Strategist - FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog


What should you look for in a paralegal or legal assistant? We don't mean "what should you put in the job application." That's easy: Writing skills, attention to detail, flexible schedule, and so on.

We're talking about personality traits that an ideal paralegal possesses, things that are essential to him or her. You can only find these types of qualities after an interview, or maybe only after a test run of a few days or weeks, but in the end, a paralegal with these qualities will make your firm run a whole lot smoother:

The perils of co-representation! Representing two parties at the same time usually comes up in the divorce context, where the parties are (more or less) agreeable and really just want to save money by using just one lawyer.

That sounds great and all -- except when things go south, or when your state's professional rules strictly forbid it. The Legal Profession Blog shares this tale of a Maryland lawyer suspended indefinitely for representing a married couple in a personal injury suit.

Business people know that one of the best ways to figure out what you're doing right or wrong is to spy on what the competition is doing. Back in Ye Olde Times, that might have involved sending a "secret shopper" in to report back what happened at another law firm's intake interview.

Today, though, it's as easy as visiting another firm's website -- and it can be other firms anywhere in your state, or even elsewhere in the country. It pays to take some time to see what the competition, or even your non-competition peers, are doing.

What can you learn from visiting other attorneys' websites?

Big, roomy computer monitors are essential for comfortable lawyering. You spend a lot of your time at your desk, and a big monitor allows you to have multiple documents open side-by-side.

But monitors, like every other part of your desk, are governed by the iron-clad Law of Ergonomics. If your monitor is too close, or too high, or too low, you can end up with a sore neck, a sore back, or both.

Here's a quick cheat sheet for making sure you don't end up in traction at the end of the day:

We talk all the time on FindLaw's Strategist blog about branding and how it's important to you as a lawyer. Truthfully it is -- and you can, and should, use branding to differentiate yourself from other law firms.

Tossing around the word "brand" can be a little bit inside baseball, though. You all out there reading this in Internet Land are lawyers, not advertising executives. So just what is a brand, anyway?

It's happened to you before: You get an unsolicited email from someone you don't know, claiming that someone else did something to him and now he wants to sue. You're pretty sure this person got your email address from the state bar website, because you've never heard of this person before.

Opening up the email, and the inevitable attachments, you find a litany of charges and poorly constructed pleadings. What should you do now?

Well, this one hits close to home. At the end of last year, the State Bar of California proposed a formal ethics opinion on attorney blogging. We here at FindLaw's Strategist are all in favor of attorney blogs (well, when they're good, anyway), but the California opinion raises a few issues that blogging lawyers will want to consider.

Public comment on the proposed opinion is being solicited until March 23, 2015. So why does the State Bar want to harsh our mellow, man?

Believe it or not, something as simple as missing deadlines is among the Top 10 reasons for legal malpractice claims. Remembering when something is due seems like such a simple task, but it's so simple that practitioners -- especially solos and small firms, who may not have dedicated support staff to monitor calendars -- often overlook it.

If you don't have a calendaring system, it's time to get one. If you do have one, it's time to do an audit to make sure everything is going smoothly.

Can you improve your calendaring system? Here are a few suggestions that may work for you:

Certain practice areas are like a leather jacket: They never go out of style. Personal injury, estate planning, and criminal defense will always be there. But is there something more you could be doing?

As it turns out, there is. Changing technology, government policies, and legal environments mean that there are more opportunities than ever to expand your practice into new areas. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

Like Bruce Wayne, I have an alter ego. In my alternate life, I'm Batman a solo practitioner who works from home. Lots of solos have a separate office, but being that I'm part-time, all that office space wouldn't make sense. Other solos work from home because it's cheap and there's not much reason to rent office space.

Writing briefs in your pajamas is great, but logistical headaches flare up from time to time. Without the features of a fully equipped law office, solos who work from home have to fend for themselves when it comes to things like printing, mailing, and filing.

Here are some of the common problems we face, with some handy solutions: