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August 2014 Archives

Holler: 3 Cases of Schadenfreude for Lawyers to Learn From

What do we have for you this week, in our favorite posts from across the blawgosphere roundup? How about three cases of lawyers behaving stupidly, all of which you can learn a lesson from.

A copyright defender turns troll, both for himself and his clients. A judge has a "shocking" response to a sovereign citizen's nonsensical ramblings. And Solo Practice University presents the tale of a lawyer who bit off more than he could chew when he decided to dabble in a new practice area.

Read. Learn. But most of all, enjoy the schadenfreude:

The New Law Firm: Ditch Old Traditions to Grow a Business

In the time of the "start up" business, where young people fresh out of college get some venture capital and make a bajillion dollars, the law firm seems like a vestige of an older time -- a time when we were genteel professionals writing on parchment with quill pens.

Structurally, that's the way it is, too: the vanguards of the legal profession still like to pretend law firms are a separate, distinct, elite category of business-but-not-business entity. Really, though, the law firm is a business -- and it needs to act like one to survive. All the worn leather briefcases and elegant constitutional references the world won't pay the bills.

The Stanford University Graduate School of Business will launch a five-week online course, starting September 15, on "growing your business." Could law firms learn something from this course?

5 Tips for Becoming a Business Travel Ninja

Business trips combine the best elements of vacation with the best elements of working. Wait, maybe they actually combine the worst of each of those things.

In any case, when you're away from your law office on business, here are some ways you can make your life easier, save some money, and operate your practice on the road:

Nastygrams to Opposing Counsel: How Far Is Too Far?

Sometimes, civility will not do. Your opposing counsel pushes every single one of your buttons, and hell, you're nobody's doormat. 

But how far do you go? Sharp tones, a threat of sanctions, or gasp, a profanity or two? And what else makes a good "F U" letter? Are there any other ways to irk opposing counsel?

We've got a few ideas.

3 Ways to Turn a Volunteer Legal Gig Into Paying Work

Whether you're a new attorney who's just found nonprofit work or a seasoned associate looking for something new, nonprofit legal services can provide a break if you spend your day on M&As.

And if M&As were never really your thing to begin with, volunteering could lead to a paying job if you eat your peas and say your prayers. Note, however, that you shouldn't walk into a volunteer gig expecting a paying job out of it. Show them that you do go work, though, and it could be in your future.

Here are three ways you may be able to turn a volunteer legal gig into paying work:

Holler: Our Favorite Posts From the Blawgosphere (Week of Aug. 17)

4chan users posted graphic rape porn in the comments section of Jezebel, a feminist blog. You won't believe what legal issues arose next!

And what happens when an attorney develops a meth addiction? When a prosecutor breaks bad, can be make it back?

Folks, if clickbait titles make you want to punch your monitor, the Upworthy Generator might be the best parody you'll read all day. And if you want to read some of the best recent posts from the blawgosphere, keep reading.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Billable Hours (Without Being Unethical)

Groan. The dreaded billable hour, which, like the last five minutes of a football game, never seems to end. Obviously you need to bill all your time, and you've got to be ethical about it, but are you selling yourself short? A survey conducted by timekeeping software provider Chrometa of 500 professionals who bill by the hour revealed that they captured just 67 percent of their billable time.

How do you squeeze the remaining 33 percent of that time out of your day? Here are five things you can do to make sure you're maximizing your billable hours:

Top 3 Networking Tips for Solo Practitioners

So you've decided to "hang your shingle" (oh, do I hate that phrase). Being a solo practitioner, by definition, is a solitary affair. That seems obvious from the word "solo," but it's solitary in a metaphysical sense, too.

If you're part of a firm, you can bounce ideas off others, take a break to discuss non-legal happenings, and you know that you can always rely on someone else if you have to. Solos don't have any of that, which means they more than anyone else need to get out there and network.

So how do solos network? Here are three suggestions that may work for you:

It's only mid-August, and the days are getting shorter already. I'm noticing it's darker out at my usual wake up time, and I'm thankful that I invested in my Philips Wake-Up Light so I can awake not only to bright light, but also the sound of birds chirping (kind of like this gal).

But seriously, anyone who feels the slightest effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder knows the impact of light on sleep. Now, a new study takes it a bit further -- into the workplace.

Lawyer Marketing Trends: 'Local-Mobile Searches' On the Rise

Here's a fun statistic: 31 percent of traffic to law firm websites comes from mobile search. That's nearly one-third of all of your Web traffic coming from smartphone and tablet users. And make no mistake about it, mobile Google results are very different from desktop Google results, which means you're playing a whole different game when marketing your practice online to that 31 percent.

Plus, that 31 percent is likely to grow. In December 2012, just 23 percent of legal consumers used mobile search. In 2011, it was 14 percent; four years ago, it stood at a measly 6 percent.

Bottom line: There's a clear trend towards users looking for legal help on their smartphones and tablets, and you need to plan accordingly for these "local-mobile" searches.

Do Small Firms, Solos Need Law Student Interns?

It's approaching back-to-school time for law school, which means students will be looking for internships and externships (if they don't have them already). With all these students out there, should your small firm get in on the action by hiring a law student intern?

Maybe -- but maybe not. Using unpaid interns in any for-profit business is under increased scrutiny, as a lack of jobs for fresh-out-of-college twentysomethings has given rise to an "internship" economy that may violate labor laws.

If you still want to grab an intern for the semester, tread carefully, and be prepared for some potential disappointment.

Running your own law firm is no easy task -- and then come the growing pains. Inevitably, there will come a time when you need to bring more people onto your team. First, you'll consider whether you should hire a contractor or a full-time employee. Then, you'll consider whether to hold a contest for the position (uh, probably not).

Well, we recently learned of a tip that aims to make your whole interviewing process a lot easier. All you need to do is ask one question...

Holler: Our Favorite Posts From the Blawgosphere (Week of Aug. 10)

Those who are so bad at test-taking that they cannot break the median LSAT score probably shouldn't go to law school. And yet, there are scores of subprime schools, places that charge $50,000 a year for a degree that carries no reputational value, and which push thousands of grads with little to no hope of passing the bar into the post-J.D. world.

$200,000 in debt and no career prospects. This is why many call law school a scam. Is the day of reckoning at hand?

And the big news of the week is Ferguson, Missouri. If you'd like to see someone being held accountable for using excessive force, a recent case out of the Eighth Circuit where a lenient sentence for a cop was reversed might soothe your soul... somewhat.

In honor of National Relaxation Day on Friday (August 15) -- yes that is a thing -- we thought we would cover a book that the ABA sent us to review: "Yoga for Lawyers: Mind-Body Techniques to Feel Better All the Time."* What better way to unwind than to wind yourself up into a human pretzel?

Jokes aside, I've been practicing yoga for more than 10 years, and the benefits are both physical and mental. Since lawyers are a special breed, it's only right that we have our own book on yoga instruction.

Let's take a closer look.

Could House-Sharing Open the Door for ADA Litigation?

The rise of house-sharing via services like Airbnb raises an interesting question: Could this open the door for ADA lawsuits?

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides for a private right of action by disabled people against establishments that aren't ADA complaint. It's hard to dispute that the Act has been great for ensuring equal access to public facilities for everyone, regardless of ability or disability.

But with the rise of the "sharing economy" and cities regulating Airbnb rentals as though they were hotels, could house-sharing become the next battleground for ADA violations? (Answer: probably.)

5 Decorations You Don't Want in Your Law Office

As you may recall, this blog has already covered the decorations you should have in your law office. That includes items that command respect, like your degree, or imply that you're an approachable person, like your family photos.

There's a lot of leeway when it comes to decorating advice, but under no circumstances should a self-respecting lawyer ever have these five things in his or her office or cubicle:

Judge Judy Settles With Lawyer Over TV Ad: 3 Lessons for Your Firm

Judge Judy -- yes, that Judge Judy -- has reached a settlement with a Connecticut lawyer accused of using images from her TV show in his own commercial, TMZ reports.

The fact that this case exists at all seems silly, because as Judge Judy so astutely noted, "Mr. Haymond is a lawyer and should know better."

Here are three takeaways from Judge Judy's real-life legal predicament that, hopefully, you knew already:

Should Your Firm Expand Into Debt Collecting?

Following the Great Recession of 2008, many firms found it lucrative to expand their practices to encompass debt collection. They became "debt buyers," third parties who purchased the debt from the original creditor -- or even from another debt buyer -- and then tried to collect or obtain a settlement.

The business is lucrative -- consumers owe about $872 billion in credit card debt alone, according to NerdWallet. And consumers signed a contract to pay the debt back, so something is coming.

But federal and state laws designed to protect consumers from shady and abusive debt collection practices may open a firm up to additional liability that, in the end, may not be worth it.

It's baaaack! Yes, it's that time of year again -- Discovery's "Shark Week" (already? We've barely had time to recover from "Sharkando 2: The Second One") -- which of course means it's time for FindLaw's "Legal Shark Week" series of blog posts.

Because as lawyers, we are as misunderstood as the sea creatures we are often analogized to, we thought we'd flip the switch and co-opt the term.

So let's dive in by taking a look at four ways you can be a social media shark:

Holler: Our Favorite Posts From the Blawgosphere (Week of August 3)

Propinquity: it's a fancy way of saying two things are close together. Social psychologists have found that it is a great predictor of whether two people will end up romantically intertwined, and it was a great excuse to date the girl down the hall back in college.

It's also the reason why Connecticut just crapped on fundamental rights by carving additional exceptions into protections against unlawful search and seizure -- guy near guy who looks like other guy loses his rights.

Besides that depressing note, our roundup this week includes a lawyer barred from representing women ever again (huh?), and a classic example of why do-it-yourself legal forms are still a stupid idea.

Did Porch Shooter's Lawyer Violate the 'Golden Rule' Prohibition?

Michigan homeowner Theodore Wafer was convicted of second-degree murder Thursday for killing an unarmed woman on his porch -- Renisha McBride. But could a statement by Wafer's defense attorney be a problem if he pursues an appeal?

During closing arguments, Wafer's defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter described the situation Wafer faced: It was very early in the morning and an unknown person was pounding on his front door. "He armed himself. He was getting attacked. ... Put yourselves in his shoes at 4:30 in the morning," Carpenter said, according to The Associated Press.

Uh oh.

5 Ways to Make Sure Your Paralegals Are Paying Off

You may assume that your paralegals are are a great bargain, considering the large amount of grunt work they complete. But are you utilizing your paralegals' skills in the right way?

Remember that paralegals are professionals, not just glorified secretaries. By maximizing your use of paralegals, you'll improve your bottom line, make clients happy, and take a significant amount of the work off of your shoulders.

Here are five strategies to get the most out of your paralegals:

Lawyer Mentors: 5 Signs You Need to Step Up Your Game

They say not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and a good mentor, typically, is doing just that: gifting her time and energy towards helping a younger attorney progress in her personal and professional life.

But, like tube socks on Christmas morning, not all mentors are a hit.

For all the lawyer mentors out there (and for those who agreed to be a mentor but kinda forgot about it until just now), here are five signs you should probably step up your game:

Among the many stereotypes that lawyers have to deal with, the one that rings true is the high rate of depression among attorneys. Let's face it -- we are not a happy lot. But maybe we can be.

A growing trend among corporations, especially those in Silicon Valley, is the appointment of Chief Happiness Officers. This new member of the C-suite is responsible for making sure employees are happy. Sound silly? It may seem so at first, but when you understand the context, it makes a bit more sense.

Read on to learn more about Chief Happiness Officers, and whether your firm needs one.

7 Legal Marketing Trends Every Lawyer Should Know

What's trending right now when it comes to marketing your law firm? A new infographic from FindLaw and Google offers some insight that every lawyer should know.

There are plenty of reasons potential clients don't become actual clients, and your marketing strategy shouldn't be one of them. At any point in the process of looking for an attorney, a little difficulty with an attorney's website or phone system can become a major impediment and a reason not to select that attorney.

To keep that from happening, here are seven trends you should know about legal marketing:

Pro Bono for Small Firms and Solos: 5 Ways to Make It Work for You

You know of pro bono. You did some of that in law school: you know, providing free legal services to people who can't afford them. But now that you're working, you wonder, "Hey, whatever happened to pro bono work?"

If you work in BigLaw, there's usually a dedicated pro bono coordinator, but if you're at a small firm, medium firm, or if you're a solo practitioner, the onus is on you to go seek out those pro bono opportunities.

Sure, you can always go down to Legal Aid, but where else can you find pro bono work? As it turns out, there are a lot of pro bono opportunities that you may not have known about. Here are five ways to fit pro bono work into your practice:

Dropping Bars and Bodies II: Court Nixes Lyrical Conviction

"I'm the n***a to drive-by and tear your block up, leave you, your homey and neighbors shot up, chest, shots will have you spittin' blood clots up. Go ahead and play hard. I'll have you in front of heaven prayin' to God, body parts displaying the scars, puncture wounds and bones blown apart, showin' your heart full of black marks, thinkin' you already been through hell, well, here's the best part. You tried to lay me down with you and your dogs until the guns barked."

He's no Nasir Jones, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, these lyrics by "Real Threat" (real name Vonte Skinner) were draft lyrics, found in a notebook in his car. They were also used to convict him of an attempted murder of a fellow drug dealer, one who fingered Skinner as the culprit.

Fortunately for him, the New Jersey Supreme Court has reversed his conviction, holding that the "admission of defendant's inflammatory rap verses, a genre that certain members of society view as art and others view as distasteful and descriptive of a mean-spirited culture, risked poisoning the jury against defendant."

3 Typography, Layout Rules Every Lawyer Should Know

You wouldn't walk into court wearing a T-shirt and jeans, would you? Then why are you filing documents written in a 12-point monospace font with tiny margins? And if you don't know the difference between monospace and sans serif, that's a problem, too.

Enter Matthew Butterick, a graphic designer-turned-lawyer whose book and accompanying website "Typography for Lawyers" instructs the font-challenged of us on the finer points of desktop publishing.

As you may recall, this blog talked about Butterick several years ago, but on recent reflection, there are still things we can learn about good page layout. Here are three rules every lawyer should be familiar with:

5 Ways Smaller Firms Can Get National Attention for a Case

If you're a small or midsize firm, how do you get national attention for a case you're handling?

We were inspired to ask this question after a lawyer from a small Texas town garnered national attention with his lawsuit against General Motors on behalf of 658 clients. The lawsuit, spearheaded by Super Lawyer Robert Hilliard of Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales in Corpus Christi, Texas, is related to the faulty ignition switch problem that surfaced earlier.

Hilliard's firm isn't small -- but it isn't big, either. So how can a small or medium-sized firm get nationwide media attention for their cases? Here are a few strategies that may work for you:

Holler: Our Favorite Posts From the Blawgosphere (Week of July 27)

Heh. Some people actually think "reading the law" instead of going to school is a plausible idea. It's not, and not just because you'll fail the bar exam. Speaking of bar exams, ExamSoft is refusing refunds for their failed bar exam software. Also, "It's murda. Murda." Which NRA leader was once convicted of murder before an appeals court tossed the confession and the evidence?

And on the only serious note: Congress sues Obama. Can they do that?

Get your popcorn ready...

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