Small Law Firms

Last Friday, I was in my office when I noticed that my Dropbox tray icon said that I had 2,000 files left to sync. I thought that was weird because I didn’t remember adding thousands of files.

But, since I’ve never had any problems in the past with Dropbox, I didn’t think much of it… until later that evening, when I received the following email from Dropbox:

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In last week’s column, I discussed the importance of effective deposition defense, with a focus on the client-facing aspects of the process. Now it is time to focus on the true star of the show, the witness.

Yes, some witnesses will be important, perhaps even a senior executive at a client. Or a technical expert, on whose testimony your case rides. And other witnesses will be more tangential, like the IT guy you need to defend with respect to e-discovery issues.

Yes, I understand that every witness is critical, especially when it comes to e-discovery. Human nature, however, is to treat “important people,” like executives and experts, with an extra level of care. As a lawyer, the key is to treat every witness you are preparing for deposition with respecr — while remembering your role as an advocate, tasked with winning your client’s case. Effective defense of depositions goes a long way towards achieving favorable litigation results.

Here are some tips:

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To have all of this happen in such a safe and nice community, it’s just very shocking.

– Rena Karle of Abeles & Karle PLLC, a law firm located in Volusia County, Florida, commenting on a bizarre break-in that occurred at the office. Items stolen ranged from computer towers and monitors to Halloween candy and a Bible. Karle also noted that the floor, walls, and ceilings were covered in “some kind of white sticky goo.” Damages as a result of the break-in at the law firm have been assessed at $100,000 to $150,000 thus far.


Keith Lee

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the need to push back against work. To make time for your life outside of the daily grind. That it’s important to be more than your job, both for your job and yourself.

But you do need to work. And when it is time to work, you need to work well. No complications, no distractions, no interruptions. To solely focus on the task at hand and nothing else.

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Over the last few months, people have emailed me questions about my job search and for general advice. Unfortunately, I have not been able to answer all of them for various reasons. But now that my job search is on hold, I wanted to get back to everyone and possibly take this column into a new direction.

After the jump, I will answer some frequently asked questions about my future plans, and my difficulties in finding former solo practitioners willing to share their stories and impart their wisdom. I will also describe my plan to profile law firms that have hired underdog candidates with good results.

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Ricky Martin

Ed. note: Please welcome Susan Cartier Liebel of Solo Practice University, who will be writing for Above the Law about issues relevant to solo and small-firm practitioners.

I am a Gleek. I admit it. And never was I more Gleeky than the week Ricky Martin made his guest appearance on the show singing in Spanglish “I’m Sexy and I Know It” back in 2012.

But, that’s not really what this post is about. What it is about is what Ricky Martin’s character, the new Spanish teacher, said to his night students wanting to learn Spanish: “By 2030 more Americans will be speaking Spanish as their first language than English.”

I was a little surprised, too! That’s less than 18 years away from when the show aired in 2012. The stars then took turns singing songs in English and Spanish, the not-so-subtle message being we all need to hone our Spanish language skills….

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I had been planning to write an article on whether law firms should upgrade to Windows 8. That is, until last week, when Microsoft previewed their next operating system, Windows 10.

Not only did they announce it, they opened it up for a free preview version download. So I downloaded it, tested it, and took screenshots for you so I can walk through the pros and cons of upgrading to a new operating system.

The Windows 10 preview makes you go through a series of warnings where you acknowledge that you are going to be using an unstable, incomplete, buggy operating system. They do not recommend it for your main computer, just if you have an old laptop lying around.

So, Here’s Windows 10:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Should You Upgrade To Windows 10 (Or 8)? A Pictorial Walkthrough”

Biglaw litigators may enjoy healthy pay, but they are also the target of some ribbing — particularly from the trial-lawyers bar. Anyone who has practiced litigation in Biglaw has heard that they are at best a “deposition lawyer,” better suited for churning out endless motions than for performing in front of a judge or jury. There is no doubt that for the majority of Biglaw litigators deposition experience is much easier to come by than trial experience. And while trials are definitely more intensive and fun, in my experience preparing for a critical deposition in a patent case is in a way more difficult. Unlike at trial, where nearly all of the direct and cross examinations are scripted, there is an element of the unknown at a deposition.

When it is an important witness, such as a technical or damages expert, everyone involved in the case knows that a deposition can be a make-or-break event. In fact, one of the things that makes preparing for trial testimony easier than preparing for a deposition is that when we prepare for trial, we rely heavily on prior testimony in the case. The best source for that prior testimony? Deposition transcripts. But going into a critical deposition, there is much more uncertainty. Everyone on the team worries if the witness will hold up. Does not matter how experienced the expert is, or how senior a business person. The wrong answer can doom a case.

While it may seem like deposition defense is a thankless job, it also provides a priceless opportunity to “hear” your opponent’s approach to important issues in the case. And that can be even more valuable than trying to extract information from a well-prepared witness at a deposition you end up taking at another point in the case.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Beyond Biglaw: Effective Deposition Defense (Part 1)”

Keith Lee

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

— Aristotle

The trick is not holding other people accountable, but holding yourself accountable. It’s the central starting point of developing an appropriate professional mindset — recognizing that you are personally responsible for your actions and results (or lack thereof) delivered to clients.

You must strive to do the best you can in all situations. While it will make a difference in the quality of the work you produce, more importantly it makes a difference in you. Pushing yourself to deliver better work, better services, and better solutions will allow you to self-create new challenges and excitement in your job. It will help keep monotony and routine at bay.

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Bruce Stachenfeld

This is a continuation of the past two articles that I published in ATL over the past month. My first article gave my view that the profitability metric of Profits Per Partner is a good servant but a bad master and, as a master, it is a root cause of serious problems for Biglaw. In my second article, I put forth a Profits Per Partner Emancipation Plan as a different way of doing business that I hope will eventually be adopted. Now, here I am giving my theory on what I think is a higher level of law firm profitability analysis, which is to “Embrace Volatility.”

Let me start by asking you: what is it that we all crave in our hearts? I mean, we all want money and power and fame and to be cool and good-looking and talented at sports or music or acting — but in addition to that — I think it is one of the basest human emotions to crave:

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