31 August 2010

In Memoriam: Jim and Jo's

since 1946,
from a trailer hard by the midway,
jim & jo’s
have proudly sold their chili dogs
at the minnesota state fair.

limeade is the only drink served – and is
“made with spring water”.

while the midway has lost its burlesque, its freak show, and even it's fat lady –
jim and jo’s have soldiered on
in a crusade against… bad chili dogs.

this may be more noble than it sounds.

foot longs with everything: chili, cheese, onions.
you may add ketchup and mustard
if you must-
but jim & jo won’t.

in the same way a
London barkeep once refused me a “black and tan”
years ago – “take your bleedin’ tourist ass else-a-where’s.”

there is only condiment proudly offered is Tabasco;
the one and only god worshiped here at jim & jo’s.
one god that has not abandoned us -
that revels in pain as pleasure,
that knows Eve
knew not
and doesn’t care.

Oh Tabasco! you bastard, you
sideshow shill, you huckster extraordinaire,
bless this frank.

Jim, grinning through a fat cloud of foul cigar smoke,
perched in his aluminum rig,
surveys his supplicants,
and, wiping his greasy hands on his pants,
counts all the chili stains
bleeding down our t-shirts

as tithes.

- richard russeth

30 August 2010

The Tao Of Law: Ten Statements

One book that I have turned to again and again to inform my leadership, practice of law and life is the Tao te Ching.

It’s a small book. And its title means, essentially, “The Book Of The Way.” About its author, Lao-tzu, little can be said because less than little is known. For more on him, the Wikipedia entry is not terrible. My favorite translation (by Stephen Mitchell) is about 81 pages all told.

The Tao te Ching is so short that it can fit in a tiny book that fits in your palm. But its affect on the world has been vast. As Stephen Mitchell tells us, “it is one of the wonders of the world.”

It can be read as a spiritual, practical, religious, philosophical, and/or ethical treatise on life. A series of pithy statements that are more than the sum of their words. Over the next ten weeks I will focus on ten practical statements of Lao-tzu that I think, applied properly, can immeasurably improve your leadership skills, practice of law and your quality of life for that matter.

These ten statements are (using Stephen Mitchell’s translation):

  1. “When you are content to simply be yourself, and don’t compete or compare, everyone will respect you.” (No. 8)
  2. “Do your work and step back, the only way to serenity.” (No. 9)
  3. “Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?” (No. 15)
  4. “The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.” (No. 17)
  5. “Express yourself completely, then keep quiet.” (No. 23)
  6. “He who tries to shine, dims his own light.” (No. 24)
  7. “Soft overcomes the hard.” (No. 36)
  8. “The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be.” (No. 57)
  9. “The simplest pattern is the clearest.” (No. 65)
  10. “All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it power.” (No. 66)

Thanks for reading!

Richard Russeth

12 August 2010

Urban Servant Corps Charity Dinner


The executive director of the Urban Servant Corps made the high bid for a dinner with Charlotte and I in a charity auction to benefit Urban Servant Corps. here in Denver (I'm on the Board).  

 Here's what we are serving them this Saturday:


Fruit And Fresh Herb Carafe
(fresh fruit, herbs, vodka and prosecco)
Roasted Peppers Stuffed With Feta
Goat Cheese With Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Country Bread


Chilled Avocado Soup

Orange Fennel Salad
Arugula Salad With Shaved Parmesan

Lemon Risotto Cakes
Grilled Asparagus with Ladolemono


Creme Brulee
Bellini Sorbet

Hope you bid next year!!

11 August 2010

If You Are Making Rain, Don't Carry An Umbrella (or, No Impression Is Better Than A Bad One)

I'm a member of the Association of Corporate Counsel. And every day into my in-box flies an update called the ACC Daily Docket or something like that. It has a list by topic of articles on topics of interest. Almost all by lawyers as big law firms. You know, updates about what the OFCCP's enforcement agenda is, what the latest SEC deal is or why you should worry about the Interstate Rafting Liability Act. I skim it every day. Sometimes I actually click through to read an article.

On this particular day, I read an article that was great. About the EEOC, pay equity and affirmative action. Short. Insightful. To the point. Great stuff. So great that I made the effort to find out the author. Find his email on the firm website. And send him an email saying "This was really great..."
    What do you suppose happened as a result of this email I sent?
    1. I got a call within a few hours trying to chat me up for business;
    2. I got an email within a few minutes trying to arrange a time to chat me up for business;
    3. I got an email sending me more information on the topic and asking me to chat sometime about the topic; or,
    4. I got an email a day later than said, simply: "thanks."
    If you guessed 4, you are correct (I was actually hoping for 3). That's it? No follow-up? No more sharing of knowledge? No more interaction?  Nada. Nothing. For god's sake I didn't even get put on the firm's mailing list!

    Really? You go to all that trouble to use social media as a rainmaking tool and then when you feel a drop of rain you open your umbrella?

    Seems to me that if you are out there on social media, you should really be out there on social media. No dilly dallying. No "I'm too busy" to respond to people who react to my social media. No "this is a bad" time to deal with social media. 

    If you're out there, you need to commit. Because if you're out there and you don't follow through... it's worse then if you'd never been on social media at all.  

    After all, no impression is better than a bad one.

    Thanks for reading.

    Richard Russeth

    01 August 2010

    If Nordstrom's Was A Law Firm, I'd Give Them All My Business: 7 Mistakes To Avoid With Your In-House Client

    For all the hoopla over social media as the future of legal practice, its amazing to me just how many lawyers make mistakes about the absolute basics of customer service – let alone Twitter or LinkedIn. Here are the seven mistakes I think outside counsel should avoid at all costs in their dealings with in-house counsel:

    1) Email Signature Line I cannot tell you how many times I think to myself: “I should give Bill a call.” And I search for Bill on my email account, get a bunch of hits, open one at random and... nothing. No address. No phone(s). No website. Nothing. It is such a simple thing. Or, worse yet, I get an email from someone, open it, and decide I should call them and...nothing. So I have to look up the firm, look up the lawyer and then call. Sure, I should probably have everyone’s number immediately available on my cell or my office phone - but really, wouldn’t you like to make it just as easy as possible for me to call you?

    2) Call Me Back We all like email. We can pose and respond to questions in “email time.” Which is to say, in our own good time. But guess what, when your client actually phones you, its safe to say she’s not operating on Internet Time. She’s operating on “I’ve Got A Problem, Pick Up Your Damn Phone” Time. Or it may be one of those issues that takes too long to write about or is too nebulous or whatever. In any case, if your client leaves you a message, call him back ASAP. Around my office we have a two hour rule. Any email and any phone call must get returned within two hours - unless its clear from the email or the voice mail that the two hour rule need not apply.

    3) Keep Your Promises I met with the senior partner of BIG, LABOR & FIRM, a very large and famous US law firm that focuses almost exclusively on employment law issues to see what they could do for me on a very specific topic that was of some importance to me, and for which they claimed not a little experience. “We’ll be back to you next week with a proposal laying out the work to be done, a time line and a budget estimate,” said well-dressed partner. Shook hands. Exchanged pleasantries. He left. That was a month ago. Suffice to say that even if I ever actually get the proposal, its unlikely that BIG, LABOR & FIRM will ever get a billable hour from my company.

    4) Bill, Bills and Disagreements Two different scenarios for your consideration. Scenario A: I get a bill from the firm of INCREDIBLY, EXPENSIVE & SMART. Its a very large bill. Really large. Seven figures big. I find what I consider to be an error, an inappropriate charge or too many lawyers or something. Maybe five figures. I call you. The senior partner. We talk. You get all defensive. Really defensive. And we finish our call without resolution. I get an email a week later offering to split the difference. Now Scenario B. I buy a pair of really, really expensive shoes at Nordstrom. After wearing them for three weeks, I take them back because they hurt my feet. They give me my money back and don’t even ask why I’m returning the shoes. But they do so because they want me to buy another pair of shoes later that I probably won’t return. And to do that again and again and again. You see, they want to sell me all the shoes I will ever buy and take back the very occasional one I don’t like.

    If Nordstrom was a law firm, I’d give them my business. All of it.

    5) Smart, Fast and Pleasant I once asked a NY lawyer, to whom I gave much business, what the secret to his success was: “Well,” he said. “I find that if you’re smart and know a lot about the law, give your client’s really fast turnaround on their issues, and are pleasant to work with, you get and keep lots of clients.” He paused for a moment and then said with a twinkle in his eye: “And if you are really fast and really pleasant, you don’t really have to be all that smart.”

    6) We’re Your Customers, Not Your Clients You are not doing us a favor by being our legal counsel. You might think you are, but then I probably wouldn’t hire you in the first place or ever use you again, as the case may be. Oh, sure, for all your professional responsibility analysis and conflict analysis and for referring to us in court, please say: “my client.” But you should think, “my customer.” Because that’s what we are. You might be smarter than us in many ways, but we were smart enough to hire you. And we’ll be smart enough to fire you, if it comes to that.

    7) Don’t Be Busy The best outside counsel I ever had always made me feel like I was his only client. Clearly, since he was a partner in a major NY firm, that was not the case. But I felt like I was and that was pretty great. He understood items 1 – 6 of this blog post. I guarantee that nothing grates worse for a client than “I am totally swamped right now, I could get to this in a couple of days – would that be OK?” No, its not. Trust me, there’s a firm down the street or across the country (doesn’t much matter anymore where the firm is, does it?) that will do it for me TODAY.

    Thanks for reading.

    Richard Russeth