Archive for March, 2011


Showing up is half of life…but only half

Author: Debra Baker
March 23, 2011

A great leader I know used to conclude his staff presentations by saying, “They say that showing up is half of life. I thank you for showing up today.”

There is a lot to be said by that statement. Showing up is important. It means you care enough to take time out of your day to consider, and maybe even engage, in important discussions. It gives your voice a chance to be heard. You can offer solutions. It beats doing nothing, but it is only half.

The other part requires you to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes risk. It’s hard. But it is half of life. Too many people, lawyers, law firms only show up.

It’s a tough legal climate out there. The economy seems to be turning, albeit slowly, for the better. Opportunities appear to be on the horizon. For those that spent the downturn showing up to talk about what they needed to, it’s not going to be enough.

It’s time to put plans to action. It’s time to make the investment. It’s time to execute. Don’t let half your life go by.


Value Perceptions: Real or Illusory?

Author: Debra Baker
March 10, 2011

BTI Consulting Group hosted a webinar last week detailing findings from its 2011 Litigation Trends survey. My favorite slide of the presentation was titled “Clients Blind to Law Firm Changes.”

The slide depicts a two-bar graph. One bar reflects the percentage of litigators who believe they are delivering more value to clients. The other depicts the percentage of clients who say they are getting more value. The findings are revealing: More than a third of litigators believe they provide more value to clients, yet less than 12% of clients say they are getting more.

What’s more, it is client service and satisfaction — not depth of experience, reputation and legal skills — that are driving litigation hiring decisions by a margin of 2-1, according to BTI.

Where does your firm stand? Here are a couple ways to find out:

1) Ask your clients. If you don’t have a formal client service plan in place, get one. If your current program has fallen off the priority list, move it back up to the top.

2) Talk to each other. Identify specific ways in which you and your colleagues have solved a problem that is unique or different. Define areas outside of your legal expertise that your firm offers clients that others don’t.

3) Create a plan with specific goals around value and execute on it. Once that is done, ask clients to validate your efforts.

It is time for law firms to do a gut check. Are your lawyers truly bringing more value to clients or do they just think they are?


If not now, when?

Author: Debra Baker
March 3, 2011

One month ago today I was confined to a hotel room with severe back pain. It was the aftermath of Legal Tech New York and I was supposed to be on a plane back to San Diego. Instead, the hotel doctor was giving me a Cortizone shot and ordering me not to move. I’m 41. I run. I do yoga. I drink spinach smoothies for breakfast. This should not have happened.

Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine and a new active release therapist, I’m fully recovered and I went back to the gym for the first time this week. It’s hard. I feel slothy and out of shape. Because I am out of my routine, even the simplest activities seem to take a lot of effort. But I know the most important thing to do this first week back is be consistent. I don’t need to run a marathon, but I need 60 minutes a day doing something. When my alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and I want to roll over and go back to sleep, I say to myself, “If not now, when?”

This new mantra has a law firm application. Since the start of the year, I’ve been involved in a number of discussions about how to motivate attorneys to contribute to firm marketing and business development activities. The plans are in place. The heads are nodding. But the work isn’t getting done. For some reason the motivation isn’t there.

As partners, doesn’t the need to grow or at least maintain a thriving practice provide enough motivation to find ways to build business — both as an individual contributor and as an owner? It would seem that if the demand for legal services is down and more attorneys are competing for the same dollars that there would be a sense of urgency to raise your firm profile and create a more disciplined approach to growing business.

After all, if not now, when?