Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Here's a priceless message for women who have issues with their natural hair.  Enjoy, and share.

For the background story about the video, go here.


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Billing Narrative

Here's a post from October 25, 2010, on billing.  This goes in my "practical skills" curriculum I'll someday design for a law school.

Just a short note is in order tonight, since I've spent most of my evening editing my bills for time recorded over the past four weeks for clients whose matters I supervise.  It's unfortunate that the lawyers who most need to understand that the time spent drafting their time entries are those individuals who are least likely to see the entries in context, and so have no idea how a little extra effort can make a huge difference in client satisfaction.  Thoughtfully written time entries take into account what was done yesterday and today, and will be done tomorrow.  When the time entries make sense of the tasks performed, the people involved, and the work done, billing by the hour can make tremendous sense to the client.

Recently my alma mater sought input from alumni on the law school curriculum.  Unfortunately I couldn't attend the meetings because of schedule conflicts, but I do have a proposal.  I think that probably the most valuable course that could be added to the law school curriculum would be a practical skills course that required law students to write, review, and pay (from a limited fictional budget), the legal fees for a variety of tasks.  In fact, I think I could design that curriculum!  Many young lawyers work for years without seeing how the billing cycle plays out, from the time entries, through the billing partner edits and write-offs, to the client review and questioning, and finally the payment.  I do think it would be a very useful thing for the legal profession for more young lawyers to be connected to the invoicing cycle so that they could understand what work is appreciated and compensated by the clients, and what work is not.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Amortization of Business Development Costs

Attentive readers will recall the post back in April Morale for the Peeps, wherein I wrote about a creative associate's attempt to bring some levity to an otherwise fairly boring office routine by an art installation on a partner's desk involving six chicks.  The chicks came home with me back last Spring, were fostered by a neighbor for five months whilst my home was being rebuilt, and just last weekend came home to the most awesome chicken coop ever built.  And perhaps one of the more expensive ones.  Said creative associate spent about seven hours with me a few weekends ago, on the last 100 degree summer day, building a lovely home for the ladies.  They have a raised floor covered with stylish linoleum, a modern easily cleaned nest box, a super ergonomic roost, a window with a screen to keep the bugs out and let the sun shine in, and a sliding door that keeps the wolves (and labradors) at bay.  It's a bucolic scene.  Well after just a few days the ladies are paying me back handsomely--FOUR eggs today!  So the total production is now SEVEN!  And that means that the cost of my investment in coop materials is now being recouped (get it, re-cooped!) rapidly.  I think the cost of the materials was about $200, since we used lots of scrap wood that otherwise would have gone to the landfill.  So the hard cost per egg is now just under $30 each.  That makes for a fairly pricey omelette, but someday soonish the cost will be more in line with the price of organic free range chicken eggs from the local farmer's market.

Actually, though, the cost is a bit higher when I take into account our time to build the coop.  I think our combined billing rate was about $1,000 per hour, so the true cost of that day spent building the coop should be increased by about $7,000.  And that's not taking into account the years of study that I personally have invested in learning to raise and care for chickens.  So, the omelette that my husband has promised to make for our breakfast tomorrow morning represents a total outlay of thousands and thousands of dollars.

Perhaps we should have been working on client matters instead of building a McMansion for the ladies.  But the little tale does help illustrate a point about the true cost of client development.  For many lawyers, client development follows years and years of time spent learning how to take care of clients, to meet their needs, and to protect them from predators.  Studying design for food and water delivery.  Learning about the most productive way to clean up messes.

I should probably end the analogy here because I suspect that some of my clients won't understand my analogy to chickens.  They might if they knew how much I love my chicks, and how pleased I am when they give me eggs.  But the point (and I guess I have been obtuse enough today to actually need to re-state my point) is that when evaluating the cost of client development, it's important to take into account the time spent as well as the hard costs.  Time spent to travel to, as well as time spend in attendance at, networking meetings is a cost of business development, just as is as the hard costs for the plane tickets, hotel and meeting fees.  It's a good discipline to keep track of the out of pocket costs, as well as the time spent, in building our business development plans, in order to determine whether the structure we're building is an amusing hobby, or a truly productive use of time.

It's pretty clear to me that my time spent on chickens is never going to enable me to make a living.  By keeping an eye on which of my "client development" activities are effective, taking into account time as well as materials, I'm hoping that my relative acquisition cost per client  is a bit lower than my cost per egg.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Haiku #22

Grip grasp hold hug hang
on--to fading summer heat
Late October chills

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Yes, yes, I know I've slacked off my posting lately (have you missed me?  I doubt it).  I've been writing my novel (in my head) and contemplating whether it is a more productive use of my time to write these little posts/tirades/lament's or instead fiction about middle-aged women.  

Then in today's mail I was reminded that I have to write the updates for my chapters in a legal treatise to which I've contributed for the last 13 years, so I guess I won't start the novel until that is finished.  And I suppose I'll see if I can pound out a few more thoughtful comments for this site.  So it looks like my fiction writing career will have to take a back seat for a while longer, and instead I'll continue to contribute to the legal profession in my spare time.

Speaking of books, several of my colleagues have published lately.  I haven't read these yet but they are on my list.  If any of you beat me to the finish line, I'll be happy to publish your review as a guest post.  Check out Professor Joan Williams recently finished Reshaping the Work–Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter (Harvard Univ. Press 2010), and Ida Abbott's Women on Top: The Woman's Guide to Leadership and Power in Law Firm.  

As soon as I finish my current bedside story (Personal Recollection of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain) I'll move on to Joan's and Ida's works, and then will perhaps begin that novel.