December 2009

For most people and most businesses, the end of 2009 and the end of the “aught” decade could not come soon enough.  Well, rise and shine, 2010 is here.  Time for a positive, upbeat attitude.  (If you celebrated the end of the decade last night and “aren’t quite yourself” this morning, you can start having

It is year end.  Have the senior managers of your firm visited your firm’s most important clients this month?  Has there at least been a phone call to each of the primary personnel you deal with at key clients?  If not, what on earth are you waiting for?  You should be looking for opportunities to

Fantastic post by Seth Godin.  Here it is:

A few people are afraid of good ideas, ideas that make a difference or contribute in some way. Good ideas bring change, that’s frightening.

But many people are petrified of bad ideas. Ideas that make us look stupid or waste time or money or create some sort of backlash.

The problem is that you can’t have good ideas unless you’re willing to generate a lot of bad ones.

Painters, musicians, entrepreneurs, writers, chiropractors, accountants–we all fail far more than we succeed. We fail at closing a sale or playing a note. We fail at an idea for a series of paintings or the theme for a trade show booth.

But we succeed far more often than people who have no ideas at all.

Someone asked me where I get all my good ideas, explaining that it takes him a month or two to come up with one and I seem to have more than that. I asked him how many bad ideas he has every month. He paused and said, "none."

And there, you see, is the problem.

I agree–it takes many ideas to beget good ideas, and the bad ones most likely outnumber the good ones.  When certain former colleagues used to "what if" marketing ideas I offered, I used to remind them that .300 hitters ended up in the hall of fame.

But I am also a trial lawyer, and .300 hitters in trials end up unemployed.  So how to reconcile these two competing realities?  Putting ideas through gauntlet of colleagues who are smarter than you are, testing ideas out on test audiences, refining and running through the gauntlet again.  And then standing up in front of a jury and putting your idea to the ultimate test.  Creating a compelling story and a compelling way to tell it entails risk.  That is why trials are unpredictable.

What is NOT the answer?  Trial by numbers, the mind-numbingly predictable, follow-the-play-book-and-do-things-safely approach that so many litigators bring to the table.  Because if you follow the playbook, you will end up like the "someone" who is "the problem" in Seth Godin’s post.

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Dennis Kennedy, the dean of law blogging, annually (since 2004) awards "Blawggies."  According to Dennis:

The Blawggies, which honor the best-related blogs as determined from my personal and highly-opinionated perspective, were first unleashed on an unsuspecting blogosphere in December 2004 and are now an annual pre-Christmas tradition here at DennisKennedy.Blog. I’m very pleased that this sixth edition of the awards makes them the longest running annual awards list for law-related blogs selected by a lawyer named Dennis Kennedy living in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Blawggies are not based on any popular votes, surveys or, God forbid, objective criteria. They are highly-opinionated choices made by me alone, based on my experience, expertise and likes and dislikes gained from nearly seven years of blogging and several more years before that of reading blogs voraciously.


In Search of Perfect Client Service was named the co-winner of "The Marty Schwimmer Best Practice-Specific Legal Blog,  along with Steve Nipper’s The Invent Blog.

I would like to thank the Academy ….  Oh wait–wrong speech. 

Thanks Dennis.  Coming from you, simply being mentioned is an honor.

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Courtesy of the Lean Six Sigma Academy, I am reading the Guide To Lean, by Ron Pereira.  He notes three ways to express how a company turns a profit:

1.   Price – Cost = Profit

2.   Profit = Price – Cost

3.   Price = Cost + Profit

All the same?  Perspective counts here.  The following is a summary of what’s in the Guide.

Formula 3 is the way government might approach setting a price on something.  You figure out the profit you want, add it to your cost, and you end up with the price.


Formula 2 is a the way a producer who cannot reduce costs views things.

Formula 1  "Lastly we come to the lean formula (Price – Cost = Profit). This formula is arranged in such a way as to say that costs exist to be reduced, not to be calculated. The thinking here is that the market sets the price and the only sure way we can increase profits is by reducing costs."

I found this interesting because while law firms have worked hard to reduce their costs (mostly by firing people), I have seen very little which suggests that firms are reducing their cost to produce that which the sell to their client.  So, for example, you may have less lawyers in the firm because there is less work, but are you staffing cases differently?  Managing them to produce results for the client that costs less?  Firms that bill by measuring time still exist in a cost plus environment.

This is not a new debate, but I did think the discussion in the Guide to Lean provided an interesting perspective.

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My dear departed father served in the United States Coast Guard during WWII, so this request is one I happily accomodate. 

Scott Greenfield, who writes the brilliant Simple Justice, asked (via Twitter) bloggers to blog about programs that use wreaths to honor those who died in the service to their country.  I thought for

Dilbert, courtesy of, December 7, 2009
Here’s the questions of the day.  Other than when hiring lawyers, what other goods or services do people buy without knowing the price?  How did lawyers escape this prevailing rule?  Why are some clients unwilling to insist that lawyers play by the rules that every other person in the company must abide by?


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