Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Fitbit Tracker to the Witness Stand

First it was Alexa and now it is Fitbit -- these smart devices are going to court to catch alleged killers.

Alexa, the voice of Amazon's digital assistant, made the news last year when prosecutors subpoenaed her data to find out if she "overheard" an accused murderer. Fitbit, the fitness tracker, is at the center of a new murder case because she may reveal the victim's last movements.

Richard Dabate, the accused, said that a masked intruder shot his wife Connie Dabate. Her Fitbit, however, tells a different story.

"The Fitbit could be the star witness in all of this," reported CNN.

Is It Time to Grow Your Marijuana Practice?

Is it too cheesy to say that the pot practice is growing like a weed?

Hey, it is what it is. Marijuana actually does grow like a weed and some lawyers are riding high on its popularity.

According to a CBS poll, support for legalized marijuana is growing. More than 60 percent of Americans think it should be legal for recreational use and 88 percent favor it for medical use.

While representing marijuana "drug dealers" may have been a stigma a decade ago, more civil attorneys have emerged from the shadows and are competing for marijuana business clients. Legal developments have helped.

More Lawyers Use Social Media, but Don't Know How It Helps

Almost all lawyers use social media but few know how it helps their practice, according to a new survey.

Attorney at Work, reporting results of its third annual social media marketing survey, said that 96 percent of the respondents regularly use social media. But barely seven percent believe social media is directly responsible for bringing in new clients.

And while more lawyers are using sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, they don't really know whether social media marketing is more reality or hype.

The disconnect seems to be that most attorneys don't know how to use social media to get new business. Here are some ideas:

Pros and Cons of Being a General Practitioner

People used to ask me, "What kind of a lawyer are you?"

"A good one," I liked to reply. It usually brought a smile, and always brought a follow-up question: "No, like, what kind of law do you practice?"

In the law practice world, clients seem to expect that lawyers have a specialty. It almost goes without saying, but here goes anyway: there are pros and cons to being a general practitioner.

Pro Tip for Oral Argument: Stop Talking

It is a maxim in trial practice that when you are winning, stop talking.

This does not mean you walk up to the podium with nothing to say. It means that you need to know when you have said enough. Quit while you're ahead.

Oddly, it seems to be a difficult lesson for many lawyers to learn. More than one judge has cringed when an attorney begins with this statement:

"Your honor, I'll be brief."

Hurdles Self-Employed Lawyers Face When Seeking a Firm Job

For you self-employed attorneys, going to work at a law firm is more than a job change. It is a life change.

Whatever your reason for having been self-employed, you have had the primary benefit of being your own boss. Law firm lawyer, not so much.

Of course, there are pluses and minuses on both sides of this employment issue. But this blog is mostly about how to deal with the minuses -- plus a few pointers and some cool music links:

Strategic Lawyering and the Benefits of Long-Term Planning

Charles H. Houston, a lesser-known luminary in the civil rights movement, may have been the best legal strategist in American history.

Long before the U.S. Supreme Court completed its 180-degree turn-around on equal rights, Houston was planning the demise of Jim Crow. Thurgood Marshall won Brown v. Board of Education, but he credited Houston for winning cases decades earlier that led to the end of segregation.

"We wouldn't have been anyplace if Charlie hadn't laid the groundwork for it," Marshall said.

Houston remains a monument to the value of long-term planning in the law, although some say the strategic lawyer is a dying breed. Here are some ideas about the benefits of strategic lawyering today:

Forget unlimited vacation days, free car services, firm-sponsored memberships at the local Equinox. If you want your associates to stay around longer, you'll want to give them a raise.

That's the lesson from BigLaw, at least. Many of the nation's top law firms bumped first-year associate salaries up $20K last year, from $160K to $180K. That's kept young lawyers from leaving firms for comfier, but not as lucrative, in-house gigs, according to Law360. But there is a downside to that retention. The extra cash has to come from somewhere, and here it's coming out of partners' pockets.

The legal profession has a drinking problem. More than one in five attorneys is a problem drinker, according to a study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, and rates of alcoholism are much higher in attorneys than in the general public.

But attorneys aren't the only legal professionals with drinking problems, as recent news regarding a federal judge in Louisiana reminds us. U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi was removed from the bench and, recently disclosed documents show, ordered to treatment for alcoholism.

Wielding a Judicial 'Wild Card'

Rolling Stone called Judge Jed S. Rakoff a "legal hero of our time," but the judge doesn't come across as a rock 'n roller.

With a resume that includes triumphs at Oxford, Harvard, Wall Street, and the United States District Court, Rakoff wears well the garlands of his labors. He spends his time now as an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, contributor to the New York Times and occasional guest jurist for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

So why does Rakoff think that judges should have a "wild card?" Did he save something from 1969, when he graduated from Harvard Law School and the Beatles cut their last album?

In a recent interview about injustices in the legal system, Rakoff said judges should have a "wild card" to dismiss cases sua sponte when they see injustice. "I think that's a great idea," he said. "Now there would be abuses, obviously."