Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Recently in Practice Support & Services Category

Academics Can't Explain 'Astonishing' Decline in Plaintiffs' Win Rate

Plaintiffs mysteriously lost twice as many federal cases in 2009 than they had 24 years earlier, according to a new study.

Two University of Connecticut law professors said the plaintiffs' win rate declined about 50 percent from 1985 to 2009. It was a trend the professors cannot explain.

"I'm an academic, I don't like to speculate," said Peter Siegelman, who co-authored the study with Alexandra Lahav.

'Participatory Defense' Helps Public Defenders

It's a hard thing, defending so many people in court that you don't even recognize your clients' faces.

But that is a given for many public defenders, like those in Santa Clara County, California, who handle scores of cases each day in the turnstiles of criminal court. For some 124 attorneys, there are about 37,000 clients a year.

That's why "participatory defense" is the new black for public defenders. It's a new name for an old school practice in criminal law.

Court Deals With Hidden Biases in Jurors

It's one thing to release a juror who has an admitted bias, but what to do about a juror with a subconscious bias?

We're not talking about the jurors who are actually biased. Let's face it, most prospective jurors will let you know when they cannot be fair.

We're talking about jurors who don't realize they harbor a prejudice. It is a troubling problem for the courts, but at least two federal courts in Washington are trying to deal with it with a new video.

Xbox 360 Case Kills 'Death Knell' Strategy

If you were playing 'Call of Duty,' what would be the point of pausing the game right before taking a lethal hit?

If your strategy was to come back later to try some new move, you were still going to die. The game won't let you avoid an inevitable death.

That's kind of how things played out in the U.S. Supreme Court in Microsoft v. Baker. Here's what happened to the plaintiffs, who claimed their Xbox 360 consoles scratched their game discs.

When to Request Judicial Recusal?

If your judge wants to hold you in contempt, you might want to request judicial recusal.

But if you haven't made the request before such an ominous turn of events, you have probably waited too long. Trying to toss a judge off your case as a last ditch maneuver can be like tossing a grenade: if you don't throw it far enough ... well, yeah.

Judges generally have discretion whether to recuse themselves from cases. So unless you can show they have an unfair bias early on, you are usually going to get what's coming to you.

Advising Clients on the Do's and Don'ts of Keeping an Injury Diary

It's an adage that some clients seem to know instinctively: put everything in writing.

But before your personal injury client writes too much, sit down and discuss some of the do's and don'ts of keeping a diary.

It's the kind of thing that could make or break your case because you never know who's going to read it. Here's a checklist:

Should Jurors Be Removed for Crying?

After a police dog named Rocco was stabbed to death, jurors at the trial of his accused killer listened to a recording of the dog barking.

It was too much for one juror, who started to cry. The defendant's attorney asked the judge to remove the juror, but the judge refused and an appeals court affirmed the ruling.

"The showing of emotion, in and of itself, during upsetting testimony, does not require juror dismissal," the Pennsylvania appeals court said.

The court said the judge also instructed the jury not to be swayed by emotion, bias, or prejudice. But do jurors always separate their emotions from their deliberations?

Shortcut to Persuasive Writing: Follow Hemingway

There is a shortcut to persuasive writing, and it's been around for 100 years.

It's like we got lost along the way, retreading the same old path of legal writing. Heretofore's and therefore's later, many lawyers still don't get it. Perhaps we are too proud to admit that we need editing.

We should take a page from Ernest Hemingway, one of the most influential writers of the past century. He was not a lawyer -- which may be one of the reasons he was a great writer -- but he was a master of concise and simple prose, which is the key.

The legal profession has a drinking problem. More than one in five attorneys is a problem drinker, according to a study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, and rates of alcoholism are much higher in attorneys than in the general public.

But attorneys aren't the only legal professionals with drinking problems, as recent news regarding a federal judge in Louisiana reminds us. U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi was removed from the bench and, recently disclosed documents show, ordered to treatment for alcoholism.

First Murder Trial? Consider the Facts

Stephanie Morales, a 32-year-old prosecutor handling her first murder trial, looked across the courtroom at her opponent -- the community's best known criminal defense attorney.

James Broccoletti , who had been practicing criminal law longer than his opponent had been alive, was defending his fourth client against murder charges in three months. All three of his other cases ended in acquittal or dismissal.

"There seems to be somewhat of a mismatch as far as the lawyer for the commonwealth and the lawyer for the defense," said former Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant. "Experience is very important."

So how did Morales do in her first murder trial against the toughest opponent in town? Here are some things to remember: