Announcing LexThink! Chicago

What do you get when you bring together a select group of innovative, big-thinking people from the worlds of law, business, technology, marketing, and consulting for a full day and ask them to design the perfect professional service firm?
We call it LexThink! Chicago.
Innovate. On April 3, 2005, we will turn the Catalyst Ranch space in downtown Chicago into laboratory space for a group of innovators and thought leaders. We’ll create and test ideas for transforming the delivery of professional services, to better match the needs of professionals and their clients alike. With a full day of targeted presentations, small group discussions, collaborative brainstorming and other exercises, we will will mix innovative business practices with proven client service strategies and promising technology applications to create the formula for the perfect professional services firm. The focus of every conversation will be on turning talk into action, and bold ideas into realities.
Motivate. Attendees will take away dozens of practice-changing ideas while making many new friends. LexThink! Chicago will be a chance to meet in person bloggers, authors and speakers that have motivated and challenged us over the years. Spending a day with this group will generate renewed energy and enthusiasm and give you a new action list for making the changes you want in your practice, your business and your life.
Activate. In too many cases, the surge of enthusiasm from an inspirational conference drains away steadily as you return to the real world. LexThink! Chicago is designed to create extended relationships, with opportunities for structured feedback and continuing discussions, social support, and ongoing motivation to transform your practice. The collaborative experience will continue with ongoing discussion groups, monthly conference calls and other ways to connect with LexThink! alumni.
LexThink! Chicago is the brainchild of well-known lawyer bloggers Matthew Homann, Dennis Kennedy and Scheherazade Fowler, who have been thinking (and blogging) about ways to make meaningful changes in their professional practices. LexThink! Chicago grew out of one of their brainstorming sessions and their own “what if” questions.
To permit meaningful participation, to generate the best conversations, and to work within the limitations of the creative space we’ve reserved, participation in the first LexThink! Chicago will be by invitation-only. We’re limiting it to a select group of professional service providers—lawyers, accountants, consultants, strategists, coaches, technologists, marketers and entrepreneurs.
If you are interested — or know someone who might be — get in touch with us soon by e-mailing Matt Homann at homann@gmail.com. We will send out the invitations before the end of December, so make sure you let us know about your interest as soon as you can. We are seeking sponsors for LexThink! Chicago and expect to set the registration fee at less than $200 per attendee.
Many people always ask “Why?” There are also some who ask “Why not?” We’re the second kind. How about you?

The Savvy Blawgger Panel, Version 1.0

Bruce “Adam Smith, Esq.” MacEwen has launched the first iteration of his Savvy Blawger Panel, a feature in which he poses important questions to a panel of, well, savvy blawgers. This edition looks into the future and the question was:
“Looking out five to ten years, what will the single most significant change be in terms of how sophisticated law firms (think AmLaw 200) are managed, on the ‘business side’?”
There are some great ideas and I highly recommend you study the answers carefully.
I’m one of the panelists and comment on the vital importance of diversification in its different forms by saying:
“The most significant change for successful firms will be the development of a diversified, portfolio approach to the various businesses of a law firm – services, products and licensing of intellectual property – in a much more diversified environment of people and outside partnerships.”
I know that some of my readers will be surprised that, for once, I have one of the shortest comments in the collection.
I’ll note that Bruce mentions “Capital Asset Pricing Model” in introducing my comment, but I’m thinking in terms of modern portfolio theory, which I’ve written and spoken about on a number of occasions.

My Late Night Conversation with Elvis Presley

One of our holiday traditions for the last several years has been attending a holiday party hosted by the parents of one of my daughter’s classmates. They are generous and gracious hosts and I’ve never met anyone who enjoys entertaining others more than they do. We always have a lot of fun and it helps set the tone for the season.
At their typical party, you’ll find, in addition to a large number of great people, diversions ranging from magicians and musicians to palm readers and handwriting analysts to a Marilyn Monroe and an Elvis Presley impersonator.
For several years, people have carried on about how great the Elvis impersonator was. He looked the part and he certainly can sing the part, but I’m a little reserved when it comes to talking to a guy playing Elvis. However, people told me that this guy was amazing because of how well he knew his facts and how he never ever broke character.
Last Saturday night, I was at this year’s party, sitting and talking with a group of people around a table. The chair next to me was open after someone left and Elvis came and sat down in the chair. Despite what you might think later, Elvis and I were the ones at the table not drinking.
I resisted my natural “flight” impulse and decided to hang in there.
People proceeded to hit Elvis with all kinds of questions and I’ll be darned if he didn’t answer them all completely in character. It’s an odd thing sitting with someone who is telling you a detailed, fascinating, first-person account of Elvis’s meeting with Richard Nixon at the White House and finding the story absolutely compelling.
He also told a great story of the only meetings between the Beatles and Elvis. Since it was getting late, people gradually left to go home. Eventually, there were three guys at the table – Elvis, another school parent and me.
I recently finished reading a great collection of articles on Johnny Cash. To my surprise, I heard myself asking Elvis about his relationship with Johnny Cash. His answers to my questions were so compelling that I decided to move into the state Coleridge called “the willing suspension of disbelief.”
I decided to ask the questions that I was most interested in about Elvis, as if I actually had the chance to talk with Elvis.
In short, I asked about the music.
So, for what was probably close to an hour, I had a wide-ranging discussion with Elvis about the music. We talked about the band members, the history of the bands he used, guitars he and Scottie Moore and James Burton used, the Southern tradition of “rendering” songs (I’m fascinated that Elvis never really wrote any of the songs he performed), the role of the Mississippi region as both the source of the delta blues and country/rock and roll, what I refer to as country acoustic gospel music, the role of the Stax sound in Elvis’s music, Motown, Graham Parsons, the 1968 comeback show, the Million Dollar Quartet, Roy Orbison, the Carter family and lots of talk about Johnny Cash. The term “wide-ranging” is an appropriate descriptor.
Although I haven’t done this for a few years, I used to try every year to “learn” an important musician (e.g., my Duke Ellington year) by listening to a lot of the music and doing a lot of reading. I had already decided that 2005 was going to be my Johnny Cash year, although after my conversation with Elvis, I might refer to it as my John Cash year – it seems more respectful. I admire Elvis’s way of respecting people.
I must admit that when Elvis was urging me to make 2005 my John Cash year and suggesting the albums I should get, I got the feeling that, although this might seem like a bizarre event to some, it was, in its way, quite magical. It was like getting a personal version of a great documentary in the form of stories from someone who actually “saw” what happened. I’ve wished from time to time that I could “master” a single subject to the kind of depth this Elvis had, but people tell me that my gift is the opposite one – the ability to understand and explain many things and to see the connections between seemingly dissimilar things, but with a push and a willingness to move on and explore new things on a regular basis. How many other lawyers do you know who figured out ways to work in a discussion of Twyla Tharp into presentations on several different legal technology topics last year? That night, however, I was getting the point of view of a master of a subject.
Eventually, someone came up to ask the most commonly asked question that I heard: what does Elvis think of his daughter marrying Michael Jackson? The answer, if you care, is that Elvis realizes that you can’t micromanage your children’s lives.
Anyway, it came to be time to leave and Elvis thanked me for giving him to chance to have that kind of conversation. I agreed that it had been great, really great. He encouraged me to get those last John Cash albums, but to get some of the early stuff too. We shook hands and I realized that, even though Elvis never broke character during the whole time, he almost broke character at that point. I actually broke my own character of being the reserved guy who thought he was too cool to play along. There was a point where I consciously chose to stop saying “Did Elvis . . .” and instead asked, “Did you . . .,” which I did out of respect for the quality of the performance and how impressed I was with the thoroughness of his knowledge and the obvious respect he has for Elvis.
I don’t know that I have to make a point with this story. It makes its own points. Once again I learned to move past some of my preconceptions and be a little more open to new experiences. Perhaps more important, whether someone is impersonating Elvis or blogging or whatever, you can find true art and artists in unexpected places if you are willing to see things in new ways and respect the integrity, work and vision people put into any number of non-traditional forms. In many cases, it can be an unappreciated and lonely art – Elvis walked off into the cold night by himself – but, given a chance, it can be as vital and touching as anything you’ll ever find. If you’ve read all the way to this point, I know that you agree. Let it rock.

Jeffrey Rosen Gets All Mixed Up About Blawgs, Blogging and Other Things

Professor Jeffrey Rosen, apparently unnerved by the success of Matt Homann’s write-in campaign to be named as of the “Top 20 Legal Thinkers,” has launched a publicity-seeking missile in a wide-ranging attack on a range of blogging targets with his recent article in the New York Times Magazine.
Unfortunately, as a mere practicing lawyer, I was unable to follow or understand most of the article. However, Rosen did paint a view of the blog world that was new to me. He set up quite a number of straw men and mowed them right down. Mainly, I was left wondering what he could possibly be saying to his students that had him so worried about them blogging about him. That’s more a criticism of me, of course, than it is a criticism of his article, which I’m sure that I’d find quite good if I could understand it.
I know this is petty, but I took a secret pleasure in seeing the Treo 650 called the “Trio 650″ in an article criticizing the loose standards of bloggers in comparison to the high standards of the lords of journalism. I also enjoyed that in an article focused on privacy, Rosen managed to give away the secret that two anonymous bloggers are students at his law school. Oops. Note that Rosen is actually listed as an official candidate for one of the Top 20 Legal Thinkers, unlike popular write-in candidate, Matt Homann who was left off the list, as were practicing lawyers in general.
I had more concern, however, for the unfortunate impact of the article, which seems to have successfully garnered a lot of publicity (what diatribe against blogging won’t these days?), on fellow Blawg Channeler and legal blogging pioneer, Denise Howell.
As many bloggers, but not all nominees for Top 20 Legal Thinkers such as Rosen, know, Denise has long been known and credited for coining the term “blawg.” I can understand that there might not have been enough room in this extremely long article (4 separate sections on 4 separate pages, with a long, long animated ad to sit through) to mention Denise by name.
However, it would have been nice to get the definition right. “Blawgs” are most definitely not limited to blogs written by law students, as Rosen and the fact-checking team at the NYT Magazine might lead you to believe. The general definition of “blawg” is “a web log written by lawyers and/or concerned primarily with legal affairs.” Denise is far too generous and inclusive a blogger to have intended the limited definition used by Rosen. In fact, someone less generous and inclusive than Denise might even suggest that some of the law student blogs cited by Rosen might not, in fact, meet the definition of “blawg.”
So, the term Denise coined gets mentioned without attribution to her and mis-defined in an article that offers the back of the hand to bloggers and appears in a prominent and high profile print publication. The great irony, of course, is there is now a good chance that Jeff Rosen will soon be cited as the source of the definition of “blawg” with the citation noting the definition he uses in his article. Oh, where is the justice?
I’ll keep my eyes open for a”clarification,” but, in the meantime, I’ll be volunteering some of my time to the Vote Matt Homann effort.
By the way, if you want to read a very good, thoughtful discussion of the subject that Rosen attempted to cover in his article, check out Ugly Exhibitionism While We Gawk at the Soap on Renee Blodgett’s excellent Down the Avenue blog. In the “it’s a small world” department, I actually met Renee at an ABA TECHSHOW several years ago when she worked for Dragon Systems and I was writing a legal technology column for Lawyers Weekly USA. It was at the first vendor event I ever attended and I appreciated the fact that Renee was willing to participate in the fiction that I was a serious journalist rather than the proto-blogger I probably was. Even better, she got me an extra dragon Beanie Baby so I could take two home for my daughter.

Resolutions for Law Firm CIOs in 2005

Phil Windley writes one of my favorite blogs. Today he has some excellent comments on the Gartner Group’s list of top 10 CIO resolutions for 2005.
As he notes, “most of this seems like the same old stuff,” but he singles out a few of the resolutions for special attention. I agree with his choices. The list applies to law firms as well as businesses in general.
First, there is the suggestion that CIOs use regulatory requirements to enable investment in related areas. Windley says, “This is great way to accomplish long term objectives from short term requirements.”
Second, there is the suggestion that CIOs spend more time getting familiar in a hands on way with some new technologies. Time, of course, can be hard to find. Windley recommends an idea I have been thinking about over the last month or two – advisory committees.
Windley says, “create an informal advisory board of a few people who are keeping up with the trends and take them to lunch once a month or so. . . . Another approach is to do something more formal such as hiring a consultant or two and make them your private tutors. Meet with them once a month for a few hours and have them come prepared to teach you about something you need to know but haven’t had the time to keep up with.”
In a way, Windley is suggesting that the notion of coaching has a place for CIOs. I’ve noticed that many law firm CIOs are very strong on information technology, but are not as up to speed on legal technology as they might want to be. In some cases, individual coaching might make sense. In others, the advisory committee notion might make sense.
For firms that have technology committees, I often see some similar knowledge gaps that could be greatly alleviated with a little effort, education and direction. I’ve always felt that many firms could benefit from some “coaching” for their technology committees or, perhaps even better, working with an “advisory committee” of legal tech consultants.
However, when this idea gets pitched to law firms, by others or by me, firms insist on going it alone even though they are well aware of the deficiencies in their knowledge and awareness of options. Perhaps that will change in 2005.