Small Law Firms

I would bet that at least half of you resolved to find a new job in 2012. And, for many, that new job means going out on your own. As with most New Year’s resolutions, however, such a measure may seem overwhelming.

Lucky for you, Carolyn Elefant has updated her book, Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be (affiliate link). The book provides a thorough road map for lawyers looking to make the leap to solo practice.

Solo By Choice is divided into five parts: (1) The Decision; (2) Planning the Launch; (3) The Practice; (4) Solo Marketing; and (5) Solos in Transition. The sections offer information and advice designed for lawyers at all levels of experience, from new graduate to partner. A large portion of the book discusses new technology and social media. And to bring the message home, Elefant profiles successful solos and provides tips they learned in starting and running their own firms….

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Tom Wallerstein

This is the time of year when everyone pulls out a Top Ten list of one thing or another. I don’t mind; a Top Ten list is a convenient format for reflection and New Year’s Eve has always been a time of reflection for me, whether that involves setting goals or just thinking about the ups and downs of the past year. So I thought I would use the opportunity to offer my perspective of the Top Ten Differences Between Biglaw and Boutique. So without further ado, let’s push in the button and let the top ten play:

10. Money, Money

When you work at a firm, you get paid either a salary or an hourly rate. You get employer-paid benefits and you might even get a bonus. But you know the firm is billing you out at hundreds of dollars an hour, and your hourly wage comes nowhere near that. When you run your own shop, you don’t get a salary but you keep all the money paid by your clients, or recovered in a contingent fee agreement. Of course, you’re also responsible for all the expenses.

Whether that is a good or bad thing depends on a lot of factors and varies by individual, but no one can deny that the economics between working in Biglaw and working for yourself are very different.

Read on after the jump for the rest of the Top Ten Differences Between Biglaw and Boutique….

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I know why the caged bird tweets.

* Here’s a nice round-up of some of the most controversial laws that will be enacted in 2012. Looks like California is going to have some fabulously multicultural litigation. [Associated Press]

* What do you get when you cross an artist with a penchant for Rastafarians with the son of a Boies Schiller name partner? The biggest copyright fair use appeal ever. [New York Times]

* A Massachusetts town paid Phoebe Prince’s family only $225K to settle. With lawyer’s fees, it’s almost not even worth suing if your kid gets bullied to death. [ABC News]

* Everyone is going cuckoo over Iowa’s conservatives, even the Eighth Circuit. Iowa Law’s former dean is facing a political discrimination suit. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Apparently, this PhoneDog Twitter account case is a pretty big deal in the world of social media law. I’ll turn discussion of this issue over to our social media expert, Brian Tannebaum. [CNN]

* An employee at a presumably small law firm in New York had her jaw shattered while a thief ransacked the office. Give this woman a bonus. Hell, give her a raise, too. [New York Post]

Tom Wallerstein

Recently, someone remarked to me that the week after Christmas is a “dead week.” He meant that many people take the week off, many companies are short staffed, and business generally is light.

When I was in Biglaw, I always worked the week after Christmas. Even though most partners wouldn’t be around, I figured that left it up to me to make sure my cases were being handled properly. With hindsight, I know that I probably wasn’t quite as essential as I thought, but that was my attitude at the time.

Now that I am a partner in my own firm, you might think that I can finally relax and let my associates mind the store. Negative. First, I care about my associates’ quality of (work) life. Having spent years in Biglaw, I am committed to trying to lessen at least some of the unpleasantness that often entails. So I want my employees to be able to take time off, or at least work a lighter schedule, during a week that is traditionally light. Second, running my own firm just raises the stakes. Now I really do have ultimate responsibility for all my cases, so I feel even more pressure to work harder and better than ever before.

So much for a dead week. Still, the comment got me thinking about what it means to be “swamped” with work versus having a “dead week,” and how those concepts differ when applied to Biglaw versus a running a solo or small firm practice….

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The field of contenders for our third annual law firm holiday card contest was more impressive than ever. We received numerous nominations, and we thank everyone who participated. It took many hours to review the plethora of submissions.

We could complain about how some of you failed to follow contest rule #3, limiting the contest to “cards that are unusually clever, funny, or cool…. cards with some attitude, with that extra je ne sais quoi.” But we won’t; the holiday spirit has us in a good mood. You are all wonderful!

But some of you are more wonderful than others. Let’s look at this year’s finalists….

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To help me get in the holiday spirit, I’ve been catching up on my favorite movies. Some might prefer It’s A Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but I can’t get enough of It’s a Wonderful Lifetime and ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas. Give me a movie where a D-list celebrity overcomes the holiday blues to discover the meaning of Christmas, the joy of love, and the warmth of family, and I am a happy girl.

After 22 days of non-stop Christmas movie watching, I began to think that only in a movie staring Melissa Joan Hart would someone devote her professional career to tackling an issue she had to overcome. Not so.

Earlier this month, Casey Greenfield, known for her personal battle with child support issues, and Scott Labby, a fellow graduate of Yale Law School, formed the firm Greenfield Labby LLP. The firm’s mission is to serve individual clients “with a focus on family and matrimonial practice, strategic planning and crisis management”….

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Roland Davenport

There aren’t that many really good Santas.

Roland Davenport, a Michigan solo practitioner, commenting on the sad state of Santa Claus couture during the holiday season. Davenport, who attended what he calls “the Harvard of Santa Claus schools,” has been dressing up as Santa and performing at holiday parties for the past eight years.

Davenport’s real, white beard and $750 red suit are considered prestigious by the competition, and his Santa retainer reflects it.

After stealing all the Whoville toys, the Grinch planned to re-gift them to his army of lawyers.

I’m much more likely to throw away a gift or give it to charity than to regift something I already have or don’t want. I think I’d live in fear of the original gift-giver meeting up with the regift recipient and talking about how I was a bad friend for orchestrating the whole mess. I’d rather those two people meet up and say, “Did Elie get you anything? No? Too bad. I was hoping he did and you could tell him it sucked. That’s what he told me when he opened my present.” There’s something intangibly sneaky and dishonest about regifting. It’s just not classy.

Of course, people do it all the time. And not because they lack class so much as they lack money. Even if it’s tacky, regifting usually comes from a good place: you want to give presents to more people than you can afford to shop for.

But there’s nothing laudable (or forgivable) about how one small law firm in California goes about re-gifting. They want to send gifts to their clients — so they commandeer the gifts sent to their secretaries and staff, and regift them.

I think this firm missed the “spirit” part of this holiday season….

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I trust that after last week’s column, all my small-firm spinsters are well on their way to finding meaningful, romantic relationships with their co-workers (read: New Year’s Eve booty calls). After waking up at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, I realized that I forgot to suggest one guaranteed way to meet your small-firm suitor: the office party.

While Tannebaum may hate the office holiday party, I believe that it is one of the main — if not most important — reasons to work for a small firm. Or, for that matter, to be a law firm lawyer at all. Indeed, I may be drowning in debt come graduation, but at least I will be able to drink cheap boxed wine with a rainmaking partner once a year. It is worth the investment. (Take that, Wall Street Journal.)

As much I love me a holiday party, however, I do believe there are certain rules one must follow. I cannot promise that I observe these rules myself, but as the saying goes, those who cannot do, teach. And with that, here is a guide for how to behave at the office party….

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Even attorneys are signing up.

Since time immemorial (or at least since the advent of computers), PCs have ruled the law office technology world. As iPhones and iPads have become more popular, Apple products have begun encroaching on the PC’s long-standing dominance of the workplace.

But who would’ve thought that Apple would actually be taking over, even in the technophobic realm of law?

A new legal survey shows just how much attorneys love their Macs. Let’s look at the results, and maybe find some gift ideas for the holidays….

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