Practice Support & Services for Small Law Firms - Strategist
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Keeping abreast of legal developments, picking up some management skills, learning about new legal tech or marketing strategies -- these are just some of the benefits of making sure you have continuous professional development. After all, in an industry that evolves every time a new case is decided, lawyers can't stay idle. Attorneys have an obligation to keep up their professional development.

But what are you to do if you're a solo practitioner or your firm doesn't offer a formal (or just good) professional development program? Fret not. There's plenty of P.D. opportunities out there for you. Here's five places to find them:

Big Orange is the winner! Earlier this month, The National Law Journal published its fourth annual readers' best of rankings. Westlaw, one of our sister companies under the Thomson Reuters umbrella, took home the top "Legal Research Provider" designation, while FindLaw earned honors for "social media consultancy for law firms."

That's not all, though: Several products in the TR family also won awards.

As if regular courts weren't enough, South Carolina has voted to expand the state's mental health courts, reported the South Carolina newspaper The State.

Since their inception in the late 1990s, various states have implemented mental health courts, with great success. They take the position that criminal violations based on mental illness should be treated as a mental health problem, not a penal one. Will this trend continue?

Electronic discovery is the name of the game these days as more and more people and companies store their stuff in the form of bytes, not pages. That means that lawyers need to know how electronic discovery works (and in some places, that's an ethical requirement).

Even so, nobody's perfect, and replying to requests for ESI can cause headaches. When you're responding to an ESI request, take caution to avoid these three mistakes.

After a long interview process, you've just hired some new associates. Congrats! Now it's time to get to work.

As you invest hours and other resources into training your new associates, you'll want to make sure they stay long enough to provide a good return on your investment. Still, despite your best efforts, some new associates may not stick around for very long, for various reasons.

Keep an eye out for these three warning signs that your new associates may be looking to stray:

Virtual Law Office 102: Which Web-Conferencing Software Do You Need?

If you're not meeting your clients in person, then your options are limited: phone or videoconferencing.

The problem with videoconferencing is the competing standards. There's (deep breath): Skype, Facebook, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, WebEx, and more. Some are mobile-friendly, some are not. Some are great for Apple users, some are better for Windows users.

Your best bet is to be familiar with all the standards, just in case your client is a die-hard adherent to single platform. And if not, there is an up-and-coming cross-platform standard that is compatible with nearly everything.

Virtual Law Office 101: Conflict Checks, Intake for Online Clients

So you've decided to make the leap into a "virtual" or online law practice. You've weighed the pros and cons and think you have a client base that is (a) tech-savvy, (b) in need of counsel, and (c) willing to hire you, rather than some online legal services provider.

Wonderful. Now you need to consider the finer points, beginning with how you'll manage to run conflict checks and handle intake for online-only clients. And with a client base that could stretch as far as the geographic borders of where you are licensed to practice, this is no small concern.

People who watch lawyer shows think that lawyers bluster in a courtroom all day long, but we know what it's really about: Writing. Lots of writing.

Throughout 2014, FindLaw's Strategist and Greedy Associates blogs published many notable pieces about legal writing, and how to do it better. Here are the 10 legal writing posts that you liked the most:

Should Lawyers Take Acting Classes?

Being a trial lawyer is truly a theatrical experience. It involves not only the technical elements of theater, like staging and voice, but also the truly "act-y" parts. What will you say, and when? How will you react to a question you already know the answer to? And most importantly, how do you impress a jury?

Add to that your own witnesses, or even your own client. They may need to step up their acting game as well. Should all of you take acting classes? Here are a few points to consider:

In the wake of the non-indictments in both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, everyone's talking about the possibility of civil suits against the Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City police departments.

Those are by no means certain, though. If you have a client who's thinking about suing a police department, here are some things to keep in mind about police civil suits.