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November 2015 Archives

Who or What Is 'The Law Guy'?

If you were one of the lucky few who earned a passing score on this last July 2015 bar exam, you might be "the law guy" to your family and friends. Just be careful about using that term in or around New York ...

The origins of "law guy" are both fascinating and a nice break from typical monotony of appellate work. It's almost like our profession's version of the cryptid. How did it begin? Are you a law guy?

Sure, attorneys aren't the biggest early adopters of new technology. You won't find many esquires who are well-versed in artificial intelligence or nano-architecture, for example. But it turns out that we're also terrible at technology basics. The Legal Tech Assessment, a program developed to test attorneys' skill at simple office tasks like redacting information from PDFs, has proven time and again that lawyers often fail at basic law practice technology, wasting time and client money.

In the 14 months that the LTA has been around, no firm has had all of its attorneys pass the tech test -- until now. The boutique business law firm, Keesal, Young and Logan, has become the first firm ever to have all of its lawyers pass the assessment.

How to Attract Top Millennial Talent to Your Small Law Firm

According to data taken from Census Bureau data of 2015, the Pew Research Center found that Millennials now make up the largest workforce in the nation, according to the Pew Research Center, they're expected to soon become the largest living generation.

Along with this giant demographic change are the attendant cultural shifts that come along for the ride. Millennials are the new lawyers, doctors, and service professionals of today. Thus, law firms need to attract young millennials lawyers and keep them if they are to survive. As attorney Bruce Stachenfeld has so presciently noted, if the lawyers leave, what kind of a firm do you have?

Jared's diet helped turn him into a child molester. That's the novel theory his lawyers developed last week on the eve of his sentencing. Jared Fogle, the former Subway sandwich chain spokesman and famous weight loss champion, was sentenced last week to over 15 years in prison for having sex with minors. But his lawyers argued that he should be shown leniency because he developed a sex addiction only after overcoming his food addiction.

It sounds suspiciously like the Twinkie defense to us.

Sheldon Silver Trial Update: Jury Deliberates Federal Corruption Case

It has been a difficult several weeks for former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, once one of the most powerful men in New York.

Closing arguments concluded in Silver's multi-week corruption trial that saw its beginnings with the Speaker's arrest in January amidst allegations that he traded favors to benefit two real estate developers and a Columbia University researcher. Latest news is that at least one juror has requested to be excused from the case.

You follow a judge on Twitter. (There's plenty of them to be found.) He tweets about life on the bench. You tweet about cats and the occasional courtroom victory. The judge even retweets you on occasion.

If this tweeting takes place while you have a case pending before said judge, have you both engaged in ex parte communication or created the appearance of bias? At least one Ninth Circuit appellant thinks so.

How to Start a Solo Law Practice: 5 Tips to Get Started

Many attorneys have successfully hung their own shingle, but it can be daunting to do this on your own. Part of the appeal of BigLaw is that someone else will make the big decisions for you. But this also means micromanagement and other crimes against your independent nature. Here are a few tips to remember as you begin your own solo practice.

When an employee quits, it's not just a worker walking out the door, its years of training and investment. Hiring replacement employees is expensive and time consuming, requiring you to invest resources in job search and training -- resources that could be better spent on the firms' practice.

Retention is key. With that in mind, here are some of the top reasons law firms suffer from high employee turnover and how you can prevent them.

Law Firm Tips for Outsourcing

With all the eagerness to be part of the BigLaw leagues, it is very easy to be blinded by the glamour and overlook many of the disadvantages of BigLaw. Sure, people like to be associated with the big names on BigLaw firms, but most will stay just that: an associate. When bad times hit, BigLaw firms look to outsource -- starting with you.

If you're part of a small firm, you can take steps to weather the economic storm and also take the driver's seat. Instead of firing your people, work with them so that they can telecommute. And of course, outsource the work that doesn't require your immediate attention or skill -- hopefully without much tears.

When it comes to law and technology, if you throw a rock, you'll hit someone claiming that legal tech is about to revolutionize practice. But it's not just Big Data and virtual paralegals that are changing how things are done.

Even in DUI defense, new technology is amplifying attorney resources and reshaping the balance of power in discovery, especially when it comes to video footage and audio recordings.

If you are a lesbian, gay, bi, or transgendered worker, outing yourself in the office can be risky, even today. Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is banned in only 21 states and the District of Columbia; protections against gender identity discrimination are even rarer. There are huge swaths of the country where LGBT employees can be freely fired for no other reason than their sexuality or gender identity.

But the legal industry across the country continues to be one of the most LGBT-inclusive industries in the nation. The nation's law firms "set the standard for LGBT workplace inclusion," according to a recent report by the Human Rights Campaign. So give yourself a pat on the back, lawyers. You're not as bad as everyone says, after all.

Holiday Office Parties Gone Wrong

The time hasn't yet arrived for digging into our Turkeys, but we thought it would be a good time to remind firms that there is a definite wrong way to conduct Holiday Office parties.

Here's a list of things to avoid based on past holiday office parties that went wrong.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled lawyers yearning to bill hourly." If that's not what it says on the Statue of Liberty, it very well should be.

Whether you learned the law in Ireland, Syria, or Bangladesh, there's always a place for you in America. You just have to be able to find it.

Who's Training the New Generation of Lawyers?

Bar Leader, an extension of the ABA, conducted a survey on millennial and Generation Y lawyers. It found that 75 percent of Generation Y lawyers felt that their law school failed to provide them with much practical training or information on how to actually practice law.

Of those numbers, 66 percent of those even had significant clinical experience while in school -- and they still felt like they were under-prepared. Some noted that law professors were fully aware of the situation and did little to prepare the students. So, who is training the next generation of lawyers?

Pros and Cons of Taking Small Claims Cases

For most lawyers, the question of whether or not to take >small claims cases will inevitably come up. Many "successful" lawyers will simply dismiss these cases as being a waste of time. By definition, these small-ticket cases simply represent potential opportunity costs of bigger and more monied cases.

But small claims bring value in place of the money they don't. These cases can be a good way for attorneys to build up valuable courtroom experience while providing a service that many clients wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Mike Vraa from Lawyerist collected a number of points that attorneys should consider when taking on small claims cases.

Litigation funding just got a bit more difficult in Colorado. The Rocky Mountain State's Supreme Court ruled en banc yesterday that consumer litigation funding companies provide small consumer loans, akin to payday loans.

The ruling means that consumer litigation funding companies will now be required to meet the standards licensing and disclosure standards as, say, the Money Tree.

A Brief History of the Billable Hour

The billable hour. It's both a loved and vilified institutional mainstay of the legal profession. It has been, up until very recently, the undisputed measure for associate performance at the nation's best law firms for the better part of half a century. But does anyone really know the background of this traditional practice?

Here is a quick summary of the background of this polarizing billing practice.

It's that time of the year. Bar fees are coming due and, for many attorneys, continuing legal education deadlines are approaching. In just a few months, thousands of lawyers must verify their compliance with state CLE rules. While few lawyers love CLE, it's important to make sure you are meeting all of your obligations, or face an audit, suspension, or worse, in the future.

Here's how to make sure you're meeting your state's CLE requirements.

Should you Accept Credit Cards at Your Firm?

As a savvy businessperson, you're constantly on the search for means of improving your practice's bottom line. Chances are you've fallen into the custom of accepting cash, check or some other sort of compensation. If you're lucky, you're accepting stock options as payment.

One alternative that mysteriously has gotten little attention is the credit card. But there are a number of advantages to accepting swipes instead of dusty pieces of paper. What considerations do you have to keep in mind?

Inmate Calls to Lawyers Are Taped, Hacker Reveals

A massive trove of inmate conversations was hacked and extracted out of Securus Technologies, a leading provider of jail and prison phone services, raising deep questions about privacy and constitutional protections. The hack reveals that Securus had also been recording attorney-client communications, a potential violation of constitutional rights.

The revelation has been described by one ACLU director as the "most massive breach of attorney-client privilege[d communications] in modern U.S. history."

Given the increases in electronic storage and data archiving, eDiscovery has exploded in recent years. That explosion has helped fuel a growing industry of legal support professionals, from attorneys to IT workers to project managers, who manage you eDiscovery needs.

But, of course, not all litigation support specialists are equal. Here are some tips to help you out in your search for the perfect match for your firm.

Law Firms Embrace Modern Layouts to Free up Space

After many years of lounging in antiquity, law firms are finally taking the necessary steps to modernize their practices, especially in terms of utilizing their real estate.

In Orange County, California, a number of law firms have gotten creative with their real estate challenges, which include shrinking availability of rental space, growth limitations, and ever increasing costs of construction. Here are a few ways Orange County firms have reduced in order to compete.

Law Firm Throws out Billable Hours for Associate Evaluations

The law firm of Jackson Lewis PC decided to break away from legal tradition and abolish the billable hour as a metric for associate performance. That's right.

This is welcome news to come from the employment firm. Since it clocks in just under 800 attorneys, its pioneering move will set an example for other firms to take a similar path. Maybe the practice of law will be about service again. Too late to dream?

Judge Tries to Bribe the FBI With Beer

A North Carolina Superior Court Judge was charged with several crimes after he bribed a member of the FBI with beer. The purpose of the bribe was to secure the text message of his family.

It's probably safe to say that the judge is pretty new to this bribery thing.

Lying Down Helps You Focus, Says Sonoma's Altwork Inc.

According to some designers out of California, lying down helps you focus on your work and they've have built a work station based on that very concept. In 2016, we'll be able to try it out.

The Altwork Station is one of the latest additions to the ergonomic "be-comfortable-while-you-work" craze. And at the current pre-order price of $3,900 per unit, it's a steal for a chance to own your very own transformer.

The best client is a client you already have. The best of the best are clients you already have who want even more of your services.

Cross-selling your services to existing clients is one of the easiest, most inexpensive forms of marketing. But you've got to do it right. Here are our tips.

Police body cams are becoming increasingly popular, with nearly a quarter of the nation's police agencies currently using the small, body-mounted cameras, and 80 percent considering the technology. Civil rights advocates, law enforcement officers, and even the President, view body cams as an important way to document police interactions, deter misconduct, and improve community relations.

But one major controversy remains: should officers have access to body cam footage following an incident?

When you're a lawyer, your time is literally money. Use it effectively and you'll have a profitable career that doesn't keep you working 16 hour days.

The key, as the cliche goes, is to work smarter, not harder. Here are five tips to help boost your productivity, free up time, and make your day run a bit more easily.

Writing Advice From the Solicitor General's Style Guide

If you're one of those "good enough" legal practitioners, this piece will make you squirm in your seat. Lawyers must be a dry bunch overall, however, because the The Solicitor General's Style Guide: Second Ed. just took Amazon's #1 new release in legal writing.

This admittedly handy little tool will serve dual functions. Not only is it a helpful desktop reference for practitioners who want their writing to appear its best and to conform to accepted conventions, it also serves as a great nerding-out joke piece for lawyers who get inside jokes.

California lawyer James Mazi Parsa might be the most complained-about lawyer ever. The Orange County attorney is currently facing over 1,100 pending bar complaints, many stemming from his alleged abandonment of clients.

Let's take Parsa's potential disbarment as a learning moment. When it's time to call things off with a client, there's an ethical way to pull the plug or there's, well, potential disbarment. Here's the difference.

It seems innocuous enough of a topic. When discussing the "legal principles enunciated and embodied in judicial decisions that are derived from the application of particular areas of law to the facts of individual cases" is it caselaw or case law?

Of course, it depends on who you ask. And whoever you ask, they'll have very, very strong opinions. Just check out the Twitter war that erupted after the Solicitor General's style manual called for the "total extirpation" of the "barbarism" of caselaw -- and ran afoul of Black's Law Dictionary in the process.

7 Tips for Your Online Lawyer Bio

First impressions are important. If you want to make a great first impression on prospective clients, it's crucial to have a great lawyer bio. Whether it's the bio on your website, your LinkedIn page, or some other online destination, you should keep it up-to-date, reader-friendly, and appropriately detailed. 

Want your bio to stand out? Follow these 7 tips: 

SEC Approves Landmark Crowdfunding Rules. This One Is Big.

The SEC just approved changes to crowdfunding rules that will allow small companies looking to raise money to seek investment from small, non-accredited investors. Who are those non-accredited potential investors? Just to give you an idea, that's about 91 percent of American households.

The traditional model required complicated underwriting processes for equity investing. The new crowdfunding changes are some of the most sweeping made to the model of buying and selling securities to date.