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September 2016 Archives

Here's some simple advice: when you're considering referring a client to other attorneys, keep your worst ones to yourself.

If your client has a week case, is difficult to work with, or has a tendency to struggle with timely payment, few attorneys would want you to send them their way.

The heads of the heads of America's law firms are getting grayer by the day, as more and more firm leadership hits retirement age (and beyond). Nearly half of the partners in Am Law 200 firms are members of the Baby Boomer generation or older, according to a report by the American Lawyer. Boomers, the 76 million adults born during the post-WWII boom, are now anywhere between 52 and 70 years old -- prime retirement age. Sixteen percent of those partners are expected to retire within the next five years, Major, Lindsey & Africa estimates, and 38 percent will be out within 10.

What does that mean for Boomers who plan on continuing on, or the Gen X and Millennial lawyers who will be left behind?

We're in the midst of a freaking epistolary renaissance, and we largely have newsletters to thank. The electronic newsletter has been undergoing a rebirth over the past few years, with an ever growing number of informed, intelligent, and insightful newsletters ready to fill up your inbox.

Celebrities send out newsletters, newspapers have put a renewed focus on email, and bloggers and economists and politicians (and FindLaw!) all send their insights and updates straight to your email. Should your firm jump on board?

Even the most focused lawyer can be pulled off task by distractions, by the urgent phone call, the quick email, the glance at Facebook that turns into a few minutes of scrolling.

Such distractions are largely unavoidable. The problem is, time spent on distractions isn't billable. So how can you make sure that you're not accidentally passing the cost of that social media break or quick coffee run on to your clients? Here are some ideas.

The Black Lives Matter movement has certainly struck a chord with many lawyers, from Supreme Court justices to public defenders. Over the last Supreme Court term, for example, Justice Sonia Sotomayor has repeatedly called out perceived abuses in the criminal justice system.

But support for BLM isn't always well received by judges. In July, a defense attorney was arrested for contempt of court in Ohio after she refused a judges' order to remove a BLM pin. And just last week, BLM courtroom controversy reignited again, after a deputy public defender in Las Vegas refused to remove her BLM pin in court.

You can have plenty of clients, unparalleled courtroom success, a stellar reputation -- and your firm can still go belly up. That's because running a law firm requires business skills on top of your legal ones. And many lawyers simply don't know how to tell if their business is doing well or not.

Enter KPIs, or "key performance indicators," signposts that can help you know whether your firm is thriving or diving. You're already familiar with the one that almost all firms use, the number of hours billed. But smart, successful firms need more than just one metric to measure their success.

In the typical speed dating set up, a group of single people looking for love gather for a formalized meet and greet with potential partners. You may spend three minutes speaking to Sandy then, switch, three minutes with Cameron. The point isn’t having a deep experience, it’s developing an interest, seeing if there’s a spark, and then pursuing that further afterwards.

If it can work for love, can it work for work? At least one New York firm thinks so, having turned the traditional OCI set-up in to its own form of professional, non-romantic speed dating. Should you follow suit?

If you've got a mountain of work to get through, don't put your head down and start powering through it. Instead, take a break.

Stopping to check Facebook, read a blog, or go on a walk can actually improve your ability to get things done, helping you address tasks with greater focus when you come back to them.

No one likes to work late, but one of the few perks is being reimbursed for what would otherwise be normal expenses. Need to order takeout because you're staying late to finish a file? You might be able to get that reimbursed. The same goes for the cab you take home at 2am.

But if you need to have your babysitter stay late because you're going to be in the office all night, that's another story. Those expenses are almost never covered, since they are incurred at home. And some argue that failing to reimburse such costs is a subtle form of sexism, demonstrating bias against women and, particularly, against mothers.

Even the smartest, most well-prepared lawyers can be betrayed by their body language. A shaky hand can undermine the most confident speech and a slouching posture can make the hardest working attorney look lazy. That's because your body language can often say as much about you as your words, whether you realize it or not.

So don't let body language sabotage you. Here are five body language mistakes to avoid.

With the U.S. relaxing its longstanding embargo against Cuba, the island nation is suddenly the place to be. Everyone from hotel chains to fruit importers to Jimmy Buffett (really) is looking into expanding to Cuba. And when Buffett shops around Havana for a good spot for his Margaritaville restaurant chain, he can already stay in one of thousands of Airbnb rentals. This is not exactly the Cuba of Che Guevara anymore.

But doing business with Cuba isn't a free-for-all, either. While Cuba is implementing market-oriented reforms and has allowed for foreign investment, doing business on the island still involves negotiating a host of Cuban and American laws and restrictions -- with the help of a skilled attorney, of course.

The trial of Ammon and Ryan Bundy begins today, but the duo won't be wearing their signature cowboy attire. The Bundy brothers, part of the family of Nevada ranchers turned anti-government activists known for their armed confrontations with the federal government, are being charged for their role in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon last January.

But before the trial could get started, there was the important issue of wardrobe. The Bundy brothers asked that they be allowed to wear cowboy boots to court, a request the U.S. Marshal's Service and prosecutors opposed, and which the court eventually denied.

Why hang your own shingle when you can buy one? If you're looking to be a solo practitioner or run your own small firm, buying an existing practice can be an efficient alternative to building your own book of business.

Sound appealing? Here are some tips on how to get started.

You can bill clients for the work your student interns do, even if you pay those interns nothing. That’s the conclusion of a recent opinion from the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics.

In March, the committee addressed the situation law student interns who work, for free, for local firms, in exchange for academic credit in lieu of cold hard cash. The firm could ethically bill for that student work, the committee concluded, though it emphasized that it spoke only of attorney ethics, not applicable labor law.

A client company has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now the real struggle begins. Without access to capital, the most promising businesses may go under before they are able to reorganize and exit bankruptcy. Thankfully, so-called "debtor-in-possession" loans are commonplace.

Commonplace, but not straightforward. For attorneys guiding clients through bankruptcy, understanding DIP financing is essential, from the basics, like strategies for lining up DIP financing and common features in DIP credit agreements, to emerging trends that are impacting everything from who is offering DIP loans to who can secure them.

Are you a disciple of the footnote, always ready to drop a superscript 1 or 5 where a "see id., at 20372, 20379, 51924, 51951, 51958" could go? Think that in text citations destroy the flow of your writing and distract the reader? Well, you've got plenty of lawyers on your side, including the guru of legal writing and style, Bryan Garner.

But not everyone is a fan of the footnote. Judge James Bredar (D. Md.) recently threatened to toss a party's pleadings after their attorneys decided footnotes were the best place for citations.

They've fought for the country, but can they fight for your law firm? Probably. There are more than 20 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces alive today, with experiences that stretch back as far as the Korean War or as recently as a fresh tour of Afghanistan.

A fair number of those vets go on to become lawyers, paralegals, or other legal professionals, and are capable of bringing their unique skills and experiences to bear on your firm.