Strategist - FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog


It's one thing to represent someone who has a questionable case. It's quite another to continue to press forward with a lawsuit when you have evidence that the case is not only questionable, but fraudulent.

If Facebook is to be believed, that's exactly what the multi-firm team that represented Paul Ceglia did. Ceglia claimed that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sold him an ownership stake (now worth billions) in his startup social network. Ceglia's lawsuit was dismissed after evidence emerged that the contract he presented as proof of a deal was a forgery.

Fresh off that victory, Facebook isn't pursuing Ceglia for the false claims; the company is suing his lawyers.

This is one of the more absurd copyright claims, and absurd responses to a disciplinary proceeding, that you'll ever see.

Joanne Denison, an attorney, has a blog about the trials and tribulations of Mary Sykes, a 90-year-old "probate victim." The blog contains a number of allegations of corruption in the Probate Court of Cook County, Illinois, along with accusations of elder abuse and physical and mental harm inflicted upon Sykes.

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (IARDC) filed a complaint against Denison listing a handful of alleged ethics violations, most of which regarded her statements on her blog. In the complaint, which was published on the IARDC's website, 15 paragraphs from her blog were quoted. Denison's response? To sue, alleging a copyright violation.

Stacy Ehrisman-Mickle took on a pair of brothers as clients in early September. Knowing that she had a six-week maternity leave coming up, she immediately filed a request to postpone the hearing. After a month, and with only a week until the hearing, Judge J. Dan Pelletier Sr. denied her request, stating: "No good cause. Hearing date set prior to counsel accepting representation," reports The Associated Press.

On October 7, 2014, with her husband out of town on work, no friends or family in the area, and no daycare willing to take a 4-week-old baby, Ehrisman-Mickle showed up to court with her baby strapped to her chest -- after clearing it with her pediatrician. When her child began to cry, Judge Pelletier publicly scolded her for her behavior and questioned her parenting, commenting that she was exposing her child to many germs in court.

Judge Pelletier eventually delayed the hearing, while Ehrisman-Mickle filed a formal complaint the same day.

There's really nothing worse than a client who has a strictly casual relationship with the truth. (Well, maybe that and a client who can't pay you.) When clients lie, it makes life difficult for everyone and makes you look like a schmuck; attorney-client privilege sort of precludes exclaiming, "But he swore up and down he didn't have any other assets!" But even if no one else finds out about the lie, it harms your ability to represent your client. One lie begets another; how do you know that everything isn't a lie? Finding out requires time, which means money.

In order to fend off the possible sanctions, the bruised ego, or something as prosaic as opportunity cost, how can you make sure that your client is telling the truth? (Note that this advice isn't for clients who plan to lie to a tribunal, but rather clients who aren't being forthright with you.) Here are five signs to look out for:

In case you weren't aware, today is National Dictionary Day. We've been talking a lot about legal marketing and how solos and small practices can do it more effectively. But sometimes, there's a tendency to get loaded down in jargon, which can put people off.

You've undoubtedly heard of things like a "click-thru" and "SEO," but you may not have known what the heck is going on. So what do all of these marketing words mean?

Here are seven that every lawyer should probably know:

Amal Alamuddin. Amal Clooney. Amal Alamuddin Clooney. This whole marriage thing can get a bit confusing, right?

It's even more confusing for clients and the court, which is why the decision about whether to practice law under your maiden or married name is pretty darn important. There's the marketing and name recognition aspect. There are ethics considerations too. And, of course, the convenience factor: changing firm names, business cards, websites, and letting clients and the court know.

Maybe hyphenation is in order?

One of the more ridiculous inventions in the law has to be the waiver of the right to appeal, especially the right to bring claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Imagine if we could all make our missteps and mistakes go away by having clients sign waivers -- there would be no malpractice suits, no insurance requirements, and maybe even no disciplinary proceedings.

There would also be a whole heck of a lot more misconduct and far less faith in the justice system. That's why it's heartening to see that the Department of Justice is finally ending its practice (albeit a somewhat sporadic practice) of requiring defendants to waive ineffective assistance claims as part of a plea bargain.

Even if, as the policy change memorandum notes, "federal courts have uniformly held a defendant may generally waive ineffective assistance claims pertaining to matters other than the entry of the plea itself," the goal should be fairness and adequate representation, even at the cost of a few additional appeals.

Part of the reason you're doing all the networking we keep harping about is so that you can get referrals from other lawyers. Like your friend the tax attorney who knows a guy who knows a guy who needs a personal injury attorney -- like you.

New lawyers especially might not know how to navigate referrals, so we've provided this handy guide so that you know how to take advantage of referrals -- and do it without violating any laws.

Web design: Many have tried, and nearly as many have failed miserably. And while a do-it-yourself site, with a barely recognizable color scheme and misspelled words might be OK for your local hobby group, a lawyer's professional site demands quite a bit more. It needs to be clean, modern, and as mistake-free as possible.

And it really, really can't have any of these things:

What is LinkedIn for? Is it for recruiters? Job seekers? Is it a social network? Yes, it's all of those.

One way that LinkedIn adds value is through its "groups," which are bulletin board-style groups that occasionally post messages. If you're a legal professional who wants to use LinkedIn to its fullest, then you've got to be a member of groups. And if you're going to be a member of groups, then you've at least got to be a member of these 10 groups: