Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

June 2014 Archives

3 Ways to Optimize Your Law Office Space for Health, Success

Ever wonder how the other half lives? The ABA Journal ran a piece this morning on how BigLaw firms, with massive architectural budgets, are rethinking their office spaces: glass walls, fancy cafeterias, and lounge-braries. It's high class hotel lobbies and lounges meet law offices, and for most of us, it's way, way out of the budget.

But, nestled in to the glamor shots of sinfully decadent décor were a few considerations that any firm, big or small, can weigh when picking or redesigning its office space. What can we learn from our bigger budgeted BigLaw brethren?

Ramadan is coming. And for those that fast, this is probably the worst time of year for Ramadan. With daylight hours clocking in at almost 15 hours of the day, Ramadan (always difficult) is especially hard during summer.

So, as an attorney that is working at a fast pace for much of the day, how do you fulfill your religious obligations, while also fulfilling your professional and ethical obligations?

One Year After Windsor: The State of Same-Sex Marriage

It's been one year since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Windsor, striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act as an unconstitutional "deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution."

Justice Anthony Kennedy's legally vague, but passionately worded opinion was expected by many, including the dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia, to have an impact on the ongoing debate over same sex marriage bans. But did anyone expect it to happen this quickly? One year after Windsor, the scorecard is clear: same-sex marriage is winning in a blowout and will, in all likelihood, be knocking on the Supreme Court's door in a matter of months.

On Monday, the President and First Lady hosted The White House Summit on Working Families to kick start the "conversation on working families for a 21st century workplace." The President's remarks showed his commitment to working families, and focused on four issues: paid maternity leave, workplace flexibility, childcare, and wages.

Earlier this week we provided a recap of President Obama's priorities and initiatives. Now, we'll look at how your law firm can help #FamiliesSucceed.

Companies Learning: Social Media Engagement, Not Follower Counts

Way back in 2004, those of us who first joined Facebook had a simple metric for success: friend count. The more friends we had, the cooler we were. (Okay, we were sad little nerds for even caring, but still, Internet friends are better than imaginary ones.)

At a certain point, however, it stopped mattering. What was more important was logging on and seeing a friend's new baby, or sharing a funny link on your brother's wall. It's not about quantity of friends: it's about quality of interactions. It's called engagement and companies are finally catching on.

I've said it before, the issues facing women in the workplace are not women's issues but family issues -- but, this time I don't need to say it again. Instead, I'll let President Barack Obama say it: "This is not just a women's issue. This is a middle-class issue and an American issue."

Today, the President and First Lady hosted The White House Summit on Working Families to kickstart the "conversation on working families for a 21st century workplace." If you were not able to tune in to the President's remarks -- which were earnest, heartfelt and funny -- read on for a brief recap, and how your law firm can help #FamiliesSucceed.

Millennials get a really bad rap -- especially from the Baby Boomer set, which ironically raised the Millennial generation, notes Entrepreneur. Many have said that the very same complaints about Millennials -- laziness, a sense of entitlement -- have been the same complaints about every generation just as they are coming of age.

If these negative stereotypes about Millennials have made you slow to hire any from that cohort, here are some reasons why you should reconsider.

Hilarious 'F U' Letter Mocks Frivolous Defamation Threats

One of the rumors that is currently making the rounds on celebrity gossip sites is that Jennifer Lopez's ex-beaux Beau Casper Smart enjoyed two trysts with transgender individuals. As someone with a functioning brain, this does not interest me in the slightest.

What does interest me is free speech on the Internet and defamation. And when a notorious gossip site, TheDirty.com, received a threatening letter regarding a user-submitted rumor about Mr. Smart, the site's response letter was at the top of my reading list. Fortunately, it didn't disappoint, and it provides further proof that (a) the Communications Decency Act (Section 230) needs to be part of every torts class and (b) some lawyers are really, really bad at writing 'F U' letters.

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

5 Reasons Not to Bring Your Dog to Work

Tomorrow is "Bring Your Dog to Work Day." What's today? At the rate this fauxliday thing is going, it's probably listen to Regina Spektor Day, or be a grumpy lawyer on a blog day. I'm going with both.

So, should you bring the pooch to work? Are you kidding me? Here are five reasons not to:

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Judge MacKenzie Saga: 33 More Allegedly Mishandled Cases

Judge Brian MacKenzie just can't catch a break.

Back in February, we recapped the rarest of all bench-slappings: a circuit court seizing control of Judge MacKenzie's docket after finding that he ignored the law, handed out illegal sentences, hid or sealed case files, and tweaked court transcripts, all because he didn't want to wait for a prosecutor to show up. Then, in late March, a recording of the Judge pressuring an inmate to drop a police brutality lawsuit surfaced.

Now? Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper is asking that he be held in contempt of court for not disclosing thirty-three additional cases that he mishandled. Plus, he's facing an election challenge for the first time since 1988. Really, 2014 is not his year.

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Hipster Juries and June Juries (Or, Why Young Jurors Suck)

Recently, we heard a truly odd tale: A California jury makes a mistake on a juror form, setting a man free. Coincidentally, he is murdered hours later, allegedly by his sister's boyfriend. One of the attorneys in the case blamed it on what he called a "June jury," college kids who delayed service until summertime.

And then, the New York Post published a story on those darn hipsters who have basically ruined everything from cheap beer to run-down neighborhoods ... and who now present a problem for practitioners: the affluent hipster jury.

Are these actually problems, or are some lawyers just unable to relate to "millenials?"

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Does Your Small Firm or Solo Practice Need a Dress Code? 3 Tips

The beauty of running your own firm is running your own firm: nobody tells you what to do, what to wear, or when to turn out the lights and go home. The flexibility to set your own wardrobe is especially appealing -- why wear a suit to the office if you're going to spend the entire day mostly alone, catching up on paperwork? But with freedom comes risk: portraying an unprofessional image, alienating clients and coworkers, or worse.

We're all about business casual, or if it's a client-free day, maybe even full casual, but there are a few things you should consider when setting a policy for yourself and your firm:

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

20 Years Later: Which O.J. Lawyer Is the Biggest Success?

How do you define success? Is it making a ton of money, win or lose? How about fame, without an astronomical fortune? Or do we look to the greater purpose of one's career, such as decades of public service or becoming the champion of hopeless causes?

For young lawyers especially, we'll all face that choice at some point: are we chasing bigger figures, or do we want to make a difference? Twenty years after the "Trial of the Century," the famed lawyers and judge of the O.J. Simpson criminal trial have taken widely divergent paths.

Which do you think is the biggest success?

Federal Drug Sentencing Shakeup Coming? Courts, DOJ Back Plan

We've been aware for some time that Attorney General Eric Holder was eyeballing drug sentences as a target for reform -- he said so at last year's American Bar Association annual meeting. But, one burning question in sentencing law has been whether these drug reforms are or will be retroactive? With the Fair Sentencing Act (crack sentencing reform), the issue sprung up repeatedly, clogging the dockets of appeals courts.

Earlier this week, Holder again spoke up about sentencing reform, this time announcing that the U.S. Sentencing Commission was considering a proposal to allow current inmates, serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, to be eligible for reduced sentences.

Who doesn't want to be on TV? It is a chance to be famous, even if only for your 15 minutes, and it's a great chance to market your skills and that of your firm. But, if you're going to be interviewed for a TV news story (especially on national TV), there's a chance the interview will be conducted via speakerphone. So how do speakerphone interviews work, and how can lawyers prepare for them?

For a speakerphone interview, a cameraperson (and sometimes an audio technician) will record your on-camera responses, but the reporter won't be there in person. Instead, the reporter (or a producer) will ask you questions via speakerphone, so he or she doesn't even have to leave the office.

For lawyers, being interviewed on TV may seem like a piece of cake. After all, you've interviewed clients and grilled hostile witnesses, so you know how to handle yourself, right? But from a former TV news producer's perspective (this blogger used to be one), there are many things a lawyer can do to make or break a recorded TV news interview.

We've come up with 10 tips for lawyers to keep in mind when being interviewed for TV. Today we'll cover the first five tips, which apply to TV interviews in general:

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Does Your Bonus Structure Comply With Ethics Rules?

An ethics opinion out of Texas has drawn a lot of scrutiny over its ban on managerial titles for nonlawyers (e.g., Chief Technical Officer) in firms -- indeed, we had a lot of fun coming up with alternative titles for CTOs -- but the opinion also pointed out another area where firms can get into trouble with nonlawyer ownership and management prohibitions: bonus structures.

Contingent bonuses are target of the opinion, and if your firm bases bonus on revenue, you might want to reconsider.

It's common to get summeritis, you know, when all you do is stare out of your window and wish you were on the beach? Well, you can actually go to the beach and get work done -- sort of. If you don't mind doing light reading, or watching a video on the beach, summer is the perfect time to catch up on CLE courses.

Just in time for summer, the American Bar Association has unveiled the ABA TECHSHOW Summer Series. Consisting of four webinars, the courses highlight information "from some of the best ABA TECHSHOW 2014 presentations" -- which is great if you were not able to make it out to Chicago this past March.

For more information on the courses and how to register, keep reading.

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

So much of marketing today emphasizes a digital presence, almost to the detriment of good 'ol, tried and true, marketing materials. As one of the few professions that still deals with a lot of paper, it may make sense to have some of your marketing materials in a tangible format -- and one of those pieces of paper should be a law firm one-sheet.

One-sheet? Yep. If you have no idea what that is, keep reading.

How many of you actually market your law firm?

Of those engaging in lawyer marketing, how many of you measure your results, or in business parlance your return on investment? We're going to guess that not a lot of you are doing this. So how do you know if marketing works for you? How do you know which campaigns are more successful? How do you know if you should use marketing at all?

With all of these questions, you may not be sold on marketing your law firm. We understand, that's why we're here to talk to you like lawyers -- to present you the evidence and build the case for lawyer marketing.

How do you look for new hires? If you're like most lawyers, you probably spread the word amongst your network, and probably post job listings on various websites. But, there's a new trend in hiring: holding a hiring contest.

A contest? Yes, a contest. One company holds contests for getting successful referrals, according to Inc., and even BarBri got in on the action earlier this year. So how does it work exactly? Simple, you hold a contest, and the prize is a job.

It sounds easy, but whether you should hold a contest at your law firm to fill your next staffing need is another question. Here are the pros and cons of hiring staff by holding a contest.

Awkward: Judge Beats The Crap Out of Public Defender in Court

We cover a lot of lawyers and judges acting like idiots around here. In fact, it's secretly our favorite kind of post, even more so than Supreme Court coverage.

But we've never seen this: a judge challenging a public defender to a fight, from the bench, and the public defender taking him up on the offer. When Brevard County Judge John Murphy and Public Defender Andrew Weinstock threw down, just outside the courtroom, the most important question was: who won? And beyond that, what happened to the case?

There's no such thing as bad publicity. We've all heard that, but really, instead of bad publicity, you should be looking to gain free (and preferably good) publicity for your law firm.

Easier said than done, right? It does require some work, but it is easier than you probably think. All you need to do is roll up your sleeves and come up with a game plan -- the publicity will follow.

Here are five easy steps to getting free publicity for your law firm.