Update: A few thoughts …

This post was first published on 16 November 2010 under a slightly different title. I thought it was about time I revisited it with a view to incorporating any ‘blinding flashes of the obvious’ that I had stumbled across. Unfortunately, as this list is still WIP, I can’t see much point adding to it (in any event you have enough on your To Do list!).

Without wanting to get up and close and (too) personal, I have not witnessed any great appetite for change let alone incorporating wholesale any of the ideas espoused herein (or even something similar). Of course, ABS has emerged on the horizon and more on-line capability but the people business is still pretty much untouched.

On one level you can understand that: if it ain’t broke (we are making a tidyish profit) then why try to fix it. But, on a more fundamental level – the long term health of the business and its people – you probably haven’t looked hard enough.

Until professional practice understands that any great business is only as good as the people within it, there ain’t a whole lot of point banging the change drum. And yes I appreciate that these are privately run businesses in the main, but that doesn’t mean, apart from the obligatory CPD, you can ignore your people and hope that they will get better all on their own.

Start putting more time into your people and the results could just make the difference between the ‘Best of’ and the ‘So So also ran.’


This is not an exhaustive list but, hopefully, even if you do not find time to read all 50 in one sitting, you will read at least one that helps you or makes you reflect differently on you current legal practice.

These are all field tested and I have given a few of them higher billing simply because they can be more easily implemented and are likely, all things being equal, to have greater IMPACT.

  • Get better. Don’t rest on your laurels. Make each day count and ask yourself, what you can take from the day to build on.
  • Don’t procrastinate. If you know you should do something, stop coming up with reasons why you can’t: Just do IT.
  • Be thoughtful of others. Put others first – mostly this is directed at those people who enable you to do your job.
  • Say thank you at least 10 times a day, if not more. Oh, and mean it.
  • Make it clear that you value other people’s opinions even if they are more junior and certainly if they are more senior to you. A good way to demonstrate this is to ask “What do you think” (thank you to Tom Peters for this one).
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Trust your colleagues. If you have an issue with something then deal with it. Don’t be too circuitous or indirect. Sometimes you need to straight talk the other person no matter how uncomfortable you or they might feel. Show respect of course but just make sure that you get things out in the open.
  • Learn how to type. Oh I know voice recognition is out there but this is one of the best damn skills you can ever learn.
  • Practice your game face. You know the one that projects an air of optimism, a youthful “I can do that” approach and one where people like being around you. Stop erecting barriers to scare the B-Jesus out of everybody. If you feel miserable go for a walk, grab 5 mins away from your desk or speak to a loved one.
  • Dress like you are going to your fist interview. Too many times people come to work as if they have left their real wardrobe at home. This isn’t about dressing to impress but just to show that you (sincerely) care.
  • Make sure you smile when you answer and deal with people on the phone. This is 101 stuff for sure but it is sort of tied in with #10 in that people tend to take a lot of things for granted and certainly when dealing with a colleague why should you treat them any differently to a colleague.
  • Practice what you preach. Don’t start asking others to do something that you are not prepared to do yourself.
  • Get results. Nothing impresses the management more than bringing home the bacon. And the corollary of this is that it does wonders for your inner psyche.
  • Manage expectations of those around you. Make sure you have made it clear exactly what is expected of people so that there are no hiccups further on down the support staff cakes at least once a week. This shows that you care but also it means that you have an opportunity to speak to people about something other than fee earning.
  • Make sure that you understand what others expect of you. If you are asked to do something then don’t leave yourself exposed to criticism by not agreeing the parameters of the job.
  • Say good morning to everyone that you come into contact. Too many times we cocoon ourselves as quickly as possible in our work because it shields us from having to speak to others – although a lot of people lay this off by saying they are too busy. Nonsense: no one is ever too busy to say good morning.
  • Don’t complain or criticise a colleague in front of others when they are not there. Put simply, you should not say anything to others that you would not be prepared to say to their face.
  • Respect HR. Nuff said.
  • Respect IT. Double nuff said.
  • Respect the receptionist. Triple nuff said. They can make or break your first meeting with a new or established client.
  • Keep your desk tidy. Adopt a once touch policy. What’s that? It’s is where you discipline yourself not to touch a piece of paper twice. If you pick something up then do something with it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Don’t let your ego get in the way of serving your client to the very best of your ability.
  • If you must swear then do it under your breath or not in earshot of colleagues.
  • If someone has hacked you off then don’t take it out on everyone else. If you have a dog then kick the dog (I don’t mean that in a literal sense – the dog would much prefer a nice bracing walk).
  • Deal with your emails as they come in. If you don’t have time then at least send an acknowledgement so that we are not all kept in the dark.
  • Talk to your colleagues instead of sending emails or worse still a memo. It feels wrong.
  • If someone does make a complaint about you then learn how to work with the poor soul who is trying to rescue or deal appropriately with the situation. Don’t adopt Ostrich syndrome and hope that it will sort itself out. It won’t.
  • If you have a help desk for IT issues, remember that there are living, breathing people behind the phone or email and start treating them with some respect and dignity.
  • Take a client out to lunch once a month.
  • Talk to a client at least once a day and preferably not one that is already instructing you.
  • Lose your phobia for speaking on the phone. Don’t look at it like a brick but as a tool to help you ply your craft.
  • Get on to LinkedIn and spend at least 15 minutes a day connecting with 3 existing contacts and 3 new ones.
  • Write an article once a month. Don’t pontificate about it. It is really important that you get your name out in the market and this is one of the best ways to do that.
  • Don’t be afraid to give away your time for free.
  • Don’t be afraid to give away your time for free – it was so important that I thought I should repeat myself.
  • Make a grand entrance. You know inspire the client when you meet them for the fist time. Put your best foot, leg and whole body forward. Clients get the measure of you far quicker than you imagine and those first 10 seconds are very important.
  • Give straight answers to your client. Don’t whatever you do BS on the law but don’t be afraid to stick your neck out a bit and be definite in a view. Nothing inspires a client less than a lawyer who gives a diffident response that does not address his/her concerns.
  • Hire the best people you can.
  • Surround yourself with the very best people you can.
  • Don’t be looking out for the middle way when hiring people. Not you don’t just want to go for the contrary type but not all clients are the same and neither should be those that are there to serve them.
  • Innovate as if your life depended on it. This is not so much thinking outside of the box – let’s face it most ideas have already been invented – but rather look at the edges of the box and see how you can innovate around the existing serve delivery to make that 100% better.
  • Focus on the bottom line. All this stuff counts for nothing if you are not running a hugely successful business.
  • Think Kysen – you know the process of constant improvement. Take your inspiration from the British track team or Toyota.
  • If you are suffering under a weight of passengers or dead wood then give it 1000% to help these people get better but don’t be afraid to talk to them about their future. Just because we are locked into a recession doesn’t mean that we should have to put up with people who no longer want to be with you.
  • Every day is new and don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are working in a (people) factory. If you have gotten complacent about the job because one job looks like another then don’t be afraid to take on some alternative and more challenging work.
  • Read a new blog everyday.
  • Start thinking about the brand You. What are your values? And most of all what will be your legacy. If you don’t like how it is coming out in the wash resolve to do something different.
  • Read all of Seth Godin’s blog post every day. And read it again.
  • Look after your health. If you are too weak or sick then none of the above will be possible.

Now this is just my first list which I will refine and continue to build on. I would love to hear from you with your thoughts. Have I got the balance right or should there be more emphasis on firms and less on you?

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