One often hears lawyers, especially at large firms, say something like “if I were a client, I couldn’t afford to hire me.”
The reason is obvious; billable hour rates are high and quality legal work, especially in a tricky area, takes time. Legal fees for middle-class or even upper-middle-class people can easily outpace a client’s ability to pay.
This is a problem in a lot of areas of law, from divorce to employment to routine consumer litigation. In some cases, fee shifting or contingency fees can help make hiring a lawyer more affordable. Still, even for lawyers who aren’t in big firms, clients are often unable to afford the lawyer they need.
Federal employees caught up in Congressional or inspector general investigations are another sad example; they can be hit with massive fees for something they have no control over.
* Donald Trump is suing to get his name removed from the Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City because his reputation is tarnished by tacky façades dedicated to giving off the mere illusion of success. [Bloomberg Businessweek]
* Beau Brindley, a benchslap legend, is now the subject of his very own federal criminal probe after allegedly encouraging a client to lie under oath. A tipster told us last year “this won’t be the last you hear of [Brindley].” How prophetic. [Chicago Sun-Times]
* The woman given a forced blow job simulation for the glory of a 7-inch Burger King burger is speaking out. [Copyranter]
* The Women’s World Cup is scheduled for next year in Canada, but a number of high-profile players are threatening — with the help of Boies, Schiller & Flexner and Canadian firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt — to sue FIFA for discrimination over its plan to subject the women’s tournament to artificial turf. Are you suggesting FIFA is a disastrously flawed organization? Get out. [Fox Sports]
* Guess what? Your insurance company isn’t made up of the worst people on the planet. Unless you use this insurance company. Because then, maybe it is. [Gawker]
* A Harvard Law grad wanted to install an intercom so he invented a system known as “Nucleus” that does the job for less than $200. [Technical.ly Philly]
* If you’re interested in the fun and exciting world of startups, head on out to Legal Tech SF’s Startup Weekend. It’s August 15-17 at Airbnb headquarters. I assume after August 17 the location reverts to the headquarters of some other company. [Legal Tech SF]
* “I don’t care if it’s legal, it’s wrong.” President Obama is pointing the finger at companies using cross-border mergers to avoid U.S. taxes, and he wants to put an end to corporate tax inversions. [Bloomberg]
* Thomas Christina of Ogletree Deakins is the lawyer behind the recent circuit split on Obamacare’s state versus federal health insurance subsidies. Blame him or praise him, it’s up to you. [WSJ Law Blog]
* “I think I missed being in the courtroom more than I missed politics.” John Edwards, acquitted in 2012, is making court appearances again, but this time as a lawyer, not as a defendant. [Am Law Daily]
* A lawyer from Georgia hunts alligators in his spare time, and keeps the taxidermied head of one he caught right on his desk. He says it’s “a great conversation piece,” but that’s a pretty nasty paperweight. Eww. [Daily Report via ABA Journal]
* In a face-off with Alec Baldwin, a judge asked the actor to apologize. The combative Baldwin said he’d rather pay a fine, but if he can “[b]e a good boy,” his biking charge will be dropped. [New York Daily News]
Q: You can’t just have a bunch of clients with preexisting intentions to kill someone?
A: Yeah, that would certainly make things more risky for the firm.
– An exchange between Above the Law columnist Carolyn Elefant and Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper, in a segment about the trend of small law firms offering “self-defense retainer plans” for gun owners.
(Read more and watch the full, funny clip, after the jump.)
Most days, I’m proud of owning my own small law firm. And while technically, I’m not a solo — I’ve had an assistant for over eight years now as well as a revolving crew of of counsel, part-time associates and independent contractors — many of my colleagues lump me and most very small law firms into that category nonetheless. So when other solos act foolishly or unprofessionally, it reflects poorly on the rest of us.
Understand, I’m not picking on solos. Let’s face it — large law firms are hardly paragons of upstanding conduct; one needn’t look further than the recent Dewey & LeBoeuf scandal as proof. But for whatever reason, when Biglaw behaves badly, that conduct doesn’t diminish the reputation of Biglaw in the eyes of judges and other lawyers as it does for solos.
So that’s why it bugs me when solos do stupid — and often avoidable — things. Here are my top three peeves:
How often do you stop to think about the ubiquitous “Made in China” label? If you’re a China lawyer, you should think about it almost every day.
To convince recalcitrant clients of the need for product liability protection for the products they are having made in China, I sometimes send them the following deposition questions asked of a U.S. manufacturer whose China-made product had badly injured a child:
* Missouri lawyer is hauled into a disciplinary hearing about his practice of showing a picture of a naked woman to a female client. He says it wasn’t about sex and he was just showing her the kinds of pictures that come up in a divorce proceeding. That sounds like a fine explanation. I mean, every divorce involves autographed photos of strippers. He also commingled funds. That’s less easy to explain. [Inside the Ozarks]
* Hey look! They brought back Debtors’ Prison. The prison-industrial complex has gotta get paid somehow. [Bergen Dispatch]
* Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are now looking into David Samson, the chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a Christie appointee. If government agencies aren’t for petty revenge and plunder, then what are they for? [Talking Points Memo]
* Insurance company cronies threaten that insurance company may have to get out of the business because of all the lawyers winning cases making the insurance company actually pay their contractual obligations. Don’t they understand the purpose of litigation is just to collect premiums? [Legal Newsline Legal Journal]
* How ACLU attorney Ben Wizner became Snowden’s lawyer. [Forbes]
* “One of the reasons I could never imagine being a lawyer is because you have to account for your time in 15-minute increments.” Thankfully she was corrected and told that lawyers are actually more irritatingly measured in 6-minute increments. [Dear Prudence / Slate]
* With all the talk of patent law reform coming from the President, this is an excellent time to look back at eight dumb patents. [Mashable]
* Of course there’s a gender pay gap in Biglaw, but none of the firms are going to tell you about it. We’ll be discussing the results of the annual National Association of Women Lawyers survey later today. [ABA Journal]
* In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock, Texas struck down its ban on gay marriage, but stayed the ruling pending appeal. Seriously, of all places, this happened in Texas. Yeehaw! Ride ‘em, cowboys! [New York Times]
* New Mexico Law didn’t like what it found after auditing its SBA’s off-campus bank account. FYI: the SBA apparently isn’t supposed to spend money on bars, liquor, and restaurants. Who knew? [Albequerque Journal]
* “I don’t want to pay for someone else’s peculiar behavior.” Amanda Knox’s ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, is changing his tune about his former flame as their appeal date gets closer and closer. [CNN]
When I started my law firm twenty years ago, there were just five things that I knew.
I knew I didn’t have any clients. I knew that my husband and I could scarcely afford the loss of my paycheck, let alone come up capital for me to invest in my practice. I knew that I was way too mortified at having been laid off from my former firm to share the real reason for starting my own firm. I knew that when I finally opened for business, in truth, I was just putting on a game face every day, biding my time until something else came along or until I got pregnant and could, like some of my other law school classmates, gracefully exit the law. But I also knew, somewhere deep down, that I had it in me to be a good lawyer.
Those five things are all that I knew for sure when I started my law firm. Clearly I had a lot to learn. And while there was plenty of information on the black-letter, nuts-and-bolts aspects of starting a firm, the kind of advice that I really wanted to know to jump-start my practice — specifically, whether the solo option was actually feasible — was in short supply. Moreover, as an attorney with a traditionally big-firm practice (energy regulatory law and litigation), I was even worse off because attorneys familiar with my field and doing what I hoped to were particularly rare.
So to spare those of you starting out from what I went through, here are five things that I wish someone would have told me when I started out:
* Dewey think you should’ve signed up for the partnership contribution plan? That probably would’ve been wise. One of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s ex-service partners has been forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy thanks to a clawback suit. [Am Law Daily]
* As long as the job market for new attorneys remains laughable, law schools will continue to make moves when it comes to deep tuition cuts. Say hello to a $30K drop in sticker price, Roger Williams University Law students. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Syracuse Law’s class sizes keep getting smaller, but it was “strategically managed” — just like the new law building was financially strategically managed on the backs of alumni and their tuition. [Daily Orange]
* A trial date was set for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends who allegedly tried to cover up his role in the Boston bombings. No word yet on whether any stupid girls have set up fan clubs for them. [National Law Journal]
* The curtains are finally closing on the King of Pop’s life: Lloyd’s of London settled its insurance suit with Michael Jackson’s estate, and Conrad Murray’s involuntary manslaughter conviction was upheld. [AP]
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