Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

February 2015 Archives

You may make a great first impression on your potential clients, what kind of impression does your law office make?

If your office looks like every other lawyer's office, your potential clients could be underwhelmed. Everybody has seen the diplomas on the wall, the fake potted plants, and the bookcases filled with law books that nobody ever touches.

Instead, dress your law office for success and make a great first impression with these five tips:

After a long interview process, you've just hired some new associates. Congrats! Now it's time to get to work.

As you invest hours and other resources into training your new associates, you'll want to make sure they stay long enough to provide a good return on your investment. Still, despite your best efforts, some new associates may not stick around for very long, for various reasons.

Keep an eye out for these three warning signs that your new associates may be looking to stray:

Ky. Attorney Disbarred for Failing to Pay $200K in Child Support

Stay current on your child support obligations, or you might lose your law license. As the ABA Journal reported yesterday, the Supreme Court of Kentucky disbarred Daniel Warren James for failing to pay over $200,000 in child support obligations over 13 years.

That's not just a failure to pay a little child support; it's a failure to pay a lot of child support. That, coupled with a history of attorney discipline, led the Supreme Court to conclude permanent disbarment was an appropriate sanction.

5 Annoying Things Courts Need to Stop Doing

Courts move slowly, as Chief Justice Roberts noted in his State of the Federal Judiciary Report earlier this year. Yes, he knows that the Court needs electronic filing and video recording, but for vague or unspecified reasons, they're just not ready for that yet.

Now that we think about it, all courts at every level have weird anachronisms that shouldn't exist anymore, or practices that just plain don't make sense. We've assembled a list of five things courts need to stop doing in the year 2015. This is the year of the Hoverboard, after all!

Lawyers: How Can You Tell If a Photo Has Been Photoshopped?

It's been 25 years since a University of Michigan Ph.D. student named Thomas Knoll and his brother John, then a visual effects supervisor at ILM, created a program for displaying images on a black-and-white display.

That little program for Mac OS 6 was Adobe Photoshop, and after 15 versions, it's going well beyond just displaying images. Photoshop is the industry standard for photo manipulation, and indeed, is now a verb for the act of digitally altering a photo.

Speaking of digital alterations, Photoshop may be used more often than you think in a legal context. How do you know when an image has been Photoshopped?

What Do Potential Clients Want to Know? How to Avoid Litigation

The point of most marketing is to solve a problem. Most of the time, the problem is pretty easy. When your product is dog food, the problem you're solving is that dogs need food. Then the strategy comes in: Why do they need your food, and not your competitor's?

Legal marketing is a little different. People contact attorneys for lots of different reasons, so in order to effectively determine your strategy, first you have to know what problem you're solving. Deep within FindLaw's 2014 Consumer Legal Needs Survey lies part of the answer.

Does Your Firm Need a Social Media Manager?

Between Facebook, Twitter, and a website (and, if you've been reading here, podcasts!), maintaining your Internet presence can seem like a full-time job, or at least a half-time job. And, wait, don't you have a law firm to run? All that marketing won't matter if you don't have to do any actual lawyering.

That's why you might want to consider hiring a social media manager -- a full- or part-time employee who not only manages your Twitter feed, but functions partly as a marketing manager who knows how to leverage social media.

Can a Podcast Pay Off for Your Law Practice?

OK, so you have a blog. You have a Twitter account. You have a Pinterest, a Tumblr, an Ello, and even a lawyer Tinder (but we should talk about deleting that soon). What tools are left for solos and small firms to use to market themselves?

Podcasts! You've probably heard about them, you may have listened to them, but did you know it's dead simple to make your own? All you need is a laptop, a USB condenser microphone, and an hour a week to record a show about a topic of your choice.

FRAP 32: Do Federal Appellate Briefs Need to Be Shorter?

We've been quietly watching a proposed change to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure wind its way through the appropriate channels, wondering if it's worth writing about. As the proposal has gathered steam, it turns out it's created as much divide as Team Edward v. Team Jacob -- minus the abs and the longing looks.

The proposal to reduce the maximum length of federal civil briefs from 14,000 words to 12,500 words has drawn comments from lawyers and judges alike -- and guess who's on which side of the proposal.

How to Cut Through Corporate Bureaucracy and Red Tape

Whether you work for a large firm or a small one, you're bound to encounter the bureaucracy in at least some of its glorious forms. At big firms, for instance, corporate policies limit innovation because every action has to performed according to a prearranged script, and deviations from that script are either not allowed or need to be approved by five levels of management.

On the other hand, at small firms, you're in charge of your life, but you're in more direct contact with the court system. Sometimes, it can be like pulling teeth to get an answer to a question or to get a problem solved.

How do you get what you want? Turns out it's all about collaboration and treating someone like a person.

Lawyers: Do You Need Legal Forms in Spanish?

If your law firm's clients speak Spanish (or deal with Spanish speakers in their course of business), how can you make sure you're speaking to their legal needs?

According to the Pew Research Center, Spanish is far and away the most-spoken non-English language in the United States. It's spoken by 37.6 million people, followed by Chinese (a distant second, with 2.8 million speakers).

Spanish-speakers need legal services too, and often they may not be able to find them. While you may have a few template legal forms available for simple things like leases and powers of attorney, having them in Spanish, as well as English, is a pretty good idea.

3 Ways to Make Valentine's Day Pay Off for Your Firm

Love is in the air -- or maybe that's just the air pollution being caused by everyone turning on their fireplaces for a romantic evening at home. After all, Valentine's Day isn't just a holiday for candy companies, florists, and edible underwear salesmen.

Believe it or not, lawyers can also benefit from Valentine's Day, and not just in the form of gavel-shaped chocolates. As it turns out, the holiday can be quite lucrative.

How so, you may ask? Consider the following:

Marijuana DUIs Are On the Rise: Time to Shift Your DUI Practice?

Old and busted: drunken driving. New hotness? Drugged driving. The latest survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that incidents of driving under the influence of alcohol are down by a third since 2007.

That's good news for road safety, but there's some bad news too: 25 percent of drivers tested positive for marijuana or another drug that could impair their ability to operate a vehicle. Indeed, among weekend nighttime drivers, the number who had pot in their systems jumped by 50 percent between 2007 and 2014, NHTSA found.

Maybe it's time to modify your DUI practice?

Pa. Lawyer Gets $1M Sanction for Introducing Banned Testimony

"Law & Order" is chock full of situations where a lawyer elicits some damning testimony from a witness, the other side objects, and Sam Waterston cheerfully says, "Withdrawn." And what's been heard, while "disregarded," can't really be unheard.

That's TV. In the real world, of course, there's no cheeky "withdrawn." A Philadelphia lawyer learned that the hard way, when she got hit with nearly $1 million in sanctions last fall. (Read that in your best Dr. Evil voice.)

As defense attorney Nancy Raynor pursues an appeal, here's what led up to the sanctions -- along with a potential lesson about malpractice insurance:

What Should Your Law Firm's Website Disclaimer Say?

What should your law firm's website disclaimer say?

As we've pointed out recently, your website is most likely an attorney communication (unless, of course, it's your personal blog about your favorite jazz musicians). Consequently, it's governed by all the same rules that regulate attorney advertising and communications.

That means disclaimers letting people know that it's attorney advertising. But are there any mandatory magic words you have to use? Sometimes; it depends on your state, of course.

The 10 Strongest Law Firm Brands: Lessons for Small Firms, Solos

Acritas' list of the strongest law firm brands is here! At the top, for the fourth year in a row, is Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, known to its friends as just plain old "Skadden."

The competition for law firms is heating up as each one tries to muscle the other ones out for the same money coming from the same clients. Even if you're not in the same level of classification as a Skadden, this list still has some valuable insight.

Law Office Voice Mail Tips: 5 Best Practices

Even in Web 2.0 world, the telephone -- and its constant companion, voice mail -- are still with us. There are actually a lot of people out there who prefer the scintilla of human interaction the phone provides over the cold, lifeless specter of email. (Or the tantalizing fun of Snapchat.)

As with every office practice, voice mail has its own etiquette and best practices guide. Here some of the rules you should keep in mind for professional and efficient voice mail communications: