Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

December 2016 Archives

Could your next contract attorney work for you from across the globe? Possibly. The growth of legal process outsourcing means that more and more lawyers are contracting with foreign attorneys and even nonlawyers to perform legal work. The practice has even gotten a nod from several local bar associations, which note that attorneys may outsource work to foreign practitioners, so long as they abide by the same ethical requirements applicable to the domestic use of nonlawyer services.

Though legal outsourcing has its skeptics, the practice appears to be growing quickly -- so much so that the LPO market could be worth over $27 billion by 2024, according to one recent report. But 2024 is still a ways away. Here are some outsourcing trends you can expect in the immediate future.

The legal industry is one of the least racially diverse professions in America. And even though more women than ever are graduating from law schools, men still dominate the legal practice in terms of pay and partner positions. When it comes to the law, the good old boys' club remains strong.

This isn't news. The legal industry has long struggled to address the lack of diversity in its ranks, with mixed results. Here are some ways those efforts can be improved.

There's plenty of talk about law firm cyber security on legal blogs. Tales of hacked emails, ransomed documents, even hacked household devices.

But don't forget, not all threats are cyberthreats. Some thieves still prefer to practice their craft the old-fashioned way, by kicking in the door or crawling through the window, as a recent string of law firm robberies in West Virginia reminds us.

Lawyer's High Profile Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Settles

She said she was pregnant. Her boss responded:

"I guess these things happen. I suppose we have your honeymoon to blame for this?"

Between good friends it might have been uncomfortably funny, but between an associate attorney and her superior at a big law firm, not so much. It led to a gender bias lawsuit that has settled.

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, a Massachusetts firm with more than 300 lawyers, announced it settled the case. Kamee Verdrager, who formerly worked at the Boston-based firm, filed her discrimination complaint in 2007. The firm denied any wrongdoing, but settled after an adverse ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in May that would have sent the case to trial.

ABA: Don't Violate Client Confidentiality When Withdrawal for Non-Payment of Fees

When your client stiffs you in the middle of litigation with an unpaid legal bill, don't you just want to complain about it to someone? Not your bartender, but someone who can do something about it -- like a judge.

Well, you can tell the judge you want to withdraw but you better not give too many details. According to a new ethics opinion, you are bound by confidentiality to disclose only information "reasonably necessary" for the court to make an informed decision. It's almost enough to make an attorney stop talking.

"The tension between a lawyer's obligation to provide the court with sufficient facts to rule on a motion and the lawyer's duty of confidentiality has been characterized in one treatise as "a procedural problem that has no fully satisfactory solution," the ABA's ethics committee said.

Tips for Advising Lottery Winners

Admit it, you too have dreamed about winning the lottery. It's OK. Everybody who has purchased a lottery ticket has dreamt about it. Even if you didn't dream about the lottery with a scratch ticket, as a lawyer you probably imagined winning that one big case or getting that golden client. Yeah, that lottery.

Whatever your dreams, it is more realistic than you may think to spend some time thinking about the lottery. Because chances are, you will have a client who wins it one way or another. Some lawyers have actually carved out a practice for such clients.

Much of a lawyer's job is communicating, with clients, with courts, and with colleagues. But we're not always as great at convey our message, establishing a rapport, or convincing others as we'd like to be.

That's where Larry King comes in. When it comes to communication, few can outshine King. He's in the sixth decade of his journalism career, he hosted nightly interviews on CNN for 35 years, and he still keeps it up, with three regular talk shows. The man knows how to talk to people. And he's got some tips for you, which he laid out in a recent interview with Entrepreneur magazine.

2 Big Firms Stiffed $800,000 by Same Client

Maybe lighting does strike twice.

Using excuses that included his house was struck by lightning, a client struck two big law firms with more than $800,000 in unpaid attorney's fees. What really shocked the lawyers, however, was that one firm unwittingly vouched for the client to the other firm.

Lawyerly Holiday Gifts in a Click

Don't worry, when it comes ordering holiday gifts for legal professionals, you haven't missed the deadline -- but you're cutting it close. There are just a few days left to buy and deliver some presents before it really is too late. That, of course, means some serious online shopping. Santa's sleigh is now powered by search engines!

Here are some clickable gift suggestions for those lawyerly people in your life or office, gifts that just might arrive on time.

Three Tips for Preserving Electronic Evidence

Everybody knows discovery -- including electronic discovery -- can be a virtual hole into which many lawyers have disappeared and for which many clients have paid dearly. But if there is a necessary evil in modern law (besides opposing counsel) it is the need to preserve electronic evidence.

So here are three obligatory tips, linked to some icebergs of information about eDiscovery.

10 Do's and Don'ts for Lawyer Holiday Cards

Unless you are Martha Stewart, you know about as much about the etiquette of sending holiday cards as anybody. That's because everybody old enough to write their name and lick an envelope knows to send cards for those special days.

But how many lawyers know what cards to send and to whom? If you had to think about it, then you know what we're talking about. And that's why we're here to offer some do's and don'ts on sending holiday cards.

Man Running for Judge Gets Law License Suspended Over Attack Ads

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth ten thousand votes.

At least, that's what attorney Ronnie Michael Tamburrino must have been thinking when he decided to run some television commerials in his judicial campaign. But what was he thinking when one video made fun of his opponent pouring whiskey shots for children?

Not only did Tamburrino lose the election, now he has lost his license to practice law for the controversial ads. The Ohio Supreme Court suspended his license for one year, with six months stayed pending conditions of probation.

"Tamburrino's misconduct impugned the integrity of his opponent as a jurist and as a public servant," Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote for the majority.

Embryos in court? Apparently. Two enterprising balls of potential human life filed suit in Louisiana last week. Their target: Sofia Vergara, the star of ABC's Modern Family and contributor of half their genetic material.

The embryos were created by Vergara and her now-ex boyfriend Nick Loeb as part of an in vitro fertilization process. They were never implanted and the couple split in 2014. The two have been battling it out in court over the fate of the embryos ever since. Now, the embryos are suing on their own behalf, demanding (we're not kidding here) that they be born and allowed to enjoy a trust fund established in their name.

Lawyer Vindicated on Appeal After Losing Case on Untimely Bathroom Break

Some things can't wait, like when a Florida lawyer desperately needed to leave the courtroom to go the bathroom.

But poor Jeff Tomberg had to wait 18 months for a court of appeal to excuse him. The appeals court said the trial judge should have allowed Tomberg to argue a motion, even though he was late to a hearing because he was in the bathroom. The justices said the judge abused his discretion in refusing the lawyer's request to be heard.

"Here, because plaintiffs' counsel was only a few minutes late for the summary judgment hearing and offered a patently reasonable explanation for his tardy appearance, and there was no showing of prejudice or willful misconduct, we find that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to allow plaintiffs' counsel to present argument at the hearing," the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal said.

In other words, "Yes, Jeff, you may go now."

Tips for Using a Third Party to Help With Your Job Search

If you're looking for an attorney job, maybe you should stay away from the headhunters because you'll need that head in the future. I speak from personal experience because my head was hunted once by a job recruiter and I barely got out alive.

To be serious, job recruiters surely provide a valuable service to law firms and companies looking for specific lawyers. That's why they get the big bucks, which headhunters apparently charge for finding those attorneys. It's typically a 30 percent contingency fee of the new hire's salary.

Carol Kanarek, a lawyer, psychotherapist, and author, explains that search firms are used only by those law firms and companies that are seeking lawyers with very specific expertise. "Consequently, if you are seeking a change in practice focus, or are looking for a non-legal job, a search firm won't be able to help you."

Should You Sell Clients' Uncollected Debt?

Times are tough when you have to borrow money to pay your bills.

Well, it's about that time for more than a few law firms. And it's not just the solo practitioners working on shoe-strings.

According to reports, even some BigLaw firms are reaching for money at the end-of-the-year rope. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, New York City's oldest law firm with more than 450 lawyers around the world, sold off some of its receivables to make ends meet last year.

Cadwalader saw gross revenue drop 3.7 percent to $463.5 million in 2015. Managing partner Patrick Quinn attributed the decline to lagging collections. A former partner anonymously told the American Lawyer that the firm sold off some of its receivables at the end of that year.

More BigLaw Firms Are Suing for Clients' Unpaid Bills

The old wisdom against suing your client is giving way to a new normal.

According to recent reports, more BigLaw firms are breaking the old mold and suing their clients for unpaid fees. They say clients expect more of them, and so lawyers should expect more from their clients. This trend is happening at a time when law firm revenues are down and new lawyer expectations are up.

In other words, it is about money after all.

Immigration has been central to Donald Trump's agenda since he announced his candidacy almost a year and a half ago. Now, Trump's electoral success has signaled a massive shift in U.S. immigration policy and enforcement: a likely end to the Obama administration's immigration reform efforts, a promised increase in detentions and deportation, and potentially greater limits to worker visas. That's less "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" and much more "Build the wall!"

How are immigration lawyers preparing for the change?

When Does Criticizing a Judge Become an Ethics Violation?

Some things are best left unsaid.

At least attorney Christine M. Mire should have kept her criticism of a judge to herself, according to the Louisiana Supreme Court. In appellate pleadings, Mire had accused a trial judge of tampering with a court recording that allegedly obscured the judge's connection to a litigant in the case. Based on those pleadings, the state disciplinary council accused her of ethics violations.

The Louisiana Supreme Court, in a split decision, suspended Mire's license to practice for one year and one day with six months deferred and two years of probation. Justice Jefferson D. Hughes III wrote one of the dissenting opinions.

"Alteration of the transcript of a recorded judicial proceeding is a serious, perhaps criminal, matter," he wrote. "This court does justice no favor by punishing the whistleblower."

It's a good time to be a driver -- or a pedestrian. Our streets have become increasingly safe over the past decade, with traffic fatalities down 23 percent between 2006 and 2014 and injuries dropping 17 percent over the same period. These safety gains are expected to continue, even as Americans drive more total miles every year and despite an uptick in traffic fatalities last year.

This is good news for everyone on the road. But what does it mean for personal injury attorneys whose practices depend on motor vehicle accidents? A new whitepaper by FindLaw Lawyer Marketing has some insights.

'Tis the season, as they say. The halls are decked, gay apparel is donned, and chestnuts are roasting. But for all the winter mirth and merriment, the season can also be a contentious one. Think, for example, of the annual fights over saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Kwanza," and the yearly fury that surrounds Starbucks holiday cups.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't bring some holiday cheer into your law office. You should! But here are some tips to help you do it without leaving anyone feeling excluded, offended, or even litigious.

What to Do If You Can't Find Your Client

Everybody loses clients, but what if you literally lose a client?

Losing track of a client can be more distressing than losing the client's business. Lawyers have a duty to protect the legal rights of even those clients they can't find. When they go missing, you may find yourself in an ethical minefield as you go about searching for them.

"If an attorney is having trouble contacting a client, the attorney should make all reasonable efforts to locate the client," according to the Washington State Bar newsletter. "If contacting the client is not possible, the attorney should keep records documenting all efforts to give notice, including efforts to contact the client by mail, phone, and email."

Lawyers can expect to hear a lot about tort reform in the upcoming months. With a Republican president-elect, a Republican-controlled Congress, and a Trump-selected future Supreme Court justice, tort reform advocates are facing one of their most favorable political climates in some time.

So, how likely is tort reform in the near future and what could it mean for attorneys like you?

Best Practices for Unbundled Legal Services

'Unbundling' means 'limited scope' means 'a la carte.' Somebody get a dictionary, please.

A la carte, from the French for "according to the menu," used to mean "separately priced items." As applied to legal services, it became "limited scope representation." Now the word for a la carte, or limited scope, is "unbundling."

It is not entirely new, having been offered by the American Bar Association years ago, but it is becoming more popular. That is, once you know what's on the menu and what to keep off the menu.