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There's a 70 Percent Chance You're Incompetent, Survey Suggests

In the opinion of Sam Glover, founder of Lawyerist, there's a 70 percent chance that you're incompetent and unfit to represent your clients. That's a pretty bold statement.

According to a recent 2015 ABA survey of legal technology, only 35% of lawyers actually employ email encryption -- a number that has remained constant for fours years. This is true even taking into account increased awareness of the need for heightened diligence in security amongst business professionals.

As a solo practitioner or attorney in a small firm, you're usually master of your practice area. Whether it's bird law, bud law, or simply business law, you've got it down. But you can't be a specialist in everything.

Sooner or later, you're going to come across an area of law that's unfamiliar to you. Sure, you could learn it all yourself, but often your time is better spent bringing on associate counsel who can handle those issues for you. Make sure that you do it right by following these best practices:

If you're considering bringing more lawyers into your practice, hiring support staff, or just want to see how your riches measure up against your neighbors', we've got good news for you. Robert Half Legal, the staffing agency, has released its 2016 Salary Guide. The guide breaks down typical salary ranges for a wide variety of legal careers, from attorneys in midsize firms with 7 years experience to compliance managers fresh out of school.

Here are our highlights. So grab a ruler, because it's time to see how you measure up.

Conflicts of interest can be a major roadblock in your legal practice. Sure, they limit the amount of clients you can represent (a generally good idea), but they also can create major ethics headaches. Which is, of course, why you have screening procedures -- and screening software.

But not all conflicts screening programs are a fit for every firm. Whether you use legal management software or a simple spreadsheet depends on a host of factors, from the size of your practice to the types of clients you handle. With a little work, though, you can find the perfect Goldilocks software -- one that's not too complicated, not too cheap, but just right for your firm.

It seems like incubators are finally moving into the legal world. Common in industries such as tech (AirBnB, Uber, and Hooli all came out of incubator programs), incubator programs provide funding, office space and training to small and new businesses.

Several law schools and bar associations are now bringing the incubator model to small firms and solo practices, helping independent-minded lawyers and recent grads start up their own shops.

One of the easiest ways to set yourself apart from the crowd and to gain expertise in a field is to narrow your focus. But pick too narrow of a focus and you might find yourself struggling to stay busy. Have too general a practice and it may be difficult to stand out from other firms.

Are small firms and solo practitioners better off becoming a jack of all trades or mastering one narrow area of law? Should your firm seek to be a general practice, helping clients throughout their life, or bury itself into a niche area of law? The answer, of course, is "it depends."

When you think natural disaster response, you don't necessarily think of lawyers. Clean water, medical aid, and even evacuations might seem like more pressing concerns following a major hurricane, wildfire, or earthquake.

But in the aftermath of many natural disasters, lawyers can be an essential resource, helping victims access housing, insurance relief and disaster assistance quickly. Taking disaster preparedness to heart, San Francisco Bay Area bar associations and pro bono organizations have joined together to create a corps of attorneys ready to provide assistance should disaster strike.

Think your future is in weed law? Twenty-three states and D.C. have laws allowing for medical marijuana. Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska have legalized recreational weed, and California is expected to join them next year. All those growers, distributors, and vendors need lawyers and if the end of marijuana prohibition is approaching, enterprising lawyers will want to be on the ground floor.

There's one major complication. Marijuana remains illegal in the federal government's eyes. Lawyers who advise clients in the marijuana industry could theoretically face sanctions, even disbarment. As a recent interview with the managing partner of a BigLaw firm with a growing marijuana practice reminds us -- weed law is far from a sure thing.

We don't often look across the pond for advice on making 'Merica's legal industry great. We took the Magna Carta, some common law, and haven't felt the need to look back since 1776. But maybe there's a thing or two American lawyers can learn from their English counterparts, at least when it comes to the structure of the "law firm of the future."

A recent debate among English practitioners about the future of the firm has plenty of good insights for American lawyers. Perhaps the most helpful reminder: when it comes to clients, no one cares about law firm structure. What they want is results.

Here in Silicon Valley, it's not uncommon to see a tech millionaire zip by in their new electric Tesla sportscar, or to see those millionaire's secretaries sending gas money to their carpool through PayPal. Kids dream of privatized space travel; commuters long for super high speed rail.

Elon Musk, the tech mogul, has his fingers everywhere here. The former CEO of PayPal, Musk took his billions and spread them around through a variety of future-focused enterprises, from Tesla cars, to SpaceX, to hyperloop transit. He's quickly reached Steve Jobs cult-status.

We've often said small firms and solos need to think about their work as both a profession and a business. Part of business success is looking at business leaders. With that in mind, here's what lawyers can learn from Elon Musk, both in his triumphs and failures: