Small Law Firms

Law school can ruin your life if you are not careful. It’s very expensive and the rewards are far from guaranteed. And even if you reap those rewards, you might not like what you’ve become.

But if you do everything wrong, law school becomes just a tragicomic microcosm of poor planning and bad luck.

Forbes has an article up about a woman who is $350,000 in debt and living at the poverty line. Oh, but she has a law degree, and people who haven’t been paying attention are surprised by that…

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A time-sensitive matter comes in. An experienced hand is needed to help. Where to look for that help? In Biglaw, the answer is usually an easy one: call up Partner No. 37 in distinguished branch office No. 6, and keep the billable hours rolling — with a happy nod towards a successful “cross-sell,” and instant validation of the underlying “size is good” concept behind so many of today’s firms. But is Partner No. 37 really the best lawyer to help out? Hard to believe that the answer is “yes” more often than not. Because Biglaw firms are constructed the way they are, however, there is a premium on making sure that existing firm resources are utilized as much as possible.

At the same time, we know the legal industry is struggling to cope with demand fluctuations, or all too often a lack of demand for expensive legal services. In the current environment, it is not a surprise to see Biglaw firms contorting themselves to reach optimal size, whether through mergers, layoffs, or lateral growth. Despite their efforts, there are very few firms that are optimally size-calibrated in relation to the demand for their services. For those firms fortunate enough to experience the occasional demand spike, retaining the ability to be nimble on staffing can mean the difference between a satisfied client or one who looks elsewhere “next time there is a big need.” Firms want repeat business, and being able to incorporate experienced additional lawyers — within the budget for a particular matter — onto the legal team can make a real difference in whether or not that repeat business happens.

But where else can firms (of all sizes) go for experienced help on short notice?

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I’m not gonna lie, I think this is the best solo practitioner YouTube ad ever. The other ones, the ones strange or ridiculous enough to make this site or be aired during the Super Bowl, don’t impress me. They’re fun, sure. But they smell of slightly unhinged people desperate to get attention. I wouldn’t hire those people.

I would hire the Law Hawk. The Law Hawk looks hardworking. The Law Hawk looks tenacious. The Law Hawk doesn’t take himself too seriously, he takes your rights too seriously! The Law Hawk is good-looking, and I don’t generally think white people are good looking….

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Keith Lee

There is an old story that tells the tale of three stonemasons. A stranger walks up and asks the stonemasons what they are doing. The first stonemason pauses and says, “I’m making a living.” The second stonemason replies, “I am making the best stone work in the country.” The third stonemason stands up with a distant look in his eyes and says, “I am making a cathedral.”

The first stonemason is a worker bee. He is there to collect a paycheck, nothing more. It is unlikely he will ever find success without someone else’s direction — if he ever finds it at all. A low-level associate. Or doc reviewer. A emp worker. The second stonemason is a craftsman for sure, but lacking in the big picture of what he is doing. An associate. Perhaps a partner someday. The third stonemason is the man who understands the ultimate goal of what their enterprise is all about. He is the senior partner. The one who has clients. One with the will and drive to start his own firm….

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Do you recognize this rapper?

Given the glut of lawyers and law firms to choose from out there, the way their services are advertised grows more and more important each day. Sure, prospective clients are looking for skilled representation, but standing in front of a wall of legal books in a low-budget commercial can only do so much to prove your intelligence. Sometimes, clients are looking for that extra something, that je ne sais quoi that even they don’t know they want until they see it on their television screens at home.

Say, for example, that you happen to know a rapper so famous that he’s one of the highest-paid hip-hop entertainers on Earth. You’d definitely want that guy to appear in your commercials, wouldn’t you?

That’s exactly what one small law firm did. Which rapper is helping them make it rain?

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An artist’s visualization of the recent Clio Cloud Conference.

Big used to matter in companies providing legal support, research, and services solutions to law firms.

Lots of money, broad distribution networks, seasoned executives, big conference booths, and fancy branding collateral.

Big was the safe choice. You didn’t get fired for buying from the big company from which every other law firm was buying.

No longer. Small startups are becoming the providers of choice for law firms across the country — and the world.

First, larger legal companies are struggling. They are laying off people. They’re have trouble bringing innovation to the market. Will they be around for the long haul?

Second, law firms like small, for a lot of reasons:

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Over the last two weeks, I gave a lot of thought to the email that I sent to Stephanie. Even though I do not regret telling her that I am looking for full-time work, I thought that I may have told her too much about my personal situation, which might have made her feel awkward. I planned to call her and let her know that things are fine and I was just having one of those days. But before I got the chance, Stephanie called me. She wanted me to schedule a time when I can meet with her and one of her partners to discuss working full-time at her firm.

There are some things you should know about Stephanie and why I hold her in such high regard. She is the managing partner of a highly respected boutique specialty firm. She is charismatic and her knowledge of the law is encyclopedic. Some of the attorneys at her firm have moved on to Biglaw, judicial clerkships, and other prestigious positions. All of her firm’s partners and associates have solid academic and professional backgrounds.

And now she is giving me a chance to work for her.

Could this be the opportunity I have been waiting for? After the jump, I will talk about what I will be doing at Stephanie’s firm and whether this could be the end of the race. Also, read onwards for information about a special federal clerkship opportunity…

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On September 4, Bill Simmons wrote a column for Grantland regarding the National Football League, titled “The League That Never Sleeps.” Since then, the NFL has remained in the headlines on a daily basis, scarred by a near-constant stream of negative news concerning off-field incidents involving current players. Apart from the escalation of unseemly episodes we have seen recently, the NFL is also struggling with potentially existence-threatening legal issues relating to the harm suffered by players due to the inherent violence of the sport. At the same time, the NFL remains the biggest show (especially from a TV ratings standpoint) in town, and the league has never been more profitable.

Do I need to spell out the parallels with Biglaw? Record profitability, coupled with record instability. It is a wonder that we don’t see Biglaw behemoths sponsoring the halftime clash between two local Pee-Wee teams at NFL stadiums….

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Appellate practices are great.

For lawyers who enjoy thinking and writing, but don’t have much taste for the hand-to-hand combat of discovery, appellate practices are pure joy. Appellate advocates bask in the intelligence and majesty of the law, without having to do daily battle with psychopaths.

For big firms, appellate practices are the crown jewels of the litigation side of the shop: “We’ve argued cases in the Supreme Court!” “We participated (either on the merits or as amici) in ten percent of the Supreme Court’s docket last year!” Shout it to the heavens! What’s the implicit message?

“We’re doing these cases for free!”

Oh, Herrmann, you’re such a cynic. Surely the implicit message is: “We’re God’s gift to advocacy!”

It’s a marketer’s dream.

But one leading appellate lawyer recently told me that the Great Recession has hurt his practice in ways you wouldn’t expect. And I’m here to tell you that, although appellate practices done right can help a firm, appellate practices done wrong are dangerous things . . . .

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Keith Lee

Last week I wrote about the times when you experience loss in your career. It is a thing that everyone will face at some point. I touched on how to set aside and move on from these losses in order to continue on with your day, serving your clients, and doing your job.

But lawyers often let themselves get wrapped up in their jobs, letting them define who they are. When you are at work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. five days a week and a few hours on the weekend, your job can come to define who you are whether you want it to or not.

You have to push back….

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