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February 2009

McDonald's Workers Compensation Insurance Company Denies an Employee's Claim after Being Shot during the Hours of Employment

As reported at the Huffington Post, McDonald’s workers compensation insurance company is denying claims to an employee who was shot on the premises during the hours of employment while pulling a man off a girl that was being beaten during the course of his employment.  Part of the economic downturn will probably cause a shift in the pendulum swing back against large insurance companies and against tort reform.  This is a great example of why most people really think insurance companies suck.


Regurgitation Thursday: Building the Service-Centered Firm

Topics covered in this episode of GAL Radio:

  • Customer service as a priority within your business model
  • Alternative billing and innovative business models for law firms

CIRCA January 25, 2005: Building the Service-Centered Firm

Welcome to this edition of GAL Radio brought to you by the Greatest American Lawyer Blog. This week, we are looking back to a post I drafted on January 25, 2005 called Building the Service-Centered Firm.  The point of this post was that law firms are so focused on hourly billing that they forget that they are service firms, and that customer service needs to be a priority within the business model.  If we are indeed a capitalistic economy, then why haven’t law firms been more motivated to focus on client service?  It seems that too many firms simply want to get people on their retainer agreements and bleed the client dry.  So here’s my rendition, my rereading of the post from January 2005 called Building the Service-Centered Firm:

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Top Ten Tuesday: The Legal Industry Is About To Be Turned Upside Down

If the cheap availability of technology wasn’t enough, lawyers now face an even more daunting challenge.  With the economy taking a drastic downturn, the “status quo” is about to be challenged in ways which would have never occurred under any other set of circumstances.  Many law firms, and especially the largest law firms, are suffering along with their mega-sized clients as a result of cash flow problems.  Until last year, representing the biggest companies in the world was seen as a major feather in your cap.  Today, those mega clients cannot pay their bills, many of them sizable.  Big law firms are imploding all over the United States.  Cutbacks, lay offs and firings have become the norm. 

  1. As long-standing attorney-client relationships between large companies and large law firms come under stress as a result of the economic crisis, there is going to be turnover on both the client and law firms.  This means new players who will not share the same allegiances that existed previously.
  2. Clients of all sizes will sense the financial stress their law firms are under and wonder whether or not they are being billed for “make work.”  This will cause clients to start looking at other options in the legal market.
  3. Virtually every law firm now has a website.  Many lawyers share their expertise online.  It has never been so simple to find an A+ lawyer for a specific legal problem using Google Search.
  4. The rationale for using a single mega law firm for all your legal problems in a “one stop shopping” approach simply do not hold up anymore.  Clients will start to realize that simply finding the best firm or lawyer for the job is a better alternative.
  5. Clients are beginning to realize that there are different billing approaches out there being used by various law firms.  You should expect clients to continue to seek alternative billing arrangements as they make decisions about who will represent them on a particular matter.
  6. Big law firms cannot compete across a range of technology and innovations issues.  Like any large organization, implementation of technology is a massive undertaking in a large organization.  Conversely, small and boutique firms can identify and implement new technologies almost in real time.  Implementing the technology at a “human” level is also much easier in a small organization.
  7. Everything in the commercial world is about to be turned upside down.  Consider it anarchy to one degree or another.  Anytime the pot is stirred, a reordering of players naturally occurs.
  8. Forget large companies that cannot even pay their rent or salaries.  The real clients law firms ought to be going after are the new and start-up companies who have no allegiance to any particular lawyer or law firm. These are the ones that will find you online and hire you because of the expertise, which you have revealed on your blog or website.
  9. Many clients are going to start engaging in “self help” right out of the gate.  If they come to your blog or website and it provides the insights they need, a percentage of them will decide to hire you instead of trying to figure their problem out themselves.
  10. The concept of “change” is in the air.  Obama is pushing it.  Adherence to the status quo is no longer in vogue. 

Overflow Legal (OFL): Will the Pendulum of Power Swing Toward Talented Independent Contract Attorneys?

Lisa Solomon from the Questionoflaw.net and Legalresearchandwritingpro.com submitted some interesting posts to OFL concerning lawyers acting as independent contractors.  As you all know, we are big fans of contract lawyers, virtual law clerks, and virtual paralegals.  My favorite post submitted by Lisa is “A Contract Lawyer by any Other Name” which talks about how many contract lawyers are suffering in the economic downturn, staffing companies have gone out of business and a $35/hour virtual lawyer rate in New York and Washington isn’t cutting it.

Continue reading "Overflow Legal (OFL): Will the Pendulum of Power Swing Toward Talented Independent Contract Attorneys? " »


ISO Monday: Drowning in Email, RSS Feeds, and Twitter Feeds....

Well, it's Information Super-Overload Monday.  That means that GAL will be sharing tips on how to deal with the flood of information clogging up your email inbox, RSS feeds, and Twitter feeds.  As many commentators have noted, too much information can be a major drag on your productivity.

Today, I want to talk a little bit about your email inbox.  Many of you are using Microsoft Outlook or a similar client-side application.  I receive dozens of emails each day, many of which are not from clients or prospective clients, so here's what I do to manage my email inbox.

Continue reading "ISO Monday: Drowning in Email, RSS Feeds, and Twitter Feeds...." »


The Phenomena of LegalZoom.com: Love Them or Hate Them, Legal Self-Help Is Here to Stay

Lawyers love to hate services like LegalZoom.com.  While there have been some court cases alleging consumer fraud against LegalZoom's group host, this immensely popular legal forum self-help service has been a huge hit with consumers.  There is little doubt that companies such as LegalZoom, which cater to people who want to pay less for corporate documents, trademark registrations, simple wills and a host of other forms, continue to look for alternatives beyond attorneys and their law firms. If you wish to learn more about Legal Zoom or sign up for one of there many self-help services, you can click here.

Continue reading "The Phenomena of LegalZoom.com: Love Them or Hate Them, Legal Self-Help Is Here to Stay" »


Should You Bill Hours, Value or Risk? OFL Knows the Answer.

The Overflow Legal website has a solid list of blogs and articles from around the internet addressing the issue of alternative billing arrangements by law firms.  If you want to see the top post as voted by you, the reader, check out the OFL category called “Billing Clients: Should I Bill Hours, Value or Risk?” While you’re there, you might want to subscribe to either the popular or upcoming RSS feed for that category.  If you see articles you think are the best, go ahead and vote for them as well.  To see all posts regarding the billable hour, check out the entire category list here


Over the Hump (OTH) Wednesday: Vote Now on the Best Posts

How to Reclaim Your Professional and Personal Life as a Lawyer:  Are you really doing what you want with your professional life or are you just "filling a chair"?  If you don't love what you're doing, maybe you should take another look at your job.

A Lawyer Walks into a Bar . . . hilarious award winning documentary about the legal system and California Bar Exam:  Check out clips from this very funny DVD and the posted blogs.

S&L v. Australian Gold: You, the Jury:   Does S&L have a right to obtain Australian Gold products from retail tanning salons and then resell the products on the internet and in Europe?  You decide.

AM Law 200 Law Firm Lays off 52 Lawyers, but Partners Still Make Over $1 million/year:   The beginning of the large layoffs in large law firms.

Financing Law School - Resources for financial aid:   A resource for financing a legal education.

Continue reading "Over the Hump (OTH) Wednesday: Vote Now on the Best Posts" »


Large Law Firms Continue to Implode: Historic 800 Law Firm Jobs Lost in a Single Day

On Friday the 13th, Law.com reported 800 associates and support staff in some of the largest firms in the nation lost their jobs.  For these people, Friday the 13th will always mean bad things.  The reason given for these layoffs was a downturn in the economy. These large law firms are finding they have to make large cutbacks in order to make a profit.  In some cases, the employees were given generous severance packages, along with outplacement counseling.  One firm rescinded offers to incoming associates and cut its summer program.  We may see clients of these large firms looking for other representation as the higher paid attorneys start doing work that the lesser paid associates did in the past.  I want to thank OverflowLegal and SpartyLaw which turned me on to this post.


Clients Love Flat Fee Billing Based on Defined Deliverables

I’m in Los Angeles, California this week for a federal court status conference and facilitated mediation in an unfair competition, keyword advertising trademark infringement case.  At dinner last night with the clients, the issue of lawyers quickly came to the forefront.  Both clients’ fathers were lawyers, and are inundated with friends who are lawyers.  They wanted to let me know that they really appreciated and loved the flat fee defined deliverable billing model, which we use at our firm.  One of my clients shared a story.  His dad pulled him aside during a hunting trip when he was a teenager.  He let his son know that he was not making any money on the trip because he was tied to an hourly billing method.  His dad let him know that his friends, who were businesspeople, were all still making money even when they weren’t sitting at their desks. 

Unfortunately, neither the flat fee nor the hourly billing method allows you to make money when you’re not working in the service business.  But I am constantly being reminded by clients, especially sophisticated clients, that they prefer and appreciate the flat fee defined deliverable model.  A lot of times, lawyers and commentators discussing the issue forget that the real proof is in the pudding.  Clients prefer to know what they’re going to get and what it’s going to cost.  Lawyers prefer to know what they have to deliver and to be in a position to focus on those deliverables.