Jay Shepherd

Posts by Jay Shepherd

I have a confession to make.

Most of my friends are lawyers. Forrealz. To be sure, an increasing number of them, like me, no longer practice. But most of them still do, and I still like hanging with them.

When I would go to Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, or the federal district court across the channel in Southie, I would bump into classmates or colleagues more often than not. Later in my practice, it became increasingly common that I would already be friends with my opposing counsel. Some lawyers don’t like litigating against their friends, but I always did. It made it easier to get things done, and you didn’t have to waste time with unnecessary gamesmanship.

If you already had a level of trust with your opposing counsel, you could skip all the silly things that slow down litigation and make it more unpleasant. Discovery disputes, for example, drop down to zero. Settlement talks start sooner and are more meaningful. Extension requests are automatically given. Cases get resolved faster and easier.

But do you know who doesn’t like it when opposing lawyers are friendly with each other?

Find out who — plus big news about this column — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: A Civil Practice”

Recently I talked to a fourth-year-associate friend of mine who’d been working at a new small firm for several months. When I asked him how it was going, he said “great” in a way that suggested anything but. So I pressed him for more. The work was fine, he insisted. The clients were fine. His associates were cool. Great, I said. So what was the problem?

Well, he finally let on, there was this partner.

OK, I said. What about this partner?

Well, he said, he’s making my life a living hell. In fact, my friend said, it was so bad, he was thinking of leaving the firm.

What made this partner so horrible?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Supervising Partners and Teaching Partners”

Many litigators have a bias against settlement. It’s understandable. There’s no glamor in settling cases. No one is ever going to make a TV show called “The Settler,” about a young but scrappy underdog lawyer who fiercely negotiates tough-but-fair settlement agreements and always remembers to allow a 21-day waiting period if the plaintiff is 40 or over. (On second thought … better call my agent.)

Forget TV and movies. No lawyer has ever come home with the exciting news about settling a lawsuit (at least, no defense lawyer). “Honey, I settled the Devens case!” “That’s great, dear. Now go mow the lawn.”

In the midnineties, I was a junior associate working on a contentious sexual-harassment case. While we were able to win partial summary judgment, the main claims headed to trial in federal court. During the negotiations before the trial, the partner from my firm had a conversation with the plaintiff’s lawyer, who was that sort of rough-around-the-edges attorney who prided himself on spending a lot of time in the courthouse.

Looking to put my boss in place, the guy took a shot at our firm’s litigation style. Here’s what he said …

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Real Lawyers Settle Cases”

Like many of you on the East Coast, I’ve been spending my Sunday without power, thanks to Hurricane Irene. As I write this Sunday night, we’re in our eighth hour without electricity. Thankfully, other than losing some small branches and a bunch of leaves, we fared pretty well in what was left of the tropical storm. And the Red Sox swept their storm-related Saturday doubleheader, so there’s that.

But without electricity, I’m writing this post by candlelight and quill pen. OK, not really. Candlelight and iPad. But consider that I’m sacrificing one of my ten hours of iPad juice for this instead of beating my kids at Cut the Rope, or whatever. I know: you can thank me later.

Actually, losing power got me thinking about just how much I rely on electricity and computers and iPads and iPhones, and also how much that reliance has increased since I started law school, 20 years ago this week. And over the years, I came to appreciate just how much technology has allowed small firms to compete with our Biglaw colleagues.

What are the five biggest ways that technology has empowered (if you will) small firms?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: The Power of Small Firms”

My overlords here at ATL thought it would be fun to run a poll about whether there should be one space or two after a period. As if these things are decided by popularity, rather than by rules. This is strange, really, because just about all of you reading this are lawyers or studying to become lawyers. Better than anyone, lawyers know that we rely on laws and rules to decide what’s what, rather than an American Idol–style unscientific poll (where voters are self-selected and can vote multiple times).

As of this writing (late last night), the score was 65.9% saying “two spaces” to 34.1% saying “one space.” Now I’m no math geek (hence law school), but it looks like nearly two-thirds of you think a period takes two spaces after it.

Are you right, and does it really matter?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: A Period Piece”

Stop me if this sounds familiar to you:

The managing partner of your firm tells you and your colleagues that you all need to “do more marketing.” What that vague phrase means is unclear, but the partner feels it’s imperative. It’s the only way to bring in more business. Someone — maybe even you — ventures to ask for ideas on what kind of marketing you all should be doing.

Your fearless leader looks nonplussed for a moment, then shakes his head quickly like a dog drying himself and sputters, “Network. Get out there and network.” Meeting over.

Now you and your colleagues are left trying to divine just how to go about “marketing” and “networking.” There were no courses on these arcane arts in your non-T14 law school. (Fear not: The T14 law schools didn’t have those courses either.)

Finally, one of the group members — maybe even you — recalls getting an email blast about an upcoming networking event that you can all go to at the local chamber of commerce. “Great,” you chorus. But what are you supposed to do when you get there?

Don’t worry. Here are the six best tips for attending networking events:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: The Best Advice for Networking Events”

I tried to be a good boss over the years I ran my law firm. Some of my lawyers might tell you that I succeeded; others might be less charitable in describing my managerial skills. But I always made an effort to have my employees feel valued and respected. I gave them autonomy in their work, and I let them push back if they disagreed with the course of action I had chosen. When there was a problem with someone’s work or attitude, I dealt with it discreetly and sensitively; I never called anyone out in front of a coworker. And when someone had a good day, I made a big deal of it and made sure that everyone else knew about it.

I made sure that we celebrated every employee’s birthday, and we always recognized big events in people’s personal lives. And for a while, I gave a shout out to people for celebrating an anniversary with the firm.

Until one day, when I suggested going out to lunch to celebrate a junior associate’s second anniversary.

And she started crying.…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Thinking of Quitting? Read This First”

I recently talked about law firm names. But it’s not enough just to come up with a good law firm name. You also need to come up with a good law firm domain name. Otherwise, people will have trouble finding you. If you have your own firm, or think you might possibly someday, you need to become master of your domain, and you need to do it now.

When I started practicing in 1994, the Martindale-Hubbell directory was how people found out about your law firm. If you weren’t in there, you weren’t legit. That’s all changed now. If people want to learn about your firm, they either enter in your domain name (or your likely domain name if they don’t already know it), or they use the Google to find your website.

Nowadays, this is often how prospective clients (as well as opposing counsel) get their first impression of you and your firm. If your website looks like it would have been at the cutting edge in 1998 or 2002, you’re already sunk. Firm website design is a topic for a different day. Today we’re just talking about your domain name, because without a good one, you may never get found in the first place.

If you have your own small firm, or think you possibly may someday, read on for eight tips on choosing the right domain name.…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Are You Master of Your Domain?”

Over the 13 years I ran Shepherd Law Group, I employed lawyers of varying ages. I had fortysomethings (full disclosure: I’m 43, although I really don’t look a day over 42), I had thirtysomethings, and I had twentysomethings. This last group, the so-called Millennials, were almost a completely different species. For example, in law school, these newbies click-clacked on laptops in the classroom — even during exams. They communicated with law professors using the email. And they had no idea what a mix tape was.

In practice, it turns out that they work differently, too. I remember walking into the office of one of my newer Millennials when she was working on a summary-judgment brief. Her desk looked like the desk of any brief-writing lawyer, with files and cases and books all over it. But what really struck me was her computer desktop. It must have had 20 windows open, many with tabs hiding other screens.

But at least one of the screens was Facebook, and another was an instant-messaging client. I could see that the IM screen was showing an active conversation. Another screen showed Pandora, which was streaming music I didn’t recognize (it was Portishead) at a reasonably low volume.

I was stunned. How could she get the brief done with all these distractions?

So what did I do about it?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Don’t Trust Your Young Associates!”

Yesterday was the last day of July, and baseball fans know that this day is important because it’s the trade deadline. (Seamheads and baseball lawyers understand that it’s actually only the nonwaiver-trade deadline, but why take the fun out of it?) So I spent some time this weekend following the interwebs to see whether the Red Sox would do anything to improve their league-leading team (and even better, thwart the Yankees from improving at the same time).

At one point, there were reports that the Red Sox had traded for A’s pitcher Rich Harden. But the Sox scuttled the deal once they learned that the oft-injured Harden had a hospital bracelet tattooed on his arm to save time. (They ended up acquiring left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard, who is injured slightly less often than Harden.)

But as I was watching the annual trade-deadline special on the New England Sports Network after Sunday’s game (apparently, I have no life), I saw a laptop commercial that only a law firm could appreciate.

Whose ad it was and why it made me think of the sorry state of law-firm marketing, after the jump.…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Marketing Like a Law Firm Would”

Page 1 of 207812345...2078