Posted by: johnocunningham | February 17, 2018

Law Firm Cyber-Security: Ethical Issue and Marketing Opportunity

Last year, the ABA Journal called cybersecurity “the biggest risk that law firms face.”

Last year was also the first time that multiple GCs on the RainDance Conference in-house panel of lawyers told audience members that cybersecurity issues were a factor in law firm hiring or firing. So now law firm clients can give you a thumbs up or down based on your technology.

Furthermore, the ABA Model Rules now require lawyers to become aware of “the benefits and risks of relevant technology.”

All of this presents both a burden and an opportunity for law firms. Those who adapt state-of-the-art cybersecurity measures and practices will not only be better protected, they can tout this battle-readiness to interested clients as an edge in sales pitches.

There are steps that law firms can take, and when they take them, they can inform their clients that proper protocols have been followed to protect their valuable data and communications.


Posted by: johnocunningham | February 6, 2018

Best Blog Posts of January: Communication, Trust and New Ideas for 2018

This is my 62nd 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 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.

Reviewing blog posts for the month of January 2018, I have chosen to highlight the following blog posts:

  1. A nice summary of steps to take in getting old clients to follow you to a new firm, which can be found at the Prodonovich Advisory blog.
  2. A neat post on “developing trust” by Deb Scaringi, which can be found on the Scaringi Marketing site.
  3. A list of nine ideas for 2018 marketing success that you might not have considered, which can be found on Mandy Edwards’ ME Marketing blog.
Posted by: johnocunningham | January 23, 2018

Communications: Be Quick, but Don’t Hurry

The most successful college basketball coach of all time, John Wooden of UCLA’s glory years, had a mantra he repeated to his teams: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” Wooden won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach at UCLA, including a record seven in a row. No other team has won more than three in a row in Division 1 college basketball.

Wooden understood the importance of being quicker than your opponent in getting to the goal, but he also knew the danger inherent in hurrying to get there. The idea is to play as a coordinated team at the highest speed possible while maintaining control of the ball.

The same rule could well be applied to communications – be quick, but don’t hurry to communicate vital information to your teammates, clients, customers, strategic partners and the public.

If you are not quick enough to communicate key information to teammates or employees, the gap in time without communication will be filled in by speculation, rumor, and spontaneous rumblings from those who are quicker, but careless. If you are not quick enough to communicate to clients, customers, the public or to outside stakeholders, then the same applies – you will be stuck with the perception of truth that gets created in the vacuum of information.

But if you hurry to get information out, then you are in danger of getting it wrong, either because it has not been sufficiently checked factually, or coordinated internally so as to make sure everyone is on the same page. In too many situations, organizations have communicated misinformation because one person spoke for the organization based on unilateral assumptions or lack of understanding with regard to the entire organization.

The key to high-scoring communication is in “coordinated quickness,” which requires every player to execute promptly on his or her responsible role for contributing or checking facts, coordinating with others, and then working within the established playbook to accomplish the messaging objectives.

A nice article on the relevance of John Wooden’s mantra to high performance can be found in the 11-30-2014 edition of Psychology Today online.

This is my 61st 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 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.

Reviewing blog posts for the month of December 2017, I have chosen to highlight the following blog posts:

  1. A post on Adam Smith, Esq. entitled “Reflections of a GC,” which contains 10 things a GC wishes that outside counsel knew. At least half of the 10 items are refrains that I have heard from other GCs that I have interviewed, and thus, I think law firm attorneys and marketers would be well-served to read them.
  2. A post on the Ackert Advisory entitled, “How to Get Superior Results,” which offers some practical tips on taking some chances on new ways of doing business development.
  3. A post on the Cordell Parvin blog (which Cordell says could be his last post) entitled, “Success and Fulfillment,” which covers a subject that is critically important to lawyers – finding BOTH success and fulfillment in a career.  I love how Cordell pays homage to his parents in teaching him how to find his path, saying: “My dad taught me to live, my mom taught me to love. My dad taught me to be successful, my mom taught me to be fulfilled. My dad taught me to be confident and to make my own way, my mom taught me to be humble and faithful.” Thanks for sharing, Cordell. We all need this kind of balance to thrive !
Posted by: johnocunningham | January 10, 2018

Most Popular Blog Posts of 2017

For readers of my blog, I am listing some of my most popular blog posts in the past year:

  1. my blog post about the hot buttons and preferences of Chief Legal Officers
  2. my post about crisis and failure as opportunities for positive growth
  3. my post about what’s new in legal service innovation
  4. my post about letting the voice of the client guide your marketing and service 
  5. my post about GCs sharing data on law firm performance

Last year, many people clicked on blog posts I wrote in prior years as well. Two of the more popular posts from prior years were:

  1. my post about how many impressions make a sale
  2. my post about 10 hilariously misused legal terms 

Hope you enjoy the posts in the year to come !

Posted by: johnocunningham | December 26, 2017

What Law Firms Need – Now More than Ever

In 2017, law firm revenues made reasonably healthy gains for the first time in years, and yet there was a rebound in the number of firms fading from existence, as competitive pressures forced more mergers and more disruptions that led to firms just blowing up.

According to a recent article in the New York Law Journal, headhunter raids and partner disagreements were key factors in a shifting law firm landscape this year as several well-known firm names disappeared from view or announced that they will be closing their doors, including New York’s Chadbourne & Parke, San Francisco’s Sedgwick, and the U.K.’s King & Wood.

The global phenomenon is not a short-term blip, as noted by literally hundreds of legal consultants and trade press observers. At a time when many law firms are held together by nothing more than a common desire to make more money, it is too easy for competitors to pick partners off, and it is too common for partners to fight – over the money that is getting harder to earn. As a successful senior partner once said to me, “if the only reason a partner comes to a firm is for more money, then they will eventually leave – for more money.”

Going into 2018, every law firm needs the following more than ever:

  • A long-term vision and mission
  • Both short-term and long-term strategic plans to achieve the stated mission
  • A culture built around the long-term vision and a group of committed leaders bound together by it
  • Cultural “glue” made of shared values that binds both lawyers and clients together
  • A well-developed understanding of the legal marketplace and the competitors in it
  • A well-developed plan for marketing and communications to clients, prospects and referral sources

Practicing law is harder than ever. But the future need not be depressing or bleak. A firm with well-chosen goals, a carefully crafted strategy for achieving them, and the right people matched to a consciously developed culture can thrive. Such a firm can even be a thrilling and energetic place to work.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018 !


Posted by: johnocunningham | December 21, 2017

The Power of Marketing, Branding and Story

This is a great time of year to take note of the power of marketing, branding and story just by examining the history of traditions invented by marketers.

A small sampling from the link above includes:

  1. Rudolph the reindeer, started by Montgomery Ward to draw people (families with kids) into their stores.
  2. Black Friday, started by retailers, to sell more products at the busiest retail season of the year.
  3. Wedding registries, created by Marshall Fields to facilitate organized and effective gift buying for newlyweds.

So what’s your story? Who are the leading characters in the story? And how does your story connect with consumers of your services and products?

Some tips on legal storytelling on “Attorney at Work“…   and some good examples of telling stories by case study below:

This is my 60th 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 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.

Reviewing blog posts for the month of November 2017, I have chosen to highlight the following blog posts:

  1. A nice article by Craig Brown on the LawVision blog, entitled “How to Meet a New Prospect Without Cold Calling.”
  2. A timely and topical post by Sue-Ella Prodonovich on her Prodonovich Advisory, entitled “How to Make the Most of the Christmas Networking Period.”
  3. A post about the importance of knowing and shaping what clients think about you, which was posted by Cordell Parvin on his blog under the title “What Would Your Clients Say About You?”

I also liked reading the thought-provoking post on Adam Smith, Esq. entitled “The End of Leverage?” This piece cites both data and trends that leveraged law firms should consider in charting their futures.

Posted by: johnocunningham | November 22, 2017

Chief Legal Officers Tell Where They’re Headed

The 2017 edition of the Chief Legal Officer Survey was recently published by legal consulting firm, Altman Weil, which summarized 280 responses from 21% of the 1,332 corporate law departments invited to participate.

Among the key survey findings were the following:

  • Nearly 60 percent of the largest law departments (those with 50 or more lawyers) are cutting their total legal spending (part of a continuing trend)
  • Overall, more legal departments plan to increase legal spending on outside counsel in 2018 (first time since 2007)
  • Outsourcing to non-law-firm vendors is reportedly the management tactic that results in the greatest gains in efficiency and cost control, but this tactic is still used very selectively

The second bullet is good news for outside counsel, but the positive reversal of a ten-year trend in lowering outside counsel budgets is much more popular with smaller law departments, according to the survey.

The third bullet is the one for law firms to heed. While outsourcing to non-law-firm vendors, such as accounting firms and contract lawyers, is still a tactic of limited use, it is not likely to stay that way for long. Corporate law departments are very good at driving costs down over time, and they will figure out more ways to make use of non-law-firm vendors, particularly autonomous and semi-autonomous technology providers who handle discovery reviews.

For law firms, it is more important than ever to map out a competitive strategy, stake out the turf that can be defended, attack the ground that can be taken back, and look for new fields that can prove fruitful.

For those who are interested, I recommend reading Altman Weil’s entire 2017 survey.

Posted by: johnocunningham | November 16, 2017

Crisis and Failure: Opportunities for Change

History offers an abundant number of illustrations that crisis is an opportunity for positive change and growth.

After the Great Depression, the Securities Exchange Commission and Securities Acts empowered regulators to clean up stock market fraud and mandate full and timely disclosures to investors. The intense study of the collapse also paved the way for greater understanding of the economic effects of monetary policy, tax policy and government subsidies.

IBM has successfully reinvented itself a number of times over the years, dating back to the 19th century, when its primary products were punch cards and time-keeping systems. Each time the company charted a new course to maintain its relevance and position of industrial leadership, it was spurred forward by the dwindling utility and profitability of a prior generation of products or services. Thus, it has brought us over the years magnetic storage tape, electronic typewriters, digital calculators, data processing machines, hard disk drives, mainframes, super-computers, and now quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

When Teddy Roosevelt lost his mother and wife within a period of 24 hours in 1884, he wrote in his diary that “the light has gone out of my life.” He then went west to the Badlands, became a Dakota cowboy, and eventually led efforts to organize ranchers’ efforts stop overgrazing and other practices that hurt the land they depended upon. His work resulted in the formation of the Little Missouri Stockmen’s Association. He was also compelled to coordinate conservation efforts and was able to form the Boone and Crocket Club, whose primary goal was the conservation of large game animals and their habitats. After a bad winter wiped out his herd of cattle, Roosevelt returned to the East with a renewed vigor and a sense of public purpose that eventually vaulted him to the presidency in 1901.

It makes sense that governments, commercial enterprises, and individuals take their greatest leaps forward after crisis or failure. That is when we are most receptive to challenging what we have known, when we are most open to learning from others, and most convinced that the old ways and familiar places can not be relied upon forever. Inertia is the tendency of a body at rest to stay at rest, and forward motion often takes a catalyst which rudely tells us that we’re doing isn’t working.

For law firms, the last recession and the increasing competition from in-house law departments, contract lawyers, technology providers, accounting firms and non-traditional outsourcing have all provided a rude and disruptive spur to competitive and collaborative innovation. For those firms who are taking new approaches and adopting new methods and tools to deliver legal services that are faster, more relevant, and more cost-effective, there is a great story to tell… and a great opportunity for a leap forward. For those who are still pining for the good old days, there’s not much of a future.

On the subject of turning crisis into opportunity, check out this post by the Brookings Institute.

For more about the new legal service models, check out this story at Thomson Reuters.


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