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December 2012 Archives

Will Law Firms of the Future Look Like Solo Practices of Today?

What will law firms of the future look like? Probably a lot different than the BigLaw model we know today. And it shouldn't come as that much of a surprise.

Twenty-five years ago, way back in the 1980s, things like the Internet, cell phones, and email did not exist for law firms. So how did lawyers do their work? Well, with heavy reliance on their secretaries, paralegals, and other support staff. And also many trips to the law library and phone calls with their clients.

So what will law firms look like 25 years from now? They'll probably look a lot more like small and solo firms today.

Berkeley Law Students Charged in Exotic Bird's Beheading in Vegas

The two UC Berkeley law students accused of beheading an exotic bird at a Las Vegas casino have been formally charged, prosecutors said Thursday.

Justin Teixeira, 24, faces felony charges of killing and torturing an animal. His alleged cohort Eric Cuellar, 24, faces a misdemeanor charge of instigating, engaging in, or furthering an act of animal cruelty, reports the Associated Press.

In October, the two were allegedly caught on surveillance camera chasing a rare helmeted guinea fowl at the Flamingo casino. The large, 14-year-old bird was part of the Flamingo's Wildlife Habitat. Witnesses later saw the two emerge laughing as they carried the dead bird's body and severed head.

5 Law School Electives That May Waste Your Time

Unless you plan on becoming a law professor, half of the classes you take in law school are a complete waste of time. This is especially true with the law school electives that you take to fill out your 3L schedule with the goal of boosting your GPA.

Still, every law school is different. Classes that may be a complete waste of time at one school, like those mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal piece and discussed on the TaxProf Blog, may be beneficial at another school. And while one course may go over the head of one student, another student may totally get.

So here is this blogger's personal list of five law school classes that, in hindsight, proved to be an utter waste of time:

Top 10 Books That Lawyers Didn't Have Time to Read in 2012

Remember books? Not the books made for lawyers, full of cases and legal codes and moderately interesting footnotes. We mean books that don't include case summaries or require cross-referencing.

We're going to go out on a limb and say you probably didn't have time to get to reading many of the new books that came out this year. But this holiday week may be your chance.

To help you figure out how to spend your limited reading time, we've put together a list of great books that came out in 2012. No matter what kind of read you're looking for, this list should include at least a few suggestions that will keep you entertained well into the new year.

How to Get New Clients at a Holiday Party Without Really Trying

So you've been invited to the big holiday party. Congratulations. All the bigwigs will be there. Now you just got to close the deal. But how do you go about picking up clients at the holiday party?

If you intend to pick up clients at a holiday party, the title of this post should be redundant. Because even if you're trying, you should definitely not look like you're trying. A holiday party is where people get away from it all. No one wants to be reminded that they're being sued or about to sue. So if you're hustling for some business, you're likely to turn a lot of people off.

Still, savvy rainmakers are able to get clients at holiday parties (and pretty much anywhere else). Here are some tips:

The hashtag #26Acts has been trending on Twitter this week -- a call to action to perform 26 acts of kindness in honor of the Connecticut school shooting victims. Lawyers would do well to join the cause, especially today, the one week anniversary of the tragedy.

The #26Acts idea came from NBC News correspondent Ann Curry, who posted it on Facebook and Twitter last weekend. Within days, hundreds of thousands were tagging social-media posts with #26Acts to share the good deeds they'd performed all around the world, NBC News reports.

While lawyers are often reviled as ruthless litigators (ever been called a shark?), there are many simple acts of kindness we can do every day to make a positive impact. Here are #26Acts lawyers can do to make the world, and the legal profession, better:

How Robert Bork's Legacy Will Live On for Lawyers

Famed conservative jurist Robert Bork died Wednesday. The former lawyer, federal judge, solicitor general, and academic was 85 years old.

To most, Bork was perhaps best known for what he didn't accomplish: He never made it onto the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, as an attorney and legal theorist, Bork contributed much to the modern-day conservative movement, and beyond. Here are just three ways that Robert Bork's legacy will live on, especially for lawyers:

Cheers! Lawyer's Southwest Airlines Drink Coupon Lawsuit Settles

Don't get between a lawyer and his free drinks. That doesn't fly, as Southwest Airlines seems to have learned in a class-action lawsuit brought by thirsty attorney Adam Levitt over drink coupons.

The Chicago lawyer sued Southwest over unused drink coupons that Southwest allegedly failed to honor. Levitt's suit has landed in an out-of-court settlement worth between $29 million and $58 million, the ABA Journal reports.

Given that the unused drink coupons are valued at $5 apiece, as many as 12 million drinks have been awarded to Levitt and other plaintiffs in the class.

A Lawyer's Guide to Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Some people spend months planning just the right present, but as a lawyer you probably don't have that kind of time; you might have to rely on last-minute gifts.

There's no shame in buying closer to the holidays rather than way in advance. The key is making sure you get a gift that involves at least a little forethought. That means thinking about the recipient and what he or she would want or appreciate.

Of course, it helps to narrow down the category of what you're looking to buy. Here are some ideas for a variety of people in every lawyer's life:

Justin Timberlake-Loving Lawyer Beats Fla.'s Loud Music Law

When Richard Catalano was accused of violating Florida's loud music law, he responded by saying that the law itself wasn't constitutional. Sometimes it pays to be a lawyer.

In 2007, Catalano was accused of playing his music loud enough to violate a Florida law prohibiting drivers from playing music that was "plainly audible" from 25 feet away. But the Justin Timberlake fan is also an attorney.

So instead of giving in and paying the fine, Catalano argued that the law was unconstitutionally vague. The court didn't agree, but Catalano still won.

5 Personality Types That Fail at Law Firms

If you talk to a lot of ex-law firm employees, they'll typically blame the firm, high billable-hour requirements, or lack of control over their calendars as reasons they failed at the firm (and yes, it is a failure). But in reality, many former law firm employees can more likely blame their own personalities for their failures, and not anything the firm did.

Law firm life is not for everyone. Everyone knows this. Some Harvard types can't cut it, while some community college grads make it to the top. What separates the two may have less to do with intelligence than it has to do with personality.

With that in mind, here are some common personality traits of law firm failures:

The 10 Worst Lawyerly Secret Santa Gifts

It's that time of the year again: Someone in your office will inevitably come up with the idea of a Secret Santa. Even though your office may have one every year, some fresh new lawyer will suggest with glee what a great idea it would be to anonymously buy each other $20 gifts.

Lawyers have never been known to be the greatest gift-givers around. That's why most will typically stick to things like gift cards and cash.

However, when lawyers try to get creative and veer away from the tried and true, they can start getting into trouble. If you want to get something "different" this year, it may be fun to look around. Just make sure you avoid these 10 worst lawyerly Secret Santa gifts:

Lawyer Demographics: Where's the Diversity?

Law firms and law schools often tout their "diversity," so you'd think that lawyer demographics would reflect that, right?

Wrong. Turns out the legal industry, as a whole, isn't as diverse as many would like to think. Law is still an old boys' club and make no mistake, that's an old white boys' club. At least, that's what the latest numbers from the American Bar Association seem to indicate.

The report was compiled based on numbers from the ABA's Lawyer Statistical Report and the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. But keen observers may have spotted a few issues with the data.

How to Land a Legal Job When You're at the Bottom of Your Class

In this sluggish economy, it can be hard to land a job, even if you graduate in the top 10 percent of your class. So what legal job-search tips can possibly help someone who's ranked at or near the bottom?

It shouldn't come as a surprise that it can be much harder for "unranked" graduates to get a job. But you should know that it is not impossible. With a little hard work, you can even get that dream job you were after when you started law school.

Here are five law job search tips for those without stellar grades:

Woman Misrepresents Disability to Get Extra Time on Bar Exam

You may have heard the law student urban legend: If you claim to have a disability like attention deficit disorder, you will receive more or unlimited time to take the state bar exam.

While you may have contemplated listing your symptoms (such as an inability to sit through an hour-long TV show) as a legitimate disability, most of you probably thought better and sat for the bar exam without any accommodations.

However, that apparently was not the case with 28-year-old Leah Harmuth, who got her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Harmuth applied for the California bar and claimed a disability. She received 50 percent more time to take the exam and was allowed to take it in a semi-private room, reports the State Bar of California. She passed the bar in 2009.

Two years later, Harmuth tried to do the same thing in New York -- with less successful results.

The BigLaw rat race isn't for everyone. If you could care less about making partner or raking in the dough, there is another option: rural law practice.

Think of it as being like a country doctor; the country lawyer -- the smart guy or gal whom everyone approaches with their legal questions, be it at your office, at a chili cook-off, or at a dance.

But how much will you sacrifice in terms of salary and career goals? It doesn't have to be that way. Here are five reasons going rural may be more appealing than you think:

Just What Is Document Review?

If you ask 10 different attorneys what document review is, you'll probably get 10 different answers.

Basically, a document review project is one where a law firm will need a lot of attorneys on a temporary basis to review a vast amount of information. Document review projects frequently come up in mergers and acquisitions, and in cases that involve a government investigation.

But while this may be a standard definition for document review, perhaps a more fitting synonym for a doc reviewer should be "coder." The only tools you'll need for a doc review are your monitor and mouse. Typically, you won't even really need your brain.

Want a Raise? Top 5 Tips for Salary Negotiation

There aren't any rules about when you can ask for a raise, which makes your year-end review about as good a time as any to start your salary negotiation.

No matter when you decide to ask your boss for better compensation, it's important to start the process before you ask for that meeting. Asking for a raise is like any other negotiation; you have to be prepared before you go into it.

Consider this your pep talk before you go to your boss and ask for a better salary deal. Here are some tips that can help you be more confident during your negotiation:

3 Tips to Work With Legal Secretaries So They Don't Hate You

For a young attorney, working with a legal secretary may be one of the most challenging parts of your job.

The days of ordering your secretary to get you coffee or wait at your beck and call are mostly long gone (unless you're a senior partner). While you may believe that you are higher up in the pecking order given your JD, your secretary who has 30 years with the firm and has seen plenty of green associates come and go may peg you as being a little further down (i.e., at the very bottom of) the food chain.

As a result, young attorneys may be faced with a challenging situation in which they have to direct and lead secretaries and other legal support staff who may be much older and more experienced than they are.

Here are three tips for working with your legal secretary in a way that she or he won't resent you:

Dean: Law School Still Worth the Price. Here's Why

Lawrence Mitchell, the dean of Case Western Reserve University's School of Law, recently wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times that defends law schools and argues that law school is still worth the price of admission.

It's truly a troubling time for young lawyers when deans have to take pen to paper to urge the youngest and brightest to attend their schools. After all, it wasn't that long ago when law schools were seeing a slew of new applicants; applications in 2012, however, fell significantly.

Now, as Mitchell points out, law schools are likened to investment banks that profit off the weak and innocent so that insiders (the schools) can fatten up. Defending law schools from "relentless attack," Mitchell makes several points: