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December 2013 Archives

Want to Leave the Law? Your Next 3 Steps

A new year is upon us. Lawyers are analytical folk by nature, so at this time of the year we spend a lot of time thinking about what is past and what may be coming next. But what if what's next is a blank slate? What if you have just had it with practicing law and your what next is more like "what the hell do I do now?"

Not to fear, we have been there, done that. If you are at the proverbial crossroads and thinking about leaving law to do something (anything) else with your life, do these three things next:

2014: The Year of Social Media Engagement

Now that you've got a "handle" on Twitter and other social media platforms, take your social media prowess to the next level: Make 2014 the year of engagement. It's all about beefing up posting where it will reach your audience and dialing back where it's failed to resonate.

Here's a breakdown of five platforms to help jumpstart your Social Media Plan 2.0:

Top 9 Litigation No-No's of 2013

Being a litigator can be stressful, but no amount of stress should drive an attorney to commit any of these bonehead mistakes.

Take heed, gentle legal professionals, and delight in these top nine litigation no-no's of 2013:

Small Firm Tech To-Do List for 2014

We're going to steal a page from our Technologist blog and talk tech today. But don't worry, it's relevant -- we promise.

Small firms operate under constraints we can identify with -- limited budget, no room for downtime, and a need for maximum productivity. Some of these tips will prevent PC-crashing panic. Others keep you working -- at home, in the office, or on the road, with no downtime. Each is worth considering in the New Year, if you haven't already taken the leap yet.

Ohio's Text-Solicitation Opinion: What Does It Mean for Lawyers?

Late last week, the Columbus Dispatch seized upon a months-old advisory opinion by the Ohio Supreme Court which, in theory, allows lawyers to text potential clients.

Phone call and in-person solicitation is not allowed, nor is chat room solicitation, but apparently spamming someone's phone with a string of text messages is Ohio-approved.

Except, in reality, it really isn't. The opinion, while technically allowing text-based solicitation, carefully avoids First Amendment complaints (even with the limited protections allowed for commercial speech), yet places so many restrictions on texting that it is nearly impossible to pull off a successful texting campaign.

Brilliantly Confusing Lawyer Ad Brings Viral Fame, More Business?

My first reaction to this ad was, "Huh?" You'll probably react that way as well. Heck, the entire Internet already did.

AdWeek first highlighted Scott Hoy's commercial earlier this month. Yesterday, he took the final spot on their list of the "25 Biggest Brand Fails of 2013," and earlier this month, late night television host Jimmy Fallon mocked the commercial on national television.

That's obviously a lot of exposure, but is this a case of good-bad publicity?

Scalia 101: Why Attorneys Shouldn't Be Sarcastic or Hyperbolic

Same-sex marriage cases have experienced an extreme rollercoaster over the past few years, ultimately culminating in the historic decision that gave same-sex couples a fundamental right to marriage. Looking back over the history of gay marriage cases, now is a good time to reflect on the lessons learned from Justice Scalia.

Consider a 2013 case in Utah, where a federal district judge struck down Utah's gay marriage ban on due process and equal protection grounds. While the case mapped fairly closely with the opinion overturning California's Proposition 8, the surprise came with a bit of legal judo performed by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby in Utah. Shelby declared that the U.S. Supreme Court's own Justice Antonin Scalia had inspired him to strike down the state's law.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Delaware suspended an attorney from practicing law within the state for a two-year period for, among other things, not having a "bona fide office." What? Yep, at FindLaw we do a fine job of letting you know where to work effectively when not in an office, things to consider if you need an office, and how to choose the right virtual law office for your practice -- but this all begs the question -- ethically, can you even have a virtual law office?

The answer is yes -- and no -- it all depends on your jurisdiction. Apparently, in Delaware, the "bona fide office" requirement is alive and well, unlike its neighbor New Jersey, which just this year disposed of its version of the "bona fide office" rule, according to Bloomberg BNA.

5 Kinds of Clients Your Firm Will Want in the New Year

Growing or even maintaining your law firm's business requires clients. And as you know, keeping the pipeline full is an ongoing challenge. Plus, you have to make sure that you get the right clients.

You know which clients to avoid. Deadbeats, second-guessers, high maintenance clients with ridiculous expectations, self-saboteurs, and litigation-happy professional plaintiffs on their fifteenth attorney, these are just some of clients that can make your working life a living hell.

Who are the clients to seek out, besides the rich and famous?

Anyone else having a serious case of senioritis, or vacationitis? Whatever you call it, you know what it is: that lax feeling you have right before a vacation or holiday office closure.

It's easy to just glide through these types of days, but instead, why don't you start wrapping up 2013 and getting a plan in place for 2014? There's no better time than now to do it because come January, you'll hit the ground running and all of your free time will be gone.

Here are the top three things you can do now to wrap up the year in a nice little package.

It's December. Eleven months ago, you made some promises to yourself known as New Year's resolutions, and if you're like most people, you probably didn't make it past July. So how can you break that trend? Easy, just make resolutions you can actually stick to.

As an attorney at a small firm, or owner of your own small firm, you're in the distinct position of being a lawyer -- and business owner; your resolutions should reflect that. Here are our top five resolutions for small firm owners -- and we promise, you can definitely stick with them for all of 2014.

Work tends to slow down this time of year, with everyone celebrating Festivus and all, so it's a good time to get ready for the inevitable -- tax season.

If your tax year coincides with the calendar year, this is an especially important time because the clock is ticking. On December 31,  at 11:59 p.m., you won't turn into a pumpkin, but your financial books will be officially closed.

Here are some small law firm tax-preparation tips to keep your holiday, and tax season, a little less stressful:

The Affluenza Defense: Brilliant Lawyering

A lot of people are rightfully enraged at the moment. A drunk 16-year-old, with two people riding in his truck bed, slammed into three people who had stopped to help a stranded motorist. Those four people died, one of the individuals who was riding in the pickup truck bed can now only communicate by blinking, and who knows how many people were injured between the truck's other passengers and the oncoming car that collided with the wreckage.

Three hours after the accident, the kid's blood alcohol content was 0.24, three times the limit for someone of legal drinking age, an age he won't reach for five more years, reports the Star-Telegram.

Any other defendant would have spent at least some time in a juvenile incarceration facility, and maybe even an adult facility. Prosecutors were seeking a twenty-year term. His punishment? Ten years of probation, and treatment at a $450,000 per year rehabilitation facility in Newport Beach, California.

Why? Quite literally, because he is rich.

You may have noticed that I love Seinfeld references, but I can't help it. Watching Seinfeld is inextricably linked with law school for me because I'd zone out watching re-runs when I got home from the law library at 11 p.m. every night. Watching Seinfeld was my brain's way of cooling off before I could catch some zzz's. So, it's only natural that this holiday season, I want you to have a Festivus-themed holiday party.

Here's why.

It's Non-Denominational

For those of you that are familiar with Festivus, then you know the catch-phrase, "A Festivus for the rest of us." It was born out of a reaction to the excesses and commercialism of the Christmas holiday season. Celebrated on December 23, Festivus is a secular holiday, and the only decoration is a Festivus pole, which lacks ... decoration. See, you're already saving money on decorations, and no one is getting offended.

How Lawyers Coexist and Compete With Legal Self-Help Websites

Hire a lawyer, or pay a nominal amount to an online legal services company for a do it yourself solution? (Disclaimer: that's a fellow Thomson Reuters/FindLaw product.)

It's a decision that many consumers face, and the bad news is, many are choosing the website over the lawyer. Estate planning attorneys know exactly what we're talking about, though online form peddlers exist for a variety of legal tasks.

Why the website? Cost and convenience. And for someone with few assets, and few heirs, quite honestly, a website might be a better option. Other people figure that a website template is good enough for now, and that eventually they'll get a lawyer to draft their "real" documents.

How do you compete? Or better yet, how do you coexist?

Top 5 Social Media Mishaps by Lawyers and Law Students of 2013

Think before you tweet. Don't be a boob on YouTube (especially now that it is tied to your Google+ identity). Facebook can get you fired.

Social media is here to stay, but as everyone and their mother joins Facebook, it becomes more and more important to protect your neck. These five lawyers lost their cool, and gained Internet infamy, and thanks to the eternal nature of Internet scandals, absent a name change, they'll likely never outlive their mistakes.

What were the five biggest social media mistakes seen in 2013? Read on:

If you're running your own law firm then you already have enough to stress about without having to figure out what to get your coworkers for the holidays. What about your paralegal? What about the receptionist? What about your partner?

We've taken the mystery out of gift giving and made it as simple as possible for you -- choose from the options below -- and you're done.

Lawyer Suspended, Still Waiting for Nigerian Inheritance

Nearly everyone, at this point, has received the ubiquitous Nigerian 419 advance fee email scam. An unsolicited email comes from someone in Africa, claiming that a long-lost relative died, or that the South Kenyan lottery just awarded you 18 million dollars. All you have to do is pay a fee to help the money clear regulatory hurdles, or give them your checking account information. Some have speculated that the emails are deliberately bad, so that only the most vulnerable and easily confused will respond, as they're the easiest marks.

Personally, the best I've ever seen was a physical letter, sent to my roommate in college. And yes, it was still in broken English.

Nobody falls for these, right? You'd have to be, well, gullible is a nice way to put it. Well, according to Above the Law, one lawyer did, and took his clients along for the ride. Now, his clients are out $200,000, and he will be benched by the Iowa Bar Association for the next year, at least.

You know what season it is -- soon you will actually be getting real snail mail from friends, family and business associates wishing you well this holiday season. If you're on the fence about sending a law firm holiday card, then read on to find out why should send out cards, and what you should consider when sending them out.

Why Send out Firm Holiday Cards

Sending out a greeting card to your clients is a great marketing tool -- that is not obvious marketing. It's a gentle reminder to your clients that you exist, and that you are oh, so polite. Spread the good cheer, and send out a firm holiday card to your clients and associates. Just follow these tips ...

5 Lessons from Nelson Mandela's Legal Legacy

Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and enduring icon of the struggle against racial oppression, died on Thursday at the ripe age of 95. America's first black president, Barack Obama, paused to reflect that he himself was "one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life."

For attorneys, law students, scholars, and clients, Nelson Mandela's legacy inspires us to trust in our legal capabilities, to practice forgiveness over vengeance, and to doggedly press on. As he said, "It always seems impossible until it's done."

Here are five ways Nelson Mandela has left an indelible legal legacy for lawyers around the world:

Prosecutor Facing Discipline for 'Our White World' Closing Statements

Williamson County State's Attorney Charles Garnati has been the court's top prosecutor since 1984. That reign, however, may soon come to an end. The popularly-elected prosecutor could soon be disciplined by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, after the commission last month issued a complaint regarding Garnati's conduct in a 2011 murder trial.

During closing statements in the trial of black defendant Marcus Marshall, Garnati, who is white, repeatedly referred to race and mentioned "our white world" in his closing arguments to an all-white jury. Though Garnati has defended his statements as taken out of context, he agreed that the defendant should receive a new trial, which a state appellate court granted earlier this year.

Racist Law Ad Update: Firm Denies Involvement, Producer Threatens

Okay, this is getting nuts.

Last Monday, we handed the award for "worst lawyer commercial ever" to McCutcheon and Hammer, P.C., of Alabama. The award was well deserved, as the commercial starred a white guy pretending to be a Chinese guy by exploiting every possible stereotype imaginable -- think blackface, but Asian.

We then issued an update, after the firm denied involvement. And then the story got weirder.

How to Survive That Post-Thanksgiving Weekend Slump

Looking for ways to survive that post-Thanksgiving weekend slump? While it may be mid-week already, some of us might have had a little too much turkey and pumpkin pie (with leftovers to boot) over the past weekend that we are still feeling those sleepy side-effects of wanting to remain in bed. With the weather getting chillier, who can blame you?

Well, your clients, for one. So, with that said, here are some ways to help you survive that post-long weekend slump:

We recently saw an interview of Bruce Barket* on Bloomberg Law, where he talked about his experience starting a law firm in the post-recession economy. Bucking industry trends, his firm is not shrinking, but growing.

Here are some tips that we gleaned from his interview on how to start a post-2008, recession-proof law firm.