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Common Mistakes When Starting a Law Practice

What's the most common mistake an attorney makes when starting a law practice -- besides choosing to become a lawyer?

Just kidding. Starting a law business may be the best thing about entering the practice of law. It's the great American dream -- now that home ownership is just a dream -- to own your business.

There are common mistakes that almost every new lawtrepreneur makes. Here are the common mistakes you should avoid when starting your law practice:

A London law firm is in hot water after an Indeed.com job ad that was purportedly posted by the firm offered a junior associate salary of just $12,885.00 per year. The salary is more than a few dollars below the minimum wage. This translates to roughly $7 per hour, assuming a 40 hour work week (which we all know, only working 40 hours a week for a junior associate is the pipe-iest of pipe dreams).

The firm denied ever posting the ad, but regardless, it has caused, and will continue to cause, needless headache and loss of reputation. Now, when prospective clients search the law firm by name, they are likely to turn up an article about the questionable job posting. Making your firm stand out from the crowd is important, but standing out for the wrong reasons can be terminal.

Women Get Fewer Chances as Lead Counsel

Women lawyers serve as lead counsel in only 25 percent of all cases in New York courts, according to a new study.

The New York State Bar Association survey found an even lower percentage of women served as lead counsel in private civil cases. The lowest representation occurred in complex commercial litigation, where 19.5 percent of the lead counsel were women.

"In short, the more complex the case, the less likely that a woman appeared as lead counsel," the bar association reported.

Running a small or solo practice is no easy task. Whether you are truly solo, or have a few underlings, or a couple other attorneys, on your team, most small law shops have to deal with the same basic challenges.

According to a recent survey and info-graphic published by Thomson Reuters (FindLaw.com's parent company- thanks mom and dad!), over 80 percent of small firms reported not only an increase in price competition, but also an increase in competition from non-traditional legal services providers.

Below are the four of the top challenges that solos and small firms face. As you can see, the times may be changing, but the same issues seem to be persistent.

BigLaw Gets Bigger Piece of Market Pie, Report Finds

Like America's middle class, midsize law firms are struggling as BigLaw takes a bigger bite of the legal market.

A new report from Thomson Reuters shows that the largest firms are separating themselves from smaller firms in the demand for legal services. Michael Abbott, vice president of client management and global thought leadership at the company, says it reverses a trend a few years ago that showed clients moving work to smaller, less expensive firms.

"While the overall market continues to struggle to find traction this year, we are seeing signs of improved strength across 'Big Law,'" Abbott said. "The market tier made up of the largest firms is showing more widespread stability and growth than their smaller counterparts."

Public Defenders Seek Judicial Relief From Caseloads

Public defenders say they have so many cases indigent defendants are not getting adequate representation. Now tell us something we don't know.

Well, did you know one veteran judge says the caseloads have reduced the constitutional right to counsel to a "hollow shell"? Did you know a state Supreme Court is considering placing limits on criminal filings to deal with the problem?

David Henderson, arguing to the New Mexico Supreme Court, said public defenders are turning cases away. Already, he said, there are not enough attorneys to represent clients at bail hearings.

Is the Law Firm Office Manager Stealing?

At what point do you call out your office manager for taking money from the law firm?

When she takes $25,000 for bail on a case? When she pays off the lease on her Mercedes Benz? How about when you realize there's $2.1 million missing from the firm account?

Apparently, that's what it took for attorney Bernard Charbonnet, Jr. to do something about it. Unfortunately, his office manager was gone before he realized the money was gone.

BigLaw Gets Another Boutique Law Firm

Closing in on almost 4,000 lawyers, DLA Piper picks up law firms like a tire tread picks up rocks -- it's rolling.

Continuing its worldwide expansion, the BigLaw firm has brought in another boutique law firm. Liner LLP, and about 60 attorneys, will join Piper's offices in downtown Los Angeles and Century City.

It represents a trend that is gaining strength, as law firms announced a record 52 mergers so far this year.

When drafting a pleading, most practitioners focus on proving their case to a judge, and never give a second thought about the general public as an audience. This may seem like the right strategy, but there are certainly some advantages to simplifying your legal writing so that the general public can understand your case, too.

For starters, judges might not be as smart as you think you are. If you are unsure about the definition of a word, they might be as well. And if you're unsure about a word you're using, the general public, with its 8th grade reading level, will more likely than not be confused. Focusing on readability is good, not just for the public, but also for your judge.

Time to Raise Your Billable Rate?

When is it time to raise your billable rate?

When you want to buy a new BMW. Just kidding, sort of.

Deciding when to raise your rates depends on a number of factors, but always involves calculating the bottom line: how much do you need to stay in business?