Susan Cartier Liebel

At the end of last month, various legal media began buzzing about a new legal technology start-up on the block: LawZam! The company (which doesn’t really have an exclamation point, but I can’t say the name without yelling like Champ from Anchorman) offers free video conferencing services for prospective clients looking for representation; more specifically, it purports to be something akin to “speed-dating for attorneys.”

An new editorial published today touts the benefits of services like this, and shopping “online in the lawyer district” more generally.

Now, I have to say, I’m a little cynical here. And I’m afraid even touching this subject will inspire Brian Tannebaum to fly across the country, come to my house, and stab me in the eye with a letter opener. But let’s look a little closer and get your opinions in a reader poll….

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... except when it's forced upon us.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals announced yesterday that a new bar admission hurdle would be foisted upon would-be lawyers in the state, in the form of a 50-hour pro bono requirement.

Apparently poor people in the Empire State have been having trouble securing legal services, so what better way to assist them than to force similarly situated people to come to their aid? Instead of relying upon existing attorneys to lend a helping hand to those in need, Judge Lippman has chosen to force the task upon those who have no choice but to obey.

Chief Judge Lippman had a good idea, but it’s a bit misplaced. Let’s discuss what the new pro bono requirement means for you, and delve into what others are saying about it….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

It is not easy staying abreast of all of the important issues affecting small firms, but I do it because my words impact our nation’s policy. Do you think it was a coincidence that less than a week after I instituted the Small Firm Pro Bono Push, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee suggested that private-sector employees need to do more pro bono work? Obviously not.

But sometimes even I need guidance. So I enlisted the help of Susan Cartier Liebel, the guru of solo practice.

Liebel founded Solo Practice University (“SPU”) in order to provide the resources for people to start their own firms that she found to be utterly lacking when she first decided to hang a shingle. SPU offers a wide variety of educational programs and networking opportunities. As Liebel stated, SPU provides the 360-degree experience to learn how to open a law firm in a simple-to-use and cost-effective online platform.

Above the Law covered SPU back in 2009, but much has changed over the past two years. Learn more about SPU after the break….

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While bonuses are burning up the comments here at Above the Law, there’s another discussion raging over at the ABA’s SoloSez Listserv — where solo and small firm lawyers from around the country share resources, practice tips and the occasional anecdote.

It seems that a 3L at Arizona State’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is seeking sponsors for the remainder of her law school and bar study days. (We noted the development in today’s Morning Docket.)

Claiming the debt load for the average ASU grad has increased by $40,000 since she applied, the 3L is “reaching out to the online community to help [her] pay for it.” Good choice, since everyone knows that bloggers are just rolling in cash.

Given its entrepreneurial nature, this seems right up the small firm alley. But the plan has been received quite poorly by a majority of practitioners.

More about the sponsorship, what she’s willing to do for it, and the identity of the student, after the break…

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Last week, I made the decision to jump right into the substantive portion of this column. Based on the queries and comments hitting my inbox, though, I thought I would take another shot at explaning my intentions behind this column, before returning to your regularly scheduled programming.

The following email came in earlier this week from a reader who practices at a small law firm:

Can you clarify what “small law” means? Do you mean law in a smaller city/town? Or smaller-sized firms in larger places? Or are we talking about law firms that deal with clients who have less wealth (i.e., I do divorces vs. I did Madonna’s divorce)?

Lawyers love definitional questions. So let’s get into it….

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