Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

August 2015 Archives

When it comes to recruiting new attorneys, it can be hard for small practices and boutique firms to compete with for top talent -- but it's not impossible. After all, there's a reason you don't work for a major firm. Because those jobs are awful. Instead of being another overpaid drone working ten hours every day on a brief no one will see, you decided to set out for something different.

What drew you to your practice can also draw others. A committed small firm, focused on what sets it apart from the crowd, can still compete with bigger employers and bring in the talent it needs to advance.

You can trust old things. That's the logic of the ancient documents rule, which allows lawyers to introduce hearsay evidence so long as the document is old enough and appears authentic. How old is old enough? Just 20 years.

Ironically, that thinking is probably out of date, given the amount of digital data that can be hoarded away for long periods. If the logic behind the rule was questionable when it was established, some argue that it's even weaker now. The federal judiciary might agree. It decided earlier this month to consider ending the ancient documents rule altogether.

The Internet is bloated with over-opinionated jerks. Everyone knows this; but it's never anything to lose sleep over until someone comes after you personally. If your reputation is attacked by an anonymous online user on Yelp or some other public site, what should you do?

First, take a deep breath. Before you do anything, think about how your reactions will make you appear. Possibly the worst thing you can do is freak out and threaten to sue.

We don't often look across the pond for advice on making 'Merica's legal industry great. We took the Magna Carta, some common law, and haven't felt the need to look back since 1776. But maybe there's a thing or two American lawyers can learn from their English counterparts, at least when it comes to the structure of the "law firm of the future."

A recent debate among English practitioners about the future of the firm has plenty of good insights for American lawyers. Perhaps the most helpful reminder: when it comes to clients, no one cares about law firm structure. What they want is results.

You're a master of Internet marketing. You've got your Google keywording down. Your law firm's website is mobile friendly. You're on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. You even have an app! But if you don't have video, you might not have all your bases covered.

Online video should be an essential part of your lawyer marketing strategy. It's a great way to reach consumers, develop trust, and build your brand. It's also not all that difficult to create. So get ready for your close-ups, attorneys, you're about to become Internet video stars.

Few firms have physical libraries anymore, but that doesn't mean there's no work for law librarians. While much of their time is spent on helping research through electronic databases and keeping practitioners on top of recent developments, law librarians also see plenty of opportunity to expand their role in the firm.

That's the message found by a new survey of law firm librarians conducted by Bloomberg Law. Those librarians feel underused and underpaid and they're ready to take a more active role in bringing in business. So, if you want to make your law librarians happy, give them more work -- and maybe a raise.

As webpages are becoming increasingly important evidence in litigation, so too are the standards for capturing and preserving that evidence. For years, we've seen Internet evidence used to contest disability claims, to prove a spouse's cheating ways, to support claims of trademark infringement. Heck -- even Google Earth is being marshaled in courts as evidence.

Lawyers who want to make use of webpage or electronic evidence might be surprised that simply printing out that incriminating Facebook post, defamatory tweet, or infringing email might not be sufficient anymore. Instead, attorneys need to follow best practices for capturing webpage and electronic evidence in order to ensure its admissibility in court.

Here in Silicon Valley, it's not uncommon to see a tech millionaire zip by in their new electric Tesla sportscar, or to see those millionaire's secretaries sending gas money to their carpool through PayPal. Kids dream of privatized space travel; commuters long for super high speed rail.

Elon Musk, the tech mogul, has his fingers everywhere here. The former CEO of PayPal, Musk took his billions and spread them around through a variety of future-focused enterprises, from Tesla cars, to SpaceX, to hyperloop transit. He's quickly reached Steve Jobs cult-status.

We've often said small firms and solos need to think about their work as both a profession and a business. Part of business success is looking at business leaders. With that in mind, here's what lawyers can learn from Elon Musk, both in his triumphs and failures:

Always remember to say thank you -- even when you're a high rolling attorney. You should especially remember to thank other lawyers who send business your way. These referrals can be an important source of clients and are definitely worth a sign of gratitude.

But what's the best way to say thanks? A card, a car, an ethics violation? Here are some ideas on the best ways to give thanks for a referral:

Maintaining client relationships is just one the many jobs overseen by small firms or solo lawyers. While face-to-face attention is always best, you don't have to do all your glad-handing by hand. Client relationship management software can help make your client connections and marketing efforts run more smoothly and seamlessly.

But what, if any, CRM program is right for your practice? Here's a quick overview to help you tailor your CRM to your firm.

For most lawyers, the legal profession isn't one that keeps you on your toes, at least not literally. Most of us will spend a good chunk of our days sitting behind a desk. If we're lucky, we might get a nice detour to a conference room or, on rare occasions, a court house -- but mostly, legal brainwork requires little physical stimulation.

All that sitting is terrible for you. Sitting for more than three hours a day knocks an average of two years off your life while easily adding an inch or two to your waste. You're not about to give up the law for a career as a professional jogger, however, so here are five ways to combat the sedentary nature of the profession -- all of which you can do at work.

Sharks swim, weasels burrow, lawyers argue -- it's simply the natural order of things. Yet some abominations, "disruptive innovators" they call themselves, would seek to abandon this system that's worked so well for at least several hundred years.

Indeed, these innovative monsters think it's time lawyers focus on collaborating with, instead of crushing, others. Particularly, they want lawyers to cooperate with, or at least stop opposing, non-lawyer direct-to-consumer legal service companies. Do they have a point?

As a child, you might have dreamed of arguing before the Supreme Court, swaying The Nine to the side of justice, righteousness, equity. Then you went to law school, started to practice and, well -- things change. Most solo practitioners and small firm attorneys gave up on Supreme Court dreams a while back. Now, you probably dream of clients who pay on time or landing an in-house gig.

You were right to abandon those dreams. No one argues before the Supreme Court, except, a Reuters report shows, a tiny handful of well-connected lawyers.

A seasoned criminal defense attorney might be able to charge $500 an hour with a $20,000 retainer, but there's only so many murdersome millionaires to go around. A recent law school grad, without an established reputation for success, won't be able to bill at anything near the same rate. Does that mean she should drop her rates to the bottom of the barrel? No way.

Setting fees means finding the going rates in your area, then positioning yourself somewhere within the acceptable range -- the Goldilocks spot allowing you to cover costs, make money, and attract clients. Go too high and you won't have many clients. Go too low, however, and you could find yourself severely undercharging for your legal services, even if you're still able to put food on the table.

It's a good time to be a woman in the legal profession. That is, at least when it comes to awards and accolades, if not equity-partnerships. Five female legal trailblazers were honored last Sunday with the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Awards. That ceremony came just a week after Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers announced the 50 best law firms for women.

So, if you're looking to follow in the footsteps of great lawyers, and looking for the right firm to do it in, pay attention. Here's a look at the women and firms on top of the legal world.

Very few law firms fail because of bad lawyers. Even the best lawyers can watch their firms fail, often due to poor planning and poorer management.

While several large firms have gone down in spectacular fashions recently, many smaller firms have disappeared quietly, failing for reasons that could have been avoided. Here's an overview of the ways small firms fail -- and how you can avoid their fate.

Many clients seek a lawyer's help at the darkest times of their life. They may be dealing with chronic illness, going through a contentious custody battle, fighting foreclosure, or facing prosecution and potential imprisonment. It's unsurprising then that some of these clients would struggle with feelings of depression or suicide.

How should an attorney react to a suicidal client? What can an attorney ethically reveal and what liability might attach to an attorney's acts or omissions?