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April 2016 Archives

How to Spot and Avoid Clients Who Will Waste Your Time

For solo practitioners or lawyers working in a smaller firm setting, time is at a premium. That's why bad, non-paying clients are universally despised. But how do you spot the bad apple client who will just waste your time?

Here are some tips you should keep in mind for handling a legal leech if your ever so unfortunate to encounter one.

The two men on trial were African American -- but no member of their jury was, after the prosecution had dismissed all of the black, potential jurors in voir dire. And while that's typically something the defendants and their attorneys might take issue with, a recent Nashville jury raised objections over the lack of diversity as well.

At the beginning of a recent criminal trial in Nashville, one juror complained to the judge that he did not think it was fair for two black defendants to be tried by a jury without any black members, according to the Tennessean. The result: Criminal Court Judge Cheryl Blackburn sent the whole jury packing.

NJ Lawyers Get Sanctioned for Facebook Spying

When news came out that two New Jersey defense attorneys had spied on a plaintiff through Facebook, there was obvious buzz within the legal community over bright-line rules and attorney ethics. Just what qualifies as an "unauthorized" communication?

Lawyers should always take steps to tread carefully in these "novel ethical issues." First impression or not, you don't want to end up being the poster child.

There's software to manage just about every aspect of the modern law office: your email, your word processing, your document storage, and your meetings. And there's even software to help you maintain and improve your client relationships.

If you're using paper client files or managing client relationships on an ad-hoc basis, we'd suggest checking out some client relationship management software. Here's why.

Sure, you've got the legal marketing basics down: a website, some print ads, all that jazz. But you want to see your firm grow bigger, faster. Can you?

Of course, with a little bit of work. To help you out, here are our favorite posts on how to take your legal marketing to the next level, courtesy of the FindLaw archives.

We all want to grow our firm's business, but what exactly do we need to achieve our goals? Thankfully, there's a simple, interactive tool available that can help firms find out just what they need to meet their growth goals. Sure, you could calculate the numbers on your own, but what fun is that? Plus, lawyers aren't known for their great math skills.

So, if you want to grow your law firm business, the new law firm growth calculator from FindLaw Lawyer Marketing will help you set your goals and grow your bottom line -- for free.

Flat Fee Confusion: Earned Upon Receipt or Trust Account?

There's a lot of confusion out there (so imagine the level of non-compliance) about the proper way to handle client funds properly, particularly flat fees. Do you place these in an interest-bearing account for the benefit of the client? How do you go about your business in good faith without putting your license and practice at risk?

Unfortunately, the rules are non-universal and can be abstract and ambiguous. Here we'll look at what some sources have to say.

PACER is no one's favorite database. Sure, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records service gives you online access to federal court documents, saving you the hassle of calling a courier or heading down to a courthouse yourself. But the service is not particularly user-friendly, intuitive, or functional. The fact that it nickel-and-dimes you (literally) for every page of public records you view is just icing on the "God, I hate PACER" cake.

And now, a coalition of nonprofits is suing over those fees, arguing that the 10-cents-a-page price tag isn't just excessive, it's illegal.

What Can You Do If You Don't Make Partner?

You've always had a dream of being a partner. Perhaps you were one of those very lucky grads who landed a position at a top law firm and moved your way into one of the associate seats, ready to show the guys at the top what you were made of.

Before you knew it, five years went by. And you're still not partner. In fact, attorneys who joined after you have made it, but you haven't! What happened? What do you do now?

If you're handling a case with significant eDiscovery needs, it's impossible to go it alone. Even large firms and businesses will bring on eDiscovery counsel, vendors, and experts to guide them through the process.

When it comes to choosing your eDiscovery team, where should you start? Here are some simple guidelines.

If you're looking for a new date night restaurant, you probably check out online reviews. If you're considering buying a new couch, you'd be smart to find out what other couch buyers have to say about it first.

When it comes to finding lawyers, clients are increasingly turning to online reviews to discover and evaluate attorneys. And being reviewed online is becoming increasingly important. According to a new survey by FindLaw's Lawyer Marketing, two-thirds of consumers would be more likely to hire a lawyer with online reviews.

Law Office Organization Basics to Help You Stay Sane

If you operate a solo practice or a small firm, that means you have to manage your own affairs. That includes payroll, client communications, templates, and all that busy administrative stuff you'd rather not think about.

How do you handle it all? Aside from passing off tasks to a virtual assistant, here are a few organization basics to help you keep your sanity.

If you want to succeed as an attorney, networking is key. Create some valuable connections with other attorneys, and you've got someone to bounce ideas off of, refer clients to, and be referred to in return. Network with the public and you can make important client contacts, or simply improve your reputation in the community.

But networking doesn't always come naturally. It takes work. With that in mind, here are FindLaw's best networking tips, from our archives.

Improve Your Therapist Skills to Be a Better Lawyer

In the past, we've stressed the importance of maintaining a certain detached yet professional relationship with your client. Lawyering is a tiring job and being too heavily invested emotionally in your client's case can have a detrimental effect on both your health and performance.

At the same time, being a good lawyer requires at least some emotional investment in your client's case. No, you don't need to actually consider yourself a therapist. But understanding how to effectively counsel a client will ultimately make you more effective as a lawyer.

The Internet's attention span is short, but its memory is long. And if you've done something embarrassing, you'll be reminded every time you Google yourself. Maybe you sent out a tasteless tweet, wrote a horrible college op-ed, or casually pepper sprayed a group of college students. Now Google won't let you forget it. What can one do?

In France, they have a "right to be forgotten," the ability to petition Google and other search engines to remove web pages from search results. We don't have that here in America. We have cold, hard cash. And the University of California, Davis has been spending a fair amount of it, trying to scrub its 2011 pepper spraying incident from the Internet.

3 Basic Ways to Keep Your Clients

Clients are hard to find, so the very last thing you want to do is lose them. You’ve put in so much work, invested so much effort, and — yes — relied on a fair bit of luck to convince someone to walk through your door. They’ve even hired you. So, shouldn’t you at least spend as much effort to retain them?

Well, casual observations indicate that lawyers are not very good at this — the retention part. Here are a couple of things you should watch out for in your own practice.

Why Small Firms Should Hire for the Long Term

When it comes to the whole hiring game, there is a fundamental difference between the BigLaw paradigm and the small practice paradigm. One of the most glaring differences? Money and perks.

In fact, just the prestige of going to a large law firm is oftentimes enough to lure new grads. It's true, small firms have it tougher when it comes to choosing the cream of the crop. But they really should be looking for different qualities in a new hire. In a word: loyalty.

Driverless, automated cars are the future -- at least if you listen to techies. Companies like Google and Tesla are pouring millions into self-driving cars. Ford and GM have jumped on the bandwagon. Even the Department of Transportation is getting on board, with the new driverless car funding and regulation.

You know who else is excited? Personal injury lawyers -- even though hi-tech cars might reduce automobile accidents. Here's why.

How to Prepare for Your First Client Meeting

If you're new to this whole lawyer thing, you'll soon have to tackle your first client meeting. Do you know how to prepare?

Probably not. Unless you've spent time meeting with people in other professional settings, the initial client meeting can be thrilling and nerve-racking for some attorneys. Fear not, it will get less scary with repetition. But in the meantime, here are some things that you should do at your very first initial client meeting.

Succession planning isn't easy. After all, no one likes to think about death, particularly their own.

While many adults can cope with their mortality long enough to put together a will or estate plan, when it comes of business succession planning, one of the biggest obstacles facing lawyers is convincing business owners to just get started. Here's how attorneys can help clients get over their inertia.

Law practice today isn't the same as it was a generation or two ago. Attorneys in the modern law office are more likely than ever to rely on technology, innovative marketing, or alternative practice structures. At the same time, some things remain constant, especially the need for competent attorneys, stellar support staff, and effective management.

With that in mind, here are six tips for running a modern law office, taken from the best posts in the FindLaw archives.

Forget Siblings Day, Bat Appreciation Day, and even Arbor Day. Tomorrow, Tuesday the 12th, we celebrate April's best holiday: Be Kind to Lawyers Day. So stop complaining about your boss, your colleagues, or your spouses' divorce attorney -- for a day, at least.

If you're looking for a way to express your attorney appreciation, we've got you covered. Here are five great gifts for the attorneys in your life.

Forget dusting for fingerprints. Many of today's top investigators are focused on the digital realm. As data breaches continue to make headlines -- from the leaking of the Panama Papers to the hacking of major companies like Blue Cross and Sony -- more and more companies are turning to lawyers to determine what went wrong during a data breach, how to prevent cyberattacks, and what legal obligations are likely to flow from a breach.

When that happens, expertise in digital forensics is a must.

When Do Law Firms Have to Disclose a Data Breach?

Now that you're on high alert over your client data because of the revelation of Olera's hacking into some of the nation's most prominent law firms, you're probably beginning to wonder: "Do I have to disclose a data breach to my firm?"

That's an excellent question, and it deserves an excellent answer. Unfortunately, an excellent answer is not easy to come by.

5 Easy Tips for Cybersecurity at Solo Law Firms

Yesterday, we put in our two cents about the recent hacking of America's BigLaw firms by Russian hacker, Oleras. Hopefully you weren't one of the many firms on that list. But if you're feeling a little more secure in your firm's network because you're a solo lawyer, don't. Hackers are after your discovery.

We've reviewed some security suggestions that came up at the recent 2016 ABA TechShow. Follow these steps to safeguard your firm's sensitive information.

There's an endless supply of cute cat pics on Instagram. Facebook is great for finding out what your aunt thinks about Donald Trump. And Twitter is -- well, Twitter is still figuring things out.

But, while we use social media to connect, communicate, and consumer, these websites and services are actively changing the way we litigate, offering new sources of evidence and raising novel ethical issues.

3 Basic Musts When Starting a Solo Practice

It’s really true what they say: the hardest part is getting started. So many firms once started out as single person or maybe two-person practices before becoming the storied BigLaw firms they are today. Obviously, things were different back then than they are now.

But how much so? If you’re starting out your own firm or have even already done so, take heart in the fact that others have been there to suffer before you. Here are tips we’ve collected that will (hopefully) help you along the way.

Successfully running a firm doesn't just mean mastering the law and pleasing clients. You've also got to be able to manage an office. And office management is just one of the many things they don't teach you in law school.

Luckily, FindLaw's got your back, with plenty of tips on how to manage an efficient, well-functioning, and cost-effective firm. Here are our top seven tips for law firm office management.

Legal tech promises to make the industry quicker, more agile, more efficient. You can take in clients online, have your AI-robots handle their simplest matters, even mine your email data to determine how happy they are with your services. But do you?

When it comes to law firms and legal technology, there's a lot more written about what could be done than what actually is.

A Happy Client a Day Keeps the Malpractice Suit Away

Malpractice is the potential danger to every attorney that should be regarded with deadly seriousness. If you're a rash go-getter, this can both be good and bad for you. Your personality can be good at the negotiating table in pushing up settlement figures for your client. But it can also have a tendency to make you arrogant and flip. Such lawyers tend to also run legal-mills.

Know this: only dissatisfied or unhappy clients sue you for malpractice. You became an attorney to sue others, not get sued yourself. So take the time to polish up your best practices guide with regards to handling and treating your clients with kid gloves. Sometimes, prevention is can be your best bet.