Thursday, March 20, 2008

In Memoriam: Catherine Callaghan Grisdela

Today, for me, is one those days when life comes front and center to remind us of what is truly important.

My mother died peacefully in her sleep last night at age 81 after suffering from poor health associated with Parkinson's disease. She joins my father, Elmer, in eternal rest.

There are so many characteristics that I admired in my mother, but the one thing that stands out the most was her daily commitment to doing the right thing for her family, friends, community and church. She and my father raised eight children (born within 10 years) to be close, productive and caring adults. She always had a kind word for people. Despite the daily stresses of life, she was never ill-tempered.

She assumed leadership volunteer roles in the United Way, Michigan Parkinson Foundation, and worked as a religious education director at St. Alphonsus Parish in Dearborn, MI.

Before marrying, she earned two Masters degrees. A strong sense of education was instilled in her children, who all went to college and four to graduate school. She was a fan of the Detroit Tigers and classical music. Her circle of friends from Marygrove College (1948) remain close to this day.

This weekend we celebrate her life. Warm memories of her will live in our hearts forever.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Bear Essentials: Balancing the Eggs in Your Basket

The Wall Street Journal today includes a story entitled "Law Firms Likely to Miss High-Fee Work for Bear." Several large law firms may find themselves at risk of losing business on the Bear Stearns account as the firm becomes part of JP Morgan Chase, according to the report. Cadwalader Wickersham, Skadden Arps, Latham & Watkins, and Weil Gotschal are among the firms mentioned as historically providing legal services for Bear Stearns.

One week ago today Bear Stearns stock was trading at $65 per share, to be followed by a proposed fire sale of $2.00 per share less than 4 days later. One Bear Stearns trader who read about the deal in the paper said he was sure the offer price was a typo.

What if the unimaginable happens to a client of your law firm? Do you have 1 or 2 large accounts that represent a significant share of your business? The old adage "don't put all your eggs in one basket" holds true for law firms as well. If you determine that the misfortune of a small number of accounts can cause great potential harm to your practice, now is a good time to work toward rebalancing your portfolio of clients and/or practice areas .

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Team Focus on Billable Hours

I heard a great idea recently from a wise law firm administrator at an insurance defense firm. There was some grumbling among the support staff about simple things like why an attorney could not make their own copies (sound familiar?).

The Office Manager offered some very simple staff training, taking the time to point out that the firm's clients monitor invoices very carefully. Copying charges were acceptable to clients, but only when done by support staff and not the attorneys.

Staff members were encouraged to look for ways to help the attorneys spend more of their time on client work. The Office Manager emphasized that when the attorney spends the maximum amount of their time on billable client hours, everyone wins because the firm becomes more profitable.