Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NYC Bar recommends non-lawyers should be able to practice law

We've recently discussed the growing issue of cracks in the legal guild structure.  Now out of our home state of New York comes a report that may well mark the true beginning of what could become a major shift in the market, namely that the NYC Bar Association has essentially recommended that the state begin to allow non-lawyers to serve as advocates in court and give advice to clients.

The smart lawyer will understanding change and adopt.  We can help.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Twitter: a good way to make contacts

If you're on Twitter (and you really should be), don't miss the opportunity to connect with reporters and become an important source of information, writes Kevin O'Keefe.

Lots of attorneys, to the extent they are on twitter at all, use it to cross-post their blog or other limited marketing ideas.  But if this is the only thing you are doing with it, you're missing out.

Especially if you are in a smaller community (or neighborhood-based), there is significant value in becoming a trusted source for local information - seek out local reporters, organizations, etc.  Follow them, re-tweet them, and you will almost always be rewarded in kind; moreover, you may find yourself receiving calls for comments and opinions and otherwise gaining free publicity.  And calls from potential clients.

You can follow us on twitter @OLSoftwareNYC.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Are the British coming?

An interesting read on Solo Practice University talks about the British adoption of rules that allow non-lawyers to form and manage legal corporations.  This trend, which began a few years ago in Australia is now commonplace in the UK.

Now jurisdictions in Canada and the United States (admittedly, much to the horror of many in the bar) are contemplating the same thing.

Many lawyers will dismiss the idea out of hand - but this is dangerous, because like it or not, the combination of cheaper services (and the success of Wal-Mart should demonstrate the American affinity for cheap over well-made, but more expensive, alternatives) and unmet needs (that is, the millions of people who could use legal services, but don't have the money to afford a traditional lawyer) suggest it will be here soon, sooner than one might imagine.

And it's almost a given that the impact will be felt disproportionately amongst solo and small firm attorneys - after all, AmLaw 200 firms aren't writing simple wills and performing other easily commoditized tasks.

The smart solo will adopt.  One potential way to adopt is to become more efficient.  Online Legal Software can help you achieve this goal.  We'd be happy to show you how.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Florida Bar Association to formally vote on cloud computing

We've previously discussed the ethics opinion from Florida formally OK'ing the use of cloud computing by attorneys in the Sunshine state.

Word from the state is that the Bar will formally adopt said opinion at its upcoming conference.

NO states have found cloud computing to be inconsistent with an attorney's ethical obligations (provided certain conditions are satisfied).  If you've been thinking about making the switch, we'd love to show you what we can do.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Don't make excuses not to be on social media

Kevin O'Keefe makes a good point over on LexBlog over attorneys finding excuses not to be on social media sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

This is the new form of networking.  Sure, some networking is still done face-to-face, but more and more is done online - and with online resources, you can reach a much larger audience.

Much like traditional networking, the results of such social networking aren't often immediately apparent.  But you don't know if that colleague you're bonding with over baseball might remember you when they have a referral in your jurisdiction, or a casual online conversation might lead to a writing or speaking opportunity.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The pin factory

Perhaps it was the fond memories of the familiar blue Adam Smith in college, but this recent article on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog was a good read.

To some degree, this specialization is already occurring - you have more and more attorneys specializing in certain discrete tasks - the appearance attorney, the research attorney, the appellate specialization.  But oftentimes this is more out of necessity then desire, per say.

Should law firms move to the model the Geeks envision?  On one level, it certainly makes sense - why shouldn't, say, the best writer in the field draft the pleadings; the best talker handle the court appearances, and so forth - of course, it raises some problems too - it only works with a bunch of people, for one, and it presumes you'd associate with other attorneys based on skills alone.

One of the biggest problems we envision is inspired by that equally familiar red book (we did have to read them both in college, after all).  One of the major shortcomings in the pin factory, and of Smith's specialization in general, is that it creates monotony which leads to dissatisfaction at best - this is, perhaps, unavoidable for routine, low-skill tasks, but the attorney is, by definition, not a low skill occupation.  Lawyers are unhappy now - but how bad would they be alienated from their own labor in this system?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A little melodramatic, but not something to be dismissed

The Canadian Bar Association recently published an article that asserted massive changes are needed for the legal profession to remind viable.

Much as Shakespeare might have wanted, lawyers aren't going anywhere.  But the general point is a valid one - the profession faces numerous challenges and how it both reacts to these challenges and is pro-active to confront them will determine what the profession looks like in 30, 40, 50 years.

It's not inconceivable that the "profession" will be deregulated and non-lawyers may provide some of the services lawyers do now - arguably, this is already happening.  Cost and utility of the traditional law school is also something that almost has to change.

It is easy, of course, to see today's problems as more fundamental or unique then the problems before.  There is no doubt the profession will change, but as always, it will almost certainly adjust.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Virginia opinion on virtual law offices and cloud computing

The Old Dominion has issued an opinion on the ethics of virtual law offices and cloud computing.

The opinion is a broad discussion, almost conversational in tone.  Cloud computing is briefly mentioned in passing as falling under the aegis of Rule 1.6, wherein, (as should be expected for anyone who follows the general trend of the ethics of cloud computing), an attorney has a duty to act reasonably in entrusting her data to the cloud and being aware of the policies and procedures of the cloud provider chosen.

One particular note of caution is for anyone planning a virtual law office in Virginia who did not take the Virginia Bar - the commonwealth has particular requirements for attorneys admitted on motion and/or with reciprocity that could prevent these attorneys from using a VLO.

Overall, however, is yet another acceptance of cloud computing - and by a state known for conservative bar regulation, to boot.

Friday, June 7, 2013

How often do you bill?

How often do you bill?

Silly question, right?  After all, we all know you should be billing monthly, or even bi-weekly, if you suspect your client might have trouble paying (smaller bills might get paid easier)

So how often do you bill?

If you're a solo attorney, chances are you don't always bill monthly.  After all, getting bills out isn't any fun, especially if you're trying to do them with an excel spreadsheet or a word file.  And that's before you take the time to comb through the bill and your records to make sure you accounted for everything.

Online Legal Software can help.  Bills are a-lot easier when you keep contemporaneous time records; when you can automate the double-checking, when you don't have to retype or play around with clunky document files.

And more regular bills means more regular payments.  Let us show you how.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Being a lawyer is not worth your life

There have been several reports on what seems to be a rash of lawyer suicides, recently, notably in Kentucky.

This trend is disturbing, but not shocking.  Attorneys have long had higher rates then the general populace for a variety of problems - suicide, depression, alcohol and drug abuse.  Nor is it difficult to see why.  Long hours, difficult, stressful work, financial pressures, the list of triggers is well-known and not likely to change.

So what to do if you or someone you know is in danger?  Most states have resources to help - help lines, counselors, etc. (and yes, usually you can remain anonymous).  Technology, such as Online Legal Software, can have a small part in the solution as well - being better organized can mean you have less hours to work and make more money, both of which can lead to increased happiness.

Most of all, don't suffer in silence.  You're not alone.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Flat fee billing

Depending on your practice area, flat fee billing might make sense.  And by make sense, we mean that that it's not just easier (it always is easier then hourly billing), but is also financially prudent.

The ironic thing is that to make this latter determination, with any basis in realty, at least, you have to have underlying hourly data - that is, how do you know how much to charge, and make money, on a flat fee basis if you don't know how much time you generally spend on a case?

To illustrate, let's say you want to make about $200/hour, a reasonable billing rate depending on your area and expertise; your flat rate should basically be the time you can reasonably assume to spend on the case times your desired rate - but how do you know if you'll spend 5 hours or 50?

Online Legal Software can help.  Using our narrative system, you can easily track the time you're spending on your cases, regardless of whether you bill for it.  It allows you to build the base of knowledge upon which to base flat-fee billing decisions.

Interested?  Give us a try.