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July 18, 2022

Big Ideas Mean Change for You, Not to You

Be the changing force that matters. You’ll be richer for it.

Lance G. Johnson
By its very nature, the notion of a Big Idea involves some type of change.

By its very nature, the notion of a Big Idea involves some type of change.

iStock / Pom669

Would you know a Big Idea when you heard it? I know I have missed more that I caught. Social media as a whole (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and what it might mean for my business and relationships stands as a glaring example. I now acknowledge that I missed the bigger picture. (I also still wonder whether there is altogether too much sharing of personal opinions that would otherwise be shared only behind closed doors for the orderly functioning of a civil society.)

I did, however, catch the early wave on computers, the internet and software for personal productivity. I am also a big fan of computer-based legal research and AI that suggest related lines of search for relevant precedent and arguments. This technology let me feel comfortable enough to start my own practice and take on cases effectively against far larger, more staffed firms. Yes, I am a strong believer in the efficiencies and advantages of what used to be someone’s Big Idea.

By its very nature, the notion of a Big Idea involves some type of change. In this issue, we focus on Big Ideas for the practice of law, firm management and dispute resolution programs that streamline or avoid the conventional judicial processes. How (and whether) that idea is received says much about the potential for the idea to take off and become a mainstream norm. The choice is really yours, but the business advantages of the Big Ideas in this issue are just too good to dismiss.

Take, for example, our lead feature: “Raising the Bar: How To Improve Diversity in the Legal Profession” by John Harrity and Samantha Sullivan, which looks at the challenges of diversifying the professional pool in STEM-based practices. The authors examine programs their firm has developed to boost STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates and reverse the notoriously nondiverse pool of graduates in those fields. Their goal is to increase the pool of possible future lawyers or agents who want to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is a long-term Big Idea that is capable of great and beneficial change.

Is your firm flourishing? Do the professionals and staff share a sense of purpose, meaning and client service? Can your firm articulate the value it provides clients? These concepts are explored by Mary Vandenack in her article “Designing a Flourishing Law Firm.” The article is chock-full of useful information on developing and communicating this sense of shared focus that makes clients happy to be clients.

Did you know that some court dockets see 90% of their cases with no lawyers? While that may seem idyllic in certain circles, it also means that the orderly hearing and disposition of these cases can be fraught with missteps, inefficiencies and judicial frustration. The work of investigating, framing and presenting the case has been shifted to lay litigants and the presiding judge. In “America’s Lawyerless Courts,” the authors explore the problems for the litigants and the law that are developing as a result of such counsel-free cases.

Change can be a difficult process when it becomes clear that one or more of the professionals on staff is just not working out. Nobody I know likes to fire someone. As a former colleague put it, however, “Just because this arrangement didn’t work out for either of us, that doesn’t mean you won’t find a new arrangement where you can thrive.” Matthew Driggs tells us in “Problem Resolution: Holding Employees Accountable” about a six-step process of honesty, clarity and communication that has worked for his firm. This process is a Big Idea addressing a universal problem that hinders many firms and professionals.

Do you automate your day? That may sound like a strange question, but it is the next Big Idea in software. It’s also now built into Office 365. In the article by Catherine Sanders Reach, “Automation From Simple to Sublime,” I particularly liked her tips on automating the handling of email (now the bane of my existence). I might also explore the document assembly tools she discusses.

Finally, in “Creating and Branding an Award-Winning Law Firm Culture,” Charles B. Jimerson discusses how his firm made operational its goal of establishing a value-based firm culture that benefits both clients and firm members. I was particularly intrigued by the idea of bringing fun into the law firm setting. When was the last time you can honestly say that a day in the office was fun? This is a must read.

Lance G. Johnson

Owner, Johnson Legal PLLC

Lance G. Johnson is the owner of Johnson Legal PLLC in Fairfax, Virginia, and is currently the editor-in-chief of Law Practice magazine. [email protected]

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