Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Recently in Professional Responsibility Category

Providing pro bono legal services isn't always the easiest sell for attorneys. After all, you didn't sink that much time and money into law school just to give your time and expertise away for free, did you? And times are tight in the legal industry -- you're probably thinking that every pro bono client is a missed opportunity for some much-needed income.

But times are tight for everyone, not just lawyers, and an attorney's commitment is to provide legal service for those who need it, not just those who can afford it. The challenge is how to make doing good work in the community work well for your legal practice.

Prenda Copyright Troll Disbarred, Faces Fraud and Money Laundering Charges

For John Steele, who now has been disbarred for his part in a copyright-trolling scheme, it could have been worse. He could be dead, like his law partner.

Actually, it does get worse for Steele. He is awaiting sentencing on fraud and money laundering charges. When it rains, it porns.

It all started with an ill-advised plan at the Prenda Law firm to upload copyrighted porn to file-sharing sites and then sue the people who downloaded it. The plan worked famously for a while as the defendants promptly paid to avoid court and public humiliation.

Lawyer Fined for Refusing to Answer 'Yes or No' Question in Court

'If you plan to have children, try not to have teenagers.'

That's my joke to friends, and it came to mind when I read about the debate between a judge and a lawyer over a "yes-or-no" question.

You see, my kids sometimes have trouble answering straightforward questions. It's because they don't want to be cornered -- like attorney William Hermesmeyer, who had to hear it from the judge and the court of appeals.

It went down this way in a Texas trial court:

Wielding a Judicial 'Wild Card'

Rolling Stone called Judge Jed S. Rakoff a "legal hero of our time," but the judge doesn't come across as a rock 'n roller.

With a resume that includes triumphs at Oxford, Harvard, Wall Street, and the United States District Court, Rakoff wears well the garlands of his labors. He spends his time now as an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, contributor to the New York Times and occasional guest jurist for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

So why does Rakoff think that judges should have a "wild card?" Did he save something from 1969, when he graduated from Harvard Law School and the Beatles cut their last album?

In a recent interview about injustices in the legal system, Rakoff said judges should have a "wild card" to dismiss cases sua sponte when they see injustice. "I think that's a great idea," he said. "Now there would be abuses, obviously."

Nearly one out of five Americans experiences mental illness at some point in their life, making it likely that, sooner or later, you'll encounter a client with a mental illness or impairment, whether it's a major impairment like dementia, or something more minor, such as moderate depression.

These relationships can be fraught with strategic, legal, and ethical concerns. To help you prepare for these tricky situations, here are five tips, from the FindLaw archives.

How to Leave Your Law Firm Amicably

Leaving your law firm amicably is sort of like an amicable divorce. Sure, it happens. Not always, but sometimes.

The key to a good split is having the same goals -- to avoid unpleasantness and maintain profitability. Here are some tips on how to part ways without rancor.

Assessing Clients for Diminished Capacity

If psychologists go into the field because they have psychological problems, then do lawyers go into the law because they have legal problems?

The first half of the question may be true -- Freud was a self-diagnosed neurotic -- but the second half of the question hardly makes sense. Lawyers as professionals are clearly distinct from the problems they typically handle for their clients.

However, there is a crossover in psychology and the law that can create problems for attorneys: assessing diminished capacity. Here are some tips about dealing with this problem area:

Cookie-Cutter Law Practice: Recipe for Success or Excess?

If a cookie-cutter law practice sounds tempting to you, maybe you should consider another line of work -- like baking.

"Cookie cutter" lawyering is not supposed to sound alluring; it's generally used in a pejorative way. It suggests a high-fructose, low benefit, no-brainer business model.

Ah, but easy money smells so good. After all, why reinvent the wheel when it turns a profit so well?

Here are some reasons that cookie cutter law practice is really a recipe for excess:

Dealing With Difficult Opposing Counsel

The toughest lawyer I ever met had the credentials to prove it.

In college, he was a Golden Gloves boxing champ. He got knocked down one time, but got back up and knocked out his opponent.

He didn't go directly to law school, taking time to explore a career in rodeo first. That's right, he jumped on wild horses and bulls because he enjoyed the ride.

But this man was also the most civil and respectable attorney I ever met -- and very successful in the courtroom. That's because being "tough" does not mean being difficult.

Solo Attorney Takes New York's 'Bona Fide Office Rule' to the Supreme Court

Ekaterina Schoenefeld is a one-woman law firm working out of a duplex in New Jersey. She is also a force to be reckoned with, so get used to pronouncing her name.

Admitted to practice in New Jersey, New York and California, Schoenefeld sued in 2008 for a declaration that New York's law requiring out-of-state attorneys to maintain in-state law offices to practice there is unconstitutional. She has pushed the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, and three bar associations and countless lawyers are following her in support.

Schoenefeld argues that New York's Judiciary Law Section 470 violates the U.S. Constitution's Privileges and Immunities Clause. It does not require in-state practitioners to have physical offices, only out-of-state lawyers. That's not fair, she says.

If you are starting to think she is right, join the club. Here are a few words from her sponsors: