|Lend Me Your Ears|
Showing that you are listening closely is a key to effective communication
By Gerry Riskin
The best business developers in the world know that listening is a skill that transcends every other in importance. Untold numbers of business experts have written articles and posts on the subject of effective listening.
Readers of such articles often fail to grasp that it is not enough to merely listen well. If you have a quick mind - and most lawyers do - you may rapidly absorb and understand everything another person is saying to you. But if you fail to let people know that you have listened to and heard what they have said, you can drive them into a frenzy of frustration.
Some very basic steps can help you demonstrate that you are paying close attention to what another person says. The following bullet points may remind you of helpful listening behaviours.
Indicia of listening
Indicia of failing to listen
- Eye contact
- Body language, like nodding and leaning forward
- Audible sounds, like "Hmmm," "I see," or "Good point!"
- Asking questions that relate directly to the speaker's content
- Paraphrasing what has been said before asking a question or debating what has been said
- Paraphrasing and going deeper by asking for illustrations; e.g., "Interesting. So you're saying that you believe people learn faster if they have audiovisual aids as well as words. Can you show me an example of a presentation that includes audiovisual aids?"
In the world of lawyers, what behaviours impede your ability to listen?
- Asking a question that leaves the speaker uncertain as to whether you listened attentively and absorbed content (Even if the question is perfectly legitimate and appropriate, if it leaves doubt as to whether the other person has been heard, it can lead to irritation)
- Body language that is neutral, and therefore does not instill confidence that listening is occurring
- Making an assertion that is inconsistent with what has been said without bridging by first acknowledging the point made, and then indicating a basis for a different point of view
- Permitting interruptions (e.g., another lawyer dropping in, staff coming in to get documents signed, a ringing phone, tones indicating that a text or email has come in)
- Glancing at a computer screen or smart phone
- Being so diligent to move forward with items of relevancy (in order to avoid wasting billable time on digressions) that the client does not feel understood or empathized with.
If you are visibly attuned to the person with whom you are communicating, you can become an extremely effective listener. People love communicating with effective listeners because it makes them feel validated, understood, and important.
Showing that you are listening closely is related more to the set of your sail than to how much fuel you use. Good listening behaviour may cost you a tiny bit of extra time, but the return on the investment will be almost infinite.
|Lateral Partner Integration: Beyond the Book of Business|
Six lateral integration practices that are critical to making new lateral partner "stick"
by David Cruickshank
The most-discussed and most-measured aspect of moving a lateral partner to your firm is that lawyer's book of business. It dominates the recruitment discussion, the initial client transitions and the financial measures in the first 6-18 months. Can we get from the promises of the recruiting phase to the reality of a "better than average producer" after a year? The focus on that success measure can cause firms to under-perform on other important features of lateral partner integration. In the face of recent estimates that only 28% of lateral partner moves succeed, what more can firms do to make sure that the partner and her clients "stick"?
My colleague Mike White addressed business integration processes for laterals in this space recently. I want to address six practices that go beyond financial performance, but which are equally critical to making the lateral partner stick.
- Pair the partner with a one-year "buddy. This partner should be separate from the partner who is accountable for business integration. The buddy should be from a different practice group, but with same or similar target clients. The buddy's job is to interpret firm culture, introduce cross-selling opportunities, host the lateral through the first annual meeting, etc. You can write a job description that works for your firm.
- Assign the lateral to mentor a strong associate.The gives the lateral a chance to pass new ideas from past practice to the next generation - and fulfill a firm investment goal at the same time. I say "strong associate" because your lateral will not have enough time for extensive training and development work.
- Pick the lateral's brains after period of breaking in. There are many opportunities to pick up best practices from other firms. I once observed a lateral from Latham in a new firm who easily out-performed his colleagues in handling associate evaluations (25 litigation associates a year). Why? Because he had acquired the techniques and discipline at Latham. Then bring these ideas to management to see if you can't absorb this free competitive intelligence.
- Be able to describe your firm's standards for client relations and ask the lateral to implement those standards and exceed them. Many firms have developed expectations for client service and relations. Not just "tickets for ball games," but return call times, frequency of updates, technology connections to key clients, and dedicated teams are some examples. If you have standards that exceed the client's former firm, his clients are in for a pleasant surprise.
- Give the lateral a committee or project assignment.What are her interests and talents? How might they match with recruiting, marketing, or business process analysis? Perhaps a pricing project or a major RFP would fit for someone who has strong financial skills. This assignment will bring the lateral together with partners of similar interests, but cut across clients or practice areas. The assignment also says, "We want firm investment as well as billed hours."
- Train or coach the lateral in team leadership. The lateral's long-term success will come from leveraged or co-operative teams in practice. Yet very few partners receive leadership training so that they can excel at this critical skill. Bring in a trusted trainer and coach to help meet that gap, where it exists.
Your firm invests a lot in getting a lateral to join you. You might even say you do a decent job of initial "on-boarding." And you will certainly be monitoring financial performance. These six lateral integration practices might make the lateral want to stick around for years to come.
David Cruickshank helps firms with lateral talent growth strategies and introduces the plans and tools that promote strong lateral integration.
Contact the author, David Cruickshank
|Securing Your Law Firm's Finances: The Cash Flow Conundrum
|The four key factors for securing better cash flows for your firm|
by Bithika Anand
It is undeniable that running a law firm today involves both practicing the law and running a business. Thus, there is nothing wrong with employing practices that are successful for other businesses to your law firm. Practices like giving discounts in the form of credits and not cash discounts, creating reserves with mandatory monthly contributions, linking salary and retainer hikes directly to the firm's performance, etc. are all practices that can be successfully implemented in a law firm.
On a more macro level, given below are the four key factors for ensuring better cash flows for your firm. Stabilizing your cash flows need not be a complex task: sometimes implementing even the simplest of concepts can reap the greatest of rewards.
Make Revenue Flow Projections - It is important to prepare exact cash flow projections for at least 2 years, taking into account both your existing clients as well as prospective clients. Be conservative while putting down the numbers for the prospects. This projection will keep you on your toes and identify the focus areas and months where you need to concentrate, as well as allow you to assess your progress based on pre-set numbers.
Improve your Revenue Inflows - In the practice of law, it is a perception that the longer a lawyer draws out a matter, the more he earns. In practice, it is very important to realize when you need to speed up matters to free yourself for other billable work and ensure inflows. The more organized you are in sticking to timelines, the happier your clients are and the more predictable are your cash flows.
Delay Your Revenue Outflows - While every individual deals with outflows differently and every accountant advises differently too, it is often a good way of stabilizing your cash flows by taking full advantage of the creditors' payment terms and not making payments before the due date. One trick is to make provisions for the payments, while allowing yourself the additional liquidity till the time the payment has to be made.
Spend Within Your Means - Always monitor and control your expenses to the best of your abilities. Being frugal to an extent is a necessity when you are trying to control your cash flows. Try to reduce expenses on utility bills, office stationery and even storage costs. Careful spending not only allows you to make higher profits but also helps you to maintain funds for the growth of the firm. Controlled and necessary frugality is not a sign to the world that you are not doing well; on the contrary, it displays prudence.
A controlled cash flow is the key to the success of any business and thus for any law firm, so make sure to manage it effectively so that a lack of flow isn't a threat to your firm.
Contact the author, Bithika Anand
Legal League Consulting, LLC
Dehli and Mumbai,
|At The Podium: Upcoming Appearances by Edge Partners |
Jordan Furlong June 20
State Bar of Texas Annual Conference: "The Adaptable Lawyer"
State Bar of Texas
Gerry Riskin Aug 07
National Association of Bar Executives (NABE)
2013 Annual Meeting
San Francisco, CA
Jordan Furlong Sept 26
Intellectual Property Institute of Canada Annual Conference
Jordan Furlong Oct 04
Afternoon Keynote Address,
2013 Futures Conference
College of Law Practice Management
Jordan Furlong Oct 16
Association of Legal Administrators of Atlanta
Jordan Furlong Oct 24
Continuing Legal Education Association of Australasia Annual Meeting