I am honored to report that “Clients recognize Valorem Law Group for its unparalleled client relationships in the brand new BTI Industry Power Rankings 2017: The Law Firms with the Best Client Relationships in 18 Industries.”  Specifically, “clients rank Valorem Law Group a Leading Core Firm for the Manufacturing Industry, among the top 15% of all law firms,” and “clients also rank Valorem Law Group a Leading Recommended Firm for the Manufacturing industry, in the top 10% of all law firm.

BTI’s report is “based soley on direct, unprompted feedback from over 950 top legal decision makers” at major US and global businesses.

Needless to say, we are deeply appreciative of our clients’ continued support.

Not outer space.  No, the point is that the space you meet in, the space you operate in, or the space you interact with people in can make you more creative.  Everyone has been to a conference in a hotel ballroom, right.  Mind-numbing. Plain.  Boring.  The space sucks the very life out of you.  We at Valorem believe space matters.  That’s why we have always had a devoted collaboration space–whiteboards, chairs but no table, stuff to throw at each other.  An environment to make you think better.

Yesterday, Nicole and I spent the day with Matt Homann of Filament.  Matt is a victim of “idea surplus disorder.”  A couple of hours with Matt gives you a notebook full of things to think about, to dream about.  Matt, like us, recognizes that the right space makes the event, the meeting, the brainstorming session.  And he knew that such spaces are rare.  So he created one.  It is the best meeting space I have ever been in.  My words cannot do justice to the space.  Take a look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The space is in St. Louis.  Believe me it IS worth the trip if ideas matter to you.

If you spend any time reading law firm websites, you soon come to one conclusion: all of them were written by the same person.  We know this because all law firms say the same things–best schools, best lawyers, client-focused, great client serviced, alternative fees, focused, collaborative, efficient, blah, blah, blah.  Some websites use more words to say the same thing, some use less. But all use lots of adjectives to modify conclusory statements.  This isn’t marketing.  It is the manifestation of fear–fear that if you say anything real, it will turn someone off.  So, to offend no one, firms create websites that appeal to no one.

We live a world where noise drowns out signal, something I’ve written about previously. (Here, here and here.) If you don’t stand out, consider yourself one of the crowd watching the championship game–no one watching on TV will ever see you.  If you want to stand out, you need to differentiate yourself.

In his post on Gorilla Marketing, Seth Godin describes it this way:

Today, because noise is everywhere, we’re all surrounded by a screaming horde, an open-outcry marketplace of ideas where the race to be heard appears to be the only race that matters. And so subtlety flies out the window, along with a desire to engage for the long haul. Just a troop of gorillas, all arguing over the last remaining banana.

Differntiation is an easy concept to understand, but it is very hard to actually do. Perhaps instead of adjectives and conclusory statement, a better approach might be to explain what you really stand for, and then to offer enough examples to prove it.

If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing.  If you stand for something, believe in it enough to say so.

You have? Fantastic. Let us know about it and you may be recognized with an InnovAction Award.

Details for Entry

  • The preferred formats for entries are Word and PDF via email to dcurtis@colpm.org. Prior approval is required for other formats. Please contact the College Administrator at dcurtis@colpm.org or 224.337.9033 to discuss alternatives and to receive special instructions.
  • All entries must be received by June 16, 2017, and accompanied with the $250 USD entry fee. The College waives the entry fee for recognized 501(c)(3) organizations. Please include your tax id number on your application to receive the waiver.
  • Winners receive a beautiful crystal award at the InnovAction Awards ceremony and are invited to make a presentation describing their innovations.
  • Winners will be highlighted and promoted in ads placed in media sponsor publications, on the College website and featured in the COLPM e-newsletter.
  • Winners will be prominently featured on the InnovAction Hall of Fame page that celebrates the innovative accomplishments of lawyers and law firms on a global basis.

Click here to download the 2017 entry form.

 

Geography is not a consideration. Past winners have come from Australia, the UK, Canada and the United States.

You need not be a lawyer to win, though lawyers have won.  You need not be in private practice–pro bono groups and law student organizations have won.

InnovaAction Awards are for big thinkers who execute.  Submit your entry.

It is now public information that our colleague Jeff Carr has been named Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Univar, Inc.  Univar is the “leading chemical distributor in the United States, providing more chemical products and related services than any other company in the marketplace.”   We view Jeff’s departure from ValoremNext with mixed emotions.  Univar is a great opportunity for Jeff to continue his efforts to reshape law departments to be business-like and business-focused, eliminating boundaries between the law department and the business.  We believe in these efforts—ValoremNext is a manifestation of them, a tool to help law departments pursue these goals. We hope to have some role in Jeff’s efforts, but, if not, we will be watching his “mad scientist” efforts with equal measures of pride and interest, and sadness that he is no longer our colleague.

We learned a great deal from Jeff, first as a service-provider to him while he was General Counsel of FMC Technologies, and then as his colleague.  The rigor of his approach, his view that the law department (and law firms too) need to run like a business, including clarity of “principles, rules and tools.”  We learned about “Stretch, Step, Leap,” a way to view change, and “Plan, Perform, Perfect,” an approach that is essential to an organization that seeks continuous improvement. We learned the incredible value of prevention and his secrets to building a prevention culture. And I learned more about what law departments think and why than I had learned in the prior 30+ years of work.

Jeff was my friend before he became my colleague, and this opportunity does not change our friendship.  If anything, the proximity of Downers Grove, where Univar is headquartered, to my suburb may allow us to enjoy more time together so we can, with appropriate lubrication, work on solving the problems that plague not only the profession, but world at large.  I won’t miss Jeff’s continual push to be more than I am, to be better at what I do and to see the joy in the life we are privileged to lead.  I won’t miss those things because, when you are friends, those things never change.

Here’s hoping Jeff’s path brings him back again.

For those interested, here is a link to Univar’s announcement.

I have long hated boilerplate objections, which frequently are made to “kick the can” down the road. That is, if you object to a request are “unduly burdensome” or “overbroad,” you can avoid answering for now and have more time to figure out what the answer is. Or maybe your opponent will forget about the request and you will never have to answer.  The flip side is use of boilerplate requests and interrogatories. I remember litigating a lease dispute case in California and wondering why I had to answer form interrogatories about an occurrence that never took place.  With that a background, I enjoyed reading Steven Gensler’s new post, Is It The End Of Boilerplate In Discovery?  I commend it to you.

Sorry, but I just found out that Valorem is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on Alternative Fee Arrangements. So I have to take a minute to celebrate this “achievement.”

Various firms and corporations are credited with leading the way in AFAs. Leading the charge are corporate clients such as Du Pont, Cisco, and FMC [Technologies]. Corporate clients are looking for a combination of cost savings, cost certainty, and alignment of law-firm interests with corporate interests in avoiding an excess of hours worked—and billed. Law firms such as K&L Gates and Valorem are taking the lead in proposing AFAs.

I feel like my life is now complete.  Well, wait, does Guinness have an AFA category in its Book of World Records?

As a young boy, I vividly remember following Bobby Kennedy’s Presidential campaign. Like his brother Jack, Bobby was greatly admired in my Irish-American household. His death was met with great sadness. I sat riveted during Teddy’s eulogy, and my mind was seized when he said this:

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

Some men see things as they are and say why.
I dream things that never were and say why not.

 

That quote was seared into my soul. I later learned those words were first used by George Bernard Shaw, in Act I of Back to Methuselah, where he wrote:You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”

The source of the words is not as important as the concept behind the words—being someone who dared to dream big, new things and asks why those dreams could not be realized.

I have never become the person to dream great big dreams like Bobby Kennedy did, but in my own little world, I have tried to dream about changes in law practice and ask why not. Dream to provide clients the knowledge of how much it will cost to handle their legal problem. Dream to improve quality through efficiency and disaggregation. Dream to help clients make informed decisions on acceptable risk/cost trade-offs. Dream to build a law firm that utilizes standard business practices instead of believing the laws of physics and economics don’t apply because lawyers are special. Dreaming to prevent legal problems from ever arising.

There are a few, a quixotic few, who have joined me in dreaming and attempting to turn the dream into reality. I quickly learned that dreaming together is much more powerful than dreaming alone.

Hierarchical structures make it difficult to dream together. Some dreams are silly. Some are unworkable. Some are misguided. You need people to help you learn which dreams are worth pursuing and which should not. Hierarchies make it difficult to “open up” and dream about things that never were. When you compete for power, there is a risk a competitor may use your dream to show you incapable or unfocused. When you lead people, some are concerned that dreaming will be seen by followers as a sign of weakness.

Maybe I am wrong, but why else are law departments structurally the same today as years gone by? Is the optimal structure? Are there no ways to improve it? Why have so few companies created deeply ingrained prevention cultures. Note I said companies, not law departments, although law departments are the logical origin of such cultural evolution.  I lack the in-house experience to answer these questions. Maybe Jeff Carr or Ken Grady or others can share their views.

The same questions can be asked of law firms. They all are essentially the same as when I started practicing law a lifetime ago. Sure, there is the occassional notable exception, but the search for exceptions is difficult.  I think no one honestly believes the structure of law firms is the best possible one.  But here we remain.

With so little change in our industry, I can only conclude we have failed to dream big dreams. Perhaps the challenge to dream big will fall to today’s young lawyers and law students.  Perhaps there are young partners who will act boldly when given an opportunity.  Perhaps there is a visionary leader about to emerge.  We can always hope.

I hope everyone in the legal profession will take a quiet few minutes sometime, and dream big dreams for the profession.  Then ask, why not.

The title is simple enough: success = experimentation.  Here is Peter Diamandis’ thesis:

Today’s most successful companies, the ones that are “crushing it,” started as a series of crazy ideas, followed by experiments to test just how viable those ideas might be.

Experimentation is a crucial mechanism for driving breakthroughs in any organization.

If you want to create a successful, hyper-growth company, you’ve got to focus on empowering your teams to rapidly experiment.

The key is building a culture of experimentation.

The only constant is change, and the rate of change is increasing.

Ultimately, standing still equals death, and the only way to succeed is to be constantly experimenting and innovating (think of it as Darwinian evolution in hyperspeed).

Hyper-growth and experimentation are very closely linked.

Jeff Bezos likes to say, “Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day…”

Is there a law firm, anywhere, that has built such a culture?  Doubtful.  But there should be.