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November 2014 Archives

5 Apps for Working from Home This Holiday Season

This week is Thanksgiving, and you're going to be out of the office, but you're not really going to be out of the office, are you? Let's face it: Come Friday, you're going to be back on your computer, billing furiously.

Even so, you'll still be at home, trying desperately to overcome the meat sweats induced by the previous night's overindulgence. If you can't be in the office, here are some apps you can use to connect to your stuff remotely.

Moving Law Offices? Here is a Really Big Checklist

Moving stinks, no matter what your budget or occupation. But for us, the lawyers, it's an even bigger pain: everybody, from the courts to the bar to clients, all need to be notified, there is no room for downtime, and everything needs to go according to plan so that you can get back to work ASAP -- doubly so if you have important case deadlines pending.

The key to a successful move, then, is organization. Advance planning, a big checklist, a free weekend, and enough luck to avoid any lost boxes or damaged equipment are what you need to close up shop at one office on a Friday and open back up the following week, without missing a beat.

Here's one of those things -- the checklist:

Advice to Clients in Wake of Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

Now that the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri has decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, there were protests, and there will be more protests.

As a lawyer, you might be representing one of any number of groups affected by the protests, whether they're business owners in areas where people are gathering; crime victims; or the protestors themselves. Here's some basic and practical advice you can give to each of these clients.

What Lawyers Should Know About Pres. Obama's Immigration Plan

Last Thursday, President Obama outlined his plan for dealing with the problem of undocumented immigrants. It involves selective enforcement of immigration laws, focusing more on criminals and less on families and children.

With the implementation of new immigration regulations come new opportunities, both for undocumented immigrants and for attorneys. Here's what you should know about the immigration order.

Lawyerly Skills Can Pay Off: 5 Things You Can Negotiate

Americans don't really negotiate over things as much as people do in other countries. We're accustomed to just paying the sticker price and moving on with our lives. But there are a plethora of things you can acquire for a cheaper price by putting your fancy lawyerly negotiatin' skills to work.

Here are five examples:

Can Free Consultations Pay Off for Lawyers?

Smooth or crunchy? Sean Connery or Roger Moore? Free consultations or no? These are the debates that characterize our times. Because this is a legal blog, we're going to have to save the first two for another blog (although, off the record, the answers are "crunchy" and "Roger Moore").

We're qualified to help you answer the third question, though. Many opinions abound about whether you should offer free consultations, where the potential client comes in to explain his or her problem. What should you do? Here are a few points to ponder:

Lawyering on the Go: 5 Tips for Working While Traveling

I hope you've purchased your Costco-sized bottle of antacids: The holiday season means travel, and travel means stress via missed flights, delayed flights, poor weather, nasty people, and luggage that's in Boston instead of Albuquerque (but don't worry; you'll get a $25 voucher for your troubles).

So how can you get work done on the go? Thankfully, airports, airplanes, trains, and even buses are much friendlier to getting work done than they ever have been. (Downside: You're expected to be working all the time.) Here are a few tips that can help:

Gift Ideas for the Lawyer in Your Life

Black Friday will soon be upon us; or, more properly, the month-long holiday binge once called "Black Friday" is already here. That means you can get discounts on lawyer gifts for your lawyer friends as early as today.

But what do lawyers want for Christmas? Law-related stuff, of course, which includes gifts that make them seem more important than they really are. Here are some gift ideas that should please any lawyer.

The Pros and Cons of an Online-Only 'Virtual' Law Practice

There is a lot of debate about what exactly a "virtual" law practice is: Is it someone who doesn't have a full-time office and primarily uses email? Or is it something more: online-only, using secure document portals for clients, perhaps using more than just e-mail (video chat, maybe)?

For now, we're going to go with the online-only lawyer. Think: someone who never meets clients in person and who could run his firm just as easily from North Dakota as he could from a motel in Amarillo, Texas. What are the pros and cons of such an unusual, "virtual" arrangement?

Facebook Adds 'Places' Directory: Yet Another Yelp Clone

There's Google My Business, a local directory that also has Google reviews baked in. There's Apple Maps Connect, which is its own local directory with ratings and reviews. And you know you need to keep your eye on Yelp, the mother of all review sites.

Now Facebook wants to join the party too! Introducing Facebook Places, another local directory that you might use some time when your Yelp app won't load. The Web-based service (it hasn't yet been baked into the mobile app) simply prompts you to "Discover great places in every city." Enter a location and wham, bam, boom: You get cool stuff to do, all with reviews by real Facebookers.

Again, it screams "Yelp competitor," and really, it is. And you need to keep your eye on it.

Why Lawyers Need to Advise Clients to Stay Off Social Media

Social media is a mixed blessing. Sure, it allows instantaneous communications with friends and family (especially over cat photos), but it also allows clients to make terrible decisions at the push of a button. Part of your initial meeting with a client should be a brief overview of why the client should stay away from Facebook and Twitter (and others).

Clients are big boys and girls; so why should you take on the Herculean task of telling them not to respond to that itch to comment?

Are Your Clients Confused? 5 Things Lawyers Can Explain Better

Lawyers often assume that clients know how things work, and when clients say, "You bet I understand!," the lawyer takes the client as his word. But the client doesn't always understand why, for example, you haven't called in three days to update him on his case. A lot of client frustration comes from not understanding what's going on or why something is the way it is, which can lead to unnecessary state bar complaints.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are five things you should explain to clients to avoid potential confusion:

In Focus: How Lawyers Can Reduce Eye Strain

You know what was vastly underrated? The Smith-Corona typewriter. Typewriters didn't distract you with celebrity gossip. They didn't have email alerts popping up in the corner of your screen, ready to interrupt your work every few minutes. And eye fatigue? Not so much, not when you're not staring at an artificially lit computer screen for 8 to 10 hours straight.

Sadly, the typewriter is no more. Research, brief writing, and even filing is done using these damned computers and the "information superhighway." According to the 2014 Digital Eye Strain Report, Americans on average are now spending nine hours per day in front of a digital screen. Nearly 70 percent of adults report eye strain, more so among younger adults (18 to 34) than older adults with presumably higher rates of actual eye issues.

What can you do to relieve the pain? Here are a few tips:

5 Qualities to Look For in a Law Firm Marketing Manager

Marketing is one of those things that people think they can do on their own. A couple slogans, a sign, and boom -- you're done. But marketing turns out to be harder than it looks. That's why some law firms have dedicated marketing managers -- experienced people who make it their full-time job to advertise the law firm.

It's a good idea to have a marketing manager (and here are some good reasons), but the question for today is, what do you look for in a marketing manager? Here are a few considerations to get you started:

5 Fun Facts About Harold Hamm's $1B Divorce Settlement

What's the biggest divorce you've ever handled? A million-dollar pie? A billion-dollar pie?

Try $14 billion, the net worth of oil tycoon Harold Hamm. Hamm. The CEO and majority shareholder of Continental Resources is breathing a sign of relief after an Oklahoma court held that his now-ex-wife would only receive $1 billion in their divorce.

Yes, only $1 billion -- yeesh. Here are a few other fun facts about this massive, massive divorce case:

Is Billboard Advertising for Law Firms a Good Idea?

You've undoubtedly walked by a billboard featuring a smiling lawyer in a suit, with a caption claiming that he'll fight for you, along with a checklist of things he'll help you fight for. Then there's a phone number at the bottom. Maybe it includes a silly nickname.

Have you ever wondered about billboards -- known in The Biz as "outdoor advertising"? Opinions vary about outdoor advertising; it's either a great, cost-effective idea or it's a vestige of an earlier time (and wouldn't you rather launch a social media campaign?).

If you're thinking about getting a billboard ad for your law firm, take some of these thoughts into account:

'Tis the Season ... for Law Firm Holiday Cards

That's right -- our expanded holiday season means that Christmas starts at Thanksgiving and ends somewhere around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And with Thanksgiving less than three weeks away, you may want to start thinking about your law firm's holiday cards.

Holiday cards are a time-honored tradition -- something you can send to clients, family members, and adversaries alike to help celebrate the holiday season. But before you get your office staff to don reindeer antlers and pose for a funny picture, here are a few things you may want to consider:

5 Ways Your Firm Can Get the Most Out of Google

There was once a time where nobody used Google. Yeah, it existed. We used things like Lycos and AOL. But that all ended decades ago, right?

Seriously, Google is the Internet. This should not surprise you. If you wanted to look up orange monkeys right now, you'd probably go to Google. Nearly everybody has a Gmail account. Google's offerings dominate most of their respective markets because they are so damn good and simple.

Google is where your clients are. And it is where you need to be. Check out these five ways your firm can get the most out of Google:

Pot Legalized in Ore., Alaska, and D.C.: What Lawyers Should Know

Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican or neither, the one thing you can agree on after Tuesday's election is it's time to party in three more states! Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., all voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Each law is slightly different, though, so if you're practicing in any of these jurisdictions, it's helpful to know just what they cover and when they go into effect. There are actually lots of issues here for many attorneys, including criminal defense, tax, corporations, and property. So read up!

Does Your Law Firm's Website Speak to Your Client's Needs?

If you're the one designing your law firm website, you might be tempted to craft one that speaks to what you think is important. But really, what you think isn't important. What the client thinks is important is really what's important.

Research has shown that your website needs to cater to your clients' needs, not your needs or what you think should be important to the client. So how well is your website speaking to your potential clientele?

Here are a few things you should consider in making your website client-centric:

Should Your Law Firm Offer Coupons?

Should your law firm offer coupons? No. See, that wasn't too hard, was it?

OK, the answer might not be that simple, but for most practice areas, most lawyers, and most clients, coupons are a bit too low-class for general use. You won't see any BigLaw firms tossing out coupons. You won't even see most family law lawyers tossing out coupons. And seriously, as a client, what would you think if you got a "Buy 1, Get 1 Free" coupon for DUIs or divorces?

Still, you might be tempted, especially if you're targeting budget-conscious clients. Just in case, here are a few more reasons to ditch the coupons, all of which deal with the issue of a client walking in to your office with the offer in hand, ready to take you up on it:

Should You Go 'Secret Shopping' at Your Own Law Firm?

You might think your firm's customer service is just peachy-keen, but you might be wrong. A recent FindLaw audit of 100 firms found that 73 of them didn't have any way to answer the phone after business hours. "Fine," you say, "but there's voicemail." That's true -- except that half of all the firms took more than 24 hours to respond, or simply never responded at all.

If you think you don't have a problem, that might be your first problem. So should you "secret shop" your own law firm to find out what your clients are really experiencing?

3 Things Lawyers Can Learn From NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. It's an artificial deadline, chosen in an arbitrary month, meant to force people to finally conquer that dream of penning the next great American novel. Because everybody has a story, right? And if everyone who wants to be a writer finally just shuts up and writes, and chases that dream, they'll finally know whether they are the next Hemingway or Faulkner.

But maybe you're not a novelist. Maybe you're perfectly content with being a hell of a lawyer. That doesn't mean there's nothing for you in NaNoWriMo. Here are three stream-of-consciousness takeaways that apply equally to the practice of law:

Law Firm Signage: Where Should You Literally Hang Your Shingle?

It's the dream of many lawyers to hang out their own shingle. But once you set up your own practice, literally where should you hang your shingle? On the roof? In front of the building? On the window or front door?

These are actually real concerns. As much as judges in the Ivory Tower like to wax poetic about how law is a "profession," as we've written about before, law is -- if you're in a solo or small firm -- a business as much as a profession, and you need to know how to run it as such.

OK, rant's out of the way. So where should you put up your law firm's signage? Here are a few tips to consider:

Holy Crap: Lawyer's Led Zeppelin Complaint Is a Work of Art

A complaint is a complaint is a complaint. Most have captions, parties listed, and many have that line numbering along the side of the page that Word just loves to tinker with if you shift away from double-spacing. Some courts mandate certain fonts, font-sizing, spacing, and margin size.

Let's hope the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania doesn't, because this complaint is a freaking work of art: font choices, formatting, bright red signature at the end -- it's all just so dang perfect. Take a look for yourself: