Learning from Our Mistakes


Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

A wise person said, “A mistake is not a mistake unless you fail to learn from it.” I made my share of mistakes in my legal career, and here are a few I learned from. I thought I would offer you the chance to learn from some of mine, instead of making them all yourself.

1. Viewing speaking and writing as non-billable time. It is true that we usually can’t bill anyone for those activities or the preparation time required. When I looked at it that way, however, I tended to de-value the activity, and put it behind everything else. Of course, that means I didn’t get around to developing talks or writing articles that would showcase my expertise and expose me to new contacts. The wiser course would have been to view those efforts as important business development activities, so that I would give them the appropriate emphasis.

2. Focusing on prospective clients and not on prospective referral sources. As a corollary to the first law practice management mistake described above, I didn’t take advantage of opportunities to speak to audiences full of referral sources. At a time when I represented small businesses, the managing partner of the regional office of a large national insurance company asked me to give a talk to their sales stars about shareholder agreements in closely held organizations. I never got around to it. I saw it as a favor to them and I didn’t recognize that they would be highly motivated to act like my free sales force convincing business owners that they needed shareholder agreements backed by key-leader life insurance. I didn’t recognize the opportunity, even though I had seen how an initial small project could develop into a significant long-term client. When those life insurance clients didn’t like their existing counsel, or needed a referral for other reasons, I would have been the corporate lawyer all those sales people knew to recommend.

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Time Management for Lawyers (March 13, 2008)

University of Houston Law School
Consumer Law Course
Houston, Texas 
March 13, 2008  3:00 PM

Speech Recognition Software May Be Worth the Price Now


Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

Speech recognition software seemed like a pipe dream for many veteran lawyers who never really learned to type. Many tried it a few years ago and found it a disappointing experience. Today, however, the technology has improved enough that even today’s law students (who probably learned to use a keyboard before they learned to ride a tricycle) are finding it valuable to use. To see how it works in a legal application, check out Robin Hood’s video on YouTube. Robin is a law student who created a video demo of using Dragon’s Naturally Speaking voice recognition software.

Before you race off to buy the software, however, you should make sure your computer has adequate processing speed and RAM. Check out the Amazon.com reviews of the software to see what real users say you need. As you know, the minimums stated on the software box rarely suffice for getting the results you are looking for. If you are interested in the software because you are such a Luddite that you need help with mere typing, you might want to get some help with the initial installation of the software and with training it to recognize your accent.

I haven’t personally tried the more current version of this software, so I can’t give you my opinion. I thought some small firm lawyers might be interested in watching the  above video to see how the progam works for someone other than a salesperson. You can watch the sales video, too, which demonstrates how the software can type as fast as you speak. If you don’t want to invest in the expense of additional administrative personnel, or can’t find quality help in a small town, this software might be a bandaid for you. With a price tag of under $100, it is probably worth the price to save a little time, even if you only use it to get the first draft out of your head and onto paper.

You can still expect some misguided transcriptions now and then, however. But that can bring a little fun into your day. My friend and former Chair of the Law Practice Management Committee of the State Bar of Texas, Bob Burton, got a good laugh from the audience when he demoed the software in a law practice management seminar for law students and new lawyers. He pretended to dictate a letter, ending it with “very truly yours.” Evidently his voice dropped off at the end, and the software typed “very hairy cheerleaders.” 🙂