Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

March 2011 Archives

North Carolina May Allow Non-Attorneys to Invest in Law Firms

A North Carolina legislator has proposed allowing non-lawyers to buy into law firms, giving outside investors a chance to participate in legal profits on a direct basis.

The rules against non-lawyers investing in the business of law parallel similar restrictions on doctors, which were designed to make sure physicians answered only to their patients.

Whenever the intersection of law and the business of law come together like this, ethical concerns often loom around the corner.

Willie Nelson Can Sing for His Freedom, Texas Prosecutor Says

Negotiating settlements and plea deals as a solo (or at a small firm) can sometimes be tedious.

To mix things up, how would you like to broker a deal to have a country music legend sing for his freedom?

That's exactly what is happening with Willie Nelson's most recent pot bust in West Texas. The prosecutor has offered to let Willie get off if he hands over a C Note and sings for his freedom... literally.

Family Law Marketing Opportunity: FindLaw's Answers Boards

The internet is a wonderful--and wonderfully cheap--method of advertisement.

Think about it--you type in a few words, you press submit, and suddenly millions of people have access to your words and your firm.

For all the family law attorneys out there, if this sounds like something you're interested in, we here at have a marketing opportunity for you.

Did I mention that it's free?

Texas May Force Losers to Pay Opponents' Legal Fees

On the heels of Governor Perry's announcement that he supports a loser-pays litigation law, Texas legislators have introduced two bills to make that switch happen.

The bills, which focus solely on plaintiffs, have the plaintiff's bar up in arms. While attorneys are decrying loser-pays as an unfair barrier for economically disadvantaged plaintiffs, proponents claim that it will stop frivolous lawsuits before they are even filed.

Both of these are interesting arguments with valid points, but they focus solely on the impact to the client. What does loser-pays mean for attorneys?

Has Anybody Here in SF Not Heard of Barry Bonds?

It could be a long voir dire for the attorneys and jurors on the Barry Bonds perjury and obstruction of justice trial. The problem is of course figuring out how to seat an impartial jury in San Francisco, when Bonds, the all time home run king, played in the city.

News organizations have called on Judge Susan Illston to publish the names of the jurors, as well as their answers to the questionnaire. But the district attorney and Bond's attorneys have urged Judge Illston to keep jurors names secret until the trial is over, The New York Times reports. The attorneys say they fear that jurors will be harassed by news reporters if their names are released.

Five Ways to Change Legal Careers

Are you thinking that your current career as an attorney is for the birds? If you wish you were doing something else, you're probably facing a dilemma due to the economy.

It's a difficult time to try to change jobs, let alone to change legal careers. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't go for it, if a change is what you really want.

Professionals with legal training can offer a lot of utilities to all kinds of organizations. Further, waiting may not be a good option, as the economy could remain sluggish for a number of years to come.

Beware of Clients Trying to Scam Your Firm

In this business, your professional reputation is your biggest asset. This rings especially true for small firms and solo practitioners who rely heavily on word of mouth.

The thing is that there's always going to be that one client who calls your reputation into question--your services are somehow a scam. However, you can usually attribute this to a disappointing outcome (or a little crazy).

But what if there really is a scam? And you're also one of its victims?

Sex Torts: Calif. Attorney Lands $6.7M Verdict for Herpes Infection

Comfortable with sex? And the sex lives of your clients? Then litigating sex torts may be for you.

Shaun Murphy, an attorney with the small firm of Slovak Baron & Empey in Palm Springs, California just won a $6.7-million jury verdict. His client had accused her ex-boyfriend of intentionally and negligently infecting her with herpes.

This was Murphy's second sex tort case--an area of law that has proven to be financially rewarding. His first sex tort client was awarded $2.49 million after being infected by her husband.

How Latest Needles Software Can Help Your Law Practice

If you're looking to keep better track of things efficiently at your law firm, Needles Case Management System just came out with a new and improved version of its software.

The recently released Needles 4.82 has some new surprises geared toward user accountability. Needles can now track who created an item and when an item has been created or modified in the following areas:

Should There be a Expert Witness Code of Ethics?

You took ethics in law school, the MPRE and the bar exam. Attorneys who walk into court know (or at least should know) the ethical standards they are held too.

But what about the expert witness walking next to them? Does he or she know?

To help guide you in your journey through the jungle of ethical behavior for expert witnesses, FindLaw is helping to propose an Expert Witness Code of Ethics.

How to Make Money From Your Law Firm's Website

They say nothing in life is free, but this week FindLaw has a one-hour webcast on how to attract clients to your law firm's website. The cost: zero dollars (i.e., it really is free).

The free seminar, entitled "Websites That Work: Attracting the Clients Your Law Firm Desires," will be held twice on Thursday, March 10.

As you surely know, the Internet is often the first stop for an increasing number of legal consumers. When people are in need of legal representation, these days they go to their desktops and laptops.

Billable Hours: Should Lawyers Still Get Paid Hourly?

Are you ready to do away with billable hours?

Some are calling for attorneys to stop billing altogether and opt for "value billing."

Value billing is being looked at very carefully, as the economy drives law firms to consider changing the way they charge clients, according to an ABA discussion Atlanta, reports

Should You be Using Facebook for Jury Selection?

A new day, a new question: should you use Facebook for jury selection? Tactically speaking, a lot of people are saying yes. If you can legally find out information that could be helpful to seating a favorable jury, do it they say. Others say that the traditional voir dire process is where it should end, and there is something unsavory or even unethical about combining jury duty and Facebook.

Then there is a third group, that of prospective jurors who say, "forget about the dilemma, now all I have to do is post stupid stuff on Facebook and I'll never have to sit on a jury again."

A criminal defense specialist named Judy Clarke may soon cement her reputation as the most high profile of public defenders. The New York Times recently profiled Clarke, whose client is Jared Loughner, the man charged in the Jan. 8 Arizona shooting rampage. Clarke has already begun making motions on his behalf, Loughner has pleaded not guilty.

Clarke's efforts to develop a rapport with Loughner is noteworthy, as in federal death penalty cases, earning the trust, or even just the acceptance of the client is often a crucial matter, even more so in cases of potential mental illness. 

Judy Clarke is known for being able to get close to people in tough situations, by listening to them and seeking to understand who they are. It isn't always easy; she has had clients threaten to fire her and kill her. With clients like Theodore J. Kaczynski and the al Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui, that's no surprise

Plaintiff's Lawyers Start Suing Retailers Over Zip Codes

Plaintiff's Lawyers wasted no time jumping on top of California businesses that are not complying with a California Supreme Court ruling that stated that ZIP codes are "personal identification information," meaning that requesting them from consumers is illegal.

The decision came in a case last week against Williams-Sonoma Inc. Over a dozen lawsuits have already been filed, the LA Times reports. Already in the crosshairs of plaintiff's attorneys: Wal-Mart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel and Victoria's Secret.