Real Estate

Bruce Stachenfeld

Of all the regrets I have in life, one of my greatest is that I never had the chance to meet Peter Drucker before he died.

Drucker is one of my intellectual heroes. He was able to look at the same world that everyone else was looking at but see things that others couldn’t see. He literally invented a science. And like all science, it is around you from the start but you just can’t see it till someone shows you the way.

The science he invented was the science of “management.” Before Drucker, people just ran things and sometimes good things happened and sometimes bad things — no one really delved too deeply into the “why” of it all. But then along came Drucker, who made order out of chaos and realized that there were principles that, if followed, would increase the likelihood a business would be successful.

All those leadership books you sometimes read, all those “how to” books you sometimes read, all of that thinking evolved from his groundbreaking analysis into the science of “management.” Drucker’s books are utter masterpieces. Indeed, there was an epiphany for me on every single page of his amazing book Management (affiliate link). I think I learned more about how to run my law firm successfully from Drucker than from any other source.

Here are two thoughts from Drucker that hit me like a bolt of lightning when I read them. Honestly, my business — and even my whole life — was never the same again.

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If television producers put up this Craigslist ad because they were casting for a reality show about a bunch of lawyers living in a D.C. house, then this would make sense. Every week, two of the housemates have to argue why they should stay and another should go. People would watch it.

But this isn’t a television producer being polite, this is law graduates being real. A group of self-described, recent law school graduates are looking for another roommate who must also be a recent law grad — preferably one who is clerking or working for a Congressional committee.

It seems like instead of looking for a roommate on Craigslist, they should be using LinkedIn…

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High five! Foreclosures! Woo!

Back in 2011, a Buffalo, New York, foreclosure law firm — a foreclosure mill, if you will — was caught in a very embarrassing predicament. Some of its employees decided that for their Halloween costumes, they’d dress up like people who had lost their homes in the foreclosure process. The story made the New York Times, and the public reveled in all of the sheer schadenfreude.

Today, we’ve got another foreclosure mill for you to point and laugh at. It seems that this firm’s building was foreclosed upon, and now it’s facing eviction from the office where its employees once billed up to $100,000 for throwing people out of their homes.

Karma is real, people…

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* The SCOTUS decision in the Pom Wonderful case could have serious repercussions in terms of deceptive labeling litigation under the Lanham Act. Even Justice Kennedy was misled! [Huffington Post]

* Dewey know when to WARN people? This failed firm apparently didn’t, and now it has to pay a $4.5 million class-action settlement to the employees it laid off without adequate notice. [WSJ Law Blog]

* After getting bumped out of the Am Law 100 after a 17-year run, Shook Hardy & Bacon is letting go of three floors of office space it “no longer needs.” Secretaries Paper takes up a lot of room! [Am Law Daily]

* Minutes after this career criminal was released from jail due to his accidental acquittal, he was stabbed to death with a steak knife. But for the jury’s crazy mistake, he would still be alive. Yikes. [Fresno Bee]

* LMU’s Duncan Law, perhaps better known as the little law school that couldn’t, is still trying to get ABA accreditation. At least this time they’ll be able to use law schools’ national decline as a scapegoat. [WBIR]

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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Bruce Stachenfeld

I give credit for the inspiration of this article to a writer named Seth Godin who wrote a book called The Purple Cow (affiliate link). My law firm benefited hugely from this book.

The theory of the Purple Cow in a nutshell is that you should try to STAND OUT like a purple cow would stand out from the other mere brown cows. If you don’t STAND OUT, then you just blend in, and you are nothing at all.

Okay, so that is a good point – as if you didn’t know that already. But it is not that simple. And here is why. Our instincts and everything we learn every day – our emotions, our colleagues, and our loved ones – all lead us in the safe (and wrong) direction.

And the reason for this is very simple:

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Now that Patton Boggs is safely in the hands of Squire Sanders — minus a few notable defectors, such as Ben Ginsberg’s high-profile election-law team, which is leaving for Jones Day — observers of Biglaw are looking around for other possible trouble spots. And some of them are focusing on Bingham McCutchen.

Back in February, we covered some less-than-positive developments at Bingham: “tumbling profits, partner departures, and unfortunately timed staff layoffs.” What has happened since then?

As we mentioned earlier today, partner departures continue at the firm. Who are the latest partners to leave Bingham, and where are they going?

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Ronan Farrow

A few days ago, lawyer turned television personality Ronan Farrow commented on Twitter, “All my business meetings are like ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ and all my dates are like ‘Schindler’s List’, am I doing something wrong.” The tweet was widely retweeted and favorited by Farrow’s 250,000-plus followers (despite receiving criticism from some quarters).

It’s surprising that Farrow’s dating life isn’t going better. In addition to being extremely handsome, he’s a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate with his own television show and celebrity parents (Mia Farrow and either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra). What more could one ask for in a lover?

How about some solid real estate? Well, Ronan’s got that too — a New York apartment that he purchased for a seven-figure sum….

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Bruce Stachenfeld

In my article of two weeks ago, I threw out the proposition that if you are running a law firm — or a department or practice group in a law firm — the critical mission is to “attract, train, retain and inspire talent.” If you can do this, you are probably going to accomplish great things — and the converse. So the question now is, how do you do it?

Below is the best I have been able to come up with. It is (mostly) from a speech I gave at an IMN conference in 2011. (You can read the original speech here.)

First — and foremost — Talent wants to be with other talented people. They crave it in their souls. They will put up with major “not nice people” and even poor working conditions, if they are convinced that other very talented people are doing it with them in the trenches. Consider Apple and Steve Jobs. He wasn’t thought of as a nice guy; indeed, quite the opposite. But when people looked around the room, they were awed at the skill sets of those in the room with them, and boy did they want to stay in that room, in the worst way. So they put up with Jobs’s not–niceness. (Of course, I do not advocate being this way as a boss — far from it.)

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En garde, esquires of the Biglaw realm!

* Partners from Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders may vote on their merger sometime this week. Get ready to say hello to Squire Patton, House of Boggs, Hodorific of Its Name. [Reuters]

* “[E]xcuse me, sir, you may not be here in five years.” Biglaw firms are becoming more “egalitarian” about office space because attorneys have expiration dates. [National Law Journal]

* After a flat year in 2013, and much to Biglaw’s chagrin, “[i]t is going to be harder to sustain year-over-year profitability gains.” Oh joy, time to power up the layoff machine. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* Tech giants Apple and Google have called a ceasefire in their dueling patent suits in a quest to reform patent law — and so Apple can concentrate all of its efforts on suing the sh*t out of Samsung. [Bloomberg]

* GM’s in-house legal department is being heavily scrutinized in the wake of the car maker’s ignition switch lawsuit extravaganza. You see, friends, people die when lawyers don’t even bother to lie. [New York Times]

* Donald Sterling found a lawyer willing to represent him, an antitrust maven who thinks the NBA should take its ball and go home because “no punishment was warranted” in his client’s case. [WSJ Law Blog]

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