Yesterday I was at a local coffee shop around the lunch hour. I spotted a man that I think was Morgan Spurlock. I am not positive that it was him, but he had red hair and the Horseshoe mustache. It is possible that I saw Danny Bonaduce, a mustached Alfred E. Neuman, or some other ginger. Nevertheless, my potential sighting of the documentary filmmaker got me thinking: What embarrassing secret would Spurlock uncover if he spent 30 Days at a small law firm?
To find the answer to this question, I reached out to my network of small-firm insiders and picked what I thought was the most embarrassing secret. What was it?
I consider myself to be pretty fashionable. Indeed, I (like so many others) pray to the patron saint of fashion, the Duchess of Cambridge. I am well versed in the laws of fashion. For example:
1. Thou shalt not wear a romper after age 22.
2. Thou shalt wear white any season.
3. Khakis are sad.
And I have learned the hard way about the fashion of law (i.e., what to wear at a law firm). It probably involves a khaki sack-turned-skirt but certainly does not involve hoop earrings. (Sorry Jay, but I think dress codes are still alive and well in small firms, at least if you are a woman.)
Yet I did not know what fashion law was. So I got a crash course from an expert, Charles “Chuck” Colman of Charles Colman Law PLLC.
It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. Most lawyers would cringe at the thought of spending their entire careers trying to find loopholes that will release drunk drivers back onto the streets. After all, drunk drivers are one of the few life forms more despised than lawyers.
Southern drunks are in luck, however, because Cerbone DUI Defense are not most lawyers. In fact, the father and son Cerbone team has taken on the job with relish, building an entire DUI defense empire in Savannah, Georgia.
It’s not really surprising that Savannah would need some good DUI lawyers. This is the city that throws the second largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the world. I can also confirm from personal experience that it is one of the few remaining places in the country without an open container law. There is really no shortage of alcohol-related fun to be had in Savannah.
Enter the Cerbone team, stage right. They are waiting around day and night, right outside the police station, to take your case when things get out of hand. You’ll be so happy that they get your case thrown out that you won’t even mind when they use your full name and share the details of your drunken escapades to drum up more business…
It has been a while since I took the S.A.T, but here goes. Nancy Grace: Casey Anthony Verdict; Valerie Katz: ________.
A. Ramona Singer Pinot Grigio;
B. Biglaw Spring Bonuses;
C. Closed Compensation Model in Small Firms;
D. All of the above;
E. None of the above.
Correct Answer: C. I, like Ms. Grace about the Tot-Mom verdict, am full of rage about closed compensation models in small firms.
A “closed compensation” model is defined as one “where partners in a firm do not know how much the others earn. While partners generally have a sense of how compensation is determined, they will not be party to the outcome by which individual compensation is arrived at.” An “open compensation” model, by contrast, is “one where individual partner compensation is known by all partners of the firm.”
A recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that almost half of all workers in the U.S. “are either contractually forbidden or strongly discouraged from discussing their pay with their colleagues.” And, 66.7% of the respondents to my salary survey reported that they did not know the compensation that other associates earn.
Why does this make me think “the devil is dancing?” Find out after the jump….
July is turning into a cushy month for me in ATL Land (not a real place; more of a state of mind). The first Monday of the month was the Fourth, meaning a much-appreciated day off for my colleagues and me. Then there’s this post today, which is nearly half done and I haven’t even said anything yet. Then I’m off for two weeks on vacation, and back the last week of the month. Two more posts and another month in the books. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. (Yeah, I don’t know what that means either.)
Good thing I don’t get paid by the post. Wait, what? Really? Huh. OK, apparently I do. I’ll try and make this one count then.
It occurs to me as I pack for two weeks off that vacation is a difficult issue for small-firm lawyers. It’s easier at Biglaw: You get your four weeks a year, and there are armies of other lawyers to cover for you while you’re away. (Actually, that’s only half true; many big firm lawyers struggle to take all of their allotted time.) But in small firms, it’s much harder to take vacation or to get adequate coverage while you’re away.
It took me some time, but I finally figured out how to do it. Here then are my vacation-related tips for small firm lawyers, including the most important thing you can do to protect your vacation time….
This weekend I watched the three-part Moroccan adventure on Real Housewives of New York. Each moment was more awkward than the next as I watched the worst clichés about Americans acted out on screen. I could not imagine a more inappropriate set up other than if Bravo had sent a group of small-firm lawyers to the Middle East. Or so I thought….
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Francis Hoang and Joseph Fluet, principals of Fluet Huber + Hoang. This D.C. small firm specializes in, among other things, “legal services in non-permissive environments.”
Last week, I received an email from a recent graduate who is in the midst of a small firm job search. She is having trouble focusing her search because there are so many small law firms and so few resources (or so she thought) about how to find all the various firms. She wrote:
Every lawyer I speak to, whether a friend, in an interview, or informational interview, has an inconsistent network. The one small firm lawyer I know has referred me to solo practitioners and Biglaw attorneys, but not other small firms. Career services offices mainly work with big firms, not too many small firms. There are few small firm positions posted on job boards, but I know that most small firms fill open positions by word of mouth.
She asked me where to look to find and network with attorneys at the many small firms in her city. She signed it “Seeking Small Firm.” I decided that her nom de plume was so awesome, I had to help.
Ever see Fight Club? Yeah, me neither. The 1999 Brad Pitt movie was more of a cult film than a commercial success, although it did make back its costs. But the movie did have a line that became something of a meme, and was once recognized by Premiere magazine as the 27th greatest line in movie history (which seems dubious, but whatever):
The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.
If only lawyers had the same rule.
You see, being a lawyer is like being a member of an elite club. OK, maybe not as elite as we like to think; there are more than a million members in the US. But elite enough. And the problem is, too many of us are dying to show off to others that we’re members of law club. And one of the ways we do it is by trying to sound like a lawyer when we speak, and especially when we write. This is a problem because sounding like a lawyer is the same as sounding like a tool.
I’ve come up with 20 lawyerisms that do nothing to advance the message you’re trying to send, but instead show that you’re a member of law club. And that you sound like a tool.
The other day, Staci wrote about dress codes at some of the large firms. Specifically, Quinn Emanuel made some noise by putting out a minimalist dress code, requiring only shoes “because our insurance company requires them!” (Yes, it’s their exclamation point.) This was in stark contrast to other Biglaw dress codes, like the paternalistic one at Jones Day. (I, for one, applaud the Quinn Emanuel approach.)
But what about at small firms? Unlike their Biglaw counterparts, most small firms don’t have written policy manuals and spelled-out dress codes. On the one hand, this can be good; I believe that employees tend to be happier when their lives at work are not hyperlegislated. (See, for example, my takes on sick leave and bereavement leave.)
But the flip side is that small-firm lawyers are often at sea over what to wear. Sometimes, people need a little guidance.
So what should the dress code be at your small firm?
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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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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