Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

November 2012 Archives

3 Ways to Raise Defense Funds for Your Client's Case

Money is always an issue for clients. For those who don't have a lot, a defense fund may be a way to deal with the ever-present problem of costs.

Case in point: Accused murderer George Zimmerman, who made headlines this week when The Miami Herald suggested he was "selling autographs" to pay for his defense. Zimmerman's lawyer clarified that the autographs were actually just hand-written thank-you notes.

If you have clients like George Zimmerman who need your services but can't foot the bill, you may also want to consider some unorthodox ways to raise cash. Here are three strategies that may work:

How to Choose the Right Virtual Office for Your Law Practice

Have you ever considered a virtual office for your practice? Do you even know what a virtual office is, or how it can benefit an attorney?

If you're operating a small law practice at home or are currently paying expensive rent on unnecessary office space, a virtual office may be right for you.

A virtual office can be the ideal solution for an attorney looking for the convenience and expense of a home office, while also looking for the professional appearance of a true office. But with virtual office providers seemingly popping up overnight, how does an attorney choose the right one?

Pro Bono Services Can Pay Off for Your Practice

The ABA suggests that attorneys provide 50 hours of pro bono legal services every year, but that can be a lot to ask of solo practitioners or those who work in small firms.

Many consider pro bono work as something that distracts them from their real goals in legal practice, not to mention taking up time that could be spent on paying clients. That can be true if you don't focus on pro bono opportunities that are related to your field. But pro bono isn't limited to a certain practice area.

People need help with all kinds of legal issues, and many can't afford to pay full fees. That means there are many opportunities to improve your skills and build your reputation while you help those in need. Here are a few ideas:

5 Ways Solo Attorneys Can Stay Productive When Business Is Slow

Staying productive is key when it comes to getting new business and impressing existing clients. But when you don't have a lot of work on your list, how do you fill up that time as a solo attorney?

It's not as if you're working for a firm where the billable hour is king. In a solo practice your clients likely don't want to see the hours racking up as you rack your brain for other work to do for their legal matters.

When your to-do list for the cases you currently have is getting thin, you need to find a way to occupy your time that is still productive for your practice. Luckily there are lots of ways to fill those hours and improve your practice at the same time. Here are five suggestions:

How to Become a CLE Speaker Who Gets Invited Back

A great way to network and get your name out among your peers is to become a CLE speaker. But let's face it, not all CLE speakers are spectacular. How can you make sure you'll be invited back?

First, of course, you have to get selected to be a CLE speaker in the first place. There are several ways to do this, such as contacting the CLE organization with a brief biography and a description of your practice area. You can also select topics to talk about that are current and won't bore your potential audience.

However, the focus here is becoming such a great CLE speaker that you'll be called upon to return again and again. Here are some tips from the website Legal Productivity:

After Thanksgiving, a Few Turkeys May Gobble Up Your Time

Thanksgiving is a time to be with family, eat a lot of food, and watch or play some football. What do these things have in common? If you answered "potential for injury," we know you've celebrated this holiday before.

A holiday centered on overeating and family time is bound to have mishaps. The Monday after Thanksgiving, you may have a string of new clients at your door.

Who might these clients be? Here's just a few of the turkeys -- er, people -- who might show up to file a post-Thanksgiving lawsuit:

More Law Schools Adding 'Incubator' Law Offices

California Western School of Law is the latest law school to add an incubator law office.

If you don't know what an incubator law office is, you're not alone. These programs set up by law schools are relatively new, and aim to benefit both starting attorneys and low-income clients.

California Western's incubator law office is modeled after the program at CUNY School of Law and is designed to aid new graduates to gain experience while offering low-cost legal services to San Diego residents, reports JD Journal.

5 Tips on How to Be a Good Mentor for Other Attorneys

There's a lot of information out there on how important mentors are for solo attorneys and how to find the right mentor as a new attorney. But what about being a good mentor for other lawyers?

Most attorneys have benefitted from a mentor at some point in their careers, so it seems only fair that you give back when you have the time and knowledge to help out someone who's new. But being an experienced attorney isn't the same as being a good mentor.

Mentoring doesn't have to take up a lot of your time, but it does require some skill. When it comes time to pay your karmic dues, here are five tips to make sure your mentoring skills are up to snuff:

Bilingual Lawyer? 3 Ways to Leverage Your Language Skills

For bilingual lawyers, second-language skills can translate into a competitive advantage in today's legal job market.

While the legal industry may not seem like a field in which foreign-language skills matter, the truth is that in this global economy, the more language skills you have, the better. Just check out the local attorney job postings in your area, and note the number of positions that require (or would prefer) attorneys fluent in additional languages.

If you're just starting off, or are looking for a way to leverage your language skills, here are three strategies you may want to consider:

Launch Your Law Firm's Social Media Strategy in 5 Simple Steps

If you're going to use social media as a way to market your law firm, it's important to have a social media strategy in place.

Just like a marketing strategy to bring in new clients, your social media strategy should help you meet your business needs. There are many ways to incorporate social media into your practice, so it's helpful to have a separate strategy to clarify your goals.

Setting up your social media accounts is just the beginning. Here are five steps toward launching an effective social media business strategy for your law firm:

Visual Aids in Closing Argument Should Avoid Opinions: Court

Many lawyers use visual aids during trial, including closing arguments. But Washington's Supreme Court isn't a fan of opinionated ones.

The court recently threw out a conviction because the prosecutor's visual aid in closing statements included inappropriate opinions -- namely, the phrases "GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY" and "DO YOU BELIEVE HIM?" superimposed over images of the defendant.

While that kind of presentation is certainly over the top, Washington's justices felt it crossed the line.

Holiday Newsletters Can Build Client Relationships

If you’ve never sent a holiday newsletter out to clients, this may be a good year to start.

Overdone or not, holiday cheer and goodwill really do exist, and while the goal isn’t to capitalize on those, getting into the spirit can help your business too. Not only is it a good way to update clients about your office, it’s nice to spread a positive message during the holiday season.

It’s never a bad idea to send a newsletter to clients, but if you don’t do it year-round, the holidays may be the best time to send one.

3 Ways to Help Veterans With Legal Issues

Veterans Day is a good day to remember that in every community, there are veterans who need legal assistance. It doesn't matter what your area of practice is, there are ways you can help.

When it comes to getting new clients, often the focus is on expanding into a new area of practice. But another option is to target specific groups of people who need the legal services you already provide.

You don't have to alter your areas of practice to pick up veterans as clients. But in some cases it helps to widen your view of the area of law in which you already work.

How to Tell Clients They're Wrong and Still Keep Their Business

One of the things they don't mention in law school is that being an attorney sometimes requires a delicate manner -- especially when it comes to telling clients that they're wrong.

Information about "the law" is everywhere, and some of it is incorrect. If it hasn't happened to you yet, it's only a matter of time before a client comes in who thinks he "knows" exactly what the law is.

Except he doesn't. What he's heard on TV or the Internet is wrong, or out of date, or not applicable to his situation. Now it's your job to break it to him. Not all situations are the same, so here are a few suggestions about how to keep things civil:

Real Estate Law Ready to Rebound, FindLaw Survey Suggests

A new housing survey suggests more Americans are now poised to re-enter the housing market. As a result, real estate attorneys may soon be in hot demand.

Just two years ago, 63 percent of survey respondents said they were less likely to buy a house because of the weak economy. Today, however, only 30 percent of Americans say the economy is keeping them out of the housing hunt, the survey found.

There may be several reasons for this positive trend. For example, lower housing prices and favorable mortgage rates may be attracting buyers who have been waiting on the sidelines these past few years.

Marijuana Law Could Be Big Hit for CO, WA Lawyers

Recreational marijuana use will soon be legal in Colorado and Washington state, following successful ballot initiatives. As lawmakers hammer out the details and figure out how to tax and regulate marijuana use, some attorneys looking for a niche may not want to pass on the opportunity to grow their marijuana law practice.

Before you leave this blog post huffing and puffing over the seemingly preposterous idea of practicing pot law, keep in mind that marijuana law does not mean simply defending teens caught lighting up a joint.

Instead, with the new state laws, there may be many opportunities for an attorney to develop a thriving, and respectable, practice area. Here are three ideas that could be a big hit for pot lawyers:

5 Reasons Not to Keep a Pet in Your Law Office

Running a solo practice can get lonely. In fact, you may have been considering keeping man's best friend in the office. But before you fetch Rover, you should be aware that it may not always be a good idea to keep a dog (or any pet) in your law office.

Here are five reasons you should consider for keeping your pet at home:

Get More Referrals With a Better Law Firm Blog

If you work as a solo attorney, you probably already have a blog and know the reasons why it's so important to your business.

But let's be honest: Your law firm blog could be better.

How? Well, just posting regularly is a great first step. But to really leverage your writing to get new clients, you need to strategize a bit. Keep in mind that a blog is more than just a publicity tool: It's a way to connect with people on a regular basis and gain their trust so when they need a lawyer, they know where to look.

With that in mind, here are six steps toward a better law firm blog:

3 Election Law Violations to Look Out for on Election Day

Even if your practice doesn't typically include civil rights issues, on Election Day it might be worth offering your two cents as an attorney when it comes to voting.

If early voting is any indication, the day's events may lead to some nasty encounters and questionably legal activities in polling places. Ensuring that the election is fair and legal is the right thing to do if you can help with the process. But it's also a good way to show your skills and potentially gain new clients.

You don't need to become an election law expert overnight. We've collected the Top 3 legal issues you might see on Election Day that you could possibly help voters with:

7 Things Attorneys 'Accidentally' Do Right in Their Practice

One thing students typically don't learn in law school is how to run a business. As a result, many starting attorneys have no idea how to build their own law practice.

An attorney with over ten years private practice experience recently wrote of her trials and tribulations in building her practice.

Through her experience, she shared several tips of things she did "accidentally" that helped her succeed, reports Psych Central. To save you the time from learning through trial and error, you may want to consider this attorney's tips in your own practice.

'The Defendant Doesn't Normally Wear Eyeglasses' Jury Instruction

If you advise clients to dress professionally for court you may want to draw the line at suggesting they wear glasses since that might become the subject of a jury instruction.

Criminal defendant Donnell Harris wore glasses to his second-degree murder trial and the prosecution noticed that it wasn't his typical style. Something about the glasses was so different that they suspected he'd made the change just to trip up witnesses trying to identify him at trial.

Over the defense's objection, the judge issued an instruction to the jury that they could consider Harris's change of appearance as potential evidence of personal feelings of guilt. That instruction then became the basis for an appeal of Harris's conviction.