Strategist - FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog


Should Lawyers Take Acting Classes?

Being a trial lawyer is truly a theatrical experience. It involves not only the technical elements of theater, like staging and voice, but also the truly "act-y" parts. What will you say, and when? How will you react to a question you already know the answer to? And most importantly, how do you impress a jury?

Add to that your own witnesses, or even your own client. They may need to step up their acting game as well. Should all of you take acting classes? Here are a few points to consider:

The 10 most popular posts of 2014 on FindLaw's Strategist blog ran the gamut -- from things you could learn from Frank Underwood to a judge beating a public defender (not in a battle of wits; like, with his fists).

Did your favorite post make the cut? Read on to find out. (Note: My favorite post -- about lawyer typography -- came in at No. 12. But I got it in here anyway!)

It you build it, they will come. Maybe. If you build it right. And there's a lot that goes into building a law firm website "right": SEO, graphics, mobile-friendly layout, content, conversion optimization, and a whole lot more.

But don't jump off that building yet. Just like those with DIY motivation can learn to tile a bathroom floor, those who want to create their own websites can do so, and you don't even need to know code. But you will need some tools. And a whole lot of time and motivation.

Let's start with those tools:

For many lawyers, marketing means handing out a few business cards, maybe setting up a website, and that's it -- if you build the firm, they will come. And once you've established a practice and a reputation, this might be enough to keep you afloat.

But it's rare to find a lawyer who doesn't want (or need) more clients. And with a smarter, better-informed marketing plan -- one that accounts for online and offline trends, and one that is customer service-focused -- you will get more clients. The key, though, is to work smarter -- to know marketing and to do it well.

For a great introduction to all of this, look no further than FindLaw's newest free eBook: Legal Marketing 101: A Guide for Small Law Firms.

Last week, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission suspended two lawyers for two years for a variety of issues in their dealings with low-income clients who were settling debts. They're all somewhat run-of-the-mill violations, except committed on a much larger scale.

What could attorneys Thomas Macey and Jeffrey Aleman have possibly done to get suspended for two years? Read on, and maybe you can learn what not to do with your new debt settlement firm.

Paralegals are the unsung heroes of the law office. They handle the logistical aspects of a case, like scheduling and docketing, as well as research and drafting.

If you're a solo practitioner, there's a fair chance it's just you, toiling away in quiet desperation, without a paralegal or a secretary. Do you need one? Here are some considerations.

Eric Michael Gamble, a lawyer in Kansas City, Kansas, made one big mistake. While representing a biological father who wished to contest the adoption of his daughter, he sent a Facebook message to the unrepresented 18-year-old biological mother urging her to reconsider. He also attached a form that he'd prepared to revoke her consent to the adoption, the Legal Profession Blog reports.

The message, which the Kansas Supreme Court called "emotional blackmail," also contained inaccurate legal advice and inaccurate factual assertions. However, Gamble self-reported his misconduct, carefully outlining all of the rules that he thought that he may have violated and expressed remorse for his conduct.

The adoption went though as planned. Gamble not only lost the case, but the court ran wild with his self-reported misconduct and imposed a six-month suspension, far more than a hearing panel's 60-day recommendation. Did he deserve that harsh of a sanction?

Free pens are so 1995. Who writes things on paper anymore? And calendars? We have these things called smartphones -- they handle our appointments.

No, if you want to really impress clients with freebies, you'll need to be different. Step your game up. Take your law firm swag game up to 2015 levels, ya dig?

And what could be better than matching your firm-branded freebies with your practice area? We've got a few crazy ideas, and want yours as well.

The dreaded spinning circle on your browser tab. That sudden notification that you've been disconnected from your chat program. It can only mean one thing: The Internet is out. Few phrases spawn more fear into a member of the 21st century bourgeoisie than that (other candidates include "Your credit card's been declined" and "Target is closed").

As a solo or small firm, your law office runs on the Internet. Is there anything you can do during an Internet outage? As it turns out, there is. So if you're reading this on your phone (or if you've printed this out just in case), here are five things you can do when the Internet goes down:

The Internet is full of annoying things: annoying people, annoying design tweaks, annoying error messages...

Not all of them are ill-intentioned, however. Some of them are actually meant to be helpful -- especially the design errors. But if you do any of these five things, odds are that I (or more importantly, your potential clients) will run in the other direction. Quickly.