Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

February 2016 Archives

You head to the networking events, pockets stuffed with business cards. You've taken up golf, racquet ball, and joined the Order of St. Hubertus, all to make contact with prospective clients. You've connected with just about everyone on LinkedIn. But, you're not getting the results you want.

What gives? Probably your strategy. If you're not taking a systematic approach to client development, you may not be demonstrating the persistence needed to really reel the big fish in. Here's a quick checklist that we think will help you out.

Intro to Encryption for Lawyers and Small Firms

By now you've heard these terms: encryption, passcode, cybersecurity. Unless you have a technical background in software engineering, it's all Greek to you.

Unfortunately, that's the kind of world we live in. We're now moving headlong into a future where increasingly more and more people rely on technology that only a very few truly understand. Cybersecurity is no different. The fact of the matter is that you probably need encryption in your office, but you don't know the first place to begin. Here is a very abbreviated guide to getting started.

5 Reasons You Should Love Working in a Small Law Firm

For a long time, the track to success for lawyers was to get into a BigLaw firm and make one's way to partnership. Fortunately, attitudes about this have changed recently.

Still, it would go too far to say that lots of lawyers are falling over themselves to work in smaller firms because of perceived drop in prestige. But dogged refusal to work in a smaller firm forecloses a lot of real value to the practicing attorney. There are a lot of benefits to working in a small firm. Here are just a few.

If you want to be a happy lawyer, consider focusing on other's needs. Really. According to a survey of 6,000 attorneys, lawyers in public interest work reported the highest levels of happiness.

If you went to law school because you wanted to help people and now want to back up that claim with action, consider starting your own nonprofit firm. Here are some resources to help you out.

Slap on some green, don a funny hat, and get yourself -- and your lawyer marketing -- to the parade, for St. Patrick's Day is coming. Whether you do a St. Patrick's Day blog post, talk your snake-hating firm up on social media, or buy up billboards along a parade route, there could be a pot of gold at the end of that St. Patty's Day rainbow.

Or, your ads could end up trod beneath the drunken heals of revelers, your billboards used as impromptu urinals. Here are the risks and potential rewards of attorney advertising on St. Patrick's Day.

Quick Tips for Hiring Your Law Firm's Marketing Director

Money is tight and there never seems to be enough business, so how can anyone be thinking about hiring someone to take care of firm marketing? That's a legitimate complaint for many firms that are too small to make the initial capital outlay of hiring a dedicated marketing director.

But a qualified marketing director or Chief Marketing Officer can potentially be one of the most important members of your team. Here are a few quick things to keep in mind before you get too eager to hire.

If arguments about gender parity, viewpoint diversity, and good old-fashion equality hasn't convinced you of the importance of women in leadership, maybe this will: having women in power is connected to increased profitability.

A study recently released by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY (Ernst & Young) shows that having a woman in the highest corporate positions is correlated to better profits. The legal industry, long dominated by men, might want to take note.

Police Misconduct Databases Find Use in the Courtroom

When an incident between citizens and the police takes place, oftentimes the reliability of witness testimony can hinge on the believability of witness testimony or a question of character. And persons of some ethnic and social demographics have often felt that the police have enjoyed an unfair presumption of credibility. This has been a point of frustration both for lawyers and their clients.

But lately there has been a growing social movement to push back, manifested in the form of police (mis)conduct databases. In light of increased public focus on police behavior, police conduct data-banks are sure to see an increased use by defense attorneys seeking to discredit police-witnesses based a cop's past bad behavior. But what are the social costs?

Lawyers are not immune to disaster. When the Twin Towers were destroyed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, so too were the offices of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, though remarkably only one employee died. When the levies in New Orleans failed following Hurricane Katrina, firms large and small saw their practices interrupted, offices destroyed, and employees displaced.

In order to ensure quick recovery and continued client service, all firms should have in place a disaster recovery plan. Here's how to create yours.

When Should You Ask Another Attorney for Help?

We all need help sometimes, especially in the beginning. Other more experienced lawyers seem like an obvious choice. But at what point does asking for another attorney’s help become total dependence on that other lawyer? Just keep a few things you mind.

If you're a lawyer in the Big Apple or Baghdad by the Bay, we've got a present for you. FindLaw's California and New York Codes sections are updated, improved, and ready for you to use.

Free, mobile-friendly, and brought to you through FindLaw's partnership with Westlaw, we're pretty confident that the new codes will make your practice, and your life, a little better. Here's how.

Most Outrageous Places for Lawyer Advertisements

Have you ever considered an advertising or marketing idea but dismissed it because you thought it crossed the line of good taste? We have news for you: whatever the idea was, somebody probably already beat you too it.

The Internet is full of lawyer marketing stories that make you laugh, cringe, and then later admire the attorneys who had the bravery (or audacity) to carry out their marketing schemes.

Lawyers are writers by trade, but we're not always good writers. At times, legal writing can be so convoluted that it serves more to obfuscate than illuminate. First, we're not against complex, even difficult writing. Complicated thoughts can require complicated sentences. But even the smartest of us can come off looking incomprehensible when we make our writing too complicated.

If you want to write better, try writing more simply. Here are three tips to help you out.

It's Lawyer v. Lawyer in Auto Blog Defamation Dispute

A Michigan psychiatrist who also happens to sit on that state's attorney discipline board has filed Request for Investigation against a fellow attorney. The source of the dispute? Comments the attorney made on his auto-law blog.

The RI filing amounts to a "lightweight defamation claim" according to the Consumer Law and Policy blog. Troubling issues are implicated by the case. Is the RI proper after the statute of limitations has run? And what makes defamation defamation?

Want to Expand? Hiring the Right Help Is Crucial

If you're looking to expand your practice, one of the most basic ways of doing that is through hiring an employee. But can you afford to hire another employee? Maybe you've hired one in the past only to realize that he or she wasn't fit for the job, or maybe she was too skilled and left for greener pastures. Now you're licking your wounds.

Well, you've tried it before, maybe you should consider the idea again -- or at least explore some alternatives.

After contentious debate, the delegates to the ABA's midyear meeting adopted a modest proposal to give states a framework for considering regulation of "nontraditional legal service providers."

The resolution does not endorse nonlawyer legal services, nor does it call for the repeal of laws against practicing a law without a license. But it is radical in that it acknowledges that some states may consider allowing nonlawyers to perform certain legal tasks and creates guiding principles to help them get there.

Old School Ways of Generating Local Client Biz for Your Law Firm

We’ve given a lot of attention to the topic of content marketing lately. This is crucial to staying alive in today’s hectic legal market — particularly if you’re a solo.

But this doesn’t mean that you should disregard the good ol’ ways of getting potential clients.

Legal consumers might search for a lawyer online. They might check out your attorney website or browse through your blog.

But when it comes time to get in touch, almost all legal consumers do so via phone.

It's Black History Month, the annual celebration of African American contributions to culture, society, and, of course, law.

While Black History Month is hardly the card-sending, cocktail-houring, office-partying event that some other winter holidays are, it's still worth celebrating in your firm. Here's how.

How Lawyers Are Content Marketing Geniuses

We swear we're not making this up: lawyers are absolutely dominating the field of content marketing. According to Contently, law firms both large and small are getting into the game of providing regular (and useful) content for potential clients. This is perhaps a little surprising considering the profession's reputation for keeping its valuable information to itself.

Actually, if there's any industry that is ripe for content marketing, it's the legal profession.

Do Employee Perks Matter for Law Firms?

According to data by Glassdoor, 3 out of 5 employees rate the employer's perks as being a top consideration before accepting a job. So why should lawyers be any different?

Law firms aren't really known for being overly generous or creative with their perks. Maybe it's time that law firms start trying to keep up with their tech-company cousins -- and start offering real incentives to lawyers.

Diversity matters. It increases the variety of viewpoints available, improves performance, and boosts revenue -- a lot. The most racially diverse companies bring in 15 times more revenue than the least diverse, according to a study by the American Sociological Association. In the legal market, diversity isn't just good for business, it's good for business development, helping you reach a broader base of clientele.

In a profession that's absurdly homogenous, diversity is something that you need to work at. Here's how.

Thomson Reuters, the company behind legal must-haves like Westlaw and FindLaw, launched its newest legal service last week: Practice Point.

Practice Point seeks to make legal information more useful and easily accessible -- and hence, your work more bearable -- by bringing together the expertise, legal knowledge, and technology that you need, as you need it. Here's a quick preview.

"I am an attorney because I had an abortion," one female lawyer tells the Supreme Court. "The Court's Webster decision, issued around the same time I was seriously considering suicide rather than being forced to give birth against my will, saved my life," another explains.

Those are just two of the stories of more than 100 women attorneys who signed an unprecedented Supreme Court brief, explaining how their personal experiences with abortion impacted their lives. The amicus brief is personal, moving, and something we've never seen before -- the direct, emotional, and incredibly intimate experiences of lawyers being used to help sway the law. Will it work?

Cheap and Easy Tips for Marketing Your Practice

Advertising and marketing is one of the biggest expenses that small firm and solo attorneys have to face. Sooner or later, almost every small firm has advertised in a local paper or magazine.

But these ads can be expensive and their hit rates can be somewhat unreliable. Are there cheaper yet very effective ways to advertise and market yourself without having to spend a fortune? Yes.

Want to make it rain? Hire a rainmaker. And no, we're not talking about a superstar lawyer able to bring on clients with millions of dollars in billings.

We're talking about a sales person. Could one be good for your firm?

Law Firms Are Often Non-Compliant With HIPAA

According to a survey by Legal Workspace, only 13 percent of 240 responding law firms actually possess the required technology to process and maintain compliance with HIPAA.

"For an industry that is traditionally hyper-concerned with protecting client information, legal is clearly not keeping up with business standards regarding technology and security," said Joe Kelly of Legal Workspace.

A government official from a poor, West African country wants to move millions of dollars into the United States. Anonymously. And he needs your help. What do you do?

No, this isn't a new version of the Nigerian prince email scam. It's a hidden camera investigation by CBS's 60 Minutes and the environmental and human rights nonprofit Global Witness, which sought to expose how easy it is to launder money into the United States, with the help of lawyers of course.

Client Intake: An Easy Way to Boost Law Firm Business

Thanks to the folks over at the ABA, we now have a broader view of the disaster that is law firm intake. The ABA's findings seem to only confirm the observations of FindLaw's earlier white-paper: Law firms stink at intake.

What does this mean? At the very least, you can stand to keep the business that's already contacting you. Now doesn't that just sound like good business practice?

You want to keep in touch with clients, to let them know you're invested in their divorce, assault charge, corporate restructuring, what have you. But frankly, you're too busy working on their and everyone else's legal problems to give as many personalized notes as you might like to.

Should you look to the healthcare industry for a solution? Many overworked doctors, it seems, have turned to "automated email empathy" to keep patients engaged by putting robots in charge of the follow ups.