Valerie Katz

Posts by Valerie Katz

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

It is not easy staying abreast of all of the important issues affecting small firms, but I do it because my words impact our nation’s policy. Do you think it was a coincidence that less than a week after I instituted the Small Firm Pro Bono Push, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee suggested that private-sector employees need to do more pro bono work? Obviously not.

But sometimes even I need guidance. So I enlisted the help of Susan Cartier Liebel, the guru of solo practice.

Liebel founded Solo Practice University (“SPU”) in order to provide the resources for people to start their own firms that she found to be utterly lacking when she first decided to hang a shingle. SPU offers a wide variety of educational programs and networking opportunities. As Liebel stated, SPU provides the 360-degree experience to learn how to open a law firm in a simple-to-use and cost-effective online platform.

Above the Law covered SPU back in 2009, but much has changed over the past two years. Learn more about SPU after the break….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: I Get Schooled By The Dean Of Solo Practice University”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Last month I received an email from Cameron McCord. McCord is a fifth-year associate at a boutique bankruptcy firm in Atlanta, where she’s been having “a great experience.”

“I am in court all the time and have started handling my own trials,” McCord wrote. “I have worked here since my second summer and am able to have a good work/life balance. I have an 11-month-old and a four-year-old, and my husband is a full-time student. I think it is important for people to realize that you can be successful without working at [Biglaw].”

Upon reading her email, I knew I had to feature her and her firm. I mean, she reads my column! And, I suppose, a firm that affords its attorneys the opportunity to maintain a life outside of work is, well, awesome.

Here is what goes down at Jones & Walden LLP….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: A Bankruptcy Associate Finds Small-Firm Nirvana”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

After talking to so many happy small-firm lawyers, I have begun looking for my own niche to scratch. It came to me while driving in the suburbs a few weeks ago. There was a radio ad for an awesome night club (“18 to party and 21 to drink”) promoting ladies’ night and a wet t-shirt contest for the ladies until midnight.

As I got off the highway to head to the club, I realized that I had found my niche: ladies’ night is just for the ladies. What about man night? Where is the justice in the world? I should fight for all the men who are discriminated against by paying a cover charge on ladies’ night (well, except for those men who ultimately get preferential treatment from said ladies who enjoyed their free drinks).

Unfortunately for me, Roy Den Hollander took up this worthy cause before my fateful drive to the Boom Boom Room on Highway 12. Let’s learn more about him….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Can A Wet T-Shirt Contest Form The Basis Of A Niche Practice?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

I am getting tired of hearing about all these large law firms and their unnecessary spring bonuses. This weekend I went on a trip with friends who all work in Biglaw, and the topic came up (and, in turn, everyone shared how he or she was going to spend that extra money).

One of my friends is planning on going on vacation to South America (sometime in 2019, when he has the time). Another told us that she is going to get “the Bentley of couches,” for the guest room in her giant condo. I did not have a similar Biglaw big-money story to share, so I instead shared my ideas for the top ten free activities I had planned for the spring. (In case you’re wondering, they are: 1. Breathe Air. 2. Walk. 3. Eat Free Samples At Whole Foods.)

I had to admit that I was a little jealous of my friends and their surprise bonuses. But then I heard a story that touched me right where it counts — in the wallet. I have learned that some small firms give their employees big perks….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: How Are Small Law Firms Like Oscars After-Parties?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

I have written this column from many places: my parents’ couch, my local Starbucks, my bed, etc. I have yet to try it from atop a soapbox, but here goes.

It is common knowledge that the need for pro bono services is increasing as funding for pro bono organizations is decreasing (or ceasing altogether). As explained by ABA President Stephen Zack, in a letter opposing cuts to funding for the Legal Services Corporation, “[f]inancially, many Americans are still hanging on by their fingernails. The worst thing that could happen is to lose the place people can turn to when their money woes create legal problems.”

Similarly, as explained by Esther Lardent, President of the Pro Bono Institute, in her address at the 2011 Annual Seminar and Forum on In-House Pro Bono, with regard to the impact of the economic downturn, “for pro bono . . . the worst is yet to come.” Lardent explains that the loss of funding to pro bono organizations has posed a “justice crisis,” and the need for legal assistance will increase.

So, as a result of the economy, more people need legal aid, but fewer legal aid organizations are able to meet those needs. Clearly if these people are to be served, private lawyers are going to need to take the laboring oar — and they have. According to Lardent, pro bono hours performed by major law firms increased in 2009 (2010 data is not yet available).

What about small law firms?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Good Deeds Can Come In Small Packages”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Johnson, asked all of her students to write an essay on who we admired most. My best friend Marni wrote about President George Bush, Sr. She loved America. I wrote about my dad. I loved my family. A classmate named Jay wrote about Ted Turner. He loved money.

Apparently, Jay is not the only person to love money. In fact, I am told that some lawyers chose the profession because they too love money.

Those lawyers work at Am Law 100 firms, right? Not all of them. Not the country’s richest practicing attorney….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Some Small Firm Lawyers Are Worth Big Bucks”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

I suppose that I should interview John Quinn (or john quinn?) on what it takes to start a successful small law firm. I mean, yeah, Quinn Emanuel was once small and now is sort of successful, but the reason for this interview would be because so many Quinn attorneys leave to start their own practices.

I did not interview Quinn, though. Instead, I spoke to former Quinn attorneys turned small-firm superstars: Ryan Baker and Jaime Marquart, principals of Baker Marquart LLP.

Baker and Marquart have been doing the small firm thing for nearly five years now, so they know of what they speak. And they both went to HLS and worked at Quinn for many years, so they are smarter than most of us.

Here is what they had to say….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Small Firm With Big Shoes To Fill”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

We all know that sometimes relationships end. Take Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper. As my friend (who is a divorce attorney) always says, if things are not working out, end it and do not buy real estate together.

This is true not only with bad relationships, but with bad jobs. I have received emails and had conversations with several small-firm attorneys who are unhappy. One woman emailed me that she worked at a small firm where she had to work in a poorly heated office with roaches and screamers (I guess she worked on a pirate ship). One man told me that he was repeatedly forced to cancel his vacations for faux emergencies. I have heard many different tales of experiences that range from unpleasant to abusive.

The idea of quitting a job (even a bad one) in this economy seems heretical to many. But, it shouldn’t. A recent study suggests that working at a bad job may be more harmful than being unemployed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Breaking Up Need Not Be Hard To Do”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

As discussed previously, Steven Harper threw down the gauntlet when it comes to top law schools focusing all their recruiting efforts on Biglaw placements. And the woman who reads my tea leaves said that small law firms are becoming the new black. But you do not need to take their word for it. I have it from on high (i.e., from someone at Harvard Law School) that small law firms might merit the attention of the top of the U.S. News law school hierarchy.

I decided to test my working hypothesis — that graduates from top schools are considering small firms for their post-graduate employment — on the head of the Office of Career Services at HLS, Assistant Dean Mark Weber….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Advice From A Real Expert on Choosing a Small Firm”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

As I have previously discussed, one thing I wish to accomplish with this column (in addition to the instant boost of self-esteem I receive whenever I read a comment) is to provide specific information to attorneys considering small firms. To that end, meet Ray Prather and Daniel Ebner, principals of Prather Ebner LLP.

Ray Prather was a successful solo practitioner specializing in estate and trust planning. Dan Ebner, an HLS grad and former district court clerk, was a Kirkland & Ellis associate. Realizing that their backgrounds complemented each other — that Prather had experience in running a small firm, and that Ebner had a valuable referral source in Biglaw connections — these partners in life decided to become partners in law.

So how did they make it happen?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Meet Two Happy Partners In Law And In Life”

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