Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

July 2016 Archives

Can You Still Get Paid Even After Losing a Case?

We've all heard of car insurance, but what about case insurance? Well, that's the basic service being offered by two personal injury lawyers out in Florida who launched their company Level Insurance last month.

It's too soon to tell if this is going to be a golden goose for them, but it does raise some interesting strategy (and ethics) questions. But with the shifting paradigms of litigation financing, we're hardly rattled anymore.

They've never seen a Walkman. They don't get your references to Henry Kissinger or Tabitha Soren. You definitely don't get their apps, or understand why they're so into Pokemon right now. Can the gap between Millennials and the rest of us ever be bridged?

Of course. Communicating with young lawyers, interns, or support staff isn't as hard as it seems. Here are some tips to help you out.

Is Skype Safe for Attorney-Client Privilege?

Skype is A-OK for attorney-client privilege, right? Actually -- and you know this was coming -- it turns out the answer is a little more complicated than that.

As electronic communication supplants the many ways in which we communicate with each other (and our clients), it has forced us lawyers to become competent in the many ways in which it has complicated the profession. This is especially the case when it comes to issues of compliance and privilege. Prudent attorneys probably should assume that someone is always listening.

The de Blasio administration announced yesterday that it was beating its affordable housing goals, but if you're a New York City resident, you might be forgiven if you haven't noticed.

Rents continue to skyrocket in NYC, and if you're a legal professional, that means more than just struggling to find an affordable apartment this side of Jamaica, Queens. The rental market in New York has led to a host of landlord and tenant issues, from disputes over gentrification to disputes over short-term rentals.

Are you a lawyer with an appetite? A lover of fine wines, heirloom vegetables, perfectly frosted donuts? Well, you don't need to keep your food, booze, or candy passions outside of your work life. For the lucky few, there's a career to be made in craft spirits, farm-to-table agriculture, or just pizza.

If you're looking for a career on the legal side of the culinary arts, here's our advice for you, from the FindLaw archives.

Handling Fee Splitting With an Outside Attorney

There is much confusion out there when it comes to ethically handling fees between lawyers. One of the most common scenarios involves a primary attorney (from the client's point of view) working with another attorney. But the arrangement has its ethical hazards and every practitioner should be aware of potential ethical pitfalls when splitting fees.

We'll go over one scenario here that gets people tripped up: the solo who splits fees with another on a contingency basis.

You don't have to be a major foodie to know that American food and agriculture has been undergoing some significant changes recently -- and we're not just talking about the demand for gluten-free everything.

There's such a strong demand for organic crops these days that major food brands are paying conventional growers to make the shift. At the same time, developments in genetic modification are allowing some farmers to take a much more high-tech approach to their produce. And these shifts are driving major changes in agricultural law, in everything from labeling regulations to genetic and chemical drift.

Why You Should Discuss Litigation Financing With Clients

Your clients may not be aware of litigation finance, but you should be. And you should also be aware that handling litigation finance can be like trying to catch a falling knife. And if that's the case, then you're going to need to know how and why you should talk to your clients about possibly getting a third party to pay for their litigation fees and the pitfalls that come with the game.

Like anything else, it's usually better to set out the parameters at the very beginning rather than to wait for awkwardness later on.

3 Tips for Gathering Digital Evidence

Many lawyers are still unaware of some of the basic steps behind the procurement of digital evidence. In many ways, the basics are not too different from typical civil discovery -- it's just that the medium is different (and more impermanent).

Here are some tactical considerations you should keep in mind next time you want to get your hands on your opponent's evidence. And remember, discoverable evidence is a much bigger set than admissible evidence. Make it a part of your pretrial discovery strategy to go for the jugular.

Handling Client Fee Arrangements -- Ethically

If you're like the majority of attorneys, you got into this business to be paid. In an ideal world, you do the work and your clients pay you upon completion -- promptly. Alas, this is not the ideal world.

Fed up with the undeniable costs of having to maintain an accounts receivable, many attorneys have implemented means that just skirt the boundaries of legal ethics in order to defray the costs of lost money and time. But what techniques can you use to ethically handle client fees? We're here to help.

Small Firms Should Host Networking Events Now

The success of a modern law practice is directly related to how visible the firm is on the internet and on social media. For better or worse, this is the business paradigm of the millennials.

But you should never discount the efficacy of some of the tried and true techniques. Sometimes, the old ways are best. For example, few methods are better at building up business networking-nodes than hosting your own networking event. And we're here to help you do just that.

If you want to make it rain, you've got to hustle. But some of us would prefer not to. Maybe you're an introvert, or maybe inauthentic schmoozing turns you off, or maybe you'd just rather go home after a long day and take a nap. We understand.

But you're still going to need to get out there and make connections anyway. So here are some tips to help you network -- tips that don't require you to collect every business card or attend every cocktail party.

Logistics of Hiring Your First New Associate

If your firm is growing, it may soon be time to hire your first new associate. This sounds great, but beware: you should be cognizant that legal pitfalls await the employer who fails to properly navigate the small business legal labyrinth. Below, we introduce some of the very basics of new associate hiring.

5 Pieces of Technology That Could Help You Practice Better

You're probably a fine lawyer, but if you're like most others, you could be better. What you probably don't know is that the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer could be as little as the great lawyer's ability to better utilize technology in the market-place.

Let's take a look at some bare necessities.

3 Firm Metrics You Should Be Measuring

Lawyer and professional "how to run a firm" expert Christopher T. Anderson probably gets the bulk of his living from attending and hosting talks for lawyers than he does actual lawyering, but a good number of us wouldn't have it any other way. After all, he does a lot of the heavy research lifting so we don't have to. And, according to Anderson, if law schools taught attorneys how to be more like businessmen and less like lawyers, our lives would probably be a lot easier. Gee, does that salve your wounds?

No time for self-pity! Here are a couple of metrics that lawyers should get to measuring. It's about time you get on the current bandwagon -- and get a bit more business sense, when it comes to your practice.

Last week, Gretchen Carlson dropped a bomb of a lawsuit on Roger Ailes, the chairman and CEO of Fox News. Carlson, a longtime Fox personality until she was let go three weeks ago, accused Ailes of propositioning her, creating a hostile work environment, and terminating her when she rebuffed his advances and complained about the behavior.

But, like many professionals, Carlson's contract included a clause that requires her to bring any disputes to secret arbitration. Could her lawyer's clever pleading allow her to get around this obstacle?

Don't Flip Interns, Invest in Future Lawyers

Summer is upon us and many firms have begun the hiring and on-boarding of hoards of relieved student interns. The word "intern" is not a universal one. More hoity-toity firms use the term "summer associate," though this could be regarded as an ethical no-no.

Call them whatever you want, a lot of these interns will spend their summers at the firm and leave -- never to be seen again. And this could be as much a mark of the culture of firm life as it is the quality of the students. What should employers really be doing?

You don't have to look far to find news about bots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning moving into the legal sphere -- and potentially displacing flesh-based attorneys. There are online chatbots handling traffic disputes, machine learning programs doing associate-style legal research, and, for the support staff out there, artificial intelligence secretaries who can take care of attorney scheduling.

But there's no need to burn your J.D. and take up coding just yet. Technology will absolutely change the legal industry, but it probably won't eliminate too many legal jobs.

Law firms can be stressful places. You're rushing to meet deadlines, reassuring anxious clients, and trying to keep everything running smoothly. In between all that, it can be hard to find a moment to stop, relax, and find focus. But it's not impossible.

With a little practice, you can find some zen in the midst of your daily chaos. Here are some tips to help you out.

Prolonged Exposure to Silence Benefits Your Mental Health

There is a growing body of scientific literature that indicates a relationship between loudness in our daily lives and degrading health. And on the flip-side, a piece by Daniel A. Gross from Nautilus suggests there are health benefits associated with prolonged periods of silence.

To many of us who live in urban areas and work in an office, this is hardly surprising. At least, it comports with our intuitions about how we'd like our ideal lives to be: mostly quiet, surrounded by placid nature, punctuated every-so-often with the hustle and bustle of city noise.

When Joshua Browder kept getting hit with parking tickets in London, he decided to stop paying the fines and start beating the tickets. He soon became an expert at fighting traffic tickets and has since helped people overturn 160,000 tickets, thanks to a chatbot he programed. You can chat with Browder's bot online, for free, and it will guide you through contesting your ticket, just like you were talking to a human being.

Except Browder isn't an attorney, he's a 19-year old Stanford undergrad. Could his chatbot constitute the unlicensed practice of law?

Black children are regularly viewed as older and more suspicious than they are, leading to harsher treatment at the hands of authority figures. When imaging powerful figures, women rarely come to mind as often as men. Yet, pretty much everyone this side of Archie Bunker believes such biases are wrong. So why do they persist?

One of the answers is implicit bias, the subtle, often-unconscious associations connected to race, gender, and age that reinforce discriminatory stereotypes, often without our being aware of them. To counteract implicit bias, the Department of Justice recently announced that all of its law enforcement agents and prosecutors would receive training on unconscious bias. Should the rest of the legal profession follow?

Things just got a bit snitchier in the Empire State. In a recent ethics opinion, the New York State Bar Association has said that lawyers must report co-counsel's mistakes to their client, should the other attorney's error or omission rise to the level of potential malpractice.

Here's how the reasoning goes.

Key Performance Indicator for Lawyers: Do Your Clients Like You?

Metrics are all the rage these days. Given the steady invasion of technology into our lives, it was only inevitable that metrics would impact the legal field. For example, now metrics can be used to measure you productivity (or non-productivity) at work.

Happily, lawyers offer a somewhat intangible good, so we cannot be measured quite so easily. The focus of legal metrics is, therefore, a bit more "touchy feely" than you might assume. The key performance indicators for lawyers don't simply boil down to billable hours.

The legal marketplace has changed dramatically over the last decade: the Great Recession halted the legal boom of the mid-aughts, putting a renewed focus on value and efficiency in BigLaw, while the rise of online legal services has undercut business that was once handled by smaller practitioners. But as the legal market has evolved, many firms haven't been able to keep up.

What's the reason so many firms are falling behind? Many of those at the top don't know how to do things differently and aren't willing to try.

Getting Money From Deadbeat Clients

It's the eternal struggle for solos. We've all been there. You render services, and you don't enforce the strict terms of the agreement. The client can't recharge her retainer because her transmission blew out, she had a family emergency -- we get it. She's out of money, or she has money and withholds payment.

No good deed goes unpunished and being the "nice" lawyer can cost you time and faith in humanity. Your lender certainly couldn't care less about your personal problems and negotiating your arrangement with them certainly won't end as favorably for you as it did your client. So, if you end up serving a deadbeat client who won't pay, what do you do?

Our definition of family has changed greatly since Eve was fashioned from Adam's rib, Athena sprung fully-formed from her father's head, or Oedipus gouged out his eyes -- even since Ward and June Cleaver settled down together.

Just last year, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to equal marriage rights, expanding the range of families protected by the law. And the concept of family remains in flux, as changes in social norms and reproductive technology displace the nuclear family as our primary family model. How will this impact family law practice today?

The long July 4th weekend just passed, and if you were able to take our nation's birthday off, you might be thinking to yourself this Tuesday that a three-day weekend just isn't long enough. We agree. After all, your kids get the whole summer off. Even bar exam takers get a few weeks free after the test. We're pretty sure French lawyers get paid to spend six weeks on the Rivera every summer.

So don't feel left out. You too can take a vacation. Here's how to get it done, and how to make sure your practice doesn't suffer while you're out.

These Small Law Firms Already Practice Inside U.S. Walmarts

It's been a while since news came out that Canadian lawyers were offering legal services out of Walmarts. It was only a matter of time before Walmarts in the States began offering space for lawyers. As it turns out, this is already happening.

Not only are Walmart law firms here in the United States, but Georgia attorney Evan Kaine has been operating his Walmart office in Atlanta since 2012, according to the ABA Journal. By all accounts, it has been a successful venture for him, considering that he opened an additional two locations in Georgia last year.

3 Easy Tricks to Work Faster in Your Law Practice

There's never enough time. If this is something you find yourself repeating again and again, you're not alone.

Some studies that suggest that this feeling of "too much to do, too little time to do it" might actually be an indication of our ability to handle stress. But there are a few surprisingly easy tricks that can help you improve your productivity. If you need to work faster in your law practice, three these three tricks: