Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

May 2009 Archives

As you expand your firm, you may discover the temptation to structure your operations like one of the top 100 firms, especially if you are a refugee from BigLaw yourself.  It's what you know, after all.

A piece in the June issue of The American Lawyer suggests that the real model for a successful, fulfilling law practice isn't in New York, Chicago or LA - it's in the Rocky Mountains.

While most of the piece is a scathing assessment of BigLaw, the author, Susan Beck takes a moment at the end to extol the virtues of a relatively unknown firm, Holland & Hart LLP.
Firms that refused to follow the AmLaw 100 formula for growth also bucked the AmLaw 100 trend of declining revenue per lawyers according to the AmLaw 200 2009 report released today.

As AmLaw 100 firms have watched their revenues go down the drain, the "Second Hundred" firms have been faring reasonably well.  The report attributes this to the fact that the firms ignored the blueprint for success drafted by the top 100 firms in their heyday - "relentless focus on the most lucrative markets, practices, and clients" - and instead "held on to less-profitable practices; . . . worked with clients on matters far removed from the Wall Street money machine; and . . . contented themselves with fees that were a fraction of their East Coast and national siblings."

Approaching the Bench(marks)

As a follow-up of sorts to my previous post titled In a Down Market, Lawyers Must Think Like MBAs, I'd like to direct your attention to an article in the New Jersey Law Journal about using financial metrics to help your firm thrive

I know, I know - we became lawyers because numbers are scary and mean and make our heads hurt.  The article makes some very good points about how to establish baselines that you can use create goals and measure progress, though, and it explains the concepts involved in a very simple way.  Even a lawyer can understand them - I'm living proof.

Is It Time to Brush Up On Bankruptcy?

Lawyers have never been afraid of indulging in schadenfreude, and now here's another good reason to take some joy in the misfortunes of others: While workers and investors at large bankrupt companies are suffering, the lawyers for the companies are working overtime and making a killing off of the companies' bankruptcy claims.

In fact, according to the New York Times, if auto giant GM ends up declaring bankruptcy (as everyone expects they will), the in-joke among lawyers is that there won't be enough bankruptcy attorneys to handle it.

The Profits and Perils of Twitter

The folks at FindLaw's Lawyer Marketing Blog have posted an excellent rundown of how to get started on Twitter and incorporate the service into your legal marketing arsenal.  Not only does the post introduce you to Twitter (just in case you've been living in a cave for the past year), it also has a list of Twitter best practices that will help you reach out to potential clients and expand your business.  

Twitter can definitely be a great way to spread the work about you and what you do, but we wouldn't be lawyers if we didn't think about liability, right?  Well, it just so happens that Twitter is starting to generate some interesting legal questions, and a host of practical questions as well.
A recent lawsuit filed against the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) alleges that the for-profit company gives special treatment to its regular business clients.  The suit, which claims age and gender discrimination, alleges that the NAF ordered arbitrators to change rulings that went against the "Famous Parties," as they are supposedly known within the NAF.

The suit also accuses the NAF of removing cases from arbitrators who ruled against the Famous Parties.

In a Down Market, Lawyers Must Think Like MBAs

In this new post-downturn reality of a highly competitive, shrinking legal market, many lawyers have begun to branch out from the traditional methods of running a firm and are exploring strategies widely utilized in the business world to attract new clients, keep the ones they have, and manage their firms more efficiently.

The Wall Street Journal details the steps some firms and attorneys are taking to learn more about business methods and development in a pair of articles today.
Date: Thursday, May 28, 2009
Time: 1:00 PM (EDT)/10:00 AM (PDT)


The US government has launched an historic economic stabilization program as the market meltdown triggers massive litigation and other legal disputes. How do partners and heads of eDiscovery and Practice Support cut processing time and costs as the complexity of litigation increases? What new choices are available to streamline eDiscovery processes? How can information anywhere in the enterprise be governed to protect the ongoing interests of the business and reduce risk?
FindLaw invites you to attend this free webinar to learn about ways to use the power of the internet to promote your law firm.

Event Date: 05/21/2009 11:00 AM Central Daylight Time
Search engines like Google and Yahoo! have pulled ahead of the printed Yellow Pages as the leading source for local business information. Three out of four Americans now use the Internet on a regular basis. You can expect to learn:

• How consumers are searching for attorneys on the Internet
• An evaluation of the different marketing options available and their return on investment
• To identify and leverage critical components of a Web site.

K&L Gates Loses Microsoft Preferred Firm Status

It's hard to keep business these days, even when the founder of the firm is the father of the client's founder.

That's right, K&L Gates, the firm named for Bill Gates' father (also Bill Gates), has lost its status as a preferred law firm for Microsoft, according to a report in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. 
Chrysler filed a motion today with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York asking the court to approve the elimination of 789 of its U.S. dealerships.  With roughly 3200 dealerships across the country, the number slated to have their franchise agreements rejected constitutes about one quarter of Chrysler's total U.S. dealerships.

Analysts say that the auto maker, which entered bankruptcy protection on April 30, had too many dealerships located too close to each other, especially in the larger metropolitan areas.  Chrysler has also been trying to consolidate its brands, so one factor in the decision is whether a dealer sells all three Chrysler brands, or just one or two.

ABA Makes Its Suicide-Prevention CLE Freely Available

Hopefully, yesterday's post about the state of the legal market in the first quarter of 2009 only strengthened your resolve to roll up your sleeves and drum up some business. 

If, on the other hand, you or anyone you know has been feeling down for economic or professional reasons, you may want to take a look at this: "What Lawyers Need to Know About Suicide During a Recession" is a free download available from the American Bar Association that covers what employers should know in order to help employees or clients who exhibit signs of suicidal behavior.

Report Confirms It: 2009 Will Most Likely Be As Bad As 2008

After the dismal AmLaw 100 results that came out last month, it's no surprise that things aren't magically looking better for the legal industry.  After being doused with that bucket of iced sewer water, pretty much everyone was expecting 2009 to be a little slow out of the gates.

Still, it's always a little intimidating when numbers come out that confirm dire predictions so resoundingly.

Most Expensive Part of a Lost Laptop Is the Data, Study Says

A study by the Ponemon Institute in partnership with Intel comes to some interesting conclusions about the cost, on average, to companies of a lost or stolen laptop.

The study determines that the average cost of a missing laptop is $49,246.  That figure only includes about $1600 for the actual replacement cost of the computer itself.  The major cost to the company comes from the likelihood of a data breach.  The report estimates that the average cost of a data breach is $39,297, or 80% of the total cost of the laptop.

This JD's "Alternative Career" Got a Little Too Alternative

We all know that the job market for lawyers is, how shall we say, not-so-good right now.  But how bad does it have to get before a JD/MBA resorts to taking up the world's oldest profession and becomes a lady of the night? 

Nina C. Baccala decided that the chances of finding work at a law firm were sufficiently low to justify making the switch to prositution.

Is Your Office Ready for the Next Swine Flu?

So it looks like the swine flu is on the wane.  So far, swine flu hasn't turned out to be as virulent as people feared, and the precautions people took in response to early reports of the disease's spread have helped to prevent the outbreak from turning into a pandemic.

But experts urge that there is still a chance that the organism could evolve into a more virulent strain.  The Southern Hemisphere is just beginning its flu season, and epidemiologists are eying the spread of the disease there with great concern.

What Rhymes with Recession? For Many Lawyers, Depression

The recession is hitting many lawyers hard, according to a National Law Journal article, especially young attorneys with heavy student debt.

The article reports that assistance programs across the country are witnessing a marked increase in demand for their services as the economy continues its downward slide. 
As government programs encouraging loan modifications and foreclosure alternatives flourish, many brokers and loan modification agents are seeking to enlist attorneys in "new business models" around the opportunities created by the subprime mortgage meltdown, according to an article in the California Bar Journal.

But beware: these schemes could lead to criminal and ethical charges against attorneys since most of them are no more than running and capping and/or fee-splitting arrangements.

Law Firms Get in on the Ponzi Fun

Everywhere you look these days, it seems like someone's getting busted for running a Ponzi scheme. 

Not to be left out, an internet-based law firm has apparently decided to get in on the action, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Florida Lawyer Disbarred over Sex-for-Fees Arrangement

Every lawyer knows that a good fee agreement is essential: it helps avoid disagreements between the attorney and client down the line, lists what the fees will and won't cover and clearly defines the parameters of the work to be done on the case.

They can be a chore to set up, though, and it's tough to know exactly how to set them up.  Here, at least, is a cautionary tale showing that there are some types of fee agreements you definitely should not enter into.