Small Law Firms

* When Dewey tell the world that we’re dead, but not yet buried? The firm filed a notice with the New York State Department of Labor listing its closing date as yesterday. And what’s their reason for doing so? “Economic.” [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* Dewey have anyone left in the Office of the Chairman? Apparently not: Charles Landgraf has moved on to greener pastures. There is no longer a captain at the wheel of the S.S. Dewey. [The Hill]

* “The continuing loss of revenue-generating partners and Dewey’s debt load has culminated in the imminent demise of Dewey.” Damn, the PBGC certainly doesn’t mince words. Meet the firm’s latest lawsuit. [Reuters]

* A judge reinstated Le-Nature’s $500M case against K&L Gates for failure to detect fraud. Hope the firm has a half-billion lying around — they haven’t been doing too well with the whole honesty thing lately. [Businessweek]

* You stay classy, DSK! Your aggravated pimp hand is strong! Dominique Strauss-Kahn filed a $1M countersuit against Nafissatou Diallo because she “ruined his life, personally and professionally.” [Wall Street Journal]

* Conspiring to price fix? There’s an app for that! A federal judge denied Apple’s and several book publishers’ motions to dismiss a consumer class-action lawsuit about e-book pricing. [Media Decoder / New York Times]

* Like FernGully in reverse? A judge refused to dismiss Chevron’s racketeering and fraud lawsuit against New York attorney Steven Donziger for his work done in Ecuador. [New York Law Journal]

* Thomas Jefferson Law will be the site of the next solo incubator. This is a great way to keep your grads from suing you (not to mention a great way to increase your employed-at-nine-months rate). [National Law Journal]

I am always intrigued by articles giving advice on appropriate office behavior. For whatever reason, these advice columns almost always discuss the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of crying in the office. I am not sure why this is such a newsworthy topic, as I have rarely witnessed such behavior — either as a Biglaw associate or when I went to a small firm. And I only cried once in my five years of practice, and that was not in the office — it was in the elevator. Unfortunately a partner happened to be in the elevator with me, but I could not help it.

Last week the Wall Street Journal featured an article on this topic. Don’t Cry (At The Office) suggests that you not cry at the office (yes, shocking). The article goes on to suggest that you go home or to your therapist’s office to cry because while having feelings at work is a no-no, it is important to have feelings when you are off the clock.

After learning that one should not cry at the office, I decided to investigate other inappropriate behaviors. I have put together a list of forbidden actions for small-firm attorneys based on input from my cadre of small-firm Emily Posts.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Do Not Cry At Work And Other No-Nos”

A retail business owner asked me why I don’t believe in pay-per-click advertising or spending money on SEO strategies for my practice, as it has worked well for his stores. So I asked him: “What would you do if you needed a lawyer?” “I would call someone, get a name, and then look that person up,” he said. “You wouldn’t just do a Google search?” “No, never. After I got a name, I would check out the lawyer’s background, maybe see if he’s written anything that gives him credibility.”

No kids, he’s not talking about cute tweets or postings with links on a Facebook Fan Page. He’s talking about real writing, and he’s talking about getting your name from real people.

Now I know that I’m wrong, don’t know what I’m talking about, and am facing a sure death of my practice by suggesting that there are other ways of getting your name out there besides vomiting all over every social media platform, but it’s okay. When it all dries up, I’m sure I will have plenty of job offers from the wildly successful lawyers of the commentariat.

For those wondering if the life of a lawyer will ever be anything more than keeping track of your Google prowess by taking calls of, “I found you on the internet. How much do you charge?,” I have good news — it can be. There are actually real people out there that are looking for quality. It’s not that they found you first; it’s that they found you after a little research. If you’re going to be the type of lawyer that is found after someone gives your name, you might as well have something on the internet that evidences you have done more than just listen to some unemployed lawyer’s advice on building a practice.

My ideas are all free, and if you’re not afraid to use your real name, you may get some benefit from using them….

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Tom Wallerstein

Smaller firms which compete with their Biglaw brethren on cost often promote their efficiency and lower overhead. Understandably, these firms impliedly or expressly try to associate lower overhead with lower fees for their clients. Smaller firms have been so successful with this approach that overhead often seems to connote waste and inefficiency. But overhead is sometimes a necessary evil, and it behooves small firm entrepreneurs to remember the “necessary” aspect as well.

For example, forsaking a physical office in favor of a virtual shop obviously lowers a firm’s overhead and allows the firm to offer lower fees. But many people, including me, have written about the several benefits of having a physical office. I pointed to benefits such as credibility with clients and other lawyers, and helping yourself stay motivated and focused. This is an easy example of how lower overhead may impose a hidden cost on the business.

Of course, the biggest overhead expense for most law firms is payroll. Limiting the number of employees is the surest way to keep expenses under control. But is it always the right move?

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About a month ago, we wrote about an interesting lawsuit that Twitter filed against the allegedly “most aggressive” Twitter spammers. The social media giant took action against companies with goofy names, such as TweetAttacks, TweetAdder, and TweetBuddy.

At least one of the defendants, Skootle, the company that developed TweetAdder, is fighting back against Twitter’s allegations. The company filed a response brief on Friday and is represented by none other than one of Above the Law’s own regular columnists.

Keep reading to see Skootle’s brief and learn which ATL columnist is helming the defense…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Alleged Spammers Respond to Twitter Lawsuit: We Are Not the Spammers You’re Looking For”

Spirit Airlines is a cheap airline. They advertise a “$9 fare club.” They advertise a lot. Their goal appears to be to let everyone know, to create the reputation, that they are the low cost alternative to other airlines – just like you want everyone to know you are the “aggressive” alternative to all other “aggressive” lawyers out there that will “fight” for their clients (free consultations and payment plans available of course as well.). In fact, when you Google “Spirit Airlines,” you get this:

“Spirit Airlines – cheap tickets, cheap flights, discount airfare, cheap … ”

I’ve never flown Spirit, and I don’t know if anyone has actually flown anywhere for $9, but I do know that I’ve never heard anything good about this airline. They call themselves “cheap,” while others say they’re “bad.” They do make a ton of money, which should bring a smile to the growing number of cheap and bad lawyers out there….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Practice: Creating A ‘Brand,’ While Others Create Your Reputation”

Maybe a young Brando can play DeMayo in the movie.

Earlier this week, we shared an epic departure memo from the former marketing director at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo LLP. In the memo, the woman (whom we nicknamed “Peggy Olson”) blasted her boss: “Of all the THOUSANDS of people I have met over the past 38 years, you are by far the most egotistical, self-absorbed, delusional, disrespectful and narcissistic person I have ever met.”

Well, it turns out that Michael A. DeMayo has some defenders in the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo. Or, at least one defender. Or maybe he’s defending himself?

Who knows. All we can tell you is that we received a fax (yes, not only do some people still use fax machines, but apparently Above the Law actually has one that we keep right next to our beepers and mercury-infused health drinks). It’s a full-throated defense of Michael DeMayo, replete with allegations that Peggy is going through a difficult situation that precipitated her departure memo meltdown.

Fun times….

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Reema Bajaj: lawyer accused of prostitution

Let’s take a break from the sad and serious story of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s downfall and turn (or return) our attention to another kind of going down. In more salacious, racy fare, we bring you updates about female legal eagles who have flown high in these pages before — and now might find themselves crashing earthward.

The first is Reema N. Bajaj, a beautiful young Illinois lawyer who has been accused — perhaps unfairly — of prostitution charges. The second is Madam Justice A. Lori Douglas, a Canadian judge whose nude photos made their way to the internets.

So what’s the latest news about Bajaj and Douglas? Here’s a hint: What does each share in common with Bill Clinton?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Allegedly Lusty Legal Ladies: Updates on Reema Bajaj and Madam Justice Lori Douglas”

Tom Wallerstein

Once upon a time there lived a fisherman named Jay Dee. Every day Jay went to Lake Beeglaw to fish. Lake Beeglaw was the biggest lake in the entire country, and it was home to the biggest fish. Just one fish from Lake Beeglaw could feed a family for weeks. Consequently, Lake Beeglaw was the most popular fishing lake in the country.

But fishing at Lake Beeglaw was hard for Jay. Because the lake was so popular, Jay had a very difficult time even finding a place to cast his line. Jay had only a small canoe, and the bigger and more established fisherman all had big commercial boats. Whereas Jay used a simple fishing reel, many of the other fishermen used nets. Jay sometimes went weeks without receiving a bite, much less catching a fish.

One day, Jay decided to leave Lake Beeglaw and find another, less crowded lake…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Biglaw to Boutique: Go Fish”

It is rather fitting that the day America gets one step closer to finding out who will become The Voice, we get one step closer to understanding the male/female dynamic at small law firms. Well, at least we get to see the results of what over 200 small-firm attorneys have to say about what happens at their firms. Last week, I asked you to take a survey, now I’ve got some results.

Some of the results I would have predicted, but some results were surprising.

As most of you may have noticed from the tone of the survey, I assumed (based on personal experience that turns out to be the exception, not the rule) that there were very few small-firm female partners, the ones who were partners worked full-time and had delegated child-rearing to someone else. To my surprise, the survey suggests that the majority of small firms have female partners (63.6%). And, the women are adequately represented (22% of those surveyed work at firms where females make up 25% of the partners).

Let’s unpack some more numbers…

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