During this past week two icons from the baseball world – Lou Brock and Tom Seaver – sadly passed away. They largely played during the same era and according to ESPN, as a hitter Mr. Brock faced Mr. Seaver as a pitcher 157 times – that was Mr. Brock’s most plate appearances against any pitcher and Mr. Brock was the batter that Mr. Seaver faced the most.

While their enormous talents on the baseball field provided so many great memories for baseball fans like myself, their legacies also offer these valuable lessons that are applicable to all of us who work in Corporate America:

Identify, Embrace & Don’t Lose Great Talent

In 1964 the Chicago Cubs traded Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1977 the New York Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds. In both cases the Cubs and Mets made poor trades, received limited talent in return and essentially discarded these two future baseball Hall of Famers. After Mr. Brock was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals he blossomed into a star outfielder and led the Redbirds to three World Series and two World Series Championships in 1964 and 1967.  Although Mr. Seaver’s best days as a pitcher was as a member of the New York Mets, after he was traded he still remained a very productive pitcher for the rest of the career, he threw his first and only no-hitter in 1978 and he won 113 games in his post-New York Mets career with the Reds, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. These bad baseball trades serve to remind us that people are any organization’s greatest asset. As leaders we all need to be highly skilled in identifying great talent, we need to know when to “re-recruit” such talent, we need to nurture such talent and we need to provide opportunities for that talent to be successful.

Prepare, Prepare & Prepare

Both Lou Brock and Tom Seaver were masters at their respective crafts. Mr. Brock was known as one of the baseball’s most prolific base stealers as he is second all-time in career stolen bases with 938 and he even stole 118 bases during the 1974 season. As a pitcher Mr. Seaver won 311 games during his career and earned the coveted Cy Young Award 3 times. While they both of course had outstanding natural athletic abilities, they both took their respective talent to the next level by excellent preparation and hard work. In the case of Mr. Brock – in an era when ballplayers did not watch or study videos of themselves or opposing ballplayers as they do nowadays – Mr. Brock filmed pitchers on an eight-millimeter camera. He studied the films to try to gain an edge on pitchers so that he could get a better jump off their respective pitching deliveries in order to steal a base. Mr. Seaver was also maniacal in his preparation. Gil Hodges, Jr, the son of Mr. Seaver’s former NY Mets manager who led the “Amazin Mets” to their first World Series Championship in 1969, offered the following quote in this Newsday article: “The only thing my dad always told me about Tom was nobody was prepared for a game like he did. He never left anything to chance.” As true students of the great game of baseball, Mr. Brock and Mr. Seaver never settled for complacency and they constantly honed their skills so they could perform at their highest levels. Being highly successful in our own professions requires a similar Lou Brock and Tom Seaver type of commitment to hard work, preparation and constant learning. 

Be a Terrific Teammate

While the baseball world called Tom Seaver “Tom Terrific” because of his excellence as a pitcher, by many accounts he was also a terrific teammate who helped make his colleagues better. A recent NY Times article talked about how Mr. Seaver mentored a then young and somewhat “raw” pitcher from the Dominican Republic named Mario Soto during the early 1980s while they were teammates on the Reds. He did the same a few years later with another then young pitcher Roger Clemens when they were teammates with the Red Sox in 1986. Mr. Brock was also an equally great teammate. As mentioned in this article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Keith Hernandez, the 1979 co-Most Valuable Player in the National League said, “I don’t think I would have made it without Lou. For him to be a superstar and I, as a young kid, who was struggling, to take me under his wing and offer all his advice is a testament to who he was. He was an extraordinary man.” As we work at our respective organizations, think about opportunities to help make your teammates better. One of the most important legacies that we can leave is making a positive impact on the lives of others.

 

 

Resiliency is Key  

As a lifelong New York Yankees baseball fan, I have grown increasingly frustrated at how the current era of young and physically strong Yankees players seem to be highly injury-prone as they unfortunately spend more time getting medical treatment from their trainers instead of being on the baseball diamond. This was never the case for Mr. Brock or Mr. Seaver as they hardly spent any time on the injured list – previously known as the disabled list – when they played in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. From 1964 to 1974, Mr. Brock played in over 150+ games per year (out of a maximum of 162 games) – many of which were played in the sweltering heat of St. Louis. Likewise from 1967 to 1979 Mr. Seaver started 30+ games as a pitcher per year. The incredible resiliency that Mr. Brock and Mr. Seaver demonstrated throughout their careers is something that we can all marvel at as business professionals. In fact, the next time you find it difficult to “show up” virtually at work nowadays or complain about participating on yet another Microsoft Teams or Zoom call, think about Mr. Brock’s and Mr. Seaver’s dedication to their own workplaces.

Reinvent Yourself

Mr. Brock (19 years) and Mr. Seaver (20 years) also had very long careers in Major League Baseball as Mr. Brock retired at 40 and Mr. Seaver at 41 years of age. Towards the twilight of their respective careers on the field they also needed to embrace change and reinvent themselves in order to keep on playing. Near the end of his career during the 1978 season as age was catching up to him, Mr. Brock lost his starting job in left field as he was mired in a prolonged hitting slump. He returned the following year with a vengeance as a 40 year old as he hit for a .304 batting average, surpassed 3,000 career hits and earned the “Comeback Player of the Year” – the first player to be so named in his final season in Major League Baseball. Early in his career Mr. Seaver was known as a “power pitcher” but as he lost velocity on his fastball during the late 1970s he needed to rely more on other pitches, to lean on his extensive experience and to constantly change the speeds and locations of his pitches in order to keep hitters off-balance. Whether it be in baseball or in business, Mr. Brock and Mr. Seaver confirmed that the only constant is change and that regardless of our professions we all need to embrace change and adapt in order to continue to be successful.

Be Great Ambassadors for your Organizations 

Mr. Brock and Mr. Seaver are respectively synonymous with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets brands. Mr. Brock was the heart and soul of the St. Louis Cardinals for so many years and as a stolen base artist he also stole the hearts of legions of Cardinals fans. Mr. Seaver was affectionately known as “The Franchise” when he was a member of the New York Mets, led them from being perennial losers to their first World Series Championship in 1969 and is without a doubt the greatest Met of all-time. Due to their performance on the field and their extreme popularity off the field, these two men were great ambassadors for their teams – and for the great game of baseball. As representatives of your own employers, think about opportunities for you to serve as a leading brand ambassador for your respective organizations and to help your employer earn and maintain the trust of your company’s customers, partners and employees.

The respective legacies of Lou Brock and Tom Seaver will live on and off the baseball diamond forever.

 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella likes to say that “trust cannot be claimed – it can only be earned.” As in-house counsel we must always remember that we need to earn the trust and confidence of our clients every day as we need to view them as our ultimate customers – and especially now more than ever as we help our respective organizations during these uncertain times with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some best practices – in no particular order – that all in-house counsel can employ to ensure they are putting their clients at the center of everything they do by embracing a customer obsession mindset with them:

  • Super Fast & Custom Responsiveness: We are all customers in some shape and form. When we need help from our own service providers we all appreciate it when they respond back to us quickly. Likewise, as in-house counsel we need to remember that we are also all service providers and when our business clients reach out to us for help we need to respond back to them ASAP. One of the very worst things we can do as in-house counsel is to ignore our clients since they are our most important customers. We want to inspire our clients to have the confidence in seeking out our legal advice time and time again as that is the greatest compliment they can pay us. Always be sure to respond back to your business clients on the same day of their initial request – and ideally within a few hours – even if it’s only to acknowledge receipt of their inquiry. If you cannot answer their question(s) immediately please be sure to provide them with a reasonable time estimate as to when you’ll be able to help address their request(s) in a more comprehensive manner. Also customize your response back to your business clients in the medium that your business clients find most appealing to them whether it be via email, via Microsoft Teams, live conversation, instant message, text message, etc…
  • Be Short & Sweet: All of our clients are super busy business professionals. When we deliver our legal advice to them always be succinct and to the point as our clients do not need to read lengthy emails or long legal memorandums. In addition, avoid using any legal jargon in your advice and make it super easy and very clear to understand.  When I respond to an email from my clients my “golden-rule” is that I never reply back with an email that is longer than the screen of my Surface Laptop – and probably better to make it even shorter and more easily readable as your clients are probably digesting their emails on their phones. If my advice is more involved then I will simply set up a conference call with my client to discuss further. Also when I deliver presentations to my clients I try not to speak longer than 15 minutes in length – the typical timeframe of a TED Talk presentation – as our business clients are typically not interested in hearing their lawyers speak for an extended period of time (believe it or not).
  • Overcommunicate When Needed: Our clients also don’t want to be blindsided or surprised when significant issues arise. For highly visible matters or issues that are important to your clients be sure to provide constant status updates by “overcommunicating” to them as needed so they remain well-informed. In my experience it’s always better to be conservative and to “overcommunicate” with our business clients regarding high-profile matters versus “undercommunicating.”
  • Embrace Smart Risk-Taking: As we counsel our business clients remember that many business clients are seeking to understand the true “practical” risk of making a particular decision versus the “theoretical” risk. In-house counsel can provide high-value legal services to their clients when they help them engage in smart risk-taking and in this article I  provide a methodology on how lawyers can help their clients take smart-risks.
  • Actively Learn the Business: Invest the time to understand the business that you are supporting. To the extent that in-house lawyers can deepen their understanding of their company, its customers, its solutions, its business models, its opportunities, its challenges, its competition, etc…they will be better positioned to provide higher impact legal support to their clients. Just the other day I was speaking to a senior lawyer at a major retail provider and he told me how their lawyers are required to work on the front-lines with customers at their stores for a few days as part of their onboarding into the company so they can better understand its business. Look for opportunities to absorb yourself in your company’s business by attending key business and leadership team meetings, shadowing your key clients to get a “day in their work life” perspective from them, participating in internal company trainings, using its products/solutions, etc…
  •  Know Your Clients: Spend some time getting to know your clients, their backgrounds, their interests, etc….Reviewing their profiles on LinkedIn and connecting/following them via LinkedIn and Twitter (if they are as Twitter user) are great ways to build your professional relationships with your business clients and become more empathetic to their perspectives and needs. Also when your work with new clients invest the time to reach out to them, introduce yourself, try to understand their needs and let them know that you and your team stand ready, willing and able to help them.
  • Feedback Is a Gift: Actively seek feedback from your key clients and encourage them to provide constructive feedback regarding how you and your teams can better serve them. Create a “safe” space to invite such feedback from your clients and once you receive that feedback thank them for taking the time to do so and be sure to convert that feedback into actionable steps for you and your team to take moving forward.
  • Share Knowledge & Learnings: Try to be more strategic when delivering legal services to your business clients. While in-house counsel are often in a more tactical and “reactive” mode in helping to problem solve the many inquiries from their business clients, also be sure to proactively share thoughtful knowledge and learnings with them. Such best practices and lessons learned can offer your business clients with increased value that can enable them to be more agile and more well-informed.
  • Closely Align with the Business: Be sure to spend time with your clients to clearly understand their respective business goals and align the provision of your legal services with such goals. Consider providing your senior clients with a periodic report leveraging data that demonstrates how you and your teams are positively impacting the key focus areas of your senior clients. Once a month I provide my senior client and his leadership team with a report in a table format that I call a “scorecard” where I depict the work we have completed during the previously month in an easily consumable fashion that is aligned to their key business objectives.
  • Every Client is Important: While we all have senior clients that we need to serve and pay great attention to, also remember that every client is the most important client – regardless of their seniority in your company. Treat all of your clients as if they are your company’s CEO.
  • Learn, Learn and Learn: Take the time to learn from your legal teammates – and your business clients if they are in a sales/customer-facing role – about what they do to advance customer satisfaction with their own clients and customers. Over the years I have had the privilege to provide legal support to world-class sales organizations and many excellent customer account executives. Observing how they serve their customers has been highly instructive in helping me better serve my clients.
  • Actively Follow-Up: In my experience as an in-house counsel sometimes we render legal advice to our business clients on an issue and we may never hear back from them about that issue as it goes into a proverbial “black hole.” When needed don’t be shy in following-up with clients to ask if they require any additional help from you on a previous matter.
  • Admit and Learn from Mistakes: We all make mistakes at times – especially in a fast-paced environment where we are trying to keep up with the sometimes demanding needs of our clients. When we make mistakes with our business clients be sure to own up to those mistakes, apologize quickly for your mistakes and be sure to learn from those mistakes.
  • Embrace Change: We all know that the “the only constant is change” – especially in our world that is driven by “tech intensity.” Recognize that you will need to constantly evolve how you serve your clients in our ever-changing world. Don’t avoid or be afraid of change – instead, by being open to change you will grow your in-house counsel skills and be better positioned to provide greater value to your clients.
  • Take Ownership: Be sure to really own and nurture your trusted legal advisor relationship with your clients. Even if you are not the General Counsel in your organization, always have a General Counsel mindset with your business clients as being their “go-to” lawyer who they will constantly look to for excellent legal advice and counsel.

As in-house lawyers I believe that we have some of the best jobs in the legal industry and we have a great opportunity in front of us as our clients rely on us more than ever before. Best of luck on your journey in embracing a customer-obsession mindset when serving your clients.

Last month I served as a speaker on an Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) – Chicago Chapter webcast entitled “Writing a global pandemic playbook – Crisis control: Effectively managing teams and protecting organizations in the era of COVID-19 cyber-attacks and insider threats.” During this webcast I shared my thoughts regarding my “lessons learned” during the COVID-19 pandemic of navigating through a crisis situation and leading a large team of lawyers and legal professionals during uncertain times while still delivering high-impact legal support to Microsoft’s world class sales teams in the US. All lawyers and in-house counsel have had to demonstrate leadership during the COVID-19 crisis – and the unfortunate reality is that all of us will face additional crisis situations both in our professional and personal lives. Here are my “10 Cs” for all lawyers to embrace during any crisis situations:

  • Calm: It’s important to try to remain as calm, cool and collected as your can during any crisis situation – although of course that is much easier said than done. Staying calm and steady will help enable you to think more clearly and logically in challenging times.
  • Confidence: Continue to exude confidence during difficult periods as your teammates and clients will be looking to you for leadership, direction and help. Demonstrating such confidence will also help others remain positive and hopeful that they will get through a crisis together and that there will be better days ahead.
  • Communicate: Leaders need to communicate early and often with their teammates and clients during crisis situations. Being “missing in action” or invisible during tough times is never helpful. Also be sure to overcommunicate when needed.
  • Clarity: When you do communicate, always be clear, transparent and authentic with your messaging. Also use “real” words instead of any “Corporate Speak” to help drive better clarity in your communications.
  • Collaborate: Crisis situations require everyone to effectively and quickly collaborate and share information. Look for opportunities to use leading and highly secure technology to help ignite collaboration with great speed.
  • Create: Helping to manage through and resolve a crisis may require lawyers to be creative problem solvers who can think “out of the box.” Also be sure to obtain diverse perspectives from others in order to help enable you to be innovative and creative.
  • Courage: During a crisis lawyers need to be bold, decisive and have the courage to make tough decisions.
  • Change: A crisis situation may require you and your teams to quickly adapt to a new reality and embrace change. While change is very hard, don’t fear it and become comfortable with change management.
  • Compassion: A crisis may unfortunately result in negative impacts upon others. Always be empathetic and compassionate in your decision-making process during a crisis.
  • Character: When navigating through a crisis, important principles such as ethics and integrity are non-negotiables. Lawyers involved in crisis situations need to always ensure that they are acting with the highest degree of character.

The next time you face a professional or personal crisis, please keep these “10 Cs” top of mind.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on many in-house legal departments. Some in-house counsel are busier than ever before addressing a wide range of legal issues that have arisen due to the COVID-19. In addition, the budgets of some in-house legal teams may be negatively impacted due to the crisis. As a result, many in-house counsel are increasingly being asked to do more with limited resources during these uncertain times.

Now more than ever in-house counsel need to actively embrace change and look for opportunities to be even more productive and efficient in their delivery of legal services.  In-house counsel should be proactive to “de-lawyer” their work so they can spend less time on the low-impact, repetitive, routine and low-risk aspects of their work in order to free up time to perform more high-impact and high-value work for their company. Here’s a roadmap and several best practices for in-house lawyers to use in their “de-lawyering” journey:

Actively Audit Your Work

Take the necessary time to analyze the range and scope of legal services that you typically deliver to your business clients so that you can determine which elements of your work are ripe for being re-engineered. Once you identify the common legal services that you provide to your business clients, try to break down the processes, time spent and flow of such work beginning from your intake of the request from your business clients up to the point in time which you believe a matter has been closed. Be sure to capture your thoughts on work scope and processes in writing and try to group your work into certain key topical areas.

Identify the Degree of Impact and Risk Prevention Level of Your Work 

Once you have a comprehensive view of the range and scope of the work that your legal team delivers, identify how truly impactful that work is to your business clients and how your work mitigates risk for your company. You may want to characterize your work into high, medium and low business impact buckets and high, medium and low legal risk buckets. Also seek guidance from your senior business clients as needed to properly characterize the true business impact of your legal services. Completing this exercise will help guide you to determine which areas you should spend more time on and which areas you should “de-lawyer.”

Seek Senior Business Clients Support

Let your senior business clients know that you plan to re-engineer how you deliver legal services and to obtain their business support to do so as it may require folks on their teams to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on legal support that has traditionally been more “white-glove” in nature. Be sure to “sell” to your business clients that “de-lawyering” your work will ultimately help them achieve their business goals faster as it will create additional space for the legal team to deliver more mission-critical legal services with greater agility for their benefit. Provide them with actual examples of the time you and your teams spend on “low-end” and “low-value” legal work – much of which may not require “hands on” legal support and that their teams would probably want the legal team to invest their time working on matters that drive more positive impact to the business. For instance, if you deliver legal services to a sales organization your senior business clients would probably want you to invest more time in matters that brings revenue into the organization like helping to close large deals with customers instead of spending lots of legal time working on ancillary contracts like non-disclosure agreements or events agreements. You may also be able to make the business case to your senior business clients that by asking them to “do more” in terms of additional self-help, there will be a lower likelihood for you to ask for significant increases to your legal team’s budget.

Consider “Stop Doing” Some Work

Once you have a sound understanding of the full landscape of your legal services, ask yourself if there’s aspects of that work which you do which is really not necessary or which involves work that poses low risk or no risk to your company. If so, consider informing your business clients that it simply does not make sense to spend any legal team time and energy on such matters. Examples of such low impact or low risk work may be as follows:

  • Matters that don’t pose any real legal risk/issues and which business clients are simply seeking the legal team’s “rubber stamp” approval.
  • Reviewing contracts that are below a certain dollar/financial threshold.
  • Reviewing statements of works/work orders under existing standard master agreements and which statements of works/work orders essentially contain business-centric provisions that are drafted by business clients.

Use Leading Technology

I believe that technology is a lawyer’s “best friend” and during this pandemic we are witnessing firsthand how technology is playing a more prominent role in all of our lives as it enables us to work from home and to continue to serve our business clients. Think about how you can continue to put technology to work for you to make your legal team more productive and efficient as you “delawyer” your work. For instance, there are many technology tools provided by various #LegalTech companies which are powered by artificial intelligence that can handle some of the routine and repetitive work that has been traditionally performed by lawyers.

Create Practical Self-Help Resources

Develop self-help/do it yourself resources that your business clients can consult with and utilize to address common and repetitive questions that they have typically asked the legal department. Such self-help resources may take the form of frequently asked questions, playbooks, directions on how to generate new contracts on your own,  white papers, checklists, etc…For instance, it your legal team is actively engaged in helping business clients respond to Request for Proposals (RFPs) from potential customers, consider developing a playbook for them which provides details on how to develop proposals in a legally appropriate manner along with standard canned responses to common RFP questions that may require legal team review. Be sure to add those resources on your company’s internal websites such as SharePoint in Microsoft 365 so that your business clients have easy access to them and periodically update such resources. Make these resources easy to use, highly practical and use every opportunity to remind your business clients to leverage them as a first line of legal support prior to a direct engagement with the legal team.  Also always proactively ask for your business client’s feedback regarding the ease of using such resources and how they can be improved.

Stay Disciplined

As you “de-lawyer” your work and create self-help resources for your business clients to use so they can handle certain work on their own, remain disciplined in encouraging your business clients to leverage such resources first before they engage you for assistance on certain matters. Doing so will help you develop a more efficienct “ways of working” with your business clients so that you can continue to optimize your legal team’s limited resources.

Create and Deploy Chatbots

Chatbots powered by entry-level artificial intelligence are increasingly being used by providers of goods and services as a “digital concierge” to address common questions and issues from their customers. In our world of tech intensity there is no reason why legal organizations cannot use chatbots to serve their clients. Chatbots powered by basic entry-level AI tools like Microsoft Azure QnA Maker can help transform your legal team’s standard answers to common questions into a conversational format that is answered by a bot. As chatbots and AI-related technology grows more powerful, chatbots can be increasingly used and deployed by legal teams to automate the answering in a standardized format the many routine and repetitive questions posed to a legal team by its business clients.

Develop Thoughtful Contract Templates 

Wherever possible create standard form contracts for your business clients to proactively use as needed to drive business forward versus being in a more reactive and time-consuming mode to having to review and mark-up a third party’s contract. Examples of typical form contracts for most businesses are as follows: (1) sales contracts; (2) vendor/supplier contracts; (3) independent contractor agreements; and (4) non-disclosure agreements. When you draft such contract templates focus on contract simplicity, make them fair and balanced and avoid making them lengthy. Doing so will cut down on the likelihood of third parties wanting to make material modifications and will help accelerate the velocity in establishing these contracts with third parties.

Create Contract Fallbacks and Annotations  

Once you create these contract templates consider empowering your business clients in advance to propose alternative “fallback” wording on their own and without any legal team involvement when third parties raise issues with certain standard contract provisions. Develop a library of these fallback provisions that your business clients can use as a substitute for standard clauses and rank such fallbacks from more preferred to less preferred – and perhaps you can use a green light (good to use), yellow light (exercise caution) and red light (use only with legal team approval) coding approach with your business clients in charactering these fallbacks. Also be sure to periodically refresh such fallback provisions and if third parties continually raise issues/concerns with certain standard provisions, consider adopting a suitable fallback provision as the new standard provision to decrease any future churn regarding such issues/concerns. In addition, for each contract template that you create, also develop an annotations document for that contract which serves as your company’s de-facto guide that contains thoughtful negotiation strategies and tips for your business clients to help “sell” your standard contract provisions to third parties. When developing such annotations be sure to make it highly practical and useful for your business clients to help them persuade third parties regarding the merits of the contract’s standard provisions. Also be sure to appropriately protect and secure your company’s standard contract fallback provisions and annotation guides in order to minimize the likelihood of them being shared outside of your organization.

Generate Lessons Learned 

After your legal team provides legal advice on important matters, consider developing a repository of practical lessons learned or post-mortems that you can share with both your legal teammates and business clients to help avoid matters from becoming potential legal issues in the first place and/or to help accelerate moving business forward in the future. For example, if you recently helped close a large and complex contract with a customer, share the learnings and best practices from that experience with your business clients as doing so may make it easier to close the next large and complex customer contract with smarter utilization of the legal team by business clients. Get into the habit of producing such lessons learned periodically and develop an easy-to-use template built on suitable technology for legal team members to share that important knowledge. Also be sure to reward those legal teammates who demonstrate their leadership by actively sharing their learnings and best practices to make others better.

Train your Business Clients

Look for every opportunity to deliver meaningful legal/compliance training to your business clients. Such training can serve as a form of “preventive law” that can help avoid significant legal issues that could pose legal/financial risk to your company and drain legal resources. When delivering such trainings make it interesting for your business clients and avoid lengthy trainings. While such training has often been delivered in-person prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, use easy-to-use technology tools like Microsoft Teams to deliver such training in a virtual format that can be recorded so that it is durable enough to reach a large number of business clients who can view such training on-demand. Through Microsoft Teams you can also create teams and channels with your key business clients where you can periodically post learnings and best practices with them that serves as a form of de-facto training to them.

Get Outside Help 

Think about how you can utilize competitively priced alternative legal providers to help take on some of the rote, repetitive and low-risk work that your legal team has been historically performing. Outsourcing such work to such providers may be a compelling option for in-house legal departments.

Leverage Paralegal & Program Manager Resources

I have had the good fortune to work with many outstanding paralegals and programs managers during my legal career. Consider using paralegal or program manager resources to serve as a first line of support to address new matters from your business clients that require legal support. Enable and empower them to triage and problem solve these matters first or referring your business clients to suitable self-help resources instead of having a lawyer become more actively engaged.

Start Small

As you reengineer your legal work remember to begin modest projects that seek to problem solve certain issues. Don’t think that you need to “de-lawyer” a large piece of your legal work, but instead try to get some quick wins, learn from your experiences and build positive momentum as you move forward in this journey.

Learn from Others, Embrace Change and Don’t Seek Perfection

Always adopt a growth mindset mentality in this area and be open to learning from others in the legal community. Organizations like the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) have resources that can be helpful to you and your legal teams. As the COVID-19 crisis requires us to change the way we work and how we prioritize work, always be open to adapting the delivery of your legal support so that you can maximize your resources and best serve your business clients. Finally, don’t be afraid to make some mistakes along the way and remember one of my favorite quotes that “perfection is the enemy of done.”

Last week I had the privilege to serve as a panelist at a Northwestern Pritzker School of Law event entitled “Symposium 2020: AI, the New Law Firm Attorney: Artificial Intelligence Entering the Legal Profession.”

The event’s keynote speaker Seyfarth Shaw Chair Emeritus Stephen Poor and our panel explored the growing impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools in the legal industry to help lawyers achieve more by getting out of the repetitive, routine and mundane tasks that lawyers have performed in the past so they can “practice at the top of their license” as Mr. Poor stated.

I love the phrase “practice at the top of their license” as all lawyers will need to do more of this – especially as we see the rise of tech intensity as technology plays a bigger role in our professional and personal lives and leading technology like AI is increasingly used by lawyers, law firms and other legal organizations to deliver legal services to their clients.

As AI tools seek to automate and perform certain tasks that have been traditionally performed by lawyers, I believe that the Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient (EQ) skills that lawyers use everyday to deliver legal services to their clients will be more important than ever before as stronger EQ skills will help enable lawyers to truly “practice at the top of their license.” Since AI, algorithms, machines and technology do not embrace EQ, the proverbial “soft skills” that are often associated with EQ can help lawyers provide even more high-impact/high-value legal counsel to their clients and differentiate their legal services from others.

As we use AI and other technology tools to better serve our clients, here are some EQ-centric skills that all lawyers and law students should develop, hone and embrace as “21st Century Lawyers”:

Be An Active Listener: Many lawyers can probably learn to listen more and speak less. Take the time to sharpen your listening skills and avoid being distracted when listening to others so you can better understand your clients, your team and your opposing counsel.

Embrace Empathy: In order to better serve our clients we need to create more proximity to them, learn more about them and put ourselves in “their shoes” so that we can clearly understand their needs and interests in order to help solve their problems.  The same holds true for having greater empathy for the lawyers and allied professionals that we need to work with on a regular basis to deliver legal services to our clients. We can all learn from the empathetic leadership of social justice activist Bryan Stevenson on how to put “empathy into action.”

Strong Collaborator: The ability to partner well with others, share knowledge, build upon the work of others and make others better are critical skills for all lawyers. Having a team-first and collaboration-first temperament is vital.

Relationship Builder: Invest the time to earn the trust of both your clients and those that can enable you to best serve your clients. While terrific technology like LinkedIn exists to help develop those relationships, please remember that there is still no substitute for the in-person relationships and connections that we develop with people.

Advocate & Influence: Lawyers are “sellers” as we are constantly persuading and advocating on behalf of our clients.  In my role as a lawyer at Microsoft I find myself always “selling” and trying to influence nearly everyone that I work with – whether it be my management, my peers, my team, my clients and our great customers and partners.

Great Communicator: When I was growing up in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan served as our President and his reputation as a “great communicator” was instrumental to his being elected twice as President. As lawyers we also need to be “great communicators” who are skilled in the art of communicating in a clear, concise, impactful and easy to understand manner.

Excellent Judgment: In my opinion a lawyer’s “special sauce” is her/his judgment when advising their clients on matters. Such judgment and intuition is honed over a period of time based on the culmination of a lawyer’s experiences so she/he can enable their clients to engage in smart risk-taking.

Break Down Barriers: Lawyers who can skillfully navigate through blockers, have a bias for action to drive matters forward towards resolution and have a reputation for getting things done on behalf their clients will always be in high demand. As a wise person once told me, “being done is better than being perfect.”

Feedback Seeker + Implementer: Some have said that feedback is a “gift” – especially constructive feedback. One of the ways that we can improve and serve as more impactful legal advisors is to actively seek such feedback from our clients and others who we work with – and to take action to convert such feedback towards self-improvement.

Always Ethical: While technology advances and solutions like AI become more prevalent in the legal profession, lawyers will need to demonstrate greater leadership in upholding high standards for ethics and integrity. Embracing strong integrity and ethics are non-negotiables for all lawyers and are the foundational elements for earning trust.

Embrace Change: As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, the only constant during our current era known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution is change. We need to be open to proactively adapting and evolving as legal advisors or else we run the risk of becoming extinct and irrelevant.

Lawyers should not fear AI or the so-called “robots.” Instead, let’s both embrace AI as a tool to serve our clients and “double-down” to improve our EQ and soft skills so we can deliver the high-impact legal services that all of our clients deserve.

 

Near the end of my first year of law school I unfortunately witnessed one of my classmates having what appeared to be a nervous breakdown during a class after a confrontation with a professor.  Although that incident occurred over twenty years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday and it was my first exposure to the significant challenges associated with wellness in the legal profession.

Last year the American Bar Association (ABA) issued its first ABA Profile of the Legal Profession report and it contained this quote in its “Lawyer Well-Being” chapter: “In September 2018, the American Bar Association launched a campaign to address the troubling rates of alcohol use, substance use and mental health issues among lawyers. Recent studies show that lawyers struggle with these problems at levels substantially higher than the general population and other highly educated professionals.” These unfortunate facts were also backed up by a wealth of supporting data that was referenced in the report.

Several years ago when my son was just a few months old we took our first flight with him to visit our family in New York for Thanksgiving – and please see a picture below of my son and I waiting for our flight at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Right before takeoff the flight attendant specifically reminded my wife and I that in the unlikely event the cabin losses air pressure and the oxygen masks drop that we should be sure to put the oxygen masks on ourselves first before doing the same with our son. While of course I have heard this similar announcement countless times prior to takeoff on planes, listening to this advice as a new dad was a bit unnerving. However, I think this episode serves as a great lesson for all of us. After all, you can’t be any good to yourself, your family, your friends, your employer and your clients/customers unless you first take great care of yourself. 

Like all of you I have experienced challenges both in my personal life and during my legal career. Here are a compilation of my own wellness best practices that may be helpful to you both during your own wellness journey and as you promote stronger wellness practices as leaders for your legal organizations.

Mental Wellness

  • Embracing Mindfulness: Mindfulness and meditation are becoming hot topics in Corporate America as employers seek to provide employees with more tools to better manage stress in the workplace. One of my favorite mindfulness “gurus” is Dr. Michael Gervais – who serves as the sports pyschologist for the Seattle Seahawks professional football team and I have had the good fortune to participate in his mindfulness trainings a few years ago. Dr. Gervais often talks about the importance of embracing mindfulness so that we can do a better job at “being present” in life. While I will confess that I don’t fully use mindfulness techniques in my life, I do embrace what I call “mini mindfulness” as I use mindfulness practices such as deep breathing exercises with my eyes closed for a few minutes immediately before work situations that may cause stress for me – such as when I lead an important conferences call, prior to delivering presentations, etc…
  • Get Proper Sleep: A lot has been written about how our society is getting less sleep – which of course negatively impacts our productivity and wellness. Over the years I have struggled with getting a good night’s sleep and here’s a few of my lessons learned with smart sleep hygiene:
    • Be Device Free: Don’t check out any of your devices for a few hours prior to going to bed to avoid stimulating your mind and eyes.
    • Avoid Fluids Before Bed: In my view the less we need to wake up during the night to go to the bathroom, the better.
    • Be Careful with Sleep Medications: Nowadays there are plenty of over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications available to those who have difficulty sleeping. While of course you should consult with your doctor regarding such medications, please be careful of their potential negative side effects.
    • Take a Bath/Shower Before Bed: Anything you can do to calm yourself down and relax prior to bedtime is a good thing.
    • Avoid Intense Conversations Prior to Sleep: I also try to avoid any serious or challenging discussions with my family or others as I want to peacefully ease into my sleep.
    • Go To Bed Earlier Versus Later: I used to be a night owl but nowadays I have been going to bed earlier and waking up earlier.
  • Balance Your Digital and Real Worlds: As technology is playing a bigger role in all of our lives with something known as “tech intensity,” I feel like we live in two worlds nowadays – the so-called “real” world and the “digital” world – where I spend way too much time on my devices and on social media. In my view as technology advances, it’s becoming more important for us to spend more 1:1 and in-person time with each other and to make sure that we put the appropriate boundaries in using technology in our lives – and especially as it relates to investing in more high-quality personal interactions with family, friends and co-workers.
  • Delete Work Email from Phones: About two years ago I made the decision to delete my work email from my phone. Like many of us I spend way too much time on my phone and I could not resist the temptation to constantly check my work emails outside of core work hours. As a result, work and work emails would constantly be at the forefront of my mind and since I had difficulty resisting checking my work emails on my phone at nights and on the weekends, I simply deleted the Outlook app on my phone. While I no longer have work emails on my phone, I still continue to be very responsive to my team and clients in answering email via my outstanding Surface Laptop and my teammates and business clients also know they can always reach me on my proverbial “Bat Phone” via text or calling my cell phone as needed.

  • Take “Real” Vacations: Several years ago a very senior Microsoft lawyer reminded me that it is important to take “real” vacations since they are necessary to “vacate” your mind and come back to the workplace refreshed – and she was absolutely right. However, as we know, many of us in Corporate America still take “fake” vacations – including myself.  In this LinkedIn article from a few years ago I provided some best practices to help enable you to take a “real” vacation. While I have slipped in not taking some “real” vacations over the past few years due to the demands of my job, I’m starting to do a better job practicing what I preach and I also recognize that if my team sees me taking “fake” vacations and answering emails/taking conference calls during my vacations, they may feel compelled to do the same.
  • Know When to Say No: As lawyers and legal professionals, most of us are very busy and there seems to be a never ending amount of work to do. However, we also do not want to be overwhelmed with our work and jobs so that we can bring our best every day to the workplace and feel good. Leaders should create a safe environment with their teams to let them know that it’s OK for them to say they are at capacity with their workload so that work can be redistributed to other teammates as needed.
  • Avoid Negativity: As I have become older and more experienced I have learned to do a better job trying to stay away from negative thoughts and/or negative people as they are roadblocks to moving forward and being hopeful. While I also tend to be a realist, filling my brain with more positivity and filtering out the negative “noise” out there continues to serve me well.
  • Listen to Music: One of my favorite pastimes nowadays is listening to music. I listen to music whenever I’m “in motion” in my car, jogging, walking, in an Uber, on the train, on a plane, in Starbucks, etc…While my playlist is largely filled with my favorite songs that I grew up to during the 1970s and 1980s – and my family, my friends, my co-workers and the public would probably make fun of my playlist – I find that listening to music is a great escape from the everyday stress in my life. One of my favorite bands is ABBA and there’s nothing like listening to “Dancing Queen,” Voulez Vous” or “Lay All Your Love On Me” to put me in a great mood – regardless of how my day is going.

  • Promote Remote Work: In my opinion, the current and future of the workplace is remote work powered by leading cloud computing technology tools like Microsoft Office 365.  While some legal organizations may frown on a remote work environment, I do believe that such arrangements helps to improve work life balance/integration for lawyers and legal professionals – including their levels of wellness.
  • Keep Perspective: Many years ago when I was frustrated at work my dad reminded me to keep my job in perspective. He told me that as a “deal lawyer” my employer pays me a lot of money for basically putting words on a piece of paper. The point being was that I needed to stay well-grounded in reality and while of course my job is very important to me – my vocation does not involve saving lives like a fireman or a doctor. While our jobs are important, as lawyers we can probably do a better job at keeping our jobs in perspective.
  • Take it Easy: As a lifelong Eagles fan – NOT the Philadelphia Eagles football team but the music group Eagles – one of my favorite songs is “Take It Easy.” Those three words are a simple reminder for all of to relax more, be less stressed out and to not take ourselves too seriously.

Physical Wellness: While you need to take great care of your mind, you also need to take great care of your body. Here are my learnings:

  • Eating Right: It’s taken me a long time to realize that physically you pretty much are what you eat. For years I have always had great discipline in working out, going to the gym, etc….but I really never had the same discipline with my diet. Being smart about what I eat and managing my weight continues to be a daily struggle for me. Here are some of the eating habits that I try to embrace:
    • Drink Lots of Water: When you are hungry try to fill yourself up with water.
    • No Sodas: I used to be the king of drinking diet sodas but nowadays I avoid them.
    • Avoid Alcohol: Basically I don’t need the extra calories of alcohol or to waste any money on it.
    • No Late Night Eating: For years I would wake up in the middle of the night, go to the kitchen, eat another meal and then go back to bed. Nowadays I’ve been embracing a modified version of intermittent fasting where I stop eating by 8pm at night and don’t eat anything again until at least 8am the following day. Fasting for 12 hours is something that I can do while a typical intermittent fasting practice of 16 hours is a big stretch for me.
    • Eat More When Your Burn More: On the days that I go jogging and burn more calories I’m OK with increasing my calorie intake and “cheating” on foods that I really want to eat. On the days I don’t go running I stay away from foods like breads, pasta, anything fried and sugar.
    • Use Your Calories Wisely: Don’t waste the limited number of calories that should eat per day on something that you don’t like.
  • Jogging: Over the last several years I have taken up jogging as a way to try to stay fit and to do a better job with managing my weight. When I moved to Chicago in 1996 I was an avid jogger, then stopped for a while and I started up again in 2012 after I lost my aunt to breast cancer. At that time I was also a new dad and I realized that I needed to be in better physical shape so that I could be around for as long as possible for my family. My regimen is that I go jogging three days a week – on Wednesday (5-6 miles), Friday (5-6 miles) and Sunday (8-9 miles).  While I run like a clydesdale, I try to run faster during my Friday runs. The beauty about jogging is that you can do it virtually anywhere and I also make sure to go jogging when traveling for work, on vacation, etc….I also find jogging to put my mind at ease and it enables me to think very clearly.

  • Walking: While jogging is not for everyone and some folks may not be able to physically jog, a great alternative is to take long walks. On the days I don’t go jogging I still try to get outside and walk as much as I can.
  • Do Some Aerobic Activity: Even if jogging/walking does not appeal to you there are so many other physical activity options that you can choose from to improve your physical well-being. Just try something.
  • Do Some Resistance Training: When I was younger I used to go to the gym a lot of and did a fair amount of resistance training with free weights. While I don’t belong to the gym anymore, I try to get my main form of resistance training via doing elevated pushups everyday – which you can pretty much do anywhere and at anytime.
  • Just Keep Moving: My Grandma will be turning 100 years old in May and she seems like she has not changed that much since I was a young boy. One of her keys to such longevity is that she is always moving and she seems to be in constant motion. She inspires be to not be a “couch potato.”
  • The Earlier the Better: Whatever exercise workout/routine you decide to pursue try to get it done earlier in the day versus later in the day – even if it means waking up earlier in the day.  We all lead busy lives and putting off any physical activity until later in the day increases the likelihood that you’ll find excuses not to do it. The runs that I go on in the early mornings always makes the rest of my day much better.
  • Be Smart: Also be careful not to over-extend yourself during any physical activity and be sure to hydrate and take breaks as needed. For the past several years people have suggested that I should train and run for a marathon. While that sounds great, I’m not interested in subjecting my body to the intense training associated with a marathon and I’ve been fortunate to be largely injury-free as an adult.
  • Periodic Medical Check-ups: Be sure to have an annual medical physical with your primary care physician and complete required tests/procedures that are recommended by your physician due to your age, family history or otherwise. A sixty-something year old friend of mine – who happens to be a leading lawyer – never had a colonoscopy performed and his physician recently discovered a cancerous growth in his colon. While it was successfully removed and his medical prognosis is very positive, he should have had a colonoscopy performed when he was 50 years old.
  • If You See Something, Say Something and See your Doctor. No one else knows our bodies as well as we do. If you see/feel something wrong with your body or any unusual pain be sure to see your physician immediately – and don’t let work, work travel, meetings, conference calls, etc….get in the way of scheduling and showing up at those medical appointments. Also if a spouse, partner, family member or friend shares something about their body that does not seem right, please insist that she/he see their physician immediately.

Achieving mental and physical wellness is a lifelong journey. Of course there’s no one roadmap and there’s plenty of roadblocks along the way. Don’t be discouraged by obstacles, keep driving forward and don’t be shy in seeking help when needed.

One of my favorite topics is how lawyers and the legal profession can embrace leading technology to achieve more and better serve their clients. As we being a new decade, technology is becoming a bigger part in all of our lives, we are seeing a growth in tech intensity and there are great opportunities for lawyers put technology to work to help their clients.

Over the past few months I have delivered presentations on this important topic at the #MakeLawBetter Conference at Chicago-Kent College of Law and at the ALAS Firms Administrators Conference in Chicago. I have also had the opportunity to speak to various Microsoft customers regarding opportunities for their legal teams to accelerate their respective digital transformations.  In this post, I share my thoughts regarding various steps that all legal organizations can take to embrace tech intensity so they can be more productive, more collaborative and better serve their clients.

Lawyers Must Be Innovators 

I have begun my talks by sharing an important quote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. When Satya become CEO in February 2014, the very first thing he did was to send this email to all Microsoft employees introducing himself and providing his vision for Microsoft on a go-forward basis. That email contained this very insightful quote: “Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation.” While of course Satya was referring to the information technology industry where Microsoft has been a leader for over 40 years, I think his quote is equally applicable to our legal profession. In order to best serve our clients, lawyers need to constantly innovate. If not, lawyers will be “disrupted” and our clients will go elsewhere for legal support – or if you are an in-house counsel they may not reach out to you for your advice at all (which is never good).  In my opinion, technology is a lawyer’s best friend and it can help us accelerate our innovation on behalf of our clients so that we can deliver high-impact and high-value legal services.

 

Modern Legal Tech Intensity 

There are plenty of areas for legal organizations to leverage technology to better serve their clients and help solve problems.  However, I try to keep it simple with these four primary areas to modernize the delivery of legal services:

  • Empower Legal Professionals: How can technology be leveraged to help enable legal professionals to engage in greater collaboration and deliver their legal services faster and in a more comprehensive fashion?
  • Engage Clients: How can you use technology to better understand your clients, be more empathetic to them and be more responsive to them?
  • Enhance Risk Management: In an increasingly regulated environment where earning trust is always paramount, how can legal organizations use technology to enable compliance, be more cybersecure and engage in smart risk-taking?
  • Optimize Operations: How can legal organizations use technology to drive more efficiency, productivity, enhanced decision-making and “stop-doing” certain low impact and low value work?

Culture is King 

A foundational element in embracing tech intensity is to help ensure that your legal organization has the right culture in place to fully use and consume technology. The management “guru” Peter Drucker has made the following quote famous in the corporate arena: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

While leading technology has great potential to help your legal organization, if your legal organization has not established the appropriate culture to take advantage of such technology, the return on your technology investments will be limited. My own employer, Microsoft, has been on a journey in transforming its culture over the last several years. While there is no magic formula per se in developing the right type of culture to help ignite greater digital transformation, here are some key areas to consider as your evolve the culture of your own legal organization:

  • Embrace Change: In our fast-paced world, the only constant is change and as we all know being open to change and actually changing – both in our professional and personal lives – are very difficult things to do. Our customers, partners and competitors are all adapting and legal organizations also need to be able to change quickly to better serve their clients. Such change also involves being willing to evolve to use new and different types of technologies to better serve your clients. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill:

  • Promote the Growth Mindset: Ideally your organization will strive to create a culture where your employees are constantly learning and growing.  Stanford professor Carol Dweck wrote a leading book several years ago called Mindset where she stresses the importance of embracing a growth mindset mentality versus a fixed mindset mentality. Having this growth mindset mentality positions your legal organization to digitally transform faster and better serve your clients.
  • Feedback is Fabulous: Be open to providing practical and actionable feedback to your team and actively seeking feedback from your teammates and your clients/customers. Of course, when you obtain such feedback be sure to do something with it in order to improve yourself and your legal organization.
  • Be Bold: As many of us know, the legal profession is known to be a highly conservative one. However, legal organizations should be unafraid in taking smart risks when it comes to managing its teams, delivering legal services, making decisions about using appropriate technology and driving its organizations in a positive manner so they can better serve their clients. Think about appropriate and smart risk management to propel your legal organization forward versus having zero appetite for risk. Here are my 10 Ps of Smart Risk-Taking.

  • Diversity & Inclusion (D&I): One of my favorite quotes about D&I is from D&I leader Verna Myers where she says “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” Having a culture that embraces D&I and the different and important perspectives that more diverse employees provide also can help legal organizations be ready and more prepared for digital transformation.
  • Set the Tone at the Top: Of course, senior leaders in a legal organization need to set the right tone about their cultures both by their words – but much more importantly – by their actions.

Leading Digital Solutions – The Big 3

While there are lots of great technologies in the marketplace nowadays, I believe that legal organizations should focus their digital transformation efforts on these “Big 3” of the digital world: Cloud Computing, Data and Artificial Intelligence.

Cloud Computing

I remember negotiating my very first cloud computing contract with a major financial services customer at the end of the last decade during June 2009.  Since that time the cloud computing marketplace had grown exponentially, it has become highly mature, robust and reliable and the cloud has provided the foundation for the generation of the massive amounts of data that we have access to nowadays and the growing prevalence of artificial intelligence.

While the cloud can benefit legal organizations in a number of different ways, in my opinion some of the key benefits of deploying cloud solutions involve the “3 Cs” of cost, cybersecurity and collaboration.

  • Cost: By using cloud solutions you can save money and take costs out of your legal operations. By not having tangible technology like servers “on-premises” in your organization, you can lower your costs since you no longer need to acquire/lease such technology,  you don’t need the space to store and run such technology, you don’t need to spend money powering such technology and you don’t need to have professionals responsible for maintaining/fixing such technology. Instead, you can in essence outsource your computing needs by partnering with a third party hyperscale and reliable cloud provider that can deliver cloud solutions to you on a remote basis via their data centers and the internet. In addition, leveraging high-powered cloud workplace collaboration tools can enable members of your legal organization to work on a remote-basis and your organization can reduce those costs associated with having a traditional physical office environment. For instance, large law firms may have an opportunity to reduce their operating costs by downsizing the footprint of their offices and enabling their workforce to serve their clients on a remote basis powered by cloud solutions – and such remote work may also help improve the quality of work life for their lawyers and legal professionals.

 

  • Cybersecurity: As we know many legal organizations have access to highly sensitive data regarding their clients – and as we also know the cybercriminals are growing more sophisticated, bolder and are increasingly using technology as a weapon to target and obtain access to your data.  Instead of protecting that highly sensitive data on your own, consider getting some help and storing and protecting such data in the state-of-the-art and highly secure data centers of hyperscale cloud providers who are in the business of using leading technical and operational measures to protect data and comply with a wide range of important data security standards and laws. For example, as a major cloud services provider Microsoft invests over $1 Billion annually on cybersecurity and offers a wide range of data privacy, security and compliance features that are part of its cloud solutions.  It is virtually impossible for any legal organization to replicate the breadth and depth of security and compliance measures taken by hyperscale cloud providers in an increasingly regulated environment and by improving your legal organization’s cybersecurity position you can continue to earn the trust of your valuable clients.

  • Collaboration: A constant challenge for many legal organizations is the ability to constantly collaborate and share knowledge in a manner that allows them to deliver more high-impact legal services to their clients. As lawyers and legal professionals it is very easy for us to remain “stuck” in our proverbial silos. Using leading and easy-to-use cloud-based workplace collaboration tools enables lawyers and legal professionals to break down those silos and collaborate in a more meangingful fashion. As an example, the Microsoft legal department uses the powerful and highly secure persistent chat tools that are part of Microsoft Teams to ignite richer collaboration with our legal teammates and business clients.  In an article entitled “Digitally Transform with Microsoft Teams,” I outlined various use cases for Microsoft Teams in legal organizations.

Data, Data, and More Data

I believe that data is a highly underutilized asset by legal organizations.  Being a huge fan of our country’s national pastime of Major League Baseball (MLB), I continue to be amazed at how MLB teams extensively use data and analytics to evaluate baseball talent and to make important decisions. As we begin the new decade, I believe that we will increasingly see legal organizations adopt this so-called Moneyball approach to data-driven decision-making and here are a few ways that your legal organizations can use data to better serve your clients:

  • Data in Contracts: Chances are your legal organizations are involved in shaping and negotiating a wide range of agreements for your clients. If so, consider mining those contracts and its associated contractual provisions to spot trends, common issues, “fallback” provisions, etc…that can make you and your clients smarter when establishing such contractual arrangements with third parties.
  • Data on Social Media: During this decade we have seen the continued growth and use of social media.  There are terrific opportunities to learn from the vast amounts of data that can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I use the data on social media as a way to learn more about Microsoft, my clients, our customers, our partners, our competitors, and recent developments at the intersection of law, business and technology so that I can deliver more high-impact legal services to my clients.
  • Organizational Analytics: One of my favorite Microsoft Office 365 tools is Workplace Analytics where I have access to data on my daily ways of working to help me be more productive in the workplace and to help balance the integration of my work and personal lives. By having richer insight into my workplace habits like how much focus, collaboration and quiet times that are part of my daily schedule I look for opportunities to work smarter and gain more productivity.
  • Data and D&I: As many of us know advancing D&I continues to be a challenge in the legal profession. However, legal organizations can improve D&I so they can better serve their clients by using data to closely measure their legal organization’s D&I progress, being transparent about such D&I metrics reporting to identify the opportunities and challenges for improvement and then taking actual action to move their D&I focus forward. After all, as Peter Drucker also once said, “What’s measured improves.”
  • Data and Outside Counsel: The relationship between in-house legal teams and their outside counsel law firms are extremely important to their mutual success. In-house legal departments need greater value from their law firm providers while law firms are seeking greater business opportunities from their in-house legal clients in an increasingly competitive legal services marketplace. In-house legal teams and law firms can analyze the data associated with both the scope of services rendered by law firm providers and the time spent in delivering such services to spot trends, identify potential efficiencies and to help create alternative fee arrangements that can be mutually beneficial to in-house counsel and their law firm providers.
  • Make Your Data “Pop”: As your legal organization uses data to drive better decision-making, please consider how that data is presented to your senior leaders and clients for maximum impact. By using tools such as Power BI, your legal organization can tell its own data story by creating stunning reports with interactive data visualizations.

Finally, while it is always great to have access to interesting data and analytics, they mean absolutely nothing unless your legal organization puts such data and analytics to work to drive improved business and legal outcomes for your organizations and your clients.

Artificial Intelligence 

Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) is still in its infancy, AI solutions – and its impact upon society – are increasingly capturing the attention of the legal profession. In my opinion as AI tools continue to advance and become more sophisticated, there will be more opportunities for legal organizations to use AI as a tool to deliver legal services to clients. As an in-house lawyer I am excited about the prospects of using AI solutions to handle the routine, repetitive and mundane tasks that lawyers have traditionally performed and engage in more “stop doing” and “de-lawyering” so that it can free up time for my team and I to perform more higher value work for my business clients.

There are a variety of use applications for AI solutions in the legal industry and the recent 2019 Legal Tech Buyer’s Guide and graphic below by LawGeex does an excellent job depicting those range of areas  that may be ripe for AI in the provision of legal services.

In addition to the AI use applications above, there are also opportunities for legal organizations to use more “entry-level” AI solutions in the form of chatbots and/or digital assistants that may be able to perform various operational related talks for lawyers (e.g., scheduling meetings, timekeeping, booking travel) or interacting with clients to help answer certain common questions.

As lawyers increasingly use AI solutions I believe it is important to recognize that these solutions should be viewed as a tool by lawyers to supplement their legal services and not as a wholesale replacement for lawyers. While AI solutions can be highly valuable for lawyers, AI solutions also have several limitations and in my view should not be viewed as a substitute for a lawyer’s judgment, intuition, emotional intelligence and other key customer obsession-type skills used by lawyers in providing legal services. In addition, lawyers also need to understand the important intersection between AI and ethics and my company has taken a leadership role regarding responsible AI.

Tech Intensity Tips 

Finally, here is a compilation of “Top Ten” best practices to keep in mind as your legal organization embraces greater tech intensity.

  • Solve Problems: As your legal organization deploys technology, always remain well-grounded on the specific issues/problems that you are seeking to resolve for your legal organization and your clients.
  • Start Small Projects: Seek to develop some “quick wins” when using technology.
  • Perfection is Not Required: Lawyers have a tendency to seek perfection, but remember that “good enough” is often sufficient when lawyers leverage technology to better serve their clients.
  • Use What You Have: Always remember to first fully utilize and exhaust your existing investments in technologies to help realize an appropriate return on your investments – and especially since acquiring new technologies costs time and money.
  • Get Help: Legal organizations should not be shy in seeking the help of technology professionals as needed as they “skill-up” in the ever-changing world of technology. Also keep in mind that in the US currently 38 states now require lawyers to embrace the duty of technology competence.
  • Lawyers Define Requirements: Although it will make sense for legal organizations to seek the guidance of technology professionals as applicable, lawyers should still define the specific needs for technology solutions as they know their clients and legal organizations the best.
  • Evaluate and Select Technology Vendors You Trust: Be sure to conduct the necessary due diligence to select technology providers that you can truly trust since they will have access to highly sensitive data regarding your legal organization and client.
  • Adopt User Friendly Technology: If technology is not relatively easy to use legal organizations will face challenges in getting their lawyers to embrace it.
  • Establish Appropriate Training:  When using new technology be sure to set your team up for success by initially delivering practical and hands-on training and designating lawyers on your team to be technology-specific “champs” so they can serve as a constant resource for their teammates.
  • User Adoption is Key – Including Leaders: Even if you acquire the greatest technology in the world, it will have little to no positive impact unless you actually use it – and team leaders should set the right “tone at the top” through their own usage of technology.

As we begin a new decade it is an opportune time to carefully consider how your legal organization can drive more tech intensity to better serve your clients. Best of luck in your journey!

 

 

I have always been a big believer that embracing diversity and inclusion can enhance both our professional and personal lives. Throughout my life I have been positively influenced by important people who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. While these individuals have helped me become a better lawyer and leader, they have also made me a better person. Here are some of their stories and how they have impacted me.

My Father

My father grew up in the South Bronx after my grandparents migrated to New York City from Puerto Rico. Being Hispanic, my father was subject to discrimination because of his ethnicity – especially at school where he was treated differently by his classmates, teachers and administrators. He then served in the US Army during the height of the Vietnam War. Although he rarely talked about his service in Vietnam, my father was a highly decorated veteran.

Like many Vietnam veterans who fought for their country during a divisive war, my father also faced discrimination when he returned home. When my father passed away last year I delivered his eulogy and celebrated his larger than life personality as he was highly confident, bold and willing to agitate when needed – which helped him survive both the South Bronx and Vietnam and overcome discrimination. I have tried to model these attributes as part of my team’s ways of working to deliver trusted advisor legal support to our business clients who are helping our customers digitally transform. We need to exude self-confidence when serving our business clients, be fearless and creative in taking smart risks as we shape and close important customer deals, and be willing to break down barriers and navigate through complexity to get things done.

My First Legal Job

Like most law students I needed extra money during law school. So, at the beginning of my second year at Columbia Law School I applied for a part-time job opportunity at its Office of Career Services to assist an in-house employment lawyer at IBM named Michael Faillace – who happened to be blind. After interviewing with Michael at IBM’s headquarters in Armonk, New York he offered me the job.

Serving as a reader and assistant to Michael during law school was an incredible experience. In an era where technology was not at the point it is today to help drive accessibility, Michael was highly resourceful and adaptable. Even though he could not see, Michael’s disability did not get in the way of him being a great lawyer. I spent a lot of time with Michael during my second year of law school and got to know him well. To better serve him I needed to experience the world through his perspective and have a rich appreciation for his unique challenges. Looking back, Michael supplemented my law school education by not only inspiring me to work in the legal department for a technology company, but he taught me the importance of being empathetic. Fast forward 20+ years later Michael continues to be at the forefront of my mind as my team and I work hard to embrace empathy to deeply understand our customers, our partners, our business clients and my Microsoft legal team colleagues so we can better serve them.

My Wife

My wife Simona was born in Romania and after graduating college she made the difficult decision to leave her family and immigrate to the United States due to a lack of job opportunities. When she arrived in the United States, she did not know anyone, had only $100 in her possession, had a temporary job and was not fluent in English. Despite these challenges – and the discrimination that she and other immigrants typically face – she persevered. Over a short period of time Simona progressed from being a hotel housekeeper to a salesperson at a high-end retailer to a store manager at that retailer to a district manager at that retailer to her current role as a leading realtor in Chicago. During her swearing-in ceremony as a new US citizen in 2011, she told me that she now hoped she would no longer face discrimination.

My wife has taught me a lot about resilience, strength and the ability to navigate through change. We all have faced – and will continue to face – challenges in our lives. However, what is critically important is our ability to have grit, to remain positive, to learn from our experiences with a growth mindset and to move forward. Witnessing how Simona successfully navigated through changes and obstacles in her life has inspired me to do the same – whether it be having 3 different jobs in the Microsoft legal team over the past 4 years to coping with the loss of my father last year to having to build a trusted advisor relationship with my new Microsoft Corporate Vice President business client this fiscal year. As I often remind my team, “the only constant is change” and we need to be ready, willing and able to embrace change rather than fear it.

My Teammates

Since July 2018 I have had the privilege to lead a team of 14 outstanding lawyers and legal professionals and we provide a wide range of legal support to Microsoft’s Enterprise Commercial and Small, Medium and Corporate sales teams across the US.  Our team’s rich diversity is one of our greatest strengths and I have learned – and continue to learn – so much from my teammates. One of the most important leadership lessons they have taught me is the importance of earning their trust so we can be more inclusive and better serve our business clients. I have learned that being authentic, checking in with them on a regular basis, consistently sharing important business information from senior business clients, providing them with “air cover”, and being highly transparent goes a long way in building trust. This is one my favorite quotes from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: “Trust cannot be claimed. It must be earned.” While this quote of course applies to our customers and partners, in my opinion it is equally applicable to our relationship with our teams.

As lawyers many of us work too hard, have too much stress and don’t focus enough on our wellness. One way to invest in our wellness is to take “real” vacations versus “fake” vacations so that we have time to unplug from work, give our brains an opportunity to recharge and spend quality time with family and friends.

My family and I just returned from a terrific two week vacation in the beautiful Scandinavian cities of Copenhagen, Denmark and Stockholm, Sweden. Although I typically write about the intersection of technology, business and the law in this blog, I am taking a detour to write a trip report about our “holiday” in these incredible Northern European cities. Here’s some thoughts on Copenhagen and Stockholm:

 

Bicycles, Bicycles, Bicycles

Suffice to say that I felt I was at the Tour de France in these two cities as I have never seen so many bicycles in my life. In fact, I could not get the Queen song Bicycle Race out of my head. People were riding bicycles everywhere and incredibly these cities are so well designed to accommodate cars, bicycles and pedestrians (and increasingly scooters) with wide and appropriate lanes for a seamless and orderly flow of traffic – which is a bit different between the interplay of motorists and bicyclists in my city of Chicago. Perhaps one of the reasons why many people in these cities seem to be in such great physical shape is because so many are riding their bicycles to get around.

Scooters

These cities are also starting to see the California influence of electric-powered scooters – and there seemed to be more scooters in Stockholm than Copenhagen. It will be interesting to see how the scooters and bikes get along in the near future – perhaps they will have a relationship similar to skiers and snowboarders? In any event, I was not bold enough to ride a scooter as I was afraid I would fall and break something.

Great Mass Transit

Each of these cities had very impressive and very clean transit systems to get around town and outside the city. While we flew from Copenhagen to Stockholm, in hindsight we probably could have just taken the fast train – especially since our hotels were close to their respective central stations. I wish the United States had transit and train systems that are on par with most of Europe.

Kid Friendly

These cities are also very family friendly and my seven year old son had a great time. Copenhagen and Stockholm are well-known for their amusement parks – which reminded me of the “vintage” Playland Park in Rye, New York that I used to go to as a kid growing up in the NYC area. The amusement park in Copenhagen is named Tivoli Gardens and we went there three times with my son – which was way too much for me – but not for my son. There was even a Tom Jones concert the final time we attended – which was a bit bizarre as he was a big deal when my parents were young. The name of the amusement park in Stockholm is Grona Lund and fortunately we attended that park only once. In my opinion Tivoli Gardens was better than Grona Lund as it was a much larger venue and much more aesthetically appealing. Going on the rollercoaster rides with my son at these parks probably took a few months off of my life.

 

During a rainy day in Copenhagen we also took our son to an incredible aquarium located on the outskirts of Copenhagen (via the train) called Den Bla Planet and the National Museum of Denmark has a terrific children’s museum. Also of course the birthplace of Lego is in Denmark and if you have small kids no visit to Copenhagen is complete without a visit to the Lego store in Copenhagen – where they even have some fake facial recognition.

There are also several kid friendly things to do in Stockholm. Some of our favorite activities involved going to Skansen – the first open-air museum and zoo in Sweden and the Vasa Museum – home of a well-preserved 17th Century ship.

Long Days

An insightful person once observed that the “days are long and the years are short.” This is especially true in Copenhagen and Stockholm during the summer as it did not get dark until 10pm or so while we were there. The beauty of this is that you can sleep in, rest up and still have plenty of time to explore.

Crisp Weather

One of the reasons we traveled to these Nordic cities during the Summer was to escape the heat and humidity of the Windy City. I’m a huge fan of early Fall/late Spring weather so the summer climates in these cities – including their fresh air – were perfect for me.

Day Trips

Each of these cities have nice day trips which provides an escape from their respective urban areas. In Copenhagen we took the train to a very pleasant town called Roskilde and felt like we went back in time to the Vikings era. In Stockholm we took a boat for a great day trip to Fjäderholmarna – Stockholm’s closest archipelago island.

 

Jogging Friendly 

I try to go for a 5+ mile run three times a week – including when I’m on a vacation/travel for work. I continued my jogging regimen while in Copenhagen and Stockholm, these cities are very running friendly and I found some running routes online. My favorite route in Copenhagen was near our hotel and around The Lakes (which was almost 4 miles in length around the lakes) and my favorite route in Stockholm was around the island of Kungsholmen – which is home to their City Hall and the venue of the annual Nobel prize banquet.

Interlocking NY Yankees Logos Everywhere

As some of you may know I’m an avid New York Yankees baseball fan so it was pure joy to see so many people wearing caps or having backpacks with the traditional interlocking NY New York Yankees logo. While I’m not sure if the folks wearing those hats or backpacks know much about the storied history of the greatest sports franchise on earth (and the Yankees even played a series in London against the Boston Red Sox while we were there and swept them), in my opinion the extensive footprint of these caps and backpacks throughout Copenhagen and Stockholm underscores the range, depth and power of the vaunted New York Yankees brand. As an aside, I saw exactly just three lost souls wearing Red Sox hats while I was there.

Copenhagen versus Stockholm: My Verdict

Both cities were absolutely terrific, I highly recommend visiting them and I think it’s hard to say that one is technically “better” than the other. However unlike “neutral” Sweden, I will pick a side and choose Stockholm to visit again over Copenhagen largely because I found Stockholm to be a unique combination of a city and a country environment that is spread out along an archipelago. Plus Sweden is the home of ABBA – one of my favorite groups of all time – and they have a great ABBA Museum in Stockholm.

Two months ago I had the opportunity to speak about Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the 68th Annual Meeting of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association and the Judicial Conference of the Seventh Circuit in Milwaukee at the historic Pfister Hotel and at the Judicial Conference of the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.  Both myself and James Dempsey – the Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology – were invited to speak and we did a similar presentation last year at the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference in Nashville.

In my experience, the audiences for these events are typically federal judges, federal magistrates, their staffs and leading lawyers from their local areas.  They all have different degrees of sophistication about technology and how it can be used to better serve the public and their clients. As technology continues to change our lives, the Federal Judicial Center seems very focused on improving the technical competence of the federal judiciary.

As we were assembling at the speakers table in the front of the room for our presentation on AI at the Seventh Circuit Judicial Conference, I noticed a very familiar-looking man heading to the front row to be seated. It was new US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as Justice Kavanaugh serves as the Circuit Justice to the Seventh Circuit and he attended the conference.

Shortly afterwards, the President of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association introduced James and I as speakers and also specifically thanked Justice Kavanaugh for attending this session. I was the first speaker so I took a deep breath and approached the lecturn knowing that as a “paper pushing” corporate lawyer I would have may proverbial “day in court” with a sitting US Supreme Court Justice to deliver a presentation on a leading technology that has the potential to reshape the entire legal profession.

Several years ago I am not sure I would have been confident enough to deliver a presentation in front of a US Supreme Court Justice – let alone so many federal judges and magistrate judges. It has been a long journey for me to gain greater confidence in public speaking – and that journey still continues.

In no particular order, here are some of my public-speaking “lessons learned” through the years:

Public Speaking Fear & Anxiety  

It has been extensively reported that people fear public speaking more than death.  While I find that to be incredible, it is also not surprising to me. Over the years I have had my fair share of anxiety and fear before delivering presentations – and I continue to be nervous before a presentation. However I have grown to realize that while some level of nervousness is okay, being overly nervous and/or having anxiety is simply not productive and will inhibit my ability to deliver a high-quality presentation. Please keep your presentation and public-speaking activities in proper perspective as it really is not a very big deal in the larger scheme of things of life. Try not to over-engineer what public speaking is all about because at its essence it is really just about having a conversation – which is something we do all the time. The difference is that this conversation is to a group of people versus just one person or a few people. Also try not to be overly fixated or obsessed in what your audience may think about you and your presentation. While of course you want to do your best and be appropriately prepared to deliver your presentation, in my experience the less you care about what your audience thinks about you and your presentation – the less fear you will have. In my experience embracing this type of mindset can be liberating.

Get Repititions & Grow Confidence

To be an effective and confident public speaker you need to actually do it as it does not happen by magic. As we know regardless of our profession, we all need to constantly work at our respective crafts in order to improve – and the same holds true for public speaking. Actively look for opportunities to speak in front of people – whether it be in the workplace or outside of the workplace – and do not shy away from delivering presentations. In order to keep my public-speaking skills sharp I make sure to speak publicly at least one a month – whether at work or as part of an external presentation or participation on an external panel discussion.

Create Your Slides

Not all presentations require visual slides but I am a big fan of using slides for talks that are greater than five minutes of length. Of course being a Microsoft employee, I am partial to using PowerPoint – but we all still need to avoid the proverbial “PowerPoint by Death.” PowerPoint is an excellent presentation tool and while I consider myself very proficient in using it, there are still so many PowerPoint features that I still do not use. In fact, PowerPoint just released some new AI-powered features to help make you a stronger presenter. When I need to deliver a presentation I try to begin to construct my slides a few weeks in advance so that I can take the time to properly develop a story (or stories) for my presentation. When I develop my slides I also add just a few words per slide at most. Many lawyers like to add lots of words to their slides, but I find that by doing so your audience has a tendency to read the words on your slides versus listening to your message and there is more of a temptation for a presenter to read her/his slides as a “safety-net” – which is one of the worst things a presenter could do – instead of telling a story. I view each of my slides as a mini-presentation and most of my slides contain interesting pictures and/or graphics that aim to capture the attention of my audience. Being a big user of social media and Twitter, I also make sure that my Twitter handle is on the bottom right hand side of each slide so that people have a way of connecting with me as needed. Finally, I am somewhat of a control freak with my slides as I prefer to develop them on my own rather than having someone else do it – and possibly screw them up.

Practice, Practice, Practice 

Before you deliver a presentation – even if it is only a few minutes in length – you should invest the time to appropriately prepare for it. Doing so will provide you with more confidence and in my experience it never makes sense to try to “wing” a presentation without the appropriate preparation. As to how much time you need to prepare that all depends on the individual presenter and her/his comfort level with the subject matter of the presentation. When you practice your talk be sure to time yourself so that you can stay within the allotted time of your talk and practice under the same conditions under which you will be delivering a presentation (e.g., using a clicker to advance slides, standing up if you are expected to stand during your presentation). You should also be mindful of overpreparing. In the past I have over overprepared with too much practicing during the day of or the day before my presentation – which resulted in my voice being overly tired, raspy and not strong enough for my presentation.

Presentation Logistics

Invest the time to understand your presentation environment and the technology associated with that environment (and always prepare for the worst and assume that technology will not work during your presentation). Be sure to arrive well in advance of your presentation timeslot and here is a checklist of key logistical considerations for your presentation:

  • Try to check out the presentation location/room in advance.
  • Will you be speaking from a lecturn, a podium or can you walk around?
  • Do you need your laptop/device to present the slides? If so, is the laptop/device charged up and do you have the appropriate adapters?
  • Will there be microphones? If so, are they handheld or lavalier microphones?
  • Will there be confidence monitors?
  • How many people will be in the audience?
  • Have a back-up copy of your presentation slides on a thumb drive.
  • Will the audience have access to your presentation slides?
  • Will members of the media be present?
  • Will conference organizers be videotaping or audiotaping your presentation? If so, they should first obtain your express written consent to do so.
  • Print out copies of your slides in the event you cannot glance at your slides via a laptop/device or a confidence monitor.

The Shorter Your Talk, the Better

I have been asked to deliver presentations at conferences or work-related events for 45 minutes or an hour in length. In my opinion that is way too long to speak. First, our attention spans as audience members are very limited – especially when presenters are competing with an audience’s smartphones. Also I do not know of many people who want to listen to someone speak for that long – especially a lawyer (and while my business may like me, they expect me to embrace the 3 B’s: Be Brilliant, Be Brief and Be Gone). Secondly, it takes a lot out of a presenter to speak that long in a compelling fashion – and to also invest the amount time to prepare for a talk of that length. Ideally I try to speak for no more than 15 minutes tops for a presentation and if an agenda requires 30 minutes, than I will speak for 20 minutes and have 10 minutes for questions and answers from the audience.

Know Your Audience

It is very critical to understand the make-up of your audience and their backgrounds so that you can create a presentation experience that connects you with them and is memorable. Several years ago when I traveled to various cities across the United States to deliver presentations to customers on how Microsoft inspires trust with its cloud solutions, my slides included images to local landmarks and sports teams so that I could develop a better rapport with my audience. Presenters should serve their audiences by earning their attention and providing them with useful content they can easily absorb.

Self-Care Before Your Presentation 

It is so important to be well-rested and in the proper positive mindset right before your presentation. Getting a good night’s sleep before your presentation is incredibly important and if you need to travel for your presentation try to arrive the day/night before if possible so that you can become properly acclimated to your environment, be rested and not be rushed. Also doing some physical activity earlier on the day of your presentation may be beneficial to you. I am a big fan of going for a run a few hours before my presentation as it serves to clear my mind, it calms me down and it makes me feel great. Also consider embracing some mindfulness practices such as using deep breathing techniques immediately before your presentation – and of course remember to breathe properly during your presentation. I also avoid drinking too much water/coffee immediately before my presentation as I may have a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. In addition, I try to avoid eating too much food prior to my talk so that I can avoid potentially having an upset stomach and I am careful to not eating something that has a higher likelihood of getting stuck in my throat during a talk (that has happened to me before). Finally just like a professional baseball player has his favorite “walk-up song” that the stadium plays before that player heads to the pitching mound or at-bat, consider listening to your own “walk-up songs” before your presentation that will make you feel good and put you in a positive frame of mind. Here are a few of my own “walk-up songs”: Feels Like the First Time, Thunderstruck and Gonna Fly Now.

Don’t Seek Perfection 

Remember that it is virtually impossible to deliver a “perfect” presentation and the definition of “perfection” as it relates to presentations is highly subjective. Most of us are not professional presenters, we will make mistakes during our presentation and our audiences do not expect perfection from presenters. It is okay to make mistakes, just move forward with your presentation when that occurs and if you have to quickly correct an error or mistake, you should feel free to do so.

Control the Slides

Whenever possible make sure that you have a clicker/slide advancer available so that you can move the slides forward at your own pace and for a smooth and professional presentation versus having to tell someone else to do so on your behalf.  Also practice on advancing the slides prior to your presentation in the proper order in which you want them displayed.

Say Thanks

I am a big believer that presenters should always be gracious and should begin their talks by thanking both the people who have invited them to speak and the members of the audience who have taken time out of their busy schedules to listen to you speak.

Start Strong

Open your presentation in a strong manner that grabs the audience’s attention and builds positive momentum for the duration of your talk. Avoid wasting valuable time introducing yourself – hopefully your bio will be provided to attendees by the organizers of your talk or perhaps someone else will introduce you. Instead, work hard to capture the audience’s attention in the first few minutes of your presentation or you risk losing them. Consider opening your presentation with a provocative question, a memorable story or another technique that makes your audience want to listen to you versus checking out their smartphones.

Be Authentic & Energetic

Please be yourself – and not someone else – when delivering your presentations. I find it refreshing when presenters display their own personalities and styles when delivering presentations as they come across more authentic and genuine. I have seen too many presenters come across very robotic-like and stiff during their presentations. In my opinion, if you deliver a presentation in a monotone fashion, if you speak just like everyone else, if you speak in the language known as “corporate speak” or if you are just reading from your slides like a news anchor, you risk losing your audience very quickly. Also while we can all learn a lot from great speakers, still be sure to develop your own unique presence and style. Also please bring some energy and passion to your talk. The last thing people want to hear are presenters who are boring and lethargic like this teacher from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Spoonfeeding

Make it very easy for your audience to digest and understand your presentation as the best presenters are highly skilled at “decomplexifying” topics. Avoid using verbose words, acronyms or corporate jargon. Also consider highlighting the main takeaways from you talk at both the beginning and end of your presentation.

Add a Video 

We are all visual people and incorporating a compelling video into your presentation is a great way to convey messaging to an audience during your presentation – and it provides the presenter with a few minutes to catch her/his breath and regroup. In my experience I have seen many senior executives weave in videos into their presentations. Just make sure that your video works properly so that there will be no glitches during your presentation – and if you are presenting at an external conference/event please let their information technology people know in advance that you plan to show a video during your presentation. During my presentations on AI at the Fifth and Seventh Circuit judicial conferences I played a Seeing AI App video which demonstrates a unique application that was created by Microsoft and powered by AI to improve the lives of people with visual impairments. In fact, even Justice Kavanaugh liked the video and applauded along with the other attendees at the Seventh Circuit judicial conference after the video was finished.

Be Smart 

In our smartphone and social media driven world always assume that whatever you say during a presentation can be easily recorded or quickly shared via social media. So if you are speaking at an external conference or event please be very thoughtful in what you say as you will be viewed as an ambassador of your employer or industry whether you like it our not.

Q&A 

Always try to leave some time at the end of your talk to answer questions from the audience as that provides additional opportunities for others to learn from you and it also demonstrates your transparency. Also if the audience is small, consider fielding questions during your presentation. However, if you do take questions during your presentation try to avoid going down the so-called “rathole” by spending too much time answering a specific question as you can always get into a deeper discussion with the person asking the question after the presentation is over. Remember to repeat the specific question from the audience member so that others can hear it and do your best in trying to address a question. If for whatever reason you do not know the answer to a particular question simply say that you do not know the answer, you will research that issue and get back to that person as soon as you can.

Seek Feedback

After your presentation is over proactively seek the feedback of attendees and ask them what you could have done to make your presentation more impactful. Usually at external conferences and events attendees are asked to provide formal feedback on all presenters so be sure to obtain such feedback from the conference/event organizers. Learn from such feedback so that you can become an even stronger presenter in the future.

Get a Coach 

When needed do not be shy to enlist the support of an executive coach or trainer to help you be a stronger presenter. It is not a sign of weakness to do so, many senior executives have such coaches, and if your employer is unable to absorb an expense for a coach consider doing so on your own nickel as it is an investment in yourself and your career.

Embrace Diversity & Inclusion

Over the years I have been asked to speak at external conferences and panels where unfortunately the event’s organizers did not do a very good job at having a diverse slate of speakers – which is totally inexcusable in my opinion. Nowadays I refuse to participate in all male panels AKA “manels” and I am performing better due diligence with conference organizers to help ensure that the event I am speaking at will include an appropriate amount of diverse speakers before I commit to participating in such event.  If you are a frequent speaker at events please be a strong advocate for greater diversity of speakers at industry events like Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.

Best of luck being a stronger and more effective presenter. Remember that it is a journey, stay positive and never ever get discouraged.