Strategist: December 2012 Archives
Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

December 2012 Archives

Hard-Drinking Lawyers: Avoid a Holiday DUI

Lawyers work hard and play hard. In fact, lawyers are known to have one of the highest percentage of alcoholism of any profession.

So as you let loose at your office holiday party or take your sorrows to the nearest pub, you should remember to leave your car keys elsewhere or have a designated driver on standby.

It's OK to have a drink or two (as I'm sure you know), but don't risk your career or your life by driving drunk. Here are some tips to avoid a holiday DUI:

A Year-End To-Do List for Small Firms, Solos

As the year comes to a close it's time for small firms, and really any small business, to break out the to-do list of end-of-year tasks.

Not only is it the end of the calendar cycle, it's the end of the fiscal year for most of us, which means it's time to gather together all of the year's financial information. With that you can figure out how you've done this year from a business perspective.

There are lots of things you can do right now to prepare for the New Year and tie up loose ends. Here are some of the most important tasks that you can't afford to forget:

New Lawyers Need Mentors: 3 Ways to Find One

If you're starting your own law practice, one of the most common pieces of advice you'll receive is to get a mentor.

Good mentors are invaluable as you can bounce ideas off them and they can give you tips on how to overcome some common pitfalls a young attorney is sure to face.

But if you're just starting out, you may be wondering just how you're supposed to find a legal mentor. After all, legal mentors do not grow on trees. Here are three tips to find a mentor, as suggested by Attorney at Work:

What Incorporation Structure Is Best for a Solo Practice?

Not all solo firms advise clients about how to incorporate, but all solo attorneys have to figure out what kind of business entity is best for them.

There's a good chance that as an attorney you aren't going to go ask others for advice on what kind of entity is best. But that could be a mistake, especially if something goes wrong down the line. You wouldn't advise your clients to just randomly pick one, would you?

As a lawyer, you probably know the legal differences between various incorporation strategies, or at least you can easily look up the law. But there may be some issues you haven't considered. As a reminder, here are just a few:

A 'Taxing' Way to Get Back at Deadbeat Clients

Most clients, like most lawyers, are good people, so in your career you hopefully won't have many issues with clients not paying. The few times it does happen are quite enough.

Those fees are, of course, how you make your living, which means you need to find a way to get "deadbeat" clients to pay up. Even if you're lucky enough that you can let the fee go and not feel the pinch on your wallet, it still hurts your pride to let someone cheat you and walk away.

We've talked before about reasonable ways to recoup your unpaid fees. But we recently came across one method that's a bit more drastic.

Law Firms Must Adapt and Small Firms Can Do It Best

Law is built on a system of precedent, which can make it difficult to adapt to a changing society.

This emphasis on "the way things have always been" isn't just part of case law and statutes. It's part of the way many law firms are run. But if large firms' recent financial troubles are any indicator, stagnancy is problematic.

For smaller law firms, the habits are no less ingrained, but it is easier to make important changes. Learning how to adapt can prevent your client base from moving on without you.

How DIY Legal Products Can Pay Off for Lawyers

With more DIY legal products being offered to laypersons, have you considered starting a do-it-yourself law firm?

The Internet has allowed potential legal clients to become more self-sufficient than ever. People are performing their own legal work like writing wills and incorporating companies. Others are coming into attorneys' offices with perhaps more knowledge of their legal issue than the attorneys themselves.

Still, a layperson will often want the security of having a professional set of eyes review his own work. So a niche is growing for attorneys to practice in an area that falls short of all-inclusive legal work, but more than what services like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer can offer.

Looking for a New Niche? Consider Employment Law in Tough Times

People always need lawyers, but in tough economic times you have to figure out which group of people need legal services and can still afford them.

Problems with job retention and continued high unemployment rates make employment law one of those areas that continues to boom. Labor and employment law is one of the few areas to see consistent gains over the last 18 months, reports the ABA Journal.

Knowing which clients to target is only half the battle. If you can find a way to sell your legal services for these clients, then drawing in new business could be relatively easy.

When Should Attorneys Hire Expert Witnesses?

Highly paid expert witnesses played a pivotal role in the patent infringement lawsuit between Apple and Samsung. But for a small firm or solo attorney, when do you need to hire expert witnesses for your own case?

Apple's legal team reportedly paid their experts more than $50,000 each to take the stand. Of course, the high-stakes lawsuit involved complex patents and technology that most laymen do not understand. In that case, the use of experts made sense.

However, paying expert witnesses tens of thousands of dollars could bankrupt many small firms. As a result, you should ask yourself the following questions before hiring an expert:

3 Things for Lawyers to Consider When Using LinkedIn

LinkedIn is an increasingly popular social media tool for professionals like attorneys.

As you may know, a LinkedIn page is essentially an online resume, and it makes connecting with work colleagues, former colleagues, clients, and anyone else really easy.

However, with the connectivity of LinkedIn comes specific dangers for attorneys. Here are three things you should consider when incorporating LinkedIn into your legal marketing strategy:

Mobile Web Marketing Can Connect You With More Clients

You know how connected you are to your mobile device. And the same can be said for most of the people you see with an iPhone, iPad, Galaxy, or other device. That's why mobile web marketing is so important and cannot be ignored, even for businesses like law firms.

But with new devices come new marketing strategies. The same tactics that work for television commercials and print ads may not necessarily work with mobile marketing. After all, you're dealing with a much smaller attention span -- not to mention a much smaller visible viewing area.

As you think about your mobile web marketing strategy, here are some strategies to consider in connecting with your potential mobile customer base:

Arbitration May Cost More Than Litigation: Study

How do arbitration costs compare to litigation costs? One corporation crunched the numbers and got back some interesting data.

Arbitration takes more time and money, according to one study by a corporation looking at whether its arbitration program was cheaper than litigation. But how important are those results to a solo attorney or small firm's decision about arbitration versus litigation?

All information is useful if you know how to interpret it. While these findings may not reflect your situation, there are lessons you can learn from them.

Going Paperless? It May Be Your Ethical Obligation

A new study finds that 28 percent of law firms are going paperless, or plan to do so within five years. So that leaves 72 percent of firms with apparently no plan to go paperless. Would these firms be in violation of their professional ethics by not exploring the paperless option?

Surprisingly, the answer may be "yes." Over the summer, the American Bar Association approved a new commentary to their rules that would make it a professional obligation for lawyers and firms to keep up with technology trends, writes ScanSnap.

As technological trends are pointing towards paperless options, this may mean that lawyers are obligated to start looking into ways to reduce their paper use.

Weighing the Benefits: Full-Time Paralegal or Contract Worker?

There comes a time in the growth of every solo or small firm when you have to consider hiring a paralegal.

It's certainly not a necessity at the beginning, and you may be at a point where one might be helpful but there isn't really a way to justify the cost. But when you decide you need some extra help, you'll have to choose between a full-time employee and just sending out contract work.

Both routes have benefits, and what you choose will depend on your particular needs. To help with that process, here are some things you should consider when making your choice:

Top 5 Tips from 'Facebook in 1 Hour for Lawyers'

Many attorneys already use Facebook, but that doesn't necessarily mean they all know how to maximize the benefit of Facebook for lawyers.

That's the idea behind the new book from the American Bar Association's Law Practice Management Section, entitled "Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers." Even if you're already a Facebook user, this book does an excellent job of showing ways of taking advantage of the social network that you may not have thought about before.

Still not sure if it's worth it? We've put together a list of tips gleaned from the book so you can see for yourself. For example:

Should You Go Solo or Find a Partner?

So you've decided to start a law firm. If you're like most, you may have decided to start a solo practice as opposed to a partnership. After all, a solo practice is easy to set up and you have no one to answer to but yourself.

However, there may be situations in which it is worthwhile to find partners.

With all the attorneys and recent grads deciding to go solo, it shouldn't be too difficult to find a partner. Here are five reasons why you may want to consider starting a partnership as opposed to going the solo practice route:

What Makes a Good Legal Blog Post 'Great'?

Do you want to know the secret of turning a good legal blog post into a great blog post? The answer can make a huge difference when trying to reel in potential clients.

Sharing your ideas and expertise is a good way to start, but you need to think strategically to make your law firm's blog really pay off. Here are a few strategies for legal blogging success, as suggested by FindLaw's Lawyer Marketing experts: