Friday, May 9, 2014

Working with Millennials

We've heard lots of people grumbling about working with millennials, sometimes with good cause, sometimes based more on stereotype than reality; this short article from Entrepreneur discusses some of these stereotypes and why they might be wrong.

But like many things, both positive and negative generalizations only go so far - it's difficult to pigeon-hole millenial attorneys just as one would be hard-pressed to pigeon-hole baby boomer attorneys and so forth.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Personal branding

Attorneyatwork had an interesting article recently on personal branding.

Most attorneys don't like to think of themselves as a "brand" - and, we suppose, if you're a BigLaw drone or something similar, you're not (your firm certainly is, though).

But as you move down to solo and small firm attorneys, you very much are a brand - potential clients may hire you for your legal acumen, but just as many might hire you because of something about you - maybe a shared culture or affinity or hobby, or a myriad of other things you are and can be.

So give some thought to it and make sure your brand reflects what you want it to be.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Retracting offers and the state of the profession

A snippet came out in the ABA Journal recently about a firm retracting offers it had made to new first-year associates.  Not, by itself, a shocking thing.

What drew laughter and snide comments was the firm's excuse: that "declining client demand for first year associates" was amongst the factors behind the move.

As commentators pointed out, it's highly unlikely any client would demand a first-year associate.

After all, while paid very well (at these firms at least), the average first-year associate does little besides busy work and is, by and large, far less valuable than a half-competent paralegal.

That's one of the bigger problems the profession (and law schools) still need to find a better solution for.

Friday, May 2, 2014

How much obsolete tech are you using?

Sam Glover has a nice little slideshow over at Lawyerist discussing obsolete technology that many lawyers are still using.

How about you?

The only one of these that's still useful for many people, in our opinion at least, is the copier - since many courts don't have e-filing and there's still often a need to produce copious amounts of paper.  While scanning everything and printing on demand works for most things, it can tax many a printer to have to print hundreds of pages (and have them properly collated, stapled, etc.)

Everything else though?  Yeah, it's been replaced.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The "LawTigers" opinion: another take

While some, including My Shingle's Carolyn Elefant, have decried it, Scott Greenfield commends the Indiana Supreme Court for holding an attorney responsible for the exaggerations (or misrepresentations) of a lead-providing service he signed up for.

Greenfield's points are valid and have merit, but his ultimate solution:

Hold lawyers accountable for their signing on to these schemes that promote them through deception and prosecute alt-law businesses that are engaging in the criminal enterprise of the unlawful practice of law. 

seems antiquated, at best.

Given the liberalization of lawyer advertising rules, it is difficult to imagine a retrenchment of rules in the first place.  What would have been seen as puffery years ago is now common-place.  This may not be a good thing, but it is reality.

More so for "alternative law businesses."  Sure, unauthorized practice of law is still technically a crime, but given both the acceptance of alt-law business and the money behind it, does anyone really think it's just going to go away because lawyers want to preserve their traditional monopoly?  It's far more likely unauthorized practice of law statutes will go away than to see a sudden resurgence in enforcement.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Will lawyers become obsolete?

Wired had an interesting article about a "futurist" who predicted lawyers will soon be obsolete.

Specifically, the claim is that AI might automate contract law.  This may well be, but it might be a tad premature to say lawyers will soon be obsolete, given that they do much more than just write boilerplate contracts (and realistically, much of that low level work has already been replaced by legal document sites).

We don't think lawyers have to worry about computers taking their jobs... yet.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Beating writer's block

We've touched on this topic before, but came across some useful tips from Julie Fleming on how to beat writer's block.

Writing is part of the essence of being a lawyer; and not just pleadings and the like, but also "content" - traditionally articles and papers, now more often on web-sites.

Potential clients often find you by your writings (perhaps by googling a specific legal topic) and being seen as knowledgeable in a subject goes great lengths to impress both potentials and search engines.

After all, they can't hire you if they can't find you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How's your security?

Interesting little article on how some clients are forcing their attorneys to be more security conscious.

Although written from a perspective of BigLaw, the fact is that all firms should be mindful of their security, lest something happen that would compromise client information or funds.  Lawyers have not been traditionally known as vanguards of technology, but the risks are real and the cost(s) of failure potentially high.




Monday, April 21, 2014

Mental heath for lawyers

Lawyers don't want to talk about mental health issues.

That's a shame, considering that lawyers are more likely to suffer than the general population.  The stress of the job, the constant demands and pressure on your personal life, all help contribute to high rates of depression, anxiety, breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, even suicide amongst members of the profession.

But you don't have to suffer in silence.  There are people out there to help.  A recent guest lecture at Solo Practice University by Mayanne Downs discusses some of the things to consider and people to talk to.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Better web design helps potential clients find you better.

Most attorneys don't want to spend much time thinking about their web pages.  Heck, some attorneys don't even have a web-page (you really should though), but there are a few simple things you can do to ensure potential clients have a better chance of finding your page and figuring out how it is what you can help them.

One of the easiest things to do is to use proper meta tags.  Gyi Tsakaakis has a good primary on the subject and why it's important over at attorneyatwork.

Essentially, better meta tags help in searches - it's the bit of text we see underneath the webpage's title in search results.  Written concisely and accurately, they can help make your page stand out and give that potential client a reason to click on your page (and hopefully, of course, become a client)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Microsoft ends support for Windows XP

Last week, Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP.

Chances are, if you've been in practice for awhile and aren't particularly tech-oriented, you might still be running Windows XP on your machines.  After all, it's been more than capable of handing the needs of most legal practitioners and its reliability and simplicity have endeared it to many.

However, if you're still using XP, it's probably time to upgrade.  Upgrading your systems will allow you to take advantage of some of the best aspects of modern computers and with the cost of desktops being very reasonable, it doesn't have to be an expensive proposition.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Judges say shape up or ship out

A recent panel of federal judges put it bluntly to luddite attorneys - shape up or get out of the profession.

The judges specifically were referring to attorneys who lack even basic tech skills, which in today's world (and especially with e-discovery being so commonplace), makes them next to useless to the profession.

Harsh words, perhaps, but at the same time, it's hard to argue with their basic argument.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Catching more flies with honey than vinegar

Nice article from Christina Gagnier over at Above the Law on the oft-cited (but oft-slighted) idea of collegiality.

Most attorneys have horror stories about colleagues who are, at best, disagreeable curs.  It's a wide-spread issue and, given the pressures many attorneys face, it's not shocking.

But it is unfortunate and certainly has its own role in why lawyers tend to be so miserable - Gagnier's advice, be civil, don't be a jerk, etc. might be simple, but is important to take to heart.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nice piece by Kevin O'Keefe recently on the trap of "traffic whoring"

Most attorneys are familiar with the concept through the many websites that practice the same - essentially, generating traffic trough link-bait of salacious and/or insubstantial stories.

As O'Keefe says, while attorneys aren't likely to be postings cat pictures or "side-boob," there is certainly pressure to blog about popular topics solely for traffic.  This is not the best idea.

Much more important is to remain focused on what it is that you're blogging about in the first place.  Perhaps your short-term traffic may suffer, but long-term, your blog will gain more credibility in the eyes of readers (and often from search-engine algorithms too)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Network, network, network

Nice little piece from the Massachusetts Bar Journal regarding networking with non-attorneys.

Networking events with non-attorneys were always a good way to make connections, meet other business owners, and otherwise remain connected to a community (especially for a solo or small-firm attorney).  It's increasingly easy to find these groups - from traditional sources like the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, etc. to more modern groups from Meetup or LinkedIn or referral groups (if allowed by your local rules), such as BNI or Le Tip.

In our experience, you tend to have the best results from groups where you are the only attorney (or at least the only attorney doing what you do) and seeking clients in your general desired demographic (it should go without saying that if you're at BigLaw, a Meetup group isn't going to be worth your time, but if you have a small general practice or are just starting out, it often is).

No doubt, you're going to run into may people who have no need for your services (or no ability to pay), to lots of MLM types who try to sell you the latest snake-oil and lots of other useless connections, but the time involved is generally small (especially at the beginning of a practice) and you never know what might happen.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Working remotely tips

Some helpful tips on working remotely from the Legal Productivity blog.

Whether working remotely is an everyday thing (since you don't have a traditional office) or an occasional thing, chances are, you're doing it to some degree.

Accordingly, tips to make it better are always a good thing.  You're not going to find any ground-breaking advice, but nonetheless useful bits of information.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Fixed fees

With the rise of alternative billing models and increasing client concern on fee management and predictability, fixed fees are becoming more popular.

With this rise in popularity comes concerns, however.  We recently came across Five Questions about Fixed Fees You're Afraid to Ask and think it does a nice job breaking down some of the questions and concerns we've heard.

In our opinion, if you're thinking of delving into fixed fees, practice and time-keeping software like Online Legal Software is critical.  Setting fixed fees (and not taking a bath) requires data; data on how much time you can expect to spend on matters (or parts thereof) and time-keeping software puts this data in reach and allows you to make the best possible decisions to give both clients the certainly they want and you the financial logic you want.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Useful links

Came across an article from the Oklahoma Bar Association's Jim Calloway that is very useful in is simplicity: "What Tech Tool Should I Use To Do That?"

Some might scoff at what seems like some pretty basic questions, but the reality is that many attorneys aren't exactly tech gurus and for every person scoffing, there are likely five or ten others who might be learning something.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Firms don't have mobile websites?

We were rather surprised by a survey that showed less than half of AmLaw 200 firms have mobile websites.  Really?  With most modern consumers doing the bulk of their web surfing by mobile, this just seems like wasted opportunity (and further proof to those so inclined to believe that BigLaw is going the way of the dodo).

Perhaps larger institutional firms can afford this oversight, but smaller firms simply cannot if they expect to compete for clients in today's day and age.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Betty Crocker era

Came across a piece recently that made an analogy that we are currently in the "Betty Crocker era" for legal services.

At first, the analogy might seem silly, but upon deeper reflection, it actually is pretty apt.  We see now the introduction of technology and services that, much like ready-mixed cake mixes did in the 50s, had both democratized and cheapened the market - sure, everybody can now do-it, but it's just not going to be as good.

Is this a good or bad thing for legal services?  Honestly, it depends.  To continue the cake analogy - it's fine for the basics - when, say, you just want a slice of angel food on a work night, but for those complex situations or special occasions, maybe not so much.  After all, who would want a Betty Crocker wedding cake?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tips for new BigLaw Associates helpful for any new attorney

We recently came across a list of tips for new BigLaw associates.  It's a good list and equally good for new lawyers at every level (at least the vast majority are).

The one truism of law school is that it just doesn't teach you to be a lawyer (and yes, some schools are making more of an effort to teach practical skills, but by and large, this remains true.)

New attorneys need to recognize this and ensure they make the time to learn the business of law.  No matter where you end up - solo, smalllaw, or biglaw, you will need to understand this if you expect to have a lasting career.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Client feedback

Nice article from Tom Kane on the importance of getting feedback from your clients recently.

It's not uncommon for lawyers, especially those of a more traditional vein, to avoid seeking feedback from their clients - after all, they figure, my clients aren't going to leave me.

The fact is, however, that in today's economy, clients ARE leaving attorneys who can't provide the services they want at a cost they deem appropriate.

Surveying your clients can serve a couple of functions - obviously, the key thing it can do is identify both what you're doing that your clients like and what you need to do better; but just as important, it can serve as a mechanism to cross-sell other services your client may need by both educating them on what you do and learning what they need.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Tech isn't going to save you

We couldn't agree more with an excellent recent article from the Three Geeks and a Law blog discussing the "myth" of disruptive technology.

The lesson for lawyers is clear: that it's not "technology" by itself that can do you in, but how that technology ids adopted and used; firms that out of apathy and tradition try to continue doing things "the old way" can often find that the old ways become obsolete before they know it. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Technology impacts lawyers and their potential clients.

One of the biggest ways new companies and new technologies have changed the relationships lawyers used to have with their clients and potential clients is to eliminate the very need for lawyers.

A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discussed various ways entrepreneurs are avoiding using lawyers for simple business transactions and forms.

While many lawyers disdain apps and sites like LegalZoom as inadequate, the simple reality is that they are eating into a lawyer’s (especially a solo or small firm lawyer) potential client base. 

The problem, just touched on in the article, is a big one – there is a massive number of people who need legal services who lawyers won’t (or can’t) serve.  Part of this is cost – obviously, it costs a lot of money to go to law school, leaving most new lawyers buried in debt, but there’s also, in our opinion, a “snob” factor – that is, the unwillingness of lawyers to embrace the fact that they and their work have become mere commodities.


What do you think?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Write!

Writing articles and blog pieces is something most people struggle with (present company included) – a recent article by Lee Rosen had some good tips that can help you come up with ideas and tips to get you in the good habit of writing articles regularly.

For most people, writing doesn’t come naturally – but as Rosen discusses, with practice and training, you can teach yourself to write daily – or at least almost daily – to get your blog up and running and useful for readers and SEO purposes.

We’ve all seen blogs that have a few postings, and then get abandoned.  The point of blogging, for most people, is to gain exposure and demonstrate that they know what they are talking about.  Obviously, this doesn’t happen if the blog isn’t updated.


So take the tips to heart and get writing!

Monday, March 10, 2014

How do you organize your files?

Sometimes, the simplest changes can have the biggest impacts.  And one of the simplest is to have better organization of you files (both paper and electronic)

This is a real bugaboo for many attorneys – who often waste hours looking for specific documents; who make multiple copies of documents to avoid losing one, and who often drown in reams of paper.

The switch to electronic documents (and “paperless” systems) hasn’t always had the effect on better organization that proponents would have thought.  Now, instead of searching through paper, attorneys search through poorly named files to try to find the right document or form.

Obviously, the best way to solve both these problems is to implement (and, most importantly, follow) systems – a document intake procedure, a set of standard folders (both paper and electronic), and file-naming conventions (for electronic files)


Of course, though, the best system will fail if the attorney and their staff don’t follow it.  Training oneself to abide by systems requires discipline and isn’t always fun (especially for solos who might not enjoy “admin work”) but it’s absolutely necessary and will reward itself many times over.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bill smarter, not harder.

Hourly billing isn’t fun.

But it’s also not going away, at least not completely.  One of the easiest ways attorneys can make it (slightly) less not fun is to record time promptly.

This seems almost counter-intuitive, since the classic way most people avoid things they don’t want to do is to put them off.  But by training yourself to keep track of time little-by-little, you can avoid the soul-crushing pile of time to reconstruct at the end of a week or even month.

Having this pile often results in bills being delayed, which, of course, is bad practice (and often creates receivable problems in its own right).

Recording time in this fashion can be done with a variety of media – paper sheets, excel spreadsheets, word documents – but the easiest way is to use practice management software, like Online Legal Software.  This way, the entry just has to be done once and you can save time and energy re-typing, re-editing, you just have to push a few buttons and get a bill.


Train yourself to record time promptly and you’ll soon find that hourly billing isn’t the demon it once was.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Document security

FutureLawyer had an interesting blurb on the security of Dropbox and similar services for attorney documents; coming to the same conclusion that we often say to our customers: don't.

Dropbox and the like are fine for stuff that's not sensitive, but its' very size and ubiquity make it an inviting target for hackers.  While that is theoretically a concern for any website, services for attorneys, like Online Legal Software, are specifically designed to host attorney documents safely and securely.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Understanding the business of law is critical

Good article recently from JDSupra discussing the knowledge new lawyers need regarding the business of law.

We certainly agree with Ms. Ames that knowing the business of law is important for new lawyers, but we would go further - in fact, it's critical for all lawyers.  Too many associates, be they at BigLaw or in smaller settings, are content to simply bill their hours and that's it.

The problem, for them, at least, is that without a book of business of one's own, an attorney is expendable.  Yes, that's not something most attorneys want to think about, that, in the end, they are virtually interchangeable, but from a practical business standpoint, it's true.

Building business - rainmaking, may not be what you went to law school to do, but in the real world of most law firms, with complex questions of law being few and far between and a glut of attorneys who are generally all capable of handling the grunt work, it's the only way to ensure long-term success.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Don't overlook the power of appearances

A recent article by Keith Lee, over at Above the Law reminded us about some of the silly things we remember from practice and the impression it gave.

While we can't recall seeing a pleading using comic sans font, it wasn't uncommon to see pleadings and papers that were horribly formatted (spacing was often a big problem); that used multiple fonts (clearly indicating a cut and paste job); that referred to non-existent paragraphs or had the wrong party names (we still remember once receiving discovery requests for another case, but with our case's caption).

While these things are good for a laugh and admittedly, no-one is perfect, so the occasional typo or error is going to happen, these types of things happening more than once in a blue moon give the impression of your firm and your practice as a two-bit hack.  Certainly not the impression you want to give to the judge or to opposing counsel.

Take the time to proof-read (and leave yourself sufficient time to do so) and you will almost certainly find the rewards to be more respect for you and your work product.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Don't overlook the simple

Attorneys are often worried about security when it comes to cloud computing, but as this recent article from TechVibes point out, often the weakest link, to borrow a phrase, is the simplest.

How many of you have passwords written down on a post-it note stuck on your computer screen or under a desk blotter?  We've lost track of how many customers have laughingly admitted to the same or that we've seen on-site in an attorney's office.

Unless you have a photographic memory, however, this is a common problem - it sometimes seems every site requires a slightly different variation on a password, or requires you to change it often, or otherwise makes it easy to forget - thus creating the situation described above.

What's the solution?  Password managers can be useful, but at a minimum, try keeping the post-its out of plain sight.  Still not ideal, but at least then every Tom, Dick & Harry who wanders into your office doesn't have to even look to see them.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Net neutrality ruling has uncertain consequences

Recently, the DC Circuit struck down what many see as the essential bed-rock of the modern internet: net neutrality.

Put simply, net neutrality is the idea that service providers can't favor one type of traffic or one type of website over another.  After this decision (which, of course, will likely go before the Supreme Court in the not-so-distant future), this may change, so providers might charge content producers (and thus, ultimately, consumers) more to stream a movie or play an online game.

More disturbing, to at least some watchers, is that service providers could, in theory at least, deny or redirect traffic to websites of its choosing.

For attorneys, especially smaller firms, this could be significant - what if, say, a competitor paid service providers to direct traffic meant for your website to theirs?  Or a service provider forced attorneys to pay more to access sites like PACER?

It will be very interesting to see how things play out in this case and if consumer expectations will curtail the worse potential consequences if the decision is not overturned by SCOTUS.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Another example that times are a-changin'

Most attorneys have heard of Martindale Hubbell, once the end-all-be-all of legal directories and issuer of the once coveted AV rating.

Now, of course, it is no more; rendered obsolete by the proliferation of the web and new, more "democratic" ratings systems, from AVVO to Yelp.

The lesson for any attorney and law firm, especially those who fancy themselves the established players in any given market, should be clear.  Young upstarts, new technologies, can render you as obsolete as M-H.

The trick, of course, is not remaining static.  Even successful firms should always be seeking new and fresh ways to solve old problems and embrace a willingness to change for the better.  Technology, like online legal software, can be part of this solution.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Going beyond the stock image

How many of you have seen (or own) webpages with the standard stock images common to all lawyer webpages - you know, random courthouses, papers and/or files, the scales of justice, etc., etc.

Well, there's a nice way to stand out from the crowd a bit, by using images in the commons to illustrate your webpage(s) and blogs.  Sure, you might have to hunt a bit for the right pictures (and don't forgot, of course, to include pictures of yourself), but by personalizing your page a little, perhaps you can give that potential client some method to separate you from the myriad of other lawyers out there, which very well could positively impact your chances of turning a potential client into a real one.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The right tech makes your life easier

Technologist had a recent article discussing 5 tech items lawyers aren't going to need in 2014.

It's not a bad list.  Landline phones (at least non-VOIP landline phones) and fax machines are definitely technological relics - in that you can do the same things (and much more) with internet phones and internet faxes, which give you the ability to receive calls or faxes from anywhere and are often more economical to boot.

When it comes to desktop PCs though, we still have our doubts.  Lawyers do a lot of word processing and desktops are still the best tool for that - at least for a few more years.

Same with physical storage media - sure, we're big on the cloud, after all, we're in the cloud, but lawyers, being a conservative bunch, should have multiple back-ups.  Physical media is still good for that - although don't use flash drives for long-term storage considering they have an annoying habit to just stop working without warning.

Smart technology use isn't about the technology as an end-all-be-all, at least it shouldn't.  It's about making your life and practice easier and more flexible.  At least it should be.