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May 2017 Archives

Is Your Personality to Blame for Lost Business?

What do you get when you cross a lawyer and a pig? Nothing, because there are some things a pig won't do.

If you didn't laugh at that one, maybe it's because you heard it before. But maybe it's because you can't take a joke. Seriously, one of the keys to being likeable is not to take yourself too seriously.

Whether you like it or not, your personality has a lot to do with business success. Here are some ways your lawyer personality may be to blame for lost business.

Lawyer Tips: Do's and Don'ts of Speaking to Reporters

Lawyers should always be ready to interact professionally with the media. You never know when a reporter will call to ask about a case.

For example, there was an incident when TMZ was reporting on my case before I got back to the office. For five days straight, all I did was answer phone calls and grant interviews to the media. News agencies literally from around the world wanted to know about my case.

We settled the case confidentially -- and favorably -- so I can't share details about it. But I can tell you some do's and don'ts about talking to reporters.

Should Lawyers Be Able to Sue Their Firm Anonymously?

In a $50 million sex discrimination lawsuit by a BigLaw partner against her firm, the judge is allowing the plaintiff to proceed as "Jane Doe."

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson granted the partner's motion to litigate anonymously, although the defendant law firm already knows her name. Even the press has outed her as the mostly likely one of two women partners at the Washington D.C. office of Proskauer Rose.

The case presents many questions about BigLaw life, particularly as similar gender discrimination lawsuits are pending against other large firms. But this is the first of them to present the question whether litigants should be able to proceed anonymously in such circumstances.

Lawyers Are 'Chronically Under-Performing,' Survey Finds

If you're sitting at your desk waiting for the phone to ring, that's usually not a good sign.

It could be that you are not busy enough, and you know what that means. A new survey of law firm leaders confirms what you may have feared.

According to legal consultancy Altman Weil, 75 percent of nearly 400 respondents at large firms said their lawyers are not busy enough. Smaller firms reported similar numbers.

Most said that probably means more lay-offs, pay-cuts, and alternative hiring.

Selling Without Really Selling: Easy Sales Tips for Lawyers

A new client arrived at my office on a motorcycle and parked next to mine.

We talked about our rides, then went inside to talk business. In that first meeting, I told him he would need to deposit a $25,000 retainer. He gave me $50,000.

There was no sales pitch -- obviously no haggling. We were more like friends, and he wanted me to do a good job.

If you don't really like to sell, then try just being friendly. Here are some more tips:

Prenda Copyright Troll Disbarred, Faces Fraud and Money Laundering Charges

For John Steele, who now has been disbarred for his part in a copyright-trolling scheme, it could have been worse. He could be dead, like his law partner.

Actually, it does get worse for Steele. He is awaiting sentencing on fraud and money laundering charges. When it rains, it porns.

It all started with an ill-advised plan at the Prenda Law firm to upload copyrighted porn to file-sharing sites and then sue the people who downloaded it. The plan worked famously for a while as the defendants promptly paid to avoid court and public humiliation.

Emergency Roadside Kit for Trial Lawyers

It may sound like a tool for ambulance chasers, but actually an emergency roadside kit for trial lawyers is a good idea.

There's nothing as rookie as having to borrow a pen from the bailiff or a notepad from the clerk in the middle of a trial. It's not a good look to have your tablet or computer -- with all your files and research -- run out of battery power in the middle of a presentation.

For those days on the litigation road, may we suggest a few things to put in your emergency roadside kit?

Should Jurors Be Removed for Crying?

After a police dog named Rocco was stabbed to death, jurors at the trial of his accused killer listened to a recording of the dog barking.

It was too much for one juror, who started to cry. The defendant's attorney asked the judge to remove the juror, but the judge refused and an appeals court affirmed the ruling.

"The showing of emotion, in and of itself, during upsetting testimony, does not require juror dismissal," the Pennsylvania appeals court said.

The court said the judge also instructed the jury not to be swayed by emotion, bias, or prejudice. But do jurors always separate their emotions from their deliberations?

To Co-Counsel or Not to Co-Counsel ... What's the Question?

Deciding whether to engage co-counsel really is not a question in some cases.

For example, if you are admitted to practice in one state and you need to file in another, there's no question. You have to associate with local counsel.

But if you have the option to bring in an attorney on a case in your own jurisdiction, then that is a question. Here are some answers:

Does Marijuana Insurance Policy Cover Wrongful Death?

If marijuana insurance were available anywhere, you would think it would be in Colorado.

Colorado was one of the first states in the country to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Since 2012, it has been a boon to business there -- including businesses like insurance that support the marijuana industry.

But it is insurance after all, and exceptions may apply. That's the question in a wrongful death case involving a man who allegedly went crazy after eating marijuana candy and then killed his wife.

Myths About Lawyers Working From Home

Maybe it's a generational thing, that some lawyers still believe certain myths about working from home.

A generation ago, perhaps "working at home" meant you were a homemaker or perhaps not working at all. It was more a euphemism for being out of work, disabled or retired.

Those ideas are so 20th Century. Yet even today, in the Internet Age, there are false assumptions about lawyers who actually do work from home.

How Safe Are FDA-Approved Drugs? New Study Confirms: Not Very Safe

Many drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration are not as safe you might think.

According to researchers, about one third of the drugs that are FDA-approved have safety issues later on. That results in recalls, warnings added to boxes, and notices about health risks.

For consumers, it means checking twice before you swallow once. For lawyers, it means mass torts, products liability and failure-to-warn.

How to Start a Part-Time Law Practice as a New Lawyer

Sur, yu can start a law prac part-tim.

If you understood that last sentence, then you know what I'm saying: "Sure, you can start a law practice part-time."

But it is going to be missing a few things -- like hours during the day -- so you'll have to fill-in some blanks to make sense of it. Here are a few pieces of advice:

Must-Have Credentials for Your Law Career

This blog is not about writing a resume. It's about getting the right stuff on your resume.

Once you have completed law school and started practicing law, your career tends take a natural course. Hard work, opportunities, and even challenges will shape your future.

But you can better control that future by adding credentials in two areas: writing and speaking. They really are not that hard to do, and they can help steer your career in the direction you want it to go.

Should Your Firm Drop Performance Reviews?

One of the world's largest law firms has stopped performance reviews, at the same time leading the way against evaluations that have disfavored women in the past.

Allen & Overy, a London-based firm with more than 2,800 attorneys worldwide, piloted a program last October to dialogue with employees rather than formally appraise them. It started at offices in London, Singapore, and the Middle East, but the firm will expand the program to more offices this year.

"The feedback on this has been positive, particularly in engaging with female associates on their career development," said Elizabeth Mercer, the firm's public relations manager. "We didn't do it originally to retain female talent, but the positive feedback has been noticeable."

Oregon High Court to Have Female Majority

Oregon will soon have a majority of women on its highest court.

Gov. Kate Brown has elevated Judge Rebecca Duncan to fill a vacancy that will be created when Justice David Brewer retires in June. Duncan's appointment marks the first time in the court's history that women will comprise a majority.

"No one is better suited than Becky Duncan to this historic appointment," Gov. Brown said in a statement. "Throughout her career, Becky Duncan has been a model of intellectual rigor and professionalism."

Measuring Lawyer Performance: What's the New Normal?

If you scratch your head when you hear about the "new normal," I get you.

What happened to the "old normal"? Who said there is a "new normal"? And when it comes to law practice, is anything normal?

If only it were so simple. But with all the changes in the law business, there actually are new ways to measure lawyer performance. They made the new normal, and we just have to get used to it.

Lawyer Fined for Refusing to Answer 'Yes or No' Question in Court

'If you plan to have children, try not to have teenagers.'

That's my joke to friends, and it came to mind when I read about the debate between a judge and a lawyer over a "yes-or-no" question.

You see, my kids sometimes have trouble answering straightforward questions. It's because they don't want to be cornered -- like attorney William Hermesmeyer, who had to hear it from the judge and the court of appeals.

It went down this way in a Texas trial court:

How to Write a Great Closing to Your Brief

A closing argument should be like opening a door, not closing one.

After writing a brief to persuade your audience, you want to finish it by inviting your reader to step through that door to reach your conclusion. It should be more than compelling; it should be impossibly irresistible.

This post is about how to do it. If you have read this far, then you are ready for that next step:

Talcum Powder Cases: Lawyer Advertising Done Right?

A jury has awarded $110 million in another talcum powder-cancer case, a further indictment against Johnson & Johnson and an endorsement for lawyer advertising.

Attorneys rarely get public approval for their ads, especially when it comes to late-night solicitations, but this time it is paying off in more than dollars. The latest nine-figure award is only one of many cases -- about 2,000 nationwide -- that have made the public aware of the dangers of using talcum powder.

Louis Slemp, a Virginia woman who was diagnosed in 2012 with ovarian cancer that spread to her liver, could not attend the trial because of her illness. In a deposition testimony played to the jury, she said she used the talcum products for more than 40 years.

"I trusted Johnson & Johnson," she said. "Big mistake."

How to Save Client Relations If a Case Goes Over Budget

When it comes to going over a client's budget, there really are two sides to the coin.

On one side, you have a client who is not happy with the bill. On the other side, you have a lawyer with a potential client problem. Either way, we're talking about money.

The trick to saving the client relationship -- and not losing money -- is to add value. It means you have to invest in the relationship.

New Group Helps Women Lawyers Open Law Firms

Women have closed the gender gap in law schools, and they are gaining in the attorney ranks. But they are far from parity in law firm ownership. Nicole Galli, who left BigLaw to found her own law firm, wants to see that change. Leading a new group called Women Owned Law, she said it will take some effort.

"I think that there is a real difference between being a woman lawyer and a woman entrepreneur," she told Big Law Business. "There are differences between practicing law and having your own practice ... and there are huge differences between running a law firm and running another business."

What to Do If You Have Bad Facts?

It's hard to laugh at Bill Cosby's jokes anymore.

But it is ironic that one of his jokes was at issue in a critical hearing during his sexual assault case pending in Philadelphia. Prosecutors sought to introduce something Cosby said in his book, "Childhood," about giving girls the Spanish fly aphrodisiac to get them interested.

"They're never in the mood for us," Cosby wrote. "They need chemicals."

The judge disallowed the evidence, but will allow even more damning deposition testimony from Cosby himself. The crossroads in the proceedings offers a lesson about how to deal with bad facts in a case.

Law Firm Sues Insurer After Ransomware Attack, $700K Lost Billings

Like other embarrassing crimes, malware attacks often are not reported -- especially when law firms are the victims. It took a lawsuit for this one to come out.

A Rhode Island law firm has sued its insurance company for lost income suffered during a cyber attack last year. For three months, the firm's computers were held hostage by ransomware -- a form of malware that criminals use to extract ransom payments from victims.

Moses Afonso Ryan, a commercial litigation firm, says it lost about $700,000 in billable fees before hackers freed the computer system. The law firm wants Sentinel Insurance Company to pay for it.

As the tax season has passed and the basketball season winds down, here's a story about how they crossed over years ago and still affect lawyers today.

It was 1997, and the NBA's most flamboyant player had just tumbled into a crowd of courtside photographers during a game. Dennis Rodman, whose career was marked by wild hair and wilder behavior, got up and kicked a photographer in the groin.

The assault turned into a confidential settlement, which later became public when the IRS got involved. The taxman wanted to know how much Rodman paid the photographer.

Ronald L. Burdge, writing for the ABA, said the case illustrates the tax problems with confidentiality and settlement agreements.

Real Judges Use Social Media

Judge Don R. Willett has more Twitter followers than any other judge, except perhaps Judge Judy. But Willett is a real judge.

In fact, some say Willett is more real because he is on Twitter. Willett is a member of the Texas Supreme Court and a short-lister for the U.S. Supreme Court, but closer to the public because he is on social media.

"Justice Willett's tweets are smart, humorous, and informative; he has quickly established a national reputation on social media as a result of his ability to strike the proper balance between accessibility and appropriate judicial decorum," said Judge Stephen Louis Dillard of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

How Would Law Firms Be Affected by Trump's Tax Plan?

President Trump's proposed tax plan -- touted as 'the biggest individual and business tax cut in American history' -- would be a big break for lawyers, too.

Compared to setbacks for the president's travel bans and orders against sanctuary cities, the proposed plan is already a public relations success. Individuals would get to double standard deductions and avoid certain taxes, while corporations and partnerships would pay only 15 percent.

Of course, that depends on whether the plan gets through Congress. Observers don't think so, but there are a lot of lawyers in Congress ...