Advice

It’s a baby and a briefcase! You know what that means: We’re talking about working moms and using stock images!

Whenever anyone (I’m guilty of it too) talks about the upside of working as a contract attorney, the word “flexibility” comes up within the first 10 seconds. When you have a job that is staggeringly boring that provides you with no job security you celebrate whatever advantages you can find, and the ability to take a day off whenever you’ve stopped giving a damn (and not be chained to a phone endlessly checking your email) is a boon. Sure, it might be because you are fungible and your employers has no investment in your career, but I’ll take the victories wherever I can find ‘em.

But is the level of flexibility contract attorneys enjoy something you can depend on, and really create a schedule around? Say, if you’re a working parent?

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Not surprisingly, most small business owners rarely take vacation. According to a 2013 Sage Reinvention of Business Study, 43 percent of small business owners take less vacation time than they did five years ago. And from what I’ve observed among my fellow solos, vacations are even fewer and farther between. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find many solo and small firm attorneys who haven’t taken more than an extended three-day weekend as vacation in five years or more.

Solos’ reluctance to take vacation isn’t surprising. Some feel that they may miss out on a major client if they’re away from the office more than a couple of days, while others are so overwhelmed with work that they feel that they can’t make the time. Of course, cost is a factor as well, and it’s a veritable triple whammy what with the cost of the trip itself, lost revenues with fewer billable hours and the cost of bringing in an assistant or backup lawyer to cover cases.

Still, there are also costs to skipping vacation for years on end. Solos who never take a break experience burnout, reduced productivity and loss of time with family. Moreover, without vacation (and somewhat counter-intuitively), solos miss out on an opportunity to improve their practices….

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I shouldn’t laugh at this. A recent law school graduate got completely screwed by her own father and I shouldn’t find it so funny.

But I do. I find it goddamn hilarious. The student actually got a clue halfway through law school and decided to drop out. But her father convinced her to stick it out by promising to pay her tuition. She finished, she graduated, and when it came time to pay the bills, Daddy said, “Sorry, I lied.”

Ha. Hahahahaha. When will law students learn that EVERYBODY IS LYING. You know, except me. EVERYBODY ELSE IS LYING…

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Ed. note: This is the latest post by Anonymous Recruitment Director, who offers an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.

In my last column, I offered advice for summer associates. Today I’ll return to the mailbag and answer questions received from readers by email.

Today’s topics: paraprofessionals and legal recruiters. As always, please note that these are simply my personal views on the questions presented.

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Star Trek, beads and wire, sculpture by Devorah Sperber, Spock, Kirk and McCoy: Beaming-In (In-Between), Microsoft, Studio D, Redmond, Washington, USA" by Wonderlane

From Star Trek — The Motion Picture:

Doctor McCoy: Spock, you haven’t changed a bit. You’re just as warm and sociable as ever.

Spock: Nor have you, Doctor, as your continued predilection for irrelevancy demonstrates.

Spock is a Vulcan. He gets away with living by “reason and logic with no interference from emotion,” but that’s because his extraterrestrial humanoid species gave “massive assistance to a devastated post–World War III Earth, enabling the planet to eliminate poverty, disease, and suffering within a single century.”

Lawyers, unless you can save planet Earth like the Vulcans did, don’t be so cocksure about the upside of being a 24/7, devoid-of-emotion, professional a-hole….

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The height of wedding season is upon us, and while others are busy tying the knot, newly engaged couples are searching for venues, florists, photographers, and everything else that becomes part and parcel of a beautiful wedding day.

Planning the perfect wedding is all about the details — from the color palette and theme you choose to the number of layers in your cake. It’s so incredibly easy to get swept away in the whirlwind of wedding bells that most soon-to-be married couples forget about the most important part: the legal issues.

That’s right, brides, there’s more to think about than those blinged-out bridal shoe decals. Please stop Pinning things to your wedding Board and consider these useful legal tips for your upcoming wedding…

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Every couple of months, I get a legal technology newsletter that mentions the Word vs. WordPerfect debate. It’s not so much a debate as it is a handful of lawyers arguing with everyone that WordPerfect is better than Word. I’ve had this discussion in person multiple times before as well. A few months ago, an attorney tried to convince me that WordPerfect is better because you can press ctrl+c and ctrl+v to copy and then paste text. People usually bring up that federal courts require proposed orders to be in WordPerfect format (although this is no longer true). No matter what the argument is, there is usually some name calling.

WordPerfect is like Latin. It’s dead and used only by lawyers. When I see people arguing why WordPerfect should still exist, I always picture that person as someone who still has a Gore/Lieberman bumper sticker on their car. It’s over. Decisively over. It is the betamax of word processing software. It has lost the race.

Most people have moved on from WordPerfect for the same reason that language was invented in the first place: to communicate with others. You cannot share .wpd files with people outside your office. Unless you represent Corel, your client probably has Word. Sure you can open a .wpd in Word or save a WordPerfect file as a Word document, but the formatting is so screwed up that it’s usually unusable as a pleading. And, sure you can save it as a .pdf, but then you might as well print it and scan it.

Here are the arguments that I see every time on this issue:

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Upon reaching my mid-thirties with a wife, a kid, and a dog, it became apparent that the “dream” of renting a tiny box on the island of Manhattan was over. My family and I decided against the Brooklyn half-step, because paying Manhattan rent for a slightly bigger box that would itself be too small for our family in ten seconds seemed stupid. So we zeroed in on buying in Westchester because: Grand Central >> the holding pen at Gitmo >> buying a mule >> Penn Station >> Chernobyl >> Port Authority.

The problem of course with buying property in Westchester is that we’re poor. Not “poor” in the “I need government assistance” sense (though, more on that later). Not even poor in the “I’m a salaried employee and don’t mind when Charles Barkley makes fun of my city” sense. I mean poor in that uniquely NYC/LA/London sort of way that makes you feel “How IN THE F**K do I not make enough money to afford this?”

The other problem was that I’ve spent the better part of the last six years screaming at people to avoid crushing debt obligations. To buy a house, I’m going into more debt than I’ve ever been before, and we know that things didn’t go so smoothly the first time.

But… kids man, what are you going to do? As part of my ongoing attempts to make egregious mistakes and then write about them, here are five things I didn’t really understand about the house-buying process. Note, I had my lawyer hat on, which means I wasn’t flummoxed by things like “taxes” or “closing costs.” Still, there’s a bunch of stuff that doesn’t come up in Real Property or Trusts and Estates…

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Think you can write? Do these four things.

First, pull out the last brief that you wrote.

Not that one — that’s the final version, edited by guys who could write. We’re looking for your work, untouched by others. Find the unedited draft that you first circulated. (If you don’t have a draft brief handy, that’s okay. Find the last long email that you sent to someone who matters — to the partner, the client, the general counsel, or the CEO.)

Second, click through this link, which will tell you how to enable Microsoft Word’s “readability” feature on your computer. Enable that feature.

Third, let the readability feature score your work.

Finally, take a handkerchief and wipe the spit out of your eye. (I bet you didn’t realize that a computer could spit in your eye.)

You didn’t notice the spit? Here it comes: Compare your readability score to the average readability score for the works of bestselling authors. . . .

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Keith Lee

One of the great, unspoken realities of being a new lawyer that is never mentioned in law school is that you are going to screw up – badly. And then you’re going to have to explain it to your client or supervising attorney.

You’re going to miss a deadline, not file an objection, miss some case law, or not contact an attorney involved in the case on a hearing. A mistake is going to be made and it will be your fault.

You may be tempted to try and shift the blame. Come up with excuses as to why something outside of your control caused the problem. That you were swamped with work and had too much on your plate. He said, she said. But if it was a task assigned to you, it is your personal responsibility to make sure it was completed on time and specification.

As the task, and subsequent mistake, are your responsibility – you must own it….

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