April 2010

Today’s Law360 (sub. req’d) reports on a study that has found that nearly one third of female partners have been bullied–yes, bullied–by male colleagues over origination credits.  Hard to imagine that everyone in those firms is pulling their oars in the same direction.

Is there anyone who honestly believes these are productive disagreements?  Is there anyway these are anything other than bad for the clients involved?

The fights are silly, and the blame lies with system that make such fights necessary.  Perhaps the "corporatization" of law that seems to be occurring will cause these compensation systems to grow up.


Continue Reading Systems That Promote Silly Fights Are Bad Systems

The ABA Journal is running its Second "Peeps in Law" Diorama contest.  The five finalists have just been announced, and I am proud to say that one of the two Valorem entries (alas, the one I was not involved with) has been chosen as a finalist.   The winner will be chosen by popular vote.. So, in the grand tradition of Chicago, we encourage you to vote early and often to support our entry, "The Trial Of Former Governor Rod Peepovich."

Ours is the fourth picture. Scroll to the bottom of the list and you’ll see a “Pick Your Favorite” voting ballot. You can see that the other four entrants obviously had too much time on their hands. Ours is authentic kitsch. Vote Valorem. Vote Peepovich, even if Donald Trump wouldn’t.






Continue Reading Peep Voting

I have written many times about Jeff Carr, the iconic General Counsel of FMC Technologies.  Jeff is a client, a friend and a teacher.  He is a thought-leader in the profession.  In a recent interview (sub. req.), Jeff was asked if there was one attorney who had impressed him, and why.  Here’s his answer:

A.  Gotta name three from the three "spheres of influence:"

Inside counsel: Mike Dillon [former senior vice president and general counsel of Sun Microsystems], a smart, funny, great manager who has an equally missionary zeal for changing the current, horribly inefficient and absurdly expensive legal delivery service model.  Mike wore a pirate outfit to work for "Talk Like a Pirate Day"–all goes to why he’s been named a Legal Rebel by the American Bar Association.

Outside Counsel: Pat Lamb, founder of Valorem Law Group LLC, a new age law firm that refuses to work by the hour and is focused solely on value-based billing.

Academia: Richard Susskind–author of "The End of Lawyers?" for writing the book every lawyer, law student and those aspiring to be either, must read.

Wow.  I am beyond honored to mentioned in the same breath as Mike Dillon and Richard Susskind, and especially honored when the breath uttering those names is Jeff Carr’s.


Continue Reading My Profound Thanks

You’re an ad agency, home of a bunch of creative types who play games and think weird thoughts.  Ideas are a dime a dozen, but great ideas happen when they happen, and you can’t rush greatness.  But then your biggest client comes to you and says change.  The implication?  Change or else.  So you change, and you find you can reduce the time on the job from eight weeks to three and save the client 40% and boost productivity by 3.5%.  It’s true.  Can be done.  Was done.

Here was the initial reaction when Kodak asked Partners & Napier to streamline its process:

"When Kodak first asked us to do this, people worried that no one understood how long it takes to get to a great idea," concedes Partners’ CEO Sharon Napier. Chief creative officer Jeff Gabel says the opposite has happened. More often than not, Gabel says, creative work resembles a "giant hair ball."

The firm went "all-in," earning certification in ISO 9000.  This is akin to Six Sigma/Lean in that it requires you to analyze and document your processes, and then look for efficiencies that can be created.   While the results have been great,  Jeff Gabel notes that "you’ve removed your slop factor." (That should be legal term.)

Think about this.  An advertising firm can systematize its processes, eliminate the slop factor and operate efficiently while still being creative.  If they can do it, shouldn’t we lawyers be able to do the same?  Now you know why I think project management is so important.


Continue Reading A Client’s request, hair balls and slop factor, and project management

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an article, At Law Firms, Reconsidering the Model for Associates’ Pay.  Hmmmm.  Sounds like maybe law firms learned that their model was broken and needed fixing.  Only partly so, though.  And, as it turns out, the wrong part.

The story featured in the article is how Kaye Scholer cut first year salaries from $160,000 to $60,000 and put that group of associates to work on pro bono matters.  But suddenly there is work to do and what does Kaye Scholer do? It pays them more money and puts them to work reviewing documents. 

If nothing else has been learned in the last two years, we certainly know that contract lawyers and technology can perform a document review better, or certainly as well as, than a group of young lawyers at high-priced law firms.  Apparently Kaye Scholer hasn’t gotten that message.  Instead of figuring out the best, least costly approach for its clients, Kaye Scholer decided to use its own manpower at a higher price.  Good for the firm. It’s clients?  Not so much.

I wonder how its clients feel about Kaye Scholer’s business strategy, which to me, sounds an awful lot like Kaye Scholer is treading water until it can go back to the old normal.


Continue Reading Evidence that lessons have not been learned