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February 2008

Solo by Choice

One of my favorite bloggers Carolyn Elefant over at the MyShingle.com blog has written a wonderful new book called “Solo by Choice.”  I just received a copy of the book last week and look forward to reading it.  I did get a chance, however, to skim through the table of contents and various chapters.  It is comprehensive!

Here is a list of some of the topics covered.

Solo By Choice has more than 300 pages of solid, practical advice on these topics: Making the Great Escape ... Getting Started ... Setting Up Office ... Selecting Practice Areas ... Handling Clients ... Billing & Fees ... Generating Revenue ... Outsourcing ... Marketing in the Digital Era ... FAQ's on starting a firm from BigLaw, government, law school ... and Part-Time Options for parents.

I highly recommend that anyone considering solo or small firm practice read this book.  Carolyn has provided detail beyond any expectations. 


With an Extranet, Communication Has Never Been So Easy.

I was recently reading an article in the January/February 2008 ABA GP Solo Magazine (Volume 25, Number 1) by Timothy J. Gephart entitled “Malpractice: What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate.”  The article does a great job of outlining the fact that an ever-increasing number of claims against attorneys are based off of violations of ABA Model Rule 1.4, or the communication rule.  Simply put, the rule requires that a lawyer keep the client informed, consult with the client about ways to accomplish the goals, keep the client reasonable informed about status, reply to requests for information, and consult with the client regarding ethical limitations of the attorney.  It sounds simple.  However, more than ever, clients are grieving and/or suing their attorneys for violating this particular rule.  The fact of the matter is that there is an easy and readily available solution to avoid this type of problem.

An extranet can help you satisfy all of the rule requirements.  It allows you to keep a running track record of all communications with the client.  It tracks deliverables, encourages collaboration and discussion of issues important in the case as well as limitations for the lawyer, and is the means through which status updates and actual documents can be provided.  Should the attorney-client relationship ever break down, what better way to show that the lawyer met all of his ethical obligations then by referring to the extranet where the client and lawyer actively engaged in dialog, discussed the points of attack, outlined risks and rewards, and ultimately decided upon a course of action.  If the extranet can serve as a built-in protection against even one malpractice claim, it is worth its weight in gold.  Lawyers who fear having an extranet and an open relationship with their clients will lead to malpractice claims rather than prevent them could not be more wrong.  Moreover, would you want a lawyer with such a concern representing you?  Brian


The Donald Says: Never Give Up!

You might recall my son Echo's poem about perseverance last week. Looks like Donald Trump is following the GAL blog. :-)

Wealth-Protecting Tactics of the Ultra-Rich - Inside Trump Tower : With the Right Mindset, You Can Overcome Any Problem.

Don't dwell so much on a problem that you've exhausted yourself before you can even entertain a solution. It just doesn't make sense. It takes brainpower and energy to think positively and creatively -- and to see creatively and positively. Going negative is the easy way, the lazy way. Use your brainpower to focus on positives and solutions and your own mindset will create your own luck. Shakespeare put it this way, in a famous quote from Julius Caesar: "The fault is not in our stars, dear Brutus, but in ourselves." Donald Trump.
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A Fully Integrated Blog into a Law Firm Web Site

I’ve been busy these last six weeks working with graphic designers and web developers on our new law firm web site with a fully integrated blog.  As those of you who have been following the firm know, we have in fact used TypePad blog software as our firm web site.  We are one of the few firms in the world to have shunned web pages in favor of a pure blog presence.  For those who haven’t been following the firm, you can check out our current (and soon to be outdated) design at the Traverse Legal web site here

Most lawyers who blog, do so separate from their firm web site.  Typically, there is a link from the website to the blog and vice versa, but they are separate.  Some firms include a navigation link within their firm website to the blog.  But the fundamental design of the web site is different than the blog.  Again, they are presented as distinct.  It has always bothered me that blogging is viewed as a separate activity from a law firm website.  Most law firms have decided (in error in my judgment) that they want absolute control over everything that goes on the firm’s site.  Many lawyers who blog, do so with the explicit or implicit permission of the law firm essentially “on the side.”

Our new web site will be a combination of traditional web pages and blogs.  They will be fully integrated so there will be no design differences between the blog pages and the web pages.  Our goal is to set the mark for law firm blog and web site design.  While there are few others who are moving in the same direction as us, we believe we will have the most sophisticated, fully integrated, dynamic, web 2.0 law firm web site in the world.   It is our hope to be online with the new site in a couple of weeks.  But I did want to give you a heads up about what was coming.


If The Number '5' License Plate is Worth $6.8 Million, What Is Your Domain Name Worth?

The number "5" license plate sold for $6.8 million dollars in Saudi Arabia and another 300 vanity plates sold for another $56 million at last week's auction.  It is estimated that the number "1" will be auctioned next month for up to $20 million dollars.

The free market is just realizing the value of a domain name, driven by the fact that each domain name is unique and - typos and cybersquatters aside -  their 'one-of-a-kind' nature. Domain names are in many ways like lake front property (and yes vanity license plates).

Read the entire article and watch video here.


You Know You Work For A Great Firm When ..

... you decide it is time to leave, the firm says something like this, as reported at teh WSJ Law Blog.

Herman’s departure ends his 16-year relationship with Woody Jameson, the head of Duane Morris’s IP group. Yesterday he waxed nostalgic about his now former colleague, whom he recruited to King & Spalding in 1992. “I took him to lunch at the Commerce Club,” he told the paper, and “we’ve been working side by side ever since.” He went on: “We are very best friends. On a personal level, I am very sad that we’re not going to be practicing law together anymore. On a professional level, I completely understand what John is doing and why he’s doing it.”

“It’s a side of law that he’s been keenly interested in and it’s something that you have a very difficult time doing on a big firm platform that doesn’t really specialize in plaintiff’s contingent fee cases on a fulltime basis,” he continued. “Who knows? Maybe he’ll get great plaintiffs’ experience and come back to the defense side one day.”

Continue reading "You Know You Work For A Great Firm When .." »


Will the Recession Hit Legal Services?

One of my favorite bloggers is Gerry Riskin over at the Amazing Firms Amazing Practices blog.  Gerry recently posted a wonderful article about “Seven Key Strategic Factors in Order to Recession-proof the firm.” I have never understood whether recessions are good or bad for law firms.  It seems to me that when recessions hit, companies start breaching their contracts, managers stop looking the other way when people are violating their rights and the overall sourness of the economy creates a more litigious mindset.  Recessions are probably more likely to hit large law firms because their client’s tend to be megacorporations. 

Regardless, what struck me about Gerry’s list is that it has perfect application for the day-to-day business of any law firm, in good times and bad.  Here is the bullet list.

  • Strong Leadership
  • Ramp Up the Frequency of Financial Data Reporting
  • Make the Hard Decisions Humanely and Fast
  • Get Practice Leaders and Client Team Leaders focused on short-term action plans
  • Involve Your Clients
  • Manage Internal Expectations
  • This Too Shall Pass

If you want the specifics, you’ll need to go to Gerry’s blog


Inspiring Other Lawyers to Blog

As mentioned in this recent post, I recently did a presentation for my local Bar Association on technology issues.  I’ve been so focused on changing the way law is practiced across the country, that I haven’t spent much time working with my home town.  Unfortunately, there is an unusual level of back stabbing and jealousy in my particular bar which dates back decades.  Apparently,  as new lawyers started to show up on what was considered to be “protected turf” by the lawyers who’ve been around for generations, gamesmanship became rampant.  For whatever reason, there is an unusually large element of our local Bar Association which could care less about comradery, professionalism and local support.  They only see themselves in competition with everyone else.

I am realizing for the first time that there is a large contingent of Bar Association members who are supportive of each other and exhibit all the best qualities of professionals.  In addition to inspiring attorneys across the country to adopt alternative billing strategies, emphasize client service and utilize technology for both their and their client’s benefit, I am realizing that there is an appetite right here at home for change.  As I approach my firm’s third anniversary, I am realizing that good deeds can begin at home.

I am proud and happy to report that three local attorneys Deborah Rysso, John Rizzo and Greg Kish (who attended my bar association presentation on technology) have started a “Michigan Elder Law Updates” blog.  What a perfect example of a niche/vertical blog which will provide infinite opportunities for these attorneys to show off their tremendous expertise (they are in fact a law firm focused on elder law issues), build relationships with other elder law attorneys and work their way up the Google algorithm for anyone searching for an “elder law attorney.”

Did I happen to mention some of the other benefits? Their clients will have a resource to become better educated.  They will be satisfying some of their pro bono obligations by providing free educational resources for the general population.  They will achieve a voice on the Internet concerning problems facing the elder law community. Rizzo & Associates has entered the Internet stream of commerce.