if you’d like to see hundreds more ideas on creative ways to deliver great client service, check out all of the Client Service posts here on this blog.

Best of NBH: Quarantine Your Best Ideas

Do you have Shiny Shiny Syndrome?  I do.  Here’s a post from January 2012 about a technique I still use: Many of the attorneys I work with suffer from the same thing I do: Shiny Shiny Syndrome.  You suffer from S3 when you regularly give in to an overwhelming urge to start working on something new…

Resolve To Fix Your Technology Less

This resolution is for nearly every solo and small firm lawyer out there (including those with computer science degrees): Resolve to Fix Your Technology Less. 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…

Ten Rules for Law Students

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…

The (Auto)Complete Lawyer

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…

Ten Rules of Rainmaking

I often quibble with the term “rainmaker” because I think it too often describes lawyers more interested in getting new clients than in keeping current ones.  However, because “10 Rules for Business Development,” and “10 Rules for Keeping Clients So You Don’t Have to Replace Them” don’t have the same nice ring as “ 10…

Communicating Value and Price

I’ve been a big fan of Merlin Mann for several years now.  As I was checking out his website yesterday, I found his pricing page cheekily titled: Do You Charge Money to Do Things? Here’s how Merlin describes his pricing scheme: For most all of my speaking, consulting, and advisory work, yes: I do charge…

The Curse of Almost Done

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…

Resolve to Support the Causes Your Clients Do

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…

Your clients still don’t care where you went to law school.

This is an update to this post from a few years ago.

Ten Resolutions for the New Year

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…

Give Clients More Certainty

Clients crave predictability.  They find comfort in knowing what to expect — especially in stressful situations like the ones you handle for them everyday. But how can you deliver more certainty to your clients?  After all, outcomes are impossible to predict and matters ebb and flow from beginning to end.  You keep your clients “in…

Focus on Quality of Experience

Lots of lawyers claim to be “results-focused.”  Clients want good results, after all, and marketing yourself as one “focused” on delivering them has got to be a lot better  (to clients, anyway) than being “timesheet-focused.”  However, I think  many lawyers who focus only on the result are hurting their clients (and their own practices).  Let…

What are your Relationship Rituals?

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…

Resolve to Apologize Better

Everyone makes mistakes.  Even lawyers.  That's why, in 2010, you should Resolve to Apologize Better.   Why apologize?  Apologies increase client loyalty and reduce malpractice exposure.  But how do you apologize better?  Practice!  Here's a great guide from Psychology Today (about apologizing to women) that sets out the six mandatory elements a good apology: 1. Acknowledge…

The Haiku of What You Do

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…

Rethinking Your Firm’s Bills

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…

Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Legal Marketing has changed.  It used to be enough to keep an ad in the yellow pages and belong to the Rotary Club.  Not anymore.  Times are tough, so I present to you Ten “New” Rules of Legal Marketing.  Let me know what you think. 1.  “My lawyer can beat up your lawyer” isn’t a…