In Support of Diploma Privilege for Oregon

legal regulation Jul 01, 2020

My letter to the Chief Justice of Oregon in support of granting Diploma Privilege to 2020 Law Graduates.

Chief Justice Walters:

I write in support of the Oregon Law School Deans’ letter requesting that the Court grant “Diploma Privilege” to permit recent law school graduates to begin legal practice without having to take the Bar Exam. I agree with the Deans’ analysis and, because you know I like to look at data, I want to add information regarding the effect of dwindling numbers of lawyers on Oregon’s Access to Justice crisis.

While the Bar Exam is ostensibly a tool for ensuring the quality of legal services in Oregon, its usefulness to that end is unproven by data. At the same time, we have strong evidence of the Access to Justice gap for low income Oregonians, and we know from the 2019 Civil Legal Needs Study that legal problems fall disproportionately on African American, Native American, Latinx, Asian American, and rural...

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Zoom is Safe for Lawyers (if you use it right)

legal innovation Mar 26, 2020

Update April 4, 2020: Zoom has been under quite the microscope this past week, and there's no shortage of reports about its various shortcomings. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of this post (there are two updates) to get the whole picture. But I stand by this punchline: If you know what you're doing with Zoom, it is an effective, affordable, easy-to-use tool for holding group conversations—even sensitive ones. As with any tool, there are ways to screw it up, and I'll admit that Zoom could have originally made its default settings more intuitive to prevent those screw-ups. But I'll give them this: Zoom has been quick to respond to the barrage of criticisms they've received, and they've already made several changes to their tool to address user concerns. You'll have to make up your own mind whether Zoom is right for the specific uses you have, but it works well for mine.

As lawyers necessarily move their conversations online, Zoom has been one of the most popular...

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Disruptive Innovation & the Latent Market for Legal Services

legal innovation Mar 10, 2020

Last week I was honored to give the kickoff keynote for the Portland node of the Global Legal Hackathon. The hackathon itself was to follow two tracks, Business of Law and Access to Justice, but I made my case that there are plenty of opportunities to cover both of those topics with product or service offerings at the same time.

Unfortunately the talk wasn’t recorded, but I did my best to re-create it in the video below. Take a look to see why the old and established firm PWC is actually doing a better job at Disruptive Innovation than the recently defunct Atrium did (and why the British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal may be the most disruptive technology of all).

I also make my case for the latent market for legal services not by using the $1.4 Trillion figure that seems to be making the rounds, but by building a case that there is a $10M potential market in Oregon just helping people file pleadings on family law cases.

If you like what you see, please be sure to join my...

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Capturing Your Practice’s Purpose

Capturing an authentic, purpose-driven mission statement can have surprising benefits for your entire law practice or law firm. While most people think of a mission as something you do for marketing, studies have shown that purpose-oriented organizations outperform the competition when it comes to engaging customers and employees alike.

Read on to learn how to craft purpose-driven mission statement that is succinct, authentic, and motivational. Or, if you prefer interactive learning, be sure to register for my upcoming webinar on the topic.

Why Did You Go To Law School?

One of my earliest memories from law school was my 1L Property Law professor (now the school’s Dean) asking the 80-some members of my class, “Who here is in law school because they want to make a lot of money?”

Several hands shot up. Others were raised tentatively, reflecting some internal conflict. Who wouldn’t want to make money? Most of us were going into debt to invest...
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A Brief History of Agile for Lawyers

law practice strategy Feb 02, 2020

Agile as a comprehensive methodology is fairly new. Although many concepts that are now considered Agile predate the term, we can trace the unified theory to a gathering of software developers and technology managers in early 2001. Frustrated by traditional methods for managing software projects, they gathered in Snowbird, Utah to adopt a Manifesto for Agile Software Development:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
Working software over comprehensive documentation;
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation;
Responding to change over following a plan.

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Agile adoption spread rapidly in the tech sector and is gaining traction in other business settings. By 2016, 94 percent of respondents to the annual State of Agile...

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A Better Approach to Flat Fees

I’m a big fan of flat fees. They do a much better job (than hourly billing) at aligning the interests of the client and her legal team. And, when done correctly, they can simultaneously improve profitability of the work and allow the legal team to scale-up to serve more clients (at that improved profitability).

One of the dumbest less informed comments I hear from lawyers when I talk about flat fees is “We’ve flat fee’d a few matters, but we got killed on one of them so I’m suspicious of using them again.”

Here’s why that attitude is a problem: You shouldn’t “flat fee” a matter, you should develop a legal product and sell it for a fixed price.

Individual matters are complex. Even when you’ve done a lot of them, any lawyer knows that there can be quite a bit of variation. If you decide to offer a fixed fee on a one-off piece of work—maybe because the client’s asked for it or maybe because...

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HBR on Your Firm’s Purpose

When I ask law firm leaders about their mission, they often try to shake me off with something like “Oh, we already wrote up a mission statement as part of our marketing work.” News flash: If you think your mission is something that is only supposed to attract customers then (1) it probably isn’t working and (2) you’re missing the point.

A recent Harvard Business Review Article sums it up nicely:

As much as you may try to motivate employees with slogans or extrinsic rewards, you won’t achieve excellence if your people don’t know why they are coming to work every day at your firm. The clearer you can be about what value your company creates and for whom, the greater your ability to inspire your workers. And the more you align the right talent, operating model, and financial resources to support your purpose, the better able employees will be to deliver on it.

Why Are We Here?, Sally Blount & Paul Leinwand, Harvard Business Review

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Is Revenue Growth the Right Goal?

Quick Take:

Clio’s 2019 Legal Trends Report introduced their Law Firm Maturity Model, an interesting framework for evaluating a current state of your firm and how it might improve. Maturity models in general can be an effective tool for reinforcing strengths, illuminating shortcomings, and suggesting opportunities for improvement. But I wonder whether that the Clio model focuses too heavily on revenue growth instead of the business fundamentals and strategies that are needed to drive that growth.


Clio’s isn’t the first attempt at such a framework for small firms (see, e.g. the Lawyerist Small Firm Scorecard & associated pathways), and I think it will be interesting to see how Clio builds out tools and training to help firms advance along possible paths to maturity (in Clio’s parlance, becoming a “thriving” firm.)

My concern with the Law Firm Maturity Model—one that applies to other elements of the Legal Trends Report...

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Handoffs Are Making Your Matters Late

Unless you're a lone wolf, your project is going to have hand-offs.

Sorry, did I say "project?" I forgot for a moment that this is a legal blog. I meant "matter." Or "case." Or whatever else you call that "individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim."1  For consistency with the rest of the business world, let's call it a project.

Oh, and even if you're a lone wolf you'll have at least one hand-off (assuming you have a client). Unless you're working on something for yourself and you plan to work it from start to finish in one sitting, every project has some transfer of work from one resource to another. And those transfers are one of the biggest reasons your projects fall behind schedule. (They are far from the only reason, which is why I'm calling this post Part 1).

The most obvious source of a hand-off is when the project (or any task within it) passes from one person to another in order to get something done. But...

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Harvard Business Review on Enterprise Agile

law practice strategy Aug 21, 2018

For anyone who has been following the Agile movement, it is no surprise that Agile has grown far beyond its roots in software development to encompass business processes of all sorts.

McKinsey consulting has a step-by-step guide for Agile Marketing. Leading Agile trainer Steve Denning talks about Agile for Human Resources in Forbes. And a growing segment of respondents to the annual State of Agile survey come from outside of technology teams.

More recently, Harvard Business Review featured Enterprise Agile as its cover story, Agile at Scale. Its lead-off concept?

“Agile teams, when implemented correctly, almost always result in higher team productivity and morale, faster time to market, better quality, and lower risk than traditional approaches can achieve.”

There is a lot to unpack in that sentence alone, but the benefits are enticing. And they are consistent with the findings of the State of Agile survey I mentioned above, where reported benefits include:

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