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May 2013 Archives

Diversity and Affirmative Action: Is O'Connor's Sunset Here?

The Grutter v. Bollinger decision always seemed a bit odd to me. The oddity wasn’t in the court’s holding. Affirmative-action, race-conscious admissions, and the best means of achieving diversity are certainly issues that can be debated at length, with no clear right answer. Do they help? Are they racist or reverse-racist? How much consideration of race is too much?

No, the oddest part was the sunset provision. Justice O’Connor expressed a hope (or holding) that affirmative-action would not be needed in twenty-five years. Was this a time limit for such policies, or was it a hopeful prognostication of a future where such measures would not be needed, and by extension, would no longer exist?

Is that time now? Does the decline of diversity efforts by law firms and the possible end of affirmative-action indicate that we’ve reached O’Connor’s utopic future, fifteen years early?

1.5B Smartphone Users Worldwide: Need a Mobile Website?

More and more Internet users are accessing websites on their mobile devices. Will they find your law firm on their iPhone or Android phone?

It's very likely that potential clients will be searching for your firm on their phones these days as mobile Internet users increase. So should lawyers keep up with technology and get a mobile website?

Mobile Internet users have grown 30% in one year to about 1.5 billion users worldwide, according to a 2013 Internet trends study reported by TechCrunch. Mobile usage now comprises about 15% of all Internet traffic. So what do these numbers mean for attorneys and law firms?

Small Firm Startup: Straight Out of School? 4 Tips

Okay, got a template for the motion. Seems simple enough. Facts go there, law goes there, tack on a supporting declaration ... what about that date field? Date of Hearing. What do I put for Date of Hearing in the motion when I haven't filed the motion with the clerk yet. Doesn't she assign the date after filing? I don't know what the judge's schedule is like ...

What's the hardest part of being a new lawyer and sole practitioner? Learning all of the stupid little tricks. For instance, the answer to that query was to call the clerk, get a proposed date, and then add it to the motion before filing. All it took to figure that out was to ask a friend who has been in practice for a few years, which brings us to the first tip:

Mass Emails: Don't Do What Tumblr Did After Yahoo Purchase

There's been some criticism of the recently announced purchase of Tumblr by Yahoo. The blogging platform was purchased for about $1.1 billion. Thousands of its users have already been driven away to other blogging platforms from fear that Yahoo will ruin it.

Amidst the controversial Yahoo purchase, Tumblr quickly became the subject of another headline. Only days after the purchase news, Tumblr sent out a mass email to some of its users to update their settings with an embarrassing mistake.

Five Ways to Work on Your Law Firm's Business Today

We are lawyers. We are also businesspeople. Often, especially when a big trial or motion is pending, we fall into single-case tunnel vision. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Clients should always come first. After all, you have an ethical obligation to help the client, and only a financial obligation to your business.

If you aren’t careful, however, the business aspects of your small firm can dry up while you are fighting that noble fight over a motion to exclude evidence. Every day, you should be taking at least one small step towards advancing the business side of your firm, from marketing to billing. Here are five ways to do so:

3 Legal Marketing Tips to Make Facebook Work for Your Practice

Lawyers who choose to use social media as a marketing strategy should consider it a job just like any other on their list. Facebook is so popular it is ranked number two of the most used app for local searches, just behind Google Maps. If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, there is still time to take advantage of this huge captive audience.

Facebook is great to keep up with friends within your personal life, but having a page for your law firm is a great online legal marketing tool. There are three things you should do to ensure that your Facebook experience is beneficial to your practice:

Beating Billing Blunders: Former Bar President's Cautionary Tale

What's your hourly rate? $300? $600? Glenn C. Lewis probably had you beat. According to The Washington Post, Lewis once claimed in an interview to be the most expensive attorney in the area, at $850 an hour for his service as a family law attorney specializing in divorce, custody, and other related matters.

But he's billed his last hour, it seems. On Friday, Lewis, the former president of the Virginia Bar Association, was disbarred for dishonesty, mismanaging client funds, and filing to fulfill his legal obligations. And though his problems went far beyond the billing blunders we discussed yesterday, a disputed $500,000 bill served as the catalyst for his downfall.

A recent report has found that Philadelphia law firms are the biggest spenders in the United States. Unfortunately, some law firms are spending more money than they are bringing in. That is a troublesome ratio. Law firm expenses are going to need a makeover to improve the odds.

We are seeing higher expenses this quarter according to a report by Citi Private Bank. The study looks at 166 law firms across the nation, and compared how much law firms are spending. In Philly, law firms are spending twice the national average and revenues are not increasing as much.

Regardless where your firm is located, have you considered if your firm might be spending itself out of existence?

Beating Billing Blunders: Time Tracking Tips to Help You Get Paid

There are a lot of annoyances that come with running your own firm, but for most attorneys, if they were to list their top five pet peeves, unpaid bills would be at or near the top. At the same time, if you were to poll dissatisfied clients, one of their pet peeves would be legal billing.

Clients skip the check for a number of reasons. Some are broke. Some are simply cheap. For many, however, they refuse to pay because they feel that the bill is inflated or otherwise unfair. The easiest way to quell these concerns is with proper billing practices. Here are a few to consider:

Will it Soon be Malpractice Not to be Social Media Savvy?

When I was a wee lad, I worked at a firm that was handling a child custody dispute. As with most custody situations, the signs were pointing towards some sort of a joint arrangement, which was unfortunate, because the opposing party was not exactly fit for parenthood.

With only a short time left until the hearing, the entire case took a turn in our client's favor due to an ounce of luck, a pound of stupidity, and a digital camera. The opposing party had borrowed the camera while taking the child for the weekend. When he returned the child, and the camera, he forgot to delete the images, and our client, fortuitously, found the smoking gun.

Or smoking something, at least. And it wasn't tobacco or marijuana.

Another Way for Clients to Pay Fee Free! Attach Money to Gmail

Anyone who has ever dealt with a client knows how difficult it can be to actually get paid. You do the work, log the billable hours, and send out the bills. After that … you wait. And wait. If you’re lucky, the funds in your trust account will cover the balance. Otherwise, you’re stuck waiting for the client’s next payday, or the next time they have a babysitter and can stop by the office, or [insert excuse here].

Google’s newest Gmail feature, which integrates the oft-ignored Google Wallet payment service, could greatly simplify things — if your clients are at least moderately tech-savvy (and use Gmail). At yesterday’s Google I/O 2013 Conference, the search-turned-everything provider announced that Gmail users can now attach money to outgoing emails, the same way they’d attach a photo or document.

Ready for Your Summer Associates? 3 Things to Do

Law students are finishing up their finals and gearing up for their summer jobs. But is your firm ready for your summer associates?

What are you going to do when they show up on their first day? After introducing them around the office, what are they going to work on?

A few simple considerations will ensure that your law firm benefits from the summer associates you've hired, and vice-versa. Here are three tips to keep in mind:

DUI Defenders: NTSB Recommends Lower BAC Limit, Other Changes

DUI defense lawyers: do you need more clients? Cross your fingers, because they could be coming in droves.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a number of recommendations on Tuesday that could change DUI law completely, including the recommendation that states adopt a drunk driving threshold of 0.05. The implications are obvious: more "drunk" drivers, presumably fewer accidents, and of course, more business for lawyers.

Risky Business: More Law Firms Taking Bitcoin

Two months ago, we asked a not-so-simple question: Should you accept bitcoin for your services? The answer, for at least two firms, was a resounding yes.

Two firms, a Houston DUI and drug defense firm and an Illinois and New Mexico small business law firm, recently announced that they will accept Bitcoin for services. While the move may pay dividends in the short-term as a publicity stunt (they got our attention, after all), we can't help questioning the wisdom of the move long-term.

Best BigLaw Firms for Moms; How Your Firm Can Do Better

Mother’s Day isn’t just about phone calls, cards, and chocolates. It’s about taking the time out to appreciate what our mothers (and if applicable, the mothers of our children) do for us. It’s also a great time to look at what we can do for them.

Working Mother’s “2012 Working Mother & Flex-Time Lawyers Best Law Firms for Women” list details what many of the BigLaw firms are doing for their female attorneys. Though the list appears to be in no particular order or ranking, here are a few standouts that smaller and mid-size firms can learn from:

What do you do when you have client whose story seems so improbable and lurid that it's unlikely that any jury would buy it? Do you try to salvage the client's reputation or do you admit the client's shortcomings and move on with your case?

Jodi Arias' attorney, Kirk Nurmi, seems to have taken the latter approach to no avail. "It's not even about whether or not you like Jodi Arias," Nurmi told the jury during his closing argument, according to ABC News. "Nine days out of ten, I don't like Jodi Arias, but that doesn't matter."

On Wednesday, Arias was found guilty of first degree murder in the brutal killing of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, CNN reports. She's now facing life in prison or the death penalty. Was Nurmi's approach the right way to go or did he do more harm than good for Arias' case?

More Lawyerly Lessons: From '$0 to $1,000,000 in 2 Years' (Part II)

It’s the American Dream, baby! No, not the unreleased Mike Jones (Who?) album, but the actual dream. Put your work in. Do it better, and cheaper, than the next guy. Grow your business. Reap rewards in proportion to effort expended.

Yesterday, we brought you the take of Bryan Johnson, a manager at Sears turned millionaire start-up credit card processor to the cyber-stars (such as AirBnB, OpenTable, and Uber). He made the change in two years, and author, investor, and entrepreneur James Altucher devised a number of rules based off his interview of the money-processing mogul.

Lawyerly Lessons: From '$0 to $1,000,000 in 2 Years' (Part I)

I'm a sucker for articles that tell you how to make bold, hard-working moves and get rich quickly. Though it rarely happens this way, part of the "American Dream" is that a person's reward should be proportional to the work expended.

These entrepreneurial articles became even more appealing when I graduated law school with an immense debt load and no job prospects whatsoever. And though FindLaw saved me from despair (and keeps me filled with granola bars!), I'm still inclined to click on any title on a reputable blog that promises riches for the bold and brazen.

Ogletree Partner Defects, Airs Dirty Laundry via Email

"An old timer schooled me don't burn bridges my friend
Imagine the G-Dub close and yo [expletive] gotta swim."

-50 Cent, "I'm a Hustler"

Don Prophete, 45, doesn't need any bridges. After all, the former Ogletree partner is now a partner at Littler Mendleson - an even bigger BigLaw firm than his former employer. Still, most lawyers would be well-advised to take a different approach to resolving a dispute with a former firm, even if that dispute did involve a team member's honor.

Capitalize on Desperation: Law Students Need Summer Gigs

There is currently a surplus in the legal lawyer labor market. Supply, demand, blah, blah - we're all familiar with basic economics. The reality is, you can get employees for nearly nothing. In fact, many of these students and recent grads are so desperate for resume-filler that they'll work for free!

Yes, this post is coming from the same person who told you to stop hiring unpaid interns because (a) it's illegal and (b) it makes you a terrible human being, but today is Devil's Advocate day.

The Case for Buying Extra Domain Names

People constantly misspell my name. All three parts of it. So if I wanted to open the Robyn Hagan Cain Law Firm, I wouldn't just buy the domain name robynhagancainlaw.com. I would probably buy domains with common variations of my name -- Robin and Hagen and Kain/Cane/Kane -- and redirect each of those to the primary site, robynhagancainlaw.com.

Why the extra expense and effort for my hypothetical law firm? I just don't want to waste time fighting cybersquatters in court.