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Post #629 – Monday, October
Some Surprising Findings
About RFP Responses
Between July 23 and August
3, LexisNexis conducted an extensive survey measuring the
level of RFP activity underway within law firms. After all, many corporate
legal departments have embraced the use of RFPs and other competitive bidding
mechanisms to identify, vet and engage outside counsel.
One of the more revealing
finding of this survey was that 146 (41%) of 359 survey
participants simply did NOT know the level of RFP activity underway at their
firms – how many RFPs, pitches or proposals their firm responds to on a monthly
basis. Given today’s economic climate,
you would expect that RFP-type activities would be more top-of-mind for every
law firm – and especially for firms of over 500 attorneys in size!
0 – 50 Attorneys: 9% of Respondents / 11% Didn’t Know RFP
51 – 100 Attorneys: 24% of Respondents / 21% Didn’t Know RFP
101 – 300 Attorneys: 42% of Respondents / 30% Didn’t Know RFP
301 – 500 Attorneys: 9% of Respondents / 14% Didn’t Know RFP
Over 500 Attorneys: 16% of Respondents / 24% Didn’t Know RFP
Overall, firms are responding to an average of 5 to 16 proposals
each month with larger firms engaged in a higher volume of RFP activities than
their counterparts in smaller firms. Meanwhile, responding to RFPs, pitches and
proposals puts a strain on practice resources.
Number of Proposals By Firm
Size and Average Hours Per Proposal
101 – 300 Attorneys: 96 Proposals / 22.39 Hours Per Proposal
301 – 500 Attorneys: 132
Proposals / 24.61 Hours Per Proposal
Over 500 Attorneys: 192 Proposals / 25.00 Hours Per Proposal
It’s interesting to note that, on average, larger firms tend to
devote more time to each proposal activity than smaller firms. There don’t
appear to be any efficiencies or economies of scale for handling proposal work
attributable to larger firms.
Other survey highlights
• For all the time and effort devoted to RFPs, pitches and
proposals, only 58% of respondents verified they bother to track wins and
losses. 25% placed themselves in the “don’t know” or “maybe” category; and 17%
were willing to admit they do NOT track.
• 42% saw an increase in RFP activity at their firms over the past
12 months; and an identical 42% believe the volume of RFP activity has stayed
Post # 628 – Monday, October
Advice On Incentives And
A great little tid-bit on
Bob Sutton’s (Work Matters) blog is well worth thinking seriously about. According to Bob:
I heard something last week at the dinner in
Menlo Park that especially caught my ear -- from none other than Brandi Chastain, the Olympic Women's Soccer
gold medal winner and world champion, who still plays soccer seriously and now
often works as a sports broadcaster for ABC and ESPN. The award winners
at Menlo Park were each asked to describe the best advice they ever
received. Brandi began by talking about her grandfather and how crucial
he was to her development as a soccer player and a person. Brandi said that he had a little reward
system where she was paid $1.00 for scoring a goal but $1.50 for an assist --
because, as she put it, "it is better to give than receive."
I love that on so many levels. I helped coach girls soccer
teams for some years, and getting the star players to pass was often
tough. And moving into the world of organizations, as Jeff Pfeffer and I
have been arguing for years, too many organizations create dysfunctional
internal competition by saying they want cooperation but behaving in ways that
promote selfish behavior. Chastain's grandfather applied a simple
principle that can be used in even the most sophisticated reward systems -- one
that I have seen used to good effect in places ranging from General Electric,
to IDEO, to McKinsey.
Post #627 – Monday, October
The Sad Truth About Housing
Last week an interesting
little news piece caught my attention. Federal
Reserve Board governor Elizabeth Duke is reported to have said that the U.S.
has an “extraordinary” level of abandoned properties that will inflect heavy
costs on the wider community and government aid may be needed.
Now if you are like me,
we’ve all been reading recently about how the housing industry has finally hit
the bottom and how things are starting to rebound . . . and how this rebound and
raising real estate prices are indicative of an improving economy (have another look at my Post #618 - Hope For The Best, Prepare For The Worst). So, what’s this all about and what does an
“extraordinary” level of abandoned properties mean?
Well, digging deeper, Ms.
Duke informs us that vacant homes for sale have fallen. (At first blush one would conclude that that
sounds like good news.) They have fallen
from a 2 million peak in 2010 to 1.6 million in the second quarter of
2012. But, Ms Duke also points out,
“there are still 2½ times as many vacant homes available in the US, just not
Now that concluded this
little news report from Reuters, but let’s do some math to determine what this
all means to our economy going forward.
Let’s imagine a best-case
scenario in that when Ms. Duke referred to 2010, we will assume she was
referring to the end of 2010, (18 months ago) and not the beginning of 2010 (30
months ago). If, as she reports, they
were able to dispose of 400,000 vacant homes for sale over the course of 18
months, that would amount to roughly, 23,000 homes per month. We now have 1.6 million plus 4 million (2½
times) or 5.6 million total vacant properties remaining to dispose of. If we were to maintain disposing of 23,000
per month (highly doubtful, but this is a best case scenario after all) we
could rid ourselves of this inventory in . . . (wait for it) . . . about 243 months, OR in 20 years, OR by July 2032.
And, by the way, this does
not take into account those properties still occupied (not abandoned) and in
foreclosure proceedings, or those properties that continue to remain financially
Post #626 – Thursday, October 4, 2012
Looking At It From
The Client’s Perspective
In discussions this past week with the members of a newly
formed practice group, we were exploring the various ways in which to
effectively market their offerings. From
those discussions we concluded that there are at least five ways in which you
can start to identify your clients’ unmet needs and create opportunities for
What makes your clients most frustrated when they are trying
to use you or some competitive firm’s legal services?
What compromises do clients have to make in order to get the
results that they are after, and how could you innovatively address those compromises?
3. If Only
What would absolutely transform your clients’ experience, if
only you had the means to make it happen?
4. Haves and
What can Fortune 50 clients afford to do, that those of your
clients on tighter budgets can not afford?
How could you help these clients turn a dream into reality?
5. Technology and Convergence
What changes in technology are emerging, and how could you
link them with your services to create entirely new client solutions?
Post #625 - Tuesday, September 25, 2012
The Firm Leader – COO Team
Following on my last Webinar
in July covering the subject of how to go about ‘Selecting Your New Firm Leader,’ I’m delighted to be following on
that theme with a new event, scheduled for November 13 to discuss the sensitive
balancing act that every firm leader faces in sharing management responsibility
with their COO/Executive Director.
web-based discussion draws on in-depth research exploring approaches and behaviors
that build and maintain highly effective teams - including real life, concrete
examples, tips and tools for bringing the key ingredients to life in your firm
- including analysis of what this research reveals as being the critical
missing elements in cases where the relationship is "something less than
This webinar will cover:
• The importance of the
Firm Leader and COO developing a shared understanding of where each other's job
begins and ends - and what they each need to do in order to back each other up.
• The 14 distinctive
characteristics of highly effective Firm Leader - COO teams grouped into three
areas: communication, common approaches and shared relationship
• Establishing effective
working protocols and coordinating approaches so you aren't stepping on each
other's toes; and
• How to manage your
respective egos - from taking your bows together even though you may feel that
you did the lion's share of the work
Joining me for the Webinar
will be John Michalik, former Executive Director at the Association of
Legal Administrators and author of The Extraordinary Managing Partner:
Reaching the Pinnacle of Law Firm Management.
information is available from Ark Conferences
#624 – Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Be A Meaning Maker
is popular folklore these days to insist that our firm leaders be some
kind of visionary, or strategic thinker.
Maybe we would do better by simply asking them to be meaning-makers!
is a meaning-maker?
Those are firm leaders who . . .
continually talk about the importance of each professional. They find ways to honor the unique strengths
of each individual while coaching that professional and helping them find
opportunities to become even more successful.
continually talk about the future of the firm in ways that makes others not
want to be left behind. They use words
that re-define the future as one of exciting possibilities and beckoning
continually talk about the contributions that the firm makes to its
communities, to pro bono endeavors, to the economy, and how it enhances the
lives of clients, partners, staff and their families.
are the firm leaders who talk about the firm's work as a "calling," a
calling worthy of its members' very best efforts and talents.
Post #623 – Wednesday,
September 19, 2012
Student Loans – Another Bubble Ready To Pop!
Get Ready. The
fallout from the student loan crisis will hit in mid-2013, four years after the
volume of government-funded student loans surged. Like the infamous option ARMs (adjustable-rate
mortgages) during the housing bubble, these loans have precisely timed fuses:
Four years after the loans are made, borrowers must start making payments.
So, imagine it is May 2013 on an ivy-draped college campus.
Your child just graduated with a degree
in English. In 2009, your child borrowed
$50,000 from the US Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program. Job searches for teaching and journalism
positions have been fruitless. Within a
matter of weeks, your child must start making loan payments on a waiter’s wages
Signing up for a huge student loan was a mistake. Everyone had assumed a certain type of job
market would exist four years into the future. The lender — the US government — has long
subsidized unsustainable activity.
According to Labor Department statistics, 1.9 million Americans between
the ages of 20 and 24 not in school are officially unemployed. The size of this age group working part time
is the biggest since 1985.
Unless recent college grads hold degrees in
high-demand fields like computer science, engineering or geology, they aren’t
finding jobs; they aren’t buying new cars; they aren’t starting families; and
they aren’t buying houses, absorbing the excess supply in a sluggish housing
The US Department of Education has become the
Countrywide of student lending. After a
lending binge started in 2009, it now holds a massive $452 billion portfolio of
student loan receivables, according to Federal Reserve data. This so-called “asset” will become a liability
by next year. A huge percentage of these
loans will go bad or have to be restructured.
When that happens, Congress will have to appropriate money to make up
for the loan-payment shortfall. What was
quietly off budget will soon make a big splash on the federal budget. You may expect defaults on government student
loans to reach tens of billions of dollars per year starting in late 2013.
Like Countrywide, the government is not honestly
accounting for its portfolio risks. This
$452 billion portfolio doesn’t even include a few hundred billion more in guaranteed
student loans. The exploding deficit
will force the Federal Reserve to not only keep rates at zero for the rest of
the decade, but also to print trillions more dollars in order to buy the
Treasury bonds floated to fund these deficits.
Post #622 – Wednesday,
September 19, 2012
The CEO of Tomorrow
What will CEOs be like 20 years from now? CEO.com went ahead and asked them. After
surveying more than 2400 students aspiring to the C-suite, they discovered what
they thought about education, entrepreneurship, management style, and social
media, as well as what their top priorities really were. Here are a few highlights:
• According to the students
surveyed, the most important characteristic for CEOs to have is:
29% Experience in Leadership
14% People skills
in the industry
Yes, these results are
correct. Education and intelligence scored dead last and that high score for
passion is almost reminiscent of the thinking that drove the dot com bust. But then I could just be reflecting the
sentiments of my age. So, let’s try
another . . .
• When asked to choose what
their primary concerns would be over the next decade, the CEOs of tomorrow
revealed the following as their top priorities:
53% IT Security
48% Corporate Social Responsibility
47% Mobile Technology
44% Social Media
38% Talent Retention
37% Increasing Costs and Taxation
35% Data Storage
18% The Cloud
I don’t know about you, but
the foresight displayed in this list might have been slightly inspiring had it
been compiled in 1999, but looking into the future . . .
We’re in for an interesting
generational shift in the thinking of our organizational leadership. Again, just my opinion.
#621 – September 6, 2012
It has been a crazy few weeks with all day sessions for both practice group leaders ("Firing On All Cylinders" workshop) and for new firm leaders ("First 100 Days" masterclass), both held recently at the University of Chicago. But the feedback received from participants always makes it all worthwhile.
I received these sample comments from a couple of practice group leaders:
“I enjoyed the practical
tips. Patrick really understands law firm cultures and was responsive to specific
questions and situations.” Kerrin Slatery – McDERMOTT
WILL & EMERY
“This was extraordinarily
helpful. Much more helpful than a
similar event I went to at the Harvard Business School. It has given me some terrific insights that I
intend to implement immediately.” Scott Turner – NIXON PEABODY
And we received these gracious comments from a couple of those at the First 100 Days session:
“I was struck by the synthesis of the issues you presented. It was amazingly clear and comprehensive,
given the breadth of the topic and the short time available. I was delighted to attend the event and I
learned a lot from it.” Hugh
Verrier, Chairman – WHITE & CASE
good session. A lot of good ideas to
take away. This Masterclass puts
into perspective the scope of duties and responsibilities associated with the
position and gave me a workable framework to deal with them.” Thomas J. Bender,
Co-Managing Director – LITTLER MENDELSON
A huge thank you to all who invested the time to join us at the University.
Post # 620 – Monday, August 20, 2012
Social Media is Now Among Top Areas of Risk
It is interesting how seemingly harmless social networking activities
don’t hint at the dangers many are discovering with social media.
Exhibit One: I
noted that with the advent of more law firms appointing or hiring internal
pricing professionals to work with their practice groups and lawyers, someone
decided that maybe it would make sense to launch a Linkedin group exclusively
dedicated to allowing these professionals to network and discuss common
issues. The initial thought was
immediately greeted with responses from many warning about the possible
anti-trust implications involved with sharing information or being perceived to
be potentially discussing subjects that were entirely, shall we say:
Exhibit Two: I’ve
just completed an assignment with an AmLaw 100 firm assisting the elected Board
with the selection of their next managing partner. As part of the process we had hundreds of
partners providing anonymous feedback to me (as the objective third party) on
one or all of the four candidates. Part
way into the process it dawned on a couple of the board members that special
precautions should be taken to prevent any commentary from leaking and then
potentially going viral. The “viral”
aspect of social media – a comment’s ability to go worldwide in a very short
amount of time – is what can make social media a conduit for unintended
embarrassment and risk.
Exhibit Three: A
new survey of US executives, including many at multinational companies, found
social media is one of the top five risks that organizations now face. The Deloitte's report: Aftershock:
Adjusting to the New World of Risk Management claims that 27% of survey
respondents predict that social media is among their most important risk sources
over the next three years. The global
economic environment (41%), government spending (32%) and regulatory changes
(30%), respectively, were the top three expected risks identified by executives
in the survey – and the only ones named by a higher percentage of respondents
than social media. “Social media wasn’t even on the radar a few years ago –
now it’s ranked among the top five sources of risk,” Henry Ristuccia,
Governance, Regulatory & Risk leader at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited,
said in a news release. “The rise of
social media is just another contributor to the volatile global risk
environment that companies are being forced to navigate.”? ?
Recognizing the risk may be the first step toward managing it. That said, does your firm have any plan for
how it would respond to a crisis that goes “viral” through some social media network?
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