Someone Just Beat Me To My Book Idea

The Lean Law Firm Cover

Greetings from ABA Techshow 2018, where today I learned that Larry Port and Dave Maxfield have just published the book that I’ve been thinking about writing for years. It’s title: The Lean Law Firm.

Honestly, the similarities between what they’ve produced and the outline I generated are uncanny, right down to the idea of using bicycle manufacturing as the parable for teaching lawyers how to build a Lean practice.

I have to admit, my heart sank a little when I saw it. It’s not like I didn’t know it was a possibility—Larry and I had a great conversation about Lean for Lawyers a couple of years ago and he told me straight up what he was gonna do. But lots of people say they’re going to write a book but don’t actually follow through (? I’m startin’ with the man in the mirror ?).

Here’s the thing: It’s fantastic.

I actually saw Larry last night where he told me the book was about to come out. Then I saw a copy for sale on the TechShow floor this afternoon. First I flipped through the pages. Then I took it over to the couch and read a couple of chapters in earnest. Then I took out my wallet, bought a copy, and took it up to my room. And now I’ve just spent the last couple of hours devouring it. You should too.

(Oh, and if you’re at TechShow, and it is before Friday at 10:30, you should go to Larry and Dave’s session. I’ll be there.)

First off, here’s why Larry and Dave’s book is so similar to my outline: We were all inspired by the same book to use as our model, Eli Goldratt’s The Goal. (The Goal, by the way, was also the inspiration for what has probably been my most recommended book over the past 3 years, The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim et. al.)

What’s cool about The Goal and The Phoenix Project is that they aren’t business books, they are business novels (Patrick Lencioni writes good ones of those too). Which means they don’t just give you a bunch of how-tos or why-tos, they illustrate concepts with narrative and character and plot.

The Lean Law Firm is kind of a hybrid, but one that works. The first part of each chapter is a narrative story, but Larry and Dave follow those blurbs with some practical and actionable advice on how you too can take the steps that the characters in the story are taking.

As such, they are able to cram as much information on various aspects of running a law practice into a single chapter as I’ve seen in entire books on those topics. Maybe they don’t go quite as deep, but they absolutely nail the basics, and they give readers a solid foundation on how to improve from there.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit jealous that they got this book out before I really even started writing mine. And, as is normal, there are a few things I would have done differently here and there. But here’s the bottom line: The book needed to be written, and Larry and Dave did an excellent job at it.

And my personal little jealousy pales in comparison to the excitement I feel that this book finally exists. Sure, I’ll still recommend some of the other books to people, but you can be sure I’ll tell ‘em to start with this one.

If you are a lawyer running a small firm, in charge of a legal team within a larger entity, heading up a practice group, or frankly even if you are just a practitioner on one of those teams, you should read this book. Not put it on your list, not wait for a used copy to show up, but buy it, and read it, and think hard about the concepts it will teach you.

Lean (and Agile, and Lean Startup, and Theory of Constraints—all of them are covered) will change your life for the better. It will make your business run better, you will have less stress, you will make more money, and you will get to spend more time doing the things you love outside of your work life.

I’ve been beating these drums for years, and I’ve worked with dozens of teams to prove that they can and do work in legal. I’m thrilled to have this book out there to help open more lawyers’ eyes to the possibilities of a better way to practice.

And if you do read it and want to talk more about it, or dive a little deeper into any of the topics Larry and Dave present—or especially if you are doing the thing I often hear, which is say “I like the idea, but I’m just not sure if it can work in *my* practice—” let’s talk.

I’ve successfully implemented Lean methods with litigators and transactional lawyers, with hourly billers and alternative fee mavens, with true solos and in nationally known firms. This stuff works, and it can work for you.

So read the book, get excited, try some stuff out. And if you have questions, I’d love nothing more than to help you answer them.

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