Excellence in Legal Practice is …

A maniacal attention to the detail in good times and in bad.

Exciting the molecules of every fibre in your body to be the ‘Best’ at what you do.

Not taking your lead from “oh hum” or “that will just have to do”.

Daring to be different.

Thinking what would WOW your clients before they even instruct you.

Adopting a Yes culture in your firm, so that no longer will you have to deal with the lamentable lack of action.

Reward Excellence with anything from a Thank You to an outrageous offer of promotion: “Do you want my job?” (with no hint of sarcasm).

Teaching every person who comes into contact with a keyboard to type, regardless of age, sex or inclination.

Thinking and believing you are the Best law firm in the world, acting like that and closing the gap between where you are now and where you need to be.

Embrace change as if your life depended on it.

Start using words like ‘fun’, ‘exciting’, ‘joyful’, ‘spontaneous’, ‘meaningful’, ‘respect’, ‘trust’, ‘open’, ‘weird’, ‘happy’, ‘purpose’ but not for the sake of compliance with another wish list criteria but in an attempt to change the thinking about the business. Yes, legal practice is a serious business but your best results are going to be achieved if people are inspired to give of their Best, always.

If you create ideas through the suggestion box – formal or otherwise – then make sure you act on them.

Don’t take anything for granted.

Assume that this day could be your last and live it as such. Look at Steve Jobs who was and I suspect remains a fervent pupil of the daily ‘all-we-have’ routine.

If you work by the clock, recognise that absent a higher rate you will always be limited in your earnings. Open your mind to value based billing, risk sharing and a daring to be different. If you don’t like the sound of this, then build a robot to do your job.

Employees First, Second and Third.

Clients First.1, Second.2 and Third.3.

Liking people even when they don’t pay your bill. Learn to smile. If you find this too hard, employ a smile manager to coach you. Better still find some actors who can show how to fake it.

If you are a partner, start acting like an owner. If you don’t care who the hell will.

Listen before you speak. ALWAYS.

If you don’t know the answer then be prepared to say so but recognise that Google may just trump you. If you are not ahead of the knowledge curve, then do you have a viable business?

Love they neighbour a.k.a. your nearest competitor. You have far more to gain than you do to lose.

Keep the bus rolling along but for heaven’s sake make sure that someone is driving it. If you don’t know where you are headed then don’t be surprised if you unearth a whole slew of demotivated ladies and gents.

MBWA (Managing by Wandering About) should be the screen saver for every person in every firm up and down the land.

Your desk is your biggest enemy, not your immediate competitor.

If you hire people, look to hire those people that love life, love something outside of law and don’t talk about law morning, noon and night.

Career planning is a daily occurrence, not something that happens once a year [there is a distinct overlap with MBWA].

~

At this stage, I would like to wrap things up but having worked on the outside of the profession for nearly a year, I haven’t even got started. I am absolutely passionate to see it succeed and for all of its shortcomings, it remains incredibly important to my life. I still believe in the sanctity of the law – the ability to do good, and whilst I have embarked on a journey to unravel the mystery that is social media, I shall never be far away from the fundamentals.

It would be easy to give the profession a “right good kicking” but that just isn’t my style. Yes I can moan and shout with the best of them but I am a solutions person first and foremost.

Change in whatever guise is mighty tough but never impossible. It requires a purpose, mission and strategy to lay out the path of enlightenment; but, beyond that, and more importantly, it requires people who are unwilling to be shaped by circumstance and are willing to throw the dice and take a chance.

I have always believed that there is a role for everyone in law but the message needs to get home that everyone has to have the same opportunity to realise their absolute full potential or otherwise they will wither for lack of purpose, enjoyment and achievement.

One of the greatest sins that the legal profession has to answer for is the fact that so many people are left unrewarded and unfulfilled. Now is the time to grasp the nettle, get down in the trenches with your people and understand what they need. By keeping closer to the action you will have a far greater chance of marrying their expectations with your firm’s architecture to satisfy them.

My aim is to help law firms engage once again with their people, understand their weaknesses and abet everyone to be the most of anything they can be. Oh and yes make some money along the way.

I am up for the challenge. Are you?

This blog is one in a series on Excellence in Professional Practice by Julian Summerhayes

Related posts:

Blogging for Law Firms, Excuses, Excuses!

Too Much Management, Not Enough Leadership.

2 Responses to “Excellence in Legal Practice is …”

  1. Julian,

    Great post and I thought I could add to it by helping people put some structure to MBWA. In the world of Lean management, we use something similar called “Gemba” or “Genchi Genbutsu” which mean “to go to the place”, for us that is the place of work – a workbench, a cell, a pc etc.

    Now with Gemba the aim is to observe what is going on, ask questions, see the issues (how long has a piece of work been waiting, how many pieces go back in the process because they are incorrect or they raise further questions, why does this happen?). Witness the frustrations for yourself.

    You want to start with a clear goal to understand a particular problem (lack of profit on certain matter types) a gap (falling customer requests). This will help decide whether you want to witness the work in one department or take a customer enquiry and physically track it the various activities involved till the customer output is delivered.

    Then take the issues and frustrations you observed and help others, first to see them, then to act on them, help to make resources available to resolve, put teams together to work cross functionally – try to improve from the current position.

    Keep doing it to monitor the results of changes and improvements, remembering not every improvement will work.

    A good post on this can be found at http://jamieflinchbaugh.com/2009/10/observe-with-purpose/ where Jamie calls it Observe with Purpose.

    One thing to bear in mind, “Gemba” shouldn’t always stop at the organisational boundaries, you need to see what your customers are doing with your outputs, why are they doing it and could you improve your outputs and increase the value of what you deliver…..

    Regards
    Mark
    @theleanmanager

  2. Julian,

    Great post and I thought I could add to it by helping people put some structure to MBWA. In the world of Lean management, we use something similar called “Gemba” or “Genchi Genbutsu” which mean “to go to the place”, for us that is the place of work – a workbench, a cell, a pc etc.

    Now with Gemba the aim is to observe what is going on, ask questions, see the issues (how long has a piece of work been waiting, how many pieces go back in the process because they are incorrect or they raise further questions, why does this happen?). Witness the frustrations for yourself.

    You want to start with a clear goal to understand a particular problem (lack of profit on certain matter types) a gap (falling customer requests). This will help decide whether you want to witness the work in one department or take a customer enquiry and physically track it the various activities involved till the customer output is delivered.

    Then take the issues and frustrations you observed and help others, first to see them, then to act on them, help to make resources available to resolve, put teams together to work cross functionally – try to improve from the current position.

    Keep doing it to monitor the results of changes and improvements, remembering not every improvement will work.

    A good post on this can be found at http://jamieflinchbaugh.com/2009/10/observe-with-purpose/ where Jamie calls it Observe with Purpose.

    One thing to bear in mind, “Gemba” shouldn’t always stop at the organisational boundaries, you need to see what your customers are doing with your outputs, why are they doing it and could you improve your outputs and increase the value of what you deliver…..

    Regards
    Mark
    @theleanmanager

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