Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

September 2011 Archives

Are You Finally Ready for an Alternative to the Billable Hour?

Sick and tired of counting your billable hours?

The billable hour has long been a staple of the attorney lifestyle. But that doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

Most other professions don't necessarily bill by the hour. If you go to a dentist, he doesn't bill you for every hour he spends extracting that cavity. Instead, he bills you for the value of his services as a whole.

In that same vein, maybe it's time for your firm to start implementing some alternatives to the billable hour.

Justice Elena Kagan Made Friends, Showed Sarcastic Side in 1st Year

After her first year on the Supreme Court, Justice Elena Kagan appears to be getting favorable reviews from both commentators and her colleagues.

Said to have "established herself as an incisive questioner and forceful writer," the junior justice has also established herself as a friend.

She has been out with both Justices Scalia and Thomas, as well as with Justices Ginsburg and Kennedy.

And according to some, Chief Justice Roberts might as well be her twin.

State Farm Secretly Gave $2.4 Million to Ill. Judge in $1B Case

The following story serves as a lesson in common sense for corporations everywhere: don't cover up how much money you donate to judicial candidates.

This is especially true if the judicial candidate you donated money to ends up voting in your favor in a billion-dollar case.

State Farm Insurance is learning this lesson the hard way.

State Farm allegedly gave campaign donations to Judge Lloyd Karmeier during one of the nation's most expensive judicial races in 2004.

Judge Karmeier won that race, and became a member of the Illinois Supreme Court.

He also voted to overturn a billion-dollar verdict against State Farm in 2005.

7th Cir. Alerts IL Bar to Lawyer's 'Gibberish' Briefs

Walter Maksym may well be the most embarrassed attorney in Illinois.

Homing in on his grammatical deficiencies (and a 345-word sentence), the 7th Circuit publicly critiqued the litigator's inability to file an intelligible complaint.

It ordered him to show cause why he should not be suspended or otherwise sanctioned.

If that wasn't enough, the panel then directed the clerk to send a copy of its opinion to the state bar's disciplinary authorities.

PACER Fees Going Up 25% to 10 Cents a Page

If you're looking to get some information from the federal courts, now is the time. PACER fees are increasing about 25%, from 8 cents a page to 10 cents a page.

The fee hike is said to be a response to inflationary pressures.

PACER fees haven't been touched since 2005, when the fee was raised from 7 cents a page to 8 cents a page. It's estimated that the new fee increase will mean that the PACER system will rake in about $100 million a year, Ars Technica reports.

It also means that practicing attorneys may soon be shelling out a lot more money to get access to public records.

Do Clients Care if Their Lawyer Wears Jeans?

Does your law firm have a dress code? If not, you might want to take a look at your client base and consider implementing one.

After all, you never know who may stroll through the door.

Conservative clients might balk if they notice their attorney is wearing jeans and flip-flops. That said, less conservative clients may take the opposite stance, and might prefer a more relaxed law firm culture.

Law firms might find other reasons to adopt casual wear in the office. Casual dress codes can lend itself to "creativity," which is why Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan attorneys don t-shirts and raggedy jeans.

From Paper to Electronic Records: 5 Steps to Modernize

Paper documents are increasingly being replaced by electronic records. And more and more firms are turning to digital mediums to replace traditional documents.

There are many benefits to this shift to digital formats. Firms can cut down on the expense of finding storage areas to house client files. And, digital records are often simply easier to search and organize. What are some simple steps to move your firm from the paper age to the electronic age?

Top 3 Business Mistakes Lawyers Should Avoid

Face it--if you're running a law firm, you're also running a business, meaning that you're prone to making mistakes just like business owners in every other industry.

The only real differences are the ethical constraints under which you operate and the tendency of small firm and solo practitioners to focus too much on the law and not enough on the business.

For this reason, lawyers tend to make the following big mistakes--all practices that are generally frowned upon by the business community.

Top Ways to be a Legal Authority in Your Market

Do you have a legal specialization? Do you want to be the go-to attorney and legal authority in your market? Are you having trouble bridging the gap?

If this sounds like the state of your practice, you could possibly benefit from a more nuanced approach to legal marketing that allows you to take advantage of your knowledge and the freedom of being a solo practitioner or part of a small firm.

You can specialize and attract quality clients.

NY Attorney Office Rule Invalid: Fed. Judge

New York's attorney office rule was thrown out by a federal judge in the Northern District of New York on Wednesday, making room for nonresident attorneys to practice law without having to maintain an office in-state.

Brought by New Jersey-based attorney Ekaterina Schoenefeld, the lawsuit challenged New York Judiciary Law § 470 on the grounds that it violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause, imposing a burden on the right to freely practice law in different states.

Ind. Judges Ban Court Employees' Facebook, Twitter Postings

For court employees, Facebook and other social networking sites are often a welcome reprieve from a monotonous day of customer service and paperwork.

But for those who work for the Delaware County Circuit Court in Indiana, that has just changed, as the presiding judges have adopted a social networking policy that all but bans court employees from perusing or using the sites on and off the clock.

Get ready for cranky clerks, Indiana. And maybe a lawsuit.

Will Clients Hire Attorneys on Groupon Now that State Bars Approve?

Have you ever seen online "daily deals" for legal services?

Maybe not. Online deal websites like Groupon and LivingSocial focus more on deals that consumers can quickly pick up and use.

Deals for restaurants, stores and simple services like massages seem to be popular residents on these daily deals sites. But, can you visualize your firm offering a Groupon?

Apparently, some State Bars can envision law firms and attorneys offering their services on daily deals sites.

Being the Cheapest Lawyer in Town is Not a Great Idea

Many attorneys might think that by slashing fees and becoming the cheapest lawyer a client can find, you can drum up new business.

It's true that lowering the amount you charge might make you more appealing to clients.

But, you shouldn't act so fast. Being the cheapest attorney in town isn't necessarily the best marketing move.

After all, there's a certain stigma attached to being thought of as the "cheapest." And, many people might believe that there is some truth to the old saying that you get what you pay for. Cheap legal services could equate to poor representation in some clients' minds.

Client Retention: How to Keep Your Clients for the Long Haul

In a down economy, law firms and solo attorneys are scrambling to get the attention of new clients.

But, let's not forget that client retention is also vitally important to any firm's bottom line.

What are some general tips that any attorney can use to help manage their business and foster good relationships with their clients?

Will Civil Courts be Crippled by State Budget Crisis?

It's been slowly happening for years, but after a $350 million dollar drop in funding, California court budget cuts have finally made an incredible dent, causing wait times to soar and delaying cases by months.

In San Francisco, the city will be closing 25 courtrooms, reducing hours, and laying off 175 employees this fall, which presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein told the New York Times is expected to elongate divorce proceedings to about 18 months.

Lines are also likely to soar, perhaps overtaking Sacramento's family courts, where people often wait for five hours.