June 2010

You start a new matter and the emails fly in. So you open a folder in Outlook for the ABC Matter. Eventually, you get around to creating some sub-folders. Six months later, an issue arises and you have this nagging thought in the back of your mind that you have seen something about that issue before. Where to start? Well, there is no specific Outlook subfolder under the ABC Matter on this issue. So you start searching and hope you find what you were looking for. Hit and miss litigation is never good. Outlook was not designed to be a litigation support feature or an organizational tool. Wikis are a far superior tool for organizing information, but they don’t necessarily have all the tools needed for true collaboration across the spectrum of a lawsuit.

Legal OnRamp

has designed SecureRamps as a tool to meet this need. But whether it is an LOR SecureRamp or some other tool, use the right tool for the job–and Outlook is not it.

 


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At the request of Paul Lippe, I have begun posting periodic "Value Tips of the Day" on Legal OnRamp.  These Value Tips of the Day (TOD) are directed to inside counsel, but sometimes to outside counsel too.  I thought they might of some interest to those who read my blog but aren’t LOR members, so I am re-posting these Value Tips here.  Here’s the first one:

1. Figure out what outcomes you want to encourage. You’ve heard the aphorism that "if you buy hours, you’ll get hours." So if you don’t want truckloads of hours, don’t buy them. Figure out what you want instead. Results? Efficiency? Low Cost? If you incentivize these outcomes, you will find yourself getting precisely these outcomes. You get what you pay for, so figure out what you want to pay for.

 

 


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Law360 today reports in an article Law Firms Say Alternative Billing Won’t Dent Profits (sub req.).  Hmmm.  So let’s see.  We know the virtually no firm has restructured its business model.  We know that few firms have made a real commitment to project management.  We know that few firms have made even a pretend commitment to process management and outsourcing (or any of its variations).  So what inference can we draw from the conclusion that firms believe their profits will be the same?

It seems to me that the most significant conclusion is that clients should be very concerned about an any "alternative" (true believers use the term "Value Fee") fee quoted by their firms.  If the firm has not restructured its business model in a significant and therefore visible way and it expects to be reaping the same profits, the "alternatives" it will be quoting are nothing more than dressed up hourly rates–the "wolf in sheep’s clothing syndrome."  More evidence that most firms don’t really get it when it comes to change.

 


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If you’re not familiar with my Kodak saga, you might want to read about it first.

Kodak sent me an email.  Here is the pertinent part, along with my comments:

I am sorry to hear that your order confirmation email was delayed. Please be informed that all orders over $100 are automatically being reviewed by the system and once approved, a notification will be sent within 72 hours. [I WONDER IF THEY EVER THOUGHT ABOUT TELLING THEIR CUSTOMERS OF THIS BEFORE THEY ORDER] As I have double checked the order, it is already in process with a standard ground shipment. The order confirmation email has already been sent. Another email for the shipment confirmation will be sent once the items has left the warehouse.
We also received your request to cancel this order. However, the system no longer allowed us to cancel. [ALTHOUGH THEY ADMITTED THAT IF THE CEO SAID TO CANCEL AN ORDER, THEY COULD.] You may refuse delivery with the courier, and it will be returned to us. And if delivered, may return the items. A refund will be processed back to your account 3-5 business days after the warehouse verifies the receipt of the package. When your item has been received and checked in by our warehouse, an automatic e-mail will be sent to you as confirmation.
Please be reminded that the KODAK Store will not be liable for any shipping expenses that may incur in the process of returning your package. [SO AFTER WE SCREW YOU, YOU HAVE TO PAY TO RETURN MERCHANDISE YOU ASKED US NOT TO SEND YOU.]

 

Maybe because it’s me, I think this is worse than an objective person might find it.  But it is hard to imagine any seller having such rigid systems that customers can’t be accommodated.  I called Amazon just out of curiosity and asked how they handle situations like this–orders are canceled and shipments captured before they leave the building. I find it inconceivable that customers are not warned that orders have to be "reviewed and approved" when such approvals routinely happen automatically (think gas station confirming credit card).  Utterly pathetic.


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All I wanted to do was order a Kodak zi8 video camera.  How hard can that be, right?  I went to the Kodak website and ordered it.  At the end, I didn’t get an order confirmation.  I got a cryptic statement that my order was "under review."  No information on how long it would be "under review" or when I would learn if I had qualified for the purchase.  After a few hours of silence, I called Kodak, and I am writing this entry while listening to the horrible music they make customers listen to while we wait.

Here’s Kodak’s story: The review process is 72 hours. 72 HOURS!  That’s 3 days.  Just to find out whether I qualify to purchase a $150 product.  I can have the same product in hand from Amazon by tomorrow.  So I told them to cancel the order.  Kodak: "I’m sorry.  We can’t cancel the order.  When your receive it, just ship it back."  Isn’t that wonderful treatment of customers–make them ship back something they don’t want.

I begin these conversations with the premise that if the CEO of Kodak told them to cancel the order, they would find a way to do so.  In other words, its a matter of will, not technology.  So I asked to speak to the phone person’s supervisor.  She gave me the same party line, but did acknowledge that if the CEO said to cancel the order, they would figure out how to do so.  So I asked to speak to her supervisor, who "isn’t available."  I’m now on hold waiting for the supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor.  We’re at 32 minutes and counting.

Congratulations  Kodak. You’re now in the No. 1 position in the Customer Service Hall of Shame.

 


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I was talking about how Valorem works, saying that we do things where we add value and try to avoid things where we don’t.  I was pressed for an example, and here is one that jumped to mind.  We needed to analyze a mitigation issue under California law.  The normal practice is to have your

 

I am thrilled to announce the publication of my book, Alternative Fee Arrangements: Value Fees and the Changing Legal Market.  While Shakespeare has nothing to worry about, I do think I have managed to add to the relevant knowledge on value fees.  At least I hope I have.  The table of contents and an Executive Summary are available here.   The book can be ordered here.   When ordering, use the discount code PL-AFA1 to obtain a hefty discount.

Please feel free to share this news with friends, clients and anyone else with an interest in the new legal world and how to price service offerings, whether as purchaser or service provider.


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