Small Law Firms

Professor Hans von Puppet

Professor Hans von Puppet

My number one rule of lawyer advertising is to always avoid “old guy in suit in front of books,” but there are limits. And that limit falls somewhere beyond a dark Metallica tribute and somewhere around putting an ersatz Muppet in front of a camera to shill for a law firm.

Yes, this is a puppet. Promoting a law firm. Specifically, Professor Hans von Puppet.

What the holy hell?

I had to watch it a few times to convince myself I wasn’t having an acid trip. Or watching some high-concept sitcom.

With all the hubbub over cigarette companies advertising to kids, where was the outrage over a law firm making lawyering look fun?

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John Roberts Chief Justice John Roberts* Does Chief Justice Roberts care enough about avoiding the appearance of partisanship that he’ll sink challenges to Obamacare? [Huffington Post]

* Wow. In 1938, they arrested a woman for wearing pants to court. [LA Times]

* LSAT takers were down AGAIN. It’s now down more than 40 percent since 2009. Maybe someday soon it really will be a good time to “Apply to Law School Now!” [Excess of Democracy]

* Don’t go to jail in Alabama. Just a general rule. [Mother Jones]

* Interesting. LexisNexis is partnering with Microsoft to create a cloud-based system for small law firms. [PR Web]

* The remains of famed athlete Jim Thorpe will remain in the Pennsylvania town where he was buried, ruled Judge Richard Caputo. His family wanted the remains returned to his birthplace. Even in death this guy is getting jerked around. [Associated Press via ABC News]

* Speaking of sports, Oklahoma State is suing New Mexico State alleging that its mascot looks “confusingly similar” to OSU’s mascot. There are only so many ways to depict a cowboy. Compare and contrast. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Man Okie State is litigious all of a sudden. Oklahoma State is suing the University of Texas for poaching the former Cowboys Offensive Line coach to be the Longhorns’ Offensive Coordinator. I can see the deposition now. Imagined transcript after the jump…. [ESPN]

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resume girlA few weeks ago, I asked for stories from former solo practitioners who have closed up shop and their reasons why. I received a fair number of responses. Some did well, moving on to BigGov, better larger law firms, or decent non-legal jobs, and some even started profitable businesses.

Others dug themselves into a deeper hole. Some got further into debt. Others made no money for years. And others became estranged from family and friends.

From time to time, I want to feature these stories as case studies for people considering going into solo practice.

For today’s inaugural feature, I will profile a lawyer who became a solo practitioner because he had no other options. Things seemed to be going well until something went wrong….

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Beyond BiglawThere are a lot of ways to measure success as an attorney. Many of the ways lawyers measure their own successes are backwards-looking. Whether focusing on past educational accomplishments or big deals or cases they have participated in, lawyers love to focus on what they have done.

There is nothing wrong with that, unless it prevents someone from focusing on what truly is important: the present. And for practicing lawyers, and those who intend to keep on practicing, there is only one question relating to the present that matters: “Who thinks of me as their lawyer?”

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Bruce Stachenfeld

This is a continuation of the past three articles I published in ATL over the past month or so. My first article argued that Profits Per Partner is a great servant for a law firm but a bad master. In my second article, I set forth our Profits Per Partner Emancipation Plan as an alternative. In my third article, I set forth what I believe is the highest level in law firm profitability analysis, which is to “embrace” the volatility inherent in the practice of law. In this final article, I will give some thoughts on how a law firm could indeed Embrace Volatility.

Before getting to that, I will mention as an aside that I wrote a few weeks ago in this column an article entitled “Are Lawyers Only Happy When They’re Miserable?” That article largely dealt with how an individual might in fact Embrace Volatility. This article is directed not at individuals but at law firms.

If you have been reading my past articles, you may be open to at least considering how Embracing Volatility might be a good thing for a law firm. But is this whole concept just a fantasy, like it would be nice to not be afraid of snakes but you can’t help it and just reciting “I am not afraid of snakes” isn’t going to work? I don’t think so. I think the following simple steps would do it quite nicely:

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The terrible way women lawyers are treated in the legal profession has been described in these pages ad infinitum. Whether their necklines are too low, their hair is too long, they’re giggling too much, or their maternity leave is considered an inconvenience, women lawyers aren’t taken seriously, and they certainly aren’t treated with respect by their fellow lawyers in this profession.

But just how much sexism do women lawyers face on a day-to-day basis? It’s astonishing…

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Keith Lee

The first step in putting yourself out there is knowing what you are about. You absolutely need to be able to present who you are to people in a simple, cohesive fashion. Otherwise, it can be difficult to make connections with people.

If you are stumbling on who you are or what you do, people lose interest. You need to be able to simply, and quickly, tell a story about who you are. Something that communicates what you are about — as a person and as a professional. You need to be able to express your personal narrative.

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We all face technology choices, but when you’re managing a law firm, these choices are all the more important, since the tools you settle on become a regular part of your day-to-day life. Making a bad decision about technology in your law practice can be particularly unpleasant since the effects are often long-term ones due to the high upfront investment required.

That’s why your decision regarding which computers and operating systems to use in your law firm is such an vital one. Once purchased, you’ll use those computers and compatible software for years to come. Making the right choice for your law firm can make all the difference.

Because PCs and compatible software dominate the marketplace, PCs are the computer of choice for most law firms. But some attorneys choose the path less traveled and opt to go with Macs. Eric Gold, a California estate practice and family law attorney, is one of those lawyers.

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Sexism is pervasive in the legal profession, and it’s highly unusual if a week passes and there isn’t something to decry about the way women are treated by their male colleagues. From pay inequities and being passed up for partnership to constant lectures about the way they ought to dress, act, and speak, women lawyers have been given the short end of the stick in what was once considered a noble calling.

Worse yet, when it comes to achieving any sense of work/life balance, each action a woman lawyer takes is scrutinized with intensity — there are always questions raised as to her true dedication to her work. Should a woman lawyer be so bold as to become pregnant and then take maternity leave, then all bets are off. Colleagues will sigh with exasperation and fault their pregnant coworker for putting more work on their shoulders while the lawyer with child goes off to enjoy her “vacation” from the job.

It seems that even judges are fed up with women attorneys and their pesky maternity leave….

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A few weeks into my new contract job, things got extremely busy. A few of the partners assigned additional work to me, and I see 12-hour days coming in the near future. And when I am done there, I have to go back home to work on my own client files. Unread letters and email are piling up on my desk, and it is getting harder to respond to phone calls quickly. I needed to do something to reduce the workload. And I sure as heck am not going to tell the partners that I’m too busy with my own work.

Over the weekend, as I was reviewing my notes and preparing billing statements to my clients, I decided that some of them had to go. Some were not paying their bills as agreed on the attorney-client contract and giving me all kinds of excuses. Others were slow in giving me information and documents that I needed. And others had malignant personalities that I couldn’t stand. Like most unestablished solo practitioners and small firms, I previously had no choice but to be flexible and exercise temperance in these situations. But now I am in a position to fire them.

After the jump, I will tell a story about a client I recently fired, the reasons why, and how I ended the relationship. I was worried because of the things he could possibly do to me: a bar complaint, a malpractice lawsuit, or a negative online review. But I felt particularly bad about this because he was one of my very first clients and one of my strongest cheerleaders….

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