Category Archives: Manifesto

A Manifesto Worth Investing In

I’m constantly running across great books written for non-legal audiences that contain amazing advice for lawyers.  Blair Enns’ new book The Win Without Pitching Manifesto (which you can buy or read online for free) is one of those books.  Some examples:

We will not solve problems before we are paid:

Our thinking is our highest value product; we will not part with it without appropriate compensation. If we demonstrate that we do not value our thinking, our clients and prospects will not. Our paying clients can rest assured that our best minds remain focused on solving their problems and not the problems of those who have yet to hire us.

We will charge more:

As our expertise deepens and our impact on our clients’ businesses grows, we will increase our pricing to reflect that impact. We will recognize that, to our clients, the smallest invoices are the most annoying. Through charging more we will create more time to think on behalf of our clients and we will eliminate the need to invoice for changes and other surprises.

There’s also some great advice  about being selective:

Instead of seeking clients, we will selectively and respectfully pursue perfect fits—those targeted organizations that we can best help. We will say no early and often, and as such, weed out those that would be better served by others and those that cannot afford us. By saying no we will give power and credibility to our yes.

And the best one?  Time or Thinking, What Are We Selling?

We sell our thinking but we do ourselves a gross disservice in selling it by the hour. The surest way to commoditize our own thinking is to sell it in units of doing: time. Later in the engagement, when the strategy work has been done and we are deep into implementation work, the client buys our time. It is our thinking, however, that separates us from our competition and forms the basis of our ability to premium price. When we charge for this thinking by the hour we undo much of the work of the previous proclamations. “How much an hour?” we hear the client think. “How many hours?” When we employ commodity pricing we invite commodity comparisons, regardless of the value we deliver. The defining characteristic of a commodity is an inability to support any price premium. If we cannot win while charging more, then we must face the reality that we are selling a commodity. 

I’ve already bought my copy — even though I’ve read the entire Manifesto online — because I expect to open it up again and again.  I hope you do the same.

Perform a File Autopsy

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.

Remember Your Love/Hate Relationships

Building your perfect practice begins with identifying and getting to know the clients you want to serve.

Here’s a quick exercise to get you started:

1.  Grab a legal pad and identify the first seven or so great clients (past and present) that come to mind, along with the reason(s) you liked to serve them.  Be specific, and try to come up with at least three reasons for each client.

2.  Do the same thing for your terrible clients, and as you answer the “because…” question, think about how many you should have seen coming.

3.  Once you’ve completed the exercise, ask the people who regularly work with you to do the same.  You can even ask your spouse or partner .

We’ll talk more tomorrow about what you can learn from your answers, and I’ll give you several questions to ask about each client (good and bad) who made the lists.

Remember Your Why

Remember Your Why. 


Remember a time, before you began practicing, when you were regularly asked the simple question, “Why do you want to be a lawyer?”  Whether you were taking the LSAT, applying to law school or interviewing for your first legal job, you were asked (and answered) the question countless times.

I bet you’re not asked that often now.  Once we choose a profession — and possess the diploma and school debt to prove it — we’re rarely asked by others to justify the “why” of what we do.  But though we’re no longer called upon to publicly defend our chosen profession to others, we must still justify it to ourselves.  Everyday.

So, why do you want to be a lawyer?  For those who love the profession, the answer comes easy:  it’s about serving their clients and doing great work.  If you’re one of them, consider yourself fortunate.  You’ve found your “why.”

For others who struggle to respond, it isn’t so easy.  The practice has changed.  The business is different.  Shit has happened.  They remain lawyers because they, literally, can’t imagine doing anything else.

How about you?  What’s your answer?  Need some help?

If so, join me as we spend the next few weeks thinking together about how to do the work you love for clients you respect.  We’ll identify key strategies you can use to build a better practice — from client selection and service, to pricing your work and billing for your work — distilled from the nearly 2000 posts in this blog, so you can make 2012 the year you remembered why you (still) want to be a lawyer.

I hope you’ll enjoy the journey.


Serve Yourself First

Serve yourself first. 

Lots of lawyers I know are great at what they do.  They are liked by clients, respected by peers and active in their communities.

They also hate practicing law.

When asked why, they’ll blame the long hours, the financial strain of running a small business or the emotional drain of serving clients in crisis — all while complaining about the crappy economy, their antagonistic opponents, or (gasp!) the internet.  “The profession has become a business,” they’ll say.  “I just want to serve my clients.”

And that’s the problem.  They’ve stopped wanting to serve themselves.  They’ve stopped dreaming about their future business because they’re too busy working in their present one.  They’ve confused the purpose of their profession (to serve clients)  with the purpose of their practice (to provide for themselves and their families), and have ended up miserable in the process.

So how can lawyers return to work that ignites their curiosity and stimulates their creativity?  How can they break out of the cycle where unfulfilling work begets more of the same — until it not only becomes the only work they do, but the only work they can get?

It begins with selfishness.  Not the two-year-old kind, but the kind of selfishness where it is OK to ask, “What kind of work do I love to do?” at the same time as “What kind of work do my clients need me to do?”  Answering the latter without addressing the former hurts both lawyer and client, as the unhappy lawyer rarely gives clients their best work.

So be selfish.  Serve yourself first.  Know the work you love to do and find go some more of it.  List the things you hate doing and find a way to stop doing them.  Identify the clients you can’t stand and fire them.  Take time to imagine a practice you’d love, and begin to build it.

In my essay Monday, we’ll get started.


Love Two of What You Do




Resolve to Rethink Client Service

This year, instead of sharing a resolution each day of December (like I have before), I’m going to try something new and share a piece of a new “manifesto” I’m writing.  I’ll have a new installment up every day.  I hope you’ll enjoy them and let me know what you think.