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Starting Out in Criminal Defense? Here Are Some Mistakes to Avoid

You'd think that for $100,000 dollars or so, law schools would teach you everything you need to know to hang out your shingle and start out in criminal defense, but it just ain't so. Hopefully you've got good mentors, good practice guides and good malpractice insurance.

In case you have all of the above but could use a few more tips, here are a few criminal law "gotchas" you'll want to avoid.

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?

Did you know that Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost you upwards of $75/ounce? Compare that to Chanel N5 that costs $38/ounce and that's some expensive ink. And, what exactly does this have to do with you and how you run your firm? Everything.

A 14-year old student found a way to save the U.S. Government $136 million per year, reports CNN. How? Simply swapping the Times New Roman font to Garamond in Government publications. Yes, us too.

So that got us thinking, what other small things can you do around your firm to save some money? We came up with a few for you.

Should Your Firm Consider Law School Rankings When Hiring?

U.S. News and World Report is out with its annual law school rankings list. Should you consider these rankings when hiring new associates or staff members?

The U.S. News rankings are important for many potential law students -- and many more law school admissions officers. However, for managers at small and midsized law firms, law school rankings have been known to affect hiring decisions as well.

There are different schools of thought when it comes to using law school rankings in the hiring process at your firm. Here are a few things to consder:

Beware: The Crypto Locker Computer Virus Strikes Again

The Crypto Locker virus strikes again -- this time targeting the computers of a law firm in North Carolina.

Using a deceptive email, the Crypto Locker virus locked the firm out of all their computer files and demanded a ransom to release the documents, Charlotte's WSOC 9-TV reports.

As if jury and arrest warrant scams weren't enough, law firms need to be aware of the Crypto Locker virus and what can be done to protect your files.

It was 2010. It was the World Cup, and I couldn't have cared less. Football? It's played with an oblong brown ball by large men who do their best to permanently disable each other, not by skinny speedsters passing a soccer ball back-and-forth with their feet, but never actually scoring.

Pigskin. America. [Expletive] yeah!

Anyway, while I may not have been the biggest soccer fan in the world, many of my coworkers were. Spare computer monitors were streaming World Cup matches throughout the office. Until the senior partner noticed and yelled at everyone, including me, for our "lack of professionalism" by watching soccer at work. (I'm still bitter. I was working on an Excel spreadsheet.)

Needless to say, that wasn't the best way to handle it. With the Winter Olympics in Sochi offically opening today, here are a few tips for handling your firm's sports fans, sans the unwarranted freak outs:

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?

What's your typical meeting like?

Partner walks in, sits at the head of the table, and runs the circus. Associates sit quietly at the end of the table, trying to remain attentive, but they have memos due by 3:00 p.m. to the same partner that is talking about last Sunday's golf game.

Meanwhile, Jimmy is teleconferencing in from home, where he's caring for a sick puppy. Unfortunately, he didn't mute his phone and we all have to hear the dog vomiting and whimpering.

Stop wasting billable time. Fix your meetings.

New year, new taxes. Taxes aren't due until April, but if you're smart, you'll get an early start on getting documents together for your CPA. A few weeks back we gave you tax-preparation tips for small firms; today, we'll discuss one of the more confusing deductions for business owners -- the home office deduction.

The home office deduction has been confusing -- until now. For the 2013 tax year, the IRS has simplified the method for determining the home office deduction. While the method for deciding whether you qualify remains the same, the calculation is now easier.

Here's how to figure out whether you qualify, and if you do, how to calculate your home office deduction.

Anyone else having a serious case of senioritis, or vacationitis? Whatever you call it, you know what it is: that lax feeling you have right before a vacation or holiday office closure.

It's easy to just glide through these types of days, but instead, why don't you start wrapping up 2013 and getting a plan in place for 2014? There's no better time than now to do it because come January, you'll hit the ground running and all of your free time will be gone.

Here are the top three things you can do now to wrap up the year in a nice little package.