Volume 196, 2019 $6.95
Leaders as Coaches
Increasing Diversity in Law
Seller Myths vs. Market Truths
Asking Leading Questions in Job Interviews
Lawyers, Can You Build Relationships with Data?
Structuring Attorney Fees
Patrick C. Farber
Checking for Weak Links in Your Marketing Program
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TABLE OF CONTENTS 6 Increasing Diversity in Law Three Ways to Move Beyond Lip Service by Julie Savarino
10 Structuring Attorney Fees by Patrick C. Farber
12 Community News
EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER Brian Topor
14 Seller Myths vs. Market Truths
EDITOR Wendy Price
by Mike O’Horo
CREATIVE SERVICES Penn Creative
LAW FIRM OF THE MONTH
16 Parks & Solar, LLP, San Diego Getting Back to Their Roots
CIRCULATION Angela Watson PHOTOGRAPHY Chris Griffiths
by Dan Baldwin
STAFF WRITERS Dan Baldwin Jennifer Hadley CONTRIBUTING EDITORIALISTS Patrick C. Farber Lindsay Griffiths Mike O’Horo Trey Ryder Julie Savarino Kirk Stange Jeff Wolf WEBMASTER Mariusz Opalka ADVERTISING INQUIRIES Info@AttorneyJournals.com SUBMIT AN ARTICLE Editorial@AttorneyJournals.com OFFICE 30211 Avenida De Las Banderas Suite 200 Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 www.AttorneyJournals.com ADDRESS CHANGES Address corrections can be made via fax, email or postal mail.
22 Check for Weak Links in Your Marketing Program
by Trey Ryder
24 Lawyers, Can You Build Relationships with Data? by Lindsay Griffiths
26 Leaders as Coaches by Jeff Wolf
28 Asking Leading Questions in Job Interviews by Kirk Stange
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Increasing Diversity in Law 3 Ways to Move Beyond Lip Service
by Julie Savarino
Law firms and legal departments can be doing more to measurably increase diversity.
recent study found an overall culture of implicit gender bias in major law firms, which often also unconsciously extends to other diverse lawyers, employees, and professionals who work in or for law firms and legal departments. The authors of the study called for urgent remediation, as “we are way past the point when mere lip service to the goal of equality in the legal profession will suffice.” Many law firms and departments have made significant investments in recent years in an effort to level the playing field, improve their diversity and culture of inclusion, and decrease gender bias, but law firms and legal departments can be doing more to measurably increase diversity. Here are three new ways to do so.
1 Include the Entire Ecosystem in Diversity Counts In conjunction with already making significant efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in their lawyer ranks, many law firms and departments could start to count, track, and report in their formal diversity tracking, reporting, and scorecards in-house business and professional staff who are not licensed or practicing lawyers and external vendors, businesses and firms that are certified minority- or women-owned entities. Why? Because legal talent does not consist of lawyers alone. Both law firms and legal departments hire and rely heavily on other qualified in-house professionals, many of whom are not licensed lawyers. These professionals serve in-house in almost every law firm and legal department in areas such as legal 6
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operations, administration, human resources, information technology, client service, marketing, new business and client development, and other critical business functions. But many (not all) practicing lawyers tend to unconsciously minimize or dismiss those who are not licensed or practicing lawyers. In fact, the recent study cited above found that when asked, most lawyers say they already are very supportive of women and diversity, yet women (and likely others who are diverse) think and experience otherwise. There remains implicit bias. This is unfortunate, because many professionals who do not hold a law degree or are nonpracticing lawyers are very talented and experienced, and without them, the operations in many law firms and legal departments would quickly grind to a halt. For example, many business professionals who work in and for law firms and legal departments prefer not to be called or referred to as “nonlawyers,” even in a tongue-in-cheek manner, because it implies that a lawyer is somehow superior to those with other degrees, certifications, capabilities, and skills. It would be more productive to use the term “business professional” or “allied legal professional” instead of nonlawyer. So ask yourself whether diverse professional and business staff hires and current business and allied legal professionals count as diverse hires in your law firm or legal department and are tallied in the firm’s or department’s diversity scorecards. If not, maybe it’s time to consider doing so. In addition, almost all law firms and legal departments use external vendors regularly for a variety of projects and tasks, such as for staffing, information technology support, training and coaching, expert witnesses, and in numerous other areas.
Many external vendors are certified minority- or womenowned businesses and entities, yet most law firms do not track their use of diverse external providers (but many corporate legal departments do track this). If minority and diverse external vendors used by your law firm or department do not currently count as diverse hires/employees, perhaps it’s time to consider adding them to the firm’s diversity scorecard. Twenty years ago, in 1999, the Diversity in the Workplace (aka the Call to Action) commitment was signed by the chief legal officers (CLOs) of about 500 major corporations. It was designed to encourage law firms to assign more work and leadership roles to diverse lawyers, and many corporations created a diverse set-aside for outside legal work to be sent to diverse lawyers and firms. Did it make an impact? Certainly some, but because there was no overall, formally organized tracking of the total efforts in aggregate, the results were not as strong as they could have been.
2 Increase the Commitment to Diversity The two most recent professionally organized and run diversity initiatives described below are already making a measurable difference in the actual diversity within law firms and corporate legal departments. Yet, not all law firms or legal departments have signed on or committed to them. If your law firm or legal department has not yet committed to the Mansfield Rule or signed on to the Move the Needle Fund collective projects, consider doing so. Diversity Lab, founded and led by Caren Ulrich Stacy, created and launched these two major diversity initiatives:
The Mansfield Rule Over 100 major law firms have signed on to and made a commitment to the Mansfield Rule, which requires the firm to measure whether at least 30% women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and lawyers with disabilities have been considered for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities, and senior lateral positions. Lisa Kirby, Diversity Lab’s Chief Business Intelligence & Knowledge Sharing Officer, who leads the Mansfield Rule effort, had this to say about the results so far: “We’re so thrilled to see that two years into this initiative, the forward-thinking law firms participating in the Mansfield Rule have already reported some significant cultural changes as well as meaningful results. For example, 65% of participating firms promoted a higher percentage of diverse lawyers into the equity partnership, and 79% of participating firms reported that their lateral partner hiring pool was more diverse following adoption of the Mansfield Rule.” In addition, over 20 corporate legal departments have also signed on and committed to applying the Mansfield Rule to their department’s operations. These legal departments are asked to consider at least 50% historically underrepresented
lawyers for 70% or more of the leadership roles and activities identified below: • External hiring and/or promotions for top roles (e.g., general counsel (GC), CLO) • External hiring, internal transitions, and/or promotions to senior-tier management (e.g., reporting to GC, assistant GC, deputy GC, head of compliance, legal operations chief) • External hiring, internal transitions, and/or promotions to mid-tier management (e.g., reporting to senior-tier managers) • External hiring, internal transitions, and/or promotions to other lawyer positions • Hiring for interns or temporary lawyer positions (e.g., law clerks, summer 1Ls, secondments) • Discretionary high-visibility opportunities (i.e., not tied to a particular role or position) that provide skills building and exposure to internal and external business leaders • Written and transparent job responsibilities for senior and mid-tier management roles • Written and transparent processes for advancement opportunities and promotions within the legal department • Engaging outside counsel for new matters (i.e., lead and/ or primary team members) • Changing or expanding outside counsel representation (i.e., lead and/or primary team members)
The Move the Needle Fund The Move the Needle Fund (MTN), launched in September 2019, is a collaborative effort consisting of founding law firms—Eversheds Sutherland (US); Goodwin; Orrick; Stoel Rives; and a fifth, to be chosen soon through a blind selection process—that will be and are working on: • Together, investing more than $5 million in diversity efforts over five years; • Setting aggressive, public firm-specific diversity goals; • Experimenting with innovative methods to achieve them; • Measuring the outcomes; and • Sharing the results—including the successes and failures—with each other and the community. To achieve these goals and to serve as a model from which others can learn, MTN will leverage the $5 million investment made by the five firms to: • Experiment with new approaches to hiring, work/ life integration, work allocation, sponsorships, promotions, feedback, performance reviews, and compensation systems; Attorney Journals San Diego | Volume 196, 2019
• Implement the Diversity in Law Hackathon ideas; • Test evidence-based research such as the bias interrupters from the American Bar Association and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association study as well as other inclusion research from top academic institutions; and • Crowdsource innovative ideas from other industries. Since its launch, MTN has been joined by over 25 GC and CLOs who have committed to requiring their potential and current outside counsel law firms to consistently and progressively staff matters with diverse teams and lead lawyers. As Caren Ulrich Stacy stated, “The MTN effort combines the four critical elements that research has shown will create and sustain transformational change—collaboration, transparency, measurement, and accountability.”
3 Hire a Dedicated Diversity Developer One major law firm (a firm already committed to the two Diversity Lab initiatives described above and many other diversity initiatives) is hiring a full-time, in-house Diversity Developer, a new client-facing position being filled by a
Attorney Journals San Diego | Volume 196, 2019
seasoned nonpracticing lawyer, who will be dedicated to providing expert support and coaching to help all the firm’s diverse lawyers develop client and referral source relationships and improve client service. The new Diversity Developer’s job is to proactively and upon request work with, coach, and help diverse partners and lawyers implement their annual plans and goals, identify appropriate opportunities for new work and new clients, vet those opportunities, prepare and participate in proposals for new work, manage follow-up, and engage in related activities. There is a lot still to be done in order to meaningfully increase diversity and decrease gender disparity in law. The initiatives described above will likely help, but every law firm, legal department, lawyer, vendor, legal industry association, and group needs to make consistent and out-of-the-box efforts over time in order to measurably increase diversity. n Julie Savarino holds an MBA, a JD, and is a licensed attorney. Over her 30+ year career, she has built a reputation as a leading international, award-winning client service, business and client development coach and strategist for lawyers, law firms, and other professional services providers and firms. She has successfully served in-house for the law firms of Dickinson Wright and Butzel Long and for the accounting firm Grant Thornton. Contact Julie at +1 (734) 668-7008, Julie@BusDevInc. com. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @JulieSavarino.
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Structuring Attorney Fees by Patrick C. Farber
our client just received a large jury award or settlement. Your client is satisfied with the outcome and you will be compensated for often years of hard work and out-ofpocket expenses. You can collect your fee as a lump sum, but there is another option: structuring the fee so payments are delayed or spread out over time. Tax Code Governing Structured Fees. Legal fee structuring is possible because of Richard A. Childs, et al. v Commissioner of Internal Revenue 103 T.C. 36, aff’d 89 F.3d 856 (11th Cir. 1996). In Childs, the U. S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision allowing attorneys to structure their fees and to pay taxes on the fees only when they are received (included on IRS Form 1099). Only contingency fees can be structured. Hourly or retainer fees cannot. Structuring Fee Mechanics. Legal fee structures are similar to non-qualified personal injury structured settlements in a number of ways. As with client settlement structures, timing is important. The fee structure must be set up prior to the law firm actually taking possession of the funds. Once the funds are deposited into an attorney or law firm’s bank account, fee structuring is off the table. The IRS labels it as earned income and it becomes immediately taxable. Since attorney fees are deducted from the client’s settlement amount, fee structure verbiage must be included in the client’s settlement agreement with the defendant. Clients do not need to structure their settlement in order for their attorney to structure fees. As with non-qualified personal injury structured settlements, proceeds compound tax-free in the annuity and only become taxable upon receipt. Attorneys are required to notify the IRS of their fee structure plans. Once the fee structure instructions are included in the client’s signed settlement documents, the defendant, its insurance company or trust then purchases an annuity for the amount of the legal fees through a life insurance company. The insurance company invests the annuity funds in conservative investments such as U.S. Treasury securities. The sole practitioner or law firm does not own the annuity. The life insurance company purchases and guarantees the annuity and then transfers the annuity to an assignment company that is 10
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responsible for making the payments according to the instructions laid out in the structure documents. Safety of Annuity’s Underlying Assets. When it comes to structures, the big question is, are the funds safe? Life insurance companies must receive approval from the California Department of Insurance before they can offer structure settlements. State regulations dictate that these insurance carriers maintain assets equal to or exceed their annuity payment obligations. Carriers are audited annually to make sure they comply. The majority of insurance companies offering to structure fees will only do so in cases involving personal injury or workers’ comp settlements. A smaller number will structure fees for any number of case types including discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, bad faith and construction defect claims— cases where fees are determined as part of a negotiated settlement. Managing The Firm’s Financials. For many solo practitioners and small law firms with mostly contingency-fee clients, it is often feast or famine. Attorneys can be under financial pressure to cover law firm expenses during lean months. Fee structuring can relieve some of the stress. The firm receives steady, guaranteed income over a specified period. This enables attorneys to use the funds as a financial planning tool. Cash flow stabilizes and becomes predictable. The fee payouts are taxable, but by being spread over time (often years), the distributions may be taxed at a lower rate meaning the overall tax burden could be lower. Your tax advisor can offer guidance on whether deferring payment can save on taxes. Determining Whether Structuring Fees Make Sense. Structuring attorney fees is not always the right decision. Your firm may want to use the fee income to pay off a large high-interest debt or a multitude of small expenses, purchase a building to house the law office, hire new staff or buy out a retiring partner. Relieving costly debt or updating/improving the law firm practice may take precedent over a consistent income stream. Paying Off Debt. A popular option is to receive a portion of your fees at settlement to cover immediate expenses and structure the rest. In one instance, a law firm was awarded $850,000 in attorney fees. Of that, the partners decided to receive $250,000 upfront to pay off the mortgage on their office building. The
remainder would be paid out annually in the amount of $92,034 per year, guaranteed for seven years and factoring in compounding interest. Saving For Retirement. By spreading fee income over a number of years or until after retirement, an attorney may be in a lower tax bracket with a lower tax obligation. A sole practitioner decided to postpone received $500,000 in attorney fees until he turned 70 and retired in 2029. He created a structure with instructions that annual payments of $71,701 would begin in November 2029 with the last guaranteed payment in November 2038. The $500,000 will remain in the structured annuity, growing tax-free by more than $200,000, until withdrawn. If the attorney should pass away before all payments are distributed, payments can be transferred to designated beneficiaries. College Tuition. An attorney can also decide to receive all or part of a fee to pay for tuition costs when a son or daughter reaches college age. For example, a $100,000 in attorney fees could be structured to pay for the college education of a five-year-old son or daughter beginning at age 18. In this case, payments would be for $28,779, guaranteed for five years when factoring in compounded interest. The attorney would still be the payee of the yearly payments over the five-year period. Note that if the money is not needed (i.e., the child earns a full scholarship), the payouts would still take place as scheduled.
Your Decision Is Final. Once a structured annuity is created, payments cannot be altered, nor can the annuity be cashed in and a lump sum distributed to the sole practitioner or firm. To protect yourself from rising costs, a cost-of-living component can be factored into the distribution schedule to offset inflation. Another issue to consider is today’s current low interest rates on government securities. Funds within the annuity can only be invested in safe, government-backed investment vehicles. In today’s low interest rate environment, it may be hard to justify locking in annuity payments at those low rates. Every firm has its own set of financial needs. Firm partners should discuss options with the firm’s tax advisor—receive a lump sum payment upfront, pay the taxes and invest the rest (and be taxed on the income) or go with the structured annuity with compounded tax-deferred benefits. Regardless of the ultimate decision, structuring fees earned from a sizable contingency fee case settlement should be a part of every payment discussion. n Patrick C. Farber is a structured settlements broker in California with Atlas Settlement Group. He specializes in settling medical malpractice, physical injury, non-physical injury, product liability, workers’ compensation, mass torts, punitive damages, employment and elder abuse cases with structured settlements in court hearings, arbitrations and settlement conferences. 800-734-3910, firstname.lastname@example.org
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COMMUNITY news n Butterfield Schechter LLP is pleased to announce that partners Marc S. Schechter and Paul D. Woodard were selected as finalists for 2019 San Diego Business Journal Leaders in Law Award. Partner Marc S. Schechter is an outstanding attorney in the areas of employee benefits, employee MARC S. SCHECHTER stock ownership plans, pension and profit-sharing plans, ERISA, ERISA litigation and business and tax law. Mr. Schechter is a nationally renowned speaker and continues to educate others on employee benefit matters. . Partner Paul D. Woodard exemplifies leadership as a lawyer and community member. Mr. Woodard PAUL D. WOODARD is a skilled ERISA and employee benefits lawyer and litigator. He also excels in his practice counseling individuals and businesses on matters including purchases and sales of commercial and residential properties including negotiating the letter of intent, drafting and reviewing purchase and sale agreements, assisting throughout the escrow closing process and negotiating and reviewing commercial lease agreement terms and preparing amendments and renewals to leases. n Crosbie Gliner Schiffman Southard & Swanson LLP (CGS3), a San Diego-based commercial real estate law firm, announced today the addition of its newest partner, Marjorie J. Burchett. Previously a partner with Withers Bergman LLP, she joins CGS3’s mixed use, distressed assets and finance practice groups MARJORIE J. BURCHETT and will be based in the firm’s San Diego offices. According to CGS3 founding partner Sean Southard, Burchett is another testament to the firm’s enduring commitment to attracting best-in-class lawyers. “Marjorie is an outstanding real estate attorney who specializes in handling complex transactions across all asset classes. She is especially skilled at working with mixed use, urban infill, master planned communities and condominium developments—all areas in which we are experiencing robust growth,” Southard said. “She also brings a wealth of expertise in finance on both the borrower and lender sides.”
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Attorney Journals San Diego | Volume 196, 2019
n Hickman & Robinson LLP is pleased to announce Kyle Yaege has been added as a named partner. Yaege joined the firm six years ago, after five years of operating his own firm, and two years as a senior litigation associate at a Carlsbad real estate firm. Yaege is responsible for a broad spectrum of business and real estate-related litigation, land use and transactional matters. Yaege KYLE YAEGE has been named a finalist in the San Diego Daily Transcript’s Outstanding Young Attorneys, and named to SuperLawyers Rising Stars several times. He is active with a number of professional organizations in the San Diego legal and real estate communities, and was recently elected as a Member at Large for the Real Property Law Section of the San Diego County Bar Association. Hickman & Robinson LLP was founded 11 years ago, and focuses solely on business law, real estate law, and litigation. The new firm name is Hickman Robinson Yaege LLP. n Kirby & Kirby LLP is pleased to announce that Jesse O’Sullivan has joined the firm as a litigation associate after graduating magna cum laude from University of San Diego School of Law in May 2019. O’Sullivan will be working primarily on the firm’s business litigation and real estate litigation cases. During law school, O’Sullivan served as a judicial extern for the Honorable M. Margaret JESSE O’SULLIVAN McKeown on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and later for the Honorable Gonzalo P. Curiel in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District. O’Sullivan came to the firm with prior intern experience for a prominent San Diego plaintiff’s firm, a local government agency, and a local political advocacy organization. O’Sullivan was a member of San Diego Law Review. O’Sullivan earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of San Diego. n Klinedinst PC is pleased to announce the addition of Tara R. Burd as Counsel in the San Diego office. Burd brings extensive probate and trust litigation experience to the firm, with a special emphasis on trust administration, probate avoidance, and probate litigation. Much of her career has been focused on helping clients navigate their way through complex issues such as breach of TARA R. BURD contracts, business disputes, partition actions, employment, and personal injury lawsuits. Outside the probate sphere, Burd crafts strategies for clients to reduce or eliminate the risk of litigation through creative and proactive solutions. She is a prolific writer on these complex topics, and regularly speaks to groups and organizations. “We are excited to welcome Tara to our San Diego team,” said Klinedinst Shareholder and Department Chair Heather L. Rosing. “She has a great deal of experience in probate and trust litigation, real estate litigation, and business litigation, which are all areas that are in high demand by our client base.
n Marking his fifth appearance on the list, CaseyGerry managing partner David S. Casey Jr. once again has been recognized as one of the “100 Leading Lawyers in California” by the Los Angeles/San Francisco Daily Journal, one of the legal profession’s preeminent publications. The 2019 edition appeared September 18 in a special Daily Journal DAVID S. CASEY supplement. The prestigious award is given by the editors of the statewide publication to recognize California’s most influential legal practitioners. Casey Jr. is known for taking on high-profile, complex cases, including representing the family of deceased NFL hero Junior Seau, a case in which he achieved a confidential settlement while raising consumer awareness about football head injuries and concussion safety. In addition, he represented the family of baseball legend Tony Gwynn—the Padres player who died of salivary gland cancer following a lifetime addiction to smokeless tobacco—in a case against U.S. Tobacco which also settled for a confidential amount. n Noonan Lance Boyer & Banach LLP was awarded three first tier rankings in the 2020 “Best Law Firms” rankings by U.S. News and World Report and Best Lawyers. Since NOONANLANCE PARTNERS 2016, NoonanLance has continuously ranked as a top tier law firm in commercial litigation, legal malpractice defense and now Bet-the-Company litigation, where an entire business may be at risk. In addition, the law firm was awarded a ranking in real estate litigation. NoonanLance’s attorneys are among the most experienced commercial litigators in San Diego, having handled a wide range of cases in state and federal court, as well as in arbitration. In perhaps the highest compliment an attorney can provide to one of its peers, NoonanLance is regularly hired by lawyers and law firms to represent them in legal malpractice defense.
n Jennifer Keller, a nationally prominent trial attorney at Keller/ Anderle LLP in Irvine, has been named to the Orange County Business Journal’s “OC 500,” an exclusive “Directory of Influence” compiled by the Journal’s editorial staff. According to the Orange County Business Journal’s Editor Mark Mueller, JENNIFER KELLER “The 4th edition of the Business Journal’s OC 500 represents a selection of local newsmakers, influencers, business executives and others that drive Orange County’s diverse and always-changing economy. Each member of the list has made a positive mark on OC’s Community of Business over the course of the past year.” Jennifer Keller is one of America’s most successful trial attorneys. She represents both plaintiffs and defendants in a broad range of high-stakes commercial litigation and white collar cases. Chambers USA quotes sources who call her “the consummate trial lawyer,” “an incredible cross-examiner,” and “widely regarded as one of the best trial lawyers in California.” n Attorney Ilona Antonyan, Antonyan Miranda Co-Founder, was named to San Diego Metro magazine’s 2019 “40 Under 40” list. She was recognized at an event celebrating and honoring San Diego’s top 40 business leaders under 40 years of age hosted by the publication on October 1st. Antonyan is one of San Diego’s top ILONA ANTONYAN family law attorneys. An Armenian refugee, Antonyan immigrated to the United States in 1992 and has earned a reputation for her strategic, aggressive and effective advocacy on behalf of her clients. Antonyan is considered a trailblazer in the legal world, as she is the youngest person in California to become a Certified Family Law Specialist, a special designation from the State Bar of California. In addition to holding a law degree, Antonyan is a licensed real estate broker and she also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Family Law at California Western School of Law.
n Dunn DeSantis Walt & Kendrick has been named one of the nation’s “Best Law Firms” by U.S. World Report and Best Lawyers in America®. The firm was honored in the prestigious Metropolitan Tier 1, San Diego, category for Legal Malpractice Law – Defendants, and Metropolitan Tier 2, San Diego, category for Professional Malpractice Law – Defendants. Firms included in the 2020 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise. All of the rankings and tiers by U.S. News & World Report are published online at bestlawfirms.usnews.com.
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Attorney Journals San Diego | Volume 196, 2019
Seller Myths vs. Market Truths by Mike O’Horo
any refer to the 2008 economic meltdown as the “Great Reset.” For law firm business development, it’s healthy to embrace that as a literal expression. The law business was reset from a seller’s market, characterized by demand exceeding supply, to a buyer’s market, where the reverse is true. One important consequence of that shift is that many long-held beliefs about business development are no longer true. Lawyers now must compete under the conditions and marketplace rules that their clients have faced forever. Here are a baker’s dozen seller’s myths to relegate to the trash bin in favor of market truths that will be with you for the balance of your career:
selling is to get a decision. You want either a yes or no so that you can get this prospect out of your pipeline, put an end to the sales cost associated with them, and direct your limited time to the next opportunity. The longer someone languishes in your pipeline, the more it costs you.
1 We’re better! There is no “better,” only “different.” A percentage of people will consider your differentness to be better, but there’s no absolute “better.”
9 A close relationship with a general counsel is the Holy Grail of the law business. Legal work dispensed by the law department is already mature and represents the past, not the future. Innovation occurs on the front lines of the business. You need to cultivate the line-of-business managers.
2 Facts are important. Only in court. In the marketplace, perception is reality. If I perceive your form of differentness to be better, that’s reality for me. 3 My knowledge and experience are important. Only to the extent it gets you considered. Once you’re in competition with other similarly qualified lawyers, its value ends. What your applied knowledge and experience does for me is important. 4 “I can help anyone.” Lawyers say this as a way of pushing back at the idea of profiling and targeting a specific market segment. Yes, you can help anyone, but unless they’ve somehow found you, decided to speak with you, and have already decided to hire you, it’s meaningless. You can accept “anyone” as a client, but you can’t pursue “anyone.” Define and profile one specific group to pursue. 5 To cross-sell, I must have a thorough knowledge of my colleagues’ services. No. That’s impossible if you have a lot of diverse practices in your firm. Really, all you have to know is your colleagues’ most important door-openers—that is, the business problems that drive demand for their services. “If someone has this problem, they need (someone like) me.” If they don’t have that problem, they don’t need your colleague, and won’t appreciate your attempt to pitch him or her. 6 By luck, speaking engagements produce business. However, “prove the need” speeches often produce qualified leads. “Prove the need” refers to demonstrating the negative consequences and impact of the problem you solve. This creates a greater level of awareness and discomfort within prospective buyers. If your remarks cause someone to conclude they no longer have the luxury of delay, they’re likely to discuss the problem with you. 7 The goal of selling is to get to “yes.” Not if you have any integrity. Yes and no are both possible good decisions for the prospect. How can it be legitimate to entertain only one of them? The goal of
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8 My most valuable asset is my client’s willingness to trust me with important legal matters. Your most valuable asset is your client’s willingness to discuss the future of his or her business, and let you participate in the ongoing definition of what’s important. That’s how you remain part of the client’s future instead of being trapped in the client’s past—with the declining pricing power. (All products and services mature and decline in perceived importance and value.)
10 My experience and expertise are the top considerations in the decision to hire me. Collectively, experience and expertise, perceived knowledge of the client’s business, and the demonstrated ability to apply both to valuable effect is the top criteria for getting chosen among those found. 11 My competitor, XYZ firm, “owns” that client. Only in your mind. Companies are unbundling their legal spend, allocating work to align it with difficulty and cost. To the degree that any incumbent firm “owns” any part of that, it owns the past. Why compete for the past? They do have the advantage of switching costs, which inhibits moving the work to a different firm. The solution to incumbency is to limit the competing firm to the past by staking claim to the emerging issues. The future begins now and is continually redefined by the business conversation (see No. 8). 12 We should explain our credentials thoroughly. Please don’t. Nobody wants to hear them. Instead, demonstrate that you understand my industry, my business, my department and my success criteria. Show me what it’s like to have you as my lawyer and live with me through the resolution of important issues. Bring me fresh thinking that causes me to attribute important qualities to you. 13 It’s critical to maintain relationships with key prospects and contacts and to earn and sustain virtual “idea relationships” with an entire industry or sector. This is accomplished through a sustained business conversation that leads to professional intimacy. n For 20 years, Mike O’Horo has been known by lawyers everywhere as The Coach. He trained more than 7000 of them, generating $1.5 billion in new business. His latest innovation is Dezurve, which has cracked the code on identifying investment-worthy lawyers and eliminating training budget waste. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Getting Back to
Their Roots At Parks & Solar, LLP, plain, old-fashioned hard work plus resourceful thinking yields outstanding results, say both founding partners. “I think we work very hard and I’m sure you hear that all the time, but in our case it’s actually true. We really put 100 percent of what we have in every case. In every case we take to trial or every deal we’re trying to close or every transaction we’re doing. I think that makes a big difference. These are things that you hear all the time, but we really care about our clients,” says Robert Parks. Founded in June, 2017, the San Diego firm has earned an admirable list of high-profile clients, including Fortune 500 companies to small businesses, that belies the firm’s boutique size: Chicken of the Sea International; Thai Union North America; FCF Fishery Company, Ltd.; South Pacific Tuna Corporation; Clipper Oil; Trader Joe’s; the City of Carlsbad; the Carlsbad Municipal Water District; the County of San Diego; IDE Americas, Inc.; I.D.E. Technologies, Ltd.; WaterMark Resource Development, Inc.; D.F. Stauffer Biscuit Company; US Pet Nutrition and numerous other real estate developers, consumer goods manufacturers, construction contractors, owners of commercial tuna purse seine fishing vessels, water resource developers and individuals in civil litigation and class action lawsuits and commercial and business transactions. Laughing as he speaks, Keith Solar adds, “And I think I can safely say I am one of the only attorneys in the area who has appeared before the High Court of American Samoa.” Parks and Solar employs two partners, two of counsel, two associates, two paralegals, three on staff, and one administrator. Practice areas include real estate, business, water-related transactions, consumer law, civil and commercial litigation, bankruptcy including debtor/creditor, and family 16
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law. Typical clients fall into the broad categories of all companies in the supply chain of tuna (vessel owners, transhippers/ middlemen, canneries), desalination companies, Proposition 65 matters, general civil litigation, business transactions, and high net worth marital dissolution. “Hard work is the key. Because of our size, it’s not like we’re the guys people think of first. If you look at bringing in business— it’s like a football game, the second that ball hits the ground, I’m on it. It’s mine. If there’s a piece of business or a piece of litigation that’s available, and it’s something we can do, I go for it. Bob goes for it. We’re both that way. Nobody is going to outwork us.”
© Bauman Photographers JOURNALS
OF THE MONTH
(From Left to Right, Top to Bottom) Raelynn Stattner, Debra Artes, Robert Edmunds, Sandra Mayberry, Anna Randall, Esther Alameddin; Seated: Toy Poore, Robert Parks, Keith Solar, Carole Pierce
Moving West, Work Ethic in Hand Parks and Solar grew up in the hard-working environment of Chicago. They met in 1985 while working as associates for a major international law firm with a regional office in San Diego. The two saw in each other a potential partner with the same work ethic, drive and ability to start a new firm and see it succeed. They left another national firm to form Parks & Solar, LLP. Solar says, “We were both lawyers in the local office. They were a fine firm, but their headquarters was 3,000 miles away and I
don’t think they really understood what it was like to practice law in California because it really is different. I had been there ten years and after a decade I just got tired of fighting the bureaucracy and it was time to do our own thing. It was time to get back to our roots.” The transition was easy, which they found a pleasant surprise. One counsel, one associate, a paralegal, two staff and their administrator, all from their previous firm, joined in the move and all their clients stayed with them. “We didn’t have any difficult times getting started like you normally would. We had really good clients for our size, Attorney Journals San Diego | Volume 196, 2019
Attorney Journals San Diego | Volume 196, 2019
© Bauman Photographers
which is unusual. We had a really good mix of individual and institutional clients. They’re great clients. They’re good to work with. We couldn’t have asked for a better transition,” Solar says. They found in each other complementing skills and attitudes. Solar is recognized as a creative person who can easily think out of the box. Parks’ background in civil litigation provides a balance. Parks says, “There are two pieces to practicing law in my mind—one’s transactions and one is litigation. When you have both engines running at a law firm, you have a lot more to offer.” Their teamwork has built a good track record of results for clients in business transactions and in the courtroom. “There are a select number of law firms that have done the big deals or handled the truly big cases and have done them successfully. We are one of the firms that do it. I don’t know if Keith or I could rattle off the number of big cases and big deals we have done over the years. It’s really quite impressive, but what’s more important is that we have obtained good results. That’s hard to do on a consistent basis and we’ve done it. We have successfully tried some extremely complex and difficult cases and Keith has done some extremely large deals that he has managed to close because he thinks outside the box.” One of the philosophies that keeps the firm growing is a commitment to teamwork. “We value our employees. There’s no real egomaniac at this law firm. Everybody is treated the same and with respect. When we represent a client, everybody on the team is valued regardless of his or her role. We let all of our clients know that our work is a product of hard work and teamwork,” Solar says. Their management philosophy is to hire the best people and allow them to do the work. Says Solar, “We’re blessed with a really good administrator, Carole Pierce, who handles all non-legal business for us. We really don’t need to do much that way. We’re really lucky. To the extent we need to get involved, we’re pretty pragmatic guys. Again, that goes back to our mid-western values. We’re straight shooters. We deal with challenges as they arise. If the employees need input, we provide it. We resolve an issue and we move on. We don’t let things fester and we don’t ignore things.” Parks says, “We believe that if the firm does well, everybody does well. This is not a situation
Keith Solar – Partner and Co-Founder
where people are working for Bob or Keith. It’s not a situation where if we do well everybody else does okay. If we do well, everybody does well.”
Fishing for Clients Lands a Big One Solar notes that San Diego birthed the U.S. tuna industry and there were still vestiges of it here when he began practicing law in 1985. A partner at his firm represented a couple of commercial tuna boat owners and he regularly handled their legal work. During that process he met Dave Burney, then the president of the U.S. Tuna Foundation, and began doing his legal work, which led him to locations around the world, such as Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, Taiwan and American Samoa. The business relationship Parks and Solar enjoy today naturally grew from that experience.
© Bauman Photographers
An area of specialty in the water and related industries includes desalination. The City of Carlsbad was the host city for the plant proposed by Poseidon Resources. The city selected Solar to represent it after interviewing numerous other attorneys. Today, the plant delivers 50 million gallons per day of desalinated seawater to San Diego County and is the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. “They told me it would be a two-year gig and that the plant would be producing water in two years. The process took 15 years. Everything that could possibly happen to that plant happened. There were 16 different lawsuits and a lot of agreements.” The county water authority ultimately agreed to buy the entire output of the plant. Along the way Solar picked up Israeli Desalination Engineers (IDE), which designed and operates the plant, as a client. Parks and Solar now does pretty much all of their work for the plant and in the United States. Solar’s expertise in desalination also has taken him around the world. He has visited his client IDE’s headquarters in Israel. Solar also recently presented a paper at the International Desalination Association World Congress held in Dubai. Last year, he did the same in Valencia, Spain. Another stable and growing practice area is in the area of high net worth family law. “At this juncture, we are probably one of the most knowledgeable firms in San Diego on the issue of equitable apportionment of the value of business interests in family law cases. It’s a very big and trending area of the law in California. We have successfully tried two of the largest cases in San Diego dealing with this concept including the landmark case In Re Marriage of Duncan. We are one of the go-to firms in this area of the law,” Parks says. Stability isn’t only an asset for the firm; it is an asset for their clients. Solar says, “I think we are uniquely positioned. It’s not like we’re going to depend on real estate which is going to go boom or bust. Or internet work which is boom or bust or anything like that. People are always going to get divorced, or need water, or any number of things we’re geared up to handle. I mean, when the economy gets bad everybody can afford 99 cents for a can of tuna. It’s tough on the tuna companies because it’s a very low margin business, but they aren’t going away. And neither are we.”
Robert Parks – Partner and Co-Founder
Looking Ahead The stability, their teamwork and client base provide a strong foundation for future growth. Solar says, “People are always going to need water. If anything, that’s going to become more prevalent. A lot of people say the next war is going to be fought over water. That’s probably not going to happen in California, but we’re not immune to shortages here. And people always are going to buy a can of tuna. People are always going to separate and fight over who owns what. The high net worth people are just as vulnerable as anybody else,” Solar says. Parks says that more and more people are becoming aware of the need for environmental conservation, sustainability, and consumer protection laws. “We have a number of cases, a number of practice areas we work in where Attorney Journals San Diego | Volume 196, 2019
those types of things tend to be growing areas at least in terms of litigation. We do a lot of defense work in that area, including class action consumer law defense and Proposition 65 defense work. We are one of the few firms in San Diego that handle Proposition 65 cases, including compliance work and defense of notices of violation. We are also one of the few firms that handle litigation in all phases of the supply chain for consumer goods, from raw materials to retail shelves. We have handled everything from breach of contract to class action to bet the farm cases. We’re stable now and in the future. And our clients know it.” The partners also see a trend in law toward more transactions and litigation regarding environmental issues. Although not working in that area now, they also foresee the possibility for work in the cannabis and CBD industries. Parks and Solar plans on growing organically as the firm’s
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needs require. Recently, two well-known certified family law specialists—Sandra Mayberry and Raelynn Stattner—joined the firm. “They complement my practice, and we’re confident they will be great additions. We would like to continue to develop our niche areas by growing with our clients and expanding our work to similar companies and clients. In short, we plan to ‘Keep on keepin’ on,’” Parks says. ■ Contact Parks & Solar, LLP 501 West Broadway, Suite 1540 San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 501-2301 www.parksandsolar.com
© Bauman Photographers
(From Left to Right) Carole Pierce, Esther Alameddin, Anna Randall, Sandra Mayberry, Keith Solar, Robert Parks, Debra Artes, Robert Edmunds, Raelynn Stattner, Toy Poore
L AW Y E RS H E L P I N G OT H E RS
JAMIE BECK F R E E TO T H R I V E
Inspired by a human trafficking survivor who later became a pro bono client, Jamie Beck decided to help other survivors. She learned that human trafficking survivors desperately need civil lawyers. Her law firm at the time, Procopio, graciously allowed Jamie to work with human trafficking survivors pro bono. Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex and the commercial sexual exploitation of minors. “I went to law school because I wanted to help people. But, I did not find this work, it found me.” In 2017, Jamie committed to helping survivors full-time. She founded Free to Thrive, a nonprofit that provides legal services for human trafficking survivors. Today, Free to Thrive’s nine-member staff serves over 150 clients and 17 clinic locations throughout the county. Free to Thrive’s four staff attorneys and pro bono attorneys help survivors change their legal names, regain child custody, divorce abusive spouses, vacate criminal records, and much more. To become a pro bono attorney, learn more, or donate, visit www.freetothrive.org Jamie Beck is not affiliated with the Vosseller Law Firm.
After each case, we donate a portion of attorney’s fees to a nonprofit chosen by the client.
P L A I N T I F F P E R S O N A L I N J U RY
VOSSELLER LAW FIRM
Check for Weak Links in Your Marketing Program by Trey Ryder
9 Weak Links That Can Break Your Marketing Program
Delivering a sales message. Overcome this weak link by delivering an educational message. Your message must educate your prospect about his problems and the solutions you can provide. If your message sounds like a sales pitch—or if you sound or act like a salesperson—your program is doomed to failure. (Do you know anyone who wants to listen to a sales pitch or talk with a salesperson?) Lack of credibility. Overcome this weak link by firmly establishing that you can be trusted. None of us (voluntarily) does business with a person we don’t trust. Go to great lengths to make sure your prospects, clients and referral sources trust you. You can increase trust by (1) offering information about your knowledge, skill and experience, (2) discussing case histories of clients you have helped in the past, (3) speaking in simple terms everyone can understand, and (4) taking time to answer prospects’ questions.
No apparent differences. Overcome this weak link by clearly pointing out the positive ways you differ from competitors. Prospects won’t hire your services unless and until they have clear, identifiable reasons to choose you over all other lawyers. If you convey nothing else to your prospects, make sure prospects know how you differ from every other lawyer on the planet.
Lack of interaction. Overcome this weak link by inviting interactions with your prospects and clients. You will never do business with a prospect until the two of you have interacted, whether over the phone, by email or in person. Interaction doesn’t happen by chance; it happens by design. Design your marketing program to generate ongoing educational interactions with prospects.
Failure to commit. Overcome this weak link by motivating your prospect to make a commitment, which is when he hires your services. Point out to prospects what they stand to lose by allowing their present situation to persist. Point out to prospects how they benefit when they hire you to help them solve a problem or achieve a goal. Describe a case history of someone you know who waited too long to solve his problem—and the terrible consequences he faced as a result. 22
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Unappealing offers. Overcome this weak link by packaging your services in ways that appeal to your prospects. For example, if you offer services only by the hour and your prospects want flat fees, you face an uphill battle. When you offer different levels of services and different billing options, you give prospects the opportunity to pick which they like best. This increases their satisfaction level because they took part in making the decision. Missing your target audience. Overcome this weak link by designing and creating your message so it appeals specifically to the audience you want to reach. If your message does not appeal to your audience, you have a big problem. If your message does not reach the audience you want, you’ve wasted your time, money and effort.
Inconvenient delivery methods. Overcome this weak link by matching your marketing methods with the audiences you want to reach. Make sure you choose marketing methods that your prospects find attractive, comfortable and convenient. If a busy executive wants you to send information by mail—and if you insist on talking with the executive on the phone—you are not making it easy for the executive. Your unwillingness to deliver your marketing message in a way that is convenient for the executive may be the only reason he needs not to hire your services.
Lack of loyalty. Overcome this weak link by making sure your message and services build loyalty among your clients and referral sources. Your educational message—delivered over time to clients, former clients and referral sources—keeps your loyalty level high, which results in an ongoing flow of new prospects through the referral pipeline. n Trey Ryder shares his marketing method with lawyers through a wide range of publications. In addition, he writes and publishes his free e-zine, The Ryder Method™ of Education-Based Marketing. And he maintains the Lawyer Marketing Advisor at treyryder.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawyers, Can You Build Relationships with Data? by Lindsay Griffiths
ver the last few years, data has become more and more popular a subject, as we try to quantify everything to do with our businesses. “Please don’t make me try to quantify my relationships TOO!” I can hear you opining. But I promise, the goal is a worthwhile one. Our goal when it comes to any business development or relationship development tactic is maximizing the benefit and maximizing efficiency. In order to do that, it makes sense to implement the use of data. I’m not talking about requiring you to create algorithms for your clients (though, I’ll admit that I’ve seen what some firms have done to map the relationships of their lawyers and clients, and it’s pretty spectacular and fascinating, as well as being incredibly useful). I’m talking about implementing a couple of simple ideas to ensure that your current relationship development efforts are giving you the best bang for your buck. Before we dive into those techniques, let’s talk briefly about why data works. You may remember our post about the zombiefication of content marketing, which references Shane Snow’s piece on combatting content zombies. In Snow’s piece, he talks about Netflix’s original success, which was predicated on their move from offering streaming of other companies’ television shows and movies to purchasing their own show for the first time—House of Cards (this was pre-scandal Spacey, remember). Through its data, Netflix knew three things: People who watch Kevin Spacey movies tend to watch all the way to the end. People who watch David Fincher movies tend to watch lots of David Fincher movies. And people who watch the British House of Cards tend to watch it all at once and all the way through. With that data, giving House of Cards the greenlight seemed like a no-brainer. And Snow confirmed, “Based on the number of new subscribers Netflix picked up because of the show, the company’s $100 million bet paid off in under three months, according to analysis by The Atlantic.” Netflix isn’t making predictions with a crystal ball. They’re using lots of data, that they have access to base on their existing customers, to predict future consumption behavior. And entertainment isn’t the only place where this makes sense. Snow says, “A relatively small number of super loyal subscribers paying Netflix $8 a month is more profitable than a huge number of viewers tuning in to a commercial on CBS. In the same way, a relatively small number of loyal readers or viewers can be worth 24
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much more to a brand than a bunch of one-off ad impressions. “This is the way the future will work in every content medium, not just television. The creators and companies that make smart use of data and tech will have a huge advantage over the rest.” This works with content too, and it can work with your business relationships. Why? Because you’re being strategic about them. In a way that maximizes the value that you’re offering and ensuring that you’re meeting with and connecting with the right people again and again. Here’s an example. There’s a certain networking event that you enjoy going to, and you usually see the same group of people there whom you enjoy spending time with—but they aren’t potential clients or referral sources—you just like them as people. Although they’re fun, you’re not maximizing your networking opportunities by spending time with them that’s designated as business development time. You may wonder what’s wrong with that type of hit-or-miss networking, and the answer is three-fold. The short response is “nothing”—there’s nothing wrong with it. If you simply enjoy hanging out with this group of people, and it’s only a bonus if work comes your way, then great! You’re already meeting your needs. But, if that’s not the end goal here, then there are two things wrong with it: 1. You’re a busy person. So don’t spend time—as a billing lawyer—developing relationships that aren’t going to maximize every ounce out of that networking. That’s not to criticize those relationships—if you like those people, find non-networking time to spend with them. 2. If you network strategically, be sure that you’re adding value to the relationships that you want to develop, or they are not going to be interested in investing time in you. You also must be valuable to your audience, or they’re not going to engage in the follow up—they’re also busy people, with a tidal wave of things coming at them daily. So, it’s to your advantage to be as efficient as possible in delivering what you want to them, in a way that’s valuable to them. How do you do that? With data. Start with some analysis. Take your top ten clients and identify how you met them. Was it a referral? Did a current client introduce you? Did you meet them at a networking event? Identify if there are patterns, or if it’s totally random.
If there are patterns, repeat more of the activities that led to meeting clients. If your best clients come from referrals, identify where your best referral sources are. Does it make sense to set up more lunches? Should you be going to alumni events or reconnecting with law school friends? If your goal is to get more business from current clients, find out where they are spending their time, and how you can maximize those relationships. While in-person relationships are great, don’t forget about other ways to stay in touch—and use data here, too. How do your connections like to stay in contact? Which clients prefer email, phone calls, texting, Facebook messenger or Slack? You may need to keep this information in a spreadsheet or use some other form to track the data effectively. Track your activities over time—you’ve identified patterns, and you know what your goals are, so repeat events that you believe will lead to success and then follow up to see what works. Did setting up more lunches with referral sources lead to more referrals? How many lunches did it take? What was the return on your investment? How many networking events did you have to go to? Tracking these metrics will help you to see at a glance what activities are working effectively and which you should skip. There are a couple of points that I’d like to emphasize: Don’t get hung up on technology: Whenever you’re doing anything involving data, it can be tempting to get hung up on finding the right tool to track your activities and successes. The important thing isn’t the tool; it’s identifying what works and what doesn’t. It can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet.
Measure AND repeat your successes: It’s about looking at what your connections really care about—it may surprise you to see which activities are really working when you start to track them. Those lunches that you believed to be so successful may not be resulting in substantial enough work coming in, even if you really like the guy you’re meeting with. Tweaking the research you do before a networking event that you attend regularly increases the return you get because you connected with your top markets instead of just the people you enjoy chatting with. Engage with the data to see what works then to maximize the efforts that you’re putting in. Rather than insisting that your relationship building efforts will work because you’ve put in the effort, put in the effort to give your relationship building efforts a chance to work. The goal here is more than just making yourself popular; it’s creating sustainable, long-term relationships with clients who will return to you again and again. This doesn’t mean that you don’t try out new events and ideas, or even your tried and true favorites that don’t usually yield big results. But the idea is to build on what’s successful, what your connections show they want over what you think they might want, to make the most efficient use of your time and theirs. If it’s good enough for Netflix, shouldn’t it be good enough for you? n Lindsay Griffiths is the Director of Global Relationship Management at International Lawyers Network and is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network.
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We represent thousands of individuals all over the State of California and have recovered over $750,000,000 on behalf of our clients. We have the experience and the resources to handle any complex case. WHY PARTNER WITH OR REFER CASES TO SINGLETON LAW FIRM? 1. We Put Clients First 2. We Have Unmatched Experience Litigating Against Utility Companies
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Singleton Law Firm 450 A Street, 5th Floor, San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 771-3473 | email@example.com 8 ADDITIONAL OFFICES LOCATED THROUGHOUT CALIFORNIA: VENTURA, SAN FRANCISCO, SACRAMENTO, SANTA ROSA, MENDOCINO, CLEARLAKE, BUTTE & CALAVERAS Attorney Journals San Diego | Volume 196, 2019
Leaders as Coaches by Jeff Wolf
oaching plays a crucial role in keeping people engaged and committed. It brings out the best in them and helps remove obstacles to their success. Coaching is not about telling people what to do or how to do it; rather, you help people discover their own paths by encouraging and questioning. Help eliminate their roadblocks by asking questions like: With which past projects did you struggle? What steps will you take to achieve your goals? What excuses are you making? What’s holding you back? What have you tried since the last time we talked? Open-ended questions make people think through obstacles. And coaching shows that you care and are willing to share yourself with them. Use coaching to enhance the capabilities and performance of leaders, high-potential employees, and top producers. When leaders coach, people become more confident and motivated, which leads to higher performance and productivity. Leaders build relationships of trust when they support people to be all that they can be. Organizations with a strong coaching culture develop higher engagement and performance. A coach asks: What are my people’s strengths? What are their goals, their ambitions, their technical and managerial limits? At what do they excel? What are their weaknesses, their potential, their limitations, their directions? A coach works one-on-one with key employees to stop bad habits and start positive ones. Participants can discuss what’s working, and not working, in confidence, and the coach holds them accountable and supplies support. Coaching increases productivity, builds teamwork, motivates employees to elevate performance levels and helps them overcome obstacles to success. A great leader spends time working with individuals to see the blocks in their performances. A successful leader and effective coach are one in the same. People do not and will not change until they see the need to. A good coach listens to people to find ways to break down the barriers that keep them from reaching their full potential. They work with their people to outline a plan of action that clearly states the goals for improvement and accountability. Coaching helps people learn, grow, and change. It provides a powerful structure through which people can focus on specific outcomes, become more effective, and stay on track. 26
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Coaching requires you to master three skills: questioning that leads to understanding, structuring jobs correctly, and providing positive reinforcement. Effective questioning opens the door to understanding what’s on people’s minds. When you’re coaching somebody, ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no. You want the person you’re coaching to think about the answer. However, managers need to ask the right questions … questions that help employees realize their strengths, their failings, their needs and how they can best contribute to their organizations, and by extension to their abilities. Great coaches know the answers even when employees don’t. Armed with that knowledge, great coaches structure jobs and work environments that allow each individual to flourish. They provide resources and training. They continually monitor progress and provide feedback, knowing when to encourage but also when to be brutally honest. Praise and recognition for a job well done is often the positive reinforcement that works wonders. Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their employees. If people believe in themselves it’s amazing what they can accomplish, so give them well-deserved praise. In closing, coaching opens lines of communication to create a comfortable environment where performance issues can be discussed freely and without defensiveness. Leaders who are effective coaches have more successful teams, higher morale and, in most cases, better bottom-line results. The benefits of coaching include improved trust and morale, improved performance, skill development, innovation, productivity, confidence, motivation, better customer service, higher retention of key people, less stress, and applied potential. n Jeff Wolf is known as one of the country’s top business development coaches, is a highly sought-after consultant and has worked with hundreds of attorneys to become successful rainmakers. He has been featured on NBC, CBS, CNBC and FOX. As founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, he has built a valued practice that addresses the critical problems confronting lawyers and law firms today in the areas of business development, career development, skill development and firm development. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or in his San Diego office 858-638-8260.
GOING TO TRIAL – NEED EXPERIENCED HELP?
SPECIALIZING IN BET-THE-COMPANY CASES OVER 65 YEARS OF COMBINED EXPERIENCE REFERRALS/SUBSTITUTIONS ACCEPTED AT ALL STAGES OF LITIGATION, INCLUDING TRIAL • Complete defense jury verdict in real estate dispute and more than $400,000 collected for attorneys’ fees and costs in Batter v. McElhinney, et al. (2019)(Jason Kirby). • $2.1 million jury verdict for firm client in Doe v. San Diego Unified School District, et al. (2018)(Jason Kirby & Michael Kirby). • $1.1 million arbitration award for firm clients on cross-complaint after zeroing plaintiff on $6 million damage claim in Step Strategy Advisors v. Solid Gold Health Products for Pets, Inc., et al. (2018)(Jason Kirby lead counsel). • Michael Kirby received the 2019 Best Lawyers in America® distinction for (1) Bet-the-Company Litigation, (2) Commercial Litigation, (3) Litigation – Real Estate, and (4) Litigation – Securities.
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Asking Leading Questions in Job Interviews by Kirk Stange
iring law firm employees is a vital task. The employees you hire (or candidates you pass on) can go a long way toward the success of your law firm. One way to hire the best possible candidate is to hone your interviewing techniques. How an individual conducts a job interview is a critical skill for any law firm owner or manager to master if they are hiring employees and growing their practice. As an analogy, most lawyers with trial experience understand the difference between open-ended and leading questions. On direct examination at trial, trial lawyers are to ask openended questions ordinarily. During cross-examination, trial lawyers usually ask leading questions. Open-ended questions are those that begin with what, where, when, why and how. Cross-examination is where a lawyer generally asks a question that calls for a “yes” or “no” answer. During job interviews, the questions should almost always be open-ended, which means that the questions should begin with the words what, where, when, why and how. Open-ended questions call for the candidate to speak. It calls for them to explain why they want to work for your firm. It helps you learn about the candidate, their experience, their skills and their expectations. Learning to listen closely to the answers is vital in hiring the best candidate. The answers to open-ended questions give you valuable information inside the heart and mind of the candidate. On the other hand, if you lead the candidate by giving them questions that call for “yes” or “no” answers, you learn almost nothing. Any candidate with a brain will know the answer you want if you lead them and will merely feed it back to you. Those who conduct interviews are often tempted to lead witnesses when they are short on time, do not have many candidates and/or are in desperate need to fill a position. When a candidate gives a bad interview answer, there can also be a temptation to rehabilitate the candidate by leading them with a softball follow-up question where the candidate gets the chance to recant their prior response.
Attorney Journals San Diego | Volume 196, 2019
Sometimes, the questions can be framed as follows: “When you said that you would like to make X amount, would you take Y (lower amount) since that’s what this job actually pays?” “When you say that you want to work on X type cases, at our firm, you would actually be working on Y type cases. Is that okay with you?” “You said you wanted to work at X location within our firm, but our opening is actually in Y location. Would you be willing to work in Y location?” The problem is that while they may say “yes” to get the job, they might not stay long or be happy even if they accept a position. So, while you are feeling good that they are answering every leading question with a “yes,” the truth is that these candidates will often not work out if you hire them because you did not get candid answers. The harsh reality is the candidate may have said “yes” just to get the job. By asking leading questions like this, you are essentially feeding the candidate the right answer. Leading questions are the opposite of open-ended questions where you are getting the candidate to open up to you about their expectations, goals and aspirations without feeding them the answers. By asking open-ended questions, you can learn whether the candidate’s expectations match up with the ones you have for the position in your law firm. If the answers do not match up with your expectations for the position, do not give them easy leading questions to rehabilitate them. If the answer was unacceptable, it is almost always best to move on and find a candidate who is a better fit. n Kirk Stange founded Stange Law Firm, PC in 2007, with his wife Paola and has worked diligently to grow the firm to what it is today. In addition to practicing law, Kirk spends time educating attorneys and other law professionals at CLE Seminars through the Missouri Bar, myLawCLE, the National Business Institute and other organizations. To learn more, please visitstangelawfirm.com.
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