Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

May 2011 Archives

Of all leadership mistakes, the law firm manager whose self-deceipt leads to an illusion things are going okay must surely be the most dangerous.

"Failing elegantly" is a sophisticated form of coping behavior to avoid, says John Hamm, Santa Clara University management professor and consultant.

Failing elegantly means a subtle shift in daily life, when your firm stops trying to win, and starts trying not to lose.

Everyone who has watched a football team sit on a lead, or a tennis player begin to sit back, or a baseball pitcher start walking batters, has seen "failing elegantly."

Jacoby & Meyers Sues to Allow Nonlawyers to Own Law Firms

So if Mother England no longer bars nonlawyers from owning equity stakes in law firms, who are we Yanks to continue our ethical objections?

After all, both the Constitution and the Judiciary Act of 1789 incorporate "the common law," i.e., the common law of England.

The British, Australians, the District of Columbia, and maybe soon North Carolina, have discarded the ethical rule against nonlawyers owning equity stakes in law firms, reports the ABA Journal.

And now multi-state law firm Jacoby & Meyers has filed lawsuits in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, alleging the rule denies them equal protection, due process and other fundamental rights, reports The Wall Street Journal.

So is it time to revisit the issue?

Bryan Stow's Attorney Thomas Girardi Has History of Big Verdicts

In an unsurprising move, the family of Bryan Stow--the Giants fan who was severely attacked at the Dodgers' season opener--has filed a lawsuit against the ballpark and the team. And who, exactly, is Bryan Stow's attorney?

Thomas Girardi of the Girardi Keese law firm in Los Angeles.

A member of the California State Bar's Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame and the California Judicial Council, he's known for big verdicts and even bigger settlements.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the California prisoner release case this week, affirming a prior federal court order that California release 30,000 inmates from its prison system.

Now California's governor and Legislature will have two years to come up with a plan to draw the prison population down from 200% of capacity to 137%, reports the San Jose Mercury-News.

Meanwhile, prison authorities will likely continue a process begun after the original 2009 trial court order. Since that order came down, California prison authorities have released about 6,000 non-violent inmates, reports CNN.

Musician's Lyrics Most Cited by Judges? Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's lyrics get cited more frequently in judicial opinions than those of any other songwriter.

Reports of this surprising fact tally judicial citations to Bob Dylan's reflective, narrative songs against citations to the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Woody Guthrie or the Rolling Stones. Dylan is cited more than twice as often as the nearest "competitor," the Beatles, reports the Los Angeles Times.

What's going on here?

Should Judges be Members of All-White Country Clubs?

Do the people that surround you and the organizations you choose to affiliate with define you as a person?

It certainly can seem that way. But the real question for attorneys and judges is: do they affect your sense of judgment? And, does your membership give organizations that support questionable causes a sense of credibility you do not wish to give?

The Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville is one such example. There are about 600 voting members in this exclusive country club, and none of them are minorities or women. One of their members, Judge George C. Paine II, is a federal bankruptcy judge stationed in Nashville.

Lawyers Were on Standby in Case Bin Laden Was Captured Alive

Unless you happen to be working as counsel for the Department of Homeland Security or for the CIA, a legal career does not usually intersect with national security issues.

Americans were recently reminded of the intersection between the law and international affairs, as apparently, a select few attorneys were ready to lay their lawyering skills down on Osama Bin Laden if he was captured alive.

Senior officials in the Obama administration revealed that there two teams of specialists ready and on-hand during the Pakistan raid. The first was a team of specialists to bury Bin Laden if he was killed. A second, a team of lawyers, interrogators and translators in case he was captured alive, reports The New York Times.

Your Facebook Shut Down? Mark Zuckerberg, Esq., Knows All About it

Lawyers spend decades building up their reputation. One bad case and you might be driving a stake through the heart of your business.

For bankruptcy attorney Mark S. Zuckerberg, the stake through the heart of his Facebook page was ironic - it was for sharing the same moniker as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO.

Zuckerberg, Esq. already had a tough time setting up a Facebook account in the first place.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook shut down his account last week. The likely reason? They thought Mark Zuckerberg was trying to impersonate Mark Zuckerberg.

You've deleted Solitaire and Pinball from all the computers. Now you have to increase online security for your small law firm.

But one size doesn't fit all.

Software written for large firms is too expensive and inefficient for a small law firm, which usually has five or fewer networked computers. And large systems might not combine protection from external attack with protection from inefficient and dangerous employee web usage.

And confidential information -- yours and your clients' -- will be attacked.

Is Asbestos Litigation Taking Off After $322M Verdict?

Asbestos litigation has been around for a while. Many a solo or small firm rely almost entirely on mesothelioma and asbestos-related cases for the bulk of their practice.

Now a $322 million jury verdict in Mississippi, the largest asbestos verdict in U.S. history, has pushed the envelope. Plaintiffs and plaintiff's attorneys are certainly enthused by the news.

About 25 Percent of Lawyer Moms Leave the Workplace

A recent study has shown that about 25% of lawyer moms end up leaving the legal workplace.

The study, conducted by University of Chicago economist Jane Leber Herr, found that in contrast, about 15% of women with PhDs left the workplace after having children, and less than 6% with MDs left the workplace after having children.

Law firms are left wondering why, and what can be done to retain talented attorneys.

Firm's Legal Tab: $43 Million, $50K to Prepare Legal Bill

The law firm billing model has taken a lot of heat of late, with companies refusing to pay for new associates and demanding alternative fee agreements.

That conversation has just been launched onto the national stage, a response to a motion filed by Madoff trustee Irving Picard and his legal team at Baker & Hostetler requesting some $43 million in legal fees and expenses for about 4 months of work.

While there is no doubt that it costs money to practice law, this latest monster legal bill is raising some important ethical questions about the current billing model.

So how's your law practice management software working for you these days? Or whatever ill-fitting aggregation of word processing, general ledger, spreadsheet and time/billing software you've managed to collect over the years.

Well Elite has rolled out ProLaw XII, its latest enhanced management solution for small- and medium-sized law firms. Released on May 2, ProLaw XII provides a single gathering-point for information about your firm's cases, matters, time entry, billing and accounting capabilities.

How Attorneys Can Accept Credit Cards Without Losing Money

A study of Americans showed that 14% of us have more than 10 credit cards. Not everybody is in this minority, but the average American does have upwards of 4 credit cards.

As a professional legal business, should your firm accept credit cards? If you decide to do so, some smart choices can help you save a lot of cash.

Should Congress Revamp Section 1983?

In a speech to the Equal Justice Initiative, Retired Justice John Paul Stevens raised serious questions about municipal liability under Section 1983.

A response to a recent decision that overturned a $14 million jury award to a man who wrongfully spent 14 years behind bars, Stevens urged Congress to take action.

Have a favorite local court? Practice exclusively in a specialty court? FindLaw has just made tracking new caselaw a lot easier.

FindLaw's new RSS caselaw feeds provide the solo or small firm lawyer with targeted, practice-specific links to new cases in over 80 courts around the country. If you want to see only Ninth Circuit cases, or only cases from the California Supreme Court -- we've got the feed for you.

Will 'Fantastical' 9/11 Lawsuit Get Lawyer Sanctioned?

Would you ever file a lawsuit based on allegations that are generally recognized as "fantastical" and part of a conspiracy theory?

While you mull that over, consider the case of Attorney William Veale.

He's been instructed by the 2nd Circuit to show cause for why he should not be sanctioned after filing a lawsuit on behalf of a client claiming that the 9/11 attacks were part of a larger Bush Administration conspiracy.

Critiquing a Small Law Firm's Website: What Not to Do

The website of solo practitioner Giovanni Rosania recently came to the attention of the blogosphere--and with much derision.

While it certainly is something to poke fun at, the website is actually a great learning tool. It's the perfect example of what not to do.