Solo Practitioners

Okay, we can all stop worrying. Lindsay Lohan’s new attorney Mark Heller is pretty sure he knows how to “fix” the actress and he’s written a letter to the prosecutors extolling his power to succeed where all others have failed. And it involves establishing the “Lindsay Lohan Foundation.” I’m eagerly awaiting the mission statement for that organization.

The judge is not pleased with Heller’s letter. The exact term used in reports of the judge’s reaction is “pissed.” Pissing off the judge within the first month on the case. Hey, Lindsay, maybe Heller isn’t the best choice for representation. I mean, who is this guy?

Mark Heller’s decades-long legal career is described by observers as publicity-seeking and erratic.

Oh, wait. So maybe this is actually a match made in Heaven to work with LiLo….

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Last year, we introduced you to San Diego’s self-proclaimed Legal Baller, the upstanding criminal attorney offering to pay “attractive hip females” $10 an hour to be his legal assistant.

While some thought that the previous ad seemed like a joke and questioned whether the Legal Baller truly existed, it turns out he is very much real. Meet Raymundo Pacello, Jr., the “Multi-Dimensional Trial Attorney” and former muscle man whose interests include ancient rhetoric and “Causing a Riff in the Tide of Power!” Because we all know the tide of power could stand to be musically spiced up a little.

So who is the man behind the Legal Baller legend and who is he looking to hire now? Keep reading to find out….

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Tom Wallerstein

Some attorneys think they are unable to transition from Biglaw to opening a solo or small firm boutique because they lack the ability to generate business. They might think, “If I can’t generate business at my current firm, with all of its vast resources, goodwill, and prestige behind me, then how could I ever hope to generate business on my own?”

This kind of negative thinking is pernicious, and based on a number of fallacies….

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A correspondent recently posed this question: I’m a litigation partner at a big firm. If I go solo, will my corporate clients continue to use me for their smaller matters?

I’ll use this column to do two things. First, I’ll offer the customary answer to all legal questions: It depends.

Second, I’ll ask my in-house readers at large corporations to let me know (either by posting in the comments or sending an e-mail to the link in the shirttail below) whether their corporations use sole practitioners.

Will big corporate clients follow an individual lawyer who jumps ship and goes solo?

It depends . . .

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Elections have consequences, and right now I’m waiting for Republicans to start paying the piper. I’m looking at you, Ted Nugent. You declared, nay promised, that if Obama was reelected, you’d either be dead or in jail within a year. Well, tick tock buddy, we’re all waiting.

In fact, there were many Republicans who promised to do all sorts of horrible things should Barack Obama win. And apparently some of them are following through. Nothing makes a political statement about the vibrancy of our democracy than petulantly firing people when democracy doesn’t go your way.

And heck, we don’t even know how many people will be “not hired” because, “Grrr… we have to pay for our employees’ health care because we were too partisan or stupid to support a single-payer system that would have shifted the burden of health insurance away from private employers.”

At least, we won’t know unless they tell us. Which, incredibly, one solo practitioner apparently did, in a rejection letter to somebody who applied in response to her Craigslist ad. It’s easily the best post-election rejection letter we’ve seen….

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* Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the fairest firm of them all? According to the 2012 Acritas Brand Index survey, the current leader of the Global 100 is the most powerful Biglaw brand for the fifth year in a row. [American Lawyer]

* But that might not last for long, considering the dilemma Baker & McKenzie is facing when it comes to joining the Shanghai Bar Association in China. The firm is one of the first to indicate that it’ll take the plunge. [Wall Street Journal]

* Thanks to the Second Circuit, Rajat Gupta will be a free man on bail pending the appeal of his insider trading conviction. We wonder what Benula Bensam would have to say about this new twist. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Jason Smiekel, the lawyer who pleaded guilty in a murder-for-hire plot involving a former client, was sentenced to eight and a half years in federal prison. The things men will do for HHHBs. [Chicago Tribune]

* Student loan payments: coming to a paycheck deduction near you! Congress is considering an overhaul of the country’s student debt collection practices, and Rep. Tom Petri has some interesting ideas. [Bloomberg]

* The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is the latest school to hop aboard the solo practice incubator train, but graduates will have to rent their office space from the school. Nice. /sarcasm [National Law Journal]

* “We didn’t file this complaint lightly.” Sorry, Judge Norman, but as it turns out, you can’t just sentence a teenager to attend church for 10 years as a condition of parole without pissing off the ACLU. [Tulsa World]

* When your alterations cost more than your wedding gown, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll have some problems — ones worth suing over, if you’re a true bridezilla (like moi). [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

For years, personal injury law advertising and violent imagery have gone hand in hand. Only in this field would we get a video of an unhinged attorney smashing a pickup truck into a parked car and call it an advertisement. The more they can yell or blow things up, it seems, the better.

Keeping with the tradition of aggression, we have not one, not two, but three different personal injury lawyers who have branded themselves “The Hammer.” But in the dog-eat-dog world of personal injury law, there can only be room for one Hammer. So who should win the rights to the title?

Should it be Lowell “The Hammer” Stanley from Virginia, who compares personal injury law to making sausage? Or Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro, the personal injury attorney possibly from New York (or Canada or Florida), who claims he loves to play rough? Or our entry from down South, Jim “The Texas Hammer” Adler, who is supposedly meaner than a junkyard dog?

Which Hammer should reign supreme? Let’s review the evidence….

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Before I provide some advice on client relations that will be deemed “totally wrong” by some and “good advice” by me pretending to be anonymous, I wanted you all to know that I bought a wireless printer that allows me to send documents from my phone, wherever I am, to my printer at my office. Although I currently have no use for this feature in my law practice, and haven’t in 17 years, I hope this puts me in better stead with those of you that think I hate tech.

Now let’s talk about clients, for those of you that have some.

The core of running a practice is machines and toys clients. That you are able to do competent work for clients doesn’t matter if you are not versed in the retaining and retention of them. The retention of any client starts at the initial contact, not when they come to your coffee shop office with a check. For those of you who have practices where you never meet with clients, your initial contact with them (unless it’s them using your website as an ATM to buy documents) is even more important.

While you may be in a position where the client is only calling you, most clients are calling several lawyers. Regardless, you are now auditioning for the job. That audition begins at the very moment you first speak to the client, or the person calling for the client….

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The polls remain open in our Lawyerly Lairs contest to find the Best Law Offices in America. If you haven’t done so already, you can review the eight finalists and cast your vote here.

The Georgia boutique of Bouhan, Williams & Levy took an early lead, thanks to their amazing offices in a restored Southern mansion. Right now, though, 1-800-LAW-FIRM is in first place. How many law firms have “walking tracks” and exercise rooms?

Due to the overwhelming response to our call for submissions, we were unable to include all of the great spaces that you shared with us. Today we’d like to recognize our “Honorable Mentions” — four firms that narrowly missed the final cut….

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An article came out this week musing on solo practice from resident tech tweeter Niki Black. I felt bad there were no comments, so I thought I would write one.

From Black’s article: “Nowadays, however, it’s much easier to launch a solo practice with a minimal up front investment. All that’s really needed is a small amount of savings, a laptop, a smart phone, and an Internet connection.”

There you have it. We’re done here. All you basement-dwelling “my law school screwed me over by lying to me” bitter and broke lawyers now have the golden ticket: a few bucks in the bank, a quick trip to Best Buy, and voila — a solo practice is born. You heard it here — “[a]ll that’s really needed” is… tech!

And let’s not get into other necessities, like opening an operating and trust account, incorporating, learning the proper way to pay yourself and the IRS, securing appropriate insurances (life, health, disability), maybe having an address to receive mail that isn’t your parents’ house, figuring out how to properly organize and store client files that aren’t in the precious “cloud,” and understanding your state bar’s advertising rules.

I’m sure there are a few dozen other things I’ve missed, but hey, you can only handle so much, right?

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