Advice

I never heard these words before I went in-house: “If you send something to a person above me in the hierarchy, then send a copy to me, too.”

Now I hear (or speak) those words all the time. And those instructions seem pretty easy to grasp.

Remarkably, a fair number of people don’t seem to understand what those words mean.

I offer this column for the benefit of in-house newbies, and in-house oldbies who don’t understand, and lawyers at firms who might want to consider whether these instructions make sense at law firms, too.

If you’re sending something to someone above me in the hierarchy, then send a copy to me, too.

Why?

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Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine, a law school admission consultant and owner of LawSchoolExpert.com, offers helpful tips for law school applicants.

Non-traditional applicants to law school face different barriers to admission and have different concerns regarding school choice, finances, and post-graduation career options than their counterparts who attend law school directly (or within a year or two) of graduating from college.

Three recent law school graduates who fit this mold when they applied took the time to share their thoughts and perspectives in order to benefit future applicants. One graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law in his mid-40s (Scott), one graduated from Notre Dame with a JD/MBA after serving in the military (Todd), and one attended Western New England after 20+ years as a paralegal and office manager for a large law firm (Susan).

1. What were some of your concerns applying to law school as a non-traditional applicant? What were some challenges you faced because you were not right out of college?

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

If you stood outside the AT&T Center on June 15th at 9:10 p.m. local time, you would have witnessed a steady stream of crestfallen Miami Heat fans bemoaning the performance of anyone other than Lebron James. Ask any of those fans if they thought Chris Bosh was worth a max contract in the off-season and they most likely would have answered “No!” with feverish enthusiasm.

Fast forward to the off-season, teams have now expressed interest in signing Bosh to a max-contract sheet. As it stands on Thursday, July 8, the Rockets are willing to pay him $22 million a year.

So what does this mean for you? It means that just because your law firm tells you that you’re worth a certain amount of dollars does not mean you can’t secure more greenbacks. Salary negotiations are tricky, and it is helpful to get in touch with a recruiter before you attempt to renegotiate with your current firm. Before you start maneuvering, here are five pointers to consider before strategizing…

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Bruce Stachenfeld

I guess at heart I am a competitor. I want my law firm to be the absolute top law firm in the world – at least in our niche of being The Pure Play in Real Estate Law.

I would like us to be loved by clients — loved by lawyers — incredibly profitable — the greatest law firm that ever hit the legal world. And to do this I need to crush my competition — right?

Or maybe not right. Let’s think about this a bit and see what happens….

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Here is Virginia’s prostitution statute:

§ 18.2-346. Prostitution; commercial sexual conduct; commercial exploitation of a minor; penalties.

A. Any person who, for money or its equivalent, (i) commits adultery, fornication, or any act in violation of § 18.2-361, performs cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus upon or by another person, or engages in anal intercourse or (ii) offers to commit adultery, fornication, or any act in violation of § 18.2-361, perform cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus upon or by another person, or engage in anal intercourse and thereafter does any substantial act in furtherance thereof is guilty of prostitution, which is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

If you think that fully covers all reasonable definitions of “prostitution,” well then you probably have an uncreative mind and a boring sex life. Look, the law gets even more vague further down:

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Soon after I started my solo practice, I realized that I needed to develop and execute a plan for getting new clients. At first, I did it the old-fashioned way: networking, joining organizations, giving elevator speeches, passing out business cards, and doing contract work for other attorneys. This method took time and cost money and it didn’t work to the extent I had hoped. So I asked a few colleagues whether I should hire someone to help me improve my business.

I received the names of consultants, SEO experts, and coaches. Someone even suggested I talk to Tony Robbins. Some people swore by them while others said that the “advice” they provided was a bunch of hooey and can be found on the internet or at the library for free.

Over the last few years, I have become very skeptical of business development professionals (sometimes known as “marketeers”) who claim that they know the “secret technique” for improving my solo practice. A number of them are lawyers or ex-lawyers who — for one reason or another — decided to go into consulting and coaching. Also, some of these “experts” have questionable backgrounds and may not understand the professional rules that we lawyers have to follow.

I should point out that the purpose of this post is not to badmouth any particular person or the legal business development industry. This guy covered that already. But click onwards to find out the reasons for my skepticism and my thoughts on when it might make sense to retain a business development professional….

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The first question people usually ask me when they find out I am a lawyer is: “What kind of lawyer are you?” My response is usually: “I am a story teller.” A good deal of my practice involves helping lawyers tell stories, because no juror ever said, “Well… I’m not really sure that I understand the plaintiff’s point of view completely. Let’s give him $10 million.” I usually advocate for the cyborg approach: part human and part machine. I think you can tell an effective story without a computer, but from my experience, jurors are a reflective part of the population that consciously moved out of the radio era and into CGI-laden-movies era.

I use neat hardware (sometimes cheap hardware), I use neat software, and I almost always use a whole lot of custom graphics. Talking about how to make a great graphic is almost impossible. Most of the good ones are good for unique reasons. Most of the bad ones are bad because they fall into a few general categories. Here are a couple of those categories:

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Patent litigators travel frequently. I addressed the topic back in early March. Travel can be tiring, or fun, or a combination of the two. And travel episodes are sometimes good for a laugh afterwards. Sometimes, you can even learn a business lesson or two from a travel experience. On a recent trip, I was reminded that trying to save some money can be costly in other ways. And while it is nice to be running a firm that is a cheaper alternative to Biglaw, there is no excuse for letting that price differential compromise the quality of our services. We don’t, and never will, but reminders of that principle do not hurt either.

A few months ago, Zach and I needed to make a trip to meet with a client and separately deal with an issue in one of our cases. When I was in Biglaw, both of the firms I worked for had in-house travel agents, and because of the nature of my practice, I got to know the actual agents pretty well. If I had a business trip, all it took was an email or phone call, and everything would be arranged based on my travel profile and preferences. The occasional “can you get me an earlier flight” or “flight cancelled, get me home” situation was often handled seamlessly as well. And while I was never in the “client is paying for it, so it’s first class for me” camp, I also never hesitated while at Biglaw to incur additional travel cost when there was a compelling business reason for it.

So if it cost a bit more to take a flight at a certain time of day, so be it — especially if flying at those times would make me more productive, i.e., capable of generating billable hours. Or if an upgrade that would allow me to get some much-needed rest was available for a moderate cost, I would take it. But I could not stomach employing some well-worn Biglaw travel tricks, such as always booking refundable full-fare tickets in coach to pretty much guarantee an upgrade. As the years went by, of course, increased client focus on expenses cut out some of the marginally abusive practices. It is hard to worry about securing an upgrade — when you are trying to get the client to pay for the trip in the first place.

Things are different now that I have my own boutique firm….

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Elie here. Everybody wants a deal. Everybody wants to “beat the market,” and the internet makes us think that we can. If a baby with an e-Trade app can make money, why can’t you? Buy low, sell high: I’m sure I read that on a bumper sticker somewhere, or maybe in the New Yorker.

Increasingly, the internet thinks it’s identified just the right undervalued asset to snap up at a discount: legal education. The decline in law school applications has been sharp and truly shocking to some. It doesn’t make sense that a law degree would suddenly be much less valuable now than it was 5 or 10 or 20 years ago. The value should rebound. The world still needs lawyers. And if you haven’t noticed, or just disregarded, long-term structural changes in the market for legal services, the fact that every law dean will tell you that the market rebound is right around the corner gives you more confidence in your logical assessment. It’s not like every law dean in the country would lie about the value of their product, right?

We can and will continue to debate the likely future value of a legal education. But can we dispense with the notion that purchasing full-price legal education right now involves “buying low”? You are not buying low, you are buying at historically unprecedented heights. Nobody would put “Buy high, hope to sell at fair market price in three years” on a bumper sticker.

And nobody should be putting that on the internet either….

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American companies make a lot of mistakes in China. And even when they don’t make mistakes, they get frustrated.

I view both of these results as healthy, because mistakes and frustration are par for the course in China, and the sooner companies realize that the better. That said, they could avoid at least some of their heartbreak by following these five principles…

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