How much does inefficiency cost your law firm?

Over the last week I had two very unrelated experiences that were big eye openers.  The first happened on a phone call yesterday when I taught a lawyer how to cut and paste information into his bio on LinkedIn. He had been practicing the law and using computers for decades, but didn’t know you could highlight information, right click, select “copy” and then right click again and “paste” the information somewhere else. He was amazed by how easy it was, it was as if I had just taught the first caveman to make fire. The second experience happened in Tapei, Taiwan. I was speaking to a group of lawyers about incremental innovations (like faster internet, better software) and I compared these to breakthroughs like the introduction of the fax machine or the introduction of email. I broke the lawyers up into groups and I asked each group to come up with their best ideas for incremental innovations. What small changes could they make to their daily processes, with the help of technology, that would help them them be more efficient?

The best idea that came out of the ten groups? Learn how to use Outlook. One highly efficient partner color codes his emails in four ways: one color for him, one for his assistant, another for his secretary and the last one for his associate. 3 out of 4 of those he never reads, the subject line is enough for him to send it on the right person to take care of it. Other set up folders that filter out all of the distracting messages that don’t need quick responses.

This example made me ask the question, what types of efficiency gains could lawyers experience if they simply understood how to use the best features of software like Word and Outlook? Partners don’t need to attend Word or Outlook training, I don’t think that would work, they literally need someone to sit down with them and follow them throughout their day to see what processes they are currently doing manually that the existing software could help them improve. These are two very simple pieces of software, we aren’t even talking about CRM systems like Interaction that firms aren’t even scratching the surface with.

Lawyers need to learn how to better utilize software, and I’m not sure the best way to help them get there. The problem is that they don’t know what they don’t know. The lawyer I taught to copy and paste, had heard the term before, but had no idea there was such a simple solution. Another issue is that most law firms don’t have efficiency aligned as a priority. The lawyer that bills $750/hour takes 20 minutes to print and markup a document to have their secretary retype it when they could have copy and pasted it in a few clicks. Teaching that lawyer to copy and paste may have just saved their clients hundreds or even thousand of dollars. But it cost the firm.

Efficiency and innovation are mission critical concerns at almost every other type of company, its about time that law firms start taking them seriously as well.

LinkedIn Makes Finding Alumni Easy

For years me I’ve been encouraging professionals to connect with alumni from their law schools as well as the universities where they attended undergrad. LinkedIn has now made significant changes to the way they organize alumni that make it easier for you to find old colleagues.

The biggest change is that as an alumni of a certain school, you now automatically follow your school. A few years back LinkedIn automatically created company pages, now they are automatically creating pages for each school. As long as you spelled your school’s name correctly, you should be following them.

I attended University at Buffalo Law School, and now can easily find thousands of alumni, not just those I am connected to or went to school with. Here is an example of my law school alumni page.

UB Law Alumni Page

 

If you have a LinkedIn premium account, you can drill down right on this page to see where your alumni are now. “Where they work” and “What they do,” your old friend from your study group may now be General Counsel in your backyard. If you don’t have a premium account there is a workaround, simply click on “Network” in the top left corner and choose “Find Alumni” and LinkedIn gives everyone a free tool that provides almost all the same information.

By following your Alumni page on LinkedIn you can also stay on top of news about your school and be more involved with other alumni in whatever way would be most meaningful to your practice. If you are looking for opportunities to become an adjunct professor or provide service, this is a great way to get reconnected with the school as well.

I’m going to continue to advise most lawyers to join the alumni groups pages as well, these are smaller groups and at times can be very active, but  every lawyer should follow their alumni page- it makes it easier for you to stay up-to-date and allows others to find you more easily as well.

The greatest opportunity for lawyers on LinkedIn is the most obvious one. Tap into your existing network, re-connect with the people you know in order to generate referrals and new business. Any other ideas for reconnecting with Alumni? Let me know.

What is LinkedIn? Not a stupid question

I’ve heard this question from two different highly successful partners at big law firms in the last month. What is LinkedIn?

Isn’t it obvious? It’s a collection of professionals networked using a common website where they generate profiles that others can see and share.

“So it is basically a site to collect all of your contacts?” One partner quizzed me further.

“Yes, it IS that,” I responded, “but it’s more than that.”

For members of my generation, the tail end of Gen X into Gen Y, online networked communities are not hard to understand. We grew up around them, so we get instinctively that when people are connected with technology and they all create and share information about themselves and about their expertise- there are some specific measurable benefits, but there are far more unexpected positive externalities.

Think back to 30 years ago, if you wanted to get into software development and didn’t live in Silicon Valley you had almost no chance of bumping into someone that you could collaborate with to build the next big software product. Geography kept a lot of very smart people from collaborating. Now Geography is more of an inconvenience, but no longer a hindrance. Brilliant minds can connect and collaborate together from all across the world with the help of social media. This is just one example, but I can’t begin to guess all of the other positive externalities that occur when people share their connections on a site like LinkedIn.

“So, its to help people find employees or to hire people?” The partner asked.

Yeah, it can be used for that too, but it can also be used to share content, build consensus, share ideas, and generate new teams that couldn’t exist before.

Social media didn’t explode in popularity because it is trendy, but because it is so incredibly useful. What is LinkedIn? It is a collective brain that allows our society to experience productive gains we couldn’t have imagined ten years ago. This isn’t obvious, especially not to an older generation that are used to products having only one or two intended uses.  So be patient with the baby boomers, we need their knowledge and contacts more now than ever.

What is LinkedIn? No explanation I could provide would be complete.

How Do Lawyers Measure Success?

lawyers measure successOriginally appeared in The National Law Journal on April 7, 2014

Did you make partner at your law firm? Did you make more money this year than the year before? Do you drive a nice car? Do you live in a big house? Are you happy? Would the 12-year-old version of you be impressed by who you have become?

Most of us begin our careers with a clear perspective of what we want. We can almost taste it, our visions and dreams are so real. Then life happens. Marriage, kids, work, more work, and then we wake up one day and ask: Is this really what I signed up for? Am I going through the motions or I am getting closer to what I want the most?

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Yes, Your Google Presence Matters

law firm Google+Originally posted in The National Law Journal on March 24, 2014.

In the Netflix series “House of Cards,” Kevin Spacey’s character has presence — in every room he enters, he is a force to be reckoned with. We all know lawyers like this; some people are just larger than life.

Strangely, some of the lawyers with the most distinguished presences in the real world have little to no visibility in the online world.

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