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

February 2013 Archives

Everyone who has ever practiced law has opposing counsel horror stories. This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, you remember some of the weirdos from your law school class. How many of them are practicing attorneys?

In hope that this will help you correct your bad behavior — or indulge in a misery-loves-company therapeutic rant — here are five ways attorneys irritate the other side.

Nothing makes this ol’ noggin hurt more than trying to understand taxes. Federal taxes. State taxes. Self-employment taxes. Social Security and Medicare and Sales and Gasoline taxes and uggghhhhh.

You probably have a similar attitude towards taxes, so we’ll try to make this installment of Small Firm Startup as simple as possible. Just know that if you fail to plan for the tax man, it’s going to be a lot more painful come next April.

Also, though this is a great starting point for tax planning, you really should be consulting a CPA. Much like your clients you for legal expertise, you’ll need an accountant for tax advise. Plus, the CPA fees might even be deductible.

The Court Won't Reinstate Your License. Can You Sue?

If you ever lose your law license, it would be reasonable to fight like hell to get it back.

It is, after all, how you support yourself.

But this week, we’re reminded that a lawsuit demanding damages for a lost license is probably not the best idea.

Working from Home? Tips for Telecommuters

I'm the biggest flexible work schedule proponent you'll ever meet. That's partly because I commute four hours a day, four days a week. I treasure my telecommute time. I love the fact that I can start working from my home office with my dog warming my feet, instead of schlepping from my house to a train, to a bus, to another train, to the office.

But some companies don't share my passion for telecommuting.

Do Facebook and Class Action Lawsuits Mix?

Passive aggressive Facebook posts — in which people announce their opposition to a government policy, a reality show plot line, or someone's choice of fragrance — are not terribly effective. Such messages rarely even reach the object of their ire.

A class action settlement objector's Facebook posting, however, can ruffle the right feathers.

Wanted: Young, Black, Female, Muslim Attorney experienced in Herpes defense.

That’s the short version of this excruciatingly intricate request from a prominent member of the Marin County, California community. We could make tasteless jokes about the thirty-year age difference between the man-behind-the-ad and his baby mama, or about herpes transmission (eww), but that just wouldn’t be becoming.

Instead, we’re just going to use this as an opportunity to warn you of a few signs of the hypothetical client from hell.

Generation Gap: How Does Stress Affect You?

Like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill, we keep trying to preach the good word of relaxation to lawyers near and far.

Clearly, that's a fruitless endeavor. Lawyers are always going to be a high-stress bunch.

Instead of telling you how to live your life -- if you want to stress, that's your right -- today we're going to discuss how different generations handle stress.

When it comes to Internet marketing, the most important piece of the puzzle is, of course, the website. This is your business card, your public face, and your brand. If you run a virtual law office, it is also how clients will reach and conduct business with you. Though we often talk about law blogs and social media savvy, all the tweets in the world won't help if your website is nonexistent or looks like a 90s era Geocities page.

With that in mind, these are a few things to consider when setting up your firm's website. Be forewarned, however: creating and maintaining a website is a time-consuming endeavor. It might be worth the time saved to hire someone (like us) to do it for you.

Launching a Law Firm? You'll Need a Good Profile Pic

If you recently launched a solo practice or small firm, you're probably more worried about keeping the lights on than keeping your social media profiles up-to-date. Fair enough. Still, social media can be a useful way to reach out to new clients.

Even if you're not ready to invest in a full-scale lawyer marketing plan, you can create free, easy-to-maintain, FREE!, pages on social networking platform. (Did we mention that they're free?)

So what will prospective clients see when they get to your (free) profile? Ideally, your smiling (or stern, or quizzical) face. That profile picture matters.

Small Firm Tip: How Do You Run a Law Firm Like a Family? Caring.

Take a moment. Think of your all-time favorite boss. It doesn’t have to be a lawyer, or even a “professional” type. It could be the guy who managed the toy store where you had your first job.

What was it about that boss that motivated you? What could you do to be more like that person? The answer can improve the way you run your law firm.

One of the trickier aspects of running your own firm is managing personnel. Whether you’re a first-time manager, or a seasoned pro, you need to create an environment that motivates your staff to work hard and stay put. According to a recent article in Inc., the secret to success may be treating your employees like family.

It’s Friday. If you are lucky, you only have about half of a day left of work before the weekend. Still, finding that extra motivation to push through the end of the day can be difficult. Your brain has already skipped ahead to thoughts of weekend plans.

How can you relax a bit, take the edge off, and get your second wind for the last few hours of the week? Here are five suggestions:

Last week, we had a little fun with good and bad lawyer ads. Our main contention was that too many ads contain some guy standing in front of a bookcase and babbling about what he can do for you - the timeless "telling, not showing" problem.

In any good story or speech, the most important thing is to know your audience. You wouldn't use the language of Judge Selya (think big, archaic words) when giving a speech to high schoolers, unless you were punishing them. Likewise, you generally wouldn't quote Nas to a group of senior citizens.

So why do all lawyer commercials and marketing efforts look the same?

10 Tweets of Advice: Social Media Lawyer Marketing

If you're still new to lawyer tweeting, why not turn to the City by the Bay for some tips?

The San Francisco Bar Association recently hosted a social media seminar -- on Twitter, of course -- to share tricks of the trade for maximizing your impact across social media platforms. And since Twitter calls San Francisco home, we suspect the City's lawyers know thing or two about tweeting.

Here are 10 (modified) tweets of advice from the SF Bar, with lots of expert social media/lawyer marketing advice from consultant Lydia Snider:

Will Relaxing Make You a Better Attorney?

You may have noticed by now that we draw many of our legal life lessons from either song lyrics or Mean Girls.

Do you really need anything else?

Today's lyrical wisdom comes compliments of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood hit, "Relax."

Pet Names for Clients and Opposing Counsel? Bad Idea

Sometimes we send ourselves gentle reminders to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

A note on the freezer that almonds are a healthier snack than ice cream? Totally okay.

Changing the client-from-hell’s name in your phone to “Do not Answer: Client from Hell”? Not such a good idea.

Even if that jolt of caller-ID recognition would save you from an unpleasant conversation, it could come back to haunt you in other ways.

You’re starting to get what this series is about, right? We talked about what tech supplies you’ll need. We also discussed whether you need an office and other places to work if you lack one.

You’ve got the digs located, the computers set-up, and are ready to get started. You’re not completely ready for clients though, are you? That’s right - you forgot the malpractice insurance, didn’t you?

Creating a unique and inspiring law firm commercial seems to be a lost art nowadays. Nothing is more disappointing than seeing a lawyer advertisement with VHS camcorder video quality or a thirty-second spot of a guy standing in front of a bookcase talking about how he helps his clients.

Then again, if it weren't for 2 a.m. ambulance chaser ads, what would we mock at 2 p.m. on a blog?

The point is this: if you're going to do a television ad, do it right. Clients don't want to be wooed by some sleazy guy talking about getting you compensation for injuries. Do they sell Pepsi by saying, "Gee. This soda is really swell!"? No. They tickle a kitten or hit someone with a bus.

Bill Maher and Donald Trump have a bit of a feud going on. While it hasn't reached Biggie-2Pac status yet, it has resulted in a $5 million dollar lawsuit stemming from comments Maher made about Trump's mother having sex with an orangutan, reports CNN.

Classy.

It's now what you're expecting either. This isn't a defamation claim - it's a breach of contract claim.

Law Firm Valentine's Day: Love It or Hate It?

Valentine's Day can be très complicated in a small firm.

Do you give your staff tokens of your appreciation? Do you recognize the holiday at all?

5 Places to Work if You Don't Have an Office

Last week, we considered whether an attorney actually needs an office. While some attorneys may prefer to work from home while meeting clients in the outside world, we noted that attorneys should consider their type of practice, their clientele, personal work habits, and the real estate market before deciding on a work space.

Hey, times are tough. If you can’t afford that office with a window you have always coveted, or if you've simply decided that a life spent wedged behind a desk isn't for you, here are five places to work if you don't have a traditional office.

In the last couple of weeks, two shootings have lead to the deaths of two lawyers. In one shooting, a lawyer was murdered in the parking lot of the courthouse by two men in an apparent hit. In the other, a disgruntled party to a lawsuit shot the opposing counsel and another victim during a mediation session.

Understandably, these two shootings have hit close to home for some. How do you know that your disgruntled client or opposing party won't snap and turn a gun on you? Much like the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, some have suggested that lawyers themselves should consider carrying weapons for self-defense. Of course, that wouldn't have helped the murdered prosecutor, as most courts don't allow weapons in the courthouse.

Spell Check Needs a Fail Check

Lawyers are generally credited with being good writers, but a number of attorneys are lousy spellers.

Every email and word processing program around may offer a spell check, but unquestioning reliance on spell check can lead to even more embarrassing mistakes. It's not just auto correct failures that can cause trouble. Attorneys can sabotage themselves by accepting spell check changes without proofreading the final, corrected work product.

Some say that an office is essential to maintaining an appearance of professionalism. Others argue that you can have a home office, meet clients offsite, and save tons on overhead. You might even be able to deduct that home office as a business expense on your taxes.

For those starting a small firm on a limited budget, the appeal of a home office is undeniable. After all, who needs monthly overhead when you're only serving a couple clients in your first few months? Still, when considering where to locate your new law firm, there are a few factors you should consider.

You graduated. Perhaps you practiced for a couple years under the reign of terror of some evil boss in the name of “valuable experience.” Perhaps you just couch-surfed until the crushing weight of a dismal job market led you to the realization that starting your own firm was the only way to keep yourself in the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed - Olde English and Cheetos.

Either way, you’ve decided to open up shop on a limited budget. Some say your requisite tech is as simple as a laptop and a printer. That’s mostly true, but there are a few other factors to consider.