Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The End of Books


It’s the million dollar question. As I talk with attorneys about potential career moves you can almost anticipate that they want me to ask it. They need me to ask it. They get asked it all of the time. Most hope that I don’t ask it. Why? Because no one knows the answer.

Let me be clear, I hate the question too. Firms want me to ask it, so I do…eventually.

Firms have gotten very smart about creating uncertainty around what people can claim as “their book”. Bring a client in and have 8 other people work on all facets of that clients needs. Smart, good business. After a team works successfully on a few deals, knows the people involved, has domain expertise of the client, trying to be the one attorney that takes that client will most likely result in a rock fight on the way out.

So the refrain goes, I brought in X amount over the last few years, but I can’t tell you how much, if any, is portable. That not knowing will slam the breaks on a prospective firms 30 pages of diligence that they need to determine if they are interested in bringing you into the fold. So you are a great attorney…if we cant measure it, we cant manage it. If we can’t manage it, then you aren’t worth it.

Books should be about stories though. What you have done over the last 3-5 years or over a career says a lot about how you have developed your character. Are you a role player or hero? Have you failed miserably in a way that has ultimately lead you to succeed? What has held the character back? What does the character need to move the story forward?

You can show originations and WIP for the last 3 years in a Tweet.

The question will not go away. Just like a mutual fund prospectus shows performance over the last few years, the disclaimer also says that it is not a guarantee of future performance. We have to start somewhere though.

As you evaluate opportunities use the exercise to formulate what you need and frankly what you don’t. If you are seeking a romance novel, don’t go shopping in the horror section. If you seek bill rate flexibility, other practice areas to leverage, specific firm culture, geographic footprint, etc. All of those things go to your list of requirements. This will tighten your list of suitors based on what you will tolerate or not.

Paint a picture of what you would look like to that firm over first couple of months (resources needed, clients to cross-sell with, practice groups to engage, marketing) to a year and 5 years in. Create an outline that everyone can use to fill out the story.

Firms WANT to know what you have done in the past with another firm, but they NEED to know how you will do that and more with them.

This is the time of year to start putting that story down on paper whether considering a move or kick-starting your practice where you are.

If you are looking for a new start to your story, contact me at: Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com, 850-274-7849

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pepper

When you grow up as the child of a nurse, you go into the world armed with a lot of information that is useful, petrifying, and some of it fun at parties.

Nurses tend to diagnose everyone and share the findings at Thanksgiving dinner, when they meet your prom date, and with other parents on the bleachers at baseball games. If two or more of them are together you can pretty much leave them alone for hours as they share war stories.  The favorite refrain being, “Does this bother you.?  Guess I don’t think anything of it.”

She’d leave the house for a double shift with chores written in shorthand and with the understanding that if she didn’t work, we didn’t eat. So if I’m sick, I BETTER be sick. 

Being a kid with asthma stinks, but has its advantages.  If you don’t want to do something anymore you just say you cant breath and you sort of get a pass.  However, the 2 or 4 am rushes to Broward General weren’t as fun.  The drug of choice, which has since been banned, was Primatene Mist.  When that didn’t work and mom needed a solution at 2 am, she first reached for pepper.  I’d sniff it and start sneezing like crazy. This would probably get a call from DCF now, but the simple solution was to sneeze a lot, clear my head, calm down, and breathe again.

When you are a kid with asthma, you grow up to be an adult that doesn’t take breaths for granted.  You try and fail and learn and succeed but thinking it to death is like having pepper when you cant breath and waiting for clinical trials on a wonder drug.

Years later I had “outgrown” asthma.   Travelling in Arizona at 2 am something hit me though.  Something in the environment that shot my eyes wide open and took me back 25 years.  Desperate for air, no inhaler in site.  My back hurt from the gasping.  Emergency room in a foreign city, deep Tony Robbins cleansing breathes, or get downstairs and find some pepper. 

I walked toward the door and looked to the counter.  You would have thought that I was Scarface as I poured the 2 small packets out and went all Martin Short in Inner space to sneeze (good luck ever tying those two movies together again)

Firms spend a lot of money on people that “know more” and promise solutions.  Is your firm gasping for air?  Maybe the attorney that you had in mind to take over just left. Your growth is based on bringing on more people with revenue.  Trim a group.  It’s all ways to catch your breath.

Sometimes desperation seeks the simple solution, and knowing the symptoms makes it easier to find the cure.

Does your practice need a miracle cure or do you just need to catch your breath?

Let me pass you the pepper..


Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com

Thursday, April 28, 2016

WHY THE THINGS WE DO

Think for a moment about the great law firms that you know. Why are they great?

Now think of the best attorneys that you know (other than yourself of course). Why are they great?

In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek asserts that the organizations that outpace all others start with the Why (Purpose), then ask How (Process), and end up with What (Result).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sioZd3AxmnE

However, law firms and potential lateral candidates usually are at inverse ends of this model. 

Law firms want to know “what” portable business an attorney has.  If it’s big enough, then “how” is it built.  Types of clients, practice areas, bill rates, leverage.  If a candidate passes through those hoops then, “Why” would they be lucky enough to join such an amazing law firm as ours filled with such legally skilled rainmaking firepower.

The question becomes, why would anyone that has that kind of practice and book of business ever be compelled to leave their firm?  Certainly, firms do their homework.  They know what the market bears in compensation.  Some pay higher base, lower bonus.  Others pay lower base, higher bonus, but the days of going across the street for substantially more on a book of business are fewer and fewer.  In fact, so many firms have been burned on promised or historical revenue that the chances are you may have to take the same or less than you currently make.

Past performance doesn’t guarantee future success as the stock disclaimer reads.  Firms are buying a snapshot of when an attorney is trading at their highest returns, rather than picking based on fundamentals and investing in their professional growth.

The attorneys that make the move have to know WHY. WHY is the story that reduces the risk.  The painting of the picture in that firms model that gets them from where they are to where they want to be. The How and What of a firm is a Google search. Websites with city pictures, attorneys smiling looking busy while standing in front of bookshelves, and accolades.  Drop down boxes with office locations, practice areas, and snappy graphics. 

Chances are when I asked, why you thought a firm was great, it wasn’t because they have 20 offices and a thousand attorneys.

Just like when you think of a great attorney, it probably has little to do with their revenue.

The WHY is the alignment of firm and attorney with culture, values, aspirations, practice, clients, colleagues, etc.  It’s not the secret sauce, it’s the reason for the secret sauce.

With more firms going to a teaming approach, less certainty can be given on who and what clients would leave with anyone.  Smart if you are the firm, but it also means that they are going after a shrinking percentage of legitimate rainmakers that everyone else is trying to lure.

Last week I spoke with an AM Law 50 client that gets it.  They said find us the best talent that we can catch on the way up, and we will give them the resources or the “how” and we will watch “what” grows.  That takes time and investment.  A 10-20 year vision rather than a 1-3 year.

Clients can buy WHAT you do from a variety of attorneys.  Firms can hire rainmakers for HOW they develop their business.  Both can be commoditized.  If you don’t believe me, raise your bill rate by $100/ hour or demand a big raise.

Silek states “People don’t buy what you do.  They buy WHY you do it.”
So WHY do you do it, and are you with a firm that gets it?

Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Presents

A few weeks ago I got to go to a high school football game with a good friend. One of the top rivalries in the country and a school that he went to. Fifteen thousand people, tickets on the 50, perfect weather, the home band has over 400 members and they and the visiting band filled the field before kickoff. I jokingly asked…”Did we really HAVE to be here an hour early?” He said, “HAVE to? You GET to..!”

What a perfectly simple way to look at this time of year.

Around Halloween you take a look ahead and the activity calendar fills up pretty quick. Thanksgiving, shopping, singing Christmas trees, parties, sporting events, travel, family events, religious services. From one busy to the next. From one choice to the next. One opportunity to the next.

This time of year brings out the best and the worst of emotions.

Maybe you just remember how the holidays made you feel. Maybe yours was the Facebook update family with all of the perfectness, or this time of year can have toxic memories.

Rarely, when you recall the holidays when you were 7, 17, 27, etc can you recall a specific present that someone gave you. There are always the big ones. Maybe the bike or the toy that you really wanted.

The biggest presents are the times when someone forgave or showed grace and kindness when you didn’t deserve it. It didn’t cost money, but carried a burden. Your present to others can be the same. Not because you HAVE to, but because you GET to.

If love is spelled by the closest ones to you, T.I.M.E, then give it. Not because you HAVE to, because this life is short, you can’t take it with you, and you GET to.

Moments are captured rather than enjoyed. On a device, to be seen years later and probably deleted, rather than experienced at the moment.

I wish you all of the blessings of the season and that your greatest Present given and received from the ones that you care about the most is Presence.

Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Silos

On a drive to Atlanta a few weeks ago I was struck by the similarities from farm country to downtown. Both have tall silos that hold valuable resources, tied to measurable market conditions, that stand alone next to each other, and hold perishable material if not used in a timely manner.

Of course silos downtown house people, knowledge, and technical resources that can measure market conditions, and in theory, act. Cultivate your resources, brand it, price it accordingly.

The problem is that within most offices there are several silos on the same floor, perhaps in the office next door. All separate, all different pricing, all different clients, all different need of resources. Protected like a farmer protecting their crop.

When speaking with firms about cross-marketing I either get a chuckle or a plan. The ones that do it effectively get granular in their metrics (but in a way that everyone understands), incentivize, and only hire or retain people that buy into that culture. They train associates to become client developers and communicate constantly.

There are plenty of “eat what you kill” firms. Not many are going to the top of the AM list.

The inverse is the firm mindset that, “If we train associates to develop their own business they will just leave..” So what happens when they become partners and need to have clients? Great attorneys that may have never had a business discussion in their lives are told that their career is on the line to do something that they have never been asked to do before.

Other favorites:

“As a litigation partner, if a corporate matter comes in I have no idea who to go to..”

“I only get paid on my originations that I work, no incentive to bring anyone else in, and if I did they would probably try and poach my clients..”

Getting new clients is hard enough. Why always chase new ones? The firms that take their talents and multiply them start out doing a percentage of work and leveraging other practice areas from their firm or network into that client to help manage their risk.
The price for services becomes a value when risk is reduced. Otherwise it’s just a cost...and there is always someone to do it cheaper and faster.

How can you tear down the silos in your environment and utilize the rich resources that are right around you?

Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Broadcast Delay

In 1952 WKAP in Allentown, PA introduced a concept of a tape delay by 6 seconds because they wanted to add live calls to their on air format. The delay was simple in that they spaced the playback tape reel along rollers from the record reel. The time that it took to get from origin to broadcast was 6-7 seconds.

Now the delay is digitized and is used for sporting events, news, and any time Kanye West gets near a TV camera. The idea is to filter out the bloopers, profanity, etc.

With the political debates beginning and pundits taking batting practice it got me thinking how valuable this tool would be if we all had a 6-7 seconds from origin of thought to broadcast.

Think how many fewer divorces there would be, how many arguments, how many “oops” moments in a day. Imagine if emails and texts couldn’t be sent for 6-7 seconds from when your finger hovers over the send button. Would people have to misread intentions? Instead we are stuck with adding smiley faces and emojis to messages like we are writing in some sort of modern hieroglyphics just not to hurt someone’s feelings. Sure I called you an offensive name, but I added :) so you cant be mad.

In reality, the inverse is true. People don’t use the 6-7 seconds to listen, reflect, and respond. Being first and having the answers, right or wrong, is the norm. If there are 6-7 seconds it’s to craft the perfect zing or Tweet. #GOTCHA. #Whohas2thumbsandissmarterthananyoneelse.

Reflective conversation is a gift…at times. Everyone has that friend that is completely unfiltered and gets away with it. Well that’s just Joe.

I would assert seconds 5-7 are where the coddling or politically correct words get formed. When you can actually see people contort themselves to try and frame and qualify every word and statement to the point where you want to shake them and say, ”JUST SAY IT!”

Maybe it would be easier to just say the first thing that comes to mind and just finish every sentence with “Bless your heart.” Joe is just touched in the head, bless his heart.

“My fellow candidate for office is clearly a racist, puppy hating, deviant, who doesn’t think the rules apply to him…bless his heart.”

That seems easier than defining what a “micro aggression” or “trigger warning” is. Seriously, Google it, then wait for your head to explode.

Or to paraphrase the 80’s song, “Do what you say, say what you mean, one thing leads to another.” No delay needed.

To discuss your client development messaging contact, Andrew Wilcox, Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com, 850-629-9073

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father Time



Young dad walks up the aisle of a flight to some well planned out trip. The kids excitedly skip up the aisle drawing smiles. Mom has the monogrammed bag with some snacks, a travel mag and the equivalent of the "Presidential football" in hand. Dad looks like he is off to war. Every finger holds a bag, stroller, backpack, diaper bag, extra bag in case the airlines lose the main bags, and his laptop. Exhausted already, and set to cram a lost year into 5 or 6 days, the man in his 80's sitting next to him taps him on the arms and says.."You're doing good, son.."

You would have thought the young dad just heard the Gipper speech. Dads don't get that affirmation often. If Moms are the family quarterback, dads are the lineman. It's about the blocking and tackling. Lineman rarely make the ESPN top 10 highlights. The good ones just go to work everyday with a servants heart in hopes of making the team better.

A few days later, I noticed something on my family trip, a clear view through the back window. No strollers, potties, diaper bags. Just a sinking feeling as I looked at my daughters that time is moving WAY too fast.

Maybe all dads think this way. Maybe parental guilt for dads is a new thing. I don't remember my dad sharing a pain for the times he wasn't around during the week when I saw him on the weekends. Beyond football and mundane subjects most dads don't. He just did the blocking and tackling. Made the ballgames, showed how to cook a steak, replace the tires and get a tune up before your 16 year old drives alone for the first time, and said he was proud of me.

A few years ago I was part of Men's Fraternity by Robert Lewis. He said that kids need to know 3 things from their dads. You love them. You are proud of them. They are good at..____.

I saw successful grown men break down that never heard that from their dads. Some men spend their days chasing affirmation from a dad that died years before, and fail to offer that affirmation to their kids. So much lost time and wasted talk.

Spending the weekends with my dad left all week to seek mischief. The great dads reach out to those kids without realizing it. To this day, I call the Bursa's friends. Brian manages the Tampa office of Lewis Brisbois. He ran with my brothers, I ran with his brothers. Sports, scouts, school. Brian's dad, Big Ed worked 6 days a week, but never missed a game. Every few years he'd have to come by my house. Until the age of 72, he cleaned septic tanks and I never saw him without a smile on his face. In fact, he had heart problems at 62 and worked 10 years with congestive heart failure until the family made him retire. 3 kids graduated with advanced degrees, 2 others own businesses, and their mom stayed home playing quarterback. He moonlighted at a convenience store and still worked there for 6 months after being held up at gunpoint, and he did it with a smile.

I don't know if he ever had parental guilt or just was the bridge between a Pennsylvania farm family and his kids.

Doing what he wished he could always do. Good dads try to make the next generations life just a bit better. They walk the house one last time to check the locks, take a hand when words are tough to come by, drop off close to the door in the rain, hug for the heck of it, make funny noises, inappropriate aromas, and quietly worry to the core of their being for their kids. They are giants in spite of what the latest sitcom tries to portray them as.

Guys talk without talking in many ways. Younger men approach the tee and hit the ball with every ounce of energy looking to impress, often leading to failure. There is something older men have learned about hitting the ball 150 yards at a time and playing for par. It takes a while to settle a restless boys soul into a dad bod.

Some dads are worthy of the Greatest Dad shirts, some arent. If your dad wasn't, forgive him, even if he isn't around to hear it. If he is, a few words will make him think that he heard the Gipper speech, don't waste them on sports and filler talk. Father Time is short and cruel, but it's the best time of you and your dads life.

Psalm 145:4

Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com.