Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

December 2015 Archives

Hoverboards were 2015's Cabbage Patch Doll or Tickle-Me Elmo -- that is, the gift to get this holiday season. The self-balancing platforms on wheels (think Segway's, but without anything to hold on to) are everyone's favorite new toy. That is, when they're not dropping you on your back or bursting into flames.

And now, lawyers want in on the fun too. Here's why the New Year may be the year of hoverboard liability.

The Benefits of a Multicultural Law Firm

As the world becomes smaller, it's natural that law firms should become more diverse. In places like the Silicon Valley, for example, literally hundreds of ethnic and national backgrounds convene to make it one of the most pioneering regions in the country.

Law firms can be the same way. But even if you're not particularly happy about the multiculturalism movement, basic numbers suggest that multiculturalism is pretty much a force that cannot (and ought not) be stopped. Rather than fight it, embrace the benefits.

Prospective clients are researching lawyers online more than ever, but getting them through your firm's door (or to your website) requires more than just putting together a .com address or a Yelp page.

To take advantage of online marketing opportunities, you need to have a strong Internet presence. Here are five ways to get started.

For all the attention and effort spent interviewing new candidates for employment, firms often overlook the exit interview. This is a mistake. Exit interviews offer attorneys and support staff the chance to discuss their experiences more candidly and allows the firm to assess what areas it might need to improve in.

If you're not regularly conducting exit interviews, it's time to start. If you're already doing them, now's the time to improve. Here's how.

How to Be Happy at Work: Tips for Lawyers

Lawyers generally are thought to fall into two camps: those who went into law to "change the world" and those who went into it driven by greed. No surprise, but it seems like money isn't make greedy lawyers much happier.

Money aside, work should be rewarding. If you don't feel happy to go to work, here are a few tips that can help:

Should Lawyers Submit to an E-Discovery Competence Audit?

Lawyers should really consider opening themselves up to being audited for their competence in handling e-discovery. Increasingly, e-discovery is becoming an integral part of being a litigator. Proficiency in e-discovery may even be key factor in whether clients decide to litigate.

Law firms are for lawyers. Allowing non-lawyer ownership and investment compromises a lawyer's independence and dilutes her commitment to the client. Or so the story goes.

But evidence from countries that actually allow non-lawyer ownership indicates that non-lawyer owned firms might actually be more ethical and somewhat more independent, at least when it comes to funding. Is it time to stop worrying about non-lawyer ownership?

How Big Data May Change Law Firm Hiring Practices

Everybody knows that lawyers are real sticklers for tradition. We like musty law books. We like burnt-umber colored desks. We like Latin. And we also like hiring only 90th percentile students from the T14.

But that's changing, at least according to the opinion of Phil Weiser writing for the ABA Journal. With the help of big data insights about new hires, more holistic means are being employed by law firms when selecting their lucky associates. Now, you might have someone who went to the University of the Middle of Nowhere working alongside a Harvard Law grad. Imagine that.

In 2014, Walmart entered the legal services market. Or rather, Axess Law moved to Walmart, opening four offices in Walmarts throughout Canada. Hey, if the clients aren't coming to you, go to them, right?

Two years later, their practice is still going strong and is expecting rapid Walmart-based growth in 2016. Should you join them?

Attn Lawyers: Networking Tips That Work

Law students know it, and if you've just gotten licensed, you should know it too: networking is everything.

Few people can appreciate the importance networking more than lawyers. But even if you're not the most popular guy at the party, there are a couple of techniques you can employ to better improve your chances of catching the attention of someone who matters. We go into some examples.

You don't want to be Scrooge this holiday season, but it might be a bit too late to order a Christmas turkey for everyone in the office. Do you default to a Starbucks gift card or an envelope of cash? No way!

There's still plenty of time to get an affordable, last-minute holiday gift for your staff. Here are our top seven recommendations.

Starting a Law Firm? You'll Need About $10,000

Starting a law firm can be surprisingly simple -- the main costs are really your license and insurance.

Fundamentally, a law firm is just you (the licensed attorney), a computer, a printer and a law library. The good news is that you already (presumably) have your license and have paid your dues; and you already have a computer and a printer. All you need is access to a law library. That too isn't too bad as most major cities are equipped with one of these. Believe it or not, you're already halfway there.

Tell your clients they don't need to be afraid of employment agreements. A well-crafted, finely-drafted employment agreement can allow employers to recruit top talent, safeguard their business interests, and protect against unexpected litigation, whether they're for executives or the rank and file.

The key, however, is in the drafting. Here are some tips and best practices for putting together the best employment agreements for your clients.

How Lawyers Can Avoid Getting Killed During a Deposition

Depositions can get very emotional, to say the least. The emotional range seems to span the gamut from boredom to intense rage.

But the usual emotion is guarded anger -- remember Justin Bieber's depo? Sometimes that anger can rise to the level of uncontrollable rage. A careful lawyer has got to ask: what steps can you take to protect yourself from a potential attack?

There are 1,600 unread emails in your inbox. Finding an important message takes a couple of minutes, instead of a couple of seconds. The idea of scrolling to the bottom of your inbox and seeing all those missed, unanswered, ignored emails fills you with a bit of dread. Your inbox is a mess.

But it doesn't have to be. Adopting a few good habits can help you develop a clean, efficient approach to email for the New Year.

Do Lawyers Need Accounting Expertise to Keep Out of Jail?

Few other times in history has the subject of accounting been so captivating as it was in the criminal fraud scandal of executives at the collapsed law firm of Dewey & LeBooeuf. The trial revolved around the arguably gray-area practices of three executives in the law firm who were charged of just falling short of cooking the books in order to "inflate" income of the once venerated law firm.

Who would have believed that such a precise professional service could be so murky?

2015 is winding down, but it ain't over yet. You still have a few good weeks to make some (tax deductible) investments in your business.

Nothing beats ending the year with a marketing push which is, with few exceptions, 100 percent tax deductible.

Tips for Hiring Temp Contract Writers and Lawyers

It was just a scant few years ago when temp workers were thought of as legal pariahs. Now? They're becoming the norm.

This is overall good news for lawyers looking for work. According to the National Association of Law Placement, about 82 percent of law firms and legal departments currently use temp or contract lawyers. And that number is expected to grow.

It's not just lawyers at the largest firms who work through the night and it's not just BigLaw partners who deserve a few workplace perks.

Thankfully, many of those perks are now available through the click of an app. Use them as recruitment tools, or for a bit of personal indulgence. Here's how you can live the high life, from your phone.

Lawyers Can't Be Whistleblowers Says NY Judge

As an in-house lawyer, what should you do if you have reason to believe that your client is up to no good? Can you sing?

Well, if you're in New York, you'd best keep your lips shut -- at least for the time being. Bloomberg reports that a New York State Court recently found that in its opinion, attorney-client confidentiality can preclude an attorney from being a whistleblower. What's more, ratting out on your client is a breach of professional ethics.

The home health care industry is thriving. Fueled by an aging Boomer population and the desire of many patients to be treated in their own residences, the at-home provisioning of nursing and therapist care has become a $30 billion industry, with 12,000 Medicare-certified agencies.

That industry growth has lead to an increased need for attorneys experienced in Medicare reimbursement, industry regulations, and old-fashioned litigation. As a practice area, expect to see home health care law grow as quickly as the population grays.

3 Tips for Hiring Legal Staff at Your Small Firm

A strong legal support staff is essential to operating a successful small firm. Just like everything in life, finding the right staff members can be a challenge.

To help you find the right people for your firm, here are three essential tips to keep in mind:

Job Applicants Can Sue Under ADEA

In what is potentially a landmark ruling in employment law, the Eleventh Circuit just ruled that a 49-year-old job applicant may use a disparate impact theory to sue R.J. Reynolds Tobacco for age discrimination.

The ruling is a headache-inducing case within the circuit because it potentially expands ADEA's purview to include individuals not clearly spelled out in the Act's language.

An unhappy client won't be a client for long. And if a client is unhappy enough, you could soon find yourself before a disciplinary committee, trying to rebut a client's complaint.

Luckily, avoiding client complaints is not that difficult to do. Here are some simple strategies for keeping your clients happy and complaint-free.

Blogging for Your Law Practice Is a Business, Not an Art

There is a bit of misguided mythology out there about the nature of blogging. It seems that a fair number of netizens still operate under the notion of blogging as some romantic voyage into inner expression. There may have been a time when that was the predominant paradigm. Not anymore.

That is, not if you're trying to run a business. Today, blogging is as much a business as it is an art. If anything, it's more a business than an art. Simply knowing this will help you survive long enough for your law firm blog to become relevant.

If you don't bill, you can't eat. But even if you're racking up 30 billable hours a day, that work will be meaningless if you can't get clients to pay.

Sure, you can put liens on delinquent clients or even take them to court, but often your firm's collections practices can be drastically improved by enhanced at your internal practices first. Here are 11 ways to improve.

How to Find Job Security as a Solo Attorney

If you recently passed the bar exam, congratulations. Now welcome to the world of licensed-and-unemployed.

There isn't exactly blood out in the streets, but the numbers of attorneys out there without work is startling. Some new lawyers are hanging up their own shingles. But that market is hurting too. We can call it the natural ebb-and-flow of legal services demand, but those with faint hearts are looking for something more consistent. What's something you can do to survive? Go niche.

The End of "Too Big to Fail" Bailouts? Can It Be? Nah, It Can't.

The Federal Reserve Board adopted a rule earlier this week that, in theory, precludes it from rescuing individual companies that claim status of "too big to fail." Has your cynicism kicked in yet?

The change was implemented following much controversy and teeth gnashing over the government's decision to shell out $85 billion to rescue AIG, making it one of the -- if not the --biggest government bailouts in modern history.

Can you speak Elvish? Know Middle Earth like the back of your hand? Do you believe that Gollum might actually be the hero of The Lord of the Rings series after all? Well, the Turkish court system needs your help!

Dr. Bilgin Çiftçi is currently facing jail time for posting a meme online comparing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with The Lord of the Ring's Gollum. But it seems no one in the Turkish legal system is familiar with the incredibly popular books and film franchise. That's where you come in.

Law Firms in the Business of ... Charity?

When people think about law firms, the word 'charity' is not the first word that springs to mind. And these days, it looks like most firms aren't feeling very charitable.

But attitudes can and should change. It's better for the community and it's better for the firm's reputation. Charity work can be an opportunity for a law firm to get noticed in the community and capture good sentiment from would be clients. Here are a number of ideas your firm could consider next time charity is discussed. Don't worry -- it's cheap.