Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

June 2015 Archives

Maybe you've heard the news: Even though women are entering the legal field at unprecedented rates, women are still paid less than their male counterparts. Also, women are largely absent from high-level positions in firms.

Some clear progress is being made, however. The Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) has awarded 44 law firms with its 2015 Gold Standard Certification for their work supporting the progress and empowerment of women in the legal profession. Could your firm join them?

Lawyers are writers. A majority of legal work involves some form of writing, whether it's an email to a client, a brief for the court, or a memo for a partner. Yet, there's often little attention paid to the craft of writing, despite its central role in an attorney's practice.

Well crafted writing can help set you apart from the crowd and make you a more effective practitioner -- but it's a skill that takes work to develop. With that in mind, here are five tips for writing better:

We're not talking mercury in the ground or asbestos in the ceiling here. The type of toxic workplace we have in mind isn't one that poisons you over decades -- it grinds you down every day. A toxic work environment is filled with rude or insensitive interactions, aggressive relationships, and dehumanizing treatment.

Stay up late all night finishing a project, only to be told the next morning not to disturb the partners with late night emails? Regularly get chewed out by the lawyer with thinning hair and an alcohol problem for things that aren't even your fault? Working on your 3,000 billable hour quota? You have a toxic work environment. If you're still not sure, The New York Times has a nice quiz -- and we've got tips to dealing with the result.

A good reputation is central to a successful practice. Compared to other professions, attorneys are especially dependent on their reputation to bring them business, respect, and career success. But it's not just word of mouth that shapes your reputation anymore. When it comes to a lawyer's reputation, the Internet is where it's at.

That means that attorneys need to, at the least, devote some time and effort to monitoring and managing their online reputation. Here are three tips for protecting your good name online:

If you speak Vietnamese and are in the Northern California area, you might have noticed a proliferation of legal advice columns and radio talk shows. These programs usually involve questions from the public followed by general legal advice from a professional.

These legal advice spots, whether in Vietnamese or otherwise, can be a good way for lawyers to raise their profile, advertise their practice, and establish themselves as an expert in the public eye. Of course, there are plenty of risks to be aware of as well.

The corner office is dead, The Washington Post declared this Father's Day. What did it in? The redesign of Nixon Peabody's D.C. office, which has gone from marble and wood paneling to open and airy -- and corner office free. If even conservative Big Law firms are dropping corner offices, shouldn't everyone?

No. Open office design comes in and out of trend every few years, always claiming to offer greater democracy, communication, and transparency, only to be designed away in a few years, when people realize they actually like being able to work in private now and then. So don't ditch your corner offices just yet.

Tech companies have been criticized for their lack of diversity for years. Consider the fact that 94 percent of Facebook's technical employees are white or Asian; the median employee age at Google is allegedly 29 years old; and no large social networking company has more than 2 percent of black employees. With all the criticism tech gets, you might think it's the least diverse industry around, but you'd be wrong. That award goes to lawyers.

Facebook has reportedly taken up the Rooney Rule to help increase diversity in its workforce. That Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, requires that minority candidates be interviewed for top positions. It's that simple -- and it's been credited with drastically increasing the amount of minority coaches in the NFL. Will the Rooney Rule work for Facebook? Could it work for your firm?

Every lawyer knows that their practice is generally limited to states where they are members of the bar. Want to move across state lines to lay out a new shingle? Pray that your new state bar has a reciprocal recognition agreement with your old one, or get ready to sit for the bar exam again.

But what about cases that simply reach across jurisdiction, like advising a client who is buying a vacation home out of state or expanding their business in multiple jurisdictions? Those situations can prove a bit trickier.

Society seems to be getting more diverse every day. If you're not convinced, just check out the array of bar associations in your area. You'll find that there's a bar association or committee for practically every geographic location, ethnicity, and legal practice area you can imagine.

Did you know there's even a National Cannabis Bar Association? That's right, a bar association dedicated to cannabis! Formed recently by a group of San Francisco-based lawyers (no surprise there, right?), the association seeks to bring the legal marijuana manufacturing sector into the mainstream.

Pot isn't your thing? That's okay. You can still experiment with getting high by joining the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association.

Why Email Marketing Won't Die

Email marketing is the dinosaur of online marketing strategies. Since dinosaurs are extinct by definition, it's almost a little miraculous that email marketing still exists at all.

In reality, there's nothing miraculous about it. Email marketing might be ancient, but it is still entirely practical, despite all the flashy online communication services that are available today. If you're not convinced, here's a fun fact: According to the former CTO of The Huffington Post, no one sends more emails than Facebook or Twitter.

We're 33 days into the trial of James Holmes for opening fire in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012 and the jurors are being dismissed left and right. Last week, three jurors were kicked after reading tweets about the case. Another was let go on Monday for failing to disclose potential bias during voir dire. She was joined by a fifth juror, removed today, again for potential bias.

After Judge Carlos Samour pulled together the largest jury pool in history, it looks like a few mistakes may have been made in voir dire -- and after. Here's what lawyers can learn from the Aurora shooting jury mess.

In-house attorneys need your services. How can you convince them of this? If your knee-jerk approach is to send sports tickets or cocktail party invites, you may need to reexamine your strategy.

Landing business from in-house clients isn't easy. Like most things in life, it's becoming increasingly competitive. To position your firm for optimal success, there are a few best practice tips to follow.

Using Twitter is as a marketing tool is incredibly easy. If you want more visibility, you can pay to promote your tweets to more users. Simple as that.

What's not so easy is determining the ROI for promoted tweets. There are many reasons to be skeptical about Twitter's value for marketing efforts, but there are also some good reasons why your legal practice might benefit from it.

Growth is good, right? More clients, more money, more opportunities for your business. Yet, for many lawyers, growth can be a headache, if not a nightmare. If you're running a small or boutique firm, growth can disrupt a carefully calibrated work-life balance, lead to extra overhead, and put you even farther behind on your obligations.

But not if you're doing it right. Smart growth, which focuses on planned, strategic expansion, can help you avoid many of the pitfalls that can occur when you simply add client upon client. Here's how:

The Hispanic population is the fastest growing demographic in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 54 million Hispanics living in America, which is about 17% of the entire population. What does this mean for your legal practice?

On June 24th, FindLaw is offering a free webinar to address this topic: Positioning Your Firm to Capture the Hispanic Market.

If you're a personal injury attorney, you know that liens can play a significant role in obtaining a favorable resolution for your client. But where should you start when dealing with personal injury liens? What's the best strategy for negotiating and reducing liens? Should you handle hospital, insurance and med pay liens differently?

Don't worry, FindLaw has the answers. FindLaw's attorney writers have just released new and updated personal injury lien resources to help guide attorneys through the process. Here's a quick overview:

It's about time the legal job market heard some good news. Reports over the past few years have focused on the fact that the market is over-saturated, wages aren't rising, et cetera, et cetera.

Finally, there's good news for legal professionals in 2015: hiring is picking up and salaries are expected to increase more quickly than last year. But what specific areas are growing? Here's a quick overview of some of the hottest areas in the legal profession right now:

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert may be an accused child molester, but he's not a poor one, not after years of working as a high-paid lobbyist. That lobbying money has come in handy of late and not only to cover up "past misconduct." Hastert has dipped into his savings hired some of the best lawyers money can buy.

The ex-speaker has retained Thomas Green, a well known white-collar defense attorney, to represent him against accusations that he broke banking laws in an attempt to pay off a victim of sexual abuse.

Summer is here and the beach is calling -- someone else's name? For many lawyers, getting away to enjoy the summer is no easy task. But it's not impossible and the benefits of taking a moment away from the law firm can be great: vacations can help you avoid burn out, devote time to relationships, relearn your children's names.

With a little planning, even the busiest lawyers can get away for a summer vacation or two. Here's a roundup of some of our best advice on how to take a successful vacation.

Lawyers running small and boutique firms often have to wear many hats, playing the role of litigator, marketer and office manager. For many, this also means being your own do-it-yourself human resources department.

Of course, no attorney has enough time to spend write out employee guidelines or flipping through new resumes all day. To keep from getting bogged down in administrative tasks, your small firm H.R. work can be made more efficient and more streamlined by focusing in on what matters. Here's seven areas to focus on when working on your human resources:

Law firms aren't known for their effective use of office space. This is a problem because office expenses directly affect the bottom line: if you're wasting office space, you're wasting money.

Office occupancy expenses are second only to a firm's lawyer compensation, according to the 2015 Client Advisory by Citi Private Bank. This isn't an inherent problem, but many firms are still struggling since the recession, so every penny counts.

Need to maximize the value of your square footage? These office trends can help:

It can be hard to convey your intentions online. Without the context of a face to look at or voice to hear, the plain words of a text, tweet or email can easily be interpreted, and misinterpreted, in many different ways.

While the Internet has stubbornly refused to adopt context clues like the interrobang or irony punctuation, tools like emojis and emoticons can help visual express the intent behind words. But not always.

Whether they're law firms or a banana stands, family businesses have a long and respectable history. Family businesses have been around since the first Neanderthal left his cave painting business to his kids. But, a family business isn't exactly an normal business. It can be fraught with difficult family politics on the inside or viewed as nepotistic from the outside.

Whether you're considering bringing family into your practice or you are simply representing family businesses, these three tips can help you make sure you're doing it right:

There's no question that Microsoft Word is the standard when it comes to computer word processing. The program, which was first released over 32 years ago, is installed on over 1 billion machines and used for just about all non-specialized word processing needs. But it's starting to see its dominance challenged, as consumers move to online word processors and tablets, where Word's reign is much less established.

If you're looking to break free from Bill Gates or simply want to explore other options for your firm, there are alternatives out there. Here's five quality alternatives to MS Word that are functional, affordable and, most importantly, compatible with the Microsoft documents everyone else still uses.

Reverse auctions continue to change the way small firms get work. If your firm is fishing for new projects, you may encounter this process. Should you be concerned? Not if you're up-to-speed and you know what you're getting into.

This rise of reverse auctions parallels the increasing use of alternative fee arrangements. In the context of nit-picking over legal fees, it makes sense that a business would engage in competitive bidding for legal services.

The legal profession has been under pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiency for years -- and those pressures aren't just being felt by major white-shoe firms. Clients are increasingly scrutinizing small and mid-sized firms about their efficiency, project management and cost, according to a report by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In a buyer's market, many small and midsized firms are rising to the challenge -- and reaping the benefits of increased client satisfaction and retention. Here's how.

How Can Boutiques Compete With BigLaw? Technology!

As BigLaw firms fall, "boutique" firms rise in their place. "Boutique" is just a fancy name for a small law firm that emphasizes a few practice areas. It's not just the increased cost of BigLaw firms that has enabled boutiques to become popular, though.

As Bloomberg reports, it's technology that has allowed the little guys to finally catch up to the big guys.