January 21, 2009

Are You Part of the 'Lost Generation?"

I picked up this amazing video from a fellow tweeter and wanted to share on this blog because it sends a powerful message. It is a message I hear often from those who want to go solo as they come up against an oppressive message drilled into them by the generation before.  While it speaks broadly, control over one's destiny remains the theme of this unique piece.  I also think it is important to note who the sponsor is...at the end.

(Oh, and I'm hoping the boys at WAC? will take a peek, too.  They swear they read my blog and have challenged me to convince them their perspective needs shifting...on Gen Y, that is :-)

....she always makes too much sense. So we do not always agree with Susan Cartier Liebel--is that a great multicultural handle or what?--but we always read her anyway at her Build A Solo Practice, LLC. Reason: we check in with her just in case we are wrong-headed, backward or archaic about life and the law generally, which is likely. If we ever decide to evolve, and become sensitive new age gentlemen.....Holden Oliver from this recent post.




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January 19, 2009

Why Solo Practice University™ is Creating So Much Buzz

Solo Practice University™

Solo Practice University™ is creating a buzz in the legal profession because we are building an educational and professional networking environment like no other...just for lawyers, specifically solos. And we are bringing in some of the finest 'faculty' around who are currently doing exactly what you hope to do, be excellent lawyers in your chosen practice areas and succeeding based upon your definition of success.

I thought it was about time I introduce the readers of this blog (who do not currently subscribe to the Solo Practice University™ blog ) to the outstanding faculty we have already announced, the announcements coming out weekly.

Click on each link and you will be brought to the individual faculty profile within Solo Practice University™. And if you haven't done so already, sign up for the RSS or drop your e-mail to track the opening of SPU as well as other important information relating to enrollment.

The Faculty:

Also, since SPU is very much collaborative and the 'students' University, we are still open to feedback on our pricing structure.  You can read the post on pricing here. Please be a voice in the process in the comments section.

And, of course, hope to see you on opening day (soon!)

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University

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January 18, 2009

(OT) "Tip of the Week" - Do You Know How To Have Pleasure?

No, this is not an advertisement for Viagra, although the headline implies it could be.  This is actually a very serious question which has been on my mind since I read this passage from a novel I'm reading by Elizabeth Gilbert called "Eat, Pray, Love.":

"Generally speaking, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure.  Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one.  Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment.  Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today.  But as (it has been) pointed out, we seem to like it.  Alarming statistics back this observation up, showing that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they do in their own homes.  Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure).  Americans don't really know how to do nothing.  This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype - the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax."


I don't know how many people can relate to this passage, but upon deeper reflection, I realize many people I know do not know how to 'relax into pleasure' that is uninterrupted. I call this type of relaxation 'decompressing.'  Decompression has no interruptions. Yet interruption comes in many forms including the brain bringing you back to work, projects, unfinished business, fretting about meeting goals, success, money, the future and more all while trying to 'do something else' which is supposed to be the opposite of work.  And that wears on the soul.  It means you are never fully 'in the moment.'

I know I fall victim to something maybe unique.  My brain is always in overdrive.  I am reading constantly, addicted to mental stimulation to the point the only way I can disengage from 'work' is to distract it from what it is doing with different mental stimulation.  I don't know if this is sad or good or pathetic. But it is me.  No matter what I am doing I feel I need to be doing something 'work-related' or mind-stimulating.  I don't feel I've earned relaxation until I've done something more 'achievement-oriented.'  Someone once said to me, 'how sad.'

As a solo practitioner, is this a luxury we are depriving ourselves from more so beyond the stereotypical employed lawyer or even American? Is this really an American phenomenon or crosses cultures?  Or are there many out there who have mastered the art of relaxing into pleasure and are truly able to turn off their working brains and enjoy the sheer joys of life's simple, non-entertainment, driven pleasures?

Please let me know.

..... just typing out loud.

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January 15, 2009

Why Partnerships May Seem Good But Can Be Costing You Money

I am working with a very committed client at the moment who has been sharing stories with me of her partnership experiences and why she knows she will be leaving her firm and is working towards this goal very soon.  And her story is probably more common then most realize.

She is the partner in a five person law firm in a well-heeled town in Maryland.  She has been the partner in this firm for more than 8 years. She is the youngest partner and does very well in her two chosen practice areas.  She made partner because she was good, really good at rainmaking and handling her clients.  This is perfect.  However, as typical, her partners are second wave with extraordinary overhead, support-staff heavy and associates overpaid to the point they are disinterested in learning rainmaking activities themselves.  They are just very comfortable with their paychecks and she is just one voice.  And this typical partnership expects the younger partners to start buying out the older partners in a few years while pushing the associates up through the partnership track.  That's the model.

In 2007 she alone brought in $400,000 more in billables than any other partner.   She took home only an extra $106,000 from all her work.  The following year, believing she may have to go overseas because she is in the reserves, she wanted to spend more time with her family, took fewer cases. Yet her partners relied upon her to do all the heavy lifting.  When she didn't they responded typically not realizing they had an obligation to up their game as well and said, 'wassup?'.  They just depended upon her for their income and got lazy.

This was when the lightbulb went off. She realized if she can generate this type of revenue and is just giving it away because the others aren't pulling their weight, why should she be in a partnership?  And so she is breaking free.

If her partners weren't so archaic in their thinking, billable hours, high overhead, support-staff heavy, they would be more profitable.  But their behaviors aren't going to change.  She recognizes she needs to be out from under this way of thinking.  This is also the mindset of a solo - if I'm going to work this hard, I'm going to do it for myself.'

I bring this up now because as more and more people are being forced into going solo (I get at least two e-mails a day of stories of lawyers being laid off and frantic about what to do) they are also going to make decisions based upon fear.  And fear drives them to form unhealthy partnerships without understanding what partnerships really are.

So, I am going to resurrect an older post as it is timely today:

To Partner or Not To Partner - That Is The Question.

I remember reading years ago about a marriage prenuptial agreement that was so specific as to each spouse’s responsibilities, right down to the husband’s obligation to put the toothpaste cap back on the toothpaste tube, that most people thought it was a prenup on steroids. The spouses, however, clearly loved it because it laid out all the expectations each had of the other so neither one was in the dark about their responsibilities in the marriage.

Well, partnerships are like marriages. Half will last a lifetime, the whole being greater then the sum of it’s parts; growing together, getting stronger through adversity and filled with compromise. The other half will end up in a bitter and nasty separation and dissolution fighting over assets and the custody of the children (read "clients"). Therefore the burning question that’s always asked and must be answered is, "to partner or not to partner?"

Like marriage, partnering should be for the right reasons. However, most lawyers enter partnerships for the wrong reasons borne out of fear of the unknown, doubt about their own capabilities and a lack of understanding about what partnership truly means. Do you really need a partner and all of the emotional and financial entanglements it entails in order to assuage those fears? The answer is a resounding "no."

These are the wrong reasons to partner with another lawyer:

"I want someone to bounce ideas off of." As a rule, most lawyers are very generous with their knowledge and will give invaluable guidance if asked. It is important to maintain relationships with your peers, law school alumni, your bar associations and the like and you will get all the guidance and mentoring you need. Continuing legal education will provide a great base for practical knowledge and an opportunity to network with others in your area of concentration. Depending upon your office selection, should you choose a shared suite, you will have a built-in sounding board without the financial intimacy.

"I want to be able to take a vacation and know my clients are being taken care of." (And from the client’s perspective, "who will take care of my case if you are not available?") Any solo will tell you they have strong reciprocal relationships with other solos and cover for one another when necessary. It is very important you have a dialogue with your clients about a planned or unplanned absence even if the client never asks because it is a legitimate concern of clients who hire solos.

"I don’t want to take all the financial risk." If you are going out on your own, you are taking a calculated risk, period. If you wish to defray cost, how you set up your office, whether working in a suite of other lawyers with shared services or setting up shop by yourself, will determine your cash outlay and financial risk. If you’ve already invested nearly $100,000 in your education is a few more thousand any riskier?

"I’m not very good at (fill in the blank)" Sharing your profits with someone simply because they have an accounting background while you can’t balance a checkbook is not a reason to take on a partner. It is a reason to hire an accountant. If they don’t work out you get another. Not so easy with a partner.

"I want to partner with someone who can teach me." Again, sharing the profits in exchange for guidance you can pretty much get for free if you are properly networked, belong to the right associations and taking continuing legal education, is just giving away your hard-earned dollars.

Do not take on a partner out of fear. You will be living and breathing this partner morning, noon and night. You are depending upon this person for your livelihood while making them the caretaker of your professional reputation.

The short list of the right reasons to take on a partner is: You share a similar vision of where you want to go with your law practice and how you want to get there and are committed to being in it for the long haul. You respect each other's ability as a lawyer and trust the other to make decisions in your absence which will be binding upon you. Each of you has something of comparable value to bring to the partnership, skill sets which compliment and enhance each other. Both of you recognize your equal responsibility to develop business and bring in clients. You share a work ethic and morals. (Partnership brings both benefits and liabilities and you do not want to be vulnerable to the ethical missteps of a partner who does not necessarily share your values). You work well together.

Partnerships can be a wonderful experience when entered into for all the rights reasons and with the right partner. If you decide to partner, make sure you have a partnership agreement that clearly spells out all the financial agreements between the partners not just while you are together but also should you part company....right down to who puts the toothpaste cap back on the toothpaste tube.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

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January 12, 2009

Blawg Review # 194 - A Phoenix Rising

File:Phoenix detail from Aberdeen Bestiary.jpg A phoenix is a mythical bird with a tail of beautiful gold and red plumage (or purple and blue, by some sources [1]). It has a 600-800 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again. The new phoenix is destined to live as long as its old self. In some stories, the new phoenix embalms the ashes of its old self in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis (sun city in Greek). The bird was also said to regenerate when hurt or wounded by a foe, thus being almost immortal and invincible — it is also said that it can heal a person with a tear from its eyes and make them temporarily immune to death; It is a symbol of fire and divinity.[2]

The Phoenix represents to many the life cycle: birth, growth, death and re-birth because from the ashes life arises anew often strengthened through reinvention. But this happens not just from reinvention of oneself but through innovation. And innovation helps to propel us forward.

The term innovation means a new way of doing something. It may refer to incremental, radical, and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations. A distinction is typically made between Invention, an idea made manifest, and Innovation, ideas applied successfully. (Mckeown 2008) In many fields, something new must be substantially different to be innovative, not an insignificant change, e.g., in the arts, economics, business and government policy. In economics the change must increase value, customer value, or producer value. The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better. Innovation leading to increased productivity is the fundamental source of increasing wealth in an economy.

So, let's start with Nicole Black who authors numerous blogs but the blog Practicing Law in the 21st Century tracks technology and its impact on the legal profession and this video post specifically talks about technology changing the legal profession in 2009.

In keeping with this theme of innovation I have culled this weeks best posts for those who talk about innovation (sometimes tongue in cheek).

Here is what legal bloggers had to discuss this week presented in no particular order:

When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, he certainly did not foresee cyber crimes happening on a daily basis. (Nor did he expect the warped genius of cyber criminals.)

Michael Law of Law Vibe tells us all about the innovative criminal brilliance of Jeremiah Mondello. This is innovation gone awry.

Chuck Newton tells us the most brilliant innovation for lawyers is to get back to basics and speak plain English

Mark Bennett at Defending People posts on Advice to New Lawyers  (which really belonged in my Blawg Review #142) on remembering why you wanted to be a criminal lawyer and how to actually be one. There is some outstanding commentary so don't miss.

Vickie Pynchon of Settle It Now discusses innovating by getting back to simple expenses in challenging times by negotiating those expenses you might believe are not negotiable in Five Negotiation Rules to Beat The Recession Blues.

Anne Reed of Deliberations gives us a little innovation (in the form of creativity) to show us how you can get the benefits of a jury consultant for under $5,000.00 to help those without a big budget get big budget results when presenting before a jury.

Jay Shepherd of Gruntled Employees illustrates the lunacy of hourly billing, perhaps the antithesis of legal practice innovation, with his "Coffee Parable."

Peter Vogel notes the conviction of a number of people under Chinese copyright laws as "significant" in protecting innovation abroad.

Jaya Ramji-Nogales suggests a "role for law" if firms can find an innovative way to capture the experiences of women who take a non-traditional career track, citing Caroline Kennedy as an example.

It can be tough to adopt Ken Adams' innovative contract drafting methodology when the other side's counsel is stuck in the past and insists on inserting meaningless, archaic language into your agreements.

Innovative startup companies often travel a distinctly non-innovative legal path by choosing an LLC form initially just because others have.  Ryan Roberts explains why the LLC might be a poor fit for a startup and why skipping it and heading straight for the C Corp form might be the way to go.

http://polygamyabuse.org/images/Polygamy.jpgAlthough in some places marriage between one person and another regardless of gender is considered innovative, Solangel Maldonado takes the marriage debate a step (or more) further, asking "what exactly is wrong with polygamy?"

Any sort of innovative, disruptive technology seems to catch large, established companies off-guard.  Erik Heels notes that that's the case with Twitter, where the companies behind the 100 top brands are almost without exception being "Twittersquatted," something which happened to them with domain names just a few years ago.

Enrico Shaefer at The Greatest American Lawyer asks, " is too much innovation in connectivity killing our productivity?

Michael Doyle reports something which we might have suspected already -- that it doesn't pay to be innovative if you're in prison.  He notes that the government has a license to steal when it comes to the intellectual property created by those "enjoying" room and board at its invitation.

Scott Greenfield is critical of the Avvo attorney ratings, which are attempting to innovate in an area long-dominated by Martindale-Hubbell.  He suggests that if Avvo wants to be the innovative leader it claims to be, it needs to do better in reporting adverse information about rated attorneys in an accurate and timely manner. But, then, again...I've always been critical of AVVO.

And what could be more innovative then dehydrating and encapsulating placenta to open up a whole new area of law now known as Placenta Law?  The Mommy Blawger has this to say:

The Mommy Blawger goes where no lawyer (besides herself) has gone
before and tackles the uber-niche of Placenta Law. She also wonders
about the HIPAA implications of confiscation of medical records by law
enforcement. Anyone?

Excerpt:
"On Christmas Eve, federal, state, and local authorities executed a
search warrant on the Miami Maternity Center following a 10-month
joint investigation by the Florida Department of Health, the US Food
and Drug Administration, and Miami Dade Police Department's Medical
Crimes Unit. Birth center staff were allegedly dehydrating and
encapsulating placentas in a process that resulted in placentas from
various birth mothers becoming commingled."

You can read more here.

IntLawGirls asks if it is innovative to now see more girls (children) be soldiers?

Recently, organisations working with former child soldiers have observed the growing number of girls involved in armed conflicts.

While girls' fate as sexual slaves is well documented, their participation in hostilities is less acknowledged. Girls, like boys, spy, loot, and kill. But they also cook, clean, and run camps. International humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal law clearly proscribe “using [children] to participate actively in hostilities.”

Canadian environmental lawyer Dianne Saxe (this is a great blog and lawyer I just found!) lets us know of a new innovation being discussed, advertising the carbon footprint of all products on their packaging.

Should there be a consistent world wide method to calculate and advertise the carbon footprint of products? And, if so, what should it say?

The International Organization for Standardization will be working hard on these issues at its upcoming meeting in Malaysia. A carbon footprint products standard would facilitate the efforts of both organizations and individuals to use their purchasing power to reduce their own footprint. The UK, for example, is enthusiastically pushing a draft document.

http://a.abcnews.com/images/Business/abc_porn_070608_ms.jpgAnd in the area of innovation (or the new corporate social welfare) Tax Girl asks should we now be bailing out the porn industry?

Flynt and Francis have penned a (no jokes, please, remember that my mom is reading) letter to Congress asking for a $5 billion bailout to save the porn industry. I’m sorry, I meant the adult entertainment industry.

And now the Law schools are finally jumping on the innovation wagon by contemplating degree specializations within the law school program so you graduate not just with a Juris Doctorate but with a Juris Doctorate with a specialty or concentration or a certificate in (you fill in the blank.) You can read more at the ADR Prof Blog here

Stephanie West Allen at Idealawg puts an interesting twist on innovation, how you can be failing to innovate because of too many choices or too much competition impacting your brain!

Sometimes innovation comes from simply putting on "Fresh Eyeglasses." In another wonderful post over at What About Clients, Dan Hull talks about his ideal:

Few of us can have Albert Einstein's talent for Western logic, or IQ. But Einstein's advantage over other physicists may have been that he was a "new soul"; he looked at everything as if he were seeing it for the first time.

Work. He approached it from a wellspring of joy. There are others like him in that respect. Those are the kind of people I want as friends to inspire me, and as co-workers to solve clients' problems. I'll take an IQ a lot lower than Einstein's (for associates, though, Coif or Law Review would be nice). Reverence and a child's awe. That's the outlook I prize. Energy, intensity and creativity always seem to come with it.

And if you really want to be ahead of the pack and plan for the next generation, The Invent Blog tells us you should make provisions for your children's futures by purchasing their domain names today.

If you have young kids, you really should consider purchasing their personal domain names for them NOW.  Why?

1.  In case their preferred domain name isn’t available 10 years from now.

2.  To give them a canvas that you can supervise…helping you hammer into their heads that Google never forgets (they need to ALWAYS be concerned about what they post online because future employers, etc. will be able to view it).  

3.  To give you another way to connect with them (as you help them build their first website(s), etc.).

And since this is Blawg Review, there were plenty of interesting posts out there which didn't fall into the category of innovation but should be read:

Not every Obama Brainiac Appointment (Gupta) is Greeted with Enthusiasm at The Volokh Conspiracy:

Concurring Opinions Believes Bush Could Be Impeached AFTER He Leaves Office:  

What About Clients discusses The Groucho Marx Effect and Bernie Madoff Victims:

 “Madoff's most raving fans were investors he at first ignored; if he and his organization had pitched them, and asked them to join "the club", the investors might have ignored him. “

Wage Law awards the  Shyster of the Year Award to the attorney who burned through $2.7 million settlement by investing his clients’ money in the ‘08 stock market:  

And for a little legal tabloid news Andrew Mayoras tells of a celebrity will contest in the Marlon Brando Affair.

PrawfsBlawg discusses the dilemma facing law professors - “How Much Poetry Should a Law Professor Write?” 

Concurring Opinions (again) gives us The Worst Contract Ever (slavers “insurance”)

If Clinton Was Our First “Black” President Could Obama Be Our First “Unisex” President is discussed at Feminist Law Professors (yes, it’s serious)

More Fraud from Nigeria via Queensland at Peter Black’s Freedom to Differ: 

Should Donors to Political Causes (like pro-California Prop 8 which has had deleterious economic effects on supporters) Retain Anonymity? See the Election Law Blog

Larry Lessig of the Copyleft appears on the Colbert Report (how many law professors does THAT happen to?) at EFF Blog , followed by the inevitable REMIXES on You Tube that followed the Lessig Invitation to Remix the interview at IP ADR Blog here.

http://la.metblogs.com/archives/images/2006/10/BAR_fight.gifAnd if you love Boston then for fun read 3L Brian Selchick's "I Gought in a Fight in a Bah in Bahstan"

Learn more about Blawg Review here as well as consider signing up to be a host.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

January 11, 2009

"Tip of the Week" - Ask ChaCha

I was at my husband's firehouse the other day and the crew was fighting over the answer to the following question: "How many countries in the world?"  My first inclination was to go to the computer and google but then the youngest member of the crew said, "I'll ask ChaCha."

I thought ChaCha was an elf who lived in the radiator or something.  Next thing I know he's dialing a number on his blackberry and he asks whoever picked up "How many countries in the world?" Then he hangs up.  Within one minute he gets a text message saying they are working on the answer.  One minute later he gets another text message with a detailed answer.

OK.  Who is 'cha cha?'

ChaCha is like having a smart friend you can call or text for answers on your cell phone anytime for free!  ChaCha works with virtually every provider and allows people with any mobile phone device - from basic flip phones to advanced smart phone - to ask any question in conversational English and receive an accurate answer as a text message in just a few minutes.

What's your question?

Simply text your question to 24224 (spells 'ChaCha') or call 1-800-2ChaCha  (800-224-2242) from your mobile phone and ask any question.  What are you waiting for? Ask away!

Here is a demo of how ChaCha works.

You may wonder why you would need ChaCha if you have a smart phone and internet access.  Because if you are in a rush, you are not looking for a link, you are looking for an answer.  Makes sense to me. And you can ask a question, get on with business and they'll get your answer for you.

Check it out and let me know how you like it.

Oh, there is no question too stupid.  Trust me, ChaCha answers anything. :-)

January 07, 2009

Why AVVO Will Hurt Lawyers

Everyone who reads this blog knows I'm no fan of AVVO for many reasons. But just this week Eric Turkewitz, in a very well considered blog post, again notes the AVVO rating system is just flat out a danger to the public it purports to serve because AVVO listed a rating of 'no concern' over a lawyer convicted of a sex offense.  You should definitely read the post.

AVVO rates lawyers such as this lawyer. as 'no concern'.  If we shouldn't be concerned about him who should we be concerned about? As of this writing here is the AVVO rating listing 'no concern' and no misconduct for Michael Rumore.

I had suggested on Twitter that maybe they should have newscheckers to keep ratings relevant and current and if there is a pending action against an attorney the status be changed to 'pending review.'  But that would require too much work.

So why do I say AVVO will hurt lawyers.  Well, if lawyers like this are rated as 'no concern' when clearly they are of concern, how can we trust anything we read about any of the lawyers rated even if the lawyers are stellar? After all, they are relying upon each lawyer to update their profiles in order to keep their score fresh (as you lose rating points if you don't continuously update).  Is it realistic an attorney is going to report their own misconduct or pending suspension or that they are now serving time in jail?

And by extension, if lawyers are putting their professional 'seal of approval' by claiming their profile on AVVO they are endorsing a faulty product.

If I was a lay person and the product was flawed, I would question those who endorse it and question why they are doing so?

Just because something is 'free' doesn't mean there isn't an associated cost even if not immediately apparent.  We are not movie stars where the statement 'any publicity is good publicity' works.

In a recent Twitter exchange between myself and a young lawyer, the young lawyer rightly said, 'I don't care about AVVO and I'm certainly not going to claim my profile.'  Well, AVVO didn't like the 'not nice' things this young lawyer said. Supposedly someone from AVVO (I'm led to believe this person was high up) called this young lawyer and left a voice mail expressing interest this young lawyer 'didn't say something nice about AVVO on Twitter.'  Strikes me a little odd. And you?

If I was a practicing lawyer today, I would not claim my profile with AVVO.  There are many ways to get your reputation out there whether you want it out there or not.  The internet has no loyalty. The internet has no filter.  If you are good the world will know you are good.  If you are not, they'll know that, too.  Don't rely upon mysterious algorithms to calculate your professional worthiness.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

January 05, 2009

How Saying "I'm Sorry" Can Help With Client Relations

I recently flew down to Florida for the holidays.  The day was unrushed and rather enjoyable. However, we flew Jet Blue and after we boarded our plane I heard one of the flight attendants say, "I don't know when the pilot is going to arrive.  We have no pilot."  I calmly used my cell phone to call those who were going to pick us up and told them we'll probably be delayed.

Shortly thereafter, the flight attendant made an announcement saying, "We expect to have at least a 45 minute delay due to our flight crew still being en route.  If we are longer than 45 minutes we will permit you to deplane."  Naturally, many passengers started to gripe, speculating as to why there was no flight crew, none of which was positive and reflected poorly on Jet Blue.  It was all speculation but tempers were flaring and the passengers were loaded for bear planning ways to complain, get a free flight, etc. 

Within the 45 minutes the crew arrived and immediately the Captain got on the loud speaker and said, "I'm sorry for the delay.  I could lie to you and make up all kinds of reasons for my delay but the truth is I screwed up on my schedule.  This is not Jet Blue's fault but mine alone. I'm sorry. I'll will do everything possible to get us there faster."  After that he cracked a few jokes about not knowing where we were headed, the passengers laughed and the mood lightened considerably.  He told the truth and apologized and sought to make amends. His open and honest and immediate admission of responsibility for the passengers' inconvenience and a true apology worked wonders in mitigating backlash against the flight crew and the airline. However, the story about the Captain's apology made a powerful impression and was retold in a very positive way.  The delay was secondary and proved inconsequential. The airline also comped everything normally charged during the flight including premium drinks and earphones.  A few days after the delayed flight I received an e-mail from Jet Blue apologizing for the inconvenience I suffered which included a $25.00 credit voucher towards my next flight.  There were at least 150 people on board.  You do the math.

This was a powerful lesson.  How often do we feel compelled to protect ourselves from possible rebuke from our clients by not offering up an apology for a mistake we made for fear that owning a mistake or apologizing for that mistake will diminish us in the eyes of our client or worse, set us up for a grievance or malpractice claim?  After all, being a solo you have no one covering your backside professionally or financially.

"I'm sorry." Why are those two little words so difficult to say? Perhaps because they hold such power. An honest apology can mend relationships, dissolve anger, soothe shattered pride or heal a broken heart. And a study conducted by the University of Michigan showed that apologizing can even have health benefits, such as lowering stress levels. Meanwhile, avoiding an apology makes relationships more strained -- and it can reveal something negative about you. Being incapable of apologizing can be a real character flaw."

There are three keys to a successful apology: regretting your actions, taking responsibility for them and being willing to remedy the situation.

Studies have shown, especially in the medical profession, that an apology and showing regard for the individual who is impacted by mistakes reduces the risk of malpractice claims.  

While most studies discuss litigation within the medical profession there are lessons we as practitioners can take away from this.  States are starting to adopt "Apology" Laws. So read more from the Sorry Works! Coalition site.  Would it be too much of a stretch to see this very 'human' concept applicable to the legal profession to help with grievances and malpractice claims?

But why wait for the profession to put it in place.  Have you considered creating an "Apology Law" practice within your own firm for client upsets both large and small, real and imagined?  Should the future find you embroiled in a situation, your office policies and an accounting of genuine remedial steps for a mistake may favorably impact the outcome of any grievance or malpractice claim as well as your reputation going forward. (Of course, if you are grieved or sued this should not take the place of seeking out legal advice from an attorney who handles such matters.)

Just typing out loud.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

"Tip of the Week" - Write a Blawg Review

Monday, January 12th, I will be hosting my second Blawg Review.  You can find my first Blawg Review #142 here.

But why is this a 'tip of the week?'  There are many opportunities out there to get you, your writing and your blog noticed in a very worthwhile way.  One of the best is hosting Blawg Review.  If you go to the list of future hosts (scroll down on the right) you will see there are many dates available and you should throw your name in the hat.

I'm sure Ed. (short for 'unknown editor' ) would welcome fresh, new contributors.  You will be able to contribute something worthwhile to a terrific community of loyal readers and earn recognition for your efforts.  It's all about giving first.

This week I encourage you to write a post about 'innovation' as this will be the theme next Monday.  Please forward to Ed. so he can forward to me for inclusion.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

December 31, 2008

2009 - It's All About Choices, Always Has Been

http://fly4change.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/choices2.jpgI've been wanting to write this post for a while.  And the New Year seems an appropriate time to do so.

Everything in life is a choice.  EVERYTHING!  The choices aren't always between two positives or one positive and a negative.  They can be between two negatives but there is always choice in everything we do.

This combined with the fact that where you are situated today, your personal health, your personal finances, your professional life....all are a culmination of the choices you have made over the course of your life.  Yes, some things are thrust upon us whether we ask for them or not but how we react to unasked for situations becomes our choice.  Choices, choices, choices.

2009 is a year most I know are facing with trepidation.  It is fear of the unknown because so many things upon which we rely simply are now unreliable.  The economy, jobs, energy, health care, our country is in major tumult and many are just hoping to hold on for the ride until the earth stops shaking.  Others are simply in denial.  And yet others are feeling anxious and depressed and are sinking.  See, I just laid out three choices.  There is a fourth.  Take an honest assessment of where you are, how you got there (if only not to repeat the mistakes or to repeat and improve upon the wise moves) and then start planning for how you are going to make your ride into the next year healthier, smarter, smoother and in control.

If you are employed, plan for unemployment so you are not caught up short.  If it doesn't happen, great.  If it does you are prepared with a plan B and can move into action.

If you are unhealthy, plan and make choices for health because a healthy mind and body helps with a positive outlook and helps you make better decisions in all aspects of your life.

Keep a 'positive' social network, one that is upbeat and encouraging.  You are not required to bemoan others' fates or to commiserate with those who are choosing to be depressed.  This, too, is a choice.  You are responsible for your own emotional well-being and the company you keep, no one else.

Start to be happy with less material things.  It is very freeing. You don't own things...they own you.  Think about that.  Make sure you are happy with what owns you.  Otherwise, get rid of it. 

2009 will truly be a year of the unknown.  You now have the unprecedented freedom and ability to make changes in your life this year because the world as we know it will be turned upside down.  You decide if it will be a positive experience in your life now and going forward.  Don't pay attention to what others are saying and doing unless it reinforces your choices.  Trust yourself enough to take control.

Just typing out loud....

Happy New You.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)