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People are cheap, they like free things, and paradoxically, this can be a great way to get into their pocketbooks. How can you turn a giveaway into a payday? For many lawyers, it's via the free consult, where attorneys meet with potential clients, answering basic questions and providing simple advice.

But, when your product is your legal expertise, does it make sense to give it away? Like so many things, the answer is "it depends."

Virtual Law Office 105: Processing Credit Card Payments

How complicated is getting paid by credit card?

In an ideal world, one would only need a credit card processor, such as the many ones we've talked about that handily operate via an attachment to your smartphone. If a food truck can take plastic, lawyers certainly should be able to do so too, right?

Except IOLTA accounts. Damn trust accounts. If you're taking payment in advance of services rendered, things get immensely complicated because most credit card processors take their cut out of what the consumer pays -- which creates an obvious ethics issue for unearned fees that are supposed to be sitting in your IOLTA account.

52 Ways to Reduce Overhead in Your Law Office

One of the biggest shockers of working in a real law firm during and after law school was the amount of money wasted on overhead. Examples include leased copy machines (for small firms, that's a waste), complicated IT setups (virtual machines as a means of backing up and sharing data? One word: cloud storage), and dead trees (printing, copying everything).

Let's cut the fat, shall we? I've got 52 ideas, some good, some redundant, some "penny wise and pound foolish," for doing exactly that.

(Sidebar: Why 52? The number is in honor of one of my favorite Kansas City Royals, Bruce Chen, who was designated for assignment on Friday after a handful of years of faithful service, a lot of great jokes, and a few autographs for yours truly during Spring Training.)

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:

No IRS, Law Firms Shouldn't Have to Use Accrual Accounting

Relax folks: unless you are really successful, this proposed tax "reform" won't affect you.

Section 3301 of the Tax Reform Act of 2014 [PDF], as it is currently drafted, applies to personal services businesses with ten million dollars or more in annual gross receipts -- a figure most solos and small firms can only dream of. But if you're an attorney to the stars, or a small firm that does big business, or if inflation gets really bad, a mandated switch to accrual accounting, instead of cash accounting, will be a major pain in your behind.

Besides, even if you're solo now, who's to say that you won't team up, or make it big, at some point in the next few years?

The Case for Setting a Low Hourly Rate

Some call it a race to the bottom.

Some say that you're a lawyer, and you deserve to be paid $300 to $500 an hour.

Alright, but what percentage of the population can afford to pay such a rate? And can you afford to charge less, while still making a living and paying off your student loans?

What's the sweet spot?

Retainers: 4 Considerations for Covering Your Rear

What's in a retainer? Your rights and responsibilities. Your client's rights and responsibilities. Fee structures. Billing details for expenses. Malpractice insurance details or disclaimers. Limits on service. A termination plan. And, of course, state-mandated legal argle-bargle.

We don't care about your client -- that's your job. We care about you. And contracts are usually interpreted against the drafter, especially when one party is a lawyer. What do you need to include to cover your rear?

We said it once, we'll say it again: new year, new taxes. We've done a pretty good job of discussing your tax obligations by giving you small law firm tax preparation tips -- but what about your clients? They need tax tips too.

Since many of the clients you advise may be small business owners as well, many of the same considerations apply. So while you're getting your to do list in order, why not get one ready for your clients -- might we suggest a tax preparation newsletter? Never. Not. Marketing.

Guy Gets $550 for Sexual Harassment. Lawyers Get $350k.

Who says law is no longer lucrative?

A guy gets sexually harassed by his female boss. She sends him vulgar texts, including one about banana "Luv cake" which involved milk jugs and is far too gloriously offensive to repeat here. (See the unpublished appellate court opinion for all of the naughty texts.) She also comes on to him, and other male coworkers at work.

But bottom line, the jury (a) didn't think that the company knew about the harassment and (b) didn't think his emotional distress lasted a full four years, as he claimed. They awarded $550. His attorneys, meanwhile, are set to walk away with nearly $350,000 in legal fees, unless the California Supreme Court intervenes.

Legal Services for a Loveseat: Do You Barter?

Lawyers are people. We have needs too. Sometimes we need new furniture. Other times, we might need tax advice or a stiff drink. And clients, often, lack the liquidity required to pay for legal services, especially when a lawyer requires a retainer.

So, do you barter? Or, in the immortal words of Randy Moss, is it "straight cash, homey?"