I Quit!

Big Boss Sues GAL Again!

On the eve of coming out into the light of day, my stream has taken a turn.   With full knowledge of this very blog and the fact that I am revealing my identify in 4 days, my old firm has jumped head first into the stream.  My first thought is - well - what in the world are they thinking?

At 4:00, my old firm sent a young daughter of one of the legal secretaries to my office. I invited her in my office, of course. She came in and served me with yet another lawsuit filed by Big Boss.  The first lawsuit had been settled [more here] two months ago. I figured they would finally get on with their lives (who would think one departing attorney could draw such attention?). It has been two years since deciding to quit.   But here they are again ... sending little girls to serve complaints (like I wouldn't accept service!), giggling back in Big Bosses office while sipping scotch.

The truly funny part is that the Greatest Aemrican Lawyer web site is the key basis of their complaint. This blog is a virtual  'play by play' of my departure from the firm.  This latest lawsuit by Big Boss presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on the day I was set free from my old firm. What a perfect theme two years post "I  Quit!" - on the eve of the unmasking of the author of the Greatest American Lawyer Blog.

Thanks Tim (one of my old partners, Big Bosses' son and heir apparent to Big Bosses' origination formula)!  I could not have written a more perfect script if I had tried .... I am ready for round two.  I regretted settling the last case before the court ordered partner formula was provided in discovery (Ken and I always suspected there really was no formula).  And now, about those counterclaims  ...

Is There More Risk In Staying At Your Current Job Rather Than Quitting It?

It always surprises me when I speak to people who are considering their employment alternatives.  The gravity, which holds them in place, is weighty.  Changing jobs or even careers is venturing into the unknown. 

My belief is that talented people are often trapped in situations that don’t make good use of their talents.  The gravity that holds them in place was born of the industrial age.  You remember, the age our parents lived in.  the one where the father went to work and held down the same job for the same company for an entire career. 

Technology has allowed talent to become a more dominate market force.  Longevity and loyalty count for little when considering employment prospects.  This is great news for the silently repressed masses of talented people. 

But talented people have to be willing to step up to the plate to.  Too many talented people feel stuck in their jobs.  They think the risk of leaving is great and the risk of staying is small.

There is risk in staying.  There is tremendous risk.  When you stay in a job that does not utilize and appreciate your talents, you risk living an entire life unfulfilled.  You risk the prospect of failing to fulfill your potential and, in some cases, your destiny.  You risk sending the wrong messages to your family and children about what is important.  Many fail to realize that the information age has already turned the marketplace upside down.  The risks associated with jumping off the cliff has become dramatically less.  The risk of staying put in the wrong job has become much greater. 

Stuck In Your Current Job With No Way Out?

I wonder what percentage of the American Bar Association feels stuck in their job.  There are thousand ways to get stuck in your current position.  I would submit that nearly all of them are psychological barriers. 

You could always come up with a list of reasons to stay at your current job.  If you’ve been there for any length of time, you probably have security.  Its nice not having to be the person who has to pay the bills the following month.  Perhaps something great is about to happen in your new job (although you’ve been waiting for that great thing for a decade).  You have a mortgage and your kids need to go to college.  Whether you admit it to yourself on a regular basis, you know you are stuck.  Sure you would like the creativity and flexibility of running your own show.  Answering to nobody except you and your clients would, you acknowledge, change the entire experience of practicing law.  Testing your wits and your business savvy against the marketplace would add passion and purpose to your work life.  Working from home in the morning while your kids get ready for school using VPN, digital dictation, extranet and cell phone technology without anyone looking over your shoulder would undoubtedly provide a much better sense of work life and family balance. 

But you are stuck in your job.  There’s no way you could just simply take your talents and whichever clients we choose to come with you, under your own shingle.  I mean, you can see how easy it would be to distinguish yourself in the market and develop a business model that would provide a higher degree of client service and satisfaction.  But you’ve got kids now and it wouldn’t be fair to them to risk your financial health at their age.  It is, after all, much more important that the bills get paid money gets saved in normal cp preserved.  It is just not that important that your children see you fulfill your potential, be your own boss, and try to change the world around you without anyone telling you how things should be.  Children respect a parent who they know hates their job.  Right?

So, really, my advice is that you just stay put.  You and your family will be better off staying the course. 

Who Has the Guts To Speak Out?

I could not resist posting this commentary by Olbermann on MSNBC concerning Bill Clinton's response to the Fox New interview with Bill Wallace. 

Forget the politics for a moment. Isn't it refreshing to hear a bare fisted commentary about important issues?

What if we had such debates about the hourly billing model?  What if we were willing to take on the status quo within our own profession?  Free speech is only as powerful as those willign to step up an dbe heard.  Have you found your voice yet? 

The most difficult part of hanging out a shingle.

I have regularly posted about the joys of being an independent practitioner and striking out on my own. An equally relevant question is the opposite one; what is the most difficult part about being an independent practitioner?

Without question, the most difficult part about being an independent practitioner is the stress and strain of running your own business. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in any business effort. The hardest part about being an independent practitioner is laying awake at night worrying about all those things you can’t control. I would be the first to admit that good old fashioned dumb luck certainly plays a part in success or failure. However, success is far more likely if you have the right mindset. You have to find a way to deal with all those issues you can’t control which crop up almost every day in your practice and set you back. Instead of worrying about those things you have to accept them and embrace them. Psychologically, you have to view them for what they are, problems. Then you have to set out to solve the problems as they arise.

Too often those problems seem bigger than they really are. The phone line goes down. The internet connection goes down. Email stops working. The file server disappears off the network. A disgruntled client calls and starts giving you grief. You're uncertain about whether or not new clients will walk in the door tomorrow, next week or next month. Bills arrive at your desk which you forgot about or didn’t anticipate. You end up with too much work and cant possibly get it done in a timely fashion. The problems which arise are endless. A successful lawyer views those problems for what they are and sets out to solve them in a rational way.

The hardest part about being an independent practitioner is finding the right mindset to deal with the issues which arise and laying in be awake at night trying to figure out how you are going to solve them.    

Finally Announcing My Law Firm

I now have two virtual law clerks and one paralegal working for me at about 100 extra hours per week.  This should handle my overflow capacity for the next two months or so.  I am now ready to announce my 3 month old firm to the world.  As noted previously, I was smart to be patient in sending these letters until the firm was fully operational and ready for traffic.

We sent out our first round of 150 announcement letters last week to lawyers and judges.  For each of the next two weeks, we'll send another 150 to the bench and bar. We tried to space out the mailings so that well wishers would not call all at once.

In three weeks or so, we'll send out letters to clients and prospective clients.  This will coordinate well with our Johnny Advertising campaign and general announcements to the media. I am also considering truckside advertising using a product called TruckSkin.

Will these letter generate any new business or referrals?  Only time will tell.

Not Yet Announcing ... My Law Firm

When you open a new business, there is a temptation to want to tell the world right away.  I would recommend anyone opening a new law firm to be careful not to send announcements too soon. Here I sit some 2+ months after starting my new firm.  I still have not sent announcement letters to attorneys or clients despite my initial plans to do so right away.  And it has worked out much better.

I was initially delayed by the fact that our plan to rely exclusively on cell phones for business was hampered by the fact that reception proved to be spotty in my office and non-existent in Jenny's office.  Once we got our ISP phone through lingo.com hooked up, we were already swamped with business.  We couldn't imagine taking in any more cases and did not want to provoke referrals until we could handle the load.  We then set out to hire virtual law clerks and paralegals.  Now that we have two law clerks on board part time, and one part-time paralegal, we are confident we can handle additional litigation any matter that comes through our announcement and coordinated marketing campaign.

The delays have been to our benefit.  We will now coordinate our mailing to about 500 people, with our summer advertisement campaign through Johnny Advertising (yes, rest room ads which I will post about in the near future) and a coordinated press release.  From a  marketing point of view, we want people to see us three or more times over a short period.  Also, our physical offices are in better shape to receive visitors.  And I will be in a much better position to handle the calls, many of which which will be congratulatory, than I was my first two months in business where I spent a lot of time putting out fires. 

My LexThink Outline

LexThink has asked me to comment on the following issue:  "How would you build the perfect professional service firm?"  I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation (please allow for download time) which captures my baseline thoughts on the issue.  I prepared it last night and this morning just before ....

Well, if you read this far, you have likely also read the above post.  You already know I had answered the question of the day before the question had even been presented.

Perhaps the question for LexThink should be one step further back from the one asked.  Maybe the question should be how could anyone build a service centered firm under the current system of  law?  How could anyone solve their client's problems with assholes on the other side of the 'v' obtaining retention contracts, placing barriers to resolution and perpetuating legal matters to line their own pockets with hourly fees?  How can we win this war if we don't attack, fight and risk it all to reclaim a justice system closer to its ideals? 

And even one step further back ... Isn't society right about the law and lawyers in general?  Can we blame citizens for their frustration with lawyers and the legal system?

Our First Fee Split / Our First Disagreement

Well.  The wheels have fallen off the relationship with the old firm (they have been wobbling as of late).  They view quantum meruit as all hours worked by paralegals, associates and partners at the same billing rate.  My view is captured by the following post which I made at the time.  Thus, the ratio of fee split on settlement money is 'in dispute.' 

It appears they pulled  a fast one on my way out the door when they drafted the agreement on split in terms of "lawyer / paralegal hours." They say this means raw hours rather than hours multiplied by billing rate.  Of course, this pays them more than the quantum meruit they would have been entitled to  under law, and drags my fee down towards a paralegal rate.

...  Despite the fact that all discussions and number crunching dealt with quantum meruit ...

...  Despite the fact that no one ever proposed or discussed valuing all hours the same (which would have been ridiculous of course)...

...  Despite the fact that there would be no reason for me to agree to such an absurd formula ...

Be careful who you play with on the playground of capitalism.  You are the company you keep.  Karma can be a major pain in the ass.

… My Wife's Top 5 Questions about LexThink

After being invited to attend, I was immediately struck by the question: “What is the goal of LexThink?”

Dicitonary.com defines “lex” as follows:
lex  n. pl. le·ges : LAW

So I can only surmise that LexThink is probably suppose to make you think…about law.  [I am certain that it the consistent demonstration of analytical skills which has placed me squarely on the invite list to this important conference of legal thinkers, albeit at the very last moment after a few concilations.]

Attendees will come to LexThink  fresh off a 3 day ABA Tech Show, which itself is preceded by the Blogger’s Dinner .  Attendees should each come with our top 5 most important issues in law and practice.  Attendees raise the issues they bring to the floor in an informal Open Space meeting format (self-managed workgroups with no agenda ;-). In the grand spirit of the internet itself and Ayn Rand’s objectivism, problems are identified and solutions proposed in a sort of anarchistic framework where Darwinism rewards the strength of only the best ideas.

With all the ‘thinking about law’ I have done these last 4 hours or so, my brain is abuzz with notions of changing everything about the practice of law.  So it was no wonder that within hours of being invited to LexThink a mere 2 hours after arriving home, I have already bored my wife to tears with all the details of who is coming [“No I have never met them or seen them on TV”].  I have explained in great detail - but without much by way of specifics - why this conference is so very important [“yes love, some of them even make money and work for real firms”].   She patiently listened to many things that have nothing to do with getting the children (7, 5, 3 - all boyz) in pajamas and bed. She privately wondered, I have no doubt, about the wisdom of taking 5 days off from a newly opened law practice to go hang out with a bunch of computer geeks who will never be clients. 

I know LexThink must be an important event because my wife smiled and tried to look interested as I rambled and she even pretended that she thought it was important as well ... and that almost never happens at my house during bed time.

In tribute to my beautiful wife’s patience and for not dousing my obvious excitement in cold water [at least yet. I can hear screaming children upstairs right now], I present to you the reader with …

… My Wife's  Top 5 Questions about LexThink:

  1. So I don't understand, are they lawyers?
  2. You mean you aren’t the only one whose marketing plan is to attack the entire legal system?
  3. What, you’re not coming home from Chicago until Sunday night now?
  4. Doesn’t it scare you that no one can think of an agenda?
  5. So you’re saying law.com will pay you to write stuff?

I will dwell on the questions my wife has posed, although I am confident that the answer is yes to all but the last question on the list.  And as to that question, I will let my wife dream of publishing riches, so that I can safely go to Chicago for 5 days of my own slice of heaven. 

On a serious note, I do hope that the answers to important LexThink issues will advance and change the way law is practiced. I couldn’t stand to think about an entire career trying to represent my clients against parties who are represented on the other side by the traditional hourly billing model.

I come to LexThink with passion in my heart and actions behind my words. I come ready to learn and listen. I sincerely appreciate the invitation.