A checklist that, if done in order, actually works.


How do you ensure task completion when important projects need to get implemented, when partners seem to have agreed to participate and do their bit, but when you are not really certain that you are going to get committed follow through?

It’s been an old joke within law firms that if a partner has a deadline for producing some task by this coming Friday, when are they most likely to start on it?  And you know the punchline.

Whether it’s in a practice or industry group setting, around the table with the members of your Strategic Planning Committee, or wherever you happened to be working with your fellow colleagues, this seems to be one of the most common challenges and greatest frustrations that I hear about from leaders at every level within firms.  And perhaps worse, the most common excuse seems to be, “I had a client emergency arise.”  And of course, a client excuse trumps everything!
Continue Reading Ensuring follow-through on partner promises (329)

Source: Based on Delta Model originally published in Natalie Runyon, “The ‘Delta’ Lawyer Competency Model Discovered through LegalRnD Workshop,” Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, June 14, 2018; see also Post 125 (article by founders of the Delta Model) [click on to enlarge]

Recent changes in ABA accreditation standards are an opportunity to deepen and broaden U.S. legal education in ways that matter to students, employers, and broader society.


[Editor’s note:  Legal Evolution is pleased to welcome today’s guest contribution from Neil Hamilton and Louis Bilionis, who are doing the foundational work of broadening the scope of the law school curriculum — and more daunting, the law professor mindset — to include skills crucial for professional success but also for lawyers’ roles as leaders and problem-solvers who focus on the long-term greater good.

As discussed below, this movement recently won a victory with the change in the ABA accreditation standards to include professional identity formation. Professors Hamilton and Bilionis (Neil and Lou) are at work supplying the first generation of content.  For innovators and early adopters, nothing happens as fast as we want it.  Yet, Neil and Lou are doing everything in their power to ensure the wheels of progress in U.S. legal education are indeed rolling. wdh.]


Recent posts in Legal Evolution have explored the country’s political and economic instability and social strife, theories for national decline, and the special roles and responsibilities of the legal profession to address these challenges. See Posts 312, 319, 321 (exploring duties of lawyers in the present age).  This post focuses on recent accreditation changes in legal education that, we hope, will help new generations of law students internalize the profession’s special roles and responsibilities and thus more effectively address our pressing social and political challenges.
Continue Reading Fostering law student professional identity in a time of instability and strife (326)

Source:Danny Kahneman on Decision Hygiene,” Jury Analyst, July 22, 2021

Decision hygiene is to product and service selection as testing is to software development.  Skip them at your peril.


Decisions about technology can be noisy affairs.

(Please take a moment to relive one you were part of.)

As Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass Sunstein masterfully point out in Noise (2021), noise is different than bias. It’s an independent contributor to infelicitous results in professional (and other) judgments. Noise tends to be an invisible enemy. Bias, more obvious, moves decisions in particular directions; noise just adds errors through unwanted variability. Responsible decision-makers seek to minimize both.

The Noise authors provide vivid examples of judgments in which noise plays a role, including some in law, like judicial sentencing decisions, which have been shown to turn on such things as the outside temperature or whether the local city’s football team won its most recent game. Contexts like insurance underwriting can operate like lotteries. As the authors say, “wherever there is judgment, there is noise” (p 12).  We are all noisy.
Continue Reading Keeping the noise down in tech selection (325)


Examples of ‘Rules of Engagement’ that produce results.


[Editor’s note:  Legal Evolution is pleased to announce that Patrick McKenna has agreed to join Legal Evolution as a regular contributor.  Patrick fills a large gap in our coverage—the daunting challenges of leading and managing in a law firm.  As illustrated by Patrick’s earlier posts, see Post 305 (the perils of shared leadership) and Post 318 (most common pitfalls of law firm leadership training), there is no good substitute for experience and observation. Thus, we are very grateful that Patrick has agreed to share his 40+ years of wisdom. For an introduction to Patrick’s career and writing, see Post 304. wdh]


Whether working with a practice/industry team, an executive committee/elected board, or the members of some firm’s strategic planning working group, I continue to be struck by the dysfunctional behavior that is often present.  For example, how does one deal with the situation where all of your fellow Executive Committee members engage in a lengthy meeting to discuss a challenging, somewhat controversial situation and finally make a decision — only then to discover that following the conclusion of this meeting, a couple of your colleagues were quietly telling partners in the hallways what the group had decided to do, but that they were not in favor of that particular course of action?
Continue Reading The highest performing teams have rules (323)


Balancing short-term benefits against long-term costs


One bright sunny day, Jack, a junior lawyer, discovers what could be a problem—Great Idea Inc., the big-potential startup corporate client for which he is working, does not have any organizational records.  Jack’s job is to prepare Great Idea for a major venture capital investment.  He has the Certificate of Incorporation that was filed in Delaware three years earlier, but the officers of the company say that their only records consist of a cloud-stored spreadsheet that shows the equity ownership upon which the three owners have agreed.  Jack knows that the Delaware corporate statute requires an organizational meeting for the election of directors and then board action to issue shares and elect officers.
Continue Reading Will remote work adversely affect the training, productivity, and retention of lawyers? (317)

Congrats,  associates!  Don’t spend it all in one place.

Cravath & Davis Polk associates are raking it in, and everyone’s got an opinion.  Here’s some data to explain how & why the new associate pay scale is a rational move in a functioning market.


Earlier this week, Cravath made waves at every trade media outlet with their 2022 salary scale:

Cravath’s announcement came on the heels of Milbank and Davis Polk each raising the stakes in the ongoing war for associate talent.  (See “Milbank Ups Associate Salaries to $215,000 in War for Talent (2),” Bloomberg Law, January 20, 2022, and “Davis Polk ups senior associate salaries in latest round of pay war,” Reuters, February 22, 2022.).  Before the close of the week, a flurry of memos followed, with a predictable roster of prestige firms matching the new top-of-market scale: Davis Polk, Paul Weiss, Kirkland, Latham, Simpson Thacher, Quinn, Skadden, Debevoise, Ropes, Shearman, Covington, White & Case, Sidley, Paul Hastings, McDermott, Boies Schiller, among others.  (See “Salary Wars Scorecard: Firms That Have Announced Raises (2022),” Above the Law, updated March 4, 2022).

Notably, Milbank has yet to respond to despite racing to first mover position in 2018 and again this year.  Also notably, Morgan Lewis is prudently sitting out the betting rounds, with a promise to monitor and match the prevailing scale once set.
Continue Reading #BadData, Part II: As the War for Talent Rages On, Let the Sorting Begin (290)


“Be engaged, interested in what others have to say. It’s more important to listen than to speak.”


I had the opportunity to discuss legal outsourcing with Colin Levy, who embodies the skills and mindset of the modern T-shaped legal professional.

Colin and I work on opposite ends of the spectrum: he’s an attorney who’s experienced first-hand how outsourcing to an ALSP can impact his career and place of employment. In contrast, I have expertise in helping law firms find and work with ALSPs. When law firms or legal departments choose to outsource to ALSPs, often, no jobs are lost. However, sometimes an ALSP can replace certain functions. I thought it would be interesting to hear one attorney’s perspective on whether ALSPs are a threat to attorney job security in the legal industry.

Below are notes from our discussion.
Continue Reading Legal careers in the age of outsourcing: A conversation with Colin Levy (288)


Layering in a new set of skills and know-how in an already crowded law school curriculum.


Last week, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) acquired the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP).  From far away, many lawyers, law professors, and law students are bound to ask, “Why is the maker of the LSAT, which has been part of the legal education landscape for 70+ years, acquiring a fledging nonprofit start-up focused future of law practice?”

The answer is that LSAC and IFLP saw a clear pathway to benefit future generations of legal professionals in their work with clients and broader society.  Although some readers may question such a lofty purpose, we believe that as a self-regulated legal profession, it is our obligation to foster and maintain a legal system that works for all citizens and upholds the rule of law.  Only then is lasting prosperity possible, both for lawyers and broader society, and the promise of equal justice more within reach.
Continue Reading Special Post: LSAC acquisition of IFLP explained (275)


Boomer retirements ought to be a boon for law school clinics.


The Hidden Brain podcast episode Cultivating Your Purpose begins with an effective metaphor that is well-known to aging Baby Boomers: Dustin Hoffman, playing Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate,” is drifting aimlessly on a raft in a swimming pool, as he has been doing for weeks after graduating from college.  When Benjamin confirms to his father that he has no plans whatsoever for the future, Benjamin’s father leans over him and demands to know “what was the point of all of that hard work?” Benjamin responds, “you got me.”  Unfortunately, many Baby Boom lawyers are asking themselves the same question after they retire or approach retirement—“what’s the point?”
Continue Reading Could a purpose deficit fill unmet legal need? (273)


Millennials were already skeptical of the law firm model. Then the pandemic hit, reinforcing the legal profession’s worst tendencies. A walk through the data.


Law firm leaders generally underestimated the magnitude, duration, and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other experienced but untrained decision-makers, many law firm leaders were excessively optimistic about their firm’s prospects and conceptually limited in defining their firm’s risks.

Even the law firms that met or exceeded their financial aspirations now face a force stronger and more threatening to their business model than COVID-19: disaffected, disenchanted, and disappointed Millennial attorneys constituting nearly one-half of all attorneys in the 400 largest law firms. Thus, lawyers are very much a part of an upheaval in the nation’s workforce that Gallup calls the “The Great Discontent” and “The Great Resignation.”
Continue Reading Millennial attorneys, COVID-19, and innovation (260)