322 posts categorized "Tips for Lawyers"

January 21, 2015

Sample Risk Analysis Template for a public M&A matter, advising the target

A guest post by Sverre Tyrhaug

 Background:  Sverre Tyrhaug is the Managing Partner of Thommessen, the largest law firm in Norway.  He is one of five individuals from the firm who are currently completing our Certified Legal Project Manager Program®.  This is the third of three blog posts based on his answers to essay questions from the program.

This analysis uses a form from page 106 of the third edition of our Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.  Planning time would be focused on the items that have the highest degree of risk in column 4.

 

What can go wrong?

A. How likely is it? (1-5)

B. How serious? (1-5)

A x B = Degree of risk

Actions

Reduce in advance

Reduce during matter

Insufficient available internal resources at Thommessen

1

4

4

Plan and schedule

Keep people on team informed on progress and schedule

Client does not allocate sufficient resources

3

3

9

Plan and schedule. Inform client about likely input required and when it is required

 

Multiple bidders on M&A project

4

2

8

Prepare for mulitiple bidders with different timelines.  What should response be if timeline is accelerated or postponed?

Emphasize importance of timeline.

Material adverse event at client

2

4

8

Vendor due diligence.

Keep in close touch with client to address any concerns early on.

Process leaks

3

4

12

Inform on importance of confidentiality. Keep team tight. Prepare “holding/leak statement”

Ensure confidentiality. Be prepared for leak.

No bidder is offering good enough price

2

5

10

Do pre-sounding of the market/ potential bidders prior to launch. Structure the process. Prepare well on management presentations etc.

 

Diverging views among major shareholders

3

4

12

Seek to vet good support for decision to initiate process

 

Hostile takeover offer launched

3

5

15

Prepare for responses (available poison pills, white knights etc.).

Keep overview of available options.

January 07, 2015

Tip of the month: Hold a lessons learned meeting

Lawyers are increasingly holding meetings at the end of every significant matter to review what worked, what didn’t, and what could be done better the next time.  These discussions are not just a learning opportunity but also a marketing opportunity. A “lessons learned meeting” will enhance your relationship, help you learn more about what an existing client values most, and enable you to provide more value. If a large matter is at a pivotal point, a mid-course review and redirection could be the difference between success and failure.  

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. For suggestions to increase the efficiency of “lessons learned meetings,” see the third edition of my Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.  

December 31, 2014

One managing partner’s view of three critical issues in LPM

A guest post by Sverre Tyrhaug

Background:  Sverre Tyrhaug is the Managing Partner of Thommessen, the largest law firm in Norway.  He is also one of five individuals from the firm who are currently completing our Certified Legal Project Manager Program®.  This is the first of three blog posts based on his answers to essay questions from the program.

A personal plan to improve time management

What I do well now:

  • Clear picture/vision on what I want to achieve.
  • Using to-do lists (with brain map tool, giving good overview of all tasks)
  • Prioritizing and doing one thing at a time
  • Spending time to plan the week ahead
  • Maintaining “stop doing lists”
  • I often ask myself the questions:
    • What is the most productive thing I can do right now?
    • What is the best use of my time right now?
  • Trying to run efficient meetings with clear agendas
  • Keeping a clean desk and papers and documents  in organized fashion
  • Keeping track of time spent, categorized in 15 categories and evaluating it on a monthly basis.

What I could improve:

  • Limit unnecessary internal meetings
  • Establish routines and business process improvements on repetitive tasks including yearly budgeting, partner performance meetings, strategic review, and salary/bonus assessment
  • Limit interruptions (emails, drop-in visitors)
  • Block out time in calendar for my own project work
  • Ask questions and challenge the way I work:
    • What is the value added from this task?
    • Is there an easier way to do this?
    • What three to five things can I accomplish today/this week/this month that will make a big difference to the bottom line?
  • Delegate better and more
  • Learn to say no.

Thirteen ways to improve team performance

  1. Communicate: inform and listen
  2. Allocate enough time to team building.
  3. Involve the team early. Present them with the scoping of the matter and the draft work breakdown structure for brainstorming, buy in, commitment, assignment of tasks, and assignment of individuals responsible for each task. Communicate clearly on client goals and scope.
  4. Communicate “ground rules” for the team early in the process, including respect for each other, productive use of time in meetings, active listening, focus on solutions, and being prepared for meetings.
  5. Have regular efficient team meetings with clear objectives, an agenda in advance, the right people attending (small to get things done, large to build relationships or brainstorm). Provide minutes with decisions reached and follow up actions.
  6. Update the work breakdown structure and the planned schedule.
  7. Watch out for scope creep. Remind the team about the project scope and goals.
  8. Find out what motivates the team (deadline, challenge/difficulties, bonus)?
  9. Motivate team members, along the way and at the end. Make each member of the team aware of the importance of their contribution to the team.
  10. Act as a good example.  Be positive and provide feedback. Be available to discuss problems.
  11. Let people be responsible.  Hold them responsible for the result, but do not micro-manage. Be demanding in terms of performance, but provide clear goals and be supportive. Treat the team members as “winners” and part of our unique firm.
  12. Involve the team members in decisions. Listen to their views, show that you appreciate their input.
  13. Evaluate, gather feedback and take actions based on the feedback.

How to improve delegation

Delegation is an important part of the business model for a successful law firm. We need to delegate to manage profitability, we need to delegate to train our associates, we need to delegate to keep our associates happy in terms of understanding that they are valued and involved, and we need to delegate to free up time to do business development and other firm building work.

To improve delegation: 

  • Delegate early in the project. Think delegation immediately. Do not wait!
  • Think carefully, from the client’s perspective, on what tasks should be delegated. Delegation is not always efficient, but all or most of our projects have activities that should be delegated.
  • Discuss with the client why parts of the project are delegated, and explain why it is in the client’s interest.
  • Be a good coach when delegating.  Be clear on expectations (e.g. deadlines and  feedback) and priorities vs. other projects. Be available to help. Put the activity that is delegated in context. Why is the task important for the project (and what is the project?). Upon a new assignment, provide clear goals and objectives (WHAT).  Spend little time on HOW, but ask for their input on how they propose to perform the task (do not dictate how to perform the work in detail), and spend time on WHY (give the task meaning).
  • Learn from your experience when delegating. If you are not happy with the result or get a lot of questions from the associate on how to perform the work, think about whether you could be clearer on expectations etc. when delegating.
  • Try to delegate entire projects or work-activities as that generally helps the associates’ motivation, commitment and sense of responsibility for the end result.
  • If you lack confidence or delegate to new associates, start with delegating smaller tasks and provide structure and guidance.
  • Think carefully about the skills required and who to delegate to. Also think about the workload of the people and avoid delegating to someone who is already busy if there are other resources available.
  • Evaluate completed assignments and provide feedback. This is an extremely important point, as it is an investment in the associate that will provide the associate the tools and learning to perform even better on the next task delegated.

December 03, 2014

Tip of the month: Tie compensation to results

In 2011, I quoted managing partner Joe Morford about Tucker Ellis’ philosophy of compensation “If you pay for hours you get hours, and if you pay for results you get results.”  Since then, the vast majority of firms have done little or nothing to adapt their compensation to client demands for better results in fewer hours.  But a major step was taken a few weeks ago when Jackson Lewis announced that associates will no longer be compensated for billing more hours, and will instead be rewarded based on factors tied to results such as efficiency and client service.  Other firms are sure to follow.

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. The relationship between compensation and profitability is discussed in my new book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability

 

November 05, 2014

Tip of the month: Embrace experimentation aimed at quick wins and developing champions, one practice group or one lawyer at a time

Lawyers love precedent, and many law firm committees are postponing action until they see evidence proving the value of a “one size fits all” perfect solution that will fit their entire firm.  But there is no silver bullet, and firms that continue to look for it could go out of business while they wait. The key to success is, as Stuart J.T. Dodds put it in his book Smarter Pricing, Smarter Profit, to “think big and start small.” 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. This month’s tip is explained in detail in Chapter 7 of my new book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability.

October 01, 2014

Tip of the month: Prioritize strategic goals, focusing first on your best clients

In today’s challenging marketplace, it is more important than ever for law firms to prioritize relentlessly and do the most valuable things first. Client satisfaction must always come first. As Tom Clay of Altman Weil has noted, “If a law firm cannot attract and retain good clients, nothing else matters.”

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. This month’s tip is explained in detail in Chapter 7 of my new book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability.

September 03, 2014

Tip of the month: Increase the pace of change

According to the chairs, managing partners and leaders of AmLaw 200 firms interviewed for my new book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability,the faster firms act, the more likely they are to survive and prosper in today’s increasingly demanding marketplace.  In Altman Weil’s most recent Chief Legal Officers Survey, the top three things that clients want are improved budget forecasting, greater cost reduction, and more efficient legal project management (LPM). Since LPM will help meet the first two requests, you could say the top three things clients want are LPM, LPM, and more LPM. To date, the response at too many firms has been delay, delay, and more delay.

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. This month’s tip is explained in detail in Chapter 7 of my new book.

 

August 06, 2014

Tip of the month: Keep a written record of business development hours and progress, every week

What gets measured gets done.  Keeping a weekly list of how many hours you put into business development, and how many advances you achieved will help keep your business development effors moving forward.  Tracking behavior works for people who are increasing exercise or changing their diet, and it will work for you when you develop new business.

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. For more information on improving results, see page 54 of my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide, which is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

July 02, 2014

Tip of the month: Set up a monthly meeting to discuss business development with a few colleagues

Plan to meet for breakfast or lunch the first Wednesday of every month, or at some other regularly scheduled time.  Invite four to six colleagues whom you enjoy working with.  Commit to specific marketing action items the first month, and every later month report to your colleagues what you did and did not accomplish, and your new plan.  Try to get someone from the firm’s marketing department to act as the meeting organizer who will send out regular reminders and summaries of accomplishments, and assure that meetings are held even when some people cannot make it. 

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. For more information on improving results, see page 54 of my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide, which is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

 

June 25, 2014

Business development best practices: Listen

This is one of a series of occasional posts summarizing the most important best practices from my book the Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide which is now also available in a Kindle edition.

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote, “If I were to summarize the single most important principle in the field of interpersonal relationships, listening is the key.”

In the book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman argues that listening skills are vital for leaders. An effective leader must be able to sense how employees feel, and then channel that energy into the most productive directions.

The skill of listening can even help people get a job. When business leaders were asked to rate the most important characteristics they look for in hiring people, 73% rated listening as an “extremely important” skill. But when the same group was asked how many high school graduates actually have good listening skills, the answer was 19%.

When Suzanne Lowe and Larry Bodine published a survey of 377 marketing professionals on Increasing Marketing Effectiveness at Professional Firms,” one of the best metrics for tracking success was whether rainmakers consistently listened to their clients.

In the book Advanced Selling Strategies, sales guru Brian Tracy explains four reasons why “Active sincere listening leads to easier sales:”

  1. Listening builds trust. In a survey of professional purchasers, the single biggest complaint was that salespeople talk too much. If you show that you are interested in understanding what people really need, they are more likely to believe that you will provide it.
  2. Listening lowers resistance. It helps to make customers feel relaxed and comfortable instead of tense and defensive.
  3. Listening builds self-esteem. Everyone wants his or her views to be heard. So when you listen to a client, it shows that you respect their opinions.
  4. Listening builds character and self-discipline. Hopefully, this fourth point won’t come up very often. But from time to time, you may sell to a client who is, shall we say, not overly dynamic. As they keep talking, it’s easy to start daydreaming about which type of salad you should order for lunch. But the more boring your client is, the more character you will build by listening. And the better you understand what the client wants, the more likely you are to get a new engagement.

Why is listening so hard for many lawyers? Well, first of all, you have to talk less.

Experts say that when you are building business relationships, you should spend 50% to 80% of your time listening. But when lawyers meet potential clients, many think that they need to talk quickly so they can list all the wonderful things their firm can do. This is a mistake.

The client is a lot more interested in her own problems than in your capabilities. If she did not think you were good, you wouldn’t be meeting. So you need to devote most of your time to focusing on what she wants, needs, and feels. As the old saying goes, that’s why you have two ears, and one mouth.

Great listeners also don’t argue. That’s another reason many lawyers find it difficult. To listen effectively, you must give up the need to be right.

If you want to become a better listener, there are dozens of books to read, and even a professional academic organization you can join (the International Listening Association, www.listen.org). Meanwhile, these five steps can get you started:

  1. Establish genuine interest by asking questions that you care about
  2. Take notes. Writing down what people say shows that what they say is important, and that you are paying attention. Just put the pen down if the talk turns confidential.
  3. Respond to the speaker’s nonverbal cues, and monitor your own, including eye contact, smiling, and frowning
  4. Keep people talking. Paraphrase, summarize, and restate what you hear. When you agree with people, they will think that you are smart. Especially if you don’t interrupt them or argue.
  5. Come prepared with good questions

Lawyers must start by “mastering the art of the easily answered question,” as explained in Kevin Daley’s Socratic Selling. The book describes several types of non-directive probes that will help a client think through a situation without trying to push her to a particular conclusion, and without distracting her.

For example, “draw probes” keep drawing out information until the client and the lawyer are satisfied that all the important points have been covered, such as:

  • Tell me more about ____
  • Give me an example of ____
  • What else should I know about ____?

“Access” probes allow you to obtain access to other topics without forcefully changing the subject. These non-threatening questions introduce a new topic, but still leave the client free to take the conversation wherever she wants. For example:

  • How does ____ fit the picture?
  • Talk to me about your experience with _____
  • How do you handle _____?

It sounds simple, but asking this type of question does not come naturally to me, nor to many lawyers I know, because we like to be in control. Well, clients do too. Professional salespeople have an old saying that “Whoever talks the most, will enjoy the meeting the most.” If you want to build a relationship, you want the client to be the one who enjoys the meeting.