Using Technology to improve legal services? Submit to the Chicago Legal Tech Innovator Showcase! Deadline 9-29!

Is your firm combining technology and innovation to serve clients? We want to know about it! The Chicago Legal Tech Innovation Showcase, brought to you by the Chicago Bar Association’s Future of the Profession Committee and Chicago Kent School of Law is October 24th.  Submissions are due by September 29th, 2017.

A panel of distinguished judges will choose five “Best in Show” awards in each of the 2 awards categories: Law Firm/Legal Services and Company/Product/Service. Each award winner will present a 5 minute pitch at the Chicago Kent Auditorium on October 24 and have an opportunity to exhibit during the event. All submissions that meet the criteria will be listed in a Chicago Legal Tech Showcase Guide 2017


The Chicago Legal Tech Innovator Showcase will promote the law firms, legal aid orgs, and companies that are using technology to improve legal services in the Chicago area and highlight those whose innovations are exceptional. Whether the end result is better legal knowledge management, more affordable legal services, or improved metrics for decision making and analysis—and regardless of how the services are delivered—we want to hear what you are doing and so does Chicago’s legal community!


To learn more and submit go to:


Attorneys: A Common Interest Agreement May Not Be Worth the Paper It’s Written On

It is a very common practice for counsel to co-defendants or co-plaintiffs to enter into agreements that shield their communications. The agreements are expressions of intent that the communications will be protected by the “common interest doctrine” that extends the attorney-client privilege to discussions with parties that share a common interest. Under the doctrine, the attorney-client privilege is not waived when such communications are made between parties sharing a common legal interest.

In Ambac Assur. Corp. v Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 27 NY3d 616 (2016), the New York Court of Appeals expressly limited the application of the common interest doctrine to “co-defendants, co-plaintiffs or persons who reasonably anticipate that they will become co-litigants.…” In doing so, the Court of Appeals clarified that the policy underpinning the doctrine was to enable two or more parties to coordinate a common claim or defense without fear that such efforts might later become the subject of disclosure.

Despite the frequent use of common interest agreements, there are limitations that may vitiate the privilege entirely and leave communications unprotected and discoverable to the other side. In applying the holding in Ambac, a New York County Supreme Court judge recently ruled that the common interest doctrine did not apply to communications between counsel where one party assigned claims to the other.

In 59 S. 4th LLC v A-Top Ins. Brokerage, Inc., 2017 N.Y. Slip. Op. 30050[U] (Sup. Ct., N.Y. County, Jan. 10, 2017), an owner of a residential development project initiated a lawsuit against an insurance broker, alleging that the broker had misrepresented the scope of work the general contractor could undertake with its current insurance. In addition, the owner obtained an unconditional assignment of any potential claims the general contractor may have possessed against the broker regarding the procurement of insurance. Subsequent to the assignment and during the litigation, the plaintiff owner and (non-party) general contractor entered into a “common interest agreement” before entering into a series of discussions. That agreement contemplated that certain communications between the owner and the general contractor would be privileged and confidential. When counsel for the broker sought production of those communications, the owner refused to produce them citing the common interest doctrine. The broker then moved to compel.

In granting the broker’s motion, the Court reaffirmed the limited applicability of the common interest doctrine as set forth by the Court of Appeals in Ambac. The Court reasoned that, because the assignment completely divested the general contractor of any interest it may have had in the outcome of the litigation, the general contractor could not – by definition – become a co-plaintiff in the action. As a result, the entirety of verbal and written communications between the owner and general contractor were deemed not privileged and subject to disclosure to the other side.

Following the holdings in Ambac and 59 S. 4th LLC, any lawyer considering entering into a common interest agreement should be mindful that these agreements are not automatically upheld. Instead, careful practitioners must confirm whether their situation meets the requirements set forth in Ambac above, or they, too, may see their private communications deemed unprotected.

© 2017 Wilson Elser

What It Takes to Make It Rain: Rainmakers Now, and Rainmakers of the Future

rainmakerIn the rapidly changing legal industry, it is no surprise that broad conceptions of what it means to be a rainmaker are also evolving. Dr. Heidi Gardner, Lecturer and Distinguished Fellow at the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, has been conducting research over the past decade on collaboration in law firms. Her findings have also revealed insights into rainmakers: what makes them successful, how their roles changed over time, and how the next generation of rainmakers can be primed to succeed. She will be presenting her findings on the myths and realities of rainmakers at the Thomson Reuters 24th Annual Marketing Partner Forum.

Successful Rainmakers: Extroverts, Introverts, and Cultural Understanding

A common discussion regarding rainmakers, and leadership in general, is whether they are born or made. Based on her decades long research, Dr. Gardner’s answer to whether rainmakers are born is a resounding no. What makes someone a successful rainmaker is their ability to exhibit other sides of their personality, or other strengths and traits, depending on their audience. Rainmakers are typically discussed as being highly extroverted—charismatic, forceful, possessing great salesmanship skills. However, these traits themselves don’t make rainmakers successful, but rather it is their enormous ability to connect with whomever the buyer of their services. Because buyers are not a homogeneous group, most successful rainmakers are able to adjust or adapt their style appropriately.

Introverts are therefore not precluded from being successful because of their commonly thought of as “quiet nature”. In fact, introverts may make better rainmakers in some regard. Dr. Gardner points out that introverts tend not to think out loud and consider what they’re going to say before they say it. They often take time to reflect and appropriately listen to the person that is sitting across the table. This makes introverts very adept at identifying the buyer’s underlying issues and thinking through what it takes to connect the dots inside their firm to help clients solve complex issues. Dr. Gardner also points out that “Many buyers of legal services are also introverts, and they will appreciate someone who has similar a demeanor—not salesy or pushy.” Great rainmakers who are introverts are chameleons. It likely takes more energy for them to be outgoing and interact with strangers in a bigger setting, but they will have developed the capacity to be gregarious enough to make those connections.

Successful rainmakers have a foundation of being highly empathetic and have a strong motivation and interest in understanding other clients—it’s part of what makes them so successful. Dr. Gardner posits these skills are the “basic building blocks for being able to communicate across cultures” and make rainmakers more equipped to be successful with buyers from other countries. What’s required is an additional measure of cultural intelligence; successful rainmakers take part in and study the behavioral mimicry of their buyers in addition to having an appreciation for why different people approach different problems from different perspectives in general.

Evolution of Rainmaker: Toward Collaboration

During the course of Dr. Gardner’s research, she has discovered an interesting trend, or rather non-trend, in the legal industry: the rainmakers at law firms are largely the same people. During the past ten to twelve years, firms have moved away from mandatory retirement. Partners are staying longer than ever, so the rainmakers at firms now are the same ones from a decade past.

There is a new generation of rainmakers coming in now, but there is a lot of frustration in the profession regarding the structure and effectiveness of succession planning (which will be discussed further below). Despite the fact that the legal industry is currently dealing with the same cast of characters, one profound change Dr. Gardner has observed in the last decade involves a simultaneous broadening and narrowing of the role of the rainmaker.

According to Dr. Gardner, “clients increasingly expect a level of industry expertise” that requires attorneys to identify their practices with more specificity than ever. An attorney can no longer be an “environmental attorney”, but must become “an environmental attorney with a focus on extractive industries”, or an “intellectual property lawyer” must be an “IP attorney who specializes in the patent prosecution of computer hardware”. However, because clients’ problems are becoming increasingly complex, rainmakers are less able to be seen as the single go-to person for a particular client who puts together a team of experts in a single discipline, but rather as needing pull together teams of multidiscipline experts. So along with the narrowing of the rainmaker’s own field of expertise, successful rainmakers are broadening their ability to pull together diverse teams to tackle their client’s problems. The rainmaker is the conductor; as Dr. Gardner states: “The client counts on them to be a broker to all of the kind of experts that exist within the firm.”

In order to be successful going forward, rainmakers of the future need to be more collaborative as far as seeking out complementary experts to serve clients. A common obstacle that prevents rainmakers from being successful in this is the reliance on bringing in the “obvious suspects” as a matter of prestige in front of the client. But when called upon to do work on the case, these attorneys are nowhere to be found. Dr. Gardner believes that a key to building a successful team will be to find the hidden gems at the law firm—rainmakers should seek out attorneys who are hungry for client service opportunities. She acknowledges that doing this can be a risky. It’s easier to put someone in front of your client who has an existing reputation as a guru in their sector, but their value to the process is limited if their participation is not complete.

People who are truly intent on becoming successful rainmakers should be investing the time and the energy on others who are not necessarily thought of as the “obvious suspects”. They must access the deeper well of talent that exists and bringing them through the system so that they become committed, loyal, deeply engaged attorneys who are serving the client. To continue to be successful, rainmakers will need to take the risks and bring different kinds of people on board; as Dr. Gardner stated “The legal industry is too fragile to rely on just small pool of experts.”

Rainmakers – The Next Generation

As stated previously, Dr. Gardner has found that effective succession planning in law firms has been found wanting. Even though this generation of rainmakers has been around longer than ever, it is critical for the continuing success of firms to take a hard look at bringing up the new generation of rainmakers on deck. The most effect way to begin doing this is through mentorship. Dr. Gardner states, “People need to accept responsibility for developing a pipeline of talent.” She experienced some of the effective mentoring while she was working as a consultant at McKinsey’s Johannesburg office. She worked under a partner that would take her to all the important meetings, where she wasn’t expected to participate, but allowed to observe. During her time under the tutelage of this partner at McKinsey, she learned a tremendous amount about the ins and outs of client handling. Today’s rainmakers need to make those types of investments in people that will eventually come after them.

Up-and-comers also need to be willing to take responsibility for the trajectory of their career. Too often, Dr. Gardner has encountered partners who have tried to give junior partners or associates the opportunity to participate in learning experiences, who are asked “Can I bill the time?” This is the incorrect mindset to have on the road to becoming a successful rainmaker. Dr. Gardner elaborates: “If you’re trying become a successful rainmaker, you have to invest some non-billable time in your own development as well.” Both the willingness of existing rainmakers to mentor and the tenacity of of rising rainmakers will be what dictates the success of the next generation of rainmakers.

Learn more about the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute Marketing Partner Forum here.

Copyright © 2017 National Law Forum, LLC

Time Management for Lawyers: Did You Have a Week or Did the Week Have you?

time managementAs a business development coach for attorneys, no one understands the stress and demands placed on a legal practitioner better than I do. Imagine spending your entire day listening to multiple people complain about the demands being placed on them and additional stress that’s created when we discuss investing time in business development. It makes perfect sense why most attorneys shy away from their marketing activities.

Time challenges aside, you must know by now that nothing will have a greater impact on your personal and financial freedom than having your own book of business. Therefore, it’s never been more important to effectively manage your time to ensure you can fit in the billable hours and business development, while still having the balance with your family or personal time. Here are three key tips to ensure you have the growth and balance to create the career you’ve been dreaming of:

Time Tip #1:  Have a solid plan for business development

Other than doing nothing, the worst thing you can do as a lawyer is to approach business development willy-nilly.  Attending events, writing articles or even speaking can be ineffective if your audience isn’t aligned with your goals. You need to have a plan in place to ensure you are spending your time in the right places with the right people. Think about the types of buyers and strategic partners you need to meet. Ask yourself, where do they spend their time?  How do I get in front of them?  How many do I need to build relationships with to grow my book?

A good plan should lay out your goals, strategies and tactics to accomplish your objectives in the fastest time possible. Think of the plan as a GPS. Before we had this tool, we would drive miles out of our way before turning around. Now the GPS tells us when we made a bad turn, but how to get back on track. This is what a good plan will do for you.

Time Tip #2: Use your calendar to schedule time for business development

We schedule our meetings for a closing, deposition or a trial, then why not schedule time for business development. They are all important and need to get done, so treat them with equal importance. Based on where you are in your career, how much time you need to carve out and your goals to grow your book, there needs to be an emphasis on carving out time daily or weekly for business development. Here are a couple of thoughts and best practices to think about:

  • Look at your calendar to find times when you are less likely to be distracted by email, phone calls or other people in your office. Not to boast, but I get into my office three days a week at 6 am. This gives me a solid six hours a week when I can get emails out, leave voice mails or make contacts through LinkedIn. If you’re a night owl, that might be better for you.
  • Once you do get meetings on your calendar, be sure to use the meeting invite tool to ensure that these meeting stick.  Changing schedules and cancellations are sometime inevitable; however we can curtail them slightly by getting into someone’s calendar right away. If you’re not sure how to use this tool, ask the person in the office next to you. It’s become as popular as emailing.
  • Use the calendar to schedule EVERYTHING! If you have to make a call, write an email or follow up with someone, schedule it. As I mentioned earlier, you need to start treating your marketing activities the same way you treat the law. Think of your schedule like an advanced “to-do” list. The more you use your calendar to schedule things, the more you will actually do. Just seeing a follow up call from a networking event up on your screen will prompt you to follow through.

Time Tip #3: Always pick the low-hanging fruit first

With all of the networking groups, associations and coffee meetings to choose from, you may quickly find your time drained away from you. One of the first things I suggest to attorneys is to look closely at your network and find the easiest way to obtain new business. This might include meeting with existing clients to cross-sell, up-sell or find quality introductions. You also might have some family or friends who are in power positions, but you haven’t tapped into that yet. Whatever the situation, it’s critical to leverage these contacts first.

A few concerns that you might have with this approach is the possibility of “blowing” the opportunity or “disrupting” the relationship. While this is always a remote possibility, here are some soft and gentle approaches that might ease your mind when venturing into uncharted territory:

  • Be curious. You’re a lawyer right? Use that as your excuse to ask a thousand questions about this person’s business. Everyone has goals and challenges that they’d be more than happy to share with you. Just be a great listener and ask deeper open-ended questions to find a way to add value. Value might be discussing the law in your office over coffee and value might be referring them to someone who can help solve a problem today. Either way, you will have a much better idea of the opportunity for you to do business now or in the future.

An example of this would be at a family function where you see Uncle Dan every year. He owns     a $20 million dollar website company. You can ask him, “What do you love about your business?” and “What types of challenges do you have running a company of that size?” Once     you start Uncle Dan talking about his favorite subject, himself, you can keep asking deeper questions to identify a possible need or a question he might have for you on the legal side.

  • Ask for Advice. In this scenario, you are looking to better understand the mindset of a business owner or GC as you are working to grow your own practice. Ask some great questions to obtain their advice and help. It’s then possible that they might try to help you with your goals, make an intro to someone they know or allow you to share your knowledge to help with a problem within their own company.
  • Look to obtain an introduction from an existing client. Look, you’re good at what you do and your client is very happy. In addition, you’ve invested time taking her to lunch, a game, golfing, etc.  Maybe it’s time to ask for a high level introduction to someone in her network that might want to have a similar experience.

It might make sense to schedule a lunch with your client, and before getting off the call say, “I’m looking forward to our lunch on Friday. I do have a favor to ask that would be really meaningful to me. I know you are well connected and have been very happy with my work. Would you be open to introducing me around to one or two of your business associates?” This type of question is permission based and should be received positively. The worst that can happen is that she will say “no.” The best thing can be an intro to a new client that could make your year! Plus, if she does say “no,” it might be a wake-up call that you might need to work on your relationship building skills.

One way or another, you have to get your time under control. You can create a more focused approach to business development, utilize your calendar at a higher level or focus on low-hanging fruit. Whatever the case, don’t wait. Sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand and say, “no more.”  The best thing you can do is to schedule time to get organized with your time.

Copyright @ 2016 Sales Results, Inc.

Lawdragon: Celebrating Ten Years Of Captivating Legal Journalism

For ten years, legal media company Lawdragon has been telling great stories about the law and lawyering.  Lawdragon embraced the power of the internet early on, creating content open to all who were interested in stories about the law.  Lawdragon has shown their commitment to high-quality legal journalism by crafting feature stories, a popular Question and Answer series, and an annual Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America devoted to attorneys, what they do, and what is possible with a law degree.

Lawdragon was founded by Katrina Dewey as a platform to tell stories about lawyers and lawyering.  Dewey began her career as a lawyer, but in her words, “I quickly discovered that I wanted to write about lawyers instead of practicing the law myself.”  She left her law firm associate job and “I did what I could to get hired as the lowliest journalist at the Daily Journal in California.” The “lowly” journalist position became Editor in 1996, a move that  Dewey describes as “a huge and lucky break.”   In 2005, with a desire to work more in the emerging online journalism market, Dewey founded Lawdragon. Daily Journal reporter John Ryan joined her and continues to serve as the company’s editor-in-chief.

Looking back at the first issue, Dewey describes the publication process as like  “giving birth.”  They wanted to kick off  the magazine in an edgy, interesting way, and one of the first stories was on the idea of term limits for Supreme Court justices.  Dewey remembers, “the week after we shipped our first issue, Justice Rehnquist passed away.”  Another memory of the beginning was Hurricane Katrina.  That disaster hit the same weekend the first publication went out, and it lingered as a sort of ghost each time Lawdragon has published an article that showcased the aftermath of the storm and the various legal issues that followed afterwards.  Looking back, Dewey describes the early days by saying, “we saw ourselves as an intrepid band of journalists, taking on larger lawyer outlets that were a little slow on the digital uptake.”  And that has been part of Lawdragon’s success.  Dewey saw the writing on the wall about how the media landscape was changing–and she wanted to create a place for features and profiles of lawyers with a company that had “digital in its DNA.” After ten years, the company has grown into a marketing and branding platform packed with fascinating tales of the law, using the power of the internet to allow anyone who is interested access to their stories. In fact, the content had become so popular among firms and lawyers that Lawdragon created a new “Lawdragon Press” division that provides paid content, marketing and branding services for firms.

Along those lines, when asked to describe Lawdragon’s audience, Dewey says, “We write for everyone who can read and has an interest in the law.”  The goal is to create intelligent, wide-ranging, eclectic content that shows what an attorney can do with a law degree.   Dewey says, “The goal is to write stories that everyone can access, but are still interesting enough to appeal to attorneys.”

And true to the mission, reading Lawdragon provides perspective on just how far-reaching a law degree can be.  With features on everyone from David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, Adam Streisand of Sheppard Mullin, who litigated the trial that paved the way for the sale of the LA Clippers to Jodi Westbrook Flowers at Motley Rice, who has worked for over a decade for the victims of the September 11 attacks against  the financiers and and supporters of Al Qaeda, the subject matter is an abject lesson on just what the law can accomplish.

“We’ve tried to cast a wide net on our coverage of interesting lawyers and legal matters, which is why we’ve done original reporting on justice issues in places like South Africa, former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, The Hague and most recently Guantanamo Bay,” Ryan said.

One essential element of Lawdragon’s philosophy is an unwavering optimism about high-quality articles and reporting.  Dewey says, “We are optimists about good content; we believe there is a place for good content in the world.”  With an intrinsic belief that the law has the power to change people’s lives, right wrongs, and inspire as well as an understanding that lawyers who practice law have compelling reasons to do so, over the ten years of its existence Lawdragon has demonstrated a commitment to showcasing those stories.  Dewey says, “We are about the power of story, generally.  We want to show the individual stories of these attorneys who are advocates of the law, who all have their own perspective and ways of contributing to justice. ”

A natural outgrowth of that philosophy is the Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers.  This feature  highlights some of the most captivating attorneys and the work they do across the nation. While the Lawdragon 500 is probably the best known element of the publication, it is not a ranking system.  Through a careful process balancing editorial research by Lawdragon staff, law firm submissions, and an open online nominations form, the 500 are carefully curated, but not ranked.  Instead, the guide is a way for Lawdragon to showcase attorneys and their perspectives, how they contribute to justice, and how they use the law as a tool to advocate.

As a result of the commitment to quality content and great stories, Lawdragon articles have strong SEO content and can be a great platform for the attorneys who are featured. One thing Lawdragon provides for the attorneys that are featured is objective, third party, independent recognition of their skills and reputation.  Additionally, Lawdragon publishes an annual print publication, giving attorneys and their clients something to hold, beautiful pictures to see, and amazing articles to read. As Carlton Dyce of Lawdragon points out, “Our print publication is great for attorneys to have in their offices, handy for their clients to read while they are waiting.  It’s a great way to showcase the attorney they are about to see.”  ​

The tenth edition of the Lawdragon 500 will be released soon, an exciting milestone for the company.  Over the years and after many compelling stories, Lawdragon remains excited about its core mission–telling stories of lawyers and lawyering. With millions of lawyers doing captivating work in many fields there is no shortage of stories, and Lawdragon remains committed to telling them.

Article by Eilene Spear of the National Law Review
Copyright ©2015 National Law Forum, LLC

Once and Future Legal Profession – 10 things (plus 4) Lawyers Had in 19th Century They Should Get Back

Coming out of the 19th Century, practicing law was an almost unimaginably great way to live.


  • The work was knowledge work and, by and large, it was challenging.
  • The practice entailed a craft to be mastered – both in terms of knowledge and experience, and also in terms of analytical and persuasive skills. Lawyer skills enhanced life skills. They developed judgment.
  • The work was meaningful. It made a difference in the lives of clients who had personal connections with their lawyers.
  • The profession itself was set apart. Its members had attended the same or similar schools, and had read and studied the same literature and culture. There was a high level of trust among practitioners.

  • Many lawyers practiced by themselves, controlling their own comings and goings, while regularly associating fellow lawyers as needed. Others practiced in small, personal partnerships. Experienced lawyers helped new lawyers learn the practice, regardless of firm memberships.

  • Lawyers’ work contributed in a vital way to the system of justice, and also to a growing system of business and commerce.

  • Lawyers were compensated based on value delivered and the clients’ ability to pay. There was a grounded sense that lawyers had an obligation to render services for the public good without pay in appropriate cases.

  • There were no timesheets. There was no billing software. There were no hourly rates, and no billable-hours quotas.

  • Lawyers commonly earned a good living, often by investing alongside their clients in new ventures and being involved in the operations of those and other businesses; or, more simply, by farming while they also practiced law.

  • Commonly, lawyers played leading roles in the civic and cultural affairs of their communities, both as a matter of interest and perceived duty, and also because it promoted their law practices.

  • The technologies used in legal work imposed a slower pace on professional life.

  • Lawyers’ public and private roles were not separated. Few perceived a need to balance different aspects of their lives.

  • There was little need for lawyers to get up early in the morning.

  • For the most part, lawyers were not called upon to lift or carry heavy things.

Why would anybody screw that up?

Current developments in the legal profession and in the broader workplace offer the hope that a 21st Century version of what was lost can be recaptured.

Legal services technologies and artificial intelligence, alternative legal services providers, networking capabilities, and communications technologies – these are tools that relieve practitioners of the need to perform high-volume, routine tasks. They enable new forms of collaboration. They can support newly envisioned, smaller, more cohesive, and more creative professional associations.

This will require differently trained lawyers, and new kinds of legal services providers. For lawyers and the schools who prepare them, it will require rethinking legal education, and a new understanding of organizational development, talent management and professional development.

Those things will come, albeit not rapidly. Some heavy lifting may be required.

Copyright © 2015, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP