February 2010

I just concluded a stay at a Four Seasons Hotel.  When checking out, I was stunned to see two $100 plus charges for phone calls.  When I inquired about the charges, I was told that the first minute of each call is $8 and each subsequent minute was $3.  The rates are not listed on

Thanks so much to Lisa Kennelly at Lexblog for a very kind post about this blog in Kevin O’Keefe’s fantastic Real Lawyers Have Blogs. Kevin is a pioneer, perhaps the pioneer in this area, and he was the person who convinced me that I could be a blogger.  In large measure because he surrounds himself with great people like Lisa, I’ve been thrilled to associated with LexBlog for a number of years.  And I’m honored to be mentioned in Kevin’s blog–thank you Lisa!

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Courtesy of a tweet by Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich, I was directed to Speed, In The Right Direction, a post about lessons to be learned from Apollo Ohno, America’s most decorated winter Olympian.  Ohno had a hugely successful Olympic experience in Turin, and then hit the celebrity circuit.  Blogger Randy Hall picks up the story:

The story was about how Ohno was invited to all of the A-list parties and hottest events, and the velvet ropes were quickly dropped for him at even the most exclusive Hollywood clubs. He had essentially arrived. He was recruited for, and won, Dancing With the Stars and made numerous television appearances that continued to add to his fame and stature among the elite. And then he pushed it all away and decided to compete again.

Ohno recommitted himself to the sport he loved and moved from the red carpet to the training room. He dropped 20 pounds of weight and endured three work outs a day combined with a strict nutritional program that left him able to lift weights twice as heavy as when he began his training program. It’s so easy for us to look at people like Ohno and say that they are different, special somehow, and that things come easier for them because they are gifted in some way. Ohno is the first to admit in interviews that the first workout of the day is difficult to begin and that finishing the third is even more so. Look closer at any of the athletes and you will see that they are just people. But they are people who made a choice to be more.

In an interview with the Seattle Times Ohno said, “When I’m done skating, I guarantee you that I will not look back and remember standing on the podium. ”I’m going to remember these days — being with the team. Training alone, in my basement. Training when everybody else is sleeping. Doing things that nobody else is doing. Digging down. Seeing what kind of character I truly have.”

I love that line–"seeing what kind of character I truly have."  It occurs to me that as I look over my desk and decide what to do for my clients and how to do it, what to search for that will help them solve their problems and make their life easier, I have a choice to make.  We all do.  Service is a choice.  It’s hard work and we can never take time away from our training regimen. 

So, what kind of choices do we make?  What kind of character do we truly have?

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I’ve written before about the great value clients can receive when firms work together for the client’s benefit.  But I have not written about this from a fee-sharing standpoint, and I have certainly not written about this as well as my friends Dave Bohrer and Michael Kallus at Confluence Law Partners.  Check out their post Fee Sharing With Foreign Lawyers in their terrific new blog, Flat Fee IP


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From the January 2010 McKinsey Quarterly:

Even though cost containment remains a high priority, many respondents worry about the sustainability of the cost reductions and are only somewhat confident that their companies are adequately prepared for even bigger cost challenges, which they expect in the coming year. These are among the findings of a survey of 300 operations and other senior executives from around the world.

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While the results reflect a lingering environment of uncertainty and risk in the short term, they also show that some companies are making important strategic moves in cost reduction—among them, a focus on organizational effectiveness and capability building—to position themselves advantageously for the long haul.

So, if you’re sitting around wonder when the good old days will return, wrap your head around the fact that more of the same is on the way.


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Every two weeks, I receive an email from a legal staffing vendor.  Each time I receive it, I deleted it.  Each time I went through that short process, I was annoyed.  Today, I finally unsubscribed.  It is highly unlikely I will ever choose to do business with this company, and the annoying blast emails, which send me information I don’t want at a time I don’t want it, will be one of the principal reasons why.  I have to believe that the company did not intend to trigger this reaction: to the contrary, they probably view these emails as an important part of their marketing.  But I also have to believe that my reaction is not unique.  But I am not writing to tell this story–instead I am wondering what lessons  I should learn about my own marketing efforts.

Here are my top lessons:

1.    As enamored as I am with our story, the prospective client doesn’t care about our story. He or she cares about his or her issues.

2.    Talking about "us" is not useful–it is counterproductive.

3.    Selling solutions is much better than selling pieces with the idea that the client will assemble a solution.

4.   If my goal is to get on someone’s radar screen, my outreach has to be either useful or funny.  Serious and sales-y, not so much.

Now, to put those lessons to work.

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My partner just returned from court.  All by his lonesome.  This was a multi-party extravaganza, but one of the parties was represented by 5 attorneys.  Count them–one for each finger.  One for each day of the work week.  How many spoke?  Just one.  To visualize this, raise your hand with all fingers extended.  Then close all your fingers except the middle one (it was the "big shot" who spoke, after all), and you’ll have a good idea of what this firm is saying to its client.


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