|April 2006 | e-Newsletter
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You may have noticed a new button on the left side of the screen that says "Resources." The Resources Page links to books, articles, studies and reports, and blog posts discussing the billable hour and related subjects such as client service and value billing. The collection spans more than a decade, from a 1993 article that appeared in Law Practice Management magazine to a number of February 2006 posts at a blog called the [non]billable hour. Each month, we'll be highlighting one of the books from the Resources Page in The Timesheet.
Announcing the Billable Hour Resources Page
I vetted all of the listed items for relevance before adding them to the collection. If you think I've missed anything, or included anything that shouldn't be there, let me know by sending an e-mail to info@TheBillableHour.com.
Partner, The Billable Hour Company
Don't let our Resources Page fool you into thinking that we've gone all serious and stuffy on you! Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in our continuing quest to bring you the best in legal humor, we have added a new feature to The Timesheet: the Daily Legal Toon
Get a Chuckle With the Daily Legal Toon
There will be a new cartoon not once a month, but every day! So visit The Timesheet whenever you need a shot of humor to get through the workday.
No, this is not an announcement of the formation of a new firm. But without a doubt partnerships of Moms, Dads and Grads everywhere are celebrated each May and June.
My own graduation was a very emotional time for me, because my student ID card contained my "Date of Birth," followed by my "Expiration Date." It wasn't so much that I was superstitious, but I did come to them for higher education, and they did manage to collect exorbitant tuition from my shell-shocked parents; hell, I figured maybe they knew something I didn't. Anyway, I survived the commencement ceremony (so apt a name for the celebration of completing my studies) so I guess they weren't as smart as I gave them credit for.
Back in the day, graduates in all fields of endeavor were favored with tired cliches about a career in "plastics." This is not a reference to the medical specialty featured in "Nip/Tuck" or "Dr. 90210." I respectfully refer you to the film "The Graduate" (there are lawyers in it).
Graduation is an emotional time for parents as well. There is great pride and joy in the accomplishments of one's offspring. And let's face it, paying tuition is like any other severe pain; it just feels so good when it stops.
Along with the glow of graduation exercises, Mom looks forward to her special day of recognition, Mother's Day. I admit that I never really "got" how big Mother's Day is, until I was with Lisa in the delivery room for the birth of our first child. No amount of chocolate, roses, or jewelry could ever come close to adequately saying, "thanks, Mom, for doing that for me!"
Father's Day seems to generate a thick fog in our minds, and suddenly we can't think of a single thing that Dad could possibly want for a gift. How else do you explain the inevitable tie? Isn't that a bit like buying another yoke for your ox? I tell you, it's a conspiracy, because my kids, who don't shop yet, bring me construction paper ties they make in school.
We at the Billable Hour Company extend our congratulations to all graduates, and wish all Moms a happy Mother's Day and all Dads a happy Father's Day.
Several years ago, a brain surgeon wrote about the stresses of his work. The headline read: This IS Brain Surgery. He discussed how you handle work pressures when you cannot say, Well, it isn't brain surgery.
Feature Article: It Ain't Brain Surgery!—Get Some Perspective|
by Cheryl Stephens
This came to mind recently on hearing several lawyers talk about their work and their concerns about achieving a balance between family life and professional obligations. One senior lawyer said she treated legal work as if its consequences were as important as those of brain surgery-life or death. I felt humble but then became concerned that her attitude would lead to trouble in the long run.
One of the tools for achieving work/life balance is perspective. If you consider your obligations in every step in every legal matter to be of life and death importance, you have lost perspective. The same is true when you lose perspective on your personal or family obligations.
What personal obligations are at issue? Well, there are: paying your bills on time, filing your income taxes when due, fulfilling commitments to friends. Balance requires that you commit to yourself that you will make time each week for play, exercise, creativity, rest and recuperation, and reflection. All of these things balance your life and develop your perspective and your positive spirit and optimism.
As we seek to give each aspect of our lives its due, our professional responsibilities and our family duties have to be measured. A criminal lawyer recently spoke of her anger that a client would spend an extra month in jail awaiting trial in order that the other defense counsel could have the whole day off for her daughter's birthday.
Another was somewhat uncomfortable about cancelling client meetings so that she could take her child, with an emerging fever, to the doctor instead of allowing her ex-husband or childcare attendant to do it. She did not trust that they would communicate the problem to the doctor or the solution to herself adequately. That makes me think, Well, it's not rocket science.
You have to develop perspective. There are going to be some legal steps that have very grave consequences if mishandled or neglected. Many others would not. Some childcare responsibilities ought not to be delegated while others ought to be. There are some joys of parenthood we do not want to miss and others we have bargained away by making other commitments. It ain't rocket science.
Perspective is crucial. Not losing perspective is key to maintaining your sanity. Perspective comes from conscious living. This means staying focused on the present; getting at the real truth; gaining greater awareness of thoughts, beliefs and behaviors and the influences they have on us; making more conscious decisions and taking deliberate actions; and celebrating the beauty that is in all of us.
It also requires development of these ten traits as described by the (Norman Vincent) Peale Institute: Optimism, Enthusiasm, Confidence, Determination, Belief, Patience, Calmness, Integrity, Courage and Focus. Five are particularly important to self-management:
- Optimism: a belief in and expectation of positive outcomes, even in the face of difficulty, challenge or crisis.
- Enthusiasm: having high levels of interest, positive energy, passion, or personal motivation.
- Belief: trusting in oneself, others, and/or a higher spiritual power to provide support and guidance when needed.
- Integrity: acting on a personal commitment to honesty, openness and fairness, and living by and for standards.
- Courage: the willingness to take risks and overcome fears, even when the outcome is uncertain.
Three ways to demonstrate optimism:
Regain Your Perspective Now
- Meet all challenges with a feeling of control. Decide how you would like the outcome to look, and then organize yourself and plan for success.
- Identify the benefits of the crisis, problem or difficulty. Learn from each and every action you take, and learn rom both the positive and negative results.
- Keep your energy level up and visible, both to others and to yourself.
A loss of perspective can result from avoidance of the real issues of concern to you, surrendering to the sense that you have no control over events, and feeling stuck.
I am suffocated and lost when I have not the bright feeling of progression.
Set aside 15 minutes to review your calendar for the last five months. Make a list of all the positive changes you've made and plan to do something special to celebrate.
Do not waste worry. If you're going to worry, worry well. Put that energy to good use; aim it at an answer. Don't forget: Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.
Stop for a few moments to ponder these two questions:
Then accept without question whatever answer pops into your head. Take action to address that problem. Remember this formula: inaction = anxiety and action = peace of mind.
- What am I worried about?
- What actions have I been avoiding?
When we are the most overwhelmed, we are the least resourceful.
Now consider the area of your life where you feel most overwhelmed and spend a few minutes reflecting on it. Then, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself this question: What one thing could I do to completely eliminate the source of my sense of being overwhelmed?
Write down whatever occurs to you (no censoring your answers). Pick one idea for change that came to you and work on it this week. Try it and see how quickly you begin to feel relaxed and resourceful.
Cheryl Stephens works with lawyers in Canada and the United States to develop their law practices and enhance their professional and interpersonal skills. She also provides public training in leadership and communication skills, including creativity, innovation and humor. Cheryl, who has been called Canada's only professional muse, currently maintains blogs on life in the law firm; women's challenges in law practice; social and business trends; and plain language. Links to all of Cheryl's blogs can be found at www.CherylStephens.com/blogs.html.
We've got so much great legal humor, and so many great work/life balance tips, that we can't always wait until the beginning of the month to share them with you: that's why we created the Advance Sheet. Each Advance Sheet will feature a single legal humor or work/life balance article. The Advance Sheet will not be posted on The Billable Hour Company's website; it will be sent only to our customers and Timesheet subscribers. Look for the Advance Sheet a few times a month, between issues of The Timesheet.
The Advance Sheet: More Great Stuff from The Billable Hour™ Company
Mark and Lisa Solomon
Partners, The Billable Hour™ Company
The opposite of "in house counsel" is not "out house counsel," but outside counsel. Outside counsel are often called upon to draft "Side Letters" to protect their client's side of the deal when the client needs to have a little something on the side. Without one, the client would have to worry about the parol evidence rule,2 which almost cost the Devil his deal with Shoeless Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees.
Humor: Standard Form Side Letters for Outside Counsel|
by James M. Rose1
Portions of this piece of urban folklore come to us from an anonymous source by way of Cleveland, which seems to somehow enhance its hilarity.
STANDARD FORM SIDE LETTER
| ||_________________________|| |
| ||_________________________|| |
Re: Contract of Even Date
Ladies and Gentlemen:
In reference to the Contact of even date (Hereinafter referred to as the "Apparent Deal"), this letter sets forth the further understanding of the parties (Hereinafter referred to as the "Real Deal"). This Real Deal, is, of course, sincerely meant by the parties, but shall be enforceable in the manner indicated below (Check where appropriate):
____ Not at all
____ By the Same means as the Apparent Deal
____ By the withholding of future business
____ By strong, leather clad youths with sticks
____ By circumventing the parties mentioned in the non-circumvention provisions of the Apparent Deal
____ By revealing details of the Real Deal to various governmental investigating agencies
____ By notification to defaulting party's spouse of events occurring after signing ceremony
____ By unspecified means too hideous to mention
Considering the parties have entered into the Apparent Deal without realizing the implications of the Worst Case, the parties now declare the Real Deal as follows: (Check one or more as appropriate):
____ The Apparent Deal is off
____ Only the Apparent Deal will be publicly disclosed
____ Copies of this agreement will be signed, initialed and destroyed
____ All monetary amounts expressed in the Apparent Deal hereby are increased/decreased by a factor of _________
____ Expressions of mandatory commitments in the Apparent Deal hereby are declared to be only Best Efforts
____ The terms "Buyer" and "Seller" in the Apparent Deal are hereby reversed
____ Clauses _____ through_______ of the Apparent Deal are in there only to show to the Boards of Directors of the parties, but form no part of the Real Deal
____ Either party may cancel or assign any obligation in the Apparent Deal retroactively
____ Undisclosed personal fees and commissions are payable to negotiators of the Apparent Deal as follows____________________________________________________
The above Real Deal is further subject to the provisions of the hereto attached Side Letter (the "True Real Deal") and the thereto attached Side Letter (the "Only True Real Deal"). The provisions of the Apparent Deal, the Real Deal, the True Real Deal, and the Only True Real Deal constitute the entire agreement of the parties, except as otherwise mutually understood and signified by a Wink and a Nod.
Very truly yours,
|By:|| ||_________________________|| |
|Title:|| ||_________________________|| |
____ Agreed and accepted
____ Read, but not understood
____ Yes, but if asked I will deny
____ Signed under duress
1White Plains, New York. Because Mr. Rose is the author of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, he refers to himself as a Roads Scholar.
2 Not the parole evidence rule, which is N.Y. Executive Law §259-i(2)(c) and the Regulations of the State Division of Parole.
James M. Rose is an attorney and legal humorist in White Plains, New York. The Supreme Court Jester is a collection of Mr. Rose's articles in book form.
Book of the Month: The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services
From the book's inside flap (with The Billable Hour Company's comments in brackets):
The professional service accounting [law] firm is being threatened by a variety of factors: new technology, intense competition, consolidation, an inability to incorporate new services into a business strategy, and the erosion of public trust, just to name a few. At the same time, most experts agree that morale in the financial services industry [to say nothing of the legal field] is at an all-time low—an astonishing number of professionals respond in surveys that, if they had to choose their career over again, they would choose another line of work. What happened? How have the once distinguished and proud professions become so beleaguered, and is there any relief for those professionals who refuse to worship the capricious god of the almighty billable hour?
There is relief. And promise. And hope. In The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services, visionaries Paul Dunn and Ron Baker confront the tired, conventional wisdom that continues to fail its adherents, and present bold, proven strategies for restoring vitality and dynamism to the professional service firm. A cornerstone of Dunn and Baker's program is conducting successful transitions to new services that customers value, treating functions such as consulting as extensions, not alternatives, to traditional services. This, however, is only part of a framework aimed at liberating professionals from mechanically pursuing billable hours ad infinitum. Dunn and Baker provide proven strategies for pricing in accordance with value and develop leading Key Performance Indicators that measure success the same way customers do. The authors articulate a new theory of the professional service firm that focuses on the real factors of leverage for the firm of the future, and which tosses the antiquated theory of leveraging people and hours onto the ash heap of history. Topics covered include:
Readers will learn how knowledge has slowly but steadily evolved to become the most precious factor in creating wealth, and how firms can leverage this intellectual capital to their benefit. The authors include many real-world examples of firms that successfully transformed their operations from the traditional model into a variety of old and new services that customers value. Take up the mantle. The Firm of the Future dares its readers to not only assume responsibility for improving their own careers, but also for restoring their profession to its former glory.
- Intellectual, human, structural, and social capital
- Converting tacit know-how to explicit knowledge
- Total Quality Service
- Value Pricing
- Strategic planning
- Financial model reform