Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

January 2016 Archives

Should Lawyers Ever Follow Clients on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn?

These days, the world is getting smaller and 'privacy' is becoming a word that has a rather ephemeral meaning. Everywhere you go professionally and personally, it seems to be standard protocol to find someone's social media profile online and connect.

If only it were that simple. If you're a lawyer, these connections raise some sticky ethics issues. Here are some quick tips to remember when using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media to connect with clients or opposing counsel?

3 Reasons Lawyers Get Sued

Lawyers often give off the impression of being flawless. But lawyers are people too, and people make silly mistakes -- even reckless ones. One really big mistake can even jeopardize your license or cause you to be sued.

Keep an eye out for some of the most common reasons lawyers find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit:

Tougher Law Firm Interviews Lead to Happier Associates

Here's a fact that's sure to leave some partners smiling: tougher interviews lead to overall happier employees, according to job site Glassdoor.

Although this may not be the most welcome news for grads, studies seem to support this tough approach.

Are You Eating Lunch Alone? You're Losing Business

If you're one of those people who regard lunch as one of the few moments of blessed solace in the day, this piece is not for you. A great man once said, "Food is an unavoidable evil." And by "evil," he meant distraction from work.

But this isn't supposed to be a message to start hating on lunch down-time. On the contrary, it's possible to use lunch as a means of boosting productivity, networking, or both.

When Flint, Michigan's emergency manager switched the city's water supply from Detroit to the Flint River, he saved about $5 million dollars, but also exposed thousands of residents to lead and other contaminants. Lead exposure, even in the smallest amounts, can impair a child's brain function for life.

It took Flint's residents more than a year to gain the attention of state authorities, and the nation, but now that they have, the lawsuits and investigations are starting to roll in.

ABA to Beef up Ethics Rule on Workplace Discrimination

A new proposal to amend the ABA rules of Professional Conduct is on the table. Its aim is to address workplace discrimination.

Not that you weren't being careful about what you said in the workplace before, but the proposed amendment will perhaps coax you into thinking twice before you make that off-color joke at the office's next in-office party.

If you use PACER, the public court records access system, you've probably had your fair share of frustrations. To put it mildly, PACER is not the most user-friendly, intuitive, or even functional legal service around. It's not in the top 50.

But thankfully, new tools are making the system easier to stay on top of and use, while a class action lawsuit is looking to get you reimbursed for alleged overcharges. Here are some PACER updates that could make your practice run a bit more smoothly.

Your client tells you he's going to kill his ex-girlfriend and bomb state police barracks. Or perhaps you have an elderly client with limited capacity, who just got a new, very controlling, home health aide. Maybe you took on a case that you realize you don't have the resources to handle. What do you do?

If you need advice, you can ask. Many state and local bar associations have ethic hotlines that can guide lawyers through difficult situations. They can even save lives.

How to Be More Effective at Telecommuting

Only a few years ago, regular employees yearned to live the dream of working from home. Taking away the hours spent commuting and the dreary environment of the modern office, and life would be perfect!

As everyone knows, reality and fantasy don't usually overlap. Wondering why you're not being more productive working from home? Hint: You're doing it all wrong.

Boards Can No Longer Ignore Cybersecurity Issues

What level of responsibility does a board owe to a company with regard to the threat of cyberattacks? According to CIO, a very high level of responsibility. And if anything, a board's responsibility is particularly unique.

The health care industry continues to be reshaped by changes in federal law and technological developments. Health care companies are merging at greater rates and putting more attention towards corporate governance. Patients are starting to receive their first video consultations and turning to health care apps.

Many of these industry developments have legal implications that will directly influence health law practitioners this year. And you don't need a crystal ball to see what those issues will be. Bloomberg BNA's Health Law Reporter's 2016 outlook is good enough, outlining the major issues that will face lawyers and the industry in the year ahead. Here are the highlights.

If you're a lawyer who helps shady characters invest in high-end real estate or aids anonymous L.L.C.s looking to buy up Manhattan penthouses, the feds may have you in their sights.

The Treasury Department announced last week that it will start identifying and tracking secret buyers of high-end real estate and will soon turn its focus to the real estate agents, bankers, and attorneys who assist in the deals.

Once upon a time, white papers were simply government documents that spelled out government policies and invited comment on them. The Churchhill White Paper of 1922 is one of the earliest such examples.

But white papers have changed plenty over the years. Today, they're authoritative, persuasive, mini-reports primarily used to develop thought leadership or business leads. Should you be writing one?

Tips for Getting Your First Clients in the Door as a Solo Lawyer

If you're thinking about establishing a solo practice as a young attorney, be prepared to face a number of challenges early on. The most practical issue is this: how to find your first clients?

To help you get started, we've compiled a few pointers:

Well, this is a trend we weren't anticipating. According to Above the Law, the new biggest thing in attorney advertising is "adorkableness."

That's a portmanteau of "adorable" and "dork," if you missed it. And it's apparently replacing cheesy catchphrases and family dogs -- or worse, campy explosions -- as the new legal marketing trend.

Law Firms in the Cross-Hairs of Accounting Scrutiny?

In a recent The Economist piece, Matthew Valencia offered his predictions for the genesis of the next legal-financial scandal. After these last few years of LIBOR manipulation, Volkswagon, and investigation by the CFTC into precious metals manipulation, it can almost be said that the public is inured to these sorts of scandals.

A number of suspects were named, including China (referring to possible market troubles), unscrupulous elites trading art pieces, and of course -- law firms.

Where to Find Legal Interns

If you're not using interns, you're missing out. Sure, interns provide work -- often cheap (but not free) work. But more importantly, they can bring fresh perspectives and energy to your practice. Working with interns is an easy way to mentor a new generation of lawyers and give back to the legal community. Plus, the really good ones might even join you after they graduate.

Here's where you can find them.

Study: 'Overqualified' Employees Outperform Colleagues

Next time you hire for your law firm, you might want to take a second look at the resume of that 'overqualified' applicant. A new study suggests that such overqualified applicants are probably a better fit for the job than you might assume.

One of your most important assets is your reputation. And with more and more potential clients looking to the Internet when researching attorneys, online reviews can have a big impact on your practice. But usually, when a disgruntled client posts a malicious review, there's not much a lawyer can do about it.

That wasn't the case for one Florida attorney, though. When Ann-Marie Guistibelli's client left her a false and disparaging online review, she took him to court -- and won $350,000 in punitive damages.

You've probably heard the news, maybe even on Twitter. The microblogging site, struggling to maintain growth and increase its revenue, is looking to shake things up. And that could mean ditching one of Twitter's defining characteristics: the 140-character tweet limit.

Tweets might not just get a little longer, however, they may become much longer. Twitter is considering allowing tweets up to 10,000 characters long. What effect will that have on attorneys who tweet?

You may have caught the news on Wednesday: a grand jury indicted the Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, whose death in her cell three days later lead to a national outcry last summer. A few weeks earlier, a grand jury had refused to indict any of Bland's jailers.

But, lesser known is the role of an independent panel of attorneys who took part in the investigation. Just what do such panels do and might one be in your future?

Small Firm Lawyers: Delegate Your Administrative Tasks!

It's natural for ambitious people to want to do everything themselves. However, be warned that control freaks will not expand because they will eventually get bogged down in administrative issues. Remember, you're a lawyer, not an administrator.

Fortunately, there are a number of third-person options available to today's modern lawyer. Consider getting the proper help so you can help yourself get back to the practice of law.

Want to avoid a disgruntled client, a contested bill, or an unjustified bar complaint? You'll need to do more than just a good job. You'll have to make sure clients have a clear expectation of what to expect from you and when to expect it.

One of the easiest ways to keep your clients happy -- and hopefully get some good word of mouth recommendations -- is to make sure both of you are on the same page about fees, deadlines, and possible outcomes. Here's how to establish those expectations clearly, early on.

What to Look for When Hiring a Legal Assistant

Finding the right legal assistant for your law firm may not be as easy as you think. The position of legal assistant or paralegal may attract job-seekers with any combination of skills and professional competencies. When hiring for the position, what do you look for?

Attorneys often hold sensitive, private information on their clients; information which, if lost, can be extremely damaging to both clients and their lawyers. And hackers are increasingly targeting law firms, stealing proprietary information on their competitors, or using ransomware to hold important information hostage.

Thankfully, a new report shows that most lawyers are starting to take the risks of a data breaches seriously: 95 percent of surveyed firms had a data breach plan in place or were developing one.

Last week, we ended the year with some advice on how to improve your online presence in 2016. Central to that is writing. Client-focused legal writing will help you develop expertise in your field, differentiate your practice from others, and garner a wider audience of potential clients online.

Creating valuable online content isn't as simple as just sitting down and typing away, but it's also not brain surgery either. Here are three ways to improve your online content without taking on a second job as a legal blogger.

5 Qualities That Make up a Great Law Firm Culture

Imagine you're a midsized law firm with a bevy of fresh-faced talent ready at the helm. You're going to change the world. Then, a few years into the practice, everybody wants to leave -- including you. What went wrong?

Chances are it wasn't the work, it was the law firm culture of one-ups-manship, slave-like hours, and ego. That toxic mixture can wear anybody down. If you want to foster a work culture that attracts people and keeps them, you should follow a few tried and true tips.