Archive for May, 2010

Today, in the United States, we remember the fallen in war. It is a day of peace and quiet in most of the USA.

In that light, I was reading one of my first unpublished draft blogs and my first reflection was, why was I so strongly opinionated – almost angry.  That was over 2 months ago and I knew less than I thought I knew about the legal profession.  I had great ideas, vision and strong opinions.  All good for blogging – so I’m told.

My first impression was glad I didn’t publish that! My second immediate reflection was how much easier it was to be angry when I’m ignorant. I was capable of quicker reactions of anger when I was younger when I had less knowledge.  By knowledge I’m not referring to technology’s interpretation of more data, but more understanding. I am still advised to speak with a stronger voice in my blog and get more readers – standout more – but I find it as futile as shooting myself in the foot to get your attention.

As I learn more I am more patient and understanding. As I listen more, I am more tolerant and kind – specially to myself.  Let’s have a great week. 🙂

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It was a grim and cold winter evening at New York’s JFK.  I was about 5 years old.   My mother, a stunning model and reporter in her early 20’s (barely 17 years older than me), towed my brother and I to the connecting BOAC gate – destination London.  We wore matching dark green trench coats with fake black fur collars, itchy woolen plaid trousers and navy blue sweaters.

We had no idea we had left our island paradise in the Caribbean for good.

My mother, with my stepfather, Carlos, had moved with less than 2 weeks notice from Puerto Rico to London, England.

I would become a resident of London until I was 17 years old.

My stepfather, Carlos, was appointed as a commerce development representative for the Puerto Rico government in Europe. A few jobs later and he would spend about 8 years representing the State of New York also for commerce development in Europe. My mother in the meantime had inadvertently invented the modern convertible dress (The Infinite Dress). She designed a simple dress she could use shorter for work, and then covert into a longer more elegant dress for the endless cocktail parties and gala events.

When they weren’t out 3 or more nights of the week, they were hosting dinner parties. Celebrities, diplomats, executives, government officials, authors and artists of all kinds sat and laughed in our apartment’s living room, drinking and smoking until dinner was ready. Only to return to the living room after dinner to smoke cigars, pipes and cigarettes, drink flaming cognacs and tell after-dinner lewd jokes or shocking stories. We were in bed, but we could hear everything.

At times we were asked to entertain the guests with our timid, blushing faces.  We impressed them with our ability to prepare gin and tonic, whisky with soda on the rocks…. and for the Russians always vodka!

Our summers were mostly in New York, where Carlos had bought a house in Wainscott, Long Island. There the parties never ended. Most of the guests were artists, authors, and their sons and daughters always driving antique convertibles without seat belts. The sound of backgammon dice and chips thumping the felt covered board usually ended about 3am. There were wine bottles everywhere.  The empty ones plugged with a candle and used as outdoor lighting for the moonlight feasts of paella, fine wines and outrageous story telling.

It was tribal, hilarious….it was family.

We were witnesses to our parents’ natural ability to host and entertain. Mother was the model/fashion designer. She was perpetual energy. The alluring central sun of her universe’s  attention – a natural-born diva!  Carlos was eloquent, overly educated in every way, equally charming as he was brutally candid. The choice of charm or candor separated only by a mysterious switch that tilted without warning – although after a long night it was more predictable.

Yet, despite Carlos’ generous portions of late night “candor”, most guests returned enthusiastically for another round. It was just too much fun: he was a sublime genius, an outrageous scoundrel and an iconic artist – aren’t they all?

Should I wonder then why despite being an introvert, I am building a global legal organization of trusted colleagues and  friends as a gateway to doing business.  For me each of one of you is an ocean of ideas, opinions and experiences to swim in. I’m excited to dive into your life, to hear your hopes and dreams, to console you through fears and frustrations, to celebrate your ambitions and successes.

I hope we meet sometime soon.

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Chrissie Lightfoot: A good friend and new blogger at the law gazette in the UK posted this blog last week:

The end of lawyers? Pah! This is the time of the ’super lawyer’.

Actually being able to truly relate and care about the client and his/her business and/or predicament is fundamental to what true lawyering and LIC is all about. Extraordinary relationships and customer service will be the holy grail at the heart of the successful super lawyer. Building an enduring value relationship with the consumer, utilising ‘fluffy soft-skills stuff’ combined with a total consumer-centric focus is where the real value will be for the lawyer, law firm and consumer of today and the future.” Excerpt from Chrissie’s blog

In my comment to her blog, I added that these “super lawyers” would also have to treat their colleagues with the same value service. At least anecdotally, I have often heard that lawyers receive more clients from other lawyers than advertising or word of mouth. I did. That could also explain why plaintiff’s lawyers market so persistently to other lawyers in Florida.

In 16 years of practice, Plaintiff’s lawyers are the only lawyers to have ever paid me referrals and co-counsel fees. Frankly, I don’t see much that can save many lawyers from commoditization and global competition when they have difficulty personally thanking colleagues for referrals. How can we aspire to success and a better lifestyle in the legal profession without investing in relationships. Yet, I see lawyers investing in everything but relationship: from all kinds of software, Westlaw and Lexis, to expensive office space and hardware.

I recommend that any lawyer thinking about spending even more $$ for technology and infrastructure consider investing first in relationships. Consider investing in the skills to build and grow a deeper and broader network. You can buy Google Apps for $50 a year and all those gizmos don’t really advance a business like good relationships, or like returning calls promptly, and scheduling meetings and lunches with colleagues that can refer clients.

Don’t let yourself become so busy and distracted with tasks that you have no time to build and invest in your future, in a more joyful lifestyle.  And remember: friends first, business second.

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Keith is the author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back.  I met Keith in 2009 after I joined his Greenlight Community on ning to learn what it would take to launch a community online. Somehow, I ended up starting Greenlight city groups in 12 cities. As a result Keith invited me to speak at his Orlando book launch.

Mesmerized by his enthusiasm, I joined Keith’s Relationship Masters Academy (RMA), a live program in New York, last June 2009. It’s a year long training with 3 live weekend events in NY and monthly webinars in between.  At the RMA, we basically learn to be like Keith: a master of building relationships, intimate lifeline groups and broad networks.

After a year of RMA, I don’t think anyone of us can really be like Keith, nor do most of us really want to be. He works endless hours and sleeps about 4 hours per day.  Still Keith is an inspiration and RMA is basically the strategies and tactics of how he did it and does it. I’m maybe about 20% into mastering his RMA system. Already opportunities are coming to me. They are nothing compared to the joy of doing business and spending time with the people I want to be with – priceless!

I recently obtained permission from Keith to teach a lighter version of RMA to my OBA members.  When I say lighter, I mean not less of the secret sauce, but less intense and demanding on time. RMA live (what I went through) is intense and all consuming.  Most people would prefer his recently launched RMA program online because you work at your own pace.

If you want instant results go to RMA live!

One of our objectives in RMA live last year was to build a lifeline group from the people at the table Keith fixed us up with.  It was a gamble as we may not like each other.  I was fortunate.  My group still meets every other Wednesday since June 2009.  We’re building a team that promotes each others’ success and genuinely likes each other.  Napoleon Hill was right when he talked about the Mastermind concept – it works. As our lifeline group began to support each other’s goals, we all began to rise up to new and higher success. We began meeting our personal goals and receiving unexpected rewards from life.

I have benefited enormously form Keith’s friendship and his teaching.  I hope you find a friend like Keith in your life. I hope that you invest in you relationships like he does and taught us to.

Life is infinitely more fun, more blissful and rewarding when you can make friends first and business second. Have fun out there! 🙂

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Dept of Commerce mtg: gov’t recog of huge legal “trade” may lead USTR to push-back on “trade barriers” erected by local bars

This was a tweet sent yesterday supposedly by the ACC General Counsel. I asked for more details as I can’t find any reference to this on google.  But ACC did not respond to requests for more information. The idea alone is not a surprise to me. I’ve being writing about the strong possibilities that jurisdiction barriers are coming down soon and more lawyers will be competing in a more open market.  But that’s not why I’m posting today.

I’m curious. How relevant are local state bars anyway?

I’m a member of the Florida Bar. It is less and less relevant to my world.  I don’t know who is responsible for that, them or me?

As I see my income and activities come from working with Federal Laws and converging international laws (like IP), the Florida Bar and Florida law has become less and less relevant to my practice. When I read the Bar Journal and the Florida Bar News, I don’t see anything relevant to my world. It seems we live in different worlds. It is not a criticism but an observation.

Yes, we’re in the same physical location, Florida, but I have more in common with OBA members be they from London, Singapore or Sao Paolo.  Regardless of how or why this came about, I can’t say I feel represented in or by the Florida Bar. But like taxes for services I don’t experience directly, I pay my dues – on time and without complaint. I don’t regret it, as I’m sure they do many good things for Florida lawyers.

Would a national bar exam and national bar membership be a better alternative?  I doubt it.  A national bar will probably feel more alienating than The Florida Bar does for me.  Maybe  the answer is I should be more active in the Florida Bar so I and others like me are represented.  Or maybe I can start my own bar in another jurisdiction. 😉


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Thank you to all who participated last night in OBA’s first dinner event.  It was our pleasure to meet you all in person.  Makes a difference to see each other in person!

To our OBA members around the world: we had dinner at the Sage Restaurant (French) in Hollywood, Florida.  Our first dinner event of OBA lawyers and guests was good fun, laughter and great stories.  Mayra and I are always impressed with the experience and talent of the lawyers and other professionals in OBA. Last night, we were moved by your candor, warmth and generosity.

We’re still receiving reports from everyone about the dinner and how much they enjoyed meeting each other. We will post the photos taken by Betty Charles and the Flip video from Sharon Ellis as soon as we receive them. 🙂

We’re looking forward to our next dinner event in Florida.  No dinner event will be the same.  We will also be helping OBA leaders start these dinner meetings in other OBA cities soon.

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In one weekend I heard this from a successful entrepreneur and from a General Electric senior counsel: big firms are arrogant,   overpriced, and we will not play with them anymore.

One of my close friends has been very successful in overseas finance over the last 3 years.  Recently, he began several new ventures and approached big law firms for advice and assistance. My friend, let’s call him Arthur as he’s very private, asked the lawyer from the BF to review some paperwork for a real estate venture. From experience as a hands-on, high IQ personality, Arthur knew that he could do it himself. But it would take him too long when he had other priorities to attend with his new ventures.

The lawyer from the BF firm told Arthur he would have to retain the firm for $10,000 before he could take on the project and help him.  Arthur was livid and tried explaining to the BF lawyer that this was an easily contained project of reading and advice which should not cost more than $2,000!  The BF lawyer stood his ground and quickly lost Arthur as a client.  Not only did he lose Arthur as client for that firm, but for all BFs.

Arthur soon after found a former BF lawyer, who not only turned the work around in only 2 days, but for $600!!!  Which leads me to my next story….

My wife is attending an employment law seminar in Miami and heard a senior counsel from GE talk about hiring law firms. I used to be GE legal and from experience GE only used established BFs.  I can only guess that 3 years later, and a recession (GE Capital’s losses are not helping), that GE has now reconsidered. According to this source, GE is now retaining boutique firms, as well as former BF solos and outsourcing discovery operations to India.

Both stories end with people who have the capital and need to retain BFs, that choose not to deal with the bureaucracy, expense and in some cases the perceived arrogance of BFs.  I still believe that BFs will have a role, but some will have to redefine what a BF is.  In many cases, they may benefit from building new ventures and building those brands rather than resuscitating the old one.  Yup, say goodbye to some of our cherished Dudley Fudleys and Moore!

Solos and small firms (SSFs), while a viable service option for less complex tasks, cannot scale up to compete with BF’s massive infrastructure and pedigree stables of talent. Only when SSFs organize themselves into L-VEN’s (legal virtual enterprise networks), will they achieve what was never possible before – scale and autonomy.

SSFs will need to build networks of trust amongst themselves to scale up. When they do, they will have dealt the final blow, the one from which nothing can save the rapid decline of BFs.

Game over!

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