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:
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:
Are partners just puppets of their law firms’ clients?
Mr. Armstrong sat at the controls of Morgan Stanley, which employed and paid Blank Rome millions of dollars in fees, thus allowing Blank Rome to be the ultimate ‘puppet master,’ as Blank Rome could control Ms. Armstrong’s divorce litigation in a manner designed to protect Morgan Stanley.
– Jonathan Sack, counsel to Kristina Armstrong, in a malpractice lawsuit that Armstrong just filed against her former divorce lawyers at Blank Rome.
(More about Armstrong’s allegations, after the jump.)
Do you remember those Viagra commercials where they tell you to seek medical attention if you’ve had an erection for more than four hours? That seems like a logical course of action — after all, it’s sometimes possible to have too much of a good thing. But what happens when you’re not taking an erectile dysfunction medication, and you’ve been standing at attention for an entire day or more? What should you do then?
Well, most men would take to WebMD in a heartbeat if they knew that their junk was at stake. Most men would immediately seek medical attention, regardless of a potentially long wait time at the hospital, because most men are fairly attached to their penises.
But not this man — he waited politely and patiently to find out that his penis was ruined….
It’s easy and popular to criticize America’s tendency towards over-litigiousness. You can talk and argue all day over abstract ideas, but have you seen the numbers all laid out in a handy-dandy infographic? No? Well, we have a special treat for you….
A wise man once said: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
I think of this whenever there are claims of attorneys royally screwing up e-discovery. It’s easy to indulge in some schadenfreude and say, “What suckers!” But truthfully, many firms — even the big, prestigious ones — are more vulnerable than they’d like to admit.
This month, McDermott Will & Emery ended up in the bright, unpleasant spotlight, because a former client sued the firm for malpractice.
Why, you might ask? The firm allegedly botched a client’s e-discovery.
Keep reading to see how the Am Law 100 firm became the e-discovery dunce du jour….
Well, this is pretty much my worst nightmare. Legal Profession Blog reports on the horrible story of Olufemi Nicol:
The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging that an attorney failed in bad faith to repay his student loans for a graduate business degree obtained after he graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1994. From 2006-2006, the attorney held several positions in business including a stint as president of Gear 7 in Los Angeles. The complaint alleges that the attorney received over $78,000 in loans in 2006 and signed two promissory notes. He allegedly has not made any payments on either note.
Okay, phew. I never took out additional loans for further education while I still owed money on my J.D. And I restarted payments — minimum payments — after I got a new job outside of Biglaw. I’m golden. AVOIDING DEBTOR’S PRISON SECURE!
Should Judge Richard Posner leave the Seventh Circuit and run for president? He certainly has the beginnings of a platform.
And, despite some possible leftward drift, Judge Posner’s tendencies still seem to point in a libertarian direction. From The Atlantic:
1. Remove all limits on the immigration of highly skilled workers, or persons of wealth. (This should be done gradually, so as not to increase unemployment while the unemployment rate remains very high.)
2. Decriminalize most drug offenses in order to reduce the prison population, perhaps by as much as a half, which will both economize on government expenditures and increase the number of workers. (Again and for the same reason, phase in gradually.)
3. Curtail medical malpractice liability, which increases medical costs gratuitously (because the courts are very poor at identifying actual malpractice) and, more important, engenders a great deal of very costly, and largely worthless, “defensive medicine.”
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.