Book Review | The Dream Enabler | Business advice for legal professionals
The following review of ‘The Dream Enabler’ (a book by Matthew Burgess) was written by Daniel Owen, a member of The Legal Forecast’s Student Executive Committee.
To read the The Dream Enabler, which Matthew Burgess makes available online for free, click here.
Matthew Burgess is a lawyer. In 2014 he founded Brisbane-based View Legal, a specialist firm focusing on tax, structuring, asset protection, business succession and estate planning. The title to his book alludes to the fact that since the early 2000s he has helped people achieve their goals and visions in business.
The Reference Guide accompanying The Dream Enabler catalogues a collection of Burgess’ ideas and extracts. Burgess describes himself as an obsessive studier of history’s greatest thinkers. It is from the collecting and ordering of these ideas that Burgess constructs ‘101 tips for staying young and foolish,’ a nod to the Steve Jobs mantra: ‘stay hungry; stay foolish.’
The Dream Enabler serves as a guide to managing personal growth in business and an insight into the key attributes that govern View Legal.
It offers a pragmatic, no-nonsense approach to coping with the changing landscape of the legal industry.
At the outset Burgess highlights the importance of maintaining energy and enthusiasm while still retaining the beginner’s mindset. A central theme of The Dream Enabler is that traditional firms are being challenged by a more streamlined, customer-centric and technology infused version of legal practice.
Burgess argues that disruptive innovation is an undeniable truth. The legal industry is on the cusp of what has happened to countless other industries. If law firms are not disrupting their most profitable products with a cheaper, easier, IT driven solution, then competitors will.
Burgess’ model for innovation is a simple one: doing more with less.
In order to cope with disruption, he argues that firms need to put themselves in the client’s shoes and determine where they can add the most value through technological intervention and outsourcing.
Burgess describes View Legal’s business model as being based on classic ‘McDonald’s marketing’: the goal is to first become synonymous with one core product to generate acclaim and then to up-sell related products. For McDonald’s this took the form of focussing on their basic range of hamburgers, then offering upgrades for soft drink, fries and desserts. For View Legal this involves estate planning, with the adjacent products being tax planning, asset protection and structuring.
The execution of this strategy can involve borrowing from across the industry as well as within. Employees who supplement their traditional legal skills with additional skills in process management, IT and customer service are to be highly valued. Burgess recommends aligning with entrepreneurs.
The Reference Guide contains pragmatic tips for the day-to-day operations of a firm, offering concrete productivity fundamentals.
Burgess implies the need for tight time frames due to ‘Parkinson’s Law’: any given task has a tendency to expand to the maximum amount of time available.
View Legal does not use time sheets. On the contrary, it utilises sophisticated project management tools, offering service and price guarantees upfront. It favours flexible work practices that match supply with demand. Perhaps most notably, customer satisfaction is placed before revenue generation. As a result, Burgess advocates for 24-hour firm communication to better facilitate this goal. Other tips include finishing the most important work first, printing documents for proofreading, avoiding multi-tasking, managing energy rather than time and utilising a business structure where one person is accountable for decisions rather than a committee.
Burgess is also acutely aware of the mental health of his employees, and offers several solutions on this front.
He insists that activities be focussed on the strengths of the individual, which more often leads to a flow state that increases employee happiness.
A self-professed green-smoothie addict, Burgess believes that a healthy mind requires a healthy body, and encourages employees to eat healthy, exercise and meditate. He does not believe in the ‘work-life balance’ as much as he believes in seamless integration of paid and unpaid activities in a person’s life. He suggests that everyone should end the day by talking to someone about what went well that day.
Another tip involves ‘gamification,’ which involves taking systems, services and activities and seeking to make them more enjoyable to the user.
From a business standpoint Burgess sees the current job as the best marketing tool, though writing a book is also a resonating way to create a permanent business card at nominal cost.
Burgess is of the belief that one should ‘fail fast’ by producing and releasing a minimal viable product or “MVP” so any faults can quickly be remedied, and that firms should take full advantage of their smartphones’ capacity to voice record and type, exchange files through Dropbox, view documents, scan and plan.
The Reference Guide concludes with a ‘Quotes to Note’ section that enhances the overall message of innovation and disruption. Two especially noteworthy quotes are:
“The young are always in the right, because time is on their side. And that means we have to change.” –Peter Drucker
“It is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” –Charles Darwin