The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success

Essential Tips to Power Your Practice

Archive for April, 2009

Listen to the ABA TECHSHOW Keynote by Dr Richard Susskind: Is It The End of Lawyers?

April 21, 2009 By: Dan Category: Announcements

The attendees at ABA TECHSHOW 2009 where treated to a fantastic keynote presentation by Dr Richard Susskind. He spoke about the hypothesis of his new book, The End of Lawyers?

Now the good news for all those that couldn’t attend TECHSHOW: an audio recording of Dr Susskind’s keynote is now available on the TECHSHOW site. It is most definitely worth a listen.

The title and theme of Dr. Susskind’s book – the end of lawyers – appears on first blush to be rather ominous. And while it is, most people miss is the question mark, and its implication. The title asks a question. It is not a statement. In his book Dr. Susskind asks and explores the extent to which the role of the traditional lawyer can be sustained in coming years in the face of what he sees as challenging trends in the legal marketplace, and various new techniques and technologies for the delivery of legal services. Dr. Susskind has assembled a collection of predictions and observations about a generally honourable profession that is, he argues, on the brink of fundamental transformation. He urges lawyers to ask themselves what elements of their current workload could be undertaken more quickly, more cheaply, more efficiently, or to a higher quality using different and new methods of working. He argues that the market is unlikely to tolerate expensive lawyers for tasks that can be better discharged with support of modern technology systems and techniques. The book does point to a future in which conventional legal advisers will be much less prominent in society than today. This he says will be caused by two forces: a market pull towards commoditization and by pervasive development and uptake of information technology. Commoditization and IT will fundamentally reshape twenty-first century legal service.

I am reading Dr. Susskind’s book now, and plan to comment more on it in a upcoming SLAW posts. Lawyers interested in a future in the practice of law should read this book. If my statement alone doesn’t convince you to do that, listen to Dr. Susskind’s keynote – it argues very persuasively that change is upon us.

Also posted on SLAW (

The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success Excerpt Featured on ABA Books Blog and Twitter: Eleven Things That Annoy Clients the Most

April 20, 2009 By: Reid Category: Client Service, Ethics & Professionalism

A first for our book: The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice has hit the Twittersphere as of this past Friday via ABABookBriefs and the ABA Book Briefs Blog. Web 2.0 is cool!

The post featured one of our favorite collection of tips, “Eleven Things That Annoy Clients the Most.” How many can you name? Don’t read the next paragraph – close your eyes and see how many you can come up with.

OK, how did you do? Here’s our list:

  • Not returning phone calls.
  • Not replying to e-mails.
  • Making clients wait in reception.
  • Ignoring client/staff incivility.
  • Dropping names to impress others.
  • Not clarifying for the client.
  • Not delivering on promises of performance.
  • Not delivering on a promised outcome.
  • Not communicating during long periods of inactivity.
  • Failing to be prepared.
  • Sending a very large bill without warning or explanation.

See the excerpt for more on the 11 biggest client annoyances, and more importantly, what you can to do avoid them. The excerpt will show you our editorial philosophy: short, practical, valuable nuggets of information without the fluff.

Applying the tips featured in this excerpt will help you have happier clients, and even better, reduce the likelihood you will face discipline complaints and malpractice claims.

The Death Of The Billable Hour And The ACC Value Challenge – Essential Reading For Lawyers And Clients Alike

April 15, 2009 By: Dan Category: Client Service, Firm Management & Operations, Making (more) Money

The death of the billable hour has been (allegedly) imminent for at about two decades now. But by most accounts, at least until recently, the billable hour has remained as healthy as Mark Twain was when he responded with his famous quote to the rather incorrect rumours of his passing. (He actually did this twice with two slight different quotes – read more here)

I included the at least until recently above because I am seeing evidence that things are finally changing, at least in the corporate and larger firm worlds (and no doubt it will trickle down to smaller firms and non-corporate clients). The current economic woes seem to be causing some clients to demand alternatives to the billable hour. As money is tighter these days, the drive behind this is nothing more than getting better value for the money spent on legal fees. Firms that want the work have little choice to respond to client demands, often with detailed answers to client RFPs that set out fees based on other than simple billable hours.

Question for the lawyers: Is your firm ready to make this change? (Stated a slightly different way: By matter type do you really know what it costs to handle the various types of matters your firm handles?)

Question for the clients: Do you understand the ways you can get more value for your legal spend?

Question for both: Have you talked to each other about this?

I suspect the answer to these questions for many law firms and their clients is no.

If you are a lawyer or a client and answered no to the above questions, you should visit the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Value Challenge website. The ACC has put together a truly amazing online resource to help clients and their lawyers understand what clients really need, want and are willing to pay for. While really aimed at corporate law departments and bigger firms – much of the content on this site is helpful and relevant to lawyers at firms of all sizes and their respective clients.

The premise for this resource is that many traditional law firm business models and cost management strategies (read reward more billable hours) are not aligned with what corporate clients really want and need: value-driven, high-quality legal services that deliver solution for a reasonable cost and develop lawyers as counselors (not just content-providers), advocates (not just process-doers) and professional partners.

The site includes some “Meet/Talk/Act” guidelines to help law departments and law firms open the dialogue on these issues. (And, I’m all for more lawyer/client communication as it can help alleviate the most common cause of legal malpractice claims – poor lawyer/client communication. See my LAWPRO Magazine article on the most common malpractice claims.)

To help you make changes there is a Toolkit that includes resources and tools on the following topics:
* Structuring Relationships
* Budgeting and Staffing
* Performance Management
* Teamwork & Communications
* Leveraging Knowledge

And the ACC also commissioned a major economic consulting firm to develop a computer-based model of basic law firm economics. This model allows in-house counsel and law firms to test assumptions and input data (for example, numbers of associates and partners, rates, overhead, etc.) and see how changes in these and other factors can affect a firm’s efficiency and profitability. Wow!

Kudos to the ACC wants for promoting a discussion on these issues between lawyers and their clients. If you want to succeed you need to make time to review and consider the content on the ACC Value Challenge site.

Twitter: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (AKA To Tweet, or not to Tweet)

April 11, 2009 By: Dan Category: Technology

Twitter was a certainly a hot topic at ABA TECHSHOW last week. Loads of active Twitterers were tweeting away there, and many more attendees where trying to learn more about it. Are you still trying to figure out what Twitter is, and more importantly, what it might do for you? My good friend Jim Calloway, the Practice Management Advisor at the Oklahoma Bar Association, has a special knack for explaining technology in a practical and very understandable way. To learn more about Twitter read this great article he posted on the OBA site earlier this week: Twitter: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.


My Favorite Tips from ABA TECHSHOW 2009

April 08, 2009 By: Reid Category: Firm Management & Operations, Technology

The 2009 edition of the ABA TECHSHOW wrapped on Saturday, leaving attendees full of great information to bring back to their firms to organize, synthesize, and implement.  It’s that last step that is often so difficult. That’s why Dan and I like the tips format so much—the brevity of a tip can help streamline the implementation of new ideas within a law firm.

In fact, Dan and I were invited to present the TECHSHOW session, 60 Tips in 60 Minutes–a perennial favorite. Joined by Nancy Duhon and Ben Schorr, we launched 60 practical tips at our audience of 350+ lawyers in just over an hour. Many of the tips focused on new productivity tricks or helpful websites.  Here are a few of my favorites:

On-line Legal Dictionaries: As we do more and more of our work digitally, online and almost joined at the fingertips to our keyboards, having a digital searchable legal dictionary can be mighty handy. Come on, really, when was the last time you arm curled that six pound Black’s Law Dictionary to look up a word, or obscure Latin abbreviation? Two of the best online resources specifically for lawyers are: and its sister site They both also have links to medical dictionaries and abbreviations for those who need those as well. (Nancy)

Be the Evening News: YouTube and video technology will have the same effect on television news as the Internet has had on newspapers. No longer will visual content be in the hands of a few producers and purveyors. Law firms can create positive messages to influence debate, inform clients of important regulatory and legal developments, and extend firm marketing activities beyond the written word and static page. Current amateur efforts on YouTube will soon be replaced by inexpensive, but quality productions. Add these new efforts to your firm marketing and client development plans. (Reid)

GreenPrint and Fine Print: These small applications act as an intermediary between your print job and your printer driver. Once you click the print button and choose one of these drivers, you will get a preview of your print job and can determine whether you really need all those pages and graphics. You can also change your mind and produce a PDF instead. Wonderful way to set yourself and your staff thinking twice about continuing to produce paper, or at least producing less of it. (Nancy)

Banish the New E-mail Pop-up: Most people computer’s present that little “new message” pop-up window come up every single time an e-mail message arrives in their Inbox. Stop the insanity – it’s just a huge interruption. You know, the beep goes off, and you get bounced out of whatever you were working in, and your train of thought gets interrupted. Turn off that notification window!! Go with just the beep if you have to. And, if you don’t need to know the instant when something arrives in your inbox (and most of the time you don’t), consider turning off the beep too. You’re going to check your Inbox reasonably regularly anyway. (Dan)

It’s All “About Me”: Do you have a website or a blog with an “About Me” or biography page? How effective is your profile on that page? If it is just a few boring lines and a picture, why not take time to make it really work for you? Make it pop! Add links to your digital life and digital “ink”. Let viewers of your page connect to you via links to your social networking pages, as well as links to articles, case decisions, interviews, awards, pro bono work, and other information about you on-line. (Reid)

Excel: Fill Handle: Ever need to take a series of numbers, dates, months or letters and extend them down a column or across a row in Excel? Need to fill in the names of the months across a report for instance but get bored with typing them before you even get to May? Have a handy formula in a cell that you
want to copy down the next 250 rows but don’t want to have to copy/paste that many times? The Fill Handle is for you! When you select one or more cells in Excel you’ll see that the bottom right corner of the selection looks like a black box. Hover your mouse over that and your cursor turns to a black plus-sign. That’s the Fill Handle. Give Excel enough cells to establish the pattern and the Fill Handle can do the work for you. Just type “Jan” in a cell, then drag the Fill Handle across to the right and Excel magically populates the succeeding cells with the rest of the months. Type “1”, “2”, “3” in sequential rows, highlight all three of those cells, then drag the Fill Handle down and it will continue the series as far as you drag. (Ben)

Blackberry Typing Tricks: You want to make the most out of that microscopic keyboard, right? It works reasonably well once you get used to it, but here are some cool typing tricks you might not know about that will save you some time and effort in formatting and the like:
* To type a capital letter, press and hold the appropriate letter key.
* To type an accented letter, hold the letter key down, roll the trackball to view the available accented letters, and release to insert the one you want.
* To turn on Number Lock, hold the Alt key and press the left Shift key.
* To turn on Caps Lock, hold the Alt key and press the right Shift key.
* Pressing either Shift key will turn Number or Caps Lock off.
* To insert a period, press the Space key twice, and you’ll find that the next letter will automatically be capitalized, too.
* To insert a period or at sign (@) into an e-mail address, just press Space.
* To type a symbol, press the Symbol key and type the letter that appears below the symbol on your screen (read this one twice so you don’t miss the point—i.e., you don’t have to scroll and click on the symbols you want, you just use the letters instead). (Dan)

AutoHotKey: AutoHotKey is a free portable scripting language. That sounds intimidating but it’s not. With just a little effort you can create simple scripts that you can use on any Windows PC to automate launching programs, executing repetitive tasks, inserting specific bits of text. Create a signature block or disclaimer in AutoHotKey and you can immediately insert it into any program or website with just a couple of key presses or even a mouse gesture.
Best of all, it’s free at along with free sample scripts and tools that you can look at. (Ben)

Set Wider Scroll Bars: We all use scroll bars for moving around documents and Web pages, and making the bars just a bit wider will make them much easier to click on. Under the Item drop-down list, select Scrollbar. Next, use the up or down arrows next to Size to find the width you want. The default is 16. I have mine set to 21. Again, watch your changes in the Preview pane, and when you like what you see, click on Okay to keep the change. Note that making your scroll bars wider will also make the up and down arrows on your scroll bars larger, which will make them easier to click on as well. Changing the size of the caption buttons and scroll bars will give you the most bang for your buck. But look through the other things listed in the Item drop-down list. Alternatively, you can click on the various elements in the Preview box, and then make configurations changes to them. (Dan)

And then there’s the famous 60 Websites in 60 Minutes session at TECHSHOW too. We’ve cover our favorites there in another post later this week!

Our favorite go-to, get-it-done, easy-to-use iPhone apps for lawyers, TECHSHOW 2009 edition

April 02, 2009 By: Reid Category: Uncategorized

The Apple iPhone is the best piece of technology I have ever owned. It does amazing things to allow busy lawyers to stay connected and be productive from just about anywhere. But don’t just take my word for it: Three leading Mac/iPhone blawgers, Jeff Richardson, David Sparks, and Ben Stevens (and me) got together in advance of the 2009 ABA TECHSHOW to publish our list of favorite productive, must-have apps for the iPhone, simultaneously publishing it today on our 4 blogs, and in advance of our roundtable tomorrow here at TECHSHOW, Is That an iPhone in Your Pocket?!

Update: Here is the link to the favorite iPhone apps blog post.

Eliminate your biggest daily interruption: Banish the new e-mail pop-up

April 01, 2009 By: Dan Category: Coping with E-mail

Coping with e-mail is something we all struggle with. E-mail is killing productivity for lawyers and staff alike in many law offices. For this reason coping with e-mail was one of the 8 bigger picture topics Reid and I felt deserved to be covered in our book.

And while I won’t give all our tips away here, you need to buy the book to get them, I will tempt you with what I think is one of the best tips for coping with e-mail.

Most people are presented with a beep and the “new message” pop-up window when a new e-mail message arrives in their Inbox. This innocent little pop-up window is a huge interruption and distraction. I dare say it is the biggest interruption in your day (unless you are on Twitter or another one of those other new fangled Web 2.0 tools – but that is a topic for another day).

Think about what happens when that pop-up appears on your screen. Your train of thought gets interrupted, you get bounced out of whatever you were working on, and it makes your wonder about what might have arrived.

No doubt many of you get important and even urgent e-mails, but I don’t think most of you need to know the instant every message arrives in your inbox. To get more done, turn off that darn new mail notification window! Go with just the new e-mail beep. And, if you don’t really need to know the instant something arrives in your inbox (and be truthful here – most of the time you don’t), consider turning off the beep too so it doesn’t distract you as well.

You’re going to get around to checking your inbox reasonably regularly anyway (just before your break or lunch etc.), and I guarantee you messages will all be there waiting for you.