Jay Shepherd

So Lat calls me up all excited about some Biglaw Midsummer Bonus or something, which I totally ignore, and also about some hysterical dicta that Judge Kozinski wrote, which I also ignore (although it probably was pretty funny), and then he starts asking me about my law career. Which, you know, ended. And he points out that I failed to get ATL approval of my decision to close my small firm, which means technically, my column should just be called “Big Lawyers,” which is a whole other kettle of fish.

Then Lat says he knows how we can fix it. “Go on,” I say. Lat says that I can tell our readers exactly how to start pricing their legal services instead of just billing their time. “But Lat,” I plead, “I can’t give away my secrets. I have a whole new consulting firm to tell people these secrets in exchange for scads of dollars.”

Lat is quick to admonish me. “We don’t keep secrets from our readers, Jay. That’s why our readers know all about my obsession with all things Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld and why they all know that Elie is as jovial as an Ewok in real life.” Then his tone sharpened: “Plus we can always get Staci to write your column in a tenth of the time it takes you. And we can even have her use your name as a pseudonym.”

Well played, Mr. Lat, well played. So here then are the secrets to pricing your legal wares in eight easy(ish) steps.…

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As you probably know, the Boston Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since the Nixon Administration. I’m no kind of hockey fan, but as a Boston sports fan, I took a passing interest in it. Which is to say that I watched Game 7 on Wednesday. Mine was a short ride on the bandwagon. (I mean, it’s June. It’s baseball time.)

But Boston is a big sports town, having now won all three major North American sports championships (plus hockey, see what I did there?) in just a seven-year span. The closest any other city has come to that is 11 years (and that’s New York, with two teams in each sport).

But to be fair, the Bruins do have many fans in the Boston area. (Although apparently an entire season was recently canceled because of labor strife, and I’m pretty sure no one noticed.) Many of those fans made their way into Boston on Saturday to watch the Bruins’ victory boat. Police estimated that a million people came into the city to celebrate. Many of them parked in my suburban neighborhood, because we live near the end of one of the subway lines. Because that’s what you want: scads of drunken hockey fans parking in front of your house. Could have been worse, though; in Vancouver, the fans of the runner-up Canucks basically set the place on fire.

But some fans had trouble getting into town because of spotty rail service, and they weren’t too happy about it. What important lesson does this hold for small-firm lawyers?

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What did you do yesterday? I’m assuming you went to work. Did you put in a full day? Great. Let’s assume you got started around 9:00, took about an hour for lunch, and signed off at 7:00. Maybe for you that’s a light day, or maybe that’s a long day. Doesn’t matter. So that means you worked nine hours. OK.

Let’s further assume that you frittered away an hour, mostly spent reading Above the Law or wondering why they’re still playing hockey in the summertime (I’d make a Bruins reference here, but it would be strictly from the bandwagon). So that leaves eight hours of bona fide work. Eighty point-ones. Four hundred eighty minutes.

Now look over your timesheet from yesterday, and think about how you spent those 480 minutes. Were they all the same? Were they all of equal value to solving your clients’ problems?

Of course not. But if your minutes aren’t all the same, why are you counting them as being the same? What are the real reasons that lawyers track their time?

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I’m under the impression that many of our readers are looking for a new job, or at least thinking about it. Some of you are still in law school and haven’t lined something up yet. Others have been laid off by a firm and are trying to find a replacement gig. Still others are unhappy in their current situations, and are contemplating something better. But how many of you know what you’re looking for?

I mentioned earlier that I’ve given a lot of informational interviews in the past. I do believe that it’s the most effective and most overlooked job-search tool going. But I’m often struck by how many people I meet — especially law students — who already know what type of law they want to practice. I certainly didn’t when I was in school; I became an employment lawyer because an employment-law firm offered me a job. I marvel at 1Ls and 2Ls who already know what type of lawyer they want to be when they grow up.

Knowing this has its benefits: it can help you direct your career path. But it has its disadvantages, too. It can seriously limit your job opportunities.

Here’s how to handle that problem.…

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There’s not much I can add to this Weinergate thing that hasn’t already been covered on these pages and everywhere else. Congressman Anthony Weiner has said that he’s not going to resign over the scandal that he tweeted various body parts to women other than his wife. I believe that he will have to resign, although not because of the tweeting, but because of the lying about it afterward. (Previously, he claimed that his social-media accounts had been hacked. He then admitted that that wasn’t strictly true. Or even a little bit true. He also conceded that the dog had actually not eaten his homework.)

This online imbroglio has made many wonder why he would even consider posting compromising photos and language on Twitter. Or for that matter, why he would even be on Twitter in the first place. Or why anyone would be.

Lawyers in particular often have trouble understanding why they should be on Twitter. Even my esteemed colleague Mark Herrmann has “proved” that Twitter doesn’t work. Well, I’ve got news for people who doubt that they should be tweeting:

Many of them probably shouldn’t be.

In fact, I’ve tried to identify the types of people (in addition to shirtless politicians in various degrees of arousal) who should stay away from Twitter. Here, then, are five people who should never tweet….

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Have you ever messed something up for a client? Ever make a mistake that was yours and yours alone, that caused your client a problem and you and your firm some embarrassment?

If you haven’t, then you haven’t been practicing very long. Because you can’t practice for a long time without making some mistakes. It’s human nature, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or self-deluding.

In 17 years of practicing as a small-firm lawyer, I made my share of mistakes. More than some lawyers, perhaps; fewer than others. Not so many that it prevented me from getting a reputation among clients and peers as a decent lawyer. But more than I wanted to make.

Obviously, we should strive to minimize the number of mistakes we make as lawyers, and to minimize their severity. But one of the most important things to learn as a lawyer is how to handle it when you’ve made a mistake.

Here are eight tips to help you fix your mistakes and make your clients love you.…

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I hope you had a good Memorial Day weekend. I hope you were able to leave work behind for the long weekend and spend time with your friends and family. I hope you enjoyed good weather, maybe threw a ball around, grilled some steaks, and so forth. It was, after all, the Unofficial Beginning of Summer.

My long weekend was nothing like that. I spent it entirely inside, packing up the offices of Shepherd Law Group, preparing files for a storage facility, and boxing up the rest of the equipment and random stuff for my basement. For me it was, after all, the Unofficial Beginning of the Rest of My Life.

Let me explain: As you may have heard, I started a consulting firm called Prefix, LLC, to teach lawyers and other professionals how to price their knowledge. As a result, I made the decision to close my Boston employment-law firm after 13 years in business.

As I tape up my last box and peel away the sign from the office entrance, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learned running a small law firm. These are 13 things I wish I had known when I started.…

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It’s very difficult to get a job as an associate in a small law firm. First of all, there is a lot of competition. Many of you are between jobs. Many are at Biglaw jobs looking to get out. Many of you are finishing up law school and are still looking.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s also hard to get a job at a big firm. I know. But the path there is at least more straightforward: Go to a Top 30 (or so) school. Work hard. Finish in the top 20% or so in your class (the lower your school ranks, the higher grade ranking you need). Wear matching shoes to your on-campus interview at the start of your 2L year. Don’t get slizzard at your summer-associate firm functions. Pass the bar. Sell your soul. Collect your buck sixty.

Yes, yes, I know. It’s not that simple, and the large firms do look for other qualities, too. But no one in my class who met that top 20% threshold failed to get a Biglaw summer-associate job.

The path to small-firmdom is more circuitous. And by “circuitous,” I mean “there is no path.” It’s certainly not about being smart, working hard, and getting good grades and a good education. Those are table stakes.

But I’ve identified the ten traits that make the best candidates for a small-firm-associate gig. See what they are after the jump.…

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I’m a huge Red Sox fan. (That noise you just heard were all the Yankees fans skipping ahead to the comment section. Don’t wait, guys. I’ll be right there.) This season began with the highest expectations, after the Sox won the offseason by acquiring superstars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and by rebuilding their bullpen. Experts and fans alike were predicting a 100-win season (their first since 1946) and a nonstop flight to the World Series. Instead, the team got off to a horrific start, going 0–6 and 2–10. Since then, they’ve begun to turn it around, finally reaching .500 on May 15. Now they’re just half a game out of first place in the tight AL East.

Part of the reason for this turnaround has been excellent pitching. Jon Lester, the young lefthanded cancer survivor, sits atop the American League leaderboard with a 6–1 record; no AL pitcher has more wins. Josh Beckett, the veteran star rebounding off a couple down years, is 3–1.

Now just looking at wins, you’d think that Lester is outperforming Beckett. But you’d be wrong, because win totals tell you very little about how a pitcher is performing. Just as looking at hours-billed totals tell you very little about how a small-firm lawyer is performing.

Better ways to measure performance (for pitchers and lawyers), after the jump.…

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Every so often a lawyer with a small firm will ask me what to do about providing employees with paid sick days. The practice is much more common in large firms, but many lawyers have come to expect it as a perk no matter how big their firms are. (To be clear, I’m talking about paid-time-off policies, not legally required unpaid leave like the Family and Medical Leave Act.) Many larger firms allow their employees to accumulate and bank their leave, saving it up for a rainy day, as it were. Some have the days expire after a certain time, while others allow the days to survive until the end of an employee’s tenure.

That’s fine at large, wealthy firms, who can well afford to pay people not to work. But what about small firms, where a person’s absence is more likely to have an impact? How many days of paid sick leave should a small law firm’s policy permit?

My answer might surprise you. Not ten days a year. Not five. Not even three.

Zero. Small law firms shouldn’t have a policy of any days of paid sick leave a year.

But before you set your comment phasers to “kill,” give me a chance to explain.…

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