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January 2005

Temporary Insanity

I just received a very nice message of support from robhyndman.com whose tag line is right on - ~ any technology that is distinguishable from magic is not sufficiently advanced.  His message of support [he apparently has traveled his own path towards solo practice] was great. But then I scrolled down into his content and found a post about an appearance by John Stewart of the Daily Show fame on the October 15 show Cross-Fire. Tds_stewart_01_bigI had never even heard about his appearance where he slams the right and left media for pandering and the political system of selling politics no different than huge corporations sell hair growth products.

Something hit a deep nerve in me when I read the transcript. I swear that John Stewart'sFountain stark honesty on Cross-Fire reminds me of Howard Roark in Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead.'  As you read the transcript, you realize how close he is to Ayn Rand's view of man and our obligation to take more than token non-moral stands on issues. Stewart's demand for more from the media to obtain depth of information about issues and force politicians to speak in something other than sound bites is classic Roark ideology.

John Stewart’s speech and tone during the interview made me wonder where I am really headed. Can I handle all the free speech which this blog and non-solo practice may afford me?  I could explode just pondering the possibilities and potential outcomes from the leap of risk/reward.

It seems that all of my lives and the people I have been and the names I have gone by are coming together right here, right now. I mean, I was such a shit-head associate out of law school, selling my services to the highest bidder, rationalizing my decisions based on some future promise of some future code of practice 'once I was running things.'  The practice of law sickened me so much that I quit my job of private jets and limousines [asbestos class action litigation] dropped off the face of the earth and moved into my car, literally.  I stopped using the word "I" which left me virtually silent for over four years.  I changed my name to run from the life I had led and to offer the best chances of rebirth as the person I really knew I was inside. I read the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying for almost 6 years. Tblb_s_It was the only book I read but for stints of Ayn Rand [interesting contrast I will talk about sometime] and I read it a lot, certain sections thousands of times. I did not practice law  for over 6 years (except for one case in Boston Federal Court on behalf of a gay owned and operated corporation whose trademarks had been grossly violated) and set out to purge my sins of association.

All of my efforts to find ‘my path’ and then stay onit as I traveled down the road of life -- from minimalism to wealth to poverty to drifting to re-entering society and taking a job as a first year associate at a small medium sized town law firm at $50,000 which seemed a fortune compared to the years at the edge of material poverty – have brought me to this spot. My years as a sweat equity founder of an eventually failed intranet company back in 1995 which introduced me to software code, run time errors, group collaboration tools and this new gadget called TCPIP.  My introduction to everything internet. And Typepad, which I screwed around with three months ago only to see if I could improve my search engine rankings on vertical content web sites, and has now become the last piece of an intricate puzzleof 'becoming'.

The internet is entrenched [it took longer than I had hoped]. Free speech rights still exist largely intact. And there are ….blogs. And blogs provide interesting content never before available to man. And now authoritative people are blogging. And scholars are spewing their ideas unto the world, many of which will remain available for others to see, analyze, think about and link to.  No one can stop them, these people with thoughts and ideas. Both the means and the will to make a difference, which by definition includes changing the world around me, are now in place.  All of this has brought me here inside this anonymous blog looking out at you while looking in at me.

Which brings me back to the email from the well wisher whose own blog contained a post about John Stewart telling it like it is. And it makes me wonder, what will I say – I mean really say -- once I have the chance? What difference will I make, once I have no more excuses? And is the world really ready for the speaking me who uses the word “I,", no longer believes that I can live apart from society without opinions or obligations and is free to wreak havoc upon the conventions and norms which so superficially rule this 2005 world?

Did I mention I was a trial lawyer, one of the few professions which can really inflict change on the world against it's will [or at least its norms]? I am now scaring myself.

Thanks again to my new friend http://www.robhyndman.com/ whose single email gave birth to this rambling post inspired by Jon Stewart on the eve of “I quit.” 

It is almost tomorrow and well past my bed time.     I hope tonight I sleep for rancid dreams and fitful sleep have haunted me for days.

Blog-a-thon tag:


Change is In the Air [and the future]

Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog just posted a link to a great article by Law Practice Today which provides a synopisis of a round table discussion about the future of the practice of law.

Looking to the Future: What Changes Do You See Coming in the Next Twenty Years?

The panel agrees that rapid changes are coming to our profession and that law firms and lawyers must step up or be left behind. 

Some of my favorite quotes:

Joe Kashi - We can predict something, however. There will be a substantial premium placed upon lawyers and staff possessing the technical background, skills and willingness to rapidly adjust to changing circumstances and to quickly assimilate new technologies into their office procedures. Law firms that cannot quickly evolve will sink into irrelevance. We need only remember that twenty years ago, many law firms still typed documents on typewriters, databases where in their infancy, there was little or no practical computer assisted legal research, mobile phones were installed only in the cars of Hollywood moguls, and an 8 MHz 80286 PC and cumbersome LaserJet 1 printer were the epitome of law office technology. Now, we use highly integrated legal-specific practice management and accounting programs, pervasive wireless networks, and 3 GHz systems without a second thought.

Shuey: Almost all commodity practice (e.g., uncontested divorces, low damages litigation, basic estate planning, and simple business structure creation) will be provided either by non-lawyer commercial entities and/or by the court system itself.

Werner: My sense is that people who are in private practice will no longer be billing the majority of their work by the hour. I don't believe that market forces will stand for it, nor do I believe that attorneys entering the profession will be willing to devote the same amount of time to work as their more senior counterparts. Junior attorneys want to have a life now, not in the distant future or at retirement. There may have to be tradeoffs for these younger attorneys in terms of remuneration, but I think more will be willing to make that trade off for more discretionary time, flexible schedules, and alternative practice options. Many attorneys forget or are not aware that billing by the hour was not the origin of how attorneys earned fees, and has come to prominence in the last 40 years.

Yes my friends, smart people are not only thinking about these things but prediciting them as well.  You  [we] are not alone!


Countdown to Freedom

The mortgage lady called today.  We are cleared for refinancing subject to title search and appraisal.  Still hoping for  Friday closing and notice to law firm that I am casting off.  I received "SMP" ["See Me Please"] messages from the Big Boss today.  I will definitely not miss stickies from the Big Boss.   I'm just not cut out to explain myself to anybody.  Soon I will answer only to my clients and myself.  I can almost taste the sweetness of simplicity, embrace the purity of selfish motive and roll in the pleasure that is freedom from politics.

I also had lunch with my computer network guru.  I should have options and pricing, as well as a payment plan, for my technology wish list by weeks end.  Of course, I will post them here for the future reference of others who are inspired to practice law on their own terms, in their own space, by their own will.

Here is a link to some rough draft notes I prepared a while ago.   These are the thoughts that have driven me directly and indirectly.  These are the footings for my firm.


Traditional Firms Destined to Die

Dennis Kennedy reports a great link to a great article which covers a range of topic.  My reading suggests an unspoken premise that most  traditional firms will soon perish.   He  links to an article titled The Tech Evolution: Change or Die, By Laura Owen, Law Technology News [January 4, 2005].  Ms. Owen sets forth a wish list for corporate clients and projects the future of legal practice.  Some of my favorite quotes [and there are many]:

Move your legal work to low cost firms located in the Midwest, South or other regions away from high cost centers. Doesn't sound like technology here, but it is. Extranets provide ways for companies to work with firms across the country (and the world ). Web-based worksites are always open, always on. Work flow tools -- putting the right person in the right order at the right time -- can dramatically improve productivity and reduce costs. ...

Bundle work for leverage. A solid request for proposal (RFP) process can achieve incredible results. If you combine your buying power by bundling all of your legal work into one bid, i.e., all real estate work in the U.S., or all legal work in all practice areas for a particular country, legal departments can improve the quality of work they get from outside counsel, and decrease costs.

Coupled with a consortium of legal departments, a combined legal spend that represents a ready-made set of customers can motivate outside law firms to acquire the right technology to get the work done in a more efficient, price-conscious manner. With a volume of similar transactions over which to spread the work, firms can be more aggressive on pricing than if they bet the ranch on one transaction, while improving their profit margins. ...

Move 80 percent of your fees to a non-billable hour basis. Hourly rates hinder progress -- there's no incentive for firms to improve productivity if they make more money by billing more hours. In-house counsel must demand fixed prices for work; firms must learn that a fixed price is not based solely on time.

Fixed prices encourage firms to use more technology to improve productivity while clients save in legal fees. ...

Both links are a must read for anyone considering the future of legal practice for solos and mega firms alike.


News From The Mortgage Lady

Word is that the re-finance paperwork was turned in yesterday with request to close by Friday, no later than Monday.  We’ll see if they come back for more paper.  I negotiated a rate ¼ below prime.  I am closing out my current home equity line and paying off the underlying mortgage with a single line of equity about $70,000 more than the existing mortgage. Sound complicated?   With credit cards, I’ll have about $100k to work with for start-up. Most of that is reserved for start up technology and salaries for me and my secretary.  Since I have 5 contingency fee trials between January and May, including one on the other side of the country, I may not be able to engage in sufficient alternative billing to cover the overhead the first several months.

If all goes well, I’ll give notice on Friday. January 7, 2005.


I Plucked Me A RSS Aggregator

I  have stumbled into an RSS aggregator called http://www.pluck.com/ I have not seen it listed as a top download, but is too late. I played with it yesterday and have pretty good feel. It seems pretty functional. It exports OPML files which is key for a man on the professional move. I don’t have time to screw around with other products or to learn them. I will let you know how it goes.

I have added Pluck to my Technology Wish List which will flush out my technology infrastructure and solicit input. I realize a little more each day that RSS Feeds are critical to non-solo survival. Authoritative. Inspirational. Informational. Networking. I have requested an invitation to the ChicagoLexThink! event. An invitation would be an awesome way to boost my non-solo practice into flight.