Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Militant Islam in Western Europe

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Can Lawyers survive the Internet revolution?

I'm definitely coming around to the idea that the Internet revolution (we're only at the beginning) is as big or bigger than the Industrial revolution. The world will be as different as a result.

I've started taking an online graduate course at www.capella.edu It's a fascinating process. We all have a textbook, receive homework, must post comments and respond to our classmates, and submit a term paper. The flexibility is tremendous and with profiles and pictures of my classmates, I have begun to identify with some of them. It costs $1630 per 4 credit course, so it isn't cheap, but there's value and the fact that the class conforms to my schedule-not the other way around-is of tremendous value.

I've heard a lot recently about law firms becoming more and more open, shall we say, about the fact that they are a business and the need for associates who wish to become partner to really show their value-add to the firm. It seems that if you are managing a business, you want to minimize the costs associated with the internal processes. One of these, for a law firm, is the document related work that junior associates perform.

So, it seems like there is a market opportunity for an ABA accredited law school to start offering online courses and degrees to foreign, English speaking students (India, Ireland, or Ghana, for example) as a way to generate additional revenue. Since, I'm told, you don't need to be an American citizen in order to be a member of the Bar, those students could take a course (either online or in person-perhaps a law firm would fund the trip) and get certified for the Bar. Then, instead of the $110k or whatever a 1st year associate gets paid, the firm could pay a foreign-born, foreign-living, American law school-educated, Bar member associate 1/3rd or 1/2 of that. Some of the savings would be passed on to clients, the rest goes into the partners' pockets.

It may not happen overnight, but why not?

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Building the Value of YOUR Network...

At this point in our careers, we are well aware of the importance and value of our respective business networks. It’s no secret that a large part of our future success depends on our effectiveness in nurturing and growing our networks.

The question I’m struggling with now is: “what is the best way for any of us to add value to each person in our networks of contacts in a way that can scale up to address a (hopefully) ever-growing number of people?”

The evolving business network oriented sites like http://www.linkedin.com/, www.spoke.com and www.ryze.com seem to be one component of this strategy, but they don’t address the fundamental question. What part is “science” and what part is “art?” It’s great if you know who is in your network, but you need some way to gauge the value that you are delivering to each person based on their unique sets of requirements and expectations.

Companies that implement a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) strategy obviously face this, but on an individual level, we face this as well. And perhaps, we would expect more personal touches from individuals than large, faceless corporations. On the flip side, however, with time constraints facing all of us, the more you can automate, the lower your costs, but what are the trade-offs?

For a simple example, I use Outlook’s feature to record the birthdays and anniversaries of most people I know. Then, I either email or call them on that day. That’s some art, some science. In some cases, I use a template for a “Happy Birthday” email, some science there. But if the entire process were automated and I didn’t even know that it was your birthday and some script on the computer just generated the email, would that be sufficient? Do you care? People generally appreciate hearing from me (or so I am told) on their birthdays and it gives me an annual excuse/impetus to just check-in which I enjoy as well, but is this sufficient to fall under the category of adding value? Would you rather hear some idea that will help you professionally or get a call from me wishing you Happy Birthday?

In Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends Tim Sanders suggests that it is the process of sharing knowledge and idea to help your network learn and grow that adds value.

That may be true, but is a mass, but personalized email (using Outlook2003 and Word2003) the best forum for doing that? How do I really know what you’d like to learn or hear about? Should I have a comprehensive database that I search and contact when I finish a book like Jim Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't, so I can write a mini book report and send it to those who are interested in management ideas and what turns competent companies into superior companies?

Perhaps I can set up a survey at www.surveymonkey.com to ask people, but then there is no easy way for me to track, sort, and communicate based on those responses, without investing a hell of a lot of time. Essentially, perhaps what I am suggesting is that the day is coming (has come) when each of us who are part of the knowledge economy will need to develop a personal Network Relationship Management strategy that will enable each of us to automate those elements that can be put into a process and keep enough room for the ‘Art,’ remembering that we’re dealing with real human beings on the other end of the line.

Looking forward to hearing from you on how we can answer this question.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Received from my grandfather, Stanley Robinson:

Keep this philosophy in mind the next time you are about to repeat rumour or hearsay

In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?"

"Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?"

"That's right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my student let's take a moment to filter what you're going to say. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it"

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"

"No, on the contrary..."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, even though you're not certain it's true?" The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued. "You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter, the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really"

Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?"

The man was defeated and ashamed. This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem. It also explains why he never found out that Plato was shagging his wife.
We just took our first family airline trip with Calanit. I think it's easier to invade Iraq than to travel with an infant. I jest, but it does take a heck of a lot more strategic planning and a bit more muscle to do it. We were gone for five days and I planned about a week in advance, gave ourselves plenty of time, spent a bit more in tips than I usually do, and had to lug a few more bags, but I am very proud of the degree of execution that we accomplished. Team Epstein did a great job.
I've rediscovered the value of the business suit. For years, I swore I'd never wear a tie again, but recently, I've come to see the value of it. I guess I'm getting older (maturing?). It conveys a degree of seriousness and confidence and professionalism. I feel like I act a bit more professional while in it as well. Who knows? If I wore it every day, I may not feel that way.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

One of the most majestic things I've experienced since Calanit's is watching the nightly "fight to stay awake." She's exhausted and we know she's going out for the count, but she keeps trying to stay awake. It's like she knows the world is a wonderful place and she doesn't want to miss anything. She wants to keep on seeing things, but she just can't keep her eyes open even though she tries. What a far cry from later in life when we yearn and beg for sleep as a needed break from the world.