Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

March 2012 Archives

As outrage over Trayvon Martin's killing continues, an unlikely social-media hero has emerged: a white "super-Irish" graduate of historically black Howard University's law school.

Kevin Cunningham, 31, of Washington, D.C., spotted a link to a news story about Trayvon Martin on a law school listserv. That was 11 days after the unarmed teenager was shot and killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, Cunningham told the Poynter Institute.

Trayvon's killing led Cunningham to launch an online petition at to demand Zimmerman's prosecution; it now boasts more than 2.2 million signatures. Cunningham credited his activism, in part, to his legal training at Howard:

You've optimized your law firm's website for search engines, and spent good money to get it professionally designed. Now it's up to you to provide content that potential clients will be looking for.

Good law-firm website content means posting more than just a homepage and links to attorney biographies. Unfortunately, many lawyers are just too busy to create content from scratch.

Thankfully, the nature of legal work makes it a virtual treasure trove of already-produced content that can drive traffic to your firm's website, according to the Shatterbox blog. Here are three easy ways to add content, even for busy lawyers on the go:

Can you be a lawyer in real life, and play one on TV (or on the radio, or over the Internet)? Yes you can, and a live lawyer call-in show could be your ticket to fame and referrals.

With a variety of new and traditional media within reach, the possibilities for lawyer self-marketing via call-in shows are virtually limitless. (Of course, you still have to follow all the ethical rules about attorney advertising.)

Here are a few platforms that attorneys may want to consider for starting a lawyer call-in show:

The Top Websites for Free Legal Research

Running your own law firm can be a financial drain. You've got to shell out for malpractice and health insurance; pay rent and overhead; and keep up with a salary or two. And then you've got the clients who want you to reduce your bill.

It's a lot to think about and everyone has their own suggestions for reducing costs. But there's really only one option that can improve everyone's bottom line: free legal research. If this sounds like a good idea, the following three free sites are where you should start.

Are you a lobbyist? More than 12,000 people are, according to a tally of registered lobbyists by the Center for Responsive Politics — but there may be thousands more unregistered influence-peddlers, thanks to the language of the law.

In fact, as many as 90,000 people may be engaged in lobbying, one political expert told Reuters. “It’s a much bigger industry than the federal registry of lobbyists shows,” he said.

The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, amended in 2007, sets forth a three-prong test to determine whether you must register as a lobbyist. And a new Reuters quiz tests your application of those rules.

How to Delay Sending an Embarrassing Email

Remember when attorney Gloria Allred sent out her entire press contact list? What about the partner at Quinn Emanuel who sexually harassed a secretary through email and sent it to the entire office? Talk about embarrassing.

Like most people, you’re probably waiting for the day something similar happens to you. It doesn’t have to. With a little practice and a few program settings, it’s not that difficult to delay emails and ensure that you send them to the right place.

All work and no play can make attorneys not just dull, but also burned out. With law firms typically requiring 1,700 to 2,300 billable hours a year, according to Yale Law School's career office, a lawyer's life often means long workdays and big sacrifices to your work/life balance.

How do you know if you're burned out? Exhaustion, detachment, boredom, cynicism, irritability, and paranoia are some common signs of attorney burnout, as the Lawyerist points out.

There are various ways to cope -- some simple, some drastic. If you're not burned out already after reading this intro, here are five ways to avoid attorney burnout:

Law firms will likely see a modest growth in profits in 2012, but other factors point to "a year of challenge and uncertainty," a new forecast suggests.

The 2012 Client Advisory, released Feb. 15 by the Hildebrandt Institute and Citi Private Bank's Law Firm Group, foresees soft demand and rising costs, Reuters reports. [Hildebrandt, like FindLaw, is a division of Thomson Reuters.]

"The revenue dynamics will likely not be as dire as 2009, but we have yet to see firms address the current pressure on expenses," the Citi Law Firm Group's chairman said in a statement.

CA Judges Asked to List Their Sexual Preferences

How many California judges are gay?

Not many, according to the results of the state's Judicial Applicant Data Report, which is administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Only 19 women and 17 men out of 1,005 respondents answered the question in the affirmative. That's about 1%.

This is a low number, but the truth is that 40% of judges refused to answer the question altogether. Many of them believe asking about a judge's sexual preference or gender identity is an invasion of privacy.

Ethical for 'NYC Madam's' Attorney To Post Her $2M Bond?

Accused NYC Madam Anna Gristina is still being held on a $2 million bond despite the fact attorney Peter Gleason claims she "doesn't have two nickels to rub together." The mother of four is accused of running a multi-million dollar high-end prostitution ring for almost 15 years.

But on Monday, Gleason presented a solution to her problem. He offered to put up his $2.5 million TriBeCa loft as collateral for her release. He's even offered to allow her, her children and her husband to stay at the condo if she is barred from leaving the city.

The New York Post claims this is not unethical. But isn't it?

Did You Ask Your Clients if They Have Any Incriminating Doodles?

You’re probably scratching your head at the title of this piece. What would compel an attorney to inquire about incriminating doodles? You’re not representing 5-year-olds, right?

Wrong. Even older clients have been known to put pen to paper and in incriminating ways. Consider Ariel Jasso, a 22-year-old convicted of armed robbery in 2009. The then teenager drew a picture of a hold-up on his homework and left it in the getaway car.

The cartoon evidence helped convince an Oregon jury he was guilty.

Ethical for Lawyers to Profit Off Their Client's Life Story?

In this digital age, celebrities are anointed every day. Some of these celebrities are famous not because of their entertainment value, but because of their shock value. Criminals and other individuals who have run afoul of the law grace our newspapers every day.

Americans also seem to be tirelessly consuming their stories. Famous criminal trials have spun off book deals, movies, and have inspired television shows.

This trend poses an ethical question for all attorneys, addressed in an article written by Diane Karpman in the California Bar Journal: should lawyers be allowed to profit off of their client's life story?

How many judges does it take to change a light bulb? Just one -- she holds the bulb still and the world revolves around her.

Just kidding of course. But if your career goals include donning a robe, deciding cases, and being called "Your Honor," you probably won't be able to pursue your first judgeship alone.

Networking and a reputation for legal acumen are necessary, no matter which route you take to become a judge. The process differs in each state, and you can't get away from politics. But here are some general guidelines to help guide you toward the bench.

People Search for Attorneys Online, Even 'Teen Mom' Stars

More than 3/4 (81%) of consumers with a legal need use the Internet to access legal information and products, according to FindLaw's Consumer Needs Survey. A growing number of those consumers are also using the web to find and research potential legal representation.

Attorney websites have thus become an essential part of the legal business, giving potential clients access to a wealth of critical information. And for the lucky ones, a website can even provide a bit of unexpected publicity.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER!: This blog post does not create a legally binding blogger-reader relationship. The blogger concedes his intent is to convey non-privileged, non-proprietary information about whether it's wise or necessary to add possibly pointless paragraphs to your electronic legal communications. Opinions expressed in this post are subject to change. If you feel you have read this blog post in error, well, keep reading anyway because it pertains to your daily practice...

Wordy, jargony disclaimers similar to, but more serious than, the one above are commonly tagged on to lawyerly emails. But the jury's still out as to whether the disclaimers have any true meaning, and whether they're enforceable in court.

Do Private Lawyers Hired by Gov't Get Immunity?

If you work with municipal governments, listen up. The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Filarsky v. Delia, and its pending decision may affect the way you do your job.

The justices were asked to decide whether a private lawyer hired to conduct a municipality's internal affairs investigation is entitled to the same immunity as government employees.

The Court's reception to the premise was mixed.