How Lawyers & Their Firms Can Be More Innovative – Live Broadcast with Tony Reiss

A live webinar lasting 1.5 hours and starting at 2.30 on 12 November 2019.

Why do Law Firms Need to be More Innovative?

The world is changing fast, particularly with the development of AI and algorithms. Some commentators talk about us entering the fourth industrial revolution.

On top of this, client surveys confirm that clients want creative solutions to their problems and many law firms are failing to deliver. Clearly firms need to change. The question is how.

This live broadcast session is aimed at partners and senior members of the management teams.

About Tony Reiss

Tony was originally at Procter & Gamble and responsible for new product development in the food industry where he was project director for the development and launch of CLOVER – the first spreadable ‘butter’.

He went on to lead several consulting projects at Deloitte involving new products and services for clients such as BBC, BP, BT, Prudential, Shell, United Nations amongst others.

He then became the first BD Director for the pioneering Cameron McKenna firm where he introduced several innovations in the early 1990’s such as business planning, business development training for partners and setting up one of the first key account programmes. The firm won a National Training Award and was the first City firm to be accredited as an Investor in People.

He has designed several award-winning programmes for law firms and had two projects shortlisted for Law Society Excellence awards.

What You Will Learn

This live and interactive session has been successfully received on the MBA at the Nottingham Law School and on the IE Law School Executive Education programme. It will cover the following:

  • Understanding the need for innovation within legal services, as well as the organisational challenge of achieving this
  • Assessing the need for innovation in services, organisational structures, processes and relationships
  • Applying a conceptual six step model analysing the process of new service development, as well as the political processes involved in successful practice creation
  • Understanding the complex challenges in culture change and being able to assess the drivers for change and the blockers that need to be addressed

The live session will be recorded by MBL so you will be able to go back and access the recording – should you wish to revisit the material discussed.

If you think your firm needs to be better at Innovation, please make a booking. Further details and bookings can be made at


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Tactics for Generating More Internal Referrals

Too many professionals sit in their office expecting others in the firm to bring them work or introductions to clients. They probably won’t! Why? Because:

  • they don’t really know what you do and
  • they don’t fully trust that you will deliver.

So a colleague introducing you to their client is potentially taking a big risk.

But fret not! Here is a step by step guide for those who would like to get more referrals from other parts of the firm:

  1. Decide which clients of the firm would benefit from your experience and skills.
  1. Do your homework. Read up about these clients, their competitors, sector issues and the legal issues they might need to confront.
  1. Approach the partners who lead the relationships with these clients and have responsibility for developing the relationships. Have an initial discussion with them to learn more about the client and offer ways in which you might be able to add value.
  1. Be prepared to offer a quid pro quo. Consider what you can offer in return. To develop good sustainable relationships with your fellow partners it can help if there are favours operating in both directions.
  1. Take on board what you learn from these discussions and prepare your persuasive case as to why the partner should introduce you and your services to the client.
  1. In considering this, ask yourself ‘what’s in it for the partner to introduce you?’ In what ways will this help the partner look good?

You’ll get many more referrals from colleagues if you adopt this approach.

For more on the art of cross selling see

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How to Be More Creative at Work

The results of client surveys are clear. Clients are increasingly looking for more creative solutions to their problems. So let’s get more creative!

In a previous life I led the project team that invented CLOVER – the first spreadable ‘butter’. I learned a lot about creative processes.

Forget the thought that creatives are a different breed. You don’t have to be an artist or musician. It’s a process. We can all do it!

My favourite quote is this…

The creative act is not an act of creation in the sense of the Old Testament.

It does not create something from nothing: it uncovers, selects, re-shuffles, combines, synthesizes already existing facts, ideas, faculties, skills.

Arthur Koestler (Austro-Hungarian essayist): The Act of Creation


Here are some examples.

  1. The Gutenberg press, widely thought to be one of the most ground-breaking inventions ever, was invented around 1440. It combined a die punch for making coins with a wine press!
  2. The Sony Walkman was the hi tech item for teens to have in the 1980’s. It allowed people to walk around listening to music on magnetic cassette tapes (invented by Philips) without annoying others too much! The breakthrough in thinking came from:
    1. Discarding the tape-recording function of the cassette decks that we had at home
    2. Moving the speakers to the ears using headphones (that already existed)
    3. Miniaturizing the rest

The objective for CLOVER was to taste as good as butter but spread straight from the fridge. Before I joined the team they’d tried different formulations and different temperatures. No-one had thought of adapting the churn! Maybe it was something to do with my Austro-Hungarian heritage!

What tweaks could you introduce to transform your product or service offering to deliver better solutions for clients?

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Falling Off The Ladder of Inference

Here’s a typical scenario which explains the ladder of inference…

You briefed your assistant Jo yesterday to draft a document and give it to you first thing this morning. It’s on your desk at 10.00am (not exactly first thing!) and it’s got errors (the client name) and typos in it.

The information you are choosing not to focus on is:

  • Jo is very busy on other work with tight deadlines
  • You didn’t ask how busy Jo was when you did the briefing
  • You briefed Jo in a hurry and the briefing was incomplete
  • Jo didn’t ask any questions because she didn’t want you to think she is unintelligent

Within seconds, your subconscious mind adds meaning and makes assumptions about this experience, such as:

  • Jo is a typical Millennial
  • She isn’t diligent and is likely to hand in sloppy work in future
  • Jo isn’t interested in developing her career

You then go further and draw conclusions and develop additional beliefs, such as

  • Jo is not reliable
  • She is not professional

On the basis that you now don’t trust Jo, you take action and avoid using Jo on your projects in future. Wow! Seems harsh. Poor Jo!

Is there a happy ending? Well, not for you! Jo’s career doesn’t flourish with you, but she finds another job with a rival firm where there is a better boss who delegates work thoroughly and doesn’t jump to conclusions. You end up under-resourced and working even later most evenings!

Do you recognise how easy it is to make these false judgements? All because we select what information we choose and then make invalid assumptions.

Tip for Supervisors: check all the data and ask yourself what beliefs and assumptions you are adding.

Best practice in delegating and supervising at

Source: The above process is adapted from The Ladder of Inference, a model developed by Chris Argyris and developed further by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline.

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How to Change Our Work Habits

Gretchen Rubin has recognised that there are four types of people at work, based on our tendencies to respond to expectations. It turns out there are two types of expectation:

  • outer expectations, such as work deadlines or accepting requests from work colleagues, and
  • inner expectations, such as learning Portuguese, writing more blogs or finding time to do more exercise or meditation

An Upholder

The first type are the Upholders. They meet both expectations. There aren’t many of this type. Think Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. Surely they don’t have a problem? Well, apparently they can be too rigid and can find it hard to let go when they should.

Then there are the Questioners. They’ll probably be ok at meeting their own expectations but find it hard to accept outer expectations. You will need to convince them why they need to do something, then they’ll do it. The problem is that they can overwhelm others with their questions. The way of dealing with their tendency is to give them deadlines or limited their resources or scope.

The Obligers meet the outer expectations but not the inner ones. Their motto is ‘You can count on me!’. What rocks of the world! They hate to let others down. The trouble with this tendency is that it’s not sustainable for their long-term welfare. Their supervisors will do well to recognise this type and provide accountability to help them meet their personal needs.

Finally there are the Rebels. They meet neither outer or inner expectations. Their motto is ‘You can’t make me!’. They resist taking orders from anybody. They are motivated by choice and freedom. They dread habits. These need subtle managing to avoid clashes. Carrots might work better than sticks. Try to find benefits for them if they were to comply.

It’s hard to change habits. But a good place to start is to recognise what type we are. Which one are you? And if you don’t fancy answering that question, maybe you’re a Rebel!

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Better Ways to Run Meetings (and Firms)

What’s stopping us from working at our best? It’s the way we work. Bureaucracy.  Hierarchy. Compliance. Everything that slows us down and makes us feel less human. Our organisations are broken, says Aaron Dignan in his book Brave New Work.

Aaron is contributing to the latest thinking about how to produce more effective company cultures and values. The new buzz words in firm governance are Sociocracy and Holacracy.

Key parts of our work lives are how we make decisions and how we conduct meetings.

We all know what it’s like in most meetings. Few people say what they’re really thinking until they know what the boss thinks. This is madness because it tends to produce groupthink and useful potential insights are missed.

My work alma mater was P&G who encouraged the most junior person to speak first after the external agency presented creative ideas for advertising campaigns. It felt scary but at least ideas were shared honestly. Impactful advertising was usually produced. Fewer mistakes were made. Money wasn’t wasted.

But here’s another way of running meetings that addresses the potential hierarchy problem. A powerful yet simple process is to use thinking rounds, a technique written about by Nancy Kline in Time to Think.

Here’s how the process for this might work:

  1. propose – invite a team member to describe a problem followed by a proposal and recommendation. Everyone listens.
  2. clarify – participants ask questions of the proposer in turn to understand the proposal. Participants ask, proposer answers and everyone listens
  3. react – participants react in turn and/or make suggestions to improve the proposal. Proposer accepts the feedback and stays silent
  4. adjust – based on the questions and feedback the proposer may edit their proposal or remove it
  5. consent – participants in turn can voice an objection if they have one. It’s recommended to set a high bar for objections eg unsafe or might do harm to the team or organisation. The goal is progress
  6. integrate – ask the objector to work with the proposer to edit the proposal to make it faster, cheaper, better

But if we want to make a bigger difference, we need to change firm cultures and what Aaron calls our operating systems. He argues that we need more of the following:

  • Distributed authority, rather than a command and control approach
  • Dynamic teams, rather than a fixed hierarchical organisation chart
  • Decentralisation, rather than a dominant head office
  • Emergent leadership, not top-down directives
  • Responsiveness, rather than a focus on strategic planning
  • Transparency, rather than handing out information on a need-to-know basis
  • Simple rules, rather than complicated bureaucracy.

Most of us, particularly Millennials, would definitely prefer to work in a firm with such a culture. And the work quality would almost certainly be better as well.


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What Effective Leaders Need to Know About Hormones

Leaders who understand some key aspects of neuroscience will be more effective leaders. This is the message in Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last.

Sinek explains that there are four key chemicals that relate to leadership:

  1. Endorphin
  2. Dopamine
  3. Serotonin
  4. Oxytocin

Sinek divides these four neurotransmitters into two separate categories — selfish and selfless

  • Selfish hormones — Endorphin and Dopamine help us get things done and achieve more.
  • Selfless hormones — Serotonin and Oxytocin strengthen our social bonds and create meaningful connections and more effective collaboration.
  1. Endorphin

Endorphins are pain-masking hormones that help us push ourselves through tough circumstances.

We needed endorphins in the Palaeolithic era when out hunting. Enduring harsh climates and rough terrain for hours or days on end to catch a meal, endorphins would mask the pain and allow us to press forward until we caught our prey.

Today, we most often get a rush of endorphins from running called a “Runner’s High” that helps us push our bodies through tough workouts.

This feeling is actually addictive and that’s why you see so many people who are addicted to working out.

In the modern world, effective leaders can obviously provide stretch in their work goals to create a sense of achievement and this endorphin rush.

  1. Dopamine

Dopamine is the most dangerous hormone of the four because it is the most satisfying.

Alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and even cell phones send dopamine through our body whenever we use them, which is what makes those things so highly addictive.

On a more professional note, even completing tasks, achieving goals, and simply getting things done can give us a rush of dopamine. That’s why crossing items off your to-do list feels so great. If you’ve ever completed a task, realised it wasn’t on your to-do list, added it, then crossed it off, you’ll know this feeling.

Dopamine is what produces that irresistible urge to check every notification on your phone.

Each time we clear the notification, respond to the text, or read an email it gives us a boost in dopamine. Since dopamine makes us feel great, we instinctively do things that give us a quick dopamine fix without considering the value of those things.

Leaders can create a bigger dopamine hit by making goals more tangible. But you may want to consider ways to manage the dopamine addiction by restricting times for sending messages (ie fewer pings on the phone in the evening).

It is important to note that endorphin and dopamine provide short term hits that don’t require contributions from others.

3. Serotonin

Serotonin is the hormone produced when we feel valued, respected and admired.  It boosts our confidence and makes us feel good.

When people see you and respect you as their leader, it boosts your serotonin by making you feel great and it boosts their serotonin because they trust you.

However, leaders who get too high on serotonin and don’t follow through on their responsibilities as a leader lose the trust of the group. Once they’ve lost the trust of the group, their serotonin drops and so does their confidence.

The more that leaders create a safe environment and give team members a sense of pride and status, the more serotonin they will have surging through their body and the more confident they will feel when taking on challenges.

Without trust you’ll have an environment of cynicism and paranoia.

4. Oxytocin

Oxytocin is stimulated when we get feelings from emotional bonds. Unlike endorphin and serotonin, it builds slowly.

Leaders that sit up in their ivory tower, never to be seen by the group and only communicating through emails don’t form this kind of bond with their team.

Effective leaders get out amongst the people to say well done and give people one-on-one time to address their concerns. Being honest helps stimulate oxytocin as does making other people feel heard.

And maybe you’ll get fewer team members going off to rival firms!

An important rival to oxytocin is cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol makes us more selfish and paranoid and restricts our creative thinking. It also reduces our immune system. So if you notice staff getting sick more often, you might needs some actions to enhance levels of serotonin and oxytocin.


Final thought…

Traditional male leaders tend to be better at providing the endorphin and dopamine hits. Females tend to be better at delivering the serotonin and oxytocin responses. It seems like the balance between the two styles might be ideal.

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