Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

June 2012 Archives

5 Ways to Collect Unpaid Fees From Clients

If you poll attorneys on what it is they most hate about their jobs, collecting money from clients will probably rank near the top of the list.

A recent survey found that for the most part attorneys only get paid for a fraction of the hours they work during the day. The reasons weren't given as to why the attorneys were not getting paid, but one reason may be that they simply could not get clients to pay up.

What can an attorney do to collect money from clients?

Attorneys in conservative Arizona have elected their first openly gay state bar president. Amelia Craig Cramer was named president of the State Bar of Arizona on June 22.

"This is an important development," the lead attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in Los Angeles told the Washington Blade. "Arizona remains a conservative state. It's a sign of progress."

Cramer, a Stanford law grad, once worked as a managing attorney for Lambda, a national LGBT advocacy group. Cramer has continued her advocacy for LGBT rights, even as she established herself in Arizona as a respected prosecutor.

Unemployed Law Grads: 5 Ways to Become More Marketable

If you have the misfortune of having graduated law school anytime in the last five years, there's a pretty good chance you're unemployed and looking for work.

But just because you may be one of the many unemployed law grads, this does not mean you should be standing idly by waiting for the economy to turn.

Instead there are five things every attorney (including attorneys with jobs) can do to make themselves more marketable.

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

There are many reasons hiring a legal secretary or paralegal can be beneficial for your solo practice. The key is to hire the right person for your practice.

You are busy billing, dealing with clients, and trying to stay on top of your practice. But don't just run an advertisement and conduct a few interviews.

Your practice is your business. It is your reputation. And it is your livelihood. You need to make time to do these ten things before you hire:

10 Tips for Solo Practitioners to Collect Fees

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

Being a solo practitioner has many perks. You are your own boss. No office politics or vying to make partner.

And you generally can work as much or as little as you like - as long as your clients consistently pay.

Of course that is the major downside to being a solo practitioner - if clients don't pay, you don't eat.

So how do you get your clients to consistently pay?

Here are ten tips for solo practitioners to collect fees:

Solo Attorneys Get Paid for Less Than 40% of Their Time

Solo practitioners in Oregon have it worst, while 11-20 person firms in New York had it among the best in terms of getting paid for legal hours worked. This according to a new survey on attorney billing efficiency.

The survey looked only at small to medium sized firms with less than 50 lawyers. So the big firms with endless resources were not included. Though you can probably bet those firms milk every last penny out of their clients (and their attorneys).

If you thought you already had enough competition with the big law firms, small law firms, and the ever-growing army of unemployed new admitees who are opening their own shop, Washington State has approved a new rule that could open the floodgates for a new, more numerous, rival -- non-lawyers.

The new Washington State rule allows licensed legal technicians to work on certain aspects of a case and to assist civil litigants.

If adopted by other states, this rule could reshape the landscape of legal practice.

Your summer legal interns are likely eager, ambitious, and ready to learn as much as they can during the few months they'll be working at your law firm.

But aside from conducting legal research, writing memos, and accompanying you to court or other proceedings, how else can you make the most of your summer interns, while making sure they get a valuable learning experience?

Here are five suggestions to put your summer legal interns to work in ways that can pay off for you, and for them:

Some 800,000 young illegal immigrants no longer face deportation under the Obama administration's new policy, announced Friday. The change could mean a wave of new clients for immigration lawyers.

The new rules technically allow "deferred action" regarding deportation for illegal immigrants who fit certain criteria, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explained. "This grant ... is not immunity, it is not amnesty," she said, according to Reuters.

It's also "not a path to citizenship," President Barack Obama emphasized in announcing the new policy at the White House.

So what is the new policy?

How to Win Friends and Influence Juries

Ask most trial attorneys what's the hardest part about their job and they'll probably say winning over a jury. It's no easy task. People are fickle and can be influenced in very unpredictable ways. So wouldn't it be great if you could just hack a juror's minds?

It might actually be possible. And no, this doesn't require some "Matrix" type human modifications. All you need for this feat is your voice, according to an article in Psychology Today.

How does it work? It's actually pretty simple.

Web Chat On Your Website Can Turn Leads Into Signed Clients

In this digital age, you have to embrace technology to compete.

It doesn't matter if you practice intellectual property or drunk driving law. If you don't keep up with the newest trends and technology, you're at risk for being left behind.

One of the newest law firm marketing tactics being adopted by attorneys is law firm web chat.

Post-Bar Associates and the Ethics of Billing

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart, like many firms, used new hires in a case it was working on for Maricopa County in Arizona. Those employees had taken the bar exam but hadn't yet gotten results so they weren't technically associates.

What to call new hires between the bar exam and posting of results can be tricky. How to bill their services to clients can be even harder. But it's the job of an attorney to figure out a solution

Maricopa noticed that they were wrongly billed for work done by a new hire who had not yet passed the bar but was billed as an associate. They complained and the issue was settled with a reimbursement.

Then Maricopa noticed another new hire billed as an associate and things got heated.

Small claims court can pose a conundrum for attorneys. In many states, lawyers are not allowed to represent clients in small claims -- a ban that's meant to keep things simple when small amounts are in controversy.

But if a litigant asks for help with a small claims case, you don't have to turn her away, the Out-House General Counsel blog suggests. Even states that don't allow lawyers in small claims courtrooms do allow parties to consult lawyers outside of court to help prepare their cases.

If you find yourself in the role of a small claims consultant, here are four general areas you'll want to discuss with the party:

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

Attorneys may use social media websites to research jurors as long as they do not have any communication with the juror, the New York City Bar Association recently announced in its ethics opinion 2012-2.

Social media can be a great tool for attorneys. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites can reveal information about potential jurors. It can also help you monitor for signs of misconduct during trials.

The key is that no ex parte "communication" can occur as a result of your research. There are some obvious no-no's, like requesting to "friend" a juror on Facebook or chatting or messaging with jurors. But a "communication" has a much broader definition through social media, as the opinion points out.

You can conduct Internet research but you have to make sure that jurors don't know you are doing it. So how does the NY Bar Opinion suggest you check on jurors via social media without violating your ethical duty?

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

A flat fee divorce package that includes a weekend stay at a luxury hotel, completed papers, and a television appearance - is this the practice of law or reality television?

Apparently it's both.

The idea was created by Dutch entrepreneur, Jim Halfens, who has been selling his Divorce Hotel package to soon-to-be divorcees in the Netherlands. And now he wants to sell it in the U.S.

How to Market to Your Cultural Background

Carving out a legal practice niche can be tough for a sole practitioner. Have you ever considered marketing to your cultural background?

It's an audience worth tapping. A University of Georgia report predicts that the buying power of America's minorities will increase to over $2 trillion by 2015. That's a lot of money being bandied about.

But how do you get some of it to fall towards your growing practice?