The ABA Law Practice Division, under which this blog falls, also runs two flagship publications: Law Practice Today and Law Practice Magazine. We reached out to the editors, and asked them to pick through their 2014 archives for the most thought-provoking or otherwise interesting pieces.
Here’s what you might have missed from Law Practice Magazine, and Law Practice Today.
Law Practice Magazine
“The 21st-Century T-Shaped Lawyer”
R. Amani Smathers describes the T-Shaped lawyer as one who “still has deep legal expertise but also has the ability to collaborate across many disciplines, such as technology, business, analytics and data security. Changes in the legal market, lawyer ethics and new jobs for lawyers demonstrate the need and demand for T-shaped lawyers in this century.” She notes that while the skills that fill the “T” will vary by lawyer, some skills, such as technology, business, data analytics, and security, can make the lawyer more valuable.
In short: lawyers must now acquire knowledge in areas other than law to identify issues, understand concepts, contribute to teams and connect ideas across disciplines.
“The Productization of Legal Services”
You’ll notice a common thread: lawyers are adverse to change. It might be phrased as “reluctant” or “slow to change,” but the sentiment is the same and generally leads to bemoaning the end of the profession. Dennis Kennedy has a different idea. In his article on “The Productization of Legal Services,” he suggests to not think of law in terms of billable hours but, instead, think of what you do in terms of other revenue streams, or as he says, “turning services into products.” He lists the following examples:
- Ernst & Young creates and publishes a popular (as I write this, in the top 100 among taxation books on Amazon) and affordable ($24.95) annual tax guide for the public.
- Attorney Larry Katzenstein creates and sells a widely used software program called Tiger Tables that computes actuarial factors for tax calculations and planning.
- A prominent technology company sought out a law firm to create a document assembly application for standard agreements that the company would license on an annual subscription basis.
- A law firm produces training videos on legal topics for sale to the public.
- A law firm packages research information updated on an annual basis as a subscription offering.
All of that information existed, and instead of being considered part of the service and thus discarded after use, it was re-purposed, repackaged, and used to benefit both the public and the company or firm.
What information do you produce, throughout the course of your day, that can be re-purposed?
“Focusing on Client Feedback”
Terri Pepper Gavulic tackles the sticky topic of client feedback by suggesting you focus on obtaining client feedback in a systematic way. Such methods range from client meetings with firm management, end-of-matter meetings, and the more common way of client surveys. She stresses finding the combination of methods that fit with your available time, budget, and personnel, and that the benefits can be substantial.
Client feedback can be useful not just in terms of knowing how well you have handled a particular matter or catching a slip up before the client heads for the door, but also in terms of expanding into other practice areas, opening offices in other locations, leveraging the most effective marketing channels, and even insights into the competition.
“From Workaholism to Work-Life Balance”
A common New Year’s resolution lately is “work-life balance.” However, few who make this resolution take the time to stop and think through what that means, or perhaps more importantly, what it looks like. It can be difficult, no doubt, and Bryan J. Dik and Matthew J. Schaap understand that. In their work-life balance article, they draw comparisons to addiction, illustrating how workaholism is a type of addiction, sharing similarities like the need to “do more” in order to get that “high” from a job well done. The mentality is innate in the legal profession, but it doesn’t have to be.
They offer methods to break out of the rat race, get some distance from the workaholic addiction and find that work-life balance. They explain ways to find awareness of what is driving you to work so much, how to shift your perspective, and how to inject new energy and meaning into your life and your work
“Human Capital Accounting”
That’s a fancy way of saying investing in your employees, which in this day and age will make you think of Google and the lengthy list of perks—like free food, onsite laundry, and daycare—it offers its employees. William D. Henderson makes the case that law firms, too, must invest in employees. Doing so allows law firms to properly distribute resources for cases while operating at a profit. He breaks down human capital accounting into three groups, and walks you through how to set up human capital accounting, and execute on human capital investment.
No business, law firm, startup, or otherwise, can do better than developing its personnel to their maximum potential and coordinating that talent to efficiently serve the best interests of clients. This is a strategy based on human capital.
Law Practice Today
“What Young Lawyers Need to Do Now”
Being a young lawyer today is different than being a young lawyer 10-20 years ago. That may be stating the obvious, but there are still some things that haven’t changed. To figure out what’s what, Nicholas Gaffney led a roundtable discussion, getting input from three partners and three associates, all at different stages, law firms, and practice areas, who offer some helpful tips on how to navigate the legal space as a young lawyer today.
“Women Lawyers and Business Development: The ‘Sex Thing,’ Golf and Other Challenges”
2014 was a year when the gender gap took center stage, from women (or lack thereof) in the C-Suite to Girls Who Code to “gamergate” and the Tinder sexual harassment suit. The legal sphere was not immune to gender conversations, and Caroline Turner addresses it in the context of women lawyers and business development. She learned three valuable things, including the strategies women have found successful for business development.
“How to Win and Cultivate New Clients”
A challenge for any business is finding new clients. Sarah E. Freeman lays out how lawyers can win and cultivate new clients, including the four factors involved in projecting and earning trust. After that, she tells you exactly how to cultivate and maintain that relationship, and build into a pipeline for more clients.
“Tips for Successfully Launching Your Legal Career”
It’s no secret that law schools teaches you about the law, and little if anything about being a lawyer. It has been up to the law firms to train law school graduates in the ways of being a lawyer. While strides are being made to better prepare lawyers for being a lawyer, many are still wondering what to do. That first year in a law firm can be daunting.
Anthony Grumbach has you covered. He breaks down how to successfully launch your legal career in four steps, and explains what to do.
“How to Avoid Non-Equity Purgatory”
Heard the phrase “moving the goal posts?” Or perhaps “climbing the ladder?” We know the drill. Go to a good college, get good grades, get into a top-ranked law school, get hired by a top-ranked law firm, and work your way up to the coveted spot of partner. Listing the steps, it seems straight-forward—but in reality it is a jagged, twisting path, and sometimes that partner status is not the end. How are you to know?
N.E. Partner lays it out for you, in detail, and offers three pieces of advice on “How to Avoid Non-equity Purgatory” when you reach partner.
Did we leave any out? Let us know which articles we should have picked.