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August 30, 2006

"How many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

At least two, and I'll explain that.

In the meantime, let's note that "overlawyering", "lawyering by committee" and "bill-padding" are terms used to describe infuriating things lawyers do: (1) well-meaning lawyers indulging their perfectionist natures, (2) "on-the-job training" for your brilliant $120,000 first-year associate who unfortunately doesn't know anything yet (and won't for a while), (3) deliberately "milking the bill" (4) "piling-on" with other timekeepers on the bill and (5) "feeding the monster". These are instructive expressions. Become familiar with them. After all, your clients and your GCs coined them thinking of you.

However, a client project that goes on for more than a week should have at least two lawyers assigned to it. I think clients generally believe that two lawyers is better than one from the standpoint of adding value but always feel more secure about a project if they think that two lawyers are "minding the store" and that at least one of them can be counted on both to cover things and keep things moving if one of the lawyers is temporarily less accessible. Moreover, to make all of this clear--to clients, co-workers and opposing counsel--letters, documents and pleadings should regularly "show" both lawyers. You need to send the message that the client is covered by a minimum of two people to everyone.

So far, I have not seen a client balk at having at least two lawyers involved on a significant or lengthy project. True, you cannot always bill 100% of the team effort in this type of arrangement--but the good will generated by having more than one lawyer available and "on the job" is some of the most valuble marketing for repeat business you can do. Clients need to feel safe. That's just as important as the work itself being substantively first-rate.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

China: Thelen Reid Receives China License Today.

Today, in an development which Western law firms hope signifies a change in attitude by the Chinese government, the American firm Thelen Reid & Priest LLP, with about 400 lawyers, will receive a license to practice law in China, according to The Recorder in San Francisco. Thelen Reid applied for the license in September of 2005. In April of this year, as reported by Dan Harris at China Law Blog and others, the Shanghai Lawyers Association and some Chinese government agencies declared a crack-down on "illegal business activities" by foreign firms who had used local lawyers to practice law.

Thanks for the heads up to international tax lawyer Julie McGuire .

Posted by JD Hull at 09:05 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2006

More on Bad Clients--Who's "Bad", Anyway?

Recently, I was a guest on a radio program for entrepreneurs in a segment on how to spot and fire "bad" clients. This is a favorite subject, probably because it took 5 years for me to fully appreciate what bad clients were doing to my new firm. Rob Millard, Nathan Burke, and "WAC?" have written about bad clients: how to spot them, what they cost you and what to do about them. In this blog's "12 rules" for better client service, bad clients fall under Rule 1: Represent Only Clients You Like and an earlier related post. Generally, you are at your best when you represent clients who share your firm's values.

A "bad" client is not bad because it is small and/or unprofitable, questions bills, pays late or stiffs you. A bad client is one that (1) is not and probably will never be a "sophisticated user of legal services", (2) has a dysfunctional culture and/or (3) dampens the morale of your hard-working staff. Still, bad ex-clients at our shop have typically been small, and often not sophisticated. Ideally, a desirable client at my firm is relatively large, and comes equipped with a savvy and experienced GC. However, a recent post by Tom Collins at More Partner Income, one of the best blogs out there on enlightened management of any firm, added a lot to my thinking on firing smaller and/or less profitable clients. Tom, commenting on other good recent pieces by Ed Poll and Ed Wesemann, writes that "Law Firms Should Not Fire Those Clients, Yet". Do read Tom's post.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2006

Out There: Does Pluto Have Standing?


Posted by JD Hull at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

Keith Richards Watch - Scotland.

Free Keith, and Hampden Park. From today's New York Times:

An investigation has begun to determine if the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards violated Scotland’s strict new antismoking law by puffing away when the band performed before thousands at Hampden Park in Glasgow on Friday. If found by the Glasgow City Council to have violated the ban on smoking in all public places, which took effect on March 26, Mr. Richards could be fined $94; and, for failure to enforce the ban, Hampden Park could be fined $472.

September 1 UPDATE: Richards walks on a technicality.

Posted by JD Hull at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

Blawg Review #72

Be sure to visit Blawg Review #72, by New Orleans-based Ernie the Attorney. He covers a range of fine recent posts. There's even one section on Good Writing, and another called "Practice, Practice, Practice". Pluto gets its due, too.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2006

Sensitive Litigation Moment No. 12: Slick Answers to Lazy Interrogatories.

Allegedly, a perceptive and fed-up U.S. district court judge, throwing up his hands during arguments by lawyers on a motion to compel discovery responses, once referred to answers to interrogatories as "slick lawyer answers to lazy lawyer questions". I do feel his pain. Years ago, a new second year associate who worked briefly for our firm (after one year at another firm) complained that we were putting too much thought into a set of interrogatories under Rule 33, Fed. R. Civ. P. Our new hire patiently explained to me that interrogatories and other written discovery were in fact "simply a way for lawyers to bill time so they could make money--and nothing more." He was pretty adamant about it, too.

Color me silly, but I love and respect written discovery during the pretrial process in American federal courts. Complex and hard-fought civil cases turn about 90 per cent on the quality of the discovery questions and requests--both written questions and requests, and deposition questions--and the responses to them. And well-thought out and strategically timed written discovery, the kind that efficiently elicits useful and relevant information, is the best way there is to prepare great depositions--and get ready for trial.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:23 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2006

Will the U.S. president blog?

To return to Newsweek's report of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's new blog, there's more ink about "his excellency's" daily online journal from NBC news producer Robert Windrem at The Daily Nightly in his piece "Tehran In The Blogosphere". Windrem also asks David Almacy, the White House Internet Director: Will the American president be writing his own blog? "WAC?" asks: If the answer is yes, can we at least get these two into a cyber-brawl re: nuclear policy or Texas food?

Posted by JD Hull at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2006

China Law Blog: Lawyering Up, and Protecting Your Clients' IP.

Two good posts from China Law Blog's Dan Harris, at Seattle-based Harris and Moure: China--Start Lawyering Up and When Your IP Is In China...

Posted by JD Hull at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

Considering Argentina.

An Associated Press article last week notes that Foreign Entrepreneurs Spice Up Argentina. Many are young Americans, Brits and other Europeans in sophisticated but cost-friendly Buenos Aires. Excerpt:

[W]ith startup costs and wages still low in post-crisis Argentina, entrepreneurs say their savings in dollars, euros and pounds go a lot further here — letting them chase entrepreneurial dreams while reveling in the nation's cosmopolitan blend of Latin America and Europe.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

Marketing, Boomers, Generations X and Y--and Work.

"WAC?" has studied workplace generation-gap issues (see "Can't Stay Late, Man...I Got a Thing"), and it still doesn't have a clue. But like Carolyn Elefant at Legal Blog Watch, I noticed Larry Bodine's recent post "Generation Gap Hurts Law Firm Marketing". I was glued to it, and read it twice. Larry's short piece and the comments in it from consultant and author Cam Marston are well worth the time to read, even if you're not a lawyer and never worry about marketing, but have wondered if there is something fundamentally different about your co-workers currently under 40. Note also the good comment in defense of Gen Xs and Ys by Rod Heggy to Larry's post.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2006

Baby's new day and time

Do note that "I'm There For You Baby" with Neil Senturia and Barbara Bry will now air on Sundays from 3-4 PM Pacific time on San Diego's CA$H 1700 AM. As always, you can listen live on CA$H's website or hear past shows on the I'm There For You Baby website.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)

Coast to Coast Podcast: Westerners Lawyering in Asia.

In their most recent Coast to Coast internet radio show on Legal Talk Network, lawyer-bloggers J. Craig Williams and Bob Ambrogi do a fine job of exploring and explaining a hard if exciting topic: "Asia - The New Frontier for In-House Counsel". Craig, Bob and their two guests--an IP lawyer in LA and a business lawyer in Tokyo--cover business, legal, political and cultural aspects of lawyering in two contexts: (1) in Asia for western companies and (2) out of Asia for Asian companies. The show is here. Thanks to Blawg Review for the tip.

Posted by JD Hull at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2006

"I know it's only marketing--but I like it." Yes, but please get some help.

If I could win ya, if I could sing ya
A love song so divine,
Would it be enough for your cheating heart,
If I broke down and cried? If I cri-i-ied?

I said I know it's only rock 'n roll but I like it.... (M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Marketing isn't for everyone. You probably need a dark, kinky crowd-pleasing streak--a touch of Little Richard in you--to enjoy it, much less be any good at it. That's why marketing efforts in many American law firms are often dominated by trial lawyers, the closest thing we have to "outlaw" and "showman" in our staid and risk-averse profession. Trial people don't necessarily have better marketing and selling instincts. When the dust we kick up clears, we are just as overly-cautious and spineless as everyone else in the profession. We are not always possessed of winning ways. We just "like it", and we have big egos. We like to talk.

Lawyers are notoriously bad marketers, closers, managers, planners and strategists compared to trained business professionals. We just think differently, and we suffer from "rigid thought syndrome". Even those of us who can melt juries are not really that people-oriented. We were "good students". We were careful. We tended to be introverts and loners. And now we are prisoners of legal thinking. Ironically, the very traits and training that made us good at our profession have made us bad at other things.

But we can learn. And no one gets a pass. (1) Those who like to market and sell need training. (2) Those who don't like to market and sell need training, too.

On both the right and left side of this blog are listed several management and marketing consultants. You can tell this by the names of their blogs and websites. Some are lawyers, some aren't, but all of them can help your firm develop a disciplined marketing strategy or "WAC?", which is careful and risk-averse, would not have ever listed them on this blog. You should contact these people. You'll need them sooner or later. You need more than great instincts. We know it's only marketing and selling, but don't wing it, counsellor.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2006

Iran's president starts Mother Of All Blogs.

According to Newsweek's International Edition, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, has begun his second year in office with a blog, launched last week. His site, www.ahmadinejad.ir, is political, religious and so far an enormous hit in the blogosphere. It's written in Farsi, but Arabic, English and French translations are available.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2006

"You Can Take It [Biglaw Practice] With You."

Bravo. From well-respected D.C. lawyer and blogger Carolyn Elefant at My Shingle, it's right here.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

Environmental Boutique: The Right Stuff, The Right Clients and a New Blog.

American environmental lawyer Walter James interests us because he (1) left a large law firm but refuses to bottom-feed (high-end clients reportedly followed him out), (2) does corporate environmental law and (3) has a new site, Environmental Crimes Blog. And now "WAC?" can talk to another blogger about RCRA, CERCLA, PRPs, TSCA, NEPA, CWA Section 404, the 1990 CAA Amendments, USTs, ASTs and ISO 14001 without fearing his eyes will glaze over.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

Visit the world's first directory of ADR blogs.

This week Boston-based Diane Levin, author of Online Guide to Mediation, launched the first World Directory of Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs . Already Levin's international directory has attracted 60 ADR-friendly blogs. The guide is a valuble new tool for clients, GCs and trial people. ADR, which includes both mediation and arbitration, continues to pick up speed globally. Non-U.S. corporations in deals with American parties in particular are increasingly wary of the expense, delays and inefficiencies in obtaining results in U.S. state and federal court systems. And, along with many American companies, they are demanding arbitrations over traditional trial courts. ADR is finally on a roll everywhere. See the World Directory of ADR Blogs.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2006

Make client service standards part of each employee review.

We've discussed this idea before. If (a) you have chosen to build a truly client-centric firm, and (b) some of your partners and employees don't buy into constant improvement and innovation in customer service, tell them goodbye. Do that right away. Your co-workers either love--or don't love--the idea of great customer service. You can't teach people to get excited about it. Don't try.

But if they do "get it", keep those people, and challenge them to keep thinking and improving by incorporating specific customer service standards and goals into each employee performance review. Those standards may vary from position to position and from employee to employee. Whatever they are, make them as important as technical skills. Measure yourself and your employees by them.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

Go east, young dude: What's so special about China, anyway?

For answers, see a couple of great new posts at Asia Business Intelligence and Asia Business Law (a bonus is ABL quotes Hunter Thompson). And here's an excerpt from ABI:

Possibly more so than ever, international law firms are targeting Asia, and especially Greater China. More and more newly-qualified lawyers are starting their careers with aspirations and intentions to work in Asia, and many are approaching the path as "Asia specialists" first, lawyers second.

Read these. "You bought the ticket, take the ride..."

Posted by JD Hull at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

Well, I think this is international legal news.

From Charon QC...the Blawg, our London pundit, spiritual leader and alter-ego of Mike Semple Piggot, here is "Bar in China Allows Customer to Beat Up Staff", based on a BBC report from earlier this month. Next week "WAC?" promises to give the correct explanation of "QC", or Queen's Counsel, a distinction given to barristers for over 400 years. And even more prestigious than Super-Lawyer.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2006

A New GC Blog That High-End Boutiques Will Want To Read.

First Geoffrey Gussis at InhouseBlog, and then Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch, report "Fortune 500 First: GC Launches Blog". Our new blogger will be Mike Dillon, GC at Sun Microsystems.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

Mindsets, Paradigms and Other Prisons.

Rob Millard at The Adventure of Strategy is one of the few voices in the blogosphere who can use the word "mindset" and WAC? will still take him seriously. And, seriously, see his fine short post "The Enemy is Mindset"--or what I'd call the difficult art of seeing everything all the time as if you are seeing it for the first time. Or something like that. Rob's piece is inspired in part by a good post from Innovation Zen. WAC? will now repair to its study with a view of the mountains to burn floral incense and read The Upanishads.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2006

File This Under "Makes Way Too Much Sense".

Read "The Best Way to Market Yourself Is To Be Who You Are" by Allison Shields at her always-thoughtful Legal Ease Blog.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

Ouch, indeed.

See today's post by Chicago trial lawyer Pat Lamb called "The Wide Gulf Between Lawyer Perceptions And Those Of Their Clients". Note in particular Pat's quote of the comment of McDonald's Managing Counsel Robert Johnson: "Firms claim to understand our business model, but many do not walk the walk. They're more interested in impressing us with their esoteric philosophies than in reaching a resolution."

Posted by JD Hull at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2006

Blawg Review #70...

...is novel, truly unique and graphically interesting. It can boast an even better than usual collection of posts from Blawging's A-List. This week's Blawg Review is hosted by Preaching to the Perverted, the blawg--not be confused with the delightful and warm British family film of the same name.

Posted by JD Hull at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

Seven Great Posts You Shouldn't Miss.

1. The Myth That Companies Hire Attorneys, Not Law Firms by Tom Collins.

2. How The Long Tail Applies To Law Firms by Larry Bodine.

3. Billing Rate Discounts That Trigger With Volume Increases, Even Retroactively by Rees Morrison.

4. Creating Client Loyalty by Jim Hassett.

5. Firing Up Lawyer Rainmakers by Arnie Herz.

6. Flat Fees Are Fine, But Lawyers Can't Have Both Ways by Carolyn Elefant.

7. Why The FIFA World Cup Is And Should Be A Big Deal by the Harvard International Review.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2006

The Joy of Work, Burned-Out Lawyers & Hard Questions - Redux.

Vacation re-run No. 2, from April 2006--unfortunately this could apply to almost any week:

The past week was Pretrial Skirmish, Negotiation and General Posturing Week. Which I love. Lively chats with mainly worthy adversaries. You constantly learn new things about the law, the world, yourself. You get your client involved. Funny and even hilarious things happen, too. But one conversation was disturbing. It was with a lawyer with 10+ years of experience who cuts corners whenever he can, won't research anything, won't read anything, won't prepare for anything, and unabashedly disdains the law, lawyering, his client and, at this point, me.

He won't read the federal procedural rules, and is aggravated by anyone who does--as if a basic adherence to them is somehow frivolous and beside the point. Maybe the guy should stick to his usual court, where my guess is that makes it up as he goes along, and the courthouse clerks he knows just smile and indulge him. Having dealt with him before, I doubt he was just having a bad day. It's written all over him: he "wants out" of the profession, but doesn't know how to get out, won't get out. We've all had tough crossroads.

And he won't be reading this blog, either. But all this reminded me of our first post dated August 1, 2005, and in large part why we started this blog. The line was: "Do many of us wind up selling clients short because we are disillusioned or burned out?" How much of bad client service and the shoddy image many people have of lawyers is a function of lawyers disliking what they do?

How many clients are getting hurt by it?

Dan Hull

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

Writing For Clients: "Just Say It" Part 2 - Redux

A vacation re-run, from December 2005. Patrick Lamb liked it at the time, so we figure it must have legs:

Back to thinking about legal writing for clients de-mystified (December 9 post), I wonder if you just start with writing to courts. After all, lawyers (including judges) have a certain way of talking to each other which often (a) really isn't needed and just alienates the rest of the thinking world, and (b) even makes it think we are talking to ourselves dementedly and self-absorbedly.

For example, from the first line of an actual federal district court complaint:


COMES NOW, the plaintiff, Upstart Corporation, by and through its attorneys, Adams, Bones & Carson, LLC, brings this cause of action against GiantMart, Inc. for violations of the Lanham Act, and for its reasons, files with this Honorable Court the herein Complaint, the following of which is a statement of its averments and allegations:

Why not instead just:


Plaintiff, Upstart Corporation, states:

Well, is it just me?

Dan Hull

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2006

Civil Litigation in U.S. Federal District Courts: Is There a Blog?

Is there a legal blog which focuses solely on the civil side of American federal trial courts? Practice, procedure, evidence and new developments? "Federal Courts"* is a regular feature of this blog; district courts, the general trial courts of the U.S. system, are a main part of our firm's work. In 94 districts these courts take on over 250,000 civil cases a year - nearly four times the number of criminal cases that are filed - and serve as battlegrounds and laboratories for new ideas, both substantive and procedural. They hear and decide commercial disputes involving federal statutes, the Constitution, corporations from different states, non-U.S. entities, foreign states and a mix of novel international issues. Interesting and colorful things go on in them. Despite their broad jurisdiction and importance in national and international commerce, “WAC?" knows of no legal blog dedicated to the civil-side of federal courts. Are we wrong? Is one out there?

*Also called "Sensitive Litigation Moments".

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)

SLM No. 11: 15% of U.S. Civil Trials Appealed; 21% in Contract Cases.

From the University of Cincinnati College of Law's Law Librarian Blog and Robert Ambrogi at Law.com's Legal Blog Watch, based on 2001-2005 statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:58 AM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2006

"American Bloggers in Berlin."

Sounds like a good werewolf movie but this is more interesting and arguably just as gothic. Expat American bloggers now roaming Germany are highlighted in a recent post in Atlantic Review, the "digest on transatlantic affairs" edited by three German Fulbright alumni. See among others Radio Free Mike and Observing Hermann.... These are just two of the blogs in the AR article which soon will be added to "WAC?"'s links for Germany under "Non-U.S. Blogs" (on your lower left).

Posted by JD Hull at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

The Entrepreneur's Guide to the Galaxy

Be sure to tune in to San Diego's CA$H 1700 AM Saturday from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Pacific time to hear this week's edition of "I'm There For You Baby" with Neil Senturia (note picture of Neil on his damn yacht) and Barbara Bry. This week's edition will include a discussion with Serge Dedina, a life long surfer who uses entrepreneurial principles in preserving the coast in California and Mexico, along with more rules from the popular "Baby's Book of Becoming a Billionaire" and the "I wish I'd thought of that idea" Idea. You can also hear the live simulcast on the CA$H website and listen to past shows on the I'm There For You Baby website.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2006

"Give Me Your Tired, Your Rich Abused Fortune 500 Clients."

Life is short, it's Saturday, and an English blogger in an e-mail got me thinking. Let's review.

This blog, "What About Clients?", is about just three (3) simple ideas:

1. Real Service. Corporate clients all over the world are underserved and not happy. You can change that. But client service, like practicing law correctly, is very hard. You need to work at it.

2. The New Muscle Boutiques. Boutique firms with top legal talent in America, Europe and Asia are still bottom feeding. Unless your firm is doing a quality-of-life experiment, or trying to make law practice easy and not stimulating, you should be actively pitching to and stealing BigLaw clients. Get off your knees, get a grip. It's okay, we live in a free markets world. Just keep your rates high and your services superb.

3. International. American lawyers need to meet lawyers and clients from other countries.

The other regular "WAC?" topics are Sensitive Litigation Moments (federal courts), IP/Tech, Natural Resources, Politics, Real Heros, Writing Well and Keith Richards Watch. These are about client service and/or specific practice areas in which my firm Hull McGuire PC does all over the U.S., Western Europe and Latin America with 12 lawyers, a minimum of outsourcings and the help of lawyers from a fine long-standing international group (www.iblc.com).

And I am not 100% sure why we started "Keith Richards Watch"--but it was in large part a tribute to and comic relief for American baby boomers who may be burned out from practicing law. Besides, only Keith could get me to change my rule on not representing individuals.


Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

British And Irish Bloggers With Attitude--Redux

We've posted on this subject before, i.e. here and here, and we'll keep doing it. If you scroll down the left-hand side of this blog under Non-U.S. Blawgs, you'll find lots of great blogs/blawgs from the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and from the Republic of Ireland. One provocative, smart, well written and loads-of-fun blog is Charon QC...the Blawg, quickly becoming a WAC? favorite. As in trying to describe Geeklawyer, another wonderful English legal weblog, words fail me. You just have to visit CQC.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)

Sensitive Litigation Moment No. 10: Stand Up, Guys.

Jonathan Stein at his busy and thoughtful blog The Practice offers some fine advice in "Stand up and be heard". Jonathan and I have very different day-to-day law practices. But this is a great post for any trial lawyer, new or experienced, in state or federal forums. Another reason for standing up in court, rather than sitting--even if you have the option to sit or "sitting" is the local practice--is the overall goal to make that courtroom "yours". It's hard to be, or appear to be, supremely confident and in charge of your environment when you are sitting down. It makes you look unbecomingly detached, too.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2006

"Oh, New York City, you talk a lot...let's have a look at 'ya!"

A Little Face Time Maybe?

In another month, and for 4 days or so, I'll be in and around New York City, a city I love, especially in decent weather. As usual, I'll see people I have known for years. But I'll also be meeting in the flesh people for the first time I've talked with for months, or even years, only on the phone.

And this will happen: if I have never seen his or her picture, I may think that he or she is, say, a tall, dark-haired 30ish human--a definite image I conjure up during phone talks. If after meeting that person it turns out I've been really talking all this time to a short blonde 50ish person, it doesn't change any mental images long-term. I will still revert back the tall, dark-haired 30ish image after I get back home and talk to her or him again on the phone. With e-mails, it's worse; even if I have formed a picture, only a partial personality comes across in those many back and forths before I meet my pen pal.

Until I meet him or her face-to-face, nothing is enough. Meanwhile, the world still changes rapidly as we speak and type. What's next to make us efficient yet isolated and numb? Do we talk to each other enough with our live human voices? Do we see each other enough with our eyes, "in real time"? What has all this fabulous technology done to render obsolete important human energies, chemistries and nuances to work together and solve problems? So maybe "vibes" is not so silly an idea.

Work, like life, is a social experience. What are we losing these days?

Posted by JD Hull at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2006

First-Rate Mediators Are Worth Their Weight In Gold.

Robert Ambrogi is an interesting guy. A lawyer and ADR specialist, he is also a polished journalist and wordsmith. Bob writes well, and economically--yet not enough of us take the time to rave about it. Go figure.

His new piece, "Do Mediators Sell Themselves Short?", in Law.com's Legal Blog Watch, started me thinking. A late convert to abitration 10 years ago, I now speak about ADR before groups, especially international ones. I finally learned that smart non-US companies--especially those based in certain European jurisdictions where court litigation really is more efficient--are not that worried about what law gets applied. Instead, they insist on binding arbitration clauses in their deals where American companies are participants because they do fear that even a fast-track federal court in the U.S. will mean excessive fees and delays.

So is ADR is always "cheaper, faster and better"? No. The quality of the arbitrator(s)--not the rules you adopt--is everything. Period. In large commercial cases, binding arbitrations are not cheap. A panel of three blue-ribbon arbitrators, experts, far away venues, and travel and lodging will cost you. Arbitrations, moreover, often take on the tenor and procedures of "real" trials, and many are quite lengthy. Finally, many decisions and awards are honest but "less than scholarly". If you have great facts and winning law, you might be disappointed.

And why mediate? If it's not binding, what's the point? Isn't it just another expense? I used to ask the same questions. The answer is that mediation is very effective when you don't want a binding result and if you have a very good mediator. I concluded this in 1999 during a productive eve-of-trial mediation in Salt Lake City in which a hard-working mediator gave three pumped-up parties and their counsel new takes on their respective cases in a day's work. If a mediator pro-actively, thoughtfully and energetically guides all parties, mediation can serve as a sober reality check on how a judge, or even a jury, might view the facts and decide.

So in Utah my GC--who loves trials as much as I do--and I settled it. And we settled "well", without regret and with our eyes open. We paid the arbitrator, handsomely, as I recall, and it was worth it. Since then my firm has used mediators sparingly, at the right times and in the right circumstances. Getting back to Bob's article, a skilled and skillful mediator works (a) very, very hard and is (b) worth his or her weight in gold. By all means, pay them. And maybe pay them more than arbitrators. What they do takes a mix of legal ability, people skills and energy that very few of us have.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2006

England and Wales Mull Competency Checks For Lawyers.

According to the Law Gazette, the London-based legal weekly, The Law Society of England and Wales is considering performing preventive competency checks on solicitors. Antony Townsend, the Law Society's first chief executive for regulation, noted that

the traditional assumption that once a member was admitted to a profession, that person would remain competent, and that the regulator’s role was to weed out ‘rogues and villains’ was changing. ‘Increasingly, the focus of consumer concern has been about continuing competence, not just character.’

The idea for the checks on UK lawyers derives from a similar UK program for monitoring physicians. The lawyer program would "spot emerging problems" and "remedy poor practice early", without the need for after-the-fact sanctions and discipline.

The Law Society is the regulatory and representative body for 116,000 solicitors in England and Wales.

Posted by JD Hull at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2006

Happy Birthday to "What About Clients?"

Today is the first anniversary of "What About Clients?" Thanks to Chicago lawyer Patrick Lamb, D.C. wunderkind consultant Chris Abraham and D.C. telecom lawyer Mark Del Bianco for getting us--Tom Welshonce of Hull McGuire in Pittsburgh, and me--started, and to the people (all 4 or 5 of them) who still read this blog. Our first post was one year ago today. It's still our favorite, it's what this blog's about, and it's here.

Posted by JD Hull at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

So, you think your customer service is pretty good already, do you?

Sure about that? Whatever your level of confidence is, don't miss a post by corporate lawyer Patrick Lamb at his blog In Search of Perfect Client Service called "Overcoming The Lake Wobegon Effect", with an assist from Harry Beckwith, author of the 1997 customer service bible Selling the Invisible. "And all the children are above-average..."

Posted by JD Hull at 01:38 AM | Comments (0)