Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

June 2016 Archives

You've hung your shingle. Now it's time to take it down. Whether you're retiring, moving across the country, joining another firm, or giving up on the law, you've decided to shutter your firm.

But closing a law firm isn't like shutting down any other business. You still have ethical responsibilities to take care of when closing up shop. Here's what you should do.

Marketing Emails Your Firm Should Try

We hope you've ported your client contact information to a proper email marketing software program by now. If you haven't, shop around -- there are a lot of good choices out there.

But email what? Below we've included a few helpful email types you should keep in mind when contacting your former clients and contacts.

Is Business Slow for Your Solo Practice? Here's What to Do.

Every solo lawyer knows the anxiety of too few clients and too little business. Lawyers often complain about not having enough time in the day. But when free time actually does come around, they start to get worried.

If business is slow, you have to be proactive. For example, it may be time to start contacting past clients to seek a referral. But get ready to be rejected: people generally only want to see their lawyer when something has already gone wrong. Here are a few tips to help you get past your slow business slump.

You've got to spend money to make money, right? Right. But you don't have to spend all your money. When it comes to lawyer marketing, there are a few strategies you can take to improve your marketing without breaking the bank.

To help you sell your services better, without having to sell the farm, here are our top tips on cost-effective lawyer marketing strategies, from the FindLaw archives.

Videoconferencing programs like Skype or FaceTime are becoming increasingly common in today's courtrooms. Defendants detained in other jurisdictions can Skype in to the court house. More rarely, witnesses may present testimony via teleconference. Even attorneys have been known to appear in court through the magic of online video streaming.

But a new ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court should give videoconferencing attorneys and courts some pause. The highest court in the Land of Enchantment recently tossed a murder conviction, ruling that the use of Skyped testimony violated the Constitution's Confrontation Clause.

Should Small Firm Lawyers Spend More Time Marketing?

Workaholic attorneys may be spending too little time marketing and too much time lawyering. In the long term, this can make lawyers vulnerable to economic dips.

The realities of today's economy make it necessary for attorneys both at large firms and small to be mindful of making hay while the sun still shines. Increasingly, the law is as much about selling oneself and marketing a business as it is about practicing law.

Your business is growing and you're lucky enough to need another pair of hands to handle all the work. So you've hired an associate, hoping that by bringing on another attorney, you can take on bigger cases, generate bigger pay-outs, and help another lawyer start off their career.

But not all work relationships work out. Sometimes, you have to say goodbye to your associate hires -- or rather, "you're fired." Here's when you should let an associate go.

What Practice Areas Are Best for Flat Fee Billing?

A good bit of your solo or small firm practice will be devoted to maintaining the books and making sure money is coming in. As times change, the usual practice of taking in about a third of your client's takings is becoming less and less pervasive -- and there's good reason: it costs too much to wait for the outcome of a suit. In the worse case, you might not get paid at all.

It's often preferable to have money coming in consistently. How do you accomplish that? Introducing the menu style of legal practice: flat fee billing.

You're no fast food cashier, but attorneys could learn a thing or two from McDonald's. The world's largest burger joint brings in billions of extra dollars a year, simply by asking "would you like fries with that?" It's the classic example of upselling.

Now, you don't offer fries with your practice, but that doesn't mean you can't upsell and cross-sell. And it's a great way to increase your business without having to take on new clients. Soon, you'll be asking "would you like a revocable living trust with that?"

Does Your 3-Way With a Client Count as Sex? It Depends.

You know, there are times when you think you've read it all, but then history taps on your shoulder politely to remind that you haven't. Take for example, the old gem of In re Inglimo, which asks the question: "does a three-way with a client count as sex with a client?"

The answer, it turns out, depends on your interpretation of "with." Thanks to Eugene Volokh for reminding us.

Lawyering in the age of Yelp can pose some tricky issues. No one likes to be reviewed like they were the neighborhood Thai restaurant, especially when the review is negative, or even false. But lawyers with online reviews are more likely to be hired.

And while online review sites have been around for more than a decade now, best practices and the law are both evolving. To help keep you up to date, here are the top five recent developments in online lawyer reviews, from the FindLaw archives.

Yelp Ordered to Remove Defamatory Lawyer Review

In a case that could set the tone for negative Yelp reviews around the country, a California appeals court affirmed a lower court's injunction that ordered Yelp to remove an angry review against a law firm. The negative Yelp review is the bane of hard-working and honest solo lawyers.

The language of the court perhaps provides a means for some attorneys and small businesses to remove defamatory reviews against their businesses whilst also avoiding some restrictions posed by the federal Communications Decency Act.

Law Firm Succession Planning Registry Approved in Wisconsin

Do you sometimes wonder who will take over your practice when you become incapacitated or pass away? The Wisconsin Board of Governors has addressed that problem recently by approving a succession planning registry.

As it stands, nothing mandates that lawyers within the state participate, but the working group charged with attacking the succession problem has recommended that a mandatory registry ought to be created sometime in the near future.

June is Pride Month, a month to celebrate the achievements of LGBT individuals and a month that has, sadly, already been punctuated by the tragic mass shooting that killed 49 patrons of an Orlando gay club.

If your firm doesn't yet have plans to celebrate Pride, you've still got time. Here are some ideas on how to get started.

Do You Suffer From Computer Vision Syndrome?

If you work in an office and spend any time in front of a computer, there's a good chance you suffer from the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

We've all experienced it: the dry eyes, the slight burning, the back issues, and the headaches. And we know that we all need computers to do our work. So what can we do to combat this problem?

Over the past decade, craft brewing has taken off, with hip, local microbreweries popping up everywhere from post-industrial Brooklyn to downtown St. Louis, just a DIPA's throw away from the Anheuser-Busch mega breweries.

But your small batch sours are no longer the hot new thing when it comes to drinking. The cool kids these days (along with plenty of discerning drinkers) are all about craft distilling, seeking out the best microvodkas, the rarest whiskeys, and the most artisanal bitters. And when craft distilling booms, so too does the need for skilled, knowledgeable attorneys to guide small distillers through this highly-regulated industry.

How to Deal With Foreign and Non-Native Clients

Unless you're part of a large multi-national law firm, you'll have only your small firm or even only yourself to rely on when dealing with clients from foreign countries. This leads to a conundrum. You want clients from across the globe, but are you equipped to handle them?

Perhaps you are, but it never hurts to be politely reminded of some of the basic best practices a lawyer should follow in when dealing with a foreign client.

As an attorney, your job isn't just to successfully handle a client's legal issue. It's also to let them know that their legal problems are being solved. Keeping on top of client communications is key to keeping clients informed and satisfied. But does that mean that you have to check in on a daily basis, or answer calls that come at two in the morning? Not exactly.

Here are our five best tips for dealing with and improving your client communications, from the FindLaw archives.

You're a pretty modern attorney. You've got an impressive website, newish computers, and streamlined workflows, all so that you can get things done more efficiently and effectively. You even hired your nephew to digitize all your old records last summer.

But there's a possibility that you're just fooling yourself. You might be more of a French taxi driver than a German engineer when it comes to getting things done quickly and systematically. Here are three signs that you're not as efficient as you think you are, or as you could be.

How Do Managers Hire the Best Candidate?

Did you know that according to Gallup, companies hire the wrong candidate about 82 percent of the time? In other words, companies tend to only get the right candidate less than twenty percent for each attempt at filling a vacant seat? You don't have to be a mathematician to know that this is a bad way to do business.

But sadly, the mechanism that results in choosing poor candidates is still the paradigm that most law firms use to hire attorneys. What are some of the things that firms should be doing but are not?

If you're finally ready to hang your own shingle, there's one thing you need to keep in mind: running a law firm means running a business. Even if you're the sharpest legal mind in the state, you're not going to survive if you don't have any business smarts.

So before you start out on your own, make sure you have a basic grasp on business fundamentals first.

5 Skills Lawyers Must Have to Succeed Today

The practice of law is not easy. It doesn't help that the legal field is becoming increasingly competitive. To stay on top, it's important to get back to the basics by focusing on the skills that make you a success. No matter what area of law you practice, having these five skills will help you to thrive in your day-to-day life as a modern attorney.

Tracking Client Communications in the Digital Age

There are two major components to practicing law: handling the case so the client doesn't have to, and communicating with the client just what it is you're doing. Both can be overwhelming.

Now add the fact that you have to keep track of what you told the client just to make sure you're following best practices. This underscores something that every lawyer should know -- but not all lawyers do: documentation of client communications.

Tucked away on your firm website is your attorney bio. It’s beautiful. You’ve got a nice, professionally taken photo, a summary of your educational background and expertise, a list of your legal successes. And it’s horribly out of date. You’re ten years younger in that profile pic. You’ve had much more success than your bio notes. You’ve even won an award or two in the years and years that have passed since your bio was made. But no one knows about it — because you’re not telling them.

It’s time to update your attorney bio. Here’s how to do it right.

Practicing law means writing. Lots of writing. Motions, demand letters, emails to clients, memos, you name it -- the practice of law is in many ways practice in writing. Which means, to be a better lawyer, you need to be a better writer.

Don't worry though, with some practice and a few tips, pretty much anyone can start writing gooder. To help you out, here are our top legal writing tips for lawyers, from the FindLaw archives.

Artificial intelligence and automated legal services aren't anywhere near advanced enough to replace lawyers in serious legal matters. But they're getting closer by the day. And even simple technologies like online legal forms are undermining some attorney business.

How's an attorney supposed to compete when the competition is clad in chrome and capable of processing thousands of documents in the blink of an eye? By being human.

Do you advertise yourself as a star lawyer, the best around? Even if your accolades are based on awards and honors, they could still land you in professional hot water if those comparisons aren't meaningful.

In response to many complaints filed over attorneys who advertised their accolades, the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee of Lawyer Advertising recently issued a warning to lawyers: refer to your honors "only when the basis for comparison can be verified" and the awarding group "has made adequate inquiry into the fitness" of awarded lawyers.

5 Bad Habits You Should Break

It happens every single year. You resolve to change a few bad habits and then you invariably fail to reach your goals. But, hey, if you've changed even one bad habit, you've made admirable progress.

And there are a couple of recurring lawyer bad-habits that really should be dealt with, and dealt with fast. Here are some of the more troubling habits small firm lawyers and solos should tackle.

Do Law Firms Need Twitter?

Do law firms need Twitter? Not if they’re one of the most profitable firms in the nation.

It seems like everyone has a Twitter account, but remember: looks can be deceiving. For example, you should note that although many small law firms have Twitter accounts and prominently post on blogs and stay connected on Facebook, virtually none of the most profitable BigLaw firms in America use Twitter.

When it comes to information security and privacy, the law is vast and sprawling. There's the threat of data breaches and the question of liability over cybersecurity failures. There are federal anti-hacking laws and children's privacy acts. There are state laws on the use of biometric data and online identity theft.

In fact, there's so much going on in the realm of information security and privacy, that we've covered the topic more than 800 times on FindLaw blogs -- and there's still plenty more to discuss. But you don't need to get overwhelmed by all the information that's out there. Thankfully, there are practice guides to help organize the enormous amount of information for you.

Women Returning to Law: OnRamp Fellowship Could Help

For many women, a difficult choice must be made whether to carry on with their careers at the expense of family, or to leave and raise a family at the expense of their careers.

The truth is that the market has not regarded women kindly after they left to raise children. But because of the efforts of one woman attorney, it appears that there's more hope for women attorneys wishing to get back into the game.