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August 2013 Archives

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Posting on Your Law Firm Blog

You've fired up the keyboard and are ready to begin blogging on your firm's website. You've read all about the benefits of a blog, and weighed the vital considerations of audience, tone, topic, formatting, and frequency. You're ready!

Except wait. Wouldn't it be nice to learn from others' mistakes first? After more than 1,800 posts, these tired fingers have learned much from their own mistakes, as well those of others. Let me be your guide to five things you'll want to avoid when becoming the Internet voice of your law firm:

Judge Baugh is Sorry About Comments, Not About Rape Sentence

She was "older than her chronological age."

It's the mantra of many statutory rapists, this notion that she was "mature" and "consented." It was also the saving grace of another rapist, former teacher Billings Senior High teacher Stacey Rambold, who admitted to raping 14-year-old student Cherice Moralez. She committed suicide while his prosecution was pending, reports the Billings Gazette.

Rambold will now serve 30 days, with credit for time served. Judge G. Todd Baugh, who handed down the lenient sentence, excused it during the hearing by citing her maturity and with the excuse that she was "as much in control of the situation" as her teacher.

Five Things to Consider When Posting on Your Law Firm Blog

Blogging. That's easy, right. You'll just birth a few hundred words on a legal topic whenever you've got a few minutes of spare time. That should fill the blog archives and make your site content-rich, right?

The thing is, it's not quite as easy as updating your Facebook status. There are many things to consider when managing your law firm's blog, from tone and audience to post type and frequency.

Clearing Claims: McCutchen Makes a Mess of Your Settlement

Meet Mr. McCutchen. In order to obtain a $110,000 settlement, he agreed to a 40 percent contingency fee. His recovery was then $66,000. US Airways, however, had an ERISA lien of $66,866 in medical expenses.

For the privilege of acting as US Airways' collection agent, he would've ended up $866 in the hole, had it not been for a contract that was silent on attorneys fees -- and you can bet that after U.S. Airways v. McCutchen, such contracts will no longer be so silent.

Should Your Firm Participate in OCI? Pros and Cons

It's OCI season at law schools all across the country. This means that hoards of anxiety-ridden, nail-biting, expensive-suit-clad 2Ls are running around between classes to interview for a coveted summer associate position at a BigLaw firm this summer.

But, OCI, (on-campus interviews), are not exclusively just for BigLaw firms. Many government agencies, mid-sized or smaller firms, and non-profits are thrown into the mix, or have their own version of an on-campus interview session. With that said, should your firm participate in OCI, as well? If you are not a BigLaw firm, is it worth it? Here's a list of some pros and cons.

The New York Times recently ran an opinion piece about the significant costs of child care, and its effect on families. It told the horror stories of various women and their experiences with finding safe, affordable daycare. The problem is, affordable daycare doesn't appear to exist.

One woman, an attorney, earns 50 cents in a biweekly pay period after paying for a nanny and private preschool, after a horrible experience with a "safe, affordable" in-home daycare. Yes, you read that right -- fifty cents -- as in two quarters. (Insert many expletives here).

Yelp Shakedown? Complaints, Lawsuits Over Site's Practices

A few weeks ago, we advised you to handle your Yelp disputes with clients using kindness and confidentiality. Shortly after the post went live, a concerned reader wrote in to ask if we had heard about the Yelp extortion allegations and lawsuits.

We have definitely heard the conspiracy theories, they've been around for years. But, coincidentally, the owner of a fabulous local Chinese restaurant had just complained to me, the night before, that after she had turned down Yelp's advertising services, negative reviews popped up on her page, and positive reviews were hidden by the site's quality control filter.

Still, negative reviews happen, right? The timing could be mere coincidence.

Law Firm Art Gallery: Why You Should Have One

To you, a law firm art gallery may sound like a nice idea for a firm with a handsome budget and a fine palate for the bourgeois -- in other words, some other firm. Au contraire, dear populist! Small to mid-size firms with a humbler sensibility and smaller offices can, and maybe should also partake in the fine art world.

Here are a few reasons why your firm needs an art gallery:

3 Ways to Handle Invoicing and Get Paid

Let's get paid!

Getting paid, however, requires billing. And billing requires effort. And postage stamps. Boy, do I hate postage stamps. There has to be a better way than drafting invoice-by-invoice, then printing, then mailing them with those stupid, easy-to-lose sticky stamps.

And no, the better way doesn't require you to spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated accounting software suite.

Federal Defender Services Program Rates Cut by $15 Per Hour

This isn't much of a surprise, yet it is truly unfortunate. For those of you who currently take on court-appointed work in the federal criminal justice system, or are considering doing so, Fourth Circuit Chief Judge William Traxler, who serves as chairman of the U.S. Judicial Conference, has announced a rate cut for the next two years, by $15 an hour, reports the Courthouse News Service.

The letter, addressed to U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake, CC'd to the entire Judicial Conference, and posted by CNS, states that "dire fiscal circumstances" have necessitated the cuts. Judge Traxler states in the letter, "Measures of this kind, however, are not sustainable in the long term, and certainly would not be required if the judiciary were receiving an appropriate level of funding in this account."

5 Easy Ways To Market Your Firm

Marketing one's firm is crucial for a number of reasons. Not only does it put you and your associates on the map as an option for those seeking legal representation, but it reminds your past clients of the connection that they've made. And could need again.

The problem with all the educational and legal training that we've gotten thus far is that it usually focuses on substantive law. In law school, there are no business classes, no 'how to get a client' seminars, no outlines on how to market or even run a law firm.

With that said, here are 5 simple ways to market your firm.

8 Best Law-Related Humor Blogs on Tumblr

We've all been through the three years of hazing known as law school, all the while wishing that someone would punch that gunner in the forehead. We've graduated, spent months studying for the bar, only to spend more months waiting for results.

And when we make it out into the real world, many of us have also been through unemployment and the excruciating job hunt. And when we do land that job? We have to deal with crap from ungrateful clients and opposing counsel.

With that much stress, and cynical, analytical minds, comes some truly great inside jokes, presented here as a list of animated image (gif) Tumblr blogs, from school-time beginnings, to the perils of practice:

It's another Monday, and that means one thing: we're talking about liens (we know, as if it wasn't bad enough that it's Monday)! This week, we're letting you in on some negotiating tips for health insurance liens in personal injury cases.

As with all liens, you'll want to make sure that you negotiate all liens prior to finalizing the settlement with the third party so that you have more leverage. Once the settlement is finalized, you have very little wiggle room.

Should You Swap Legal Services for Interest in Client's Business?

It's a business trend that's once again on the rise. According to The Wall Street Journal, equity swaps for services were big during the dot-com boom-and-bust of the late 90s, but after many professional service providers were stiffed in the collapse, the arrangements fell out of favor.

The trend has reversed once again, however, with the new dot-com boom happening now.

Should your small firm join the trend? Here are a few considerations:

Be a Better Attorney: 5 Tips to Optimize Your Nap Time

Napping is crucial for many. If it's not already part of your schedule, it may be something to consider.

Attorneys are all too familiar with being overworked and not getting enough sleep at night. While it may be difficult to change your habits because of your work demands, adding nap time can potentially help boost your productivity and energy levels.

So for those looking to recharge quickly without having to sacrifice too many hours, here are five tips on how to optimize your nap time:

New Ideas for an Ultra-Modern Business Card

Why, oh why, do we still carry business cards? Think about it. You meet people at a conference. They give you their business cards. You either immediately add their information to your phone's contacts or you... lose the damned thing. Months later, you clean out your car, only to find six coffee-stained business cards from people that you can barely remember.

The thing is, no one uses a Rolodex anymore. No one keeps paper address books anymore. So why are business cards stuck in a paper-and-ink rut?

We wouldn't advise ditching them altogether, as they're practically a social expectation at this point. But if you'd like to take the next step and ensure that no one loses your contact information in a fit of spilled coffee, here are a few ideas:

Clearing Claims: Medicare Liens Often More Painful Than the Injury

If you've ever tried to get money from the government, you know how painful and fruitless the process can be. Preventing them from taking your client's money through a Medicare lien claim is equally as arduous, pitting your resilience and paperwork skills against an inefficient mess of a system that is uncommunicative, slow, and drowning in acronyms (COBC, MSPRC, HICN, etc.).

To make matters worse, delays in clearing Medicare liens can be caused by anything from forgetting to file a form (your fault) to using a highlighter to point out duplicate or erroneous charges (their insanity). Whether the delay is their fault or yours, it's your client who is harmed and who will be calling you daily, nagging you over their missing funds.

FindLaw's Anne O'Donnell has been there, and wants to help you avoid Medicare lien delays. Here are some tips from her free Practice Guide on Dealing with Medicare Liens in Personal Injury Cases:

A recent New York Times Magazine article followed up on a piece published 10 years ago entitled "The Opt-Out Revolution." The first article was about a new phenomenon: high-powered women in great careers "opting out" of the workplace to focus on motherhood.

In the follow-up article, "The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In," the author got in touch with some of the women profiled to see how their decision had fared. Though the three women profiled enjoyed their time with their children, 10 years later they were all trying to find work, and were facing very real challenges. You never know what life will bring, and the decrease in confidence -- once boosted by their careers -- had ramifications for the entire family.

Some women want to opt back in to their careers because they missed work, while others, now divorced, need to provide for their families. Whatever the reason you may decide to take a career "time out," there are things you can do to make the transition back into your career a bit smoother.

Here are five tips for a smoother opt-in to your career:

Holder's Justice Reforms Realize Kennedy Commission's Vision

"The work of the Kennedy Commission that began 10 years ago is today an ongoing mission for the Criminal Justice Section and the ABA," American Bar Association President Lauren Bellows remarked on Saturday, while introducing Justice Anthony Kennedy. "That report has become a blueprint for the ABA's criminal justice agenda."

It may also have been a blueprint for Monday's announced initiative and changes in policies by Attorney General Eric Holder on behalf of the Obama administration.

Live Blog: Holder Speaks on Mandatory Minimums for Drug Offenders

Update 10 -- Final Update (10:55 a.m. PT): Attorney Gen. Eric Holder's speech to the ABA in sum: With budget cuts and an overpopulated, overburdened penal system, we can no longer afford to maintian the status quo.

Holder said the Obama administration will be exploring alternatives to incarceration to reform and curb mandatory minimum sentences. Those sentences often result in unfair penalties for nonviolent drug-related offenders, along with disparate sentences for minority offenders, Holder said.

Among the reforms mentioned:

Ethics Overblown: Should Grads Disclose Student Loan Debt to Clients?

This one irritates me greatly.

Many who are recent graduates, are saddled with more than a hundred thousand dollars in debt due to our education. Ah, ye olde albatross of student loan debt. Not only do you sap our discretionary income (is it discretionary if it all goes to the banks and feds?), but now, you may be sapping our reputation with clients and other attorneys.

Ethics Alarms, a typically brilliant blog about lawyer ethics, cites a legal ethics specialist that recently opined, to the D.C. Bar, that recent grads, immersed in student loan debts, may have irresolvable conflicts with their clients due to their financial pressures.

Can't Make the ABA Annual Meeting? FindLaw's Got Coverage

Networking and Eric Holder, or billable hours and court hearings? Hilary Clinton and Justice Anthony Kennedy, or filing a temporary restraining order to protect your client from his violent spouse? Or maybe you just can't afford the airfare, hotel, and the cost of admission.

You've got your priorities set correctly, but that doesn't mean you'll have to miss out on the American Bar Association's Annual Meeting completely. Even if you can't attend in person, you can still take part in the festivities remotely, via FindLaw.com, as we'll be covering the major events via blogs and social media.

How to Keep Your Shark-Like Instincts in Check

Why won't sharks attack lawyers? Professional courtesy.

Why do sharks make terrible lawyers? They're too nice!

Ouch. In celebration of the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, it's relevant to ask: as a lawyer, are you a shark? If you yourself don't display any negative shark-like characteristics, chances are that you definitely know someone in the field who does. So, what can be done? Here are three reminders on why you should keep your shark-like instincts in check:

Personal injury cases can be a real headache (yes, pun intended). Between unpaid medical providers, liens and claims for reimbursement (let's just call them all lien claims, shall we?), dealing with lien claims may take up more time than negotiating the underlying settlement itself.

And then, of course, you have your client wondering why they have to pay anyone back at all. Here are some ways to make your life (a tiny bit) easier.

Lawyer Marketing Firm Sued by Lawyers; Didn't Make it Rain

The Rainmaker Institute. With a name like that, and a homepage that reads like a late-night infomercial (we won’t even mention the god-awful color scheme or hideous 90s-era drop-down menus), how could things go wrong?

And who would’ve predicted that a law firm, which was billed $49,000 for services that allegedly harmed their Internet marketing campaign, would sue?

We blame Google. And the mysterious nature of Search Engine Optimization.

Finding good help is always difficult, and sometimes a few bad apples can ruin things for you. But you can't avoid the inevitable -- at some point you'll need to hire a paralegal. You just can't do everything yourself.

So here are some quick, easy tips on how to spot, and hire a great paralegal.