From Lawyers, Guns & Money, two charts that are pretty sobering for around 40% of the lawyers in America (and half the lawyers in private practice in America):Inflation-Adjusted Earnings of SolosSolo Earnings Compared to Average American SalariesSolos v. Partners
This one is an unsourced chart I found on Reddit:
Meanwhile, let’s not forget that law school just keeps getting more expensive. It’s tempting to attribute the drops in these charts to the flood of new lawyers, but according to Paul Campos in the comments on LG&M, that’s not the case:
Another thing that’s striking about these income numbers is that they include almost no new graduates. Over the past five years less than 1,000 graduates per year have listed themselves as solos nine months after graduation, so new and recent graduates make up a trivial percentage of the 350,000 or so lawyers who are running solo practices. In other words, these income numbers are for experienced lawyers.
What do you make of these charts? Would you still advise someone to go solo?
3 Charts That Show Solo Practice Doesn’t Pay Like it Used To was originally published on Lawyerist.
In today’s show, ABA Law Practice Division chair Bob Young talks about being a plaintiff’s lawyer in a defense firm, and explains what the ABA LPD is doing to help lawyers with marketing, management, finances, and technology.
But first, is solo practice a terrible economic proposition for most people?Is Solo Practice a Terrible Economic Proposition?
That’s certainly what these three charts suggest. So maybe we shouldn’t be encouraging everyone to start solo practices? Aaron and Sam try to find some positives in the charts.Bob Young on Being a Plaintiff’s Lawyer in a Defense Firm
Bob Young is the chair of the ABA Law Practice Division, and he’s also a “plaintiff’s lawyer at a defense firm,” ELPO. In today’s podcast, he talks about how he generates business by developing relationships on Facebook, and the challenges of growing a firm from 11 to 26 lawyers. He also explains what the ABA Law Practice Division is, and gives an overview of the work it’s doing.
To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button.
To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or any other podcast player. Or 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.
Podcast #23: Bob Young on Being a Plaintiff’s Lawyer in a Defense Firm was originally published on Lawyerist.
Law is rarely considered a creative profession. Most of us think of creatives as being poets and artists, not rule-following lawyers. But creativity simply means you have the ability to think of new ideas, and that is something a good lawyer does every day. Whether you are interpreting a case in a novel way, trying to grow the pie in a negotiation, or reframing a bad fact, you need to hone your creativity. The good news is even if you do not consider yourself creative, there are ways you can cultivate creativity.Start by Turning Off Your Inner Critic
To increase the flow of new ideas, you will need to abandon some of your legal training, at least temporarily. Lawyers are taught to be critical and judgmental, but you need to abandon your judging mind when trying to be creative. Instead, you must welcome freewheeling, spontaneous thought. Dr. Betty S. Flowers, the former Director of Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Dallas, developed a paradigm for good writing in which the first step is to let the “madman” run wild. Bryan Garner, notable legal writing teacher, recommends relying on your inner madman in legal writing, too. In order to write persuasively, you must be creative, which requires letting the madman be in charge for a time.
The concept is that the madman generates ideas, however crazy they may be. To find the good ideas, the madman needs freedom to play with whatever comes to mind — good ideas, bad ideas, mediocre ideas. So let the ideas flow, jot them all down, and do not worry about whether they will ultimately be useful.
To let the madman out, you can designate specific times. For example, when devising headings for a brief, you might draft five versions of the same heading, not being concerned with perfection. But do not be surprised if your madman does not respect the appointment you set with him. He may tap you on the shoulder just as you are leaving the office or when you are walking your dog (more on why below). To capture all the possibilities, consider keeping a notebook or a recording device handy. The key to the madman phase is to leave your critical inhibitions aside. You can tap into your lawyerly critic later.Give Your Brain a Real Break
Our brains have two dominant modes of attention:
The task positive network is in charge when you are actively focusing on a task, while the task negative network is in charge when you are daydreaming. Your greatest creative moments will often originate when your brain is in daydreaming mode. That’s because new connections are formed when you let your mind wander. For optimal creativity, you need to vacillate between focused-attention mode and mind-wandering mode. Take walks, listen to music, sleep on it, or exercise. All of those daydreaming activities will help you devise better ideas.Practice Creativity Often
Like any skill, generating creative ideas takes practice. Yet most adults are a bit rusty, largely because we have highly developed inner critics. Not to worry, there are plenty of exercises that can help you flex your creative muscles. If you begin exercising creativity regularly, you are very likely to find that new and better ideas seep into your law practice. Here are some exercises to try.
As you practice, push yourself. The people at Upworthy, the website that reframes news stories to help them go viral, writes twenty-five headlines for each piece of content. The idea is that if you have to draft twenty-five different headlines, you are going to dig deep and come up with something creative and excellent. It is easy to think you have struck gold with your first decent idea, but force yourself to continue. Do not stop when you have one or two respectable ideas.
Pushing yourself to come up with more can help in law, too. Develop twenty-five or more taglines or pitches could be what sets you apart from your competition. Draft multiple headings for briefs or motions. Busy judges and clerks are known to pay special attention to tables of contents, so pushing the creative limits with your headings may be worth the effort. So, too, with introductions or opening statements. You have only a few sentences to capture your audiences, developing a few different sentences can force you to push your creative limits.
The best lawyers are creative. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a brief that determining the “best” available technology for controlling air pollution is like asking people to pick the “best” car: “Mario Andretti may select a Ferrari; a college student a Volkswagen beetle; a family of six a mini-van. The choices would turn on how the decisionmaker weighed competing priorities such as cost, mileage, safety, cargo space, speed, handling, and so on.”
You will not come up with a brief like that without regularly exercising your creative muscles.
Featured image: “Creative writing, light bulb and many pencils on the table” from Shutterstock.
Here’s the decision on CaseText. Twitter is the place to be if you want the firehose of reactions as everyone reads the 103-page decision as fast as they can.
Or just head for the nearest downtown this weekend for what will surely be the most joyful Pride ever.
In the past, we have covered some alternatives to Microsoft Word, including Google Docs. For quite some time now, Google Docs has done a lot of things exactly right. Easy collaboration, compatibility with a wide variety of formats, cloud-based, free. However, Docs has also lacked some things that are often necessary for a law practice, like track changes and mail merge. Aiming to increase Docs’ utility and attractiveness, Google recently introduced add-ons for Docs, which lets third-party developers create tools that extend Docs’ functionality.
As with most things Google, getting the add-ons is dead simple. In order to get to the add-on store, you simply call up a Google Doc and go to Add-ons – Get Add-ons in the menu. Once you do, you’ll have access to the whole store. There are many things you likely do not want or need, like the Rhyme Finder (or maybe you do!), but here are several that may make using Docs as your only word processor a bit more viable.
A brief note: almost all of these third-party services will require you to either sign up for that third party or use your Google ID as your login credentials. Forewarned, forearmed, and all that.
Many lawyers need to be in two places at once. Lawyers get over-booked, and handle multiple cases in multiple jurisdictions that require frequent court appearances. It can even happen in the same courthouse: I have had multiple cases at a time be called in front of different judges, and have missed the calling of my case by one judge because I was appearing in front of another across the hall. Typically judges understand the need to be in two places at once. Many, if not most, of these hearings are simply opportunities for the lawyers to ask the judge for another hearing, and to get more time to work on the case. The wheels of justice turn slowly.
A new app called StandIn promises to fix this problem from the comfort of your smartphone. If you’re over-booked and need to be in two places at once, you can hire a stand-in lawyer via the app, pay them whatever fee they are asking for this service, and then post a mandatory review of the stand-in’s services. StandIn takes a $7.50 “transaction fee” out of every transaction.
My verdict on StandIn is still out. It seems like it is a solution in search of a problem. Usually, when I know I have a scheduling conflict, I can solve that problem with a telephone call or email to another attorney to cover for me. When I have missed a judge calling my case because I am across the hall in another courtroom, I can just ask the judge to recall it or wait until the end of the docket. Maybe the best option is to plan ahead.
Featured image: “close up of human hand touching smartphone display” from Shutterstock.
Can’t Make it to Court on Time? There’s an App for That. was originally published on Lawyerist.
Lawyers in all areas of practice need to get out and become known. Whether you are a solo or small firm lawyer, it is unrealistic to hide in your office and expect to toil away on billable work. Rather than paying for advertising, you should take advantage of the abundance of leadership opportunities available in your community. By volunteering your time in organizations with leadership positions, you increase your visibility and also gain valuable skills that will help your practice grow.Volunteering
Most leadership opportunities are going to be volunteer; that does not mean they are a waste of time. You give your time away, but you learn skills you will never learn in a class and gain recognition that could not come from a paid advertisement.Leadership Opportunities
There is always a need for lawyers to stand up and volunteer their time in the community. This translates into countless opportunities for the willing lawyer. You can be a valuable asset to an organization even if you don’t have a ton of practice experience. New graduates and experienced attorneys each bring valuable perspectives to volunteer leadership positions.
An easy way to volunteer is with your local and state bar associations, which are often seeking members for committees. Associations often have sections for substantive practice areas, and they may also have sections for other aspects of practice such as law practice management, technology in law, or solo practice. Associations and sections are governed by committees, and those roles have to be filled. You may soon find yourself the chair of a sub-committee in an association section that focuses on your specialty.
Non-profit groups also need volunteer board members. Look around your city or town for organizations looking to fill board vacancies. Find an organization with work that fuels your passion and see if it could use a lawyer on its board.How to Get Involved
Volunteering is far easier and less intimidating than you may think.
To get involved, just contact the association, section, or non-profit that interests you and find out how to volunteer. Even if it is not time to be appointed to a formal position, you can show your interest by volunteering. Helping set up an event or lending your talents for other tasks can help you get a formal position later.Developing Yourself to Develop Your Business
You give away your time to serve in these leadership roles, but you gain experience that is incredibly valuable. The roles you take on are otherwise lacking in your practice.
In a big firm, it can be difficult to get out in front of people and practice speaking in public. A role on a section committee will force you to speak in front of the rest of the group and can lead to giving CLE presentations to larger audiences.
As a solo, you may have no one to manage; on a board or committee, you will find yourself organizing the efforts of others, scheduling meetings, follow-ups, and managing projects for the group. They may be small at first, but eventually you can move up into more robust management roles.
The biggest benefit from a business development standpoint is that you will acquire and hone skills that will make you a more marketable commodity. Perhaps no one will hire you because you were the chair of the education subcommittee of your local bar association, but they will hire you because you speak with confidence. You may not meet your next client at a fundraiser or bar committee mixer, but you are likely to meet a referral source there — especially if you were on the committee that put on the mixer.Giving Back
If you are missing a sense of personal satisfaction in your practice, volunteer leadership positions are one way to fill that void. In a different way than pro bono work, you give back to the legal community through education (organizing and teaching seminars), outreach (bringing legal services or knowledge to underserved communities) and networking (bringing people together for events). If you are a solo lawyer and your volunteer work brings you in touch with other solos, you can also help get those lawyers out from behind their lonely desks.
Featured image: “Businessman Brainstorming About Leadership” from Shutterstock.
If you will put these suggestions to use, if you will cross-examine in accordance with these suggestions, I can virtually guarantee — not that you will be a brilliant cross-examiner, but that you won’t be ashamed of yourself, you won’t be a buffoon in that courtroom.
Whenever you do not comply with them, you will regret it. Instantly.
Irving Younger’s 10 Commandments Of Cross Examination was originally published on Lawyerist.
A few months ago, we wrote about Casetext, a nifty little platform that seeks to essentially democratize/wiki-fy/open source the law, allowing users to annotate cases and share comments. Casetext recently expanded on that open source idea and launched LegalPad, which is WAY cooler. LegalPad is basically the legal equivalent to Medium. However,where Medium is a publishing platform for everyone about everything, LegalPad is a publishing platform for law-related material only.
If you are not already familiar with using blogging platforms like WordPress and/or you just do not want to set up your own blog, LegalPad provides a relatively robust place for your legal writing. It comes with the usual blogging tools: the ability to use create headers, use basic HTML commands, create hotlinks to other websites, and embed documents and photos. However, where LegalPad excels is in its ability to integrate cases and other legal documents. You can bookmark cases already found in Casetext and import them into your post. While in the middle of a post draft, you can consult cases without hopping out. You can highlight quotes from a case and cut and paste them into your post and they will come complete with pincites – just like Westlaw.
When lawyers take advantage of those features, you find posts like this, which offer legal analysis and a wealth of links to past decisions. However, LegalPad can also be used to simply provide a teaser paragraph and link to your own blog (or someone else’s) for the remainder of the post, but frankly that sort of defeats the purpose of such a platform – and, unfortunately, that is much of the content that is currently there.
LegalPad will succeed or fail based on how lawyers leverage the platform. Using LegalPad as a space for vigorous and substantive discussions of the law, grounded in using Casetext’s law library, could create an entirely new space for legal scholarship and dialogue. Making it a glorified collection of links to other material will just be Feedly on steroids.
Featured image: “little cube with paragraph symbol on a keyboard” from Shutterstock.
It seems like nearly every day there’s a steady drip drip drip of lawyer-related stories telling us how terrible we are. Yesterday, we learned that we basically suck at having emotions or understanding that other people have emotions, a failing that can lead to increased malpractice claims, so that’s fun. Today, we find out that we are also really good at being psychopaths.
[R]esearch found lawyers landed second only to CEOs in the number of psychopaths in their ranks, and it certainly makes sense that some lawyers (say, litigators) would benefit from the ability to turn on the charm and lie without conscience.
Dutton also interviewed a successful psychopathic lawyer who, chillingly, said, “Deep inside me there’s a serial killer lurking somewhere. But I keep him amused with cocaine, Formula One, booty calls, and coruscating cross-examination.”
Don’t we all?
It seems unfair, if we are going to be amoral monsters, that we can’t knock CEOs out of that top spot. Given that nice people are leaving the profession in droves while anti-social jerks stick around, we should be able to topple CEOs from their first-place perch quite soon.
You’ll Never Believe How Many Lawyers Are Psychopaths was originally published on Lawyerist.
The “Wine For Lawyers” series is written by sommelier and criminal defense lawyer Brian Tannebaum.
There are few terms that annoy me more than anything that ends with “for lawyers.” So when Sam asked me if I would pen some thoughts on how to not embarrass yourself with a wine list for lawyers, I immediately said, “oh, absolutely.”
Instead of limiting this series to how a lawyer who knows little to nothing about wine can deal with a wine list, I have three areas of wine I’d like to discuss in three separate posts. First, expanding your wine world; second, purchasing wine for yourself or others; third, the “I like a red that’s smooth” wine list advice.My Background
While I realize lawyers don’t really care about the backgrounds of those who sell them the secrets of marketing and practice development, I tend to care whether the person I’m listening to has any clue as to what they are saying.
I’m a full-time lawyer. In 2011, I was certified as a sommelier. There are three levels of sommeliers: certified, advanced, and master; I’m certified. It’s like having a bachelor’s degree. Recently there was an uproar over people like me obtaining certification as a sommelier because the traditional role of the “somm” is to serve wine at a restaurant. Other than having to serve wine, I took the same test. So we’ll leave it at I know something about wine. And I know, you know wine too, and I’m going to be “wrong” about this and that, but that’s the first lesson you will learn about wine: there is little agreement on anything.
I think Pinotage (a South African varietal) is the worst wine ever produced, and I enjoy Portuguese reds. I have only had a couple Bordeaux wines that I like, and I detest oaked Chardonnays (the ones you like because they are “buttery”). I know, you love Bordeaux (because you’re supposed to), and your girlfriend won’t order anything else but a “butter bomb Chardonnay.”
That’s OK, I do not care.
This article isn’t about telling you what to drink; it’s about giving you tips on how to expand your wine knowledge.Developing Your Palate
A routine question I’m asked is, “I want to learn about wine, how do I do that?” Being a sommelier with a law degree, I always give this complicated answer: drink wine.
And I mean it. You learn about wine by drinking more wine. There are still types of wines I haven’t tasted, and I take every opportunity to taste something new. You are cheating yourself in the wine world — and many people do — by finding one wine you like and only drinking that wine. I see this behavior all the time. You find that $10 Cabernet (with the awesome label) and buy a truckload. I ask if you have ever had some other one that’s $2 more (and ten times better), and the answer is “no.”
Explore, spend more — or fewer — dollars and see what’s out there. I’ve recently been serving a $7 Grenache that I bet blows away some of the $15 wines you “swear by.”
Going to the wine shop and buying bottles on the advice of the owner or salesperson is a great way to spend money, but not a real economical way to know what you like. I suggest you find out which local wine shops have weekly or monthly tastings. Usually, they are free or next to nothing to attend — $10 or $20 — and you may even get a free glass or discounted wine purchased at the tasting. It makes for a nice evening with your date as well. This is where you can taste a bunch of wine, as well as talk to people in the industry.
If you like or don’t like something you try at a tasting, the person next to you, or serving you, can suggest another wine you may like. After a few of these tastings, you will realize you like Pinot but not Malbec, or that some of those cheap Spanish Tempranillos for $12 are something to buy by the case. You start to familiarize yourself with different wines, different regions that make the same wines, and that is the key to, as they say, “expanding your palate.”
The best way to find tastings in your community is by checking out the websites of or calling your local wine shops and getting on their mailing lists. There is also a website, The Juice, which has tastings and events all over the country. You can sign up to receive updates for any city. When you go to these tastings, get to know the regulars, and eventually you will find yourself invited to other events. Yes, lawyers, you can network and maybe develop a few good referral relationships; I wouldn’t want you to think there wasn’t a business angle.
One last piece of advice on attending tastings: buy a bottle. Those of you who pay the $10, ask for refills of everything, and buy nothing, everyone else notices you. Just don’t do it. Pony up.
Next, I’ll tell you where to buy your wine.
Featured image: “ Sommelier helping young woman to choose wine in the cellar. Wine degustation” from Shutterstock.
When looking for an accountant for your law firm it is important to find someone who has expertise in the unique needs and regulations that law firms face when it comes to their financial management. Just any accountant simply won’t do. Think about it this way. If you are having chest pains you’re going to go see a doctor. You are, however, going to call a cardiologist and not a podiatrist, because the cardiologist specializes in the heart and not your feet. Take the same approach when choosing an accountant for your law firm –and find someone that specializes in legal accounting.
To make your search a little bit easier, here is a list of 10 questions that your accountant should be able to answer, otherwise you’ll soon be looking for a new one…10 Questions Every Legal Accountant Needs To Be Able To Answer
Question 1: Do you approach a legal client the same as you would a business in another industry?
If your accountant answers “yes” to this question, they are not likely a good choice to handle your law firm. Legal accounting is an entirely different animal from general business accounting. In addition to accuracy, you need to rely on your accountant to provide 100% compliance with little known, legal-specific accounting regulations. Any slip ups on these — and your firm could be disbarred!. That’s why your accountant needs to treat your law firm with more care than he would use with a general business client.
Question 2: Do you have any experience with client funds accounting?
It is common practice for law firms to use retainers with their clients. While the funds may be in the law firm’s possession, they do not belong to the firm until they have been “earned”. Settlement payments (that belong to the clients) are also often handled by the law firm.It is extremely important that one client’s funds aren’t mixed with another client’s, or used to pay the firm’s expenses. If your balance sheets do not clearly distinguish client funds from your firm’s assets and revenue, it could be a recipe for disaster, resulting a in severe ethics violation.
Question 3: How do you track matter costs?
Matter costs may be incurred from the very beginning of working on each case; the client invoices for these expenses may go out weeks, or even months later. Not all matter costs are the same though, so it is important to track “hard” and “soft” matter costs separately for tax purposes.
Question 4: How do you differentiate between different types of matter costs?
Matter cost accounting can be tricky to say the least. While some matter costs are billed to clients, soft matter costs, or overhead for running your firm, need to be accounted for differently. Your accountant must know how to distinguish between hard and soft matter costs. Learn more about legal matter cost accounting software.
Question 5: Do you understand our billing model across different practice areas?
Your law firm may specialize in one practice area, but chances are you work on more than one type of case. Furthermore, law firms typically bill on different fee structures across different practice areas. Your accountant needs to understandsthe your firm’s billing models across all your practice areas, so you can make data-driven decisions about the future of your law firm.
Question 6: Should retainer management live inside my billing or accounting software?
This may be a bit of a trick question, but you want to make sure your accountant is really up to speed when it comes to legal accounting. The answer is both — in the legal billing software AND in the legal accounting software.
Question 7: Why do client costs have to be entered into my billing system?
Client costs have to be entered into your billing system so that your firm can pass those costs along to the client. Otherwise your firm will be footing the bill for expenses that rightfully should be recovered from your clients.
Question 8: Can all invoice payments be recorded as income?
Invoice payments received must be captured in both your billing system and your accounting system. From an accounting perspective, the cost portion of the revenue is not income and must be recorded separately.
Question 9: Have you ever had a legal client disbarred?
If your prospective account answers “yes” to this question, it would probably be a good time to withdraw any consideration of hiring this individual. This is your livelihood. It is imperative that you hire legal accountant and implement practice management software that first and foremost keeps your firm out of trouble.
Question 10: Would you like access to our practice management software?
This answer has to be “yes”. Your legal accounting and legal billing software need to work
hand-in-hand. Sharing and passing data back and forth between the two systems is necessary, and it is essential that they are in lock step with each other. You can save your firm and accountant a great deal of trouble by using an integrated, legal specific software solution that brings legal billing and practice management software together in one place.
CosmoLex does it all — time tracking, billing, business accounting, trust (IOLTA) accounting, calendaring, task & document management – eliminating the frustration of juggling several programs to run your practice. Take the next step towards a more efficient, more profitable practice: Click here schedule a 30 minute consultation with one of our legal specialist to analyze your firm’s current setup or watch a quick video to see how CosmoLex can help you. You’ll be glad you did!
10 Questions Every Legal Accountant Needs To Be Able To Answer (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.
Law school admissions continue to tank. If this seems like something you have seen before, it is because we have covered it time and time again since 2012. The most recent figures from LSAC show that applicants for Fall 2015 are down 2.5% and law school applications are down 4.6%.
I realize at first glance that graph may look like applications are actually increasing over time or, in the alternative, that it is backwards and puts the most recent year to the left. After much staring, I figured out that what it shows is that by June 2015, law school applications are down significantly over Fall 2014 and Fall 2013.
Law school enrollment keeps on dropping like a stone as well. There, we have hit a 41-year low. So what is happening to all the bright young things who used to go to law school? At least some of them are instead going to engineering school, where you can actually get a job that pays you decent money. What a concept.
Featured image: “Business fail. Graph down vector flat illustration” from Shutterstock.`
Related “12 Terrible CLE Attendees”
Video games are fun. Continuing Legal Education, however, is not. What if there was a way to combine the two into something even mildly interesting, instead of just playing Candy Crush on your phone during a CLE lecture.
A company called TransMedia Inc. developed a game several years ago called “Objection!” From the game’s description:
The murder mystery that started it all. The only way to save your client from execution is to get better and faster as you master the rules of Evidence. Variety of play is in the billions. Challenge is unlimited.
You can download a free demo of the game here. After playing the demo, I can personally guarantee that it definitely do one thing: make you nostalgic for Carmen San Diego and Oregon Trail. Playing the game will even give you CLE credit in a number of states. You can buy the “Classic” version of the game for $129.00, or a bundle of games and an evidence lecture mp3 for $399.00.
While it is easy to knock the boring source material, terrible graphics, and rudimentary game play (press H for Hearsay, I for Irrelevant, L for Leading, etc.) the game seems to be the only lawyer-focused, CLE-credit-awarding video game on the market. We are not counting Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney because it does not get you CLE credit.
This is a shame. It seems that there has to be a better way to make CLE courses fun, especially if most states require lawyers to complete them. Maybe some enterprising game developer can develop something better. It would not compete with Call of Duty, certainly, but it could at least make completing CLE courses more tolerable.
Featured image: “handsome business man with a controller” from Shutterstock.
Lawyers test at low emotional intelligence compared to the general population and other professions. They are particularly low in a critical component of emotional intelligence: emotional perception, or awareness of their own and others’ emotions.
This could be a problem. Ronda Muir reports that in the medical world, lower emotional intelligence (EQ) tends to increase malpractice liability for doctors. In other words, doctors are more likely to get sued if they are out of touch with your emotions.
Muir thinks lawyers with low emotional intelligence probably have the same problem. She even found this quote from the ABA:
At the most elemental level of law practice, emotional intelligence appears to be necessary for attorneys to avoid malpractice liability.
Want to find out your EQ? Take this quiz. According to the Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence is “firm, but not rigid.” That means you can improve your emotional intelligence if you are willing to work at it.
Muir recommends starting by building your “emotional vocabulary.” You should also exercise, consider meditating, and keep a journal in which you reflect on the emotional situations you face throughout the day. But if you are really serious about improving your emotional intelligence, the HBR says you might want to get a coach:
While no program can get someone from 0 to 100%, a well-designed coaching intervention can easily achieve improvements of 25%.
An effective coach can be expensive, but so is a malpractice claim. Plus, people with higher emotional intelligence tend to be happier people with stronger relationships. Whether you get a coach or work on your EQ on your own, there doesn’t seem to be a downside.
Featured image: “Successful businessmen handshaking after negotiation” from Shutterstock.
Lawyers’ Low Emotional Intelligence Might Increase Malpractice Liability was originally published on Lawyerist.
In today’s show, Allison Shields talks about how to be more productive, also the subject of her new book, How to Do More in Less Time.
But first, Sam and Aaron talk about Lee Rosen’s advice to block your firm website from your firm computer.The Importance of Your Mobile Website
On Divorce Discourse, Lee Rosen wrote that you should block your firm website from your firm computer so you will be forced to see it the way your clients probably do: on your phone. Blocking your website may be extreme, but the point is a really good one: if your website matters to your marketing strategy, it must work well on a phone.
(For more on good website design, get our free guide.)Allison Shields on Doing More in Less Time
Allison Shields (who has also written for Lawyerist) and Daniel Siegel wrote How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line, which is also the subject of today’s podcast. Allison teaches a fairly comprehensive approach to productivity for lawyers that incorporates aspects of Getting Things Done and contains many tips and tricks for common situations and software.
To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button.
To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or any other podcast player. Or 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.
Podcast #22: Allison Shields on Doing More in Less Time was originally published on Lawyerist.
Developing a collegial relationship with opposing counsel can be hard work. But if you get along with opposing counsel, you will see the benefits immediately: your cases will go more smoothly, your life as a lawyer will be less stressful, and your reputation will improve immensely.
The tips that follow assume your opposing counsel also wants to develop a collegial relationship. Some lawyers will resist, which is why I have also included a few tips for dealing with lawyers who would rather fight than get along.Say Yes to Common Courtesies
For many lawyers who want a collegial relationship with their opponents, this is where it begins. Common courtesies include saying yes to extensions of time, being reasonable in scheduling around vacations, and consulting with the other side before setting depositions, briefing schedules, and hearings.Get to Know Your Opposing Counsel
Moving past common courtesies might make you nervous. Our system of law is adversarial, after all. For some lawyers, there is a sense that if they make themselves vulnerable in any way — by simply being friendly, for example — the other side might see this as a weakness to be exploited.
You can be a tough litigator while still being friendly. Far from being a new concept, it’s as old as Shakespeare. “Do as adversaries do in law,” said a character in The Taming of the Shrew. “Strive mightily but eat and drink as friends.”
To get to know your opponent, proceed as you would in any social situation. Imagine you are getting to know your neighbor or someone at the gym. It’s like that, only much easier, since you already have something in common with opposing counsel — you are both lawyers.
To find out what else you have in common, make small talk as you would at a party or a bar. You can also go high-tech and use the Internet, which will yield many interesting details about a person’s background if you do a little digging.Find Opportunities for Conversation
Once you have some insight into your opposing counsel, you need to find opportunities for conversation. By talking about the things you have in common, you will make new bonds that will smooth the rough patches you’ll experience as you work together on your case.Talk While Waiting Around
Some opportunities for conversation do not require planning. There are the five minutes before a deposition starts, or the ten minutes you spend waiting for the judge before a motion hearing. Perhaps you are both waiting for the clerk’s office to open. Perhaps you both have layovers at the airport. Any time spent waiting can be used to talk with opposing counsel about something other than your case.Use the Phone
Rather than sending an email, talk on the phone. One lawyer I know makes a phone call to talk to an opponent, especially senior members of the opponent’s team. He is always posturing toward an eventual settlement, and he believes a good working relationship with the other side will help. Rather than diving into the substance of his phone call, he begins with small talk. These calls sometimes evolve into long discussions that completely eclipse the initial purpose of the call.Suggest Breakfast or Lunch
Another idea is to suggest breakfast or lunch. Do it at the beginning of the a case, even when you already know the opposing lawyer. If the opposing lawyer is from another city, suggest lunch when she is in town for the first motion hearing.
Do not worry about age differences. If you are a younger lawyer, it can be intimidating having a conversation with a lawyer who has been practicing for twenty years. But many older lawyers like these exchanges. In fact, since they won’t be suspicious of your motives like younger lawyers can be, older lawyers will be more receptive to your overtures in the first place.Find Other Opportunities to Talk
Seek out the lawyers on the other side of your cases at bar functions, CLEs, and other legal gatherings. If the casework takes you out of town, invite your opponent to dinner or share a taxi to the airport.Allow a Friendship to Develop
You can call me maudlin or naive, but I think the practice of law would be more enjoyable if lawyers regularly developed friendships with their opponents.
In my first job out of law school, a partner asked me to draft a letter to the other side about a discovery dispute. I chose what I thought was an appropriate tone of unabashed rudeness, and wrote the opposing lawyer that I wasn’t going to budge.
The partner scolded me, mostly for my tone. He said something along these lines: “At this firm, we deal with the same lawyers again and again. Find a way to get along. You might be working with those same lawyers for your entire career.”
The partner was right. One lawyer I know has been litigating railroad cases against the same opponent for nearly two decades. These two opposing lawyers now travel together to depositions and settlement meetings, butting heads during the day but socializing at night. While they still represent their clients with the required “zealous advocacy,” the tension and stress that goes along with their cases is eased by their friendship.Don’t Start Fights, and Don’t Fight Back (Very Often)
If you are taking steps to develop good relations with opposing counsel, you probably won’t be starting many fights. The flip side of the coin is a bigger challenge when your opponent throws the first punch. You should pause before giving in to your anger and fighting back.
A fight is almost always nothing but a distraction meant to get you off track, which is one reason some lawyers like to be bullies. To avoid being drawn into a fight, it helps to know your trigger points. For me, it’s not misbehavior during depositions or cheap shots at motion hearings. Instead, it is condescending letters from BigLaw litigators who want to lecture me about the facts of my case or what they think is the applicable law.
When I get a letter like that, I want to respond with one of my own. But if I recognize the letter as a trigger point, I’m able to pause before reacting. Rather than writing a second nasty letter, I call the offender on the phone and say, “Let’s agree to disagree” or “We’ll have to see what the judge thinks.”
With this said, you can’t let the other side’s intimidation guide your litigation strategy. When dealing with difficult opposing counsel, sometimes you have to punch a bully in the mouth. This is where your efforts to be collegial might break down.Some Lawyers Don’t Want to Be Your Friend
Not surprisingly, it’s the type of lawyers who start fights which will be most resistant to having a collegial relationship. For these lawyers, that’s how “litigation” is defined: refusing to say yes to anything you propose. If they ever give you an inch, they consider it nothing less than a personal failure.
It’s easy to feel sorry for lawyers whose only claim to fame is their reputation for being difficult. But you have a reputation too, and a reputation for getting along is a valuable commodity. Continue to work at it, and you will see the benefits.
Featured image: “Group of happy business people discussing papers at meeting ” from Shutterstock.
How to Have a Collegial Relationship with Opposing Counsel was originally published on Lawyerist.
By 2017, it is estimated that 95% of non-cash transactions will be paid by credit or debit cards. That leaves just a mere 5% paid through traditional paper check payments. Many attorneys are beginning to recognize if they don’t accept credit cards already, they may need to reconsider in order to facilitate collection of fees in the very near future. Furthermore, by 2016, over 55% of bills will be paid online. Besides the obvious benefits of accepting credit cards such as getting paid, increasing cash flow, and reducing collections, attorneys have even more to gain by incorporating payments as a key part of their website.
Allowing clients to pay on your website means they always know where and how to pay you. Your website is always open for business, and can be conveniently accessed by your clients from any mobile device.
By instructing clients to go to your website for payments, you also gain the ability to communicate and share new information about your firm. For example, if you win a big case, add a new partner or offer new services, current clients will see your updates when they make payments. This new information may remind them of another issue they need you for, or better yet, refer your firm to someone else for new business.
Secure online payments also provide a professional image for your firm. They communicate your firm is modern, organized, and you expect to be paid for your work. Adding payments to a law firm website should be done in a manner that reflects a professional law firm. It would not make sense for example to have a “check out” or “buy now” button for clients looking to pay their invoice. Instead, use “pay invoice” or “make payment” links placed in your client specific areas, upper navigation, or footer information.
You can actually improve payment security and reduce liability for PCI compliance by having clients pay online. If clients are entering their own card information, then your firm is not responsible for processing, storing or maintaining their sensitive information. Potentially, your firm may never actually see a client credit card number again. You only see the benefit of receiving authorized payments and deposits to your bank account.
The solution may be much easier than you think by adding a secure payment page from LawPay. As opposed to regular online shopping cart programs, LawPay is designed specifically for attorneys. With LawPay, your firm receives a custom, secure payment page for your firm that is fully hosted on the LawPay system. No development or programming work is required by your firm. You simply link your secure page to your website, invoices or emails to create a convenient, simple payment process for your clients.
No need to wait until 2017, take advantage of online payments and start seeing immediate benefits today. LawPay is offering a free three-month trial to Lawyerist subscribers, available now through July 31st. For more information, visit our website or call us at 866-376-0950.
About LawPay: Since 2005, LawPay has been the premier payment provider to the legal industry. LawPay is the trusted payment solution for over 25,000 attorneys across the United States and Canada. In addition, LawPay is endorsed by 40 state bar associations and is part of ABA’s Member Advantage program.
Online Payments for Law Firms? You Bet! (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.
The Internet is full of lawyers trying to grab the attention of clients. It’s difficult for even the savviest consumers to tell one firm from another. The best way to get more clients to choose you is to distinguish your firm from the others, emphasizing the points that will appeal to the clients you want to attract.
Think about what your firm offers that others do not. What values do you and your employees find worthy of your support? Why should a client hire you instead of your competition? Your target clients are wondering about the answers to these questions, so be prepared to deliver an argument on why they should select you over your colleagues.
In previous posts in this series, we identified your ideal client and niche and performed a SWOT Analysis. The work you did in the previous posts will help you define your unique competitive advantage. In your SWOT Analysis, you figured out your strengths and weaknesses. Take a look at the strengths and consider how you can emphasize those points when advertising and in all of your interactions with clients — not just any clients, but the ideal client you envisioned in Step 1.Step 3: Competitive Advantage
Your competitive advantage is the story of your best firm.
A unique competitive advantage is similar to a unique selling proposition. It answers two questions:
Surely, you have areas of specialty that make you exceptionally qualified and where your experience is deep. Show clients how you resolve issues more efficiently or better than anyone else based on this experience.Don’t Get Mired in the Obvious
One tripping point for companies in developing a unique competitive advantage is focusing on all of the things they do, rather than focusing on what they excel at. You are looking for things that make you stand out, not blend in. It’s not enough to meet the status quo. You need to find ways that you are head and shoulders above the rest.Tailor Your Message
Present yourself as an expert in specific areas. People want to hire experts, especially when making important decisions such as representation. Do not worry about pleasing everyone. Defining your competitive advantage is about pleasing your ideal client so that you can earn what you are worth.
Note what your competitors are known for when you begin to shape your competitive advantage. Consider what benefits you can offer clients that other law firms cannot, even if the benefit is a result of something as arbitrary as location. Anything that provides an advantage — location, parking, price, quality of offices — should be considered. Notable cases you have tried and famous clients can also be a part of your competitive advantage.Look At Yourself From All Angles
If you have a hard time seeing yourself as better than average, look at yourself from the viewpoint of one of your satisfied clients. Even if you were just doing your job, estimate the value of your services from the point of view of a client whose life you have changed. Focus on the positive results you produced, and the problems you’ve solved for others.
Consider value rather than price. People can always find services cheaper, but savvier clients know that they get what they pay for, and they are willing to pay more to receive the qualities of service that are important to them. Can you survey your clients about what they enjoy about having you as their lawyer?
The answers could help you get a better perspective on what you do particularly well.Be a Good Neighbor
One way to build your competitive advantage is to marry your firm to an important cause or issue that you and your colleagues and employees support together. The cause should reflect something that your firm holds dear, such as family issues or education. In step one of this marketing plan series, you envisioned your ideal client. Which causes are most important to that demographic? How can you show your clients that you understand their values through your philanthropic work?
You should also do all that you can to be a good neighbor to the residents and business around your firm. Supporting community efforts such as town clean-ups, little league teams, and art events gives your clients a valuable benefit. By giving you business, they are supporting their own communities. Being community-minded greatly improves the public perception of your business.Be Natural
Remember that you are a person, not a billboard. You want to find ways to spread the word about your competitive advantage, but you do not want to sound like a traveling salesman. So practice delivering your information, be ready to seize the opportunity to sing your own praises.
The next article in this series will focus on marketing strategies and actual marketing practices you can use to grow your business.
Featured image: “What Makes You Unique?” from Shutterstock.
5-Step Legal Marketing Plan, Step 3: Competitive Advantage was originally published on Lawyerist.
If you have never dabbled in fountain pens, this portion of our guide may not be the place to start. You should really learn whether or not xyou like fountain pens before plunging into the world of $50+ pens.
I already wrote a fountain-pen guide here for the novice who wants to just check things out and for the frugal writer looking for a great pen at a great price. Once you get to the pens in this range, you have clearly succumbed to the allure of fountain pens.Index
For me, this is the sweet spot of pen purchasing. You can get really terrific looking (and terrific performing) pens in this range, and they will last you a lifetime — or at least the duration of your career — if you treat them with even a modicum of respect.TWSBI Diamond 580
TWSBI came out of nowhere, seemingly, a few years ago. In truth, they had long been an OEM manufacturer for other, fancier-sounding pen lines, and they brought that expertise to a line of pens that are much better than their price tags would lead you to expect. For $55, the Diamond 580 is a ridiculously good buy. You get your choice of nibs — fine, medium, or broad — and if you want to purchase separately, you can even pick up an italic nib. You also get a gorgeous demonstrator piston filler. “Demonstrator piston filler” sounds pompous, because every hobby must have its jargon, but it actually means what it says. The pen is a demonstrator because you can see what is going on inside and it is a piston filler because it fills via a piston that pumps up and down. If you like showing off what color ink you’re using, this is for you.
A quick note: by definition, a piston-filler can not be switched back to being filled using cartridges, so with this one you are committing to bottled ink.Sheaffer Prelude
I hesitated a bit about recommending the Prelude. Sheaffer was once one of the great American pen makers, and they had a reliable line of fountain pens at nearly every price point. But, in a case of “how far the mighty have fallen,” Sheaffer became the company that makes those sort of ballpoints people give you in a box when you graduate from high school and they don’t know what else to buy you. Sheaffer still has some stars in its lineup though, and the Prelude is one of those. You can get a Prelude anywhere from $50 to $150, depending on the finish. A nickel-plated one will run you around $50, while you can get one with palladium and 22K gold (pictured above) for $140 list and $100 on sale. (Never pay full price for a Sheaffer pen. There are always sales. Always.) The Prelude has a classic aesthetic and looks good in the breast pocket of a suit. You can fill via Sheaffer’s (regrettably) proprietary cartridges or buy a converter so you can use bottled ink.$150 – $500 a.k.a. “Do Not Misplace These Under Any Circumstances”Pelikan Souveran M400, M600, M800
If I could have only one type of fountain pen ever again, it would be the Pelikan Souveran. Pelikan makes the Souveran in five different versions. The M200 is a smaller, lower-cost steel-nibbed option and the M1000 is enormous, expensive, and built, seemingly, only for the hands of ex-football players. The middle trio of the Souveran series are list priced from roughly $400 to $800, but you can usually get them around 30% off that price. The green and black stripes are the famous iconic Pelikan colors, but you can also get the Souveran series in other stripe colors and limited edition solids designs.
If you want to spend on the lower end of the scale, a Pelikan M400 will run you around $250. That price gets you a 14K gold nib, and to be frank, once you write with a gold nib, you may never go back to lesser nibs. They are impossibly smooth and reliable. You can write with almost no pressure, which allows you to write forever. I once handwrote a 15-page settlement proposal with a Pelikan M400 because there was no computer available in the mediation.
The M800 (pictured above) can usually be picked up for $400 or so and upgrades your nib to an 18K version. I would venture to say that most women will find the pen too large to handle for any length of time, but at least it is not as ridiculously outsized as the M1000.Franklin-Christoph Model 19
Franklin-Christoph has done something very savvy with all of their fountain pens. No matter which one you buy, you can get everything from steel nibs in the standard (extra fine, fine, medium, broad) sizes, italic steel nibs in two sizes, and 18K gold nibs in extra fine, fine, medium, and broad. If you want to pay even more, you can delve into the exotic world of things like music nibs (a three-tined nib) and needlepoint nibs for the very tiniest writing. The variety in nibs means that your cost for the 1901 will range from $195 to $300 depending on how fancy you want to get. The 1901 is the flagship of the Franklin-Christoph line and runs a bit large, but they have several others in a variety of sizes. All tend towards a classic aesthetic — dark colors, clean lines — and will never look out of place in a business setting.$500 and up a.k.a. “The Holy Grail”
The Holy Grail of pens is always going to be uniquely personal, but it typically refers to something that is close to unattainable, either because of price or because it is ridiculously difficult to find. Some people will pick one of the harder to find limited edition pens, like the John F. Kennedy 1917 Mont Blanc, which is so expensive that no one will actually tell you how expensive it is.
It might be a venerable pen re-created in incredibly expensive materials, like this $28,000 Parker Duofold. In order to get the full effect of this pen, you really need to read the breathless prose that accompanies it:
The precious black resin is sheathed in an 18-karat solid gold casing – a refined interpretation of the brand’s classic chiseled pattern. The 16 diamonds (8 on the cap and 8 on the barrel) have been carefully selected and artfully faceted to catch the eye and inspire the mind. The nib, ring and commemorative decal are delicately crafted in 18-karat solid gold, and each pen is numbered so no two are alike.
The pen is beautiful…
…but can you really imagine using it? Would you ever, in a million years, hand over your $28,000 pen to a colleague or a client so that they can sign a document? Of course you wouldn’t. That thing probably costs more than your car.
For me, if I could find an Eversharp Skyline in near-mint condition, I’d buy it in a heartbeat if money were no object. The Skyline is a shining example of 1940s modernity, resembling a railroad, a skyscraper, the future.
For my money, it’s the most gorgeous pen ever made. Early in my collecting career I picked up a near-destroyed one for $60. In order to find one in excellent condition and to get the nib customized to an italic (hey, as long as I’m dreaming, right?) it would run me about ten times that. Someday. No matter what, it will never cost as much as that Duofold.
Featured image: “fountain pen nib and flowing colorful ink” from Shutterstock.