Posted by: johnocunningham | July 18, 2014

Best Blog Posts of June: Using Google Analytics

This is my 20th post in a series of monthly features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blog Roll.” The concept is simple – at the end of a month I often peruse my own blog roll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

For the month of June 2014, I have chosen to highlight a blog post by Stephen Fairley at the Rainmaker Blog entitled, “Ten Google Analytics Categories You Need to Review to Judge Your Website’s Performance.”

Fairley’s blog is chock full of useful information on all kinds of topics, and the post I highlighted is my favorite for the month of June because it lays out very simply and succinctly the 10 ways in which you can use a FREE tool – Google Analytics – to find out:

  • who is searching for you;
  • where they are from;
  • what pages they are viewing;
  • how much time they are spending on different pages or posts; and
  • what kind of traffic is being driven to your site via your social media channels.

Very practical and useful info you can find and sort through for free!

My runner-up post of the month came from the “Patrick on Pricing” blog, which offered up some interesting data on trends in law firm pricing. Among the interesting data points:

  • more than 40 percent of firms now get more than 10 percent of their revenue from alternative fee arrangements
  • 100 percent of firms are deriving measurable percentages of revenue from AFAs
  • about 1/4 of revenue in firms with less than 250 lawyers comes from some form of “discounted” billing (apparently firms find it easier to discount than to figure out a fair fixed fee that would be non-discounted)
  • about 1/3 of revenue in firms with more than 250 lawyers comes from some form of “discounted” billing (suggesting that larger firms are under even more pressure to discount their rates than smaller firms)

Check out Patrick on Pricing if you are interested in pricing trends and analysis – good stuff.



When I read the Texas Bar Association’s Ethics Opinion no. 642, as issued by the Professional Ethics Committee of the State Bar of Texas, I was stunned. This ruling is bizarre and illogical even when viewed through the lens of its own rationale.

The opinion, for those who don’t know, stated that “under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, a Texas law firm may not use ‘officer’… in the job titles for non-lawyer employees of the firm.” Thus, firms in Texas cannot confer on employees the title of chief marketing officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, or chief information technology officer, despite the fact that these titles have been awarded to high-caliber professionals in law firms around the country and the world, along with significant compensation packages necessary to recruit the very best and brightest to manage law firm business functions (or perhaps I should say “non-lawyer” functions).

According to the Ethics Committee, “designating these employees  as ‘officers’ or ‘principals’ would be misleading and thus violate Rule 7.02(a).” That rule provides that “a lawyer shall not make or sponsor false or misleading communication about the qualifications or the services of any lawyer or firm.”

REALLY? So it is misleading to give a person an “officer” title for a non-lawyer function, such as the accounting, finance, marketing or technology management functions? Who exactly is being misled and how? The opinion does not answer this question, and apparently presumes that the reasoning is obvious.

Well, excuse me, but I practiced law for a long time, for more than a decade in Texas, and I was the chief legal officer of a publicly held company, and I don’t get it.

How is a client or member of the general public deceived when a law firm hires a top-notch technology pro and gives him or her the title of “Chief Tech Officer?”

In fact, Rule 1.1 of the model rules of ethics, as drafted by the American Bar Association, mandates that a lawyer must keep current with changes in practice, including “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” How exactly does a sophisticated law firm do that without the help of one of those “non-lawyer” IT experts who command six-figure salaries and “chief technology officer” titles everywhere in the world (except in Texas).

Any law firm that keeps current on technology would understand that a “non-lawyer” expert is essential to manage and control the technology operations of the firm. That is relevant to the test articulated by the TX Ethics Committee – the officer title, to avoid being misleading, must be given to someone who “controls operations of the law firm.” Well, I am pretty certain that the IT officer should be in “control” of the technology function because it would be one hell of a mess if the lawyers were in charge.

In fact, there are literally thousands of technology products available to meet a firm’s needs for IT security, IT management, e-discovery, document management, billing, public database searching, big data analysis and other functions essential to delivering a cost-effective and high quality legal solution to client problems. Without a “chief technology officer” to choose the right solutions, and to manage and integrate all of those solutions, the firm would be operating in the Stone Age (as some firms do). Ditto for the difficult tasks associated with management of complex financial and accounting, human resources or marketing functions for a sophisticated firm.

I see NOTHING misleading about giving an officer title to a “non-lawyer” for management of a “non-lawyer” function, but I do see something inherently misleading and unjust about law firms offering to serve clients with anything less than current, state of the art business functions that make justice affordable and efficient.

I also find it misleading to allow law firms to do what many do every day - house lawyers together under one firm name (yes, it’s called a “brand”) and assert that they all adhere to certain standards of professionalism, quality, and service delivery that demonstrate care and concern for clients when in fact those law firms have no internal standards for service delivery, process management, process improvement, technology management, efficiency or any other business management function that would insure that clients get consistent, reliable, and cost-effective service at rates that don’t screw them. THAT would be misleading, and yet it is happening in many law firms, including law firms in Texas, every single day.

This ethics opinion simply makes no sense to me, as applied to titles conferred on essential professional specialists who help to insure that clients actually get an affordable, efficient and user-friendly result when they seek legal services. It is especially surprising to me because I have always found the Texas Bar to be serious about keeping up with the times, and concerned about affordable and efficient justice for clients in a profession that is pricing itself out of existence.

This opinion is not what I have come to expect from the Texas Bar. It sounds like it came from Ivory-tower oracles with no connection to the real world. These are the kind of people who think that “non-lawyer” is a word, that the caste of people without law degrees must not be allowed to control even a business function in firm operations, and that the world will go to hell if a “non-lawyer” untouchable were to get – GASP – a “title” that could possibly imply that lawyers are giving up a shred of “control.” Perhaps control is really what this all about – these lawyers can feel themselves losing control in a fast-changing world, and they can’t cope with it.

At the LMA-New England chapter event on May 15, a panel of five in-house legal leaders told the audience what they think about dozens of issues relating to legal marketing and legal service.

The panel included: Kathleen Burke, V.P. and General Counsel for MKS Instruments, Inc.; Jonathan Feltner, Chief Trial Counsel for the MBTA; Julie McCarthy, Executive Director and Associate General Counsel for Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research; Leonard Slap, General Counsel for Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc.; and Mark Wong, General Counsel for Acronis.

Five out of five, or 100 percent of the panelists agreed that:

1. They don’t care about the length of a lawyer profile on firm websites, as long as they can find the information that is relevant to them.

2. They don’t care about the length of a practice group description on a website, as long as they can find the information that is relevant to them.

3. They all are receptive to their legal providers asking, “How are we doing and how can we improve?”

4. They all prefer in-person surveys on legal service rather than getting a written form to fill out.

5. They all read one or more law firm newsletters or client alerts regularly.

6. They all feel that most law firm brochures and leave-behinds offer little or no value as currently constituted.

7. They all see associates doing work that could sometimes be delegated to paralegals.

8. They don’t care about Super Lawyer status in making a hiring decision.

9. They all rate industry knowledge as more important than Super Lawyer status or Chambers rankings.

10. They all give plus points to firms with alternative fee flexibility.

11. They all would like to see some quantification of a lawyer’s experience on a profile or in sales materials, such as how many trials they have done, how many transactions they have closed of a certain type, percentages of times they have finished a project under budget or ahead of schedule, etc.

12. They would give a law firm plus points for going through systemic project management training (something offered in many companies).

13. They would like to see industry experience on a lawyer’s profile (but don’t).

14. They want law firm relationship lawyers to tell them quickly if the firm is in the news or about to be in the news in a bad way (harassment allegations, client overbilling charges, a raft of lawyers leaving, etc.) so that the in-house person can do “damage control” internally with curious C-suite questioners.

Four out of five agreed that:

1. They would be favorably impressed by a firm that offers free annual visits solely for the purpose of learning more about a client’s business.

2. They would speak to outside counsel about improving before firing them or dumping them from an approved list.

3. They don’t care about the length of law firm brochures or leave-behinds – just whether the relevant information to them is in there.

4. They would be receptive to having a valued provider introduce them to another lawyer who could also become a valued provider.

5. They would consider paying a bonus to a law firm for solid work that closes ahead of schedule or delivers results beyond expectations.

Three out of five said that:

1. They have instructed law firms that they will not pay for 1st year associate time on certain projects.

2. They must like the lawyer they are hiring.

3. They would like to see lawyer hobbies and interests on attorney profiles.

4. They look first to other in-house sources for referrals when seeking out a new lawyer in a new field.

5. They would be interested to know how a firm makes use of technology to better serve its clients in terms of cost, speed or results.

One lawyer noted that she never looks at cases cited by lawyers, and takes a dim view of string cites supplied in lawyer profiles or even briefs. She wants to know the bottom line answers, and is too busy to read cases or review “legal gymnastics.” Other panelists were noted giving a nod to this observation as well.

The panelists also offered their individual opinions on a variety of topics that are important to legal service providers. For instance, they each called out different service issues most likely to get a lawyer fired or dropped from approved counsel listings as follows:

  • Going materially over budget on billing;
  • Being poor at communicating or responding; and
  • Having no strategy for achieving objectives.

Other real-life service issues that caused lawyers to be fired were:

  • Allowing a 1st year associate to bill more than 16 hours in a day;
  • Doing a poor job on a project; and
  • Sending a brief to the GC for review just one day prior to it being due.

Some of the things most often missing from RFPs or sales pitches are:

  • Budgets; and
  • How you plan to achieve great results.

Some suggested ways of getting into the door to see them:

  • Just pick up the phone and call;
  • Find a way to get introduced through one of my trusted advisers or friends;
  • Offer to speak to me about a hot topic that affects my business.

Some examples of “wow” service that clients loved include:

  • Getting things done weeks before they are due instead of at the last minute;
  • Great project management and communications;
  • Creative and thoughtful work under pressure and wonderful follow-up on a deal that did not even close through no fault of the lawyer; and
  • Referrals to other firms who can provide better expertise in certain areas.

Some examples of publications they like to read include:

  • The Cooley Godward patent litigation newsletter;
  • The Practising Law Institute summaries; and
  • ACC publications for in-house lawyers.

Some quotes and paraphrases of interest:

1. “Firms should have better metrics to determine costs on various matters… Give us goal posts and we’ll work between them… Outside counsel generally need to be more proactive about discussing budgets.”

2. “Associates must try to be efficient, but they also have to be careful while learning. My advice to them is ‘Measure twice and cut once’ because a mistake can be deadly. It is up to the partners to train them and to write off their time, if necessary, while learning.”

3. “I measure a lawyer’s emotional intelligence as much as their skills. We need to put the right attorneys in front of our clients – people who will fit well with the group and make a good impression.”

4. “The size of the firm is not important to me, as long as the fit is right, and hourly rates don’t matter at all if the expertise is there to demonstrate value.”


Posted by: johnocunningham | June 30, 2014

Chief Legal Officers Talk About Their Hot Button Issues

At the LSSO RainDance conference on June 5, a panel of all-star legal leaders provided answers to numerous rapid-fire questions about legal sales and service.

The panel included: Thomas Sabatino, V.P., General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for Walgreen Company; Jason Brown, V.P., General Counsel and Secretary for Dyson Inc.; David Cambria, Global Director of Law, Compliance & Government Relations; and Gabe Miller, President and General Counsel of 1-800-Law-Firm.

Four out of four, or 100 percent of General Counsel agreed that:

1. They prefer to like the outside lawyers they hire.

2. They don’t care about the total amount or length of information on a lawyer’s website bio – they just want it to have information that is relevant to them and not too hard to find.

3. They don’t care about the length of a practice group description – they just want it to have information that is relevant to them and not too hard to find.

4. They would be receptive to outside lawyers asking how they are doing and how they can improve.

5. They prefer in-person service surveys to written forms.

6. They would accept an introduction to a new lawyer if it comes from a current lawyer who is a trusted advisor.

7. They see little or no value in most law firm brochures and leave-behinds, as currently written.

8. They do not see outside counsel making strong attempts to learn the client’s business or industry.

9. They think most outside counsel do not understand the importance of business and industry context to a matter.

10. They look first to their fellow GCs and in-house counsel for references when looking for a new outside lawyer in a new area.

11. They use engagement letters to instruct outside counsel on billing practices and other important parts of representation, and they audit firms for compliance with those hiring instructions.

12. They give plus points to firms that have alternative fee flexibility and minus points to those who don’t.

13. They give plus points to firms that have undergone systematic project management training.

14. They want outside counsel to pick up the phone and proactively tell them about any headline problems the firm is having (deserting partners, sexual misconduct, associates caught overbilling, etc) so they can be prepared to defuse the situation with their CEO if asked about the stability of Firm X.

15. They would like to see some kind of quantification of a lawyer or law firm’s experience, as in number of cases tried to verdict, number of transactions closed by type, percentage of times they have delivered results under budget, etc.

16. They would like to see industry experience on a lawyer’s profile.

17. They see very few firms proactively seeking out client feedback on service and performance.

Three out of four said that:

1. The work of 1st year associates is generally not worth paying for.

2. In some or all matters, they have instructed firms that they won’t pay for 1st year time.

3. They usually speak to an outside lawyer about improving before canning them.

4. They have used e-billing software to check law firm invoices for compliance with hiring letter instructions.

5. They have fired firms or lawyers because they ignored the hiring instructions.

6. They don’t care about Super Lawyer status.

7. They value industry knowledge and experience more than materially lower hourly rates, but rates are more important than Chambers rankings.

8.  They would like to know how a law firm uses technology to improve delivery times, improve quality or cut costs.

9. They would give a law firm plus points for undergoing a process improvement program IF it produced measurable enhancements in efficiency.

10. They would be interested in seeing a little something about lawyer hobbies or interests on their profiles.

Some of the other highlights from questioning included the following:

1. Half of the panelists said that they MUST like the person they are hiring as outside counsel.

2. Half regularly read one or more law firms newsletters or client alerts.

3. Half think law firm “leave-behinds” should be two pages or less, and the other half don’t care about length – only wanting to see as much “relevant” material as possible.

4. Service issues likely to get lawyers dumped include: being wishy-washy about advice; busting budgets; surprising the GC with negative news; and not following guidelines in the hiring instruction letter.

5. Half scrutinize outside counsel most closely on whether or not they listen well and respond exactly to what the GC is asking.

6. Half would give plus points to a firm that had a service pledge promising adherence to certain service standards.

7. None of them would penalize a lawyer for displaying hobbies or interests on a profile.

8. Half actually initiate or insist on service interviews with their top firms to assess how they are doing and how things can improve.

9. They wish firms would make better use of data so that they can develop reasonable fixed fee arrangements and alternative fee arrangements, predict outcomes better for liability and damages, and demonstrate cost histories by types and locations of matters. Companies have to make use of data every day – they don’t get how so many law firms are still “flying blind” in 2014.

10. They don’t think firms are honest enough about what they can NOT do well.

The panelists were all savvy veteran legal leaders, one of whom had also served as a CEO, and three of whom had been in the chief legal chair at more than one company. Their responses were also fairly consistent with other panels I have hosted, and so law firms would do well to pay attention to them !


Posted by: johnocunningham | June 13, 2014

In-house Legal Leaders Speak Out

A panel of in-house legal leaders shared their thoughts on legal sales and service issues at the LSSO RainDance conference on June 5, and some of their perspectives inspired a good many follow-up questions from the audience.

The panel included: Jason Brown, VP, GC and Secretary for Dyson; Thomas Sabatino, VP, GC and Corporate Secretary for Walgreen Company; Gabe Miller, President and GC of 1-800-Law-Firm; and David Cambria, Global Director of Operations, Law, Compliance and Government Operations for Archer Daniels Midland Company.

Some of the comments that were popularly tweeted and re-tweeted included the following paraphrases:

  • “I expect you to know my industry and know my business” (a perspective that seemed to be unanimous);
  • “I am tired of outside lawyers who whine about having to do budgets. This is one of the most frustrating things I deal with” (another perspective that more than one panelist echoed);
  • “When I look for a lawyer in a new area, I turn first to other GCs and in-house lawyers in my rolodex to see who they use” (this comment too drew head-nodding from the panel);
  • “One sure way to get fired is to go around me to the CEO” (a tactic that more than one GC has had to endure); and
  • “When I ask about your experience, I expect you to know not only your history of results, but your history of charges for the legal services rendered to get those results. How can you not pay attention to that?”

In the coming days, I expect to summarize more of the responses to the rapid-fire rounds of questions aimed at in-house legal leaders last week. Some attendees have asked when a summary might be posted and I am just waiting on more note-takers to send me their take-aways soon.



Posted by: johnocunningham | June 12, 2014

Lawyers: Your Competition Is No Longer Just Lawyers

Legal process outsourcers, commonly known as “LPOs,” are rapidly eating into the market pie of traditional legal service providers, according to experts who spoke at the 2014 RainDance Conference of the Legal Sales and Service Organization.

These LPOs, which include online alternatives to traditional legal services, racked up an 84 percent annual growth rate in revenues in just the past two years, says Susan Saltonstall Duncan, author of the InFocus blog on legal practice strategies and innovations.

Just some of the many LPOs that are growing rapidly, include:

  • Online dispute resolution services, such as Justice Box and Way to Settle;
  • Big data aggregators for intellectual property cases, such as Lex Machina and Legal Force;
  • Online services related to corporate filings and documents, such as Biz Filings and CorpNet;
  • Newly invented global organizations of business and legal pros who deliver efficient solutions to problems that have both legal and business components to them, such as Axiom;
  • Online providers of low-cost documentation for simple wills and other legal documents, as provided by Hot Docs, Rocket Lawyer and Legal Zoom; and
  • Numerous services for automated document review and technological assistance with other discovery-related tasks.

These services are becoming particularly popular because the cost of legal services and litigation have grown far faster than inflation over recent decades. In fact, according to John Sterling of Sterling Strategies, LLC, more than 80 percent of those in need of legal services no longer see traditional solutions provided by lawyers as reasonably affordable.

There is some percentage of lawyers at some percentage of firms that can continue to thrive by delivering “best in class” traditional service for the foreseeable future. But the great majority of lawyers and law firms will have to find ways to use technology, process improvement and revolutionary innovation to deliver services faster and more affordably without sacrificing quality. If they don’t, someone other than a lawyer may provide an alternative solution to their legal problems.

Posted by: johnocunningham | June 11, 2014

“Lean” Leadership: Coming to Law Firms?

Cheryl Jekiel, Vice President of HR at FONA International, treated the Legal Sales and Service Organization’s RainDance audience to a fascinating look at the principles of “lean” leadership that have been implemented in many of the leading companies in the U.S. in recent years, especially in the healthcare industry.

Jekiel noted how hospitals grappled unsuccessfully with a rising tide of infections, wrong-limb operations, and other avoidable mistakes for many years before turning to companies in other industries with lean leadership for instruction on process improvement and people engagement techniques.

The results for hospitals that adopted these principles were stunning. Fewer infections, fewer medical and surgical errors, and faster patient recoveries came about when hospitals standardized and engineered consistent procedures in and out of the operating room, instead of relying on the inconsistent idiosyncrasies of surgeons and support staff (who all had different ways of tracking meds, marking limbs for surgery or doing anything else related to medial care).

Jekiel pointed out that the University of Chicago Hospital President Sharon O’Keefe studied Honda’s lean leadership systems, and that hospitals in the Northwest studied the example set by Toyota for eliminating mistakes, improving quality and delivering customer satisfaction. O’Keefe’s bio also indicates that from 1987 to 1989 she was senior manager for health care at the accounting firm, Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young), where she developed a consulting practice focused on organizational design, operations improvement and large-scale change management.

There is no reason that the process improvement and people engagement principles of lean leadership cannot be applied in law firms, according to Jekiel, who noted that elite surgeons, like elite lawyers, have very firm ideas of what will work or not work in their professional practices.  The surgeons in many hospitals initially resisted the notion of listening to experts from other industries to improve healthcare, but once they saw how lean leadership worked in practice, they were sold.

Some leading-edge law firms are already engaged in process improvement and project management training, but Jekiel says that is not enough to really capture the benefits that come from also engaging every employee in the mission of an enterprise or organization.

She cites seven key principles of lean leadership, including:

  1. Focusing on the clients first, making all decisions based on what the clients want rather than doing so based on a battle of egos.
  2. Building a system for continuous improvement of all tasks and operations every day.
  3. Looking for ways to broaden participation in the development of key policies, practices and systems.
  4. Managing through proven processes for better outcomes.
  5. Solving problems through cross-functional teams based on facts rather than beliefs.
  6. Using office space and proper visual environments for better collaboration and results.
  7. Leading by lifting others up, catching them doing things right, and spotlighting what works, as well as what can be improved.

Jekiel also had a host of recommendations for reading material on the subject, including the book “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek, who also wrote the book, “Start With Why.”

Posted by: johnocunningham | June 9, 2014

Trending Books Mentioned at LSSO RainDance

So what are the books creating buzz among legal thought leaders at LSSO’s RainDance conference this year?

I managed to note four in particular that came up in presentations and conversations among legal sales and service leaders this year:

  1. Shift Happens” by Robert Holden, Ph.D., a book about growing through life instead of going through life;
  2. Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek, author of the best-seller “Start With Why” and a renowned speaker who has given some of the most popular TED talks of all time;
  3. The End of Lawyers?” by Richard Susskind, a book about the future of legal services and how it will be shaped by four big disruptions facing law practice (technology, competition, the global move to deregulation of legal services, and the generational trend toward working differently); and
  4. Growth is Dead,” a book about the future of Big Law by Bruce MacEwen, the publisher of the popular online site, Adam Smith, Esq.

If anyone has a comment on any of these books, or wants to offer additional suggestions for further reading, feel free to share your comments on this blog.

Posted by: johnocunningham | June 8, 2014

Trending Blogs Mentioned at LSSO RainDance Conference

The Legal Sales and Service Organization’s 2014 RainDance conference was a big hit with attendees once again, covering not only law firm trends, but the future for law firms and legal sales and service.

In the coming days, I will share with readers some of the highlights of this year’s conference, but first I want to share just two blogs that were mentioned at the conference.

First, there is the PatrickOnPricing blog, which is a collection of writings on news, trends and analysis about legal service pricing and the professionals who study it. This blog is hosted by Patrick Johansen, the first professional in a U.S. law firm to earn the certified pricing professional designation, and it is nicely written and full of useful information for those who are interested in knowing more about how to price their services.

Second, there is the Law21 blog, written by Canadian author Jordan Furlong, who shares plenty of information and analysis about the most disruptive changes that law firms are facing and will be facing in the not so distant future. Jordan is also a partner with Edge International, an internationally reputable management consultancy.

Both of these blogs have been added to my own blogroll, and will be included in my monthly review of the best legal communications and marketing blog posts in the blogosphere.

Posted by: johnocunningham | June 3, 2014

Best Blogs of May: How to Broadcast Your Blog Posts

This is my 19th post in a series of monthly features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blog Roll.” The concept is simple – at the end of a month I often peruse my own blog roll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

For the month of May 2014, I have chosen to highlight a blog post by Stephen Fairley at the Rainmaker Blog entitled, “Tips for Getting Your Blog Post Shared.” I am also including mentions of two other blog posts I found useful on the subjects of client surveys and breaking writer’s block.

The Rainmaker Blog post offers up easy-to-follow tips on:

  • Creating a good title for your blog post;
  • Facilitating social media “sharing”;
  • Using images effectively;
  • Sharing your message with others through multiple channels;
  • Monitoring results with readily available analytics; and
  • Re-sharing at a later date.

This last tip I think is especially useful when applied to a blog post that has generated significant traffic to your site in the past. You might consider re-tweeting it and re-broadcasting links to it via email or newsletters on an anniversary date (one month, one year, etc.) or when a timely news event makes the topic once again relevant to readers in the moment.

The other two blog posts that I thought were quite helpful were:

  1. A blog post by Marcie Borgal Shunk on LawVision INSIGHTS entitled, “Are You There Law Firm? It’s Me, Client.”; and
  2. A blog post by Jennifer Hanford appearing on the ME Marketing Services blog, entitled, “Five Internet Sites to Visit When You Have Writer’s Block.”

Thanks to Marcie Borgal Shunk for citing some interesting stats on client surveys and revealing some typical law firm excuses for not seeking out critical client feedback; and thanks to Jennifer Hanford and Mandy Edwards (the blog host) for giving us all some great ideas on how to use social media sites to break our writer’s blocks.

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