Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

March 2015 Archives

Lawyers aren't often known for their clarity and concision -- we paid good money to learn our Latin phrases, after all. We have also been known to fall for the specificity, if not clarity, of a few extra words every now and then. But, pair the somewhat obscure language of legal writing with the in-speak of certain professions, and you can end up with a virtually indecipherable mess.

Put more plainly, your writing will suck.

So much in fact, it's almost enough to get you sanctioned. After filing a jargon-laden petition for cert, a BigLaw partner narrowly avoided that fate last week. Just how far did he have to go to nearly receive the wrath of a High Court's sanction?

Firms go to great lengths to find and hire the best talent, but once hired, many firms stand back and see who sinks and who swims. While some talent can thrive on its own, taking an active hand in managing your lawyers' development ensures that the firm gets the most out of its employees.

How can you build your firm's professional development program in order to turn promising talent into an actual pay out? Here are some ideas to start with.

3 Mistakes Lawyers Make Responding to ESI Requests

Electronic discovery is the name of the game these days as more and more people and companies store their stuff in the form of bytes, not pages. That means that lawyers need to know how electronic discovery works (and in some places, that's an ethical requirement).

Even so, nobody's perfect, and replying to requests for ESI can cause headaches. When you're responding to an ESI request, take caution to avoid these three mistakes.

Lawyers Need a Booth at the Farmers Market or County Fair

It's officially now spring, which means (for most of the country) blue skies and warm weather. People are outdoors at fairs, festivals, and farmers markets.

What are you doing indoors on a beautiful Saturday afternoon? You should be out there, at the fair, drumming up business. Outdoor events are a great way to talk to potential clients, and even if you don't sign anyone up, you get your name out there in the neighborhood and be part of the community.

People are cheap, they like free things, and paradoxically, this can be a great way to get into their pocketbooks. How can you turn a giveaway into a payday? For many lawyers, it's via the free consult, where attorneys meet with potential clients, answering basic questions and providing simple advice.

But, when your product is your legal expertise, does it make sense to give it away? Like so many things, the answer is "it depends."

The Importance of a Good Law Firm Tagline

Can you name the movie associated with the phrase "In space, no one can hear you scream"? How about "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water"? What product comes to mind when you hear "Don't leave home without it"?

The answers, of course, are "Alien," "Jaws 2," and American Express. A good tagline piques an audience's interest, gives them some information about the product, and sticks with them. All of these elements come together in a good law firm tagline, too. After people see your billboards, websites, and TV commercials, how do you ensure they'll be interested and remember who you were?

Here are three things that go into a good tag line.

Boston Bombing Defense Strategy: Plant Seeds Now

Normally, a defense attorney's strategy is to claim his client didn't do it. But extraordinary cases call for extraordinary measures. On day one of the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston Marathon bomber, the defense conceded that Tsarnaev helped plant the bomb that killed three and injured over 260 back in 2013.

From the very beginning, though, the Tsarnaev team's strategy has been to look ahead to the sentencing phase by planting the seeds of that argument here in the guilt phase.

Client satisfaction should be central to any firm. After all, it takes much less energy to retain a client than to develop a new one. Utilizing client surveys can be a great method to gather invaluable data about your firm's performance, identify strengths and shortcomings and find new ways to improve your marketing.

Whether it's a simple online questionnaire, a lost client survey, or a formal focus group, client surveys can help you understand clients' feelings and concerns and make sure you are excelling in the areas that matter most to clients.

3 Mistakes Lawyers Make When Choosing Office Space

If you've decided to lease office space rather than go the virtual route, congratulations! You're well on your way to looking professional.

Before you get that office space, though, there are some things you want to think about that will make your whole experience better in the future. They might not seem important before you sign that lease, but if you don't take these things into account, they'll slowly nag at you until you wish you had.

Lawyers are often asked to safeguard sensitive information, but their ability to do so can be undermined by weak cybersecurity and determined hackers. Should a firm's security be breached, cyber insurance may help protect against subsequent losses.

Cyber insurance is a growing industry, bringing in more than $2 billion in premium payments in 2014. Major players in both cyber security and insurance have begun to focus on this niche market, with former U.S. homeland security chief Tom Ridge joining recently with Lloyd's of London to create a cyber insurance company, as the Financial Times reports. Yet, as with all insurance policies, terms and conditions can vary greatly from policy to policy.

Power in a law firm isn't found just in the wood-paneled, reporter-lined corner office, but right behind the front desk. A law firm's receptionists isn't just the first face visitors see when they arrive, he or she is also the cornerstone of a successful office.

Your receptionist matters, so be sure you pick the right person for the job. If you're currently hunting for a new receptionist, put candidates with these characteristics at the top of your list:

Lawyers, It's Time to Start Spring Cleaning

It's the first day of spring -- unless you live on the East Coast, in which case, you might be in for continued snow storms. Still, with the technical beginning of spring comes spring cleaning.

If you're like me, you've got piles of things hanging around the office that don't need to be there anymore. Time to get rid of all that old junk!

Can attorneys advise their clients to remove, before litigation commences, social media pages and accounts which may contain potential evidence in a dispute? The Florida Bar's Ethics Committee took up this and similar questions in a recent proposed advisory opinion.

The state bar, like others, advises that lawyers must not advise clients to obstruct access to evidence the lawyer reasonably should know is relevant to pending or foreseeable proceedings.

Of course, like many ethical questions, there's a fair amount of wiggle room in the answer.

Ah, the professional convention. To some lawyers, they're a great way to network while catching up on the latest professional developments. To others, they're a short purgatory of endless meetings, roundtables and presentations.

Even if you're a conference-hater, these gatherings shouldn't be ignored. Conferences, conventions and other convocations of skilled professionals can be important sources of new information, new strategies, and even new clients.

As more and more Baby Boomers head toward retirement, the workforce is growing ever younger. For some, that means the twilight of their careers could be spent working under a much younger boss. Even mid-career professionals can find themselves reporting to a fresh-faced wunderkind.

Already, Generation X and Millennials make up two-thirds of the workforce, and their numbers are growing. As younger workers begin to take on more prominent roles, some simple tips can help more experienced workers adjust to careers underneath a younger boss. Here are five you may want to consider:

FindLaw White Paper: Is Your Website Traffic Report Lying to You?

Internet advertising is great because, unlike traditional methods of advertising, you know exactly how many people are coming to your website. Not only that, but you can know hundreds of other things, like which website they came from, where they live, and even what Web browser they're using.

These metrics aren't the bread and butter of legal marketing; they're more like the restaurant critics. They let you know what you're doing right and wrong. Unless they don't. According to a new FindLaw white paper, your traffic report might be lying to you.

How to Respond to a State Bar Complaint

Clients who don't get everything they wanted. Clients who think they shouldn't have to pay everything you asked them to. Clients whose friends -- armchair lawyers, all -- tell them to.

What do all of those people have in common? They're in the class of "people who are most likely to file a bar complaint against you." The bar complaint is a Sword of Damocles that clients think they can hang above attorneys to get what they want, including out of a fee agreement.

So what should you do if you're on the receiving end of such a complaint?

5 Reasons to Be Courteous With Opposing Counsel

Sometimes, lawyers take arguments from other lawyers personally. Reading a sentence that starts with, "Defendant is mistaken" can be a hit to your ego and make you a little upset. Remember, though, we're professionals and this sort of thing shouldn't be taken personally. It's just a job.

Even so, the news is filled with stories of lawyers who fired off really nasty letters, or frivolously accused opposing counsel of being unethical. This kind of stuff barely wins the instant battle (if at all) and, in the long run, makes you the kind of lawyer nobody wants to deal with.

Here are five reasons why civility with opposing counsel is one of your most important assets:

St. Patrick's Day is coming up! Men in funny green suits and plenty of green beer could have many DUI lawyers seeing plenty of green money in the days following this party-hard holiday.

According to NHTSA, DUIs rise dramatically during holidays. As people gather for holiday parties, many people inevitably drink too much alcohol. State highway patrols are now able to provide very accurate DUI fatality and arrest statistics whenever a holiday comes up.

So should lawyers take advantage of people's love of holiday drinking to market their legal services?

With Apple Watch, Local Mobile Searches Are Even Local-er

Apple (again) heralded the release of the Apple Watch on Monday, promising more than a prototype this time. The smart watch will go on sale starting April 10 and be available in three different models, ranging in price from $349 to a staggering $10,000 for the Apple Watch Edition, which comes in an 18-karat-gold alloy.

With the arrival of a new "smart" device comes the arrival of new methods for letting potential clients know you exist -- and potential ethical issues. Here's what you need to know about notifications, geo-fences, and professional responsibility:

5 Amateur Mistakes to Avoid on Your Law Firm's Website

If you're a lawyer, hopefully you're having a professional design your law firm website and not a friend of a friend who "knows computers" or something like that.

A professional-looking website can be the difference between a call from someone looking for representation and someone who skips you altogether because a shoddy website indicates you're not that professional.

Once the website is designed, though, your job isn't over. Here are a few things you'll want to double-check to make sure people get the right impression from your website:

Be a Cool Boss: 5 Simple Ways to Appreciate Your Employees

Today is Employee Appreciation Day, and your law firm probably has at least few non-lawyer employees. Paralegals, legal assistants, and legal secretaries do a lot of the hard work at a law firm, and today is a great day to appreciate them for what they do.

But heck, why limit your appreciation to one day? Even Ebenezer Scrooge celebrated Christmas all year long. You can certainly do better than him, and you don't even have to come face to face with your own mortality first!

Here are a few simple ways to show your employee appreciation:

How to Market Your Divorce Practice to Potential Clients

Lawyers can always count on divorce as a steady business, along with wills and taxes. That means divorce, with all its attendant family law implications, could be a place where you direct your marketing focus.

It's hard to market divorce, though. No one wants to come out and say, "Gee, maybe it's time for a divorce," as though you're buying a new car. What you can do is emphasize results, and appeal to people who are already thinking about it.

Nina Pham's Lawsuit: Strange Font Choices ... and Pictures?

As you may recall, Nina Pham, a critical care nurse from Texas, contracted Ebola in October. She's fine now, but at the time, she wasn't doing so well, in spite of public statements that her employer, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, made about her ordeal.

These statements form the crux of Pham's lawsuit against Texas Health Presbyterian, in which she claims the hospital acted negligently, given the risk of Ebola. The suit also claims that Pham was a "PR pawn" used to make the hospital look better.

That's all well and good -- but let's talk about the complaint itself. Have you seen it yet?

Hillary Clinton Didn't Have a Work Email Account, but Lawyers Should

As if Hillary Clinton needed more trouble stemming from her time as secretary of state, The New York Times reports that she used a personal email account "exclusively" to conduct official State Department business. That's potentially problematic, thanks to federal laws requiring retention of agency emails as official records.

This raises the question: When do you use work email and when do you use personal email? And can it get you into any ethical hot water?

5 Tips for Better Law Firm Phone Interviews

The phone interview is quickly becoming the go-to method for a first round of interviews. Phone interviews are cheaper for everyone, faster to conduct, and don't waste as much of the time of the people who inevitably won't get called back for an in-person interview.

Like in-person interviews, though, phone interviews have their own procedure, style, and etiquette. If you've never conducted a phone interview before, or you're not sure if you've been doing it right all along, here are some tips to guide you: