Category Archives: Management

Re-Elected to a Second, Three-Year Term on the Council of State Bar Sections

csbs-tombstoneOn the heels of being awarded a tombstone for completing my three-year term on the Council, I was re-elected to a second term.

This is unprecedented (probably because prior officers had the good sense not to run again!).  My co-officer, Mark Ressa, was also re-elected.  The unanimous view from our colleagues: Gluttons for punishment.

With no fee bill or resolution to the issue of de-unification/separation, these are extremely challenging times for the Sections.  It’s anybody’s guess how we’ll be structured a year from now.

Tombstone, indeed.

Doing the Splits!

Split Moon BWWow…I haven’t posted in two months.  Why not?  Well, the bulk of my *spare* time has been occupied with something called “Deunification“.  This isn’t actually a word, by the way (as your spellchecker will probably tell you), it’s what the State Bar of California – and the legislature – have adopted to describe the prospect of splitting the Bar in two; Regulatory on one side and Voluntary on the other.  If you want, you can refer to it by its official name, “Governance in the Public Interest Task Force“.

Every time I hear the word “Deunification”, I think of the Moonies.

Needless to say, this is by no means a simple process, and the educational Sections are caught in the middle of it.  The debate – as you can probably figure out – is over which side the Sections should occupy.

To put this in the form of an essay question on the Bar exam, it would be followed by this simple word:

“Discuss!” [‘bang’ added]

And we have been.  And we are.  And we will be, into the foreseeable future…

Guest Post – John Sadler: What Can You Learn About Teamwork By Playing in a Band?

John Sadler - Teamwork PNG

As a (former, recovering, retired) musician, I relate to this post by my friend, John Sadler:

Playing music in a band is a team activity that can be complicated by the ego issues and creative preferences of the band members, as well as role ambiguity. Over many years of playing music with other people, I’ve learned some behaviors that help a group work well together musically, and others that can make it fall apart. Many of those lessons port nicely to other team activities.

The biggest element of success in a band is to show respect for your bandmates. Other necessary conditions include:

Show up, on time – Clarinetist (among other vocations) Woody Allen has been quoted as saying that “Eighty percent of success is showing up”. It’s important to be dependable and do what you say you’re going to do. It’s equally important to pick bandmates who do the same.

Come prepared and in tune – don’t waste your bandmates’ time by playing your part poorly or wrong if you could have practiced it beforehand. Similarly, nobody wants to stand around while you set up and tune your instrument. If you have a complex kit, show up early and be ready to go when everyone else is.

Listen to the band – not just yourself. A great bandmate is a great listener, and will adapt his or her performance to make the band sound as good as possible. There is a lot to this. When you accompany, your job is to make the soloist sound great. What you don’t play is at least as important as what you do play. Leave space! (AKA silence). Get used to hearing yourself in the context of the band to get a feel for the right volume level. If you’re accompanying a soloist or a singer, make sure you’re not too loud – you may even lower your volume so the featured performer stands out in the mix. What sounds like the right volume when you practice may be way too loud in the context of a band. When you solo, you need to be a bit louder; more importantly, others need to back off. If in doubt. record the performance and listen carefully.

No drunks, no jerks – it’s hard enough to make great music without impairing your ability to think and perform. Give yourself every chance to have sound judgement and the best possible control over your actions. Check your ego at the door as much as possible – there needs to be honest give and take to make great music. You may think that you are a creative genius, but the odds are against it. Few team efforts are improved by verbal abuse, ego games, or infliction of emotional distress. A great band can rise above the limitations of its individual members if everyone is working well together.

Take mistakes in stride – the audience notices how you react to mistakesmuch more than the mistakes themselves. It’s OK to make a mistake. It’s not OK to call attention to it while performing. If someone makes a mistake (and everyone will) during practice, keep playing and have a critique at the end of the song. Remember that you will make mistakes as well – treat people kindly. They’re supposed to be your friends.

Everyone should have a chance to contribute ideas to improve the sound and performance. Everyone should be able to try ideas, especially during practice, that might result in a better sound. So mistakes have to be OK in order to perform at the highest possible level.

Expecting mistakes to happen and handling them with grace is a huge life skill. As bassist Victor Wooten points out in his excellent book The Music Lesson, a “good” note is never more than one fret away. Did you know that you can practice recovering from mistakes, the same as an astronaut practices dealing with emergencies?

Discuss and align your goals together – this one issue is responsible for the demise of many bands. You and your bandmates must agree on goals, whatever they may be, in order to form a cohesive team. If one person needs income or commercial success while the rest want to jam on the porch on a Sunday afternoon, you have a problem. You must decide what kinds of music you will play, what the roles of the members are – to name a few:

  • Who selects the material?
  • Who is the band leader?
  • How many soloists or lead singers are there?
  • Who are the song writers?
  • Who buys the beer? (Just kidding)

Finally, a couple of ideas for performance:

Play it the way you practiced it – Conversely, if you practice poorly, you will perform poorly. Good practice skills are highly underrated! Here’s one pointer that is easy to miss and hard to learn, but works exceptionally well: go slow to go fast. Practice only as fast as you can play smoothly and without mistakes. Speed up the tempo gradually. If you practice too fast, you will be teaching your muscle memory to make mistakes, and you will never play your part well. This general principle applies to almost any physical activity.

By the way, most great soloists practice their solos. Really. They don’t just step up and fake it unless they have to. Yes, there are exceptions, but I’ll bet they worked very hard to become exceptions.

Don’t stop until the song is over – Starting and stopping together are the second steps to sounding like a band (the first step is to play the same song together in the same key and tempo). You need to agree as a band on how you will know the song and tempo, how it will start, and how you will know when to end it. These things do not happen by magic. They happen by agreement, by knowing the material cold, and possibly by years of playing together.

Those are a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way by playing bands since I was a kid. I think many port nicely to the workplace. What do you think?

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About the Author

Reprinted by Permission.  Photo credit: Tomasz Budzyński.

1st Things 1st: The Litigation Hold Letter (A Blast from the Past)

J0309498 All – as part of my ‘repairs’, I’ve looked at some of the blog logs (say that 3x fast) and since this item was posted over six years ago, it’s still ranked as #1 on the site!  So, it seemed like this was the perfect opportunity to republish it.  The letter itself is slightly updated, but the post is reproduced verbatim:

Wow…this is my 100th post!  Who knew I could pontificate this long?

In analyzing the new California Electronic Discovery Act (I’m going to start calling it “CEDA” for short), I might as well start at the beginning.

The first thing that will occur if litigation arises?  There’ll be a bunch of litigation hold letters going around.  I say a bunch because it could manifest several ways; outside counsel to your adversary, outside counsel to inside counsel, inside counsel to the enterprise, the CIO/CTO to the IT department, the CEO to the CIO/CTO…you get the idea.  In some cases, as illustrated above, the letter may not even be coming from an attorney.

What might the letter look like?  Here’s an example of a litigation hold letter theoretically issued from outside counsel to an adversary (in PDF format).  The names were changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty, for that matter).

This is only a sample to give you an idea of what a letter of this kind might look like.  The purpose is to illustrate items you may or may not have thought about.  Like snowflakes, no two letters will ever be exactly the same.  Only a professional with personal knowledge of your specific requirements should ever create and/or issue a litigation hold letter.

Enough disclaimers?  Ok then…chew on this for a Monday.

LTWC 2015: From LA to SF!

 LTWC 2015
Have you heard?  Big changes are afoot for Legaltech West Coast 2015:

  1. The dates are July 13-14, 2015
  2. It's relocated to the Hyatt Regency
  3. That's the Hyatt Regency…in San Francisco!

How accommodating of them to move it to my new city.  I didn't realize I had that much pull.  Actually, it was great news when I found out about it a few weeks back because in 2014, I had to skip the conference for the first time in years – and it was looking the same way for 2015.

Registration is open.  Mark your calendars…and see you there!

Co-Chair of the Council of State Bar Sections

Bored-kitty

Geez.  Last year I was much more excited.  This year, my attitude is akin to that old football proverb; when you reach the endzone, act like you've been there before.

Still, for a guy who grew up in Calgary, Canada, it's an honor and privilege to ascend to the position of Co-Chair of the State Bar of California Council of State Bar Sections.  Even better?  My Co-Chair is the very talented Family Law atty Mark Ressa.

I look forward to a very challenging and exciting term ahead!

Yahoo! and the Robot (not Remote) Employee

MP900427654

Wouldn't the world be a perfect place if we simply followed every talking head who pontificates on a subject (yours truly excluded…)?  Of course, the goal doesn't usually involve the content of the story, but to create a bait headline that'll compel a reader to click-through (the shortest way to accomplish this: make them angry).  And what a perfect subject to select for this purpose; Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer rescinds remote privileges!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Then, the experts swoop in to tell us what she's really doing:

  1. Implementing a stealth layoff by pissing-off employees, who will then quit on their own,
  2. Discriminating against working moms (what about dads?),
  3. Taking us back to draconian times!

You get the idea…and you know what?  Every one of these claims might be true!  But, perhaps she is:

  1. Putting her arms around a human resources issue that's grown out of control,
  2. Fostering improved inter-company relations,
  3. Trying to better-assess a situation she can't see.

Mix & match as you like.  Does that mean I support the decision?  It's not about that.  I, like you, can easily cite detriments as well:

  1. More hours/dollars wasted on fuel, time and wear & tear sitting in traffic (I've been wondering whether the increase in traffic would actually be noticeable to outsiders),
  2. Less quality/leisure time with family, friends or hobbies,
  3. More pressure on significant other/spouse/parent to 'pick up the slack' of the Yahoo! employee (i.e. What I'm getting at is, suppose this particular employee is also a caregiver to an elderly parent; it ain't only about children, is it?)
  4. More pressure on single, unattached employee for similar reasons (there are only so many hours in the day for grocery shopping, errands and of course, appointments).
  5. Don't even get me started on morale…at least in the short term.
  6. Higher costs for Yahoo! as well; supporting all of these additional bodies on-site will have a marked effect on resources, such as electricity, maintenance, space allocation, furniture & supplies, etc.

I hate to quote Facebook, but:  It's complicated.

This is why it's extremely difficult to be a manager; too many cooks and Monday-morning quarterbacks.  My favorite is the propensity to quote studies about the benefits/detriments of working remotely.  You know what?  It's irrelevant except as it pertains to Yahoo!! (So, when I want to add a 'bang' to a sentence ending in the word "Yahoo!", is that how I do it?).

Of course, there is a place for statistics and studies as a general guide.  But what matters most is, how do these statistics and studies relate to the specific situation at Yahoo!?  There are a lot of factors involved, and I don't see too many of these articles wading very far into the weeds.

Last point; substitute any other name for Yahoo!  Same rules apply.

P.S.  I've included articles from people who do know the subject well – a lot better than I do, anyway (e.g. Richard Branson) but I think his particular comments answer his own concerns:

"To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A
big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they
are, without supervision
." [Italics added].

Two questions:

  1. Is it possible that Yahoo! harbors irrational mistrust of their employees?
  2. Is it possible that some employees have abused Yahoo!'s trust?

It could be one, both or neither.  I wonder how this will play out in the months leading up to implementation?  I wonder what things will look like six months after implementation?

Did Netflix CEO Violate Regulation “FB”?

MP900422415If you've already seen the headlines, you know that Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, has received a Wells Notice from the SEC.  They're considering taking action on a violation of Regulation FD due to an alleged 'material' disclosure on Facebook that Hastings posted to his 200,000+ subscribers back in July 2012.

The gist of the issue?  The SEC claims that those subscribers received an unfair advantage because they had access to the information in advance of the general public; and presumably traded based on that information.  Naturally, Hastings' view is contra.

Is it a violation?  I dunno.  We're going to see more of these issues arise as social media continues to wend its way into the corporate mainstream.

CalBar Board Committee of Member Oversight Clarifies Definition of Acceptable MCLE


MP900403638As I wrote on July 24th, 2012:

"The State Bar of California Board Committee on Member Oversight seeks
to amend the definition of what qualifies for proper MCLE credit in the
state of California.  Apparently, some confusion has arisen regarding
whether CLE programs may only contain substantive law versus whether they may encompass other ares of law practice and/or law practice management."

On November 15th, 2012, the Board of Member Oversight voted to amend the education standards in MCLE rules 2.52(A) and 3.601(A), effective January 1st, 2013.  To be specific, they voted to change one
word, as illustrated below:

“The activity must relate to legal
subjects directly relevant to members of the State Bar and or
have significant current professional and practical content.”

This is great news for MCLE providers in the State of California – and my Law Practice Management and Technology Section, specifically – because effective January 1st, 2013, we may provide to you,
State Bar membership at large and the public:

  • Topics related to business or financial management of a law firm;
  • Topics
    related to law office operation, including but not limited to facilities, staffing,
    systems and equipment;
  • Topics
    related to creation and improvement of legal case work and work flow
    management, including time management of attorneys and support staff, and
    delegation of responsibility;
  • Topics
    related to the competent delivery of legal services and/or the establishment
    and maintenance of effective law office management;
  • Topics
    related to communications by and between attorneys and support staff
  • Topics
    related to the use of computer and/or Internet technology in the practice of
    law
    or the management of a law office
    .
  • Topics
    related to the lawful and ethical management of a law office’s financial
    accounts including client trust accounts.
  • Topics
    relating to lawful and ethical client fee agreements, fee sharing and referral
    arrangements.

My favorite is highlighted; considering this is a law technology blog, of course.  It's a win-win for all concerned.

It’s Fun, Until Someone Loses an i

MP900427743Heard any negative news coming from Apple, lately?

You've got this great, new O/S, iOS6 and you've got this great, new iPhone 5 causing excitement everywhere.  And, you just happen to be on the team that developed the new 'Maps' software – which is destined to knock Google Maps off of your devices.  Oh…one more detaiL…the thing is obviously not ready for prime time.

Imagine being in the rollout meetings.  What do you do?  Are you going to be the one to tell the boss that they should hold the release?  I wonder if anyone actually tried to do that (and kept their head).  Of course, you may also enter an alternative universe in which you:

  1. Convince yourself that, contrary to the information in front of you, your product is the "Best Maps app ever!"
  2. Convince yourself that only a few people rely on Maps and it won't be a big deal if it isn't 'perfect'
  3. Ignore the issues entirely and release it, anyway

Did Apple choose door #3?  Inertia is difficult to contravene; after all, a body in motion stays in motion.  I'm pretty sure, based on the fallout, if Apple had the opportunity for a do-over, they'd seriously consider another path.  Pretty sure…they do have a history of a, "Damn the torpedoes!" attitude; but, they're certainly not alone.

Lesson #1 – Never replace a superior product with an inferior one.  Even if your product is 'adequate', customers will already have been 'spoiled' by the previous experience and expect an equal – or greater – experience (otherwise, why switch?).  This will only serve to augment the replacement product's shortcomings, as if one trained a magnifying glass on them.

Hey, I'm not a billionaire…I'm sure Apple isn't particularly interested in my opinion.  However, I did notice how quickly the company gave out the name of the manager in charge of developing the app…

As the Beastie Boys suggest, Check Your Head.