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


Best of NBH: Autopsy Your Dead Files

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.

Resolve to Land a Big Fish

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Almost every lawyer has a “big fish” they’d like to land. Whether that fish is an individual client, a corporation, an insurance company or even a great referral source, your big fish isn’t going to catch itself.

And what better place to find advice on catching “big fish” than on a website called TakeMeFishing?  Some fishing wisdom to keep in mind when you’re Resolving to Land a Big Fish:

Fishing techniques:

The cool thing about fishing is that there are hundreds of species of fish to catch.  What’s even cooler is that there are multiple ways to catch a particular kind of fish.

When to fish:

You’ll soon learn that when it’s a bad day for fishing in one location, it could be a good day in another, and the locations may not be far apart.

Finding fish:

You don’t have to travel far or spend a lot of money to find a body of water with fish you can catch.

Landing bigger fish:

Don’t be anxious.  Even if you get the fish close to the boat, that doesn’t mean it’s done fighting.

Setting the hook:

It takes a lot of experience to know when to set the hook.  It also takes a lot of patience.

Some fish will nibble on your bait or lure, causing your line to tick or wiggle.  And some fish will try to swallow the entire bait, hook and rig all at once with one big hit.

Different fish strike differently.  And the same fish will go after your bait differently depending on the time of day or time of year.

Caring for your catch:

Fish spoil quickly if you don’t handle them properly from the moment you land them.

So as you plan on landing one big fish in 2010, make certain you’re prepared: know who they are, where they hang out, what you’ll use to attract them and what you’ll do with them once they’re caught.

Know the answers to each of these questions before you “go fishing” for big fish, or all you will end up catching are small ones you’d rather throw back.

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 everyone.  Start with yourself.

2.  Resolve to choose your customers as carefully as friends, knowing that you’ll work best when they’re one in the same.

3.  Resolve to know your business better.  Recognize that being good at what you do is unimportant if you’re not good at being in the business you’re in.

4.  Resolve to stop doing the things your customers don’t pay you to do, unless you love doing them so much, you’d do them for free.  Because you are.

5.  Resolve to value your life by the things you experience instead of the things you possess.

6.  Resolve to eliminate the things in your life that wake you up in the middle of the night — unless you’re married to them, or they need to go outside for a walk.

7.  Resolve to become more useful to your customers.  Stop thinking about what they expect from you, and focus instead on what they don’t expect from you.

8.  Resolve to help the people who work with you (and for you) become better at what they do.  Give them what they need to excel at their jobs, and you’ll find you’re more likely to excel at yours.

9.  Resolve to understand the difference between what you do for clients and how long you take to do it.  They care about the former, and can’t understand why you charge for the latter.

10.  Resolve to do the work you long to do, instead of the work you’ve been doing for too long.  Follow your passions, honor your principles and strive to add value to every relationship you’re in. “Next Year” begins now.  Get started on making it great!

I’d love your input, and feel free to add your resolutions in the comments.  If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series:  Ten 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 get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

*  Thinking about Resolutions for Lawyers is something I’ve been doing for quite some time.  Here are my 30+ resolutions from 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Resolve to Let Clients Set Your Price

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…

Happy Holidays from My Team at Kendeo

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…

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…

Ten Rules for Presenters

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…

Is your website for your clients or for your peers?

Inspired by this venn diagram found on Business Pundit,  I thought I’d do one for Law Firm Websites:

Ten Rules of Legal Innovation

“Innovative Lawyer” shouldn’t be an oxymoron.  Lawyers — who are constantly applying their creative, problem-solving skills to help clients — too often turn their innovation engines off as soon as their “billable” work ends.  If you’re a lawyer, and willing to set aside some time to innovate, I am happy to help you.  Until then,…

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 Count Cards

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…

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…

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…

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…

Create a Menu for Your Practice

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…

Best of NBH: Stop Fixing Your Own Tech

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…

Ask Your Clients Better Questions

In A Manager’s Primer on Asking Better Questions, Marty Baker at Creativity Central shares several dozen open-ended questions designed for various situations like Anticipation, Assessment and Clarification that serve as a valuable reminder that “yes” or “no” questions don’t always get you the information you need. Here’s the suggested questions on “Exploration” from the post:…

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…

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…

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…