Susan Cartier Liebel

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If You’re Practicing Law In The 21st Century, You Better ‘Be Sexy and Know’ Spanish”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Would You Meet New Clients Through Free Video Conferencing?”

... 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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “New York Forces Pro Bono Requirements Upon Would-Be Lawyers Because No One Else Cares About Poor People”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: I Get Schooled By The Dean Of Solo Practice University”

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…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firm Lawyers Balk at ASU 3L’s Request for Sponsorship”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “What We Talk About When We Talk About Small Law Firms”

Ed. note: Welcome to the latest installment of “Notes from the Breadline,” a column by a laid-off lawyer in New York. Prior columns are collected here. You can reach Roxana St. Thomas by email (at, follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook.

Dear Lat,

Thank you so much for the back-to-school care package you sent when I started classes at Solo Practice University! I must ask: where did you find the Wonder Twins pencil box? I absolutely adore it, and I love the Trapper Keeper (and the puffy stickers with googly eyes!) you picked out. I am also crazy about the Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox, and the note you included was very thoughtful. (I’m not sure that “Knock ‘em dead!” is appropriate advice for a lawyer, but why split hairs?)
I’ll address, seriatim, the questions you posed in your enclosed letter. Regarding your first question (“What are you going to wear on your first day of class??”), I had a hard time deciding between the plaid skirt, button-down shirt, and penny loafers you helped me pick out when we went back-to-school shopping, and something a little more casual, like the Guns ‘n Roses t-shirt and holey jeans you turned your nose up at when I was modeling outfits. (I believe your exact words were “If you think you’re leaving the house dressed like that, young lady, think again,” and “If I put a 7-11 hot dog and a Slurpee in your hand, you’d look like Britney Spears – on a bad day.”)

But that, my fashion-forward friend, is the beauty of Solo Practice University: I don’t have to leave my house to go to class. Susan Cartier Liebel, the headmistress of Solo Practice University, calls it “carpet commuting,” but since, as you know, I live in true Manhattan-style squalor and thus do not have a carpet, I simply call it “convenient.” In any event (and because I also do not have an air conditioner), I opted for a tank top with a large coffee stain on the front, and shorts. Though I was certain my mother would pop out of the closet, smack me on the back of the head, and remind to “dress for the job you want,” she did not make an appearance. The cats, however, channeling her disapproval, looked at me with disdain.

As for your second question, things here at Solo Practice University, or “SPU,” as we call it on campus, are going well. The classes that SPU has to offer are – at this point – too numerous to list here, but as you know, they are divided four general areas: Substantive Law, Marketing and Management, Technology, and Work/Life Balance. In fact, the course content is so voluminous that I spent a few undignified minutes wringing my hands, uncertain about where to begin. (Again, the beauty of SPU is that no one can observe, firsthand, your minor meltdowns.)

No, Lat: there’s no need to start gathering piles of Zoloft for my next care package (although a little Valium never hurt anyone – let’s talk later). It turns out that my generalized anxieties, and the sense of being overwhelmed by the nuts and bolts of solo practice, were a valuable object lesson. Many people, Susan told me, are derailed by their fear of solo practice. One of her goals, therefore, was simply to “demystify” the reality of lawyering without a net. This led me to a minor, but useful, epiphany about one of my perceived barriers to solo practice: my fear of commitment.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Notes from the Breadline: To Be On Your Own (Part III)”