Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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Dec 07, 2006


5 Tips For Reinventing Your Practice

TIP #1: Develop a business mindset. Become an entrepreneur and learn how to think like a businessman. Look at the world from your client’s perspective. Consider you client your business partner.

TIP #2: Select your clients carefully. Establish client acceptance criteria. Learn how to say no. Dump undesirable clients.

TIP #3: Brand yourself. Look for was ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Become the only attorney that can do what you do. Make a decision – what do you want to be known and remembered for? Unique services, unique client groups, different service delivery strategy, personal style. Create a five-year plan for goal accomplishment.

TIP #4: Learn how to become “solutions orientated” and become a consultant to your clients as opposed to simply their attorney. Solutions may involve activities and services other than legal services. Think out-of-the-box and outside of typical frameworks in which you are comfortable.

TIP #5: Conduct a firm-wide management and leadership assessment and identify strengths and weaknesses. Enhance management and leadership skills through skill development training and personnel acquisitions.

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Dec 01, 2006


Lawyer Coaching

Recently the following question was submitted to our office:

When should a firm consider coaching for attorneys?

The day-to-day stress of practicing law and serving clients leaves little time for focusing and investing in the future of the firm. When attorneys exhibit the following it may be time for a coach:

§         Stuck and unable to move forward on new initiatives
§         Indecision paralysis.
§         Lack of commitment, inertia, self-accountability or follow-up
§         Poor implementation skills
§         Lack of management, leadership, interpersonal, or other needed skills.

Training and skill development is not easy. Studies reveal that 90 percent of the people who attend seminars and training sessions see no improvement because they don't take the time to implement what they learn. Practices create habits and habits determine your future. Up to 90 percent of our normal behavior is based on habits. The key to skill learning is to get the new skill to become a habit. Once the new habit is well developed it becomes your new normal behavior. This requires practice. Unfortunately, attorneys do not have time to practice and experiment.

The coach's role is that of steward, facilitative leader and teacher. Law firms retain coaches to work with attorneys and staff, mostly on a personal level, to address problems involving lack of commitment, inertia, implementation, self-accountability and follow-up. Firms are using coaching in the following areas:

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Nov 28, 2006


Firm Culture

The following questions was recently submitted for comment:

Question: I often hear the term firm culture used. What does this term mean and what impact does it have upon management of a law firm?

Response:

Firm culture is the part of the firm’s internal environment that incorporates a set of assumptions, beliefs, and values that organizational members share and use to guide their functioning. Is a pattern of shared values and beliefs giving members of a firm meaning and providing them with rules for behavior. These values are inherent in the ways organizations and their members view themselves, define opportunities, and plan strategies.

Much as personality shapes an individual, organizational culture shapes its members responses and defines what an organization can or is willing to do. Click here for link to full article

Nov 27, 2006


Plans and Goals For 2007

As we approach the Christmas holiday season we need to begin thinking about next year. Here are some suggestions:

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Nov 24, 2006


Marketing Idea For 2007

Our firm recently completed client satisfaction interviews for several of our insurance defense law firm clients. Here are a few quotes and a summary of what these insurance company law firm clients told us:

Much can be learned by talking to your clients. Structured telephone interviews conducted by a neutral third party can provide many surprises as well as answers. Client satisfaction interviews can be the best marketing investment that you can make.

Nov 21, 2006


I had a call today from a lawyer expressing the following frustration:

I have been practicing law for ten years and I feel that I am in a rut. I am working for a firm and the relationship is no longer working out for me. I don’t have enough time for my family. My kids are growing up fast and I don’t have enough time to enjoy them. I need to make a change. Where do I start?

I provided him with the following suggestions:

A balanced personal and professional life is becoming more important to everyone. Time is a precious commodity. You should:

  • Develop a personal life plan and career/practice business plan.
  • Develop skills in time and money management.
  • Define what is important to you and define your personal-professional life boundaries.
  • Enjoy life and get involved in activities other than the practice of law.
  • Take charge of your quality of life – it is your responsibility.
  • Obtain training in the business of law.
  • Become entrepreneurial – think like a business person.

    Begin by conducting an inventory of your personal and professional life. Start with your personal life. Identify your personal and family goals. Then move on to your professional and career goals. Develop both a career plan and a business plan for your practice. Some of the decisions that you will have to consider are:

  • Should you go with another firm or start your own practice?
  • Should you work for a large firm or small firm?
  • Should you go to work for a corporate law department or a governmental agency?
  • Do you need additional training or education? Should you get a LLM or a MBA?
  • Where do you want to work?
  • What type of work and working environment will make you passionate about your work?
  • For whom do you want to work? What type of law firm? What type of clients?
  • Do you want to be a partner in a law firm?
  • How much of a balance do you want to maintain between your career and home life?
  • How important is money? How much do you want or have to make?

    Once you have defined your personal and professional goals you can formulate your action plans as to how you will get there and incorporate them into to career/business plan.

    John W. Olmstead, Ph.D, CMC

  • Nov 21, 2006


    Tips On Getting Paid

    I  have seen more law firms and other business firms destroyed by poor cash flow than any other calamity. Cash flow is what keeps owners, partners and administrators awake at night. Many of our law firm clients have asked us for tips on getting paid. Here are some thoughts and suggestions.

    Mar 12, 2006


    Lawyer Career Change

    Question:

    I have been practicing law for ten years and I feel that I am in a rut. I am working for a firm and the relationship is no longer working out for me. I don’t have enough time for my family. My kids are growing up fast and I don’t have enough time to enjoy them. I need to make a change. Where do I start?

    Response:

    A balanced personal and professional life is becoming more important to everyone. Time is a precious commodity. You should:


  • Develop a personal life plan and career/practice business plan.
  • Develop skills in time and money management.
  • Define what is important to you and define your personal-professional life boundaries.
  • Enjoy life and get involved in activities other than the practice of law.
  • Take charge of your quality of life – it is your responsibility.
  • Obtain training in the business of law.
  • Become entrepreneurial – think like a business man.

    Begin by conducting an inventory of your personal and professional life. Start with your personal life. Identify your personal and family goals. Then move on to your professional and career goals. Develop both a career plan and a business plan for your practice. Some of the decisions that you will have to consider are:

  • Should you go with another firm or start your own practice?
  • Should you work for a large firm or small firm?
  • Should you go to work for a corporate law department or a governmental agency?
  • Do you need additional training or education? Should you get a LLM or a MBA?
  • Where do you want to work?
  • What type of work and working environment will make you passionate about your work?
  • For whom do you want to work? What type of law firm? What type of clients?
  • Do you want to be a partner in a law firm?
  • How much of a balance do you want to maintain between your career and home life?
  • How important is money? How much do you want or have to make?

    Once you have defined your personal and professional goals you can formulate your action plans as to how you will get there and incorporate them into to career/business plan.

    John W. Olmstead, Ph.D, CMC

  • Aug 02, 2004


    Law Firm Brainstorming and Focus Groups

    Question:

    We have a successful practice but need to do a lot of things differently to move to the next level. How can we generate some momentum and ideas?

    Response:

    Why not use a few brainstorming focus groups and do some brainstorming.

    We find that many firms either don’t engage their people or don’t know how to engage their people. Untapped ideas are in the heads of your attorneys and staff. Using brainstorming focus groups and brainstorming techniques can help the firm improve decision making and tap these ideas.

    Brainstorming focus groups are not just another firm or staff meeting.
    A focus group consists of  (1) people with similar characteristics, (2) that provides qualitative data, (3) in a focused discussion, (4) to help understand the topic of interest. 

        Size

        There groups are typically composed of five to ten people, but the size can range from as few as four to as many as twelve. The group must be small enough for everyone to have an opportunity to share insights and yet large enough to provide diversity of perceptions. When the group exceeds a dozen participants, there is a tendency for the group to fragment.

        Purpose

        Brainstorming focus groups aren’t decision making groups or committees. They are used to generate ideas. The actual decisions are made after all the brainstorming focus groups are completed, not in the individual groups. The brainstorming focus groups are used to gain understanding about a topic so decision makers can make more informed choices.

        The Brainstorming Process

        Brainstorming is a technique whereby individuals or groups generate large numbers of ideas or alternatives relating to a decision without evaluating their merits. Listing alternatives without evaluating them encourages group members to generate ideas rather than defend or eliminate existing ideas. Evaluation occurs after a large array of ideas has been generated. Principles for brainstorming include:

        Moderating the Discussion

        Consider using a moderator team: a moderator and a recorder. The moderator is primarily concerned with directing the discussion, keeping the conversation flowing, and taking a few notes. The recorder, on the other hand, takes comprehensive notes, operates the tape recorder, handles the environmental conditions and logistics (refreshments, lightening, seating, etc.), and responds to unexpected interruptions.

        Recording the Discussion

        A recorder should be appointed and all ideas obtained in the brainstorming focus group should be recorded by either tape recorder or written notes. Written notes are essential. Often ideas are initially listed on flip charts and later converted to written notes. The note taking should not interfere with the spontaneous nature of the session. Notes should be as complete as possible.

    John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

    Nov 10, 2003


    Most Important Marketing Activity in Law Firms

    What is the most important marketing activity neglected by law firms?

    Response:

    Maintaining an ongoing relationship with existing clients. It is much easier and cheaper to obtain additional business from existing clients than to recruit new clients. Yet, many law firms take their clients for granted. Whether your clients are individuals with single matters or institutional (business) clients, it is critical to demonstrate to maintain ongoing contact and effectively manage the relationship. Consider:

    John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

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