business systems

111 – Malorie Peacock – How To Keep Your Team Running While You’re Away

As a founder and leading attorney at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock, Michael Cowen has a lot on his plate: he not only drives cases, but he also manages the team, leads meetings, signs checks, and makes sure the financials are in order. It can be hard to imagine what even one day of vacation time would look like for the office in his absence.

Yet for years, Michael has been able to take extended vacations — sometimes as long as four weeks — with his work phone left at home and his email inbox virtually unchecked.

“For my own mental health, for my own ability to bond with my family, I found that not having my cell phone with me … it’s the only way that I can really be present,” Michael says. It also allows him to come back to the office at the end of his vacation fully recharged. 

That valuable time away from work is something we should all be able to enjoy. But how can you make sure your office won’t fall into disarray when you’re gone? 

That’s the subject of Episode 111 with guest and fellow Cowen Rodriguez Peacock attorney Malorie Peacock, who filled Michael’s substantial shoes while he was away on his most recent two-week vacation. Tune in to this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation to find out how Michael establishes a system that keeps his office operating like a well-oiled machine, and how passing colleagues greater responsibilities helps make the whole team stronger.

Featured Guest

Name: Malorie J. Peacock

About: Malorie J. Peacock is a Partner at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock. She was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. During her time with Cowen Rodriguez Peacock, Malorie has worked on numerous commercial vehicle, trucking, and wrongful death cases. Malorie brings close attention to detail, commitment to finding safety issues and areas of neglect, continued utilization of technology and cutting-edge visuals in cases, along with a sincere passion to help those who have been hurt, to each and every case.

Company: Cowen Rodriguez Peacock 

Connect: LinkedIn 

Key Points

Top takeaways from this episode 

  • Prepare others before you go. Don’t surprise your clients: send them a note a few days in advance explaining when you’ll be gone and who they can speak with until you come back. Prepare scripts ahead of time so your staff knows how to respond to certain calls or questions, and get ahead of any looming deadlines.
  • Establish a system that everybody knows. A sound system requires smart and capable people to carry it out. This means giving adequate training on how to deal with emergencies and taking over full responsibility for cases. While he’s away, “they have to assume that I’m not going to read any case-related emails,” Michael says.
  • Let your team take charge. Putting trust in your team to take over big responsibilities like management and financials will not only take a weight off your shoulders, but it will uplift your fellow attorneys and help them grow into future leaders.

Episode Highlights 

[01:10] Leaving work at home: When he goes on vacation, Michael Cowen leaves his work phone at home and checks emails as little as possible. But what’s it like for other partners to take over when the head of a firm is out and unreachable?

[04:53] Knowing the right time: How do you know your firm is ready for an extended absence from a leading partner?

[06:26] Be prepared: Michael gives some tips on best practices for preparing your team and your clients for an extended absence so you can enjoy a relaxing vacation away from your inbox.

[13:52] Establish a system: Michael explains what it takes to ensure the office is a well-oiled machine while he’s away.

[18:15] More money, more problems: The responsibility of signing checks and making payments usually falls in the lap of the head of a firm. How do you find someone trustworthy enough to take over that role? Michael borrows some wisdom from Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers.

[22:38] A constant challenge: Malorie discusses why management is the most difficult part of taking over the firm, and Michael explains why it never gets easier.

[27:21] Taking charge: Malorie explains why taking over Michael’s meetings while he’s away may save time and improve the system in the future.

[31:07] The two-factor dilemma: Leaving your work phone behind is a great idea in retrospect, but Michael discusses how it got in the way of his vacation and what he’d do differently next time.

[33:19] Help your team grow: Michael talks through the lessons he’s learned about uplifting his other attorneys and giving them bigger roles by taking time away from the office.

Connect with Trial Lawyer Nation

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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

Produced and Sponsored by LawPods.

110 – Bill Biggs – Why Every Problem Is a Leadership Problem

The term “culture” might be the most misunderstood term in corporate America today. But it couldn’t be more important. Don’t miss this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation as Bill joins host and renowned trial lawyer Michael Cowen as they discuss what it takes to build a strong company culture, how to cultivate future leaders, and why “every problem is a leadership problem.”

Company culture is about a lot more than just being friendly to a coworker or having a welcoming office environment. It consists of your firm’s collective values and your commitment to sticking with them. Culture can transform your organization and generate more profit while keeping your team — and your clients — happy.

In short: culture is everything. 

“Most firms — most businesses — fail, not because of bad business ideas, but because of internal fracture and interpersonal issues,” says Bill Biggs, CEO of Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers. 

As an expert organizational leadership consultant to law firms whose client list includes Heisman Trophy winners, NBA champions, and Olympians, Bill swears by his message to “love your people and demand high performance.”

“It takes somebody who’s naturally inclined to want to care for people but is also naturally inclined to compete, and to win, and understands what that means. I don’t know how you can be a really effective leader if you don’t have some element of both of those in you,” Bill says.

Featured Guest

Name: Bill Biggs

About: Bill Biggs is the Chief Team & Culture Officer for Pond Lehocky Giordano; Special Consultant to Walter Clark Legal Group and Price Benowitz; and Leadership Strategist at Vista Consulting. He’s considered one of the nation’s most innovative thinkers in law firm leadership. His unique perspective on culture and ability to inspire and multiply leaders has created a movement that is reshaping firms across the country. 

Bill is the founder of the Law Firm Leadership Summit and host of Transforming The Culture of Law Podcast. He is a limited engagement consultant to select firms and is relentlessly committed to spreading his message, “Love Your People & Demand High Performance,” as a platform for organizational success. He is also the President of Biggs & Associates, serving high-value sports professionals and franchises as a brand and messaging strategist. His distinguished client list includes Heisman Trophy winners, NFL HOFers, NBA champions, Olympians, and many of the top teams in college and professional sports. Bill is a Phi Kappa Phi graduate of Texas A&M University and completed his executive training through the CORe program at Harvard Business School. He lives in College Station, Texas, with his beautiful wife, two sons, and a herd of dogs.

Company: Pond Lehocky Giordano, LLP

Connect: LinkedIn | Website | Vista

Key Points

Top takeaways from this episode 

  • Be intentional with your company culture. Firms don’t fail because of a lack of talent; they fail when they crumble internally. That’s why it’s so important to be intentional about establishing a company culture. Start at the hiring process by hiring the right person, not just the most qualified candidate. Establish a set of core values and commit to them. Inviting a consultant to help can serve as an asset.
  • Cultivate a strong leadership team. An effective team of leaders should be made up of both lawyers and non-lawyers. But most importantly, leaders need to be aligned with one another, and with the people they’re managing, in their values.
  • Love people and demand high performance. Caring for your team creates a more profitable business, but all that starts with intentional hiring. “I believe when you love people you earn the right to demand high performance.”

Episode Highlights 

[01:02] Meet the guest: Today we’re joined by Bill Biggs, an innovative organizational leader who helps law firms transform their company culture so they can excel in today’s competitive world.

[02:38] What is culture, anyway?: Culture is perhaps one of the most overused, yet misunderstood terms in corporate America today. Bill walks us through what culture really is — and isn’t.

[04:27] Be intentional: Bill offers some advice to smaller firms that may struggle more than larger firms with developing strong culture and leadership. 

[13:12] Getting the best hire: Hiring intentionally may seem impossible amid today’s worker shortage, but there are ways to streamline the process while finding the right candidate.

[17:22] Attitude over experience: Experience isn’t the only determining factor when it comes to finding the right hire. Bill and Michael discuss why attitude and aptitude matter so much.

[20:40] Develop your leaders: Bill discusses how firms can establish company leadership and best practices for cultivating future leaders through professional development.

[23:49] Let your lawyers lawyer: Your leadership shouldn’t just be coming from your legal team. Bill explains why a leadership team from departments across your company is beneficial.

[30:30] A path for mid-level leaders: Cultivating mid-level leadership is a two-way street. Bill offers a step-by-step guide to helping pave that path for your best team leaders and helping them grow into “Multipliers.”

[34:12] More than profit: Bill explains why “love people and demand high performance” is his motto, and why it’s an effective leadership strategy.

[41:23] Every problem is a leadership problem: This is another phrase that Bill swears by. But what exactly does it mean, and what differentiates a good leader from a bad one?

[44:05] Leadership is not unique: There are plenty of resources out there designed to help you improve your culture and leadership. Organizations like Vista, PILMMA, and PetraCoach, as well as Mike Morse’s book Fireproof, are some of Bill’s top industry recommendations.

[46:11] Embrace ownership mentality: To improve your own workplace culture or climb to the top of your firm’s leadership ladder, don’t think like an employee. Use books — Start With Why by Simon Sinek and Multipliers by Liz Wiseman — to start thinking like a leader first. 

Connect with Trial Lawyer Nation

☑️ Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.

☑️ Subscribe to Trial Lawyer Nation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube.

In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

Produced and Sponsored by LawPods.

109 – Malorie Peacock – Practical Procedures: Creation, Education & Implementation

On this episode of the Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael is joined once again by his partner Malorie Peacock to discuss their firm’s procedures and how they implemented them. They’ll cover their firm’s journey with procedures, what to create procedures on, how to create, implement, and train on your procedures, how to achieve buy-in, and Patrick Lencioni’s Working Genius Model.

Michael and Malorie begin the episode with a look at their firm’s journey with procedures and why they felt the need to share it on the podcast. Michael shares that he drew inspiration from the book “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber, which asserts that every business should be run like a McDonalds, and everything that can be systematized, should be. Having systems and training (and re-training) on them serves to empower your employees, ensures everyone is doing things the way you want them done, and creates a safety net so if someone leaves the firm, someone else can step in and take over where that employee left off.

Malorie then asks Michael a follow-up question- What kinds of things should you have procedures on, and what kinds of things should be left to the discretion of the person doing the job? Michaels answers simply that you need to be realistic. While he would love having a procedure for every little task, there isn’t’ enough time in the day and you need to prioritize 1-3 things that what will “give you the best bang for the buck.” Once you implement those 1-3 procedures, you can move on to a different 1-3.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the thought of having to practice law, run a business, and write and implement all these procedures, Michael has some good news for you- it doesn’t all have to be done by you. He’s learned that hiring and delegating things like creating, implementing, and training on new procedures to someone he trusts in his office frees him up to do other, more pressing items. Malorie agrees and adds that this is WHY you have these systems in the first place. It allows the owner to be able to take a step back and trust that things still get done the way he or she wants.

Malorie then asks Michael to share an interesting statistic that they discussed over coffee- that only 5% of employees can just figure new things out themselves. The other 95% need to be thoroughly trained and reminded continuously on how to do things the way you want. Your business systems should be designed for the 95%, NOT the 5%. While it can be frustrating to constantly remind your team of how you want things done, Malorie explains how it’s absolutely necessary to do, and if you go into it with the right mindset it takes a lot of the frustration out of it.

Regarding how detailed your procedures need to be, Michael says it really depends on what the job is. The procedure for someone in a filing or scanning role, a typically lower skilled job, will have step-by-step instructions; but the procedure for lawyers to set depos by a certain time will simply have guidelines to follow. Malorie adds that their firm procedures’ level of detail has fluctuated quite a bit, and the key to success is adapting to your firm’s current needs.

Malorie and Michael then take a deeper look at one of their procedures, for each lit team to have a monthly File Review on each case at the firm. They discuss why they have them and how they benefit Michael, then move on to how they hold teams accountable and achieve buy-in.

Achieving buy-in is the tough part. Looking at the big picture, Michael shares his firm’s “mantra” which they recite at the beginning of each meeting. If a team member buys into this mantra, he will do everything in his power to develop and support them. It’s something they look for in the hiring process and are up front on from the beginning, but if someone doesn’t want to buy into this mantra, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad lawyer, but his firm isn’t the right place for them.

Malorie then digs into the micro-level buy-in for each procedure, where they encourage feedback and brainstorm how to make the procedure better. They’ll get some great suggestions from their team, which they sometimes implement into the final procedure. They also make sure to explain the “why” behind each procedure, to make it clear they’re not trying to micro-manage the team or create unnecessary work.

After discussing some things they’ve learned from implementing procedures over the years, Michael brings up an upcoming Patrick Lencioni book on the concept of “The Working Genius Model” with the acronym “WIDGET”- Wonder, Idea, Discernment, Galvanizing, Enablement, and Tenacity. They elaborate on each of these working genius types, share the ones they each have and don’t have, and explain how they filled their team with the other types. The result has been a trusting, high-performing, complete team.

Michael and Malorie end the episode by encouraging listeners to work on building their ideal team and to start creating procedures for their firms. The result will be more joy and a better-performing law firm.

This episode also covers how to create procedures that leave room for creative lawyering, when to get rid of ineffective procedures, why perfection is the enemy of good work, how to incorporate Patrick Lencioni’s Working Genius Model into your firm, and so much more.

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