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Posts Tagged ‘OBA’

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. 😉

Huummm…..

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I began working as a virtual legal office in 2007 from South Africa, then Europe, Canada and finally from a couple of ocean front beach apartments in Florida and the Caribbean.

Hey, nothing is perfect!  🙂 I love it and I loved it.  But I was alone most of the time. I missed the camaraderie of been in an office full of people.  The ability to reach out to friends and ask questions, go to lunch, I even missed the nagging office politics – the latter only a little.

I had found a paradise lifestyle, but I found it all alone.  I needed friends, not just for social reasons but also for career, to ask questions, to share victories and opportunities with. I needed peers to help and to team up with on larger projects.  Friends and colleagues I could trust with my clients, with my plans with my ideas.  Most of all colleagues I could grow with professionally and spend time with at fabulously exciting places like London, Vienna, Sidney, Milan, Madrid, Hong Kong, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Paris, etc.  You get the idea.

On the business side, I could see clearly I was not alone. Almost 1300 members in the Online Bar Association in 6 weeks corroborated that.  As fellow OBA member, Mark Marino remarked, “we lawyers like to build relationships first before doing business.”  Our focus since we began was building a highly social organization. One in which you can build with trust each other and business will follow.

The vision for OBA is social 1st , business 2nd.  The exponential evolution of technology, including free social media platforms allows us to build relationships online in ways we never envisioned 10 year ago. Whilst relationships online are great, we all know that the life long bonds of trust are forged in the face to face encounters.

We’re planning that today. We’re organizing regional events and a global conference. As founders of OBA, we don’t decide when that happens – you do!

Your efforts in connecting with each other, in being open, vulnerable and candid determine how quickly we can build momentum and excitement. You are the stars!  Look around and read the introductions of the 10% of you that have shared your lives and careers.  To me you’re 100% amazing: talented, experienced and you know where we’re headed.  You know how much fun this will be, and you know what being an active OBA member feels and looks like as we evolve into a global organization of talent and trust.

You know how this opens up the world to you.

Law stopped being a jurisdictionally bound practice years ago. Even litigation is quickly evolving into a borderless practice.  Our relationships will be a determining factor in our happiness 1st first and wealth 2nd.  In fact, these will run parallel. But not in the old transactional sense of being “that guy” that sells to everyone, but by being genuine, authentic and generous.  No one wants to be spammed anymore. We want to have friends that care, friends that aren’t in it for the money, friends that are willing to be vulnerable, open and kind.

That’s why I launched OBA.  What we can and will create together wakes me up every morning with joy. 🙂

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Monday, I received a call from a young man that has asked me to mentor him.  We’ll call him Carlos.  I met Carlos when I was helping my friend and mentor, Keith Ferrazzi, with the launch for his latest book, Who’s Got your Back? Keith’s first best seller was Never Eat Alone.  Carlos, about 28 years old, drove about 90 minutes with 10 people to Keith’s book launch.  We were all impressed with Carlos’ leadership and passion.

Carlos was in a hurry when he called me. He wanted to know if he could see me that same evening.  He did not really say why, but as I had accepted the responsibility to mentor him, I agreed to meet him.  I had a subtle sensation I was about to pitched, but I still wanted to give Carlos an opportunity to pitch. Last time we spoke he was working on an IT start-up in the Latin and Hispanic market.

When  Carlos arrived, with his friend Gus, I saw him all pumped up and excited, which is not unusual for Carlos as he has more energy than 99% of us.  His optimism and enthusiasm is truly engaging. It’s also why he has so many followers.  The conversation went nowhere and I sensed, as my wife says, I was being marinated like a juicy roast! J  I stayed relaxed knowing that how I responded to Carlos in front of his friend would define our friendship. I was now certain I was about to be pitched and it was looking like an MLM pitch.

Unable to wait for the pitch I firmly requested the purpose of the meeting – with a smile! J  It was an MLM!!  I knew that to reject Carlos would be more destructive and even more so in front of his friend, Gus.  I let him pitch me.

He was very excited because he had been brought in before the actual launch of the MLM and the directors were all major players in the MLM world.  He wanted to introduce me to one of the Directors.  Still very sensitive to the social situation, I knew I would have to sit through an MLM call.

I did try to stop the call from taking place, but Carlos was determined I meet this Director.  About 20 minutes later, thankfully, the call was over. Gus had observed my discomfort.  I told him I did not want to disappoint them, but that I was not interested in MLM and that they could have saved themselves time if they asked before driving to see me. But they argued, we just introduced you to the Director – a man who made millions…. You’re talking to a boss!

I sighed and said: “Carlos, I am excited about your new opportunity.  I think if you focus it can work beautifully for you and Gus. But I’m not interested in MLM.”

More persistence and this unique pitch from Carlos: “But Jorge you have a vast network of people who are very successful. That’s why we introduced you to the Director of this MLM.”

Jorge: “Thank you!  I am truly honored you think so highly of me.”

I paused and with conviction told them: “I don’t pitch my friends.”

Carlos and Gus were perplexed and totally confused, which they expressed almost in unison: “Then why do you have this network?  Why do you spend so much time building these relationships?”

I told him of an old friend from adolescence who is a successful lawyer and even appears on TV.  One day while I was at NBC, he stopped by and in the conversation he said this: “When you’re in private practice you don’t have friends, you have clients”.

Whilst I could not judge him, I felt the sadness in his voice – a subtle and almost imperceptible tone of regret and loneliness.  He billed everyone he invested anytime in and he was successful. This is not the path I took.

More perplexed looks followed by Carlos asking: “But how does this work for you?”

Because, I began, I am not desperate, nor am I in a short sales cycle.  I am building trust, credibility and friendship. Once you have trust, credibility and friendship, all business evolves naturally and abundantly – even with friends.

Trust is a rare, therefore valuable. It is not the same as reputation, which you can’t always control.  I carefully invest in relationships and now I have a priceless deposit of trust and credibility.

I know that many of us as lawyers and professionals have to close sales and some in a shorter cycle than others. I can only recommend that you seriously consider making friends and not burning through your contacts. That you invest in a relationship with generosity before you ask for anything.

We’re all inundated with fast pitches and spam from people we don’t know.  That’s what Keith Ferrazzi calls highly transactional: when a person makes no attempt to care, listen or engage you, but simply broadcasts or instantly pitches a service or product. I buy mostly from people I like and trust, even when it might be more expensive. Because I like them and I trust them!

They care.

Sometimes, there are those of us that prefer to take without giving in return. Most large networks are defined by a majority of people taking without giving or passively lurking, while teams and communities are defined by mutual generosity and active collaboration. Nonetheless, I reconsider before judging or rejecting the more passive or self-centered, and feeling that I was taken advantage of.  It has happened to me on many occasions, but it is the nature of finding treasure.

I’ll close with an excerpt from Emerson’s Essay on Compensation:

“Men suffer all their life long, under the foolish superstition that they can be cheated. But it is as impossible for a man to be cheated by any one but himself, as for a thing to be and not to be at the same time. There is a third silent party to all our bargains. The nature and soul of things takes on itself the guaranty of the fulfillment of every contract, so that honest service cannot come to loss. If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer.”

My version: If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more….while you find a graceful exit!

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I recently discovered the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law School.  They just wrapped up their annual conference titled: Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business As Usual?

Notice how we all now increasingly use questions as titles. In all fairness, the more I read and attend conferences, the more I realize that no one knows what is really going on. Much like the scene of an accident or mob riot, we all know something is going on because of all the activity, but no one person has a clear idea of exactly what’s going on in our profession.

The conference website generously provides the conference papers to download for free.  I’m hoping we can send an OBA delegation next year to demonstrate the evolution in SSFs and VLOs cooperating on a global scale!  Anyone interested?

Eversheds presented a paper titled: Law firm of the 21st Century: The Client’s Revolution. (By Bryan Hughes, Chief Executive of Eversheds LLP)

I’m including an excerpt from their conclusion:

“….overall lawyers will actually be more significant business players in the new world. The increasing role of regulation, ethics and the re-examination of risk are heartland areas for the lawyer, ensuring that even as the transaction ‘go-go’ days wane, they still have an important role to play. What they might not see any more are super-high fees and, at the premium end of the profession, headcount may shrink for the next generation.

For Western law firms, the shift to the East is well underway both as a move to follow a global economic trend but also as the drive to efficiency dictates that low-cost jurisdictions are a key component of cost base reductions(italics added).”

In 2008, when the recession hit, I was contacted by recruiters for a position in Singapore with ESPN as media counsel.  I was quite perplexed that they would even interview me all the way from the USA.  The recruiter told me that already very well paid lawyers from Titanic-sized US firms and wall street, and some British firms, were jumping on the available lifeboats and heading East to Asia and the Middle East.

I imagined how different our profession would be as we become net exporters of highly educated and experienced lawyers. How would this minor exodus affect those countries?  We won’t know exactly for another 5 -10 years.  Part of what excites me is the global scale of the opportunities available to us in the next 5 years.

Big Law is going to go through a consolidation for a few more years.  It will be even bigger law as capital investments move into the market at the top. Decentralization in all professions will benefit Small and Solo firms (SSFs) willing to organize into vast networks of mutual support made up of reputable talent from around the world (OBA). If SSFs don’t organize themselves into competitive and trusted enterprise networks, they can still work in niche areas they own, or as labor for the new capital infused and publicly traded firms.

Wait?!  Will we see  lawyer unions next?

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Check out this video interview between Bas De Baar and Bioteams author Ken Thompson.

I took some broad notes from the video so you have some idea about its relevance to our conversations about VLOs and the future of law firms.

The main question and issue Ken found in leading teams was the command and control model (military) versus nature’s collective leadership model.  In nature everybody is a leader.

Ken adds that there is a conceptual line in these teams:

On the left side the team is playing for collective success. On the right side it is playing to avoid individual blame.  Ken states that bioteams (ants and bees) don’t cross that line. Everyone looks out for everyone else.  Another characteristic is that anyone that has useful information shares it with the whole team.  Ken learned from ants and bees, and his experience with teams, that short messages are better than a long message.  Lots of short messages are better than one big long message that can be misunderstood.  Emails was used as an example.  In bioteams, the most important messages to share is if there is a threat and is there an opportunity?

Bas de Baar: How do people work toward same goal in bioteams?

Ken:  Very important to have a shared belief systems in which all point in the same direction and passionate about something.  Also appropriate behaviours are sharing useful information with other team members immediately.

As for leaders, each person is a leader in a different domain.

Bas De Baar: But then how does leadership get distributed to the right people?

Ken: through facilitated self-organization. What Ken calls the concept of “team karma” or you get out of life what you put into it. In networks, Ken says, people want to get stuff out, but not put anything in.

In a bioteam or distributed leadership team everyone has to assume responsibility for a role, whether to lead a project or follow.

This conversation sounds very much like what we observe in Trump’s show: The Apprentice.

I am convinced that SSFs can best succeed and compete if they can learn to wok in these types of project teams.  That’s why I started OBA.

What do you think?

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As I read all the intro stories of members joining OBA, I’m simply in awe of the talent, wisdom and authenticity expressed.  Two words from one member’s intro (Jean Pierre Ruiz’s) still keep running in my mind:

“I dream….”

Do you dare to dream? Whatever your dream is, what are you doing about it?

Coincidentally, today, I read Harrison Barnes latest article, “Your beliefs about yourself are controlling your destiny”.  Barnes writes  in site General Counsel Consulting:

““You are the creator of whatever happens to you…Everything that is happening to you is being generated inside of yourself–even if you cannot see this.  The key to a successful career and life is to stop resisting what is happening to you and start choosing what to believe about the world to create the life you want.”

Understanding this statement and working with this statement is something the most successful people in the world are able to do and the least successful people in the world are not.

Barnes continues further down:

When I was younger I used to stop and chat with the homeless people on the street at length.… .  Nevertheless, a good portion of these people have nothing wrong with them biochemically.  Many also do not have any serious substance abuse problems.  Instead, their issue appears to be how they think about themselves.  Their beliefs about themselves are controlling their destinies.

This has always been the issue with them.  They feel worthless, they believe they are incapable of good, they believe they are incapable of being loved, they have beliefs about money that disempower them.  When you pass these unfortunate people standing on the side of the road, know that most of the problems they have are caused by deeply held beliefs that they have used to consistently disempower themselves.

This is the same reason you are not reaching your full potential.  Your beliefs about yourself are controlling what is happening to you.” Harrison Barnes

I did not always live a peaceful and joyful life in paradise.  I spent about 16 restless years searching and researching. I explored in depth religion, spirituality, martial arts, business and psychology.  It was a long journey all to conclude that, without exception, the statement, “Your beliefs about yourself are controlling what is happening to you” is an irrefutable universal principle.

I dream….and this is my dream.

What do you dream?

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I was recently reading about Otto Scharmer’s Theory U and The Presencing Institute.   By the way, Otto is a Senior Lecturer at MIT and consults with global companies, international institutions, and governments.  He has co-designed leadership programs for client firms including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Fujitsu, and Google.  He also facilitates cross-sector programs for leaders in business that focus on building people’s collective capacity to achieve profound innovation and change.

In Otto’s Theory U Toolbook from the Presencing Institute he listed some of the following questions, most which I’m editing for you to ask about OBA, and to ask each other as OBA members:

  1. What is your most important objective and how can we help you realize it?
  2. What criteria do you use to assess whether our (OBA) or another member’s contribution to your work has been successful?
  3. If we were to build two things into OBA within the next 6 months, what two things would create the most value and benefit for you?
  4. What are your expectations from a voluntary bar association and its members?
  5. What might your best possible future look like?

I will post these questions on our OBA linkedin and facebook groups for discussion.  There is no right answer as all the questions are highly subjective – it’s about you and what’s important to you.  Thank you in advance for your participation in these discussions.

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The industrial era injunction to work longer hours and literally drive oneself to the edge of physical and emotional exhaustion is almost dead in the opulent West.  Many lament this and it’s often the subject of many articles on our economy and youth.  We admire the Chinese for their work ethic but we can’t seem to find the energy anymore.  We’re lazy – they say.  We’re going to be left behind!

Maybe…. and maybe not.

All these are by necessity linear arguments that exclude the broad scope of evolution as a result of technological development. Maybe we are lazy. But then, why bother with technology?  Isn’t technology meant to free us from routine and repetitively boring tasks?

Let’s assume that technology continues at this pace, a pace not broken despite world wars, depressions, recessions and Communism.  From the limited perspective of what we know today, we can expect that if you’re a lawyer you will have access to a vast, almost infinite, ocean of information.  Maybe even AI: intelligent agents that can tell you the law, fashion arguments, draft briefs, etc. But then so does your “opponent” have this same access.  What then?  A sort of mutually assured stalemate situation – MASS.

What now?  Back to humans negotiating, I guess.

All roads lead to human interaction – even more so than ever before.  That’s what we’re seeing already today with the mass interaction using social media like Facebook and Linkedin.  As technology grows, human interaction increases.  Hence, the importance of building relationships, authenticity, trust, and credibility becomes its own currency.  But unlike capital currency (money), controlled by a few, relationship currency is a universal currency which everyone has access to.

Like it so far?

Ok, that was a really long winded explanation to conclude that we’re all in the “business” of human relationships – plain and simple.  And “relationship currency” is vastly more rewarding to a joyful lifestyle, to your capital currency base and to the time to enjoy them.

I know I skipped some steps, but it’s a blog not a treatise.  Can you already see that we’re “lazy” because we can be?  That our relationships are and will be more important that the technology you use and the hours you work?  That relationships are and will be more important than your access to capital in fiat currency. Relationship currency can’t be inflated by central banks, loaned by banks with interest; it can’t be counterfeited or stolen because it is based upon human experience and interaction.  You can fake it – for a while – but you will be soon exposed. There is no bankruptcy court that can discharge your relationship debts from deceit, manipulation and self serving lies.

After 9/11, I once saw a friend buy rural land and stockpile 2 years worth of food.  He was going to escape to his bunker in case of mass chaos, nuclear attacks and eat dehydrated food until it was all over.   The Lone Wolf syndrome – going it alone.  A practical idea up to the late 1800s in North America.  Today, someone will tweet that you have food and the mob will siege your house first! GET IT??  You’ll have to go underwater in a one man submarine or into space to escape mobs. Most of humanity will simply have to  build relationships so that a mob never materializes because we’re all too busy trading, cooperating, and collaborating to steal each other’s food!!

Today, it’s a reality that with social media and the lack of privacy, you are being valued by the currency of your generosity, accountability and trust.  These rules have not really changed in centuries, only the scale has changed – exponentially!

Now here comes the shameless promotion: that’s why we created OBA.  We’re a global mob trading in the currency of trust.  Investing in the market of each others success.

In the spirit of earning your trust, what is your most important objective and how can we help you realize it?

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Are you going to sit idly while the waters of commoditization rise? Will you passively observe while outsourcing and technology take over your routine legal work and make you obsolete?

I suppose you could.

After all, there is an undeniably numbing comfort in doing nothing in a crisis and just watching it happen.  You would not be alone: some soldiers in the massive battles of WWII were often so numbed by the cacophony  that they just stood there; not shooting or even trying to protect themselves from harm.  The only way to get these emotionally and mentally “frozen” soldiers to act was to arouse them to the awareness that they were letting their brothers die.

Will you let your colleagues down or would you protect them?

Maybe you perceive that it would be better for you if more lawyers did “die. Cynically, it would take care of the accelerating competition.  I invite you to use your hard-earned logic and deduce the inevitable outcome of a profession in which it becomes all against all. As in chess, there is only one outcome from that move – game over!  We all lose.

How did we become so deluded, so lost in a fog of lies to believe that our own best interest was to destroy the opposition at all costs?

In fact, not theory, I propose a more hopeful, rewarding and financially successful alternative:  a legal community (OBA) wherein we share resources, support each other to succeed, play nice and collaborate.  Most lawyers belong to one or more voluntary bars designed around a particular practice like employment law.  Increasingly, these niche bars are exclusively either for defense counsel or plaintiff’s lawyers.  In these bars you will see legal communities of extraordinary collaboration, support and sharing of resources.  In one bar organization that I belonged to briefly, the lawyers, joined by a shared emotional cause, volunteered to take each other’s depositions and motion hearings throughout the entire country.

Question is can this camaraderie exist across all borders and practices? Can it include non-lawyers supporting the profession?   If only to survive and prosper in law, I propose you’re going to have to. There are hundreds of books clamoring about how business is changing towards just this type of organizations.   We are not immune from this evolution.

OBA is designed as such a legal community.  It’s a “community based knowledge ecosystem” where in participants share knowledge and experience.  Richard Susskind’s takes this topic on in his Chapter 4.7 in The End of Lawyers?  Richard predicts only in house lawyers can collaborate in legal communities.  He goes on to say that “….bearing in mind the current business models of law firms and the intense competition between them, they would not be incentivized to collaborate with one another….around the world”.  In the case of elite and large firms (ELFs), I agree, but not with Small and Solo Firms (SSF).  Why? SSFs have more to gain by joining and sharing resources, and more to lose by intense competition.

That being said, OBA is a social organization (technical term for we like to have fun) maximizing technology’s exponential growth for mutual support and success.  Let technology work for us.  The technology that is only now beginning is that of trusted communities of lawyers.  If you’re interested in becoming a part of this growing movement go to www.theonlinebar.com and join OBA.

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