Monday, July 25, 2011

New Site

I'm blogging over at, if you're interested.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Skills Students Need to Learn

Joseph H. Brown, the author of Student2Solo, has a new blog post about 2 things students should do while they're in school in order to prepare for solo practice. The post is great, and offers two great suggestions, especially that students get familiar with trial practice (a course I wish I would have taken). I'd like to add my two-cents to the conversation, and follow up on one of my earlier posts.

I'm an especially big proponent of the "3rd Year Intern" program. I don't know of any school that's implementing it, but I believe a 3rd year spent working at a law firm, instead of in a classroom, would better-prepare students for law practice in general. The concept is easy: students work as unpaid interns at law firms (preferably solo or small firms), and in turn receive course credit for their employment. It's a win-win for both sides (which I doubt that schools would go for because of their overwhelming disdain for solo practice.) Working for an attorney/law firm is significantly more important than learning about working.

I try to hire interns to come perform tasks and learn about law firm practice. One of the common questions I get from my interns, and from others, is "how will I ever learn all this?" My simple answer is that you take the time. This is especially important when you're discussing things like trust accounts, business operations, and daily operations. Unfortunately, because you never learned how to properly manage a trust account (although you're drilled about the consequences of mismanagement) in law school, you must hire someone, or consult your bar association's management assistance program to get the proper information.

Like Joseph, I suggest students also focus on practical courses, like trial practice, bankruptcy, and legal writing, as opposed to the recommended cadre of "bar prep courses." Although these aren't completely functional courses, they will give you a glimpse of some real world events, especially if they're taught by adjuncts who are practicing attorneys.

Finally, students should learn and practice communication skills. Since verbal and written communication are everyday necessities in a law firm, you must improve and perfect your communication. Volunteer to write briefs, memos, or other documents for an attorney, and learn from his/her criticism. Take opportunities to present speeches and other verbal presentations to improve your delivery skills. You may even consider joining local speech groups or organizations for assistance.

Whether you're looking to mint yourself as a solo attorney, or as a BigLaw brat, possessing the basic skills and knowledge to function as an attorney will help you achieve your success. You can do it, but it takes patience, practice, and work.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Backup Plan

Folks, I don't think the economy is improving, at least for lawyers. I think we're still in a tight market, and we should expect to see more of those "cushy" jobs start vanishing. There's a post at The AmLaw Daily that shows the legal services sector lost jobs in February. 2,900 to be exact. 

If you're one of those sitting in a comfortable cubicle office, you need to look closely at these types of reports. This is a scary statistic that could effect everyone. I talked about planning for a "cut back," and still believe it's as important as ever to develop your backup plan. Quite simply, how would you cope if you lost your job today?

Friday, March 4, 2011

How Much Do Lawyers Make?

The ABA Journal teamed up with  William D. Henderson of the Center on the Global Legal Profession at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law, to study and report on the wages for lawyers throughout the United States. I think this is an admirable response to a lot of uproar regarding "the lying law schools," but I believe, as some of the comments suggest that this still isn't reporting the true nature of the legal profession. The biggest flaw of the study: "Equity partners and solo practitioners are not included in the survey." Oops.

I think this flaw over-exaggerates the numbers. Sure, I guess if my goal is BigLaw, government, or in-house, these figures should bring some comfort. However, if you're a solo practitioner or equity partner (why isn't BigLaw complaining?) you're screwed. The fact is, there's still a larger portion of the legal profession that is unrepresented in the study. As one commenter states, "The ABA bothers to show this because they want the media to pick it up - they want a counter to all the bad press law schools have been getting, and this gets the fuzzy idea, 'Oh hey, lawyers DO make a lot of money' out there in the world again. It’s an attempt to keep the bubble growing and obfuscate the truth - that law school is a bad investment for almost all students who take out taxpayer backed loans to attend."

Some of the surprising information for me gleaned from the study:  Reno, NV and El Paso, TX, have "unusually" high salaries for relatively small metro markets. Perhaps, if you desire to become an attorney, you should relocate to Huntsville, AL, where lawyers earn $125,000, and the market is small 440 (is that a typo?). Also, isn't the "hot spot" graphic nice? I guess there won't be a rush of lawyer to Montana, North Dakota, or Northern Maine.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Public Relations...Or, Relating with the Public

My undergraduate education is in communication. Specifically, organizational communication. I studied communication at a mid-sized university, before heading off to law school.

The thing I particularly enjoyed about the communication studies discipline, was the range of classes available to students. My first thought when I embarked in the field was to become a reporter, or some other press-related individual. I liked the "gumshoe" work of a reporter, strung together with the fast-paced, changing world. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to work in the messed-up world of business, and evaluate the different sub-levels of businesses and other organizations - hence, organizational communication (I'm not sure why I didn't choose psychology, because a lot of O.C. is about analyzing people and their behaviors.)

During my education I had a variety of opportunities to examine media interactions, and learned to appreciate the power of the media. That's why this post by The Nutmeg Lawyer, Adrian Baron, really worked.

The post discusses the importance of working with the media, and how the media can really boost your law practice. Adrian Baron talks about his experience in the world of criminal law, and how using the media has increased his revenue and client base. Adrian give concise advice regarding some fundamental steps to help work with the media.

I learned early that too many people, and far too many lawyers, are afraid of the media, and using the media in their law practice. I see it as a natural tendency for us to shy away from anything we can't acutely manage or control. However, you must recognize that there are times and places when you want to use the media to your advantage, and certainly bad coverage (where you're involved with a "bad" client) is better for your firm than no coverage. Always recognize and appreciate opportunities to market your firm.

Part of growing and building your practice is becoming recognized as a legal "expert" on a particular topic. The more people can recognize you as the lawyer, hence Adrian's "heroin lawyer", the greater success you'll have in bringing in clients. I attest to the truthfulness of this mantra. Like Adrian, I've had several similar good and bad experiences with media relations.

When you're given an opportunity to become a legal "expert" by the media, seize it. You're never going to have an easier time striking publicity for yourself.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Google Apps

Google continues (in my opinion) to dominate the market with its extensive offering of products and services. Regardless of your feelings about operating systems (iOS v. MS), you must agree that Google has the best cloud services, hands down.

Six months ago I transferred all of my email/contacts/calendaring services to Google Apps, and I paid the premium price to upgrade my accounts to the business edition. I'm not looking back!

If you're not familiar with the Google Apps product, your law firm should be. The product provides a clean and simple cloud interface for handling a variety of daily things like calendaring, email, and contacts. More importantly, as long as you have internet access, you can connect to everything through the online resource.

For those of you who love the interface with Outlook (I am one), the paid version ($50/year per user) offers a simple sync to Outlook program that you can use to transfer your Outlook information between your computer and your Google account.

Here's some of the huge benefits I find with using my Apps account:
  1. Easy integration/access to email, calendar, and contacts from my laptop, desktop, or smartphone;
  2. Seamless sync between Outlook and Google on any computer (I currently sync my home, laptop, and office computers with my Google account);
  3. Easily share calendar and contacts with employees;
  4. High-quality technical support and hassle-free maintenance (I get the same quality as MS Exchange, without maintaining an Exchange server)
I would always recommend the paid version if you're intending to use Google Apps for business purposes. I believe, and would probably win any challenge, that paying for cloud services, as opposed to using freebies, entitles you to some privacy protections that might not be otherwise. Google Apps provides all users, especially small businesses, with the big business IT resources. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Be Careful What You Write

It has been too long since I posted something on this site. I didn't forget about it, I just made a little more emphasis on my other site. I promise to make a more concerted effort at blogging here too.

The ABA Journal has an interesting story about the dangers of social media. The article appears hell-bent on making everyone fearful of using social media to tell a story or advertise one's business. In fact, I think there might be a strong goal by the big-law bandits of the ABA to minimize the use of social media among lawyers.

Basically, the Journal's article talks about the plight of one Sean Conway, a Florida lawyer, who happens to be involved in attorney disciplinary proceedings because of his blogging/use of social media. Mr. Conway's problems arise because he's a) in Florida, and b) he's advertising/using social media of some comments he made about a Florida circuit court judge on a blog discussing Broward County legal topics.

I think Conway's problem is the fact he used this public sphere to berate a political/judicial figure. Fortunately when blogging, there are some established (common sense) rules. Conway states his actions were deliberate and intentional.

If you're using your blog to convey information, then convey information. There are more judicious (and safer) ways for you to get your political message through.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Going Silent

Sorry about the somewhat silent actions on the site. I promise that postings will resume soon.

As is usually the case for a solo, I have been dealing with the technicalness of running a law practice, raising a family, and trying to stay sane.

One of the best aspects of being solo is flexibility. However, flexibility often comes at a corresponding price - didn't Newton say something about "equal and opposites?" In my case, the opposite reaction has been and increasing number of demanding cases from clients. This is beneficial, but again, very demanding.

Here's a couple of articles to explore:
3. 9 Tips For Balancing Family With A Solo Law Practice - I've been practicing more of this one.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Again With the Management Software

I don't know a lot about other practice management programs, since I'm relatively satisfied with PracticeMaster from Tabs3.

However, I'm grateful to have the software because of its robust ability to control finite aspects of my law practice. I've already extolled the virtues of practice management software, and would encourage you to implement some program into your law practice.

Here's some of the benefits I find with my software:

1. Ability to integrate with calendaring & email programs (Outlook)
2. Ability to docket and schedule tasks, chores and meetings for cases
3. Ability to control and manage cases and case flow
4. Ability to manage massive amounts of information

I was talking to a colleague today about PM, and I showed him some of the benefits. He was impressed by the grand options PM gives.

If you're not using a practice management system, it's time to invest.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Check this Out

One of the great things about blogging is being able to help others out with meaningful links, this includes other bloggers.

Recently, I came across a blog called Student 2 Solo. The blog is published by a young (time, not age) attorney named Joseph Brown. I've never met Joseph, nor have I received compensation to talk about him.

What I have received, is an enjoyable, albeit small, number of blog posts, about starting and running a solo law practice. I would suggest you add his blog to your reader.

Kudos to Joseph for his work, and I wish him success in the virtual and real worlds.