29 Apr 11

Some of you likely know that Summit Law Group is a little different. I get bug-eyes from people whenever I discuss our lack of a general policy manual, our lack of dress code, our Value Adjustment Line allowing the customer to set the end price, and that minor detail of EVERY person having an outside office with no corner office real estate. Yes, these are ALL very remarkable cultural marks of Summit Law Group.

Recently, I took advantage of one more remarkable cultural marking, our pet friendly office space!

I’m sure there are many smaller firms that offer pet friendly work space, likely due to a main partner in the firm setting that rule from the get-go because of their own dog. However, I’ve never met a 30ish attorney firm who had an open policy allowing employees to bring pets to work.

So, I know, this all sounds great and fun and all, but how does it really work out?

First off, my initial concern was that even though it’s SAID that Summit is pet friendly, what’s the reception going to be like when I first bring her to work? Will relationships change? Well, although there are a few folks who have always disagreed with Summit’s pet tolerance, I’m finding 90% of people here get great joy from taking a few minutes to visit with this little love monster. It’s really helped enhance many of my office relationships, giving different angles of personal engagement and conversations that would never have otherwise come about.

So, that’s the good part…

There are some draw backs.  First and foremost, even in a pet friendly office not EVERYONE is pet friendly.  And even though they smile and say, “Oh how cute!” know that they may be complaining to someone.  I’ve been fortunate enough that I believe all the concerns have been completely legitimate and no one has complained from a point of “joy stealing”.  With that said, here are my own rules I’ve applied to allow my experience as a pet owner to be as freeing and joyful as possible:

  1. Although you might think EVERYONE wants to meet your pet and play with him/her, you shouldn’t take her EVERYWHERE in the office with you.  I’ve learned that it’s quite a distraction for people when you walk in with a Lucy in tow and try to discuss complex (or even simple) business matters.  Leaving her in my office allows me to conduct “business as usual”.
  2. Pets aren’t meant for meetings… of any sort.  For the same reason parents rarely bring their children to work, it’s a good idea to not bring your pets to business meetings.  Imagine someone bringing their child into a business meeting.  It does change the conversation dynamic and likely even the focus of the meeting.
  3. Pee pee pads are necessary, even for the most well behaved dog.  You don’t want to be THAT employee who gets the “pet friendly” title taken away because you haven’t properly trained your pet.  This can go for bathroom habits just as well as chewing habits!  I would be mortified if Lucy caused damage in my office.  Granted she’s 4 lbs of cuteness, but she COULD still cause some damage.  The Pee Pee Pad reference is a general one. Doesn’t have to only insinuate bathroom habits.  Think about making sure your pet can remain entertained in your office without having to “engage” the local fixtures.
  4. Have a backup plan! Sometimes meetings pop up unexpectedly (and by sometimes, I mean all the time), so have arrangements with others in your firm who are willing to watch your pet if an unexpected meeting should make it necessary to leave him/her for an extended period of time.  I’m not saying a 15 minute meeting.  Most pets can handle that.  But for meetings that may run longer, your pet likely isn’t really interested in spending that much time alone.  If all else fails, have a kennel either in your office or in your nearby car.  Neither of these are ideal, but will certainly due in a pinch.
  5. Not every office can be pet friendly.  Some buildings don’t allow pets at all (unless under ADA rules for service animals).  Keep this in mind for YOUR office if you’re thinking about converting to a pet friendly office OR if you’re considering moving your office.  Think your culture could be enriched by adding pets? Make that deal with your landlord even if you THINK it MIGHT be a possibility!  You can always not allow it, but if you don’t have an arrangement with the landlord, you’re sunk!
  6. The office should not be an off-leash area at any time. There are a couple good reasons for this, first, because there may be other pets in the office.  Keeping yours on the leash will prevent any potential “run ins” between them. Another reason is that no matter how well behaved your pet may be it’s VERY difficult to train the humans in the office!  So, some people will LOVE bringing your pet to their office where they have treats and kibble!  Once this starts and you let your pet off the leash OFF they go down the hall making rounds to the treat-holders society.

Those are my pieces of feedback for now. Please drop questions in the comments.  I’d love to examine any ideas you have.

If you have more interest in Lucy than in my firm you can always follow her on Facebook!

Filed under: Cultural,Legal,Management

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12 Sep 10

So, I’m going to do a series of blog posts in the coming weeks about making choices regarding your needs for a lawyer, legal services and powerful ways to avoid pitfalls during that process.

Buying legal services can be quite similar to buying any other product or service. You have choices. Choices about personality and relationships; choices about pricing; choices about extra charges; choices about payment plans; choices about billing arrangements; choices… just choices! Most of the time any of us (including me for the first time on the BUYING end of legal services recently) the process of choosing a lawyer solely depends on someone else recommending a lawyer “they’ve heard of”. And, because when we need legal services, we’re usually months late in finally making that choice, so we’re hurried to get legal representation. Go into the decision with tools to make the choice quick and easy.

I have so many friends who don’t work in legal who want advice about how to find the right lawyer and what to look for as qualities or pitfalls to avoid. And I do figure with my experience with having worked with firms who have a combine total of over 1500 lawyers in the past 10 years (large firms, mid-sized firms, and smaller firms). Working at some of THE top firms in the world and in Seattle. Beyond that experience, my connections through the Association of Legal Administrators (a 10,000+ member organization dedicated to educating, networking and enhancing the business managers inside law firms and legal departments), gives me access to thousands of professionals and friends in the industry all around the United States who I trust for advice and guidance in all areas of the legal industry and running law firms. With the relationships I’ve built within ALA, I certainly have great ways to dig up personal experience with individual lawyers or firms around the country.

So, what do you say? Who doesn’t want advice and guidance on making choices that could cost you big BUCK?. Many lawyers will get you similar results… others will get you amazing results and will leave you feeling like you have a friend in the biz OR you could get a lawyer who just made bank for your hardship.

My promises: I will mention all of my previous firms and my experiences in those environments and cultures. I will NOT name names of lawyers I didn’t get along with, but will share the stories openly with fictitious names. :) I WILL likely boast about my current firm, Summit Law Group, because they rock AND because they’ve given me an amazing insight as to why law firms should be different. And my final promise, no sugar coating, just honest, straight forward answers and guidance to choices in legal services.

How do you think I should handle this? Should this be my first stab at video blogging? OR should I stick with my written word? Maybe a little of both! Very excited about this topic.

Filed under: Legal,Management

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21 Feb 10

It’s been a conscious decision from the day I started working at Summit Law Group (August 29, 2005, but who’s counting) that I would become Summit’s second CLM.  Knowing very well, that it would take me another 3.5 years to qualify as a “Functional Specialist” (someone who works in a specific function at a law firm, in my case I am the Accounting Manager having only oversight of the firm’s financial activity, this is opposed to an “Overall Administrator”).  The qualifications for a Functional Specialist are a bit more stringent than those of an Overall Administrator.  First off, you need five years in a managerial role.  Secondly, BEYOND the 120 minutes of certified course work in five of the nine areas of study over a 24 month period prior to applying for the exam, you ALSO needed 15 ADDITIONAL HOURS of certified course study outside of your own functional specialty.  The understood reasoning for the additional hours requirement is because, as a functional specialist you do not have responsibility and thus perhaps knowledge in all the areas of the law firm’s operations, even if you could sit for and pass the exam.

Knowing all this, it was apparent that any functional specialist seeking the Certified Legal Manager designation would need to exert a higher level of dedication and discipline to achieve this already very high standard for professional certification.

What I didn’t initially realize during my initial preparations was how much support and encouragement, education, mentoring, and cheer leading it would take for me to go from Certifiable to Certified!

Over the first two years of my employment at Summit, Marc G. Reynolds, CLM sat with me on many occasions to discuss the certification, the process, the educational requirements, his journey through the process, the trials others went through, the idea that many people hide the fact that they are taking the exam simply to save embarrassment if they should fail, and so on and so forth.  There was much to discuss and much to prepare for.  These discussions led me to offer complete transparency of the challenges I would be facing over the upcoming years.  Almost immediately, I began sharing with colleagues in PSALA that in May 2009 I would be sitting for the CLM.  Keep in mind, that this is 2005 still!  I couldn’t even start compiling my educational requirements for another two years, but yet, I was already putting myself and my dedication out there knowing very well, that if I placed this standard on myself, then others around me would encourage and help me along the way.

So we skip forward to October 2007.  I attend the Region 5 conference in Portland, OR and receive my first few CLM qualified hours of course work!!  How exciting!  I didn’t even realize it.  (Keeping in mind it was also at this conference where I met Wendy Rice-Isaacs, President of ALA International, and told her, “I”m going to be President someday too”.  To which she relied, “Oh, of your chapter?” and I said, “No! Of all ALA, just like you!”  What was I thinking?  Anyway, let’s hope I’m writing about that journey at another time.)

Next big step in the journey was attending the International Conference the following spring which happened to be in Seattle in May 2008.  Just prior to this conference I started back tracking through my legal course work and started documenting all of the sessions I attended in Portland as well as any chapter education that would qualify for certification.  Then, when the Annual Conference Educational Brochure was released I very delicately scoured the educational sessions for EVERY single CLM certified course to determine if I would reach all my educational needs by the end of the conference.  To my amazement, if I attended all the CLM sessions during the 2008 conference I was going to have more than 80% of my course work already completed, with still another year to complete the remaining educational requirements before sitting for the exam in May 2009.  WOW!

My next step was the PSALA CLM Study Group.  Beginning on October 1, 2008 members of our chapter’s elite compiled courses covering all the essential “areas of competence” for legal administrators.  These courses would be conducted every other Wednesday from 3:30-5PM until APRIL!  WOW!  We were so lucky to have such an amazing group of dedicated and specialized knowledge in our chapter.  And although I didn’t need to document this coursework into my criteria for certification, it was absolutely critical to my ultimate success.  After all, JUST simply being a manager for 5 years and receiving the prerequisite course work was simply NOT enough to pass the exam.  You needed a true and thorough knowledge of ALL areas of law firm operations.

The very first CLM Study Group meeting was a bit intimidating.  Even though I had discussed the exam and processes quite extensively with Marc G. Reynolds, CLM over the past few years, it was quite intimidating to hear that Carol Anne Nitsche, CLM had actually read THE Financial Management for Law Firms reference book three times, cover to cover.  This monstrous book was 500+ pages of formulas and finance theory all based around law firm performance standards.  OMG… There was no way I was going to have that much dedication.  Is that what it really took?  It was at that moment that I severely regretted having told EVERYONE that I was definitely going to sit for AND PASS that exam in May 2009.  Thank goodness, no other prior CLM’s at this meeting had gone to quite that length.

Skipping forward to January 2009, I submitted my certified educational listing to ALA Headquarters to “certify” that I could in fact sit for the exam in May.  I submitted my payment and application then… I found out that they wouldn’t schedule me to sit for the exam.  Well, not until February 2009 when I actually hit my 5 year mark!  PHEW!  I have to say, I was a bit panicked when I got the phone call saying “We received your application and your payment, but we can’t send you a confirmation letter just yet”.  But alas, in late February I received my certification letter telling me that I officially qualified to sit for the Certified Legal Manager exam on Sunday, May 17, 2009 from 8AM-12PM in New Orleans, LA.  YES!  SUCCESS!  Well, not yet, but I was so close!!!

Over the next few months, I spent 3-4 nights per week reading through all my study materials from the CLM Study Group, as well as the CLM Study Guide.  It seemed like the more I read and the more I studied the more confusing all the information got!  But, I made it through all the materials.  I was as prepared as I could be.

Fast forward to the morning of May 17, Barb Paige and I met for breakfast at 6:30AM to make a final study run and to fuel up for the 4 hour mental marathon!  But… both of us were exhausted!  Many of our friends went out on Saturday night while we stayed in to study, while we stayed in to be well rested and un-hungover.  So, that solemn morning we sat there at breakfast, ate quietly, and expressed how nervous we were to take that LONG escalator ride up to the third floor of the Marriott Hotel.

When we arrived at the exam room at 7:30, we were the FIRST people there.  The doors weren’t even open yet.  Just moments later, one of the ALA staffers bursts through the doors perky and happy and praising us for arriving first and SO excited that we were sitting for the exam (the other ALA staffer seemed just as exhausted as we were and fortunately shared our lack of enthusiasm at such an early hour).

Over the next half hour each of the other 30 or so exam participants trickled into the room, each one taking a seat at their individual tables, the rules were explained and off we went!  I read through the exam once marking all the answers I knew instinctively, setting aside all the questions that I would need to “process” more thoroughly for later on.  This took me about an hour to go through the 125 questions.  Next I went back through to process the approximate 1/3 of the questions that required some evaluation or at least a coin flip approach.  That took another hour.  It was now 10AM and I had all the answers circled in my exam booklet.  Last step was to transfer the answers from the booklet to the answer sheet.  That took another 40 minutes as I still re-read every question as I transferred the answers from the booklet to the answer sheet.  10:40… and I was done?  Just moments before that I saw one gentleman turn in his materials and leave, but that meant I was number 2 to finish?  That couldn’t be a good sign, so I started going through my booklet again…. hold on, I had done my best.  I promised myself that I would not beat myself to death and risk changing perfectly good answers!  So, I took a deep breath, picked up my exam and took the walk of shame to the “hall monitor” at the front of the room, went back, gathered my personal belongings and out the door I went, knowing it would be “6-8 weeks” before I knew the results.

The conference was amazing, blah blah blah.  The only thing I could think about was that exam, the individual questions that seemed crazy, the results of that exam, and what it would mean for my future.  Trying to picture my new email signature “Richard L. Wood, CLM”.

Four weeks passed, I’m sitting in my office.  It’s about 11:15AM and Marc G. Reynolds, CLM walks into my office holding one single envelope.  This envelop is handed over to me.  It hasn’t been opened.  It says “Association of Legal Administrators” on the outside.  My heart races!  Why did he do this to me?  He intercepted my exam results and now had brought the letter to me and expected me to open it in front of him.  What if I failed???

I slowly tear open the letter… “We are sorry to inform you that you did NOT PASS the Certified Legal Manager exam.”  My heart sunk.  I looked up at Marc G. Reynolds, CLM and said, “I didn’t get it”.  Together we went over the very vague scoring results to see where my weaknesses were.  Come to find out, I was actually pretty good in finance… but not so good in ALL the other areas, just BARELY not passing each of the other areas of the exam.

Now what?  The Region 5 Conference was going to be in lovely Banff, just outside Calgary up in Canada and would not be an exam site for the fall.  So, the only next chance I would have to retake the exam would be in Las Vegas the week after the Region 5 Conference.  Would I have to go through ALL that study prep AGAIN?  What if I failed AGAIN?  What would be next for me?  Was it supposed to be a sign that I shouldn’t even be in legal?  All of these questions pounded in my head for two months.

Then I sucked in my ample stomach and said, “I’m going for it.  I’ve already put in SO much effort.  I can do this!”  So, once again I was on the studious path preparing for the exam retake in Las Vegas, NV on October 8th at 1-5pm.

I decided to skip the Region 5 conference in Banff assuming I would be spending that weekend studying intensely for the exam.

I won’t drag you through the play by play again, except for a few minor steps.  I arrived in Vegas on the evening of October 7, got up early on the 8th and went to the spa for a full body Shiatsu massage, had lunch and went to the exam.  I was VERY relaxed.  I had been through this before and decided there was no need to be nervous.  I already knew what to expect, except this time I wasn’t expecting a failure notice!  Once again, I had finished the exam in less than three hours, then RUSHED to the airport to catch my 5:30 flight back to Seattle.

Once I get back to my office four weeks pass and I am contemplating my entire future based around the results of this exam.  I couldn’t let Marc G. Reynolds, CLM down again.  We’re peers.  He’s put a lot of effort into preparing me for this exam, preparing me for a bright future in Legal Administration, building me up to our peers inside and outside our firm.  What if I failed again?  Should I just leave?  Should I change careers?  I was heart broken at the idea of leaving, but very worried about the consequences of proving my own incompetence.

Again, four weeks passes, this time I grab the letter out of my mail box.  I open it… “Congratulations!  You have PASSED the Certified Legal Manager Exam!!”  Tears welled up in my eyes, not quite spilling over the dam.  I literally RAN to Marc G. Reynolds, CLM’s office and tossed the letter on his desk, “I PASSED!!!”  To which, Marc G. Reynolds, CLM replied, “Congratulations Richard L. Wood, CLM”.  I was the 7th PSALA chapter member to become a Certified Legal Manager and number 312 in the United States.  It was a very proud, yet humbling moment in my life.

I hope I’ve given you an idea of the risks and rewards of the journey through the CLM process.  Would I do it again?  Would I have told everyone that I was going to sit for the exam?  Would I sit for the exam knowing I would fail the first time?  Would I sit for the exam a SECOND time knowing in my heart of hearts that my life and career were going to changer regardless of the results?  I would.

Out of this intense process blossomed a new Certified Legal Manager.  A designation currently reserved for only 312 of our 10,000+ membership.  It’s not only a moment of pride for pride’s sake.  It’s an accomplishment of a thorough and well balanced education.  Even though the exam seemed like the “be all and end all”, looking back at the process, I learned so many new skills and developed a whole new understanding and respect for the AMAZING industry that I’m thrilled to be a leader in, Legal Administration.

If you’d like more information about the CLM process, the exam or my experience, please feel free to email me, Richard L. Wood, CLM at

Filed under: Management

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11 Feb 10

Thanks to my dear friend Evelyn for sharing this with me yesterday:

This internet business was featured in a television news story yesterday evening.  It is quite frightening for those of us who assume that resumes would actually reflect the true history and qualifications of the applicant:

Our employment verification process takes the frustration out of your job search and eliminates annoying blots on your resume. We realize the pressure you face trying to find a job or start a new career. Based on many years of HR experience, our job reference services can help you land that job by providing you with outstanding job references for you to add on your resume, and answer any inquiries with a positive response..  Read more on How-it-Works

Why Choose

  • You Choose Your Career History!
  • You Pick Your Start and End Date!
  • You Choose your Salary!
  • We Provide a Real Company Just for You!
  • We Provide a Real Address For That Company!
  • We  Provide a Real Website For That Company!
  • We  Provide a Real “800” Phone Number!
  • We Will Have our Operators Standing By!

Just one more thing to watch for when doing reference checks.  Evelyn

Here’s the ABC News Story:

Filed under: Legal,Management

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25 Oct 09

First off, I believe this book is well intentioned for corporate folks who have large organizations begging them to understand what this “whole social media thing” is all about.  It’s very appealing to this audience for a few reasons.  1) The methodical approach to much of the first 2/3 of the book are getting folks to understand the statistical value of target markets relating to technology, referred to as “Technographics”.  This approach could be very helpful to folks who need statistics to prove anything to someone else.  2) Lots of large companies are used in the Case Study examples.  Again, I believe this approach gives anyone who works in what they believe is a “stodgy corporate environment” hope that their organization too can overcome the fears of innovation.

My biggest concern about this book is that it really seems more as a sales pitch for consulting company where the authors work, Forrester Research.  This really puts me off, but alas, there were lots of gems gleaned in these pages.

This book couldn’t be further opposite of “Trust Agents” if it tried.  They only really have one thing in common and that is “people connect to people”.  I repeat, “People connect to People!”

Although I like the idea that they have a winning step by step approach for entering the Groundswell (the large uprising of customers voicing opinions and blogs about you online where you have no control), but I also worry that issuing a step by step approach to a crowd who are likely reading this book because they don’t know where to start, is like telling someone how to build a watch when they ask for the time.

The one missing message of this book was “just try it”.  Especially if you are in a much smaller environment (and I’ll bet you are) than the examples of companies given in the book.  In the legal administrator ranks we have a term called “Paralysis by Analysis” and it’s exactly what it sounds like.  People and companies will continue to put off the inevitable by over analyzing the circumstances or waiting for one more example of what can go wrong.

I don’t believe this book gives you everything you need to start a complex groundswell engagement if you’re a large company, but after all now you know that Forrester Research has the capacity and technical skills to help you over analyze the situation of your customer base and determine exactly what direction you need to go in.

I found it absurd to state things like, “This solution only cost the company $280,000 to start and maintenance is only $25,000 per month.”  Statements like that help me fully understand that Forrester is targeting much larger fish than me or my firm!  LOL

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the book, but just having finished Trust Agents (a very feel-good and personal book), the writing style and approach from a corporate formula approach just hit me wrong.

I think it was mis-titled.  Should have been “Groundswell: How your Fortune 500 Company will be Transformed by Social Technologies

(This was my second Kindle book completed, but this one I started and finished on my new International Kindle 2! Much nicer to read on!)

Filed under: Management,Social Media,Twitter

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1 Sep 09

I feel pretty well connected into Social Media, but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert… by anyone’s imagination!

However, I was talking with my good friends up a DerekMedia today, Derek Johnson & Andrew Dumont, about further developing Summit Law Group’s social media presence. This is a really tough topic for me since I’ve been doing it all up til now and I was curious about what an outside company might be able to offer insofar as changing up my own approach and “strategy” (if that’s what you can call my shot gun approach). Are there better and more practical methods that I’m not employing? LIKELY!

DerekMedia is likely a great solution for a firm like mine. First off, they are a customer and it always feels good to give business back to customers! Secondly, they have an edginess about them that I absolutely LOVE! They aren’t willing to sit idly by while the world revolves around them in the same old way it always has. They want to challenge the direction of the revolution!

Anyway, so the dilemma is: I’ve been doing all the Summit social media activity for a fair amount of time now getting things off the ground. And in the local legal community I am held in fairly high regard for innovation and approach on these issues. However, what is enough? When’s it time to say, “Yes I can, but should I? Is this the best use of my time and skill? Is there someone else who is more effective and/or efficient?” My ego says, “HELL NO! You rock!” But my intuition says, “Richard, relax. You can still ‘do’ it even if you out-house to Derek’s posse!”

Anyway, so now comes the discussion of ROI and budget and all that. But before I can touch that topic, I have to convince myself and develop convincing arguments that assistance is needed and desired.

Until next time, In-House or Out-House, help me decide! :)

Filed under: Management,Social Media

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