- The Billable Hour Company Wants You!
- Feature Article: The Inner Life: Listen to Yourself for a Change
- Cartoon: Stu's Views
- Humor: The Five Stages of Unemployment
- How To Grab the Attention of Your Clients and Colleagues
- Oddservations: Doobie Do He Do?
- The Advance Sheet Will Return this Month With New Special Offers
- Cartoon: Juris Comic
- Book of the Month: Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies That Work (2nd edition)
- Daily Legal Toon
The Billable Hour Company Wants You!
We knew it would be a big hit, and it is: The Billable Hour Card Store—the world's only online greeting card store featuring humorous and customizable printed greeting cards especially for legal professionals—is off to a great start.
But we need your help to make the card store even better. We've got tons of ideas for more hilarious law-related greeting cards, but absolutely no cartooning talent of our own.
So, if you like to draw—or if you have a friend, colleague or family member who does—and you want to see your work on greeting cards, drop us a line at info@TheBillableHour.com. In addition to paying you for your artwork, we'll credit you on the back of each card you draw.
Do you ever allow yourself the luxury of an internal conversation? Is there any quiet time in your schedule? In addition to taking the 90-second opportunities that arise in a normal day, set aside an hour on your calendar to keep to yourself.
The Inner Life: Listen to Yourself for a Change|
by Cheryl Stephens
Everyone needs time for reflection, and if you do not take that time you will begin to forget who you are and what you stand for. Events will sweep you away and you will lose your bearings.
When you can take the time to slow down and feel your natural rhythm, you can feel the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual elements of your being and bring them into harmony. In this state you put yourself in touch with your own creativity and your natural genius.
Enjoy the Silences
A key element of listening effectively to others is comfort with silences. When you are comfortable with silence, you allow another person the time and space to compose the expression of their next thought. Those who are uncomfortable with silence jump in to finish sentences and impose their own
thoughts on others. Some people are desperate to hear their own voice, as if that sound is the only acknowledgement they ever receive.
Martin Farquhar Tupper said: "Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech." You will find that when you are comfortable with your own silence, and learn to listen quietly to your own thoughts, you will become a better communicator with others.
The Joy of Silence
There is another effect of failing to take time for thought: when you get in bed at night, your mind starts reviewing neglected concerns. And because you are tired (too tired to deal with these concerns) your thoughts become negative and obsessive. This keeps you awake for more than the 20 minutes
it should take you to fall asleep (when not exhausted or distressed).
If nothing else, go to bed early so you can ponder the events of your day and prepare your mind for the next day. But it would serve you better if each night you could practice "affirmations" as you unwind and prepare yourself for the next day's tasks. If you must review the videotape of your
day before you drift off to sleep, then develop the habit of making affirmations as you come to consciousness each morning. Or spend a few calm moments to anticipate the day's events in a positive context.
Reject FEAR and stress
Have you ever noticed that your thoughts turn negative when you are under stress or merely exhausted? If you subscribe to this negative paradigm, you begin to suffer from FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real.
Don't succumb to the negative pictures your mind conjures up. Oppose the cognitive distortion and choose to view your situation from a positive perspective. Eliminate the negative self-talk and the "what ifs," which will only make you depressed, angry or scared.
Positive Thinking and Affirmation
Counter negative thoughts with positive affirmations. You can use affirmations to build confidence and exchange negative behavior patterns for positive ones. You can base affirmations on clear, rational assessments of fact, and use them to undo the damage that negative thinking may have done to your self-confidence.
Examples of affirmations to start your day are:
Occasional time for self-reflection is a life-raft in the stormy sea of law practice. Don't forget to do it. And keep a positive focus through conscious effort.
- I am equal to the tasks I face today
- I can be completely myself and people will like me for myself
- I am completely in control of my life and I can go with the flow
- I learn from my mistakes. They increase the basis of experience on which I can draw
Cheryl Stephens, Mentor/Muse, is a retired lawyer who can't seem to stop teaching, writing, and bouncing around to speaking engagements. She can be reached at email@example.com.
©Stu Rees. All rights reserved.
Like this cartoon? Send it to friends, clients or colleagues on greeting cards. To order, visit The Billable Hour Card Store.
Monday started much like every other day for me—at about noon. After taking care of some urgent business (watching the latest Desperate Housewives DVD with my wife), I was ready to tackle my day, or what was left of it. It was then that I received "The Call."
The Five Stages of Unemployment|
by Sean Carter
According to my caller ID, the call was from the ABA. This was not surprising because, as usual, I was late in submitting this week's column. However, I was surprised when an unfamiliar voiced asked to speak to "Sean Carter." The caller identified himself as the publisher, managing editor or some such title. I must confess that, at the time, I was much more interested in the big pot that was developing in my online poker game. That is, until the caller informed me that my weekly column in the e-Report had been discontinued effective immediately.
I couldn't believe it. I was being fired. Now don't get me wrong. I've been fired from many jobs during my career. However, in all previous cases, I didn't mind so much because (1) I was doing a poor job; and (2) I didn't like the work anyway. This time only the former was true.
I loved my job as a humor columnist, which basically consisted of rambling on about the events of my life and getting paid for it. It was like therapy, except that I was the one making $200 per hour and I got to lie on my couch 167 hours per week instead of just one.
As the loss of my weekly column began to sink in, I immediately went into the first stage of unemployment—denial. "Hey, you can't fire me! I don't technically work for the ABA. Iím an independent contractor. So there!"
My denial quickly transformed to anger, which is the second stage of unemployment. "You have the nerve to fire me? Sean Carter? America's foremost legal humorist? Are you on crack? I'm the one who makes the e-Report worth reading! In fact, without my weekly column, you might as well just send out a blank e-mail each week! If I wasn't so far away (and currently on probation), I'd demonstrate what you can do with your crappy e-zine!"
While the person on the other line attempted to calm me (and alert building security to be on the lookout for a crazed black man in the lobby), I moved to the third stage of unemployment—bargaining. "OK, OK. How about this? You only have to pay me if the column is funny. No? OK, how about this? If you let me keep my column, I'll devote each entry to what a great guy you are. OK, OK. Can I at least write a farewell column to my readers telling them how much you suck?"
Realizing that my bargaining techniques were about effective in this case as they were during my ten years of law practice, it became clear that no amount of begging was going to allow me to keep my column (and trust me, I certainly tested the limits of this theory). At this point, the fourth stage of unemployment hit me like a ton of bricks (or worse, one of my wife's "homemade from scratch" biscuits)—depression.
I had lost my "baby!" For almost three years, the only constant in my life had been my ABA column. In more than 130 weeks, I had only missed one deadline—something that my lender wishes I could say about my mortgage. I would miss the routine. More importantly, I would miss my faithful readers —the ones who write me on a regular basis to tell me how much they enjoy the column. I'd even miss my faithless readers—the ones who suggest that I get a real job (and a life).
The depression became so profound that I begin to think about doing the unthinkable. That's right! I thought about . . . about . . . getting a real job. Fortunately, I was dissuaded from taking such drastic measures through the love and support of friends, family members and people familiar with my work as a lawyer. They assured me that my luck would eventually turn around (and that I couldnít possibly find a malpractice carrier willing to cover me).
With that, I finally moved to the fifth and final stage of unemployment—acceptance. I accept the fact that I will no longer be entertaining thousands of lawyers each Friday morning. I accept the fact that I will no longer be able to tout myself as the ABA's Chief Humor Officer. I accept the fact that beating the hell out of the caller won't solve anything (nor sit well with my probation officer).
I also accept the fact that life can be funny sometimes (apparently unlike my column in the e-Report). Sometimes, our greatest setbacks are actually just set-ups for new opportunities. Therefore, I face the future with anticipation, excitement and several thousand unusable business cards, reading "Sean Carter, ABAís Chief Humor Officer." I told you that life can be funny sometimes.
Sean Carter, Humorist at Law, is a syndicated columnist and popular speaker who presents Comedic Legal Education programs for law firms, in-house legal departments and bar associations across the country. Sean is also the author of If It Does Not Fit, Must You Acquit? Your Humorous Guide to the Law.
How To Grab the Attention of Your Clients and Colleagues
(From Creating Passionate Users)
A few weeks ago, over at a blog called Creating Passionate Users, Kathy Sierra wrote a great post about what it takes to get someone's attention these days, in the face of thousands of potential distractions. She summarized her thoughts in two words: "Be provocative."
Sierra suggested many ways you can be provocative, among them:
- Be visual
- Be different—break patterns and expectations
- Be daring
- Be fun
Sounds like a job for (cue deep announcer-type voice) the Billable Hour Card Store. Plus, our cards will help you accomplish your goal without breaking the bank.
So, this holiday season, be provocative: send your clients and colleagues greeting cards from The Billable Hour Card Store. And don't feel that you have to send cards that explicitly mention Christmas (or Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa or New Year's) on the cover: any card can be a holiday card, with the right message inside.
First, a disclaimer: I donít find driving under the influence of drugs, including alcohol, a funny thing. Itís dangerous, stupid behavior, and the laws proscribing it need enforcement.
Oddservations: Doobie Do He Do?|
by Bob Pladek
I do, however, wish to bring to your attention the July 20 decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court, State v. Bealor, addressing whether lay testimony is permissible on the cause of—as the court deemed it—"marijuana intoxication." Only in law and medical circles will you hear that term. And, then, only during working hours.
Some time proximate to allegedly smoking pot, Justin Bealor was driving. The arresting trooper, Michael Donahue, testified to his observations of Bealor and his conclusion that Bealor was intoxicated. Bealor argued at trial and on appeal that marijuana intoxication cannot be proved without expert testimony.
Now, I doubt any of you have ever smoked (and inhaled) marijuana. But if you have, and are in the presence of someone who has not, it is eminently clear to the non-stoner when youíre stoned. And when youíre not.
The Supreme Court, which agreed that only an expert can tell, didnít let Bealor off the hook. The justices concluded his intoxication was amply proved by the presence of marijuana in his system, and by the trooperís fact testimony: dangerous and erratic driving, slow and slurrrrred speech, bloodshot and glassy eyes, droopy eyelids, pale and flushed face, fumbling for his credentials, smell of dope on him, sagging knees [thatís a new one] and the "emotionless stare on his face." They also noted that police officers, in light of their training, are eligible to qualify as experts on marijuana intoxication. So too, I suppose, anyone who attended college between 1964 and 1994.
I donít know what sort of training the court has in mind, but I sat down with my colleagues and we developed some brief, objective queries to establish how dopey the doper is. The only training required is the ability to ask the question. The responses are self-proving.
Iíve marked with * those replies indicating dopeness. A double ** means a stronger indication. A triple *** means an extended interview with the suspect will have you registering * yourself.
Officer Bolton: "Dude, whatís your favorite song?"
Dude: "Wow. Tough one."
Officer: "Just pick any one."
Officer "Any. One."
Dude: Pause. "Truckiní."*
Officer: "I like that one too. Who wrote it?"
Dude: Pause. "Oh . . . wow."**
Officer: "Do you remember?"
Dude: "Do I remember?"**
Officer "Yes. Do you remember?"
Dude: Longer pause. "Do I remember what?"***
"Whatís the second verse: any second verse . . . of any song?"
In a majority of cases, questions are unnecessary; many individuals will volunteer their condition, happily:
"Whatís your middle name?"
"What planet are you from?"
"Wow . . . Those [police cruiser] lights are like, amazing . . . ."
Bob Pladek is Special Sections Editor for New Jersey Lawyer. This article is reprinted with their permission, which wasnít overly begrudgingly given. Bobís views, thankfully, are entirely his own. You can reach him at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Whoa . . . Hi officer! Iím soooooo wasted."
"Like . . . I mean . . . like itís everything, you know? All together. Itís so, I dunno, itís like, you know?"
"You got anything to eat, man?"
The Advance Sheet took a bit of a hiatus in September while we launched the Billable Hour Card Store. (Lisa also spent two weeks sitting on a jury in a criminal securities fraud cause in the Southern District of New York.) Never fear, though: The Advance Sheet will be back in October with new articles and special offers!
The Advance Sheet Will Return this Month With New Special Offers
The Advance Sheet is not posted on The Billable Hour Company's website; it's sent only to our customers and Timesheet subscribers. So if you're reading this on the web, subscribe to The Timesheet by submitting the form in the upper right-hand corner of this page. And remember, watch your e-mail for the next issue of The Advance Sheet: you never know when you'll catch our next special offer!
Book of the Month: Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies That Work (2nd edition)
Although (for obvious reasons) we're big fans of the concept of the billable hour, not everyone is. There's no better, more practical, primer on the various types of fee arrangements lawyers can use than Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies That Work (2nd edition), written by law practice management gurus Jim Calloway and Mark Robertson.
Al Nye the Lawyer Guy offered this review of the book over on his eponymous blog:
When you order Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour from Amazon.com through any link on this page, Super Saver shipping is free.
The laudable purpose of this book is to encourage lawyers to change from hourly based billing to an alternative billing system that is beneficial both to the lawyer and the client. The book explains how to implement different billing methods and argues that lawyers can gain a strategic advantage over others by using a more flexible approach to billing.
The authors do an excellent job of presenting and explaining the pros and cons of various billing alternatives, including:
Fixed or flat fees;
Blended Hourly Rate;
Fixed or Flat Fee Plus Hourly Rate;
Hourly Rate Plus A Contingency;
Retrospective Fee Based Upon Value;
Statutory or Other Scheduled Fee System;
Availability-Only Retainer; and
Retainer as a Deposit Against Future Services.
The book is written for lawyers in all firm sizes. I'm pleased that
solos and small-firm lawyers are given special treatment with a chapter
written specifically for them and a highlight in the Introduction
suggesting which chapters would be most beneficial to this group of
lawyers. I am also pleasantly surprised by how many alternative-billing
practices I've used over the years.
The book explains that for billing on anything other than an hourly
basis, the first thing that must be done is to know the cost of
producing legal services. Cost is only one factor. The authors suggest
that price is also defined "as the amount of money that a well-informed
client (the purchaser) is willing to pay for the value of the services
of the lawyer (the seller)."
In order to better determine price, a "value curve" is examined which
depicts clients' views of the value of various legal services. The
"value curve" is divided into four segments:
Unique: Work that is absolutely critical to the client. This work represents less than 4% of the available legal market.
Experimental: These are high-impact or high-risk matters for the
client. For this work, the client must have personal confidence in the
lawyer. Approximately 16% of the work in a given market is
Brand Name: This is routine but important work for a client.
This work will go to lawyers who have established a brand name and
reputation for handling these types of cases. This makes up around 20%
of the work available.
Commodity: This is work that clients believe any reasonably
competent attorney can handle. This is the routine stuff and makes up
about 60% of the market. This work tends to be quite price-sensitive.
The authors believe that in order for alternative billing to be
successful, lawyers must understand the "value curve", review each
potential case to determine where it falls on the value curve, analyze
their practice and decide which areas where innovative billing might be
appropriate, determine which clients might be receptive to alternative
billing methods, examine closed files to come up with what fee might be
appropriate from a cost accounting perspective and effectively
communicate the billing process to the client by emphasizing that the
client is a lawyer's most precious resource.
If all this sounds like a lot of work just to charge clients something
other than the typical hourly rate or contingency fee—that's because
it is. Unfortunately, that is also why the hourly rate is the norm—doing anything else requires a close analysis of your legal practice
and a great deal of thought about fees in each and every case.
In essence, the authors argue that in order to seriously implement
innovative billing, a lawyer or law firm must perform a detailed
self-assessment, must look closely at objectives and goals, should
examine present and future market trends, review present billing
methods and have a willingness to try innovative billing. For many
lawyers, the effort required for this appears overwhelming. It is much
simpler to just quote an hourly rate and move on to the next issue.
Check out more books; studies and reports; newspaper and magazine articles; blog entries; and podcasts discussing the billable hour and related subjects such as client service, value billing and work/life balance on our Billable Hour Resources Page.
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