Strategist: January 2013 Archives
Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

January 2013 Archives

Pro Tip: Keep Your Email Address Current in the ECF

Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to be called out by a federal appellate court for neglecting to update your email address in the electronic case filing (ECF) system?

No? Let's it keep it that way.

Aside from a self-serving desire to avoid public shaming, it could also help your clients. Unfortunately, we learn that lesson this week from a cautionary tale.

5 Tips for a Good Lawyer Bio

For many consumers, a lawyer doesn't exist unless she has a web presence.

Yes, the phone book says that you have an office on Broadway, but (1) that information could be outdated and (2) who uses a phone book anymore? Web is the way to go.

A full-fledged website is probably the most impressive option, but a blog or social media page (i.e. Facebook, Google+) is a lot cheaper. Regardless of which platform you ultimately choose, there's one element of Internet marketing that you need to nail: Your bio.

Behind every great trial attorney is experienced, hard-working support staff. Though the paralegals and secretaries of the industry don't share the same recognition as a Cochran and a Baez, without a staff that organizes the offices, conducts research, drafts briefs, and handles the day-to-day tasks, the legal eagles would never leave the nest.

You're in the market for a paralegal. One of the applicants has a few years of hands-on experience, including courtroom time involving a murder trial and felony appeal, and gets great references from a fellow member of the bar, who stated, "She is very organized, a very intelligent, very computer savvy person, so I think her skills and her desire may lie somewhere in [the legal] field."

Her name? Casey Anthony.

3 Reasons to Attend to Legal Conferences

You know that saying that 50 percent of life is just showing up? Well that rings particularly true at legal conferences.

Showing up to breakout panels, general sessions, and even cocktail hours is part of the conference game. Sure, you may be tempted to skip sessions that don't count for CLE credit, but you would actually be doing yourself a disservice. Here are three reasons to attend legal conferences.

Total Recall? Not on Outlook

Cher famously lamented her inability to change the past. If she could have turned back time, she would have taken back the words that hurt her lover, and he would have stayed.

Don't we all have those regrets?

We all make mistakes, particularly with email. We send messages without attachments. We click the wrong name as the recipient field auto-populates. (Who doesn't get tripped up by auto-populate in an office where everyone is named Andrew or Stephanie?)

Though technology has advanced since the days of Cher strutting around a battleship in a fishnet body stocking, there are still only a few ways that we can turn back time with email. In Microsoft Outlook — the most widely-used email application in the world, according to Inc. — email time-turners have to rely on the message recall function.

There are many ways to handle a staffing shortage at a small firm. We've suggested a few ways to handle staffing shortages to free up your time for more billable hours. After all, you aren't being paid to answer the phone, organize file cabinets, or troubleshoot a crashing computer.

Some firms, especially smaller firms, can't afford more support staff, however. There is also a surplus of unemployed law graduates desperate for experience or employment. These circumstances have given rise to one of the more controversial employment arrangements: the unpaid internship.

Controversial, you ask? But why?

You’re a lawyer, not a writer. You have billable hours, office management, and scotch to drink. Even if you could find the time to start a law blog, what would be the point?

Marketing

Look up DUI defense lawyers in your city on Google. Unless you live in Wasilla, Alaska, there are probably at least a few dozen lawyers, each with their own webpage. Each has experience, most appear mildly non-sleazy, and none really set themselves apart, at least with their online presence.

Fake It 'Til You Make It: Networking for Introverts

If you're going to succeed as a lawyer, you need to network.

For extroverts, networking is a piece of cake. For introverts, networking is a piece of cake iced with hot sauce and cayenne pepper. It. Is. Painful. And it causes profuse sweating. (Er ... that's what we hear from a friend.)

How do you stop turning into a sweaty wreck, and make the connections that will help your practice grow? Fear not: There are a few workarounds.

BCC: Don't Get Blindsided by the Blind Copy

Email gaffes are practically a rite of passage. Everyone seems to have an embarrassing reply all story, or a tale of a forgotten attachment for a major client.

While not as commonly lamented as "reply all" and attachment debacles, the blind carbon copy (BCC) lays claim to its own type of office drama. That's why some websites — like SlawTips — suggest that lawyers should never use the BCC.

But is it really so terrible?

Would You Represent Lance Armstrong in a Libel Suit?

Did you watch Lance Armstrong and Oprah last week? By now, you’ve certainly heard that the disgraced cyclist has admitted to the talk show queen that he doped his way through his seven Tour de France wins.

His lawyers advised against the interview, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Armstrong has had plenty of experience with lawyers over the years. (You don’t amass a $125 million fortune and worldwide fame without a few attorneys negotiating the terms along the way.) Aside from the standard business dealings that come with being an elite athlete, Armstrong’s legal team spent time in court defending his once-good name against doping accusations through libel suits. Armstrong conceded in the interview, “To be honest, Oprah, we sued so many people.”

It's probably a fair assessment to say that most people are on monthly plans with one of the Big Three carriers. Because of device subsidies and limited competition, the rates for postpaid plans seem to always be increasing. If you are looking to cut costs, the cell phone bill might be a good place to start.

Take a look at your monthly bill. How much are you paying? We tried to find the cheapest reasonable plan (at least 450 minutes, at least 1 GB of data, some texting plan) on each carrier. If your cell phone is your primary work phone, you'll probably need even more minutes.

Should a Lawyer Ever Date a Client?

Valentine's Day is quickly approaching. You, as usual, are stuck in your office. There's no time to dive into the dating pool. But what about the client pool? Should a lawyer ever date a client?

If you're a divorce attorney, you meet soon-to-be-single prospects all day long. So what's the harm?

Should Shawn Holley Sue Lindsay Lohan for Unpaid Legal Fees?

Pop quiz. You're Lindsay Lohan. Your attorney, Shawn Holley, has spent years helping you avoid significant jail time. You repay her by:

(a) Giving her a necklace, which you may or may not have purchased.

(b) Agreeing to not drive/wreck her car.

(c) Punching a psychic in the face.

(d) Firing her. Before you pay the $300,000 in legal fees you owe.

5 Effective Ways to Cut Law Firm Expenses

There are two ways to increase your profits when running a law firm. The first, and most obvious method, is to bring in more business. The second method is to cut law firm expenses.

We've written about rainmaking and trying to bring in more business on several occasions. You can read about it here, here, and here.

In this post, we focus on how you can grow your bottom line by cutting down on expenses. Here are five tips:

3 Reasons to Incorporate Tax Services in Your Practice

Thinking about expanding into a new legal practice area? Well, you may want to think about incorporating tax law into your practice.

Unlike personal injury, employment, or family law, the one area of the law that every American adult has to deal with is tax law.

And with new tax laws constantly being passed, along with the complex nature of tax laws in general, there are many people out there needing the assistance of a good tax attorney.

So here's a look at three reasons to incorporate tax service into your practice:

LinkedIn Touts 200M Members: Time for Solo Attorneys to Join Too

LinkedIn now boasts more than 200 million members worldwide. So if you're a solo or small firm attorney and you aren't on LinkedIn, you are giving up business.

It's not just that the networking site could potentially be useful for some attorneys. The free service is a business booster for any small firm or solo practitioner in terms of both client acquisition and connecting with colleagues.

Not all social media services are necessarily good for your practice. But LinkedIn seems especially well-suited for the needs of a solo attorney.

Social Media Affects Your Website's Search Ranking

Social media is a great tool for communicating with clients, but it can also have a secondary benefit for your practice by boosting your website's search ranking.

The way most clients will find you is by searching on the Internet for a lawyer. Hopefully they'll narrow their search by area of law and location, but even then there are lots of competitors out there. Having a professional and informational website can be a great way to get clients, but it doesn't work if no one sees it.

Getting a professional consultant to manage your website's search engine optimization can be a valuable way to improve your rankings. But you can also help yourself by stepping up your social media presence.

Is Your Jury Biased Against Fat People?

You have enough to worry about when trying a case. You have to make sure that your arguments are in order, exhibits are ready, and that your client is prepped. But one thing you may not be able to control is jury bias against fat people.

Let's say that you represent an obese client. Whether it is a criminal or civil trial, you may be behind the eight ball even before opening arguments. At least that's what a recent Yale study found, reports Reuters.

3 Certifications for Lawyers That Can Boost Your Business

As a lawyer, the obvious way to pick up more business is to get more clients, but another effective way to get more work is to earn an additional certification.

There are several areas of law in which clients need the help of another professional to get things done. But in some of those situations, you can provide both services for your client so there's no need for them to go somewhere else for help.

Not only does that mean more time on the case, it also makes you a one-stop shop which can be attractive to clients. So here are some certifications that can help your practice grow:

New State Laws in 2013 Can Lead to New Business

Alright, so you celebrated your success in 2012 with champagne. But this is no time to rest on your laurels. New state laws in 2013 bring plenty of opportunities to expand your practice. After all, who can't use a few more clients?

Across the country, about 400 new state laws became effective as the clock struck midnight on New Year's Day, reports Reuters.

So depending upon where you live, there may be exciting opportunities for you to check out a few new practice areas. Here's a look at five new laws that could prove to be a boon to you:

Time Management Tips: How to Get More Out of Every Hour

Being your own boss has a lot of perks, but it also means there are no higher-ups to give you time management tips.

Of course, when your boss gives you tips it's generally in the form of "work harder" or "stop wasting time." But if you're a solo or a small firm attorney and you are your own boss, you can be kinder to yourself without sacrificing productivity.

No matter how good your time management skills are, there are always new things to learn. Not sure where to start? Here are a few suggestions:

Irving Pinsky's $100M Newtown Shooting Lawsuit Backfires

Connecticut lawyer Irving Pinsky filed a Newtown school shooting claim last week, the precursor to what he said would be a $100 million lawsuit. But now Pinsky has dropped his claim amid backlash and accusations of attempting to profit off the terrible tragedy.

While Pinsky represented a very sympathetic figure in the shootings -- a 6-year-old survivor who allegedly overheard the entire ordeal over the school's intercom system -- the lawyer went about the lawsuit all wrong, leading to the embarrassing rescission.

Pinsky can still refile his claim at a later date; however, for now, the lawyer will have to lick his wounds and think about his next steps. So if he had a chance for a do-over, what should Pinsky have done differently? Here are three lessons for lawyers: