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April 2014 Archives

Dressing For the Jury -- It's More Complicated Than You Think

Dressing your client for a jury is more complicated that it might seem. Blanket advice, such as "have your client wear glasses," is supported by research for some cases, but not for others, for some types of clients, but not for others.

The best way to decide how to dress your client for a jury is to hire a jury consultant and work with at least one focus group. At the other end of the spectrum, the least you can do is find an organization such as Friends Outside to provide your in-custody criminal defendant with civilian clothes so he doesn't have to appear wearing a prison uniform.

Here are a few quick tips on dressing a client for the jury.

Death Penalty Debate: Did Oklahoma Torture a Man to Death?

Few will mourn Clayton Lockett. He was convicted, beyond a reasonable doubt, of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman with a sawed-off shotgun before watching his friends bury her alive. Along with Charles Warner, a man convicted of raping and murdering an infant, he was set for a double execution in Oklahoma on Tuesday.

Thanks to a blown vein, an unproven three drug cocktail, and an excruciating death by heart attack, Lockett's name will live on as a case for ending the death penalty, while Warner will enjoy a short stay of execution. This botched execution followed a second botched execution in Oklahoma earlier this year.

We're well into spring, but if you're like most lawyers, you've been busy dealing with your case load and managing your firm, so you've let things like spring cleaning pass you by. It's not too late, it's still technically spring, and you've got almost two more months before it's officially summer.

Here are some tips for you to spring clean your firm.

The Single Most Effective Way to Get New Clients Online: Got PPC?

There are dozens of ways to get clients. Slap up a billboard. Run a late night commercial. Beg family and friends to send in referrals.

But, when it comes to finding clients online, there's one way that is more efficient, a way to find new, highly qualified clients without wasting money. It puts you at the top of search results, it targets your message directly to those who are searching for you already, and it does so in an easily measurable and affordable manner, which makes calculating your return on investment (ROI) easy.

It's Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. Here's how it works.

3 Ethical Traps for Lawyers You Might Have Never Heard About

You know not to threaten your clients, not to lie or break the law and not to fool around with trust accounts. But did you know there are hidden ways an honest lawyer can still get in ethical trouble?

Here are three traps you might not have known about and how to avoid them.

With the next crop of law school graduates soon out of school, hiring season is upon us. If you're thinking about adding to your firm's roster, before you just look at law schools and grades, consider the big picture.

Apparently, the new trend in hiring is look for employees with emotional intelligence (if Google's doing it, it must be cool). Emotional intelligence? Yes, basically, it's a person's "self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill," says Fast Company. According to some, "When someone has these qualities, they have the ability to work well with others and are effective in leading change."

And, isn't that what we all want in new hires? Here's how to find it.

A Happy Lawyer Is a Good Lawyer: 5 Ways to Get Happy Today

You know the stereotype about how lawyers are happy all the time? Me neither. Lawyers suffer from high rates of alcoholism, depression and suicide. (Note: If you feel like harming yourself, it is a medical emergency -- please call 911 right now. There are people who care. I care. The world needs you. So please get help.)

But sometimes unhappiness is just unhappiness, nothing serious. If all you need is a little perking up, here are five ways to become happier right now:

Making a Good Impression With Clients: 3 Simple Tips

They say that image is everything, but it isn't: Substance is. Unfortunately, clients can't just look at you and know the quality of your legal work. They tend to judge you on the image you project. With that in mind, here are a few tips to make sure you're making a good impression:

1. Dress Appropriately.

You and your client will feel more comfortable if you look the part. If you're not sure what's appropriate, look at what other lawyers are wearing in your area and choose clothes that are just a little higher quality and a little more conservative. If you want specific advice, you can't do better than John T. Malloy's classic books on how to dress for success. They are a bit dated, but they are based on research on how to make a favorable impression rather than a fashion statement, and that makes them unique.

DOJ Announces Clemency Program For Nonviolent Drug Offenders

First came the Fair Sentencing Act reform. Then came disputes over whether crack sentencing reform was retroactive.

Now, a third wave of relief for nonviolent drug offenders is on the way, after Attorney General Eric Holder, the Obama administration, and the Department of Justice announced that a new clemency program that will prioritize applications from nonviolent low-level offenders who meet a specific list of criteria.

As part of the program, there will be a change in leadership in the DOJ's pardons department, as well as a call for pro bono assistance for as many as 23,000 potentially qualifying inmates.

Lawyer Lessons From The Bard or 'Guess Who Just Turned 450'

Since it is Shakespeare's birthday, we wanted to talk about lessons from the Bard. He was, at least in one play, a great supporter of lawyers. The famous quote "first, let's kill all the lawyers" actually praises lawyers. It comes from Henry VI and is spoken by a bad guy, Dick the Butcher, who says that the first step in creating tyranny is to kill all the lawyers.

See? Lawyers are good guys and the Bard liked us. At least some of the time. He even had a few words specifically for lawyers. In The Taming of the Shrew, one character says, "And do as adversaries do in law/Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends." In other words, be collegial and leave the fighting where it belongs.

So much of what we write about at FindLaw has to do with giving advice to attorneys -- but what about your clients?

We recently heard about a judge who lost his cool and yelled at a woman convicted of violently killing her boyfriend and stated "I hope you die in prison!" Apparently, it's not the first time he's said that to someone either, according to The Huffington Post. So what led him to make this outburst? The woman's disrespectful conduct: she interrupted the victim's aunt, snickered and rolled her eyes.

The judge was not amused.

Should Your Client Take Acting Lessons?

Oscar Pistorius, now on trial for murdering his girlfriend, has become famous for his outward signs of grief and anguish, including weeping and throwing up. Are the tears genuine? Is the vomit mere crocodile vomit? Who can tell? But he is putting on such a show that he's just been accused of taking acting lessons.

Huh, Acting Lessons? Good idea?

Should your client take acting lessons? Let's answer that question with a question, a question likely to be asked by opposing counsel. That question is, "Is it true that in preparation for your testimony here today, you took acting lessons?!?!"

Internet Lawyer Marketing? Let's Do It Effectively.

The Internet is now the most popular way for people to find a lawyer.

According to a new survey from FindLaw, this is a big change from just a few years ago. In 2005, only 7% of people would have used the Internet, while 65% would have asked a friend or relative. Nowadays, only 29% would ask a friend or relative, while 38% would use the Internet. Ten percent would consult a local bar association, and just 4% would consult the Yellow Pages. (However, 15% already have a relationship with a lawyer and wouldn't need to research one. The survey has a margin of error of 3%.)

Looking at those numbers, I'm almost starting to think that this new-fangled Internet fad is here to stay. So, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Are you using the Internet to market your firm effectively? Here are three ways to create or polish your net presence.

As an employer, you have more than just the responsibility of running your firm -- you manage everyone that works there. This is a big month for interacting with employees; next Wednesday is Administrative Professionals Day, and the day after is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

As the fearless leader of your law firm, you need to have a plan in place for hosting your employees' daughters and sons. Here are a few quick tips.

Next Wednesday, April 23, 2014, is Administrative Professionals Day -- mark your calendars. Yes, you're busy running your firm, managing a case load and rainmaking -- but you need to make time for this day. You've been warned.

No, you don't need to spend a ton of cash, it's the thought that counts (a little), but you probably do need to open up that wallet. Here are a few tips to figure out who to gift, and what to gift.

As the owner of a small firm you know that what you do is so much more than lawyering -- you're running a business. If you've dabbled in marketing, then you've probably figured out that it's actually much harder than it looks. Figuring out what outlets to use, and what your message will be is hard enough. But what about measuring the success of your marketing campaigns? That's a whole science unto itself.

If you want to know if your marketing dollars are actually working for you, and you want to learn ways to increase your return on investment, then consider listening in on FindLaw's upcoming webcast on Wednesday, April 30th, entitled "Five Tips to Bolster Your Firm's Growth & Profitability."

Not convinced you need to listen in? Here are five reasons why you should.

Nailed for A DUI? Lawyers Have More to Lose, So Get Help

It was pretty stupid, getting behind the wheel after drinking. It's bad enough when a layperson does it, but you're a lawyer -- you know the penalties and you have more at stake.

Fair enough. We came to help Caesar, not to lecture him. Here are a few things you'll need to think about now:

Starting Out in Criminal Defense? Here Are Some Mistakes to Avoid

You'd think that for $100,000 dollars or so, law schools would teach you everything you need to know to hang out your shingle and start out in criminal defense, but it just ain't so. Hopefully you've got good mentors, good practice guides and good malpractice insurance.

In case you have all of the above but could use a few more tips, here are a few criminal law "gotchas" you'll want to avoid.

Drunk Lawyer Hits on Cabbie. You Won't Believe What Happened Next!

Sorry, we've always wanted to use one of those titles. But seriously, you really won't.

Jennifer Gaubert is a lawyer, a radio host, and a self-described "public figure." She also reportedly tried to sleep with a cab driver while very, very drunk. None of this is remarkable, or something we'd ordinarily care about, but then the courts got involved.

The cab driver, Hervey Farell, accused her of assault, as she allegedly grabbed his genitals. She has since been convicted, thanks to his videotaping of the encounter.

A year later, she filed alleged false accusations of him trying to extort money for the video. This led to his arrest, negative press coverage, and a temporary loss of work. He's now suing both her and the New Orleans Police Department, while she faces felony charges for the false accusations.

As a lawyer, you know the power of persuasion, whether you are trying to persuade a judge or jury, a client, or a party you are negotiating with. We recently came across an article in Inc., written for business people, about seven things persuasive people do, and thought we would tailor it for attorneys.

After all, you can never be too persuasive, right?

Here are three tips to help you become a more persuasive attorney:

Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come. ... The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing in government, in education, and in employment. It will not be stayed or denied. It is here.

--Senator Everett Dirksen, minority leader in 1964, on the Civil Rights Act of 1964

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which passed "on the backs of Northern Democrats and Republicans" by a vote of 73-27 in the Senate, and 289-126 in the House, reports CNN. As he announced the passage of the Act, President Lyndon B. Johnson stated, "It does say that there are those who are equal before God shall now also be equal in the polling booths, in the classrooms, in the factories," says CNN.

As we honor this momentous piece of legislation, we look at some of our posts dealing with handling discrimination claims and litigation.

Heartbleed Bug: 5 Things Your Firm Should Do to Protect Clients

I once had a car, a 1986 Nissan Pulsar NX, that had no keys. The ignition was started with a screwdriver, and the doors were always unlocked. I had this car for more than two years before it was towed away by the city.

Imagine an estimated two-thirds of your Internet accounts being that car. This, my friends, is Heartbleed, which has left the doors open since 2011. And the locksmiths are taking their time going around and changing the locks.

Here are a few tips for managing this minor crisis:

Your Reputation in the Age of Jerk.com, Revenge Porn, Yelp

If Jerk.com [via Internet Archive] wasn't dead before, its fate is nearly sealed now.

The no longer online website just got slapped with an administrative complaint [PDF] by the Federal Trade Commission. Jerk allegedly violated Facebook's terms of service by scraping individuals' photos and names without their or Facebook's permission, allowing the site to create profiles for at least 73 million individuals. Visitors could vote "Jerk" or "Not Jerk," and leave comments. Most importantly, the site charged for memberships, implying that the purchase would allow the person to delete or edit their profile.

But it didn't.

The Case for Setting a Low Hourly Rate

Some call it a race to the bottom.

Some say that you're a lawyer, and you deserve to be paid $300 to $500 an hour.

Alright, but what percentage of the population can afford to pay such a rate? And can you afford to charge less, while still making a living and paying off your student loans?

What's the sweet spot?

Everyone has a theory about how to boost employee productivity and morale in the office. Some firms try to do it with perks and money, and others with making small changes around the office. It's important to gauge how employees experience the workplace, but one study has found that one thing employers have been taken for granted: the power of compassion.

'Culture of Compassion'

A recent study conducted by Wharton Professor Sigal Barsade and George Mason University Professor Olivia O'Neil shows the benefits of "companionate love" in the office, reports Inc. And no, there is nothing inappropriate about companionate love. It's merely the act of showing compassion, and showing your employees that you care; the authors explain that coworkers "are careful of each others' feelings. They show compassion when things don't go well."

FTC Has Fielded 2,046 Yelp Complaints Since 2008; Necessary Evil?

We've written about the so-called Yelp "scam" in the past. Many, including a judge, have compared the site to the mafia because of its alleged favorable treatment of those who pay for advertising. Basically, the common (and so far unproven) complaint is that if a business turns down Yelp's advertising overtures, their positive reviews are filtered out, and negative reviews are given more prominent placement.

Of course, individual anecdotes, the kind plastered in the multiple news stories we've seen on this topic, could just be bitter businesses with legitimately disgruntled customers. What about the 2,048 complaints since 2008, a little more than five years? The Wall Street Journal sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Federal Trade Commission, which responded with the big figure. When the FTC posted the letter on its site, it sent Yelp's stock plummeting 6 percent Wednesday afternoon.

But still, even if Yelp is (allegedly) a scam, can you choose to ignore it?

Why Is a Firm With Dozens of Lawyers Seeking Unpaid Labor?

It's a heck of a business model: Start your own firm. Then hire unpaid interns and post-bar clerks, many of whom are so desperate for a few lines of experience on their resumes that they will gladly take anything.

If they quit, hire another intern or two. If they stay, have them handle your research, writing, and other grunt work, preferably with their school-provided research accounts. And if an intern proves to be truly valuable, hire them at something approximating a living wage once they pass the bar, and provide them with their own set of interns.

This may sound unethical. It may sound like a labor law violation. It's probably both. But guess what? Everybody's doing it!

Dropping Bars and Bodies: Should Rap Lyrics be Criminal Evidence?

Rap is a boastful and often fictional genre.

Rick Ross built an entire career on his past as a drug dealer, a false identity appropriated from an inmate, and which was recently labeled by an appeals court as "fair use."

Heck, the most "gangster" rapper of all time, Tupac, attended a ballet school before he adopted his "Thug Life" persona and became a rap legend.

The genre glorifies violence and gang affiliations, necessitating the above rappers' curation of a darker persona. Hyperbole and violence is the recipe for most successful rap songs, which makes it worrisome that prosecutors are increasingly turning to rap music as evidence of criminal conduct.

Ethics 101: This, Folks, is Why We Don't Diddle Our Clients

Somewhere around page 11, we lost count of how many clients, former clients, and almost clients Mr. Randy J. Fuerst slept with. The opinion recounts a legion of divorcees that paraded through his office, and his bed, though in the end, despite the ethics opinion repeatedly stating that his adulterous activity with former or almost clients, he's only on the hook for violations with one client: MRW, since she was the only romantic partner with which he maintained a significant personal and professional relationship simultaneously.

Fuerst's frolics led to a 30 day fully-stayed suspension, a reduced order of costs (since the disciplinary board failed to prove the vast majority of the alleged ethics violations), and an appeals case about intentional infliction of emotional distress via adultery. Plus, a minor reputation hit, since his story is making the rounds on the legal blogs. (H/T to the Legal Profession Blog especially.)