Admissions at the top 10 schools:
Hey, that looks totally normal. Now let’s look at the unranked schools:
The charts in between, which Keith Lee has put together in a few posts at Associates Mind (start with the top 50 and don’t miss the unranked schools) are like looking at the stages of grief. Below the top 20, each chart goes a little more downhill, until the unranked schools show a clear path to the toilet.
There are two likely reactions to this:
Featured image: “red 3d graph arrow breaking through the ground” from Shutterstock.
In which the Mississippi Attorney General lets Jenner & Block, representing the Motion Picture Association of America, draft his letter. How do we know? Meta data.
The document’s metadata clearly shows who authored the document (Google redacted the author’s name), the author’s company, and even the template drafting program — Esquire Innovations’ iCreate — the author used to create the document.
(Perhaps Jenner & Block or the AG should invest in Esquire Innovations’ iScrub program, too.)
The holidays are full of family dinners, parties with friends, days away from the office — and the possibility of legal malpractice. There are two main risks: (1) going to holiday parties, and (2) taking time off. Both pose risks to the unwary, but with a little thinking ahead you can avoid any problems.Dodge Casual Legal Questions
There are several ethical risks associated with casual legal questions, whether they’re asked over dinner or at a party. The biggest concern, of course, is that you will get the answer wrong. Whether from a lack of the necessary facts, a misunderstanding of the law, or the amount of eggnog you’ve had, it doesn’t matter. There is still a risk that the person asking the question will rely on your answer to their detriment.
A less likely but equally avoidable risk is that someone will leave a conversation thinking they have a lawyer. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the lawyer does not share that belief after a casual conversation over turducken.
The easy way to avoid these problems is to be clear and polite. You aren’t your sister’s or your cousin’s or your friend’s lawyer. Just don’t give out legal advice over dinner. It would be to everyone’s detriment if you offer advice blindly or casually, without getting all the facts and a signed retainer agreement. And you would you like some more sweet-potato pie please.Prepare for Time out of the Office
If you have a secretary or virtual receptionist, this won’t be a big issue. But even if you have someone answering the phones, you need to set client expectations for your availability. Comment 4 to Rule 1.4 specifically says that “[a] lawyer should promptly respond to or acknowledge client communications.”Set an Email Auto-Responder
The auto-responder is a handy tool, and every email provider and app has one. Just turn it on when you leave the office for the holiday and you’ll be all set. Randall has discussed the do’s and dont’s of auto-responders before. But to summarize, keep it brief and to the point. Let people know if there is a number to call for emergencies, and let them know when you will be back in the office.Change Your Voicemail Message
I have clients that call a lot. They call on weekends, at night, in the early morning, and on holidays. I try to set the expectation with these clients that I will get back to them as soon as I can, but usually within a couple of business days. Changing your voicemail greeting ensures that all of your clients are on notice about your absence. Like the auto-responder, make sure to let people know when you are coming back.Don’t Miss Deadlines
If you have deadlines in the coming weeks, make sure to look up court holidays and double-check the dates. Some courts close early the day before holidays. Worse, I’ve experienced courts closing early unannounced. If you are planning to file something at the last minute (and isn’t that so often the case?) make sure the courthouse will be open. Also make sure the last minute is when you think it is. There is no sense rushing around like a crazy person to get a brief in by Friday if it isn’t due until Monday because of a holiday.
Christmas and New Year’s fall during the week this year, which means a lot of court closures. It never hurts to double check on these things before heading out of town to enjoy some family drama time.Updates
Featured image: “Multi Generation Family Celebrating With Christmas Meal” from Shutterstock.
Lawyers talk a lot about client service, but few do anything about it. Follow along as Lee Rosen tries to hire a lawyer himself:
Lawyer 1 … He explains that he doesn’t do what I need. He thinks I need someone else. He thanks me for thinking of him.
Does he refer me to one of the other lawyers in the firm (there are more than 100)? Nope. Does he refer me to one of his connections outside of the firm? Nope. He thanks me for checking with him and says goodbye.
It gets worse. The second lawyer stops responding to Lee’s emails even though he said he can help, and Lee obviously can pay and is ready to write a check. What.
Featured image: “Closeup portrait, young befuddled, bewildered computer geek” from Shutterstock.
From BuzzFeed News:
Over 100 Legal Aid Lawyers in NYC staged a walkout and die-in outside Brooklyn Criminal Court to protest what they say is a broken criminal justice system.
There are many different kinds of client testimonials, and many different ways to include them in your web presence. Most lawyers don’t use client testimonials at all. Some just try to accumulate likes on Facebook, and others generate dozens of testimonials on their website or on review sites like Yelp.
Testimonials may seem like a trivial part of your overall web presence compared to content, blog posts, and social media accounts. But testimonials are powerful not only for marketing your practice to prospective clients, but also for search engine visibility.Testimonials and Marketing
Testimonials are forms of validation from former clients that tell prospective clients to hire your firm. They build trust. Any law firm’s website can say “we care about our clients,” but not every attorney website can say, from a client’s perspective, “I really felt like this firm cared about me. They answered all of my calls and helped me resolve my case.”
Testimonials help ease prospective clients’ hesitations about reaching out to you. If someone finds your firm online, they will have no idea why they would hire you over the next lawyer in the search results. A testimonial validates your abilities and makes the proposition of hiring your firm seem less risky. It’s why people look up Yelp reviews before going to a restaurant — to make sure the food will be good. Getting feedback from other customers assures us we are making the right decision. Testimonials provide the same assurance to people looking for lawyers.
A Hubspot customer survey reported that 52% of consumers surveyed find that positive customer reviews make them more likely to use a local business. This is compared to just 28% that make their choice based on other factors like location and price. Moreover, 76% of consumers use online reviews to determine which local businesses to use.
43% of clients use online reviews to research lawyers. That’s a big-enough number that you should consider how to include testimonials in your firm’s web presence.
Even if all your clients come from referrals, some of your potential clients are still looking you up online. 8% of the people who search for a lawyer online do it to validate a tentative choice, and 9% it evaluate their existing attorney.Testimonials and SEO
Google’s algorithm of the billion or so website ranking factors (which ultimately determine whether your website is the first or five millionth result for a particular search term) weighs testimonials on third-party websites like Google My Business and Yelp. More positive testimonials and reviews can boost your website’s search visibility.
In particular, reviews are given weight when it comes to local search. The search ranking factors include:
As an exercise, search for “[state] [practice area] law firm” in Google. It is likely you are going to see a list of law firms on a map. Some of the firms in the list may have starred reviews under their names. Potential clients are more likely to click on a firm with seven five-star reviews over a firm with zero reviews.
Though Google has yet to officially say that it promotes its homegrown platform over others, search engine marketers have noticed more visibility from My Business reviews than from any other review site.Ethics Issues in Testimonials
Each jurisdiction varies in its rules regarding testimonials. In some, you must provide required disclosures. New York, for example, requires a disclaimer stating: “Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome” on the firm’s website. This disclaimer can be on a separate page or in the footer. Not every jurisdiction requires such a disclaimer, and some require precise wording. Definitely consult your state’s ethics rules before publishing testimonials.
Another ethical consideration is when you can get client testimonials. Some jurisdictions may require that, if you get a testimonial from a client when their matter is still pending, you must get the client’s informed consent in writing. In any case, you should get client testimonials once you conclude working on their matter.
It should go without saying, but do not create fake reviews. This is called astroturfing, and it is not only unethical, it is illegal in many jurisdictions. Additionally, do not hire a marketing firm that will “get” you reviews. You are ultimately responsible for anything that company does on your behalf.
You can ethically get former clients to write positive reviews about your practice.Getting Testimonials
Attorneys have different styles when it comes to getting client testimonials. There are attorneys who, at the conclusion of a matter with a client, bring the client a laptop and ask them to write a testimonial immediately for Yelp, Google My Business, and the firm’s website. If that’s not your style, try sending an email after the matter concludes and ask for testimonials with links to the firm’s Yelp and Google My Business pages. While the aggressive testimonial-gathering approach is likely to get more results, it’s not necessarily the approach you want to take.
You should only ask people who you think will provide you with a good testimonial. The last thing you want to do is ask a disgruntled client for a review only to discover it later on Ripoff Report or another complaint-board website. Getting rid of negative reviews is a nightmare for any business (there is a whole industry around it, charging upwards of $10,000 to remove a negative review). Therefore, be overly cautious, and only ask for reviews from people you think will be able to give positive testimonials.How to Ask for Testimonials
A great way to get a testimonial is by sending the client a survey. You may want to use Survey Money or Google Forms. Use a few questions that give the client an opportunity to provide you with feedback.
If you are going to ask for a testimonial once the matter is resolved, I found a tip on asking for a testimonial from a photographer’s blog and find it can be effective for lawyers too. Here’s a good way to ask for a testimonial via email.
I was wondering: I know it helps potential clients feel comfortable hiring our firm when they see that others have had positive experiences working with us. Would you mind answering two quick questions for me? It’ll take about two minutes.
Breaking it down:
The intro paragraph is very straightforward in your motives. If the recipient liked your services, of course they would want others to hire you. The request is polite, and if the client was happy, they should be more than willing to oblige and help you out.
The first question allows you to tailor your marketing in the future to prospective clients to mitigate their fears and remove any hesitations they might have about reaching out to you. If you know what hesitations people have about hiring your firm, you can address those fears head-on by revising the copy on your website or social media profiles. The second question gets you a human-sounding testimonial. Asking for a testimonial outright will get you this response: “[Name] was very professional and served our needs.” This second question is open-ended and will get you a specific example of how you helped the client.
Once the client has submitted a response, ask for permission to use it on your website. Next, you can ask them to leave you feedback on one or two directory / social media sites.Where You Should Get Testimonials
Here’s a list of places for you to get testimonials:Lawyer Review Websites
As for where your effort should go, local search directories (in particular Google My Business) offer the most bang for your buck. You not only get the benefit of having very visible reviews of your law firm, but you also can get greater search engine visibility for your law firm.
Featured image: “businessman pressing client testimonials button on virtual screens” from Shutterstock.
Each episode of the Lawyerist Podcast will be about 30–45 minutes — perfect for listening to during your commute or workout. Each will feature a guest interview and a question from the Lawyerist community. For the first episode, Sam talks to criminal defense lawyer and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz about his book, Letters to a Young Lawyer and got his updated advice for young lawyers entering law practice in the current legal market. They also discussed Dershowitz’s unusual take on work-life balance and his thoughts about finding good lawyers online.
After the interview, Sam and Aaron consider whether lawyers should offer clients a 100% satisfaction guarantee. To ask a question for us to answer in future episodes of the Lawyerist Podcast, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the hashtag #AskLawyerist on Twitter.
To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes. (For Android users, Stitcher is coming soon.) Or you can find out about new episodes by subscribing to the Lawyerist Insider, our email newsletter. We will announce new episodes in the Insider, and you can listen to them right here on Lawyerist.
Tune in to the Lawyerist Podcast when it launches in January!
Even though you do not have an employer-sponsored retirement plan as a solo practitioner or shareholder in your small firm, you still have retirement options. Being a sole practitioner or small-firm shareholder gives you the ability to choose the kind of retirement plan that is right for you and your business.
There are three main options:### Index
Keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all” solution. Each plan has advantages and disadvantages, which are outlined below. Before you make any actual decisions about which plan is right for you, I highly recommend you get advice from an accountant, investment adviser, or certified financial planner. This post is intended to give you an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of each available option.SIMPLE IRA
SIMPLE stands for Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees. This type of plan is designed to give small employers and their employees a simple method for making retirement contributions. Each participant’s contributions go into their own IRA(s) set up in the plan. This plan can be set up by employers, sole proprietorships, and partnerships.Advantages
SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension plan. It is funded entirely by employer contributions as a percentage of compensation. This type of plan is available for any size business. In this type of plan, only the employer makes contributions to the plan. The contributions for each employee go into their own IRA(s) set up in the plan.Advantages
Individual 401k plans work pretty much the same way as larger company 401k plans, but with some advantages for the business owner with no employees. This type of plan is only for sole proprietors or partnerships with no employees. This type of plan can be set us as a traditional 401k2 or as a Roth 401k3.Advantages
Schwab, Vanguard, Fidelity, and ETrade all have guides to setting up small business retirement accounts. If you already have an account with a brokerage firm that offers small business retirement services, I would strongly suggest sitting down with an adviser and going through everything with them. They will be eager to help you out if you are looking to establish a plan with them.
Again, there is no “one size fits all” solution, and you should take into account the tax implications of any decision. Talk with a professional before deciding on anything. Find out what fees your brokerage firm charges in administering each plan. If you have experience with any of these plans, please share your thoughts in the comments.
Featured image: “Retirement Plan” from Shutterstock.
“Eligible” is defined by the IRS as someone who is at least 21 years of age, was employed by you for 3 of the immediately preceding 5 years, and received compensation from you of at least $550. ↩
Contributions are pre-tax and taxed when distributed later. ↩
Contributions are post-tax and not taxed on distribution. ↩
Adam Reposa is kind of insane.1 However, he definitely knows how to make a point.
The above video (starting at 4:00) shows Reposa’s conversation with the Texas Advertising Review Committee about his request to use DWI-KING as his phone number. To back up his claim to be the DUI king, he provided numbers (“objective verifiable data” as required by Texas Rule 7.02 (a)(4)) showing he is the most successful DUI lawyer in Travis County, Texas. The Texas Advertising Review Committee turned him down, advising him to go to Super Lawyers or Best Lawyers in America and see if they would grant him that title. (Although that would seem to be be subjective.)
In fairness, the Texas bar regulators are probably weary of dealing with Reposa. But this representative doesn’t do a very good job of justifying the committee’s decision. A better justification might be that winning percentage ≠ king, but Reposa ultimately solved the problem his own way, by changing his name to Adam King Blackwell Reposa.
In October, Sam wrote:
Lawyers have a pretty singular value proposition. We take care of legal problems for our clients. When you sign a retainer agreement, our client’s problem basically becomes our problem.
The cost of hiring a lawyer is so expensive for many reasons, according to Sam, but one of the most important is the significant commitment lawyers make to each client. That’s something no app or website can offer.2. “Best Law Firm Websites, 2014 Edition”
Our annual law-firm website contest is always popular, and so it was again in 2014.
(If you’re wondering how to enter a website in 2015, just keep an eye out for our announcement in January. Here is more information on the contest.)3. “9 Epic Responses To Legal Threats”
Some people take ridiculous legal threats as an opportunity to have a little fun, and sometimes the results are epic. From a Supreme Court litigator’s response to a porn star who was pushed off a roof to Groucho Marx to the most perfect response ever, from the Cleveland Browns (According to Sam. —Ed.), these legal comebacks are the best we could find.4. “Fashionable, Professional Bags for Women Lawyers”
Jeena Cho’s advice is to pick functional bags that still feel good to carry, and she makes recommendations for every price range, from under $100 to over $1,000. She also includes recommendations for rolling bags and bags for use outside the courtroom.5. “Every Legal App for iPhone and iPad”
A searchable, sortable list of every legal app in the App Store. There are over 60, which shows there is a lot you can do in law practice with an iPhone and iPad, if you are so inclined.6. “This Simple Email Habit Will Make You More Productive”
One easy-to-follow rule that will make you more productive with email. By the time you read this fairly-short post, you’ll be able to apply the rule, clean up your inbox, and get more done.7. “Law Firm Finances: Everything You Need to Get Started”
Randall’s getting-started guide to law firm finances was originally broken up in several posts. This year, we consolidated it into a single post (also available on Kindle), and it continues to be popular for its solid pointers on cash flow, credit, paying taxes, managing income, forecasting, and using financial reports.8. “Dropbox for Lawyers and Law Firms: the User Guide”
Using Dropbox is still controversial, and for valid reasons, but it is also the most popular cloud-storage option among lawyers. This user guide has everything you need to know about Dropbox.9. “MITs: A Simple Way to Be More Productive”
Writing down your Most Important Tasks is a simple daily practice that makes you more productive. This post is a short explanation of the MITs practice and how to do it. Read it, try it, and you’ll be more productive!10. “The Best Computer Monitor Setup for Lawyers”
Lawyers should not neglect the monitor when it comes to computer setup. From pixel density to size to number of monitors, here is how to figure out the best monitor setup for you.
Featured image: “Summer lady” from Shutterstock.
Today you can get Ernie Svenson’s new eBook, PDF Essentials for Lawyers, for just $4.97 (a launch discount; it will be go up to $9.97 in a week). If you don’t have a copy of Adobe Acrobat and rely on the free Adobe Reader for your PDF needs, you should definitely get PDF Essentials for Lawyers. I was pretty amazed to see what you can do with Reader.
If you do have Adobe Acrobat, PDF Essentials for Lawyers will still be useful, but you should consider getting Ernie’s more thorough guide, Acrobat in One Hour for Lawyers.
From “Four Charts That Explain Why America Has Too Many Law Schools” on Bloomberg Businessweek.
A scanner is no longer optional equipment for lawyers. Even if you have not gone paperless, courts, clients, and other lawyers will expect you to be able to scan things and distribute PDF files. You need a scanner in your office, at least, and probably on your own desk.
And not just any scanner. All-in-one systems are clumsy and inefficient, and flatbed scanners are too cumbersome for scanning multi-page documents. In a law office, you need a dedicated document scanner. Depending on how you practice, you may also want a portable scanner, or one that can scan 3-D objects like books or small physical exhibits.
Here are the ones you should consider.Best Overall: Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
If you are only going to own one scanner, it should be this one. The ScanSnap iX500 is compact, fast, ridiculously easy to use, and good-looking. Plus, it works over wi-fi and scans to your smartphone or tablet. It comes with a copy of Adobe Acrobat (for Windows), and … well, I just can’t say enough good things about it.
I’ve owned three ScanSnaps, the S500, S1500, and iX500, and I have been thrilled with all of them. You can’t go wrong with a ScanSnap iX500, with just one narrow exception …
Not satisfied with getting a favorable review of his new novel, Supreme Ambitions, in the New York Times, David Lat posted a self-interview to Above the Law the other day. Lisa Needham (of Lawyerist and Bitter Lawyer fame) and I decided the “interview” was just crying out for a dramatic reading, so we put on our silly voices and did one.
SDNY Judge Kevin Duffy to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stanley Okula at a hearing on December 5th:I have caught you in a flat out lie. … I would prefer henceforth that you advise your superiors that you are not to come to this court alone; you are to come with supervision. If you don’t mind lying, then the whole office is going to pay for it.
Reported by Sidney Powell for the New York Observer.
(h/t Scott Greenfield)
Twitter has a perfect memory. It remembers everything you tweet, no matter how much thought you put into it at the time. If you prefer your social networks a bit more ephemeral, check out TweetDelete. TweetDelete is a free service that can automatically delete tweets from one week to one year old.
You can even start from scratch by having TweetDelete delete all your existing tweets.
The effect is to give your Twitter account a reliably bad memory. All you have to do is visit TweetDelete and authorize it to access your Twitter account.Deleted Tweets Aren’t Erased from the Internet
It should go without saying, but deleting your old tweets definitely does not mean they no longer exist. Besides screenshots of tweets and tweets embedded in public websites, plenty of services (not to mention government agencies) scrape Twitter on a regular basis.
Deleting your old tweets just means they will no longer be found on Twitter. Mostly.Back Up Your Tweets
If you’d like to keep copies of your tweets for your own use (edit: or to head off spoliation accusations), here is an IFTTT recipe I created for backing up your tweets, @replies, and RTs to a spreadsheet in your Google Drive:
Lawyers often view completing timesheets as a necessary evil. But it turns out that our timesheets may provide us with a roadmap to being happier lawyers. Timesheets are even similar to exercises that psychologists and other experts use to increase happiness.Why Timekeeping Makes Us Miserable
Timesheets highlight the divide between us and our clients: what’s good for our business is not always good for our clients. It forces us to think about extrinsic motivators — like money and praise — instead of the quality of our work. And, let’s face it, writing down everything we have done in six minute increments is boring and tedious.
Billing can be particularly painful if you are doing work you do not enjoy. Recording your time forces you to reflect on how long you spent doing something you would rather avoid, perhaps causing you to re-live the unpleasant experience.How Timekeeping Can Bring You Joy
The science of happiness suggests that timekeeping does not have to be so dreadful. Under the right circumstances, it can even make us happier. Research shows that people who write down three things that made them happy each day experience a lasting bump in happiness. In one study of almost 500 people, psychologists designed five different happiness exercises to find out which, if any, resulted in greater happiness. The researchers followed up one week, three months, and six months after the exercises to find out if any of the interventions produced lasting increases in happiness. Only two of the practices seemed to help people feel happier after six months. One was to use a signature strength in a new way. The other was to write down three things that made people happy each day, an exercise I’ll call the “Three Happy Things Practice.”
Changing your mindset can transform doing timesheets into the Three Happy Things practice — as long as you enjoy your work. Like the Three Happy Things exercise, timekeeping forces you to think about how you are spending our time. You consciously write down in painstaking detail everything you did on a given day. If you are doing work you love, completing a timesheet is practically the same as the Three Happy Things exercise. You describe exactly what you did, dwell on how much fun it was, how you served a client, and exercised your strengths.Be Patient for the Rewards
If you are not one of the lucky lawyers billing for work you love, timekeeping still may bring you more happiness over the long haul. Even if the timesheet you are working on today is frustrating, maybe it can give you insight into what kind of work would be a better fit.
That’s because timekeeping is a lot like another tool that experts use to help people find happiness at work. Barrett Avigdor, a lawyer and author of What Happy Working Mothers Know, is an expert on helping people be happy in their careers. Drawing on the work of Marcus Buckingham, a management expert and leading authority on guiding people toward their niches, she suggests recording in real-time your reactions to the tasks you do.
As you work, note whether a task makes you want to tear your hair out, whether it makes you smile, or whether it leaves you feeling neutral. This is helpful because we tend to forget how we feel about our tasks, and writing down our contemporaneous reactions makes us pay attention to what is working for us and what is not.
Next time you do your time, pay attention to how you feel. Does it matter which kind of work you’re billing for? Perhaps you’ll notice you don’t mind billing for certain kinds of work, but you dread billing for other kinds of work. Timekeeping might provide a clue or two about your ideal practice area.
When you are ranting about your timesheets, consider whether you can use your bills to make yourself happier. Let yourself relish the time entries for the work you love, and notice which kind of work is making you frown. Perhaps timekeeping really can bring your more happiness.
Featured image: “Hand with stopwatch, paper documents stacked in archive” from Shutterstock.
By now you’ve probably heard about lawyer and Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman, who threatened to sue a Chinese restaurant because the prices on its website didn’t match his bill. It’s not the $4 (or $12 — he wants treble damages), it’s the principle of the thing, of course. (Despite his apology, it wasn’t out of character. He’s done it before.)
Edelman was obviously being a bully and a douchebag, but how many times have you heard a lawyer threaten someone with their law degree? “I’m a lawyer, and [reasons], so I will sue you if you don’t give me what I want.”1 I hear it all the time, and rarely related to anything more consequential than Edelman’s $4. Heck, when I was younger and stupider, I did it myself. It never worked. I just made myself look like a bully and a douchebag.
Similarly, how many people have asked you to send a threatening letter on their behalf? If they have no intention of following through, or if there’s no real justification for your threats (real or implied), it’s just bullying and douchebaggery. Lawyers do this all the time. Even though empty or baseless threats are never productive and often counterproductive, many lawyers are happy to charge their clients to make those threats.
Guess what that makes those lawyers?
There is also the non-lawyer equivalent: “Don’t you know who I am?” And the Web 2.0 equivalent: “If you don’t give me what I want, I will leave a negative review on Yelp!” ↩
It’s time for a frank conversation about how implicit bias, overt racism, and white privilege impact the criminal justice system. It’s time to take a hard look at what’s happening in our country, on our streets, and in our courts. It’s time to use our role in the justice system to make a difference.
Long past time. The webinar is at 1pm Eastern on December 19th, 2014. To sign up, go here.
(h/t Dick Barbuto)
Let’s start with one immutable truth: it is always better to work out outside or in a gym rather than in an office. Always. But there are times when a gym isn’t an option: you might not have time today before or after work; you might only have forty minutes between meetings; you might not be close to a gym; it might be freezing cold outside; you might be Robert de Niro in Cape Fear. Excuses abound.
So let’s say it is essentially impossible for you to get today’s workout in unless you start one up in your workspace right now. In that case, here are some exercises that you can do with or without equipment that will help tide you over.