Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

October 2012 Archives

Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast with ferocious winds and torrential rain. As the storm causes delays in the justice system, law firm business may take an indirect hit.

The U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments Monday morning as most of the nation's capital shut down, closed for business at 2 p.m., according to The Washington Post. Arguments set for Tuesday will now be heard Thursday. It's not yet clear if Wednesday's arguments will also be rescheduled.

As far as lower courts are concerned, most federal and state courts across the eastern seaboard were closed Monday and will remain closed Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Should You Publicly List Your Real Address?

Let's face it, attorneys are not the most popular people in the world. That's why there are so many jokes about us. So when it comes time to list your home office address for the state bar or on your business website, is it a good idea for an attorney to list his real address?

The lawyerly answer of "it depends" applies to this question as well.

There are some obvious benefits to listing your real address. If you do, it can let people know that you are in their community and understand the local issues they face. In fact, many people pick attorneys based solely on location.

5 Ways to Help Sign a Client at the Initial Consultation

There are a lot of attorneys out there these days -- clients have a lot of options. A brief consultation isn't just a chance to decide if you want to take that client. It's also an opportunity for the client to decide if they like you.

You've already got that person in the door but that's not the same as signing the client. That first contact will be when they decide if your service is worth it.

Give those clients a reason to work with you during that first consultation and you'll find yourself with a lot more options.

Attorney Malpractice Claims: What Most Gets Lawyers Sued?

Despite all the jokes and stereotypes of attorneys being unethical, the truth is that only a small percentage of lawyers actually get sued for attorney malpractice.

The top two practice areas that lead to malpractice claims against lawyers are real estate and personal injury matters, reports The Washington Times.

Claims against lawyers typically vary depending upon the size of the firm. Firms with 2-5 attorneys faced the highest number of claims averaging 2.2 claims annually for every lawyer in the firm. In contrast, solo practitioners only faced 0.77 claims annually, reports the Times. So what are the top reasons that lawyers get sued for malpractice?

5 Things to Think About When Representing a Friend

As an attorney, your friends and acquaintances may approach you with their legal problems. While friends may be a great source of business, there are also some special considerations that an attorney should be aware of when representing a friend.

For example, you might have to think about how representation will affect your friendship. You may also have to think about confidentiality matters for information shared between you and your friend.

Here are five things to think about when representing your friend in a legal matter.

Weighing the Pros, Cons of an Attorney Running for Public Office

Being an attorney opens doors to many things but one of the most common career moves is to go into politics and run for public office. Even if you want to stay in the practice of law, attorney generals, city or state public defenders, and even some judges are elected to their posts.

If you work for a big firm it's not so hard to find people to cover your work while you're campaigning. But if you're a solo attorney is it still a good idea to run?

Just like any other career change, only you know if it's the right time to run for elected office. But if you think you're ready, don't forget to consider what you could gain or lose at your current day job.

5 Things Attorneys Need From a Payroll Service

There are a lot of things you have to worry about as an attorney at a small firm that go beyond the practice of law. If you have employees not only are you the attorney but also the manager and director of human resources as well. Why would you want to add payroll to that?

Luckily there are companies that will take care of that part for you and while it's not always necessary to outsource, this is one area where it might be a good choice.

Failing to properly account for payroll can result in lots of problems both from the IRS and from the other people in your office. So look around for a payroll service and keep these things in mind while you do.

The Case in Favor of a Generic Law Firm Name

In this age of search engine optimization and online marketing, the conventional method of naming your firm after your partners' last names may not make the most sense. Instead, you may be considering a generic law firm name like the "Los Angeles Criminal Law Firm" or the "Boston Immigration Group".

But while you may win the race to get Google traffic with such generic names, will this automatically lead to business?

After all, it is ingrained in our culture to hear of firm names like "Kirkland & Ellis" or "Jones Day." And potential clients may trust firms with names that sound like law firms even if they are ranked a bit lower on Google.

Judge Appoints Lawyer to Represent Pit Bull Facing Euthanasia

Claude Kicklighter is a Georgia attorney with no particular expertise in representing animal cases. Yet the lawyer has been appointed to represent a pit bull facing the death sentence (euthanasia) for mauling a five-year-old boy.

Georgia judge William Woodrum said he was appointing Kicklighter to the case "in the interest of justice," reports the ABA Journal.

It doesn't appear that Kicklighter requested the appointment, nor does it appear that Kicklighter specializes in animal law matters. When asked about the case, Kicklighter just said: "All I can tell you is that the judge appointed me. I really don't know what the issues are," reports the ABA Journal.

When You Should Pay for CLE Credits

Earning CLE credits if often at the bottom of lawyer's to do list, somewhere below 'get dry cleaning done.' Part of the problem is lack of time but there's also the lack of interesting and informative opportunities.

Or is there?

It's no secret that there are a lot of substandard CLE courses out there. Many attorneys rely on the free CLE courses and unfortunately you often get what you pay for. But are the paid courses worth the price?

Legal Grind: Thirsty for Some Justice?

Have some coffee with your legal counsel? If you're in the Los Angeles area, you may have driven by or seen the Legal Grind coffeehouse.

While Legal Grind may appear like any other cafe where you can get your morning cup of coffee, latte, or tea, the cafe distinguishes itself as attorneys can sign up for the cafe's referral service.

On designated days, the cafe establishes theme nights for certain practice areas. Individuals looking for a criminal law attorney or a trademark attorney can simply show up at the cafe, pay a $45 consultation fee, and receive a 15-20 minute talk with an attorney.

So how does this benefit the attorney?

Man Gets Sentenced, Promptly Sucker Punches His Attorney

Clients hate to get bad news but Lamarcus Williamson was so upset about it that he punched his attorney in the face after hearing his sentence.

Williamson pleaded guilty to a string of crimes and on Tuesday a judge gave him the maximum sentence of 15 years. Public defender, Dan Hall, is seen to put a hand on his arm in a video of the courtroom drama. Shortly after that Williamson turned and sucker punched Hall. The judge gave him six extra months for that.

As a public defender for 25 years, Hall said he's never seen a client hit an attorney. Still it's a good reminder to be sensitive to a client who's just heard bad news for your own safety.

Should Young Attorneys Ever Buy an Existing Law Practice?

A quick way for an eager young attorney to start off with a book of business is to buy a law practice.

You may already know that doctors and clients frequently sell their practices to other doctors and dentists. But did you know that lawyers are increasingly selling and buying their practices too?

While this may have seemed unethical several years ago, the practice is becoming more common and accepted, writes Solo Contendere. So should you look into purchasing another attorney's practice?

When the going gets tough, tough lawyers look for side jobs. Actually, even when the going isn't that tough, a lot of lawyers still like to earn a little extra money to supplement their take-home pay.

But juggling multiple jobs can sometimes backfire. One lawyer's predicament provides a good lesson: Matthew Scott Finley, a lawyer for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, was caught using downtime at work to make extra money by answering legal questions for a website. After an ethics investigation, Finley was fined $2,000, ABA Journal reports.

With Finley's case as an example of what not to do, here are some other ways lawyers can rake in some revenue, separate from holding a day job:

Color Coding Electronic Files Could be the Key to Productivity

You probably color coded your paper files but are you doing the same thing for electronic files? If you think that's not necessary then maybe you need to take a hard look at your file system's efficiency.

When everyone relied on paper files it was easy to see if things were messy. But electronic files can hide how disorganized things are under the surface.

If you've ever read or browsed through David Allen's 'Getting Things Done' you know organization is vital to productivity. The mess is holding your practice back even if you can't see it.

Color coding could be the answer.

Who said depositions were no fun? As rapper Lil Wayne's viral deposition videos show us, the typically stoic question-and-answer format can sometimes turn into a rollicking game of cat and mouse.

If you haven't seen the depo videos yet, clear your schedule (at least for a few minutes) because you're in for a treat.

Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., is suing producer Quincy Jones III over an allegedly "scandalous portrayal" of the rapper in a documentary, gossip website TMZ reports.

Enter Jones' lawyer, Peter Ross.

Battles Over Pet Custody Becoming More Common

Custody issues aren't a new thing in court but what about pet custody? Those battles are on the rise among couples that don't have children but do have a beloved dog.

In southern California there's been a noticeable uptick in the number of pet custody cases. California is often a barometer for the rest of the nation so it's fair to say these issues will keep coming up. For attorneys who work in family law, it's a good chance you'll see one cross your desk if you haven't already.

Couples who see their pets as babies don't want to treat their animal companion like property subject to division. Their attorneys need to balance client expectations with the reality of the law.

3 Legal Issues for Cutting and Pasting

The practice of law is rarely ever about originality or novelty. Instead, the bulk of your work may be retreading your old work (or someone else's work). But while it is oh-so-easy to cut and paste, lawyers should obviously be very careful when doing so.

A solo practitioner in New York was recently sued by a client for copyright infringement after the lawyer allegedly lifted parts of the client's complaint in an amended complaint that did not involve that client.

While a judge tossed the lawsuit, the fact that the lawyer was sued by the client brings up an interesting issue of a lawyer's liability for cutting and pasting.

Restaurant in ruins? Bed-and-breakfast going bankrupt? Gordon Ramsay to the rescue! But what would the world-famous, foul-mouthed chef have to say about failing law firms?

"Your billing is bollocks!" "Your filing system is a f---ing mess!" "Don't do that at a deposition, you donkey!"

Ramsay's restaurant-makeover show "Kitchen Nightmares" gets millions of viewers on Fox. While the oft-sarcastic Scotsman has yet to tackle law firms, we can only imagine how he'd react to what's not working at a legal workplace.

Perhaps all lawyers would do well to channel their inner Gordon Ramsay when evaluating their own businesses. Here's a five-step recipe for a Ramsay-like inspection of your own "Law Firm Nightmare":