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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.

Flat Fee Confusion: Earned Upon Receipt or Trust Account?

There's a lot of confusion out there (so imagine the level of non-compliance) about the proper way to handle client funds properly, particularly flat fees. Do you place these in an interest-bearing account for the benefit of the client? How do you go about your business in good faith without putting your license and practice at risk?

Unfortunately, the rules are non-universal and can be abstract and ambiguous. Here we'll look at what some sources have to say.

PACER is no one's favorite database. Sure, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records service gives you online access to federal court documents, saving you the hassle of calling a courier or heading down to a courthouse yourself. But the service is not particularly user-friendly, intuitive, or functional. The fact that it nickel-and-dimes you (literally) for every page of public records you view is just icing on the "God, I hate PACER" cake.

And now, a coalition of nonprofits is suing over those fees, arguing that the 10-cents-a-page price tag isn't just excessive, it's illegal.

Everyone's least favorite holiday, tax day, is fast approaching. If your fiscal year matches the calendar year and you (or better yet, your accountant) haven't gotten all your tax filings in order just yet, don't worry. You've still time to get everything together -- and to make sure you're getting all the tax deductions you're entitled to, while avoiding some common law firm tax pitfalls.

To help you out, here's FindLaw's top tax tips for your small firm or solo practice.

Checkpoint Tackles ACA ALE Requirements for Tax Firms, Clients

As lawyers in the field know, a boutique tax firm has many of the same kinds of issues as their fellow professionals -- in the medical field. That's right, a firm that specializes in criminal law will, they fervently hope, never have to deal with criminal acts in their own house. But much like a doc with high blood pressure, a tax firm is often going to have to take its own advice. The new ACA ALE requirements are great examples.

As tax legal professionals also know, advising your clients on changes brought about by the ACA is crucial. As they might be slightly less aware, ACA changes are also crucial for their own business if they fall within the definition of an "applicable large employer" (ALE) under the Act. For 2016, boutique tax firms with more than 50 full time employees are going to have to advise clients wisely and then take their own medicine. Fortunately, a new special report from Thomson Reuters Checkpoint can help. (Disclaimer, Thomson Reuters is the parent company of FindLaw.)

Tax Tips for Deducting Your Travel Expenses

Unless you file for an extension soon, your taxes for this year are coming up. If you're a typical individual, you hate doing your taxes even more than you hate unclogging your drain. You know it has to be done, but you keep putting it off till the last minute.

We suggest that your aversion to tackling your taxes might have something to do with not getting every last deduction you're entitled to under law. One of the biggest deductions that is overlooked are your travel deductions. Here are a few quick pointers to get you started in the right direction.

Lawyer's Retirement Plan: What Retirement?

According to a survey of more than 200 lawyers, approximately 29 percent of lawyers responded that they would simply work more in order to make up financial holes in their retirement plans. In other words, their retirement plan was to not retire.

Based on the results of the survey, one could probably infer that lawyer's responses changed based on the direction of the stock market.

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.

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?

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.