One of the biggest challenges facing the firms I work with is too many in-progress matters. Lawyers love doing intake (for a variety of reasons, including that serotonin boost I mentioned yesterday), but we have a tendency to over-stuff our “doing the work” system without getting those cases closed and archived. My goal is for your firm to achieve equilibrium between your “getting the work” system and your “doing the work” system. The former should respond to the available capacity of the latter. That’s the nature of a pull-based system. It is also very different from how most firms think. It is a common mistake to be demand-oriented. “We should ... (Keep reading)

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Close the Closable

This is part of my series where I try to help anonymous strangers on Reddit (as u/AgileAtty). You can find the original post here. Solo practitioner here (using Clio for billing/client management).We all understand how important it is to track time, but I still struggle. Does anyone have any programs they find helpful, or tips/tricks/hacks they can share that they have found helpful?Thank you in advance. There are three high level systems in your law firm: The “Getting the Work” system;The “Doing the Work” system; andThe “Getting Paid” system. Your law firm cannot succeed if any of those systems is not working well and in balance with the others. If I had ... (Keep reading)

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Tips/Tricks/Hacks/Programs For Tracking Time

Last week I introduced the first of the principles behind the Agile Manifesto: “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable work product.” I’m going to start this post about assumptions with by assuming you have no quarrels with trying to achieve customer satisfaction. But why is “early and continuous delivery” is essential to achieving customer satisfaction? The answer: because there’s nothing like a deliverable to validate assumptions. Or to invalidate them. “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” — Isaac Asimov If you’ve been practicing for more ... (Keep reading)

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Deliverables Challenge Assumptions

Today I’m reaching back to an episode I recorded for Megan Zavieh’s Lawyers Gone Ethical podcast back in the early days of the pandemic (April 2020). I had just published a video titled Why US Courts Will Gridlock, about why I (correctly) believed that courts shutting down in early 2020 would have long-term ramifications for their dockets. I bring it up now because the concepts I explored in that video (and in Megan’s podcast) are every bit as applicable to your law practice as they were/are to the courts. Topics Megan and I discuss include: The inherent tension between protection and accessibility.Survivorship biasLittle’s Law (or why work slows down if ... (Keep reading)

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A Chat About Accessibility

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable work product.” —Principles Behind the Agile Manifesto I realized this morning that I’ve been carrying on about deliverables for several days now without explaining why a guy who calls himself the Agile Attorney cares about them so much. The quote above is slightly modified from the (software-centric) 2000 Agile Manifesto, which has been preserved in amber on a delightfully late-1990s era website. As I continue along my own learning journey, I find that I’m more of a pragamatist than an Agile dogmatist, but there is still a whole lot of wisdom captured in that original ... (Keep reading)

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Early and Continuous Delivery

Continuing my theme on phased delivery of productized legal services. Of course I meant to write and send this last Friday, but last Friday turned into a different day than any of us had planned. And then I took a few days this week to spend in the Cascades with my family (away from cell signal). They were glorious. So my streak is gone, again, but oh well. Time to start another one. To summarize how we got here: previously I talked about why being “responsive” to clients is a productivity killer that costs you and your clients real money. I suggested that being proactive is a far superior way ... (Keep reading)

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Minimizing Client Suspense

Continuing my theme on phased delivery of productized legal services. If you haven’t been following along, check out Part 1 and Part 2. Before we get into what deliverables mean for your workflows (punting that one to tomorrow), I first want to talk about how I think of a “product” (as opposed to a pure service). We all have a rough connotation of what a product is. You probably associate products with something physical, and while not all products are necessarily something you can hold in your hand, I like how you’re thinking. High level, a product is a tangible thing that people invest something to acquire, typically so they ... (Keep reading)

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Legal products that meet client needs

Yesterday I introduced the idea of the phased delivery of productized legal services. I left you with my insistence that each phase of your workflow should have a deliverable. Specifically, a client-facing one. Today I’ll unpack that assertion. A few bits of background: (1) While people can perceive plenty of value from experiences, the experience of working with a lawyer is not high on anyone’s bucket list. That’s not to say that legal work isn’t valuable, just that most people don’t perceive tremendous value from the process of working with a lawyer.* I’ve seen this be a major source of frustration for attorneys in their relationship with clients. “They have ... (Keep reading)

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What’s the Deliverable?

Happy solstice! As we mark a celestial turning point, I’ll jump on the metaphor to offer a few thoughts on what I think is the necessary turning point for legal professionals to build practices that meet my triple goals of being profitable, scalable, and sustainable: a shift to phased delivery of productized legal services. For purposes of this week’s posts, I’m using Richard Susskind’s continuum from his provocatively titled 2008 book, The End Of Lawyers (Amazon Link | Powells Link). In it, Susskind argues that in order to meet the demands of 21st century buyers of legal services, legal professionals need to migrate their offerings away from highly customized services. ... (Keep reading)

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Phased delivery of productized legal services

Continuing this week’s theme on Attention Pollution… Yesterday I challenged the conventional wisdom that lawyers should always be responsive to their clients. So how can a lawyer create a good customer experience without being responsive? Easy: Be proactive instead. You’ve probably heard that lack of lawyer communication is one of the most common sources of client dissatisfaction—and bar complaints! So put your communication on a schedule. Depending on your practice type, every single one of your clients should be getting an update on their case anywhere from weekly to monthly. Even if what you send is a “No update update,” clients will appreciate hearing from you and seeing what is ... (Keep reading)

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Proactive beats Responsive