After nearly 14 years of writing this blog, I’ve changed it’s name.  For a long time, client service (In Search of Perfect Client Service) was the right place to focus attention.  But as with other trends, everyone now claims to be great at it.  The notion of customer service has lost any meaning: if everyone claims to excel at providing great customer service, well, it is time to shift focus.

As I thought about it, I realized that client service was about me and us, the service providers.  I’ve been slow applying a lesson to customer service that my partner Nicole Auerbach and I applied to Valorem Law Group’s billing practice since its inception.  Clients judge the value of what we deliver, not us.  It’s about what value clients think we delivered, not our belief. The same is true for service. We can think we’re providing great service, but if the client doesn’t feel the same way, we’re wrong.  And then there’s that word–client, and seems to go with it: “my client,” implying ownership, which is the wrong dynamic, or “the client.” Could we be any more impersonal in describing a relationship that should be very personal? And finally, there’s that word “perfect.”  The search for perfect hinders improvement.  So I decided to focus on great. Great is worthy, its achievable, and it can always be improved upon.

And so, today, I announce the name change for this blog–In Search of Great Customer Experiences. I hope you agree the change fits the times.

I saw something online the other day that attempted to answer the question, “how is innovation related to design thinking?” The response, written by John Coyle, a former Olympic speed skater and CEO at Speaking Design Thinking, caught my eye. He began his response by reversing the question to “how is design thinking related to innovation?” I thought that was insightful, but my appreciation for his answer ended there. Coyle defined design thinking as “a process and a mindset used to solve complex problems in unique and innovative ways.” In other words, unique-ness and innovation are inherent attributes of design thinking. I see design thinking a bit differently.

Continue Reading Design thinking is essential to providing effective solutions

BTI Consulting Group reports that corporate counsel have singled out Valorem Law Group as a “Mover & Shaker”–“firms disrupting the legal industry by make strategic and tactical moves others don’t.”  We are honored to be singled out in this fashion.  From our founding in 2008, we’ve led the move to the New Normal, been named as one of 22 firms “best at AFAs,” and regularly have been recognized by corporate counsel for our brand excellence and extraordinary client service. What sets this recognition apart, however, is its validation of our move earlier this year to create ElevateNext Law and align ourselves with Elevate Services.  I wanted to spend a couple of paragraphs describing what prompted this major move by my Valorem partner, Nicole Auerbach, and me.

Continue Reading Corporate Counsel single out Valorem as a “Mover & Shaker”

Earlier this year, Vincent Cordo, the Global Sourcing Officer for Shell, and Casey Flaherty, a consultant to law departments, wrote an article for the ACC Docket, Shell Legal—Shadow Billing. Let me begin by disclosing that I have enormous respect for the work Vincent Cordo has done at Shell and that Casey is a friend whose work I also respect greatly.  However, respect and friendship do not translate into complete agreement on all issues, and this article presents an area where I disagree. I know Casey won’t be surprised.

Continue Reading Justifying shadow billing as promoting diversity? Much better ways exist.

If you want to take a vacation, there are a few basic steps.

  1.  Figure out where you are.  Travel requires a starting point.
  2. Figure out where you want to go.  Tropical paradise? Check. Ski chalet? Check. Great wall of China? Check.
  3. Figure out how to get from 1 to 2.  Plane? Check. Train? Check. Automobile? Check.
  4. With figuring complete, move.  Move to computer to book travel. Move to airport.  And so on.

It’s not a complicated process.

Figuring out how to deal with the massive changes in the legal landscape and the even greater changes that are plainly now coming is not any different, though some might be harder.

  1.  Figure out where you are.  What is your firm, really?  Are you innovative? Change-resistant? Cutting edge? Wedded to quill pens?  It is hard to conduct a candid and honest self-assessment. But it is essential.  And if you delude yourself, you’ll find yourself going to O’Hare for your flight when your train leaves from Union Station.
  2. Figure out where you want to go.  What type of business will be successful in 5 years?  Don’t look farther ahead. Ten years ago, most of us didn’t have smart phones.  Now, does anyone other than my 89 year-old mother not have one?  Five years is the right time frame.  Will artificial intelligence help LPOs or start-ups capture work you are now doing?  Very probably. If so, your leverage model might not be a good thing.  Indeed, your whole business model might be a liability.  I think you get the point–figuring on where to position your business is a difficult process.  But if you don’t engage in it, start getting used to the odor of the trash heap.
  3. Figure out how to get from 1-2.  Very. Detailed. Step. By. Step. Plans.  Timelines. Burden yourself with realism.  War-game the process.  This, too, is a very difficult step. People tend to turn into Pollyanna for this stage. Don’t, unless you really want to go to O’Hare instead of the true departure station.
  4. With the figuring complete, move.  To share a quote on my partner’s wall, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Saving your firm for the future is not like taking a vacation, except when it is.  But remember the role a travel agent can play in making your vacation successful. The odds are, you will need help going through this process.  Ask for it.

Valorem Law Group is honored to be one of the law firms “who leading legal decision makers say are the tops in collaboration.”  According to BTI Consulting, which reported the findings of its interviews with corporate law departments.

Clients say collaborative law firms show deep understanding of client needs across the team, are up to speed on all the issues whenever an attorney joins the team, and are all focused on the same overriding objective. The attorneys at the most collaborative firms work at it.

That last sentence is so important–we really do work at being collaborative.  We dedicate space to it.  We schedule it and we take pride in it.  We believe that collaboration yields better outcomes for our clients.  We put a lot of thought into collaboration, so it is so gratifying to be recognized as a leading firm in this area.

I was just having a conversation with a passing acquaintance, who runs a mid-size law firm.  He told me the firm had decided to be innovative, in the sense of saying “starting next Tuesday, we will be innovative.”  I hope I kept my smile inward.

Innovation is not something you simply flip a switch to turn on.  It is hard work, and there is no simple recipe for “doing” innovation.

I am a firm believer that every law firm should have an innovation lab, where the right people, in the right environment, with the right objectives, can undertake the work needed to become innovative.  A good starting point would be to debrief as many acknowledged innovators as possible so you can develop a working list of characteristics, tools, processes and kickstarters.  What are the things that make innovators innovative?

Research.  Learn. And then do the hard work.