Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

June 2013 Archives

Maniacal Marketing: More Bad Lawyer Commercials

There is just something about lawyers and terrible TV ads that are inherently connected. Now, we all know lawyers aren't creative types. We're cold, analytical, type-A sharks with no souls. Any semblance of humanity or creativity was wiped from our minds during three years of "legal education."

As such, we can excuse all kinds of terrible, terrible ads, especially the boring stereotypical TV spots, such as "Guy in a suit in front of books can help you!" or "Smith and Associates got me money for my accident!" But the truly inexcusable ads, well, take a look for yourself:

4 Tips On Working With Your Spouse . . . In The Same Firm

Some spouses not only live together, but they work together. It's inevitable. One of the most popular ways that couples meet is often at work. Or, there are those who end up working together because of their similar career interests. Or, well, because there's a job opening.

The bottom line is, it's often unavoidable. If Jim and Pam could do it, then so can you and your beau.

So, this is not only in celebration of the most recent SCOTUS decision declaring the federal same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but in preparation for hopefully a whole new slew of well-deserving, soon-to-be-happily-married couples that will tie the knot.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you work in the same firm as your spouse.

Federal LGBT Employment Law: The ENDA of Discrimination?

Is the time ripe for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to finally pass?

Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrated the Supreme Court rulings as landmark decisions that moved the nation closer to full equality. But many people are already turning their focus to the fact that it’s still perfectly legal in a majority of states to discriminate against the LGBT community, and to do so in employment.

Is ENDA the next step?

How Do The DOMA, Prop. 8 Rulings Affect Family Law Attorneys?

That's easy! More business!

Though the Supreme Court's Prop. 8 no-standing ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry may only impact Californians, it does so in a huge way. Plus, the death of DOMA Section 3 in United States v. Windsor will have an even greater impact on issues of federal benefits for same-sex marriages, no matter what state you live in.

It's a whole new world of domestic relations after today, and here are just a few of the many things that may change:

Social media is not just a small part of life, it's a way of life. Chances are you've come across tweets even if you're not on Twitter -- news programs report on the latest tweets and quote celebrities daily.

Twitter isn't all fun and games though, and it can help you build your business and cast you as an expert in your given field. Think of it as a tool to further your legal career, and less as a tool to let your followers know what you had for dinner.

Here are some tips on how Twitter can help build your legal business:

Zimmerman Trial: Opening Statements Shouldn't Be Stand-Up Comedy

Humor can be a great way to build rapport with an audience. Laughter brings endorphins and other happy feelings, which are then associated with you. We're big fans of humor and sarcasm around here, but as with all things, there is a time and place where stand-up comedy is inappropriate, such as your opening remarks in a murder defense trial.

George Zimmerman's attorney Don West knows this. There is a reason why his ill-fated "knock knock" joke was preceded by a five-minute disclaimer. (Hint: if the joke needs a "don't be offended" disclaimer, it is not funny!) Don't let us spoil it for you, however. Take a look yourself:

FindLaw's Guide to Malpractice Insurance ... Just Because

Malpractice insurance ... because no matter how well you do your job, at some point, your ultra-litigious client just might second-guess you.

You don't get malpractice insurance because you fear the fallout of making a mistake. You are, after all, darn near perfect. So what do you need to know about malpractice insurance? We'll give you the overview, but for more details on cost, deals, and other Frequently Asked Questions, check out FindLaw's Guide to Malpractice Insurance. (It's free!)

Going Solo? Think About These Things Before You Do

Thinking about going solo? There are certainly a bundle of pros to come with the idea of running your own practice -- there's no one barking orders at you, you can work on whatever schedule suits you, and best of all, you call the shots.

While running a solo practice may sound ideal, however, keep in mind that is still is uncharted territory. It's best to carefully maneuver your way into this new business model only if you really want to, after doing all your research, and not simply because you are fed up at the current firm or organization you're at.

With that said, here are some things to consider before you delve into those waters.

Life and Law Firm Lessons from Tony Soprano

My stepfather likes to say that he learned more about life and leadership from watching the Godfather than from four years of high school. For me, I grew up watching a different organized crime leader: Tony Soprano. From wise cracks to wise guys, from managing his “family” to dealing with his family, there were a lot of lessons to be learned from The Sopranos.

Here are a few of our favorites:

3 Lessons From Paula Deen For Your . . . Law Firm?

Well-known television personality, businesswoman, and chef Paula Deen is arguably one of the most famous (she’s certainly one of the highest-paid) and beloved food personalities out there.

Though it looks like, these days, the bubbly Southern grandma is known less for her penchant to coat everything in butter and deep-fry it, and more for her impending issues with the law.

With that said, let this be an appropriate time to actually take in some lessons from Deen. Because, despite her being in an industry vastly different from the legal one, you can still learn a thing or two from her recent troubles and apply them to your firm.

Labor Lawyer Found Dead: Mental Health Reminder For Your Firm

An attorney for the Labor Department was found dead in his jail cell, with his throat slashed, reports The Washington Post. Fifty-eight-year-old Paul Mannina was charged with sexually assaulting his co-worker when he was sentenced to jail in Washington D.C. His death occurred mere hours after a Supeior Court judge rejected Mannina's request to seek out mental-health care, and ordered that he instead continued to be held in jail.

It is currently unknown and under investigation whether or not this was a homicide or a suicide. However, sources close to Mannina, his attorney and friends, testified that Mannina was showing signs of a change in his mental state and that he desperately needed help.

What can we take from this sad story about the government worker? Here are some important reminders to keep in mind when it comes to quality of life and operations at your own firm.

Law Firm Barbershops, Coffee Shops; Hybrid Businesses the Future?

Get a hair cut, get a criminal defense lawyer. Get a latte, get a will drafted.

It all began with the coffee shop law firm, Legal Grind of Santa Monica, California. Jeffrey J. Hughes, the attorney-owner, was a recent graduate who, like many recent graduates, had few lucrative options. After dabbling in contract work and substitute teaching, he took the plunge into coffee shop ownership, reports the ABA Journal.

Initially, customers would pay for the coffee and get the advice for free. Now, it’s the other way around (for obvious reasons). Though he is a licensed attorney, much of his business comes from referral fees to other attorneys, many of which handle consultations over an espresso.

In Maracich, SCOTUS Says Don't Use DMV Info for Solicitation

Seeking to add plaintiffs to a class-action lawsuit against a South Carolina car dealership, the now-defendant class-action attorneys tapped into the DMV records via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to locate potential clients. Each was sent a letter with “ADVERTISING MATERIAL” emblazoned across the top.

Unfortunately, one of the recipients also worked at the dealership.

The attorneys defending the dealership filed a class-action lawsuit against the original class-action plaintiffs’ attorneys on behalf of the 34,000 people who received a letter from the firm. The question for the Supreme Court was whether these letters, which arguably fit into the overbroad language of the statute’s “investigation in anticipation of a lawsuit” exception, violate the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.

Hashtag #Rules for Your Firm: 5 Basics to Know

With Facebook jumping onboard the hashtag fun alongside Twitter, hashtags are now being used on social media more than ever. This means that if your law firm has an account on Twitter or Facebook (ideally, you should be on both and have a website), this will possibly affect the way your content is viewed and used by your clients as well as other Interner viewers and passerbys.

Nowadays, it's not just another regrettable baby name, or a way for people to crack un-funny personal jokes. Hashtags, (that # sign before certain words in online content) are clickable and a very efficient way for many social networking sites to gauge what's trending and then organize content under their respective topics. For example, if a lot of people are tweeting or posting on Facebook about the #TheElection, you can easily find your way to the whole collection of everyone else who's mentioning it as well.

Before you get too pound-sign happy, though, keep in mind that it's not as easy as it looks. Here are some basics rules about hash-tagging that you may want to know first:

Brilliant: Lawyer Requests NSA Records for Client's Robbery Alibi

“What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.”

You’re damn right, Mr. Markus. Markus, writing for his Southern District of Florida Blog, cracked the story that has made Florida papers and is sure to put a smile on every now-disillusioned American’s face.

Terrance Brown is one of five defendants accused of conspiring to hold up armored trucks in 2010. Prosecutors are using phone records to corroborate a co-conspirator’s testimony about the planning, conspiracy, and execution of the crimes, and to prove that the defendants were near the locations at the time of the robberies.

Looking to Hire? Legal Resume Red Flags to Look Out For

We all know from law school and having been through the job-search-wringer that your legal resume is often the make-or-break for many folks. But, it doesn't just stop with the candidate -- those of us who are tasked with having to sift through all those resumes and to make judgment calls off one-page (hopefully) documents per person is exhausting, as well.

On top of that, a legal resume is an entirely different monster from other types. There are certain aspects that are perfectly acceptable on a legal resume, but not on a non-legal resume, and vice versa. How do employers at firms begin to even wrap their head around this?

So, if your firm is looking to hire a fresh-faced grad this coming fall or now, here are some legal resume red flags to look out for.

How to Share a Workspace ... With People

Shared workspaces are becoming increasingly popular and may be better than cubes for law firms, both large and small. For tough economic times, reconfiguring offices into a more shared space seems like a great solution.

But how to share a workspace is a whole other matter, reports Forbes. With sharing comes a fair share of distraction, disruption and compromise. Before you bemoan the death of your corner office, know that there is a way to, as Tim Gunn would say, "make it work."

Here are six tips on how to share a workspace -- without going insane:

Lawyer Posts Video of Client's Drug Deal on YouTube

Two YouTube fails in one morning? This is further proof of what we advised earlier: tread on social media with caution.

This morning, we saw that a purported law student had posted a self-recorded video of her disgusting racist rant at Dunkin' Donuts employees over a receipt dispute. Now, we have a lawyer who compromised a case, violated multiple rules of professionalism, and revealed a confidential informant, all by posting a video obtained in discovery on YouTube, and per the disciplinary report, on "an internet site known as Facebook." Whatever that is.

What was missing here -- social media savvy, a knowledge of basic ethical obligations, or simple common sense?

Five Areas Where Your Firm Website Needs Changing

When it comes to marketing your law firm, your website is your online presence. Sure, there's social media and other emerging e-trends that need to be recognized, but it all starts (and sometimes, ends) with your website.

But my firm already has a website, you say. But hold on: Is it up-to-date? Is it interactive? Does it feel like it's representing a firm with people who were born after bathing became a social norm? Here are five suggestions on where your website may need to be given a slight (or major, life-changing) facelift:

Chad Johnson Gets Jail Time, Fails Court Decorum Lesson

Chad Ochocinco Johnson, the man with many names and a pending probation violation, just went from a three-month extension of his probation to thirty-day jail sentence, with one swift, and overly-friendly, move, reports the Kansas City Star.

Yep. He (arguably) didn't assault anyone. He didn't get caught with drugs. He didn't do any of the myriad of things that one could do to violate their probation. In fact, what he did to irritate the judge may be a first.

When asked if he was satisfied with the work of his attorney, he responded in a complimentary fashion and then patted his lawyer on the backside, just as nearly all athletes do when a teammate does well.

Who is Wikileaks Leaker PFC Bradley Manning's Lawyer?

Most of us, even lawyers, are unfamiliar with the military justice system. So, when soldiers are in need of an outside attorney, they seek out someone with very specialized experience.

Reuters calls Private First Class Bradley Manning’s defense attorney David Coombs a “low-profile” lawyer. That may be true, at least in private practice. To be fair, he has only been a sole practitioner for a little more than a year, which is hardly enough time to raise one’s profile.

Before entering private practice, he spent more than a decade serving in the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps, first as a prosecutor, then as a defense attorney. He also served as a professor at the Judge Advocate General’s School and the Roger Williams School of Law.

5 Fun Law Firm Retreat Ideas Worth Trying

Let’s be honest, fun law firm retreats are few and far between. Of the law firms who have retreats at all, many use them as a way to conduct business as usual in a scenic location. Progressive firms, however, are taking advantage of the benefits that authentically “fun” retreats can offer, reports the American Bar Association.

With tighter budgets, relaxation activities are the first to be cut at firms. Cutting back on relaxation, however, might not be the best idea. “Play makes us far better at problem solving,” says Nancy Byerly Jones, a lawyer, mediator and law firm retreat facilitator in North Carolina.

Here are five fun (and affordable!) law firm retreat ideas that might be surprisingly beneficial to your firm:

5 Trends in the Legal Field To Know About

In a rather ancient profession, how are there so many new trends in the legal industry these days? When did barristers start becoming lawyers, and when did it become normal protocol to text your client as a proper means of communicating? Times are changing, and it waits for nobody.

You know that the inner-gunner law student in you from years ago is not going to be pleased with that. Here are 5 recent trends in the legal field that you should know about:

Is the Best Lawyer the Most Expensive Lawyer?

Are good lawyers expensive lawyers? Expensive lawyers - it sounds almost laughably redundant, but, there's actually quite a misconception. Because not all lawyers are expensive.

Some are even more expensive.

In all seriousness, however, there is good reason for the number of expenses that lawyers charge for. The law is often a very daunting process for most people to pursue on their own efficiently (and, well, legally for that matter). Still, though, how can a potential client tell what makes a lawyer better than some others when doing their research? Is your worth as a practicing attorney really in how much you charge?

It shouldn't be, and here are a few thoughts on what we think makes a good lawyer.

5 Tips on Being a Mentor to Summer Associates

Mentoring a summer associate? This time is especially crucial, with summer just beginning. Soon, if it hasn't happened already, many firms will be welcoming a batch of new summer associates into their office.

Mentoring is a partnership that exists in nearly all personal and professional arenas. Of course the legal world is not exempt from this. In fact, mentoring at a law firm is one of the most important aspects of a law student's training.

Now's the time to brush up on your mentoring skills to ensure that you'll provide your mentee with the best experience possible. Here are 5 tips to consider when being a mentor to a summer associate:

Offline Marketing: Community Involvement and Barbeque

I came to an epiphany shortly before graduating law school. I realized that, if I wanted to practice law, my choices would be between working for a bottom-of-the-barrel firm for $35k (in California? yeesh) or starting my own practice. In preparation for this leap, I read about a dozen books on how to run a small firm, from business to marketing to client management. One book gave a tip that I'm only now starting to understand: the around town walk.

Every day, at noon, this guy walks around his small town. He figures that it keeps his face in front of the people, it'll have the opposite effect of "out of sight, out of mind." He may have a point, but if one were to walk around a larger city, like San Francisco or Baltimore, he would be more likely to be accosted by homeless people than to run into potential clients.

The principle remains the same for big cities, however. You just have to find a community in which to shine.