We have talked about how legal tech often focuses on the wrong problems and that one of the things we should be doing is working to better access and wrangle big data. We have also discussed, again and again and again, how to close the access to justice gap. One legal aid organization in Maryland – the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, may have figured out a way to use big data to help close that gap.
[They have] used public-facing databases, to find the other issues that his legal aid group’s clients have. This includes overdue water bills, foreclosed homes, repossessed cars, and criminal records.
He’s also developed a more recent initiative to scrape some Maryland counties’ criminal case databases to find people whose records are expunge-able but not expunged. This goes to the question of how we engage people who don’t know they have legal problems, but have them and could be using the legal system to address them. The group compiled the list of people in certain counties whose records could be expunged, and then mailed out an invitation to them with details about an open Expungement Workshop, to get them to free or affordable legal services.
The linked article takes note of the fact, as will all of you, that there is a potential for abuse here: if good people can scrape databases for noble access-to-justice reasons, bad bottom-feeders can scrape those same databases to sell people expensive services they do not need. Unfortunately, I am not sure it is ever possible to entirely guard against that. That possibility shouldn’t stop legal aid and solosmall attorneys with a knack for accessing and manipulating publicly available data from considering this approach to increase availability of legal services.
Featured image: “Tunnel made of silver cubes with a digital floor and background” from Shutterstock.
At the first sign of trouble, inexperienced attorneys tend to seek out more experienced colleagues for advice. Seeking another opinion is good; blindly relying on another’s advice is bad. With that in mind, learn how to make your own decisions in cases, but seek out help when necessary and then tweak your strategy (rather than abandoning it) based on feedback from other attorneys.It is Your Job to Make Tough Decisions
If you cannot make difficult decisions, you should not be a lawyer.
Your job is to gather facts, analyze them, determine options, and make a choice or recommendation. It’s ultimately up to the client to choose an option, but your input is usually the guiding force. That’s why we get paid the big bucks. You should have an ability to determine which option is better, given all the circumstances. Even if the choice comes down to 50.1% one way, and 49.9% the other way, you need to make a call.
Lawyers are unique (and sometimes vilified) for being ruthlessly objective. Spoiler alert: that’s why most good attorneys are good attorneys. Emotions certainly come into play, but the best attorneys can scrape away all the muck, junk, and distractions and zero in on the bare situation to make a judgment call. Lawyering on 100% emotion will either turn you into a crazy psycho or burn you out before year two. And just to be clear: emotions and other soft variables absolutely come into play in making decisions, but they cannot be the only factor.
If you are not comfortable doing that type of analysis, or putting your neck on the line, then get out now. Some clients can do the analysis on their own, and make the right decision on their own. Most clients will make the right decision, but only after you guide them to it. Some clients will scratch, claw, and downright run away from making the right decision. You cannot force them to make a decision, but you certainly have a duty to make sure they understand the options, the ramifications, and what you are recommending.
It’s usually not easy, and it’s frequently very stressful. It’s also called being a lawyer. So get used to it.Nobody Knows Your Case Like You Do
You know more about your case than anybody else. Hopefully. You know the facts, the players, and the rules of the game. All of the variables have an impact on strategy. The best and brightest attorneys will tell you that when you ask for advice. Frankly, if they don’t, be careful about listening to anyone that doesn’t want to know every little detail. Even then, you will still leave out something important.
So when you start bouncing a problem off of someone else, they might come up with a complete different strategy than what you were thinking. Even worse, they might even tell you that you are flat out wrong in your thinking. Worst yet, you might blindly follow their lead just because you are unsure of your decision.
That could lead to disaster.
Maybe you forgot to tell them a key piece of information about the case or your client. Maybe you did not tell them the judicial assignment. Maybe you accidentally gave them faulty information about the case. And maybe, and quite likely, they have a different approach to cases than you do.
One of two things will likely happen. One, you don’t give them enough information and they provide a potentially erroneous approach to the issue. Two, they tell you what they would do, not what you should do, but what they did once. With a different case. And different facts. And different law.
Both options can lead you down the wrong path. So before you do anything, think it through, and get some proof the “new” path to success will actually lead there.The Proof is in the Pudding “Lawyers love to tell war stories, and those stories tend to take on a life of their own as time passes.”
If you are really convinced to follow someone else’s lead, get proof it works. Ask for their briefing, the opposing brief, and the court’s decision. The person providing guidance might say something like “oh, well, I’ve never actually briefed it.” That doesn’t mean it’s a bad option, but it means it is an untested one.
If they have the briefings, go over them with a magnifying glass. First, make sure they actually won. Second, make sure they won for the reasons they told you. In other words, maybe they won on a procedural technicality, instead of the merits. Third, do your own litmus test of the court’s temperature for the issue. Maybe they won, but the dicta reads “do not ever bring up this issue again in my court.”
Last, and certainly not least, compare and contrast the facts. Maybe your case involves one incident of a company doing something bad, but the case involved fifteen incidents. Maybe that is a critical distinction. Maybe not. But you better consider that and make sure that court’s decision states the number of incidents is irrelevant.
Or flip the scenario. Maybe they lost on an issue you want to pursue. But your facts are stronger, and you can read into the dicta enough to feel comfortable taking another stab at the issue.
Either way, make sure you do your due diligence. Lawyers love to tell war stories, and those stories tend to take on a life of their own as time passes.Incorporate Their Advice into Your Strategy “When another attorney tells you your pants are on fire, heed that warning, but don’t take off your pants.”
Blind reliance is bad; listening to your peers is good. When another attorney tells you your pants are on fire, heed the warning, but don’t take off your pants.
In all likelihood, the other attorney has never dealt with the same exact scenario (because every case is different). But they probably have dealt with a similar scenario. So take their scenario, what they learned, what they suggest, and adapt your strategy based on that.
At a bare minimum, you should take another hard look at your case, and make sure you feel comfortable with your course of action. Maybe you don’t want to follow the other attorney’s direct course of action, but you do need to alter your approach to the case. For example, maybe your trusted colleague thinks you should draft and serve a Rule 11 motion, but you don’t feel confident doing that. So take another approach: send the old strongly worded letter. Better yet, pick up the phone and tell opposing counsel they have a major problem. That can actually lead to quicker and even better results.
Or maybe your colleague thinks your case/claim/argument is on shaky ground and they think you should dismiss the case. However, you just can’t walk away. So instead of plowing ahead with guns blazing, maybe you narrow your claim or focus on the stronger issue(s).
That is an incredibly important distinction. As a young attorney, it can be easy to think the options are your approach or their approach. There is a third option: tweaking your approach based on outside input. In other words, you keep your hands on the steering wheel, but tilt to the left or right. That’s much safer than letting the person in the backseat grab the wheel.
Full disclaimer: I have asked, bugged, and pestered plenty of attorneys for their advice in cases. I still do. And I would not have made it this far without all of them. Thank you to every attorney who has been willing to listen and provide their two cents.
Featured image: “Business people wearing informal dresses at work in their office” from Shutterstock.
Don’t Let Another Attorney Backseat Drive Your Case was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Are you a hi-tech legal warrior? Or are you making do with first-generation legal software?
This has been a watershed year, with legal tech companies bringing out new tools that are intensely focused on changing the daily practice of law. Many of these changes were unimaginable just a few years ago. But new technology is removing the accepted limitations of the past, and multiplying productivity for the lawyers using them. The time to suit up with new legal tech for a better competitive edge is now. Hi-tech lawyering has come of age, and you can thank the Cloud.
We have heard “the Cloud” changes everything, and it does. But it’s more than just 24/7 access and working from home. The Cloud makes it possible to coordinate all the ”moving parts” of your law practice. We’re not talking about tedious exports/imports. We are talking about seamless, automatic integrations. Like when you buy a book with Apple Pay, and your phone app links the store, a credit card processor, and your bank all together in seconds.
1 + 1 = 11
This is the “new math” of the hi-tech law practice—where the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Here’s an example:
Recently, CosmoLex and Casemaker announced an exclusive partnership for the benefit of their users. CosmoLex provides state-of-the-art law practice management system to lawyers across the country. Casemaker is the leader in legal research with established partnerships with over 25 Bar Associations and serves more than 250,000 users. Each company has a reputation for providing a top-tier solution in the legal technology market.
The new integration with CosmoLex means Casemaker users can now track time, bill their clients, keep track of important matter details, all without leaving Casemaker. This eliminates leakage as time is posted as you use Casemaker, and eliminates surprises as matter details are visible within CosmoLex. And it enhances compliance, as you do not play catch-up, retrofitting billing details days after the fact..
On the flip side, CosmoLex law firms can now access their Casemaker accounts from within CosmoLex. As a lawyer, you are likely to be logged in to your practice management system continuously, performing your daily to-do’s. Now you can click a menu tab and jump into Casemaker to do some legal—while remaining inside CosmoLex. No log-in/log-out, looking up passwords or anything like that. It’s easy and it’s fast.
Bundling legal research and practice management together proves the case of 1 + 1 = 11. Legal research is an important and integral part of many law firms, but up until now, it was it’s own separate animal, outside the orbit of practice management or billing systems. And that meant it was not always managed or monetized properly. The CosmoLex/Casemaker solution is an easier, faster, more profitable, and safer way of handling legal research. Thousands of lawyers using Casemaker and CosmoLex now have a better way to do their research, while maintaining their single-sign-on account — with no imports/exports, installs or upgrades to worry abou— because CosmoLex and Casemaker took care of all that in the Cloud.
To find out more about the exclusive CosmoLex/Casemaker solution, and a number of other ways in which 1 + 1 = 11, please visit www.cosmolex.com, or call 866-878-6798.About CosmoLex
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 to 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!
It’s Safer Internet Day (apparentlyt) and Google is once again offering 2GB of extra Google Drive storage as incentive to do its free security checkup. The checkup itself is stuff you should check regularly anyway, so the extra Google Drive storage is just a nice perk.
Unfortunately, this is only for personal Google accounts, which you probably shouldn’t be using for work stuff in the first place. Google Apps for Work users can still take the security checkup (which is a good idea), you just won’t get the extra storage [Gizmodo (2015) / The Verge (2016)]
Originally published 2015-02-10. Last updated 2016-02-09.
Get Free Storage When You Check Your Google Security Settings was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Yesterday, after a heated debate, the ABA House of Delegates adopted Resolution 105, a set of model regulatory objectives. Resolution 105 was controversial because of the last sentence of the proposal, which merely acknowledged that some states are already permitting non-lawyers to provide limited legal services, and others may wish to.
The news yesterday that the delegates from at least five states planned to vote against the resolution generated some heated reactions outside the midyear meeting of the ABA House of Delegates. Jordan Furlong, for example, tweeted “What an embarrassment.” But this morning, Ed Adams said the “ABA showed some guts and passed modest measure to expand access to legal services.” Both he and Furlong offered kudos.
Here is the text of Resolution 105, as adopted.
RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association adopts the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services, dated February, 2016.
ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services
A. Protection of the public
B. Advancement of the administration of justice and the rule of law
C. Meaningful access to justice and information about the law, legal issues, and the civil and criminal justice systems
D. Transparency regarding the nature and scope of legal services to be provided, the credentials of those who provide them, and the availability of regulatory protections
E. Delivery of affordable and accessible legal services
F. Efficient, competent, and ethical delivery of legal services
G. Protection of privileged and confidential information
H. Independence of professional judgment
I. Accessible civil remedies for negligence and breach of other duties owed, and disciplinary sanctions for misconduct
J. Diversity and inclusion among legal services providers and freedom from discrimination for those receiving legal services and in the justice system
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges that each state’s highest court, and those of each territory and tribe, be guided by the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services when they assess the court’s existing regulatory framework and any other regulations they may choose to develop concerning non-traditional legal service providers.
FURTHER RESOLVED, that nothing contained in this Resolution abrogates in any manner existing ABA policy prohibiting non lawyer ownership of law firms or the core values adopted by the House of Delegates in Resolution 10F, adopted on July 11, 2000.
It’s not clear what effect Resolution 105 will have, if any. I think there is a strong argument to be made that all the controversial provision does is acknowledge reality. But if any state regulators were waiting for a cautious go-ahead from the ABA, now they have it.
In other news from the midyear meeting, the ABA also adopted Resolution 109, urging states to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam. As Jenny Odegard explained last year, wider adoption of the UBE could plan an important role in expanding access to justice.
Featured image: “Many hands raised in a crowd of people” from Shutterstock.
ABA Opens the Door to “Non-Traditional Legal Service Providers” was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Sarah Glassmeyer is trying to get to the bottom of open access to law, and Ed Walters is trying to build a company based on access to that law. Both share their frustrations and wishes for open access on today’s podcast. Plus, lawyers are terrible at client intake. News at 11.Law-Firm Intake: Lawyers Dropping the Ball Edition
At Law Technology Today, Conrad Saam reported the results of an ABA Law Practice Division “secret shopper” survey of law-firm intake procedures. What they found is that an astonishing-but-probably-shouldn’t-be number of lawyers don’t answer the phone, don’t give their name when answering the phone, don’t return calls from potential clients, and on and on.
In sum: there is a lot of room for lawyers to improve. Also, part 2 of the series, which outlines the many other ways lawyers drop the ball during intake, wasn’t available in time for our recording, but you can read it now.Open Access to Law, with Sarah Glassmeyer & Ed Walters
If ignorance of the law is no excuse (and we all know it isn’t), it stands to reason that everyone should be able to go find out what the law is. And in 2016, that means putting the law online in a usable format.
Sarah Glassmeyer has been spending a year trying to figure out what primary law is available online, and you can check out the results on her website. On today’s podcast, she talks about the state of open access to law, including the important distinction between content and containers.
Ed Walters is the CEO of Fastcase. On today’s podcast, he talks about how closed-off primary law stifles innovation. (It takes 80% of Fastcase’s employees to keep the database updated.) And just days after we recorded, Fastcase sued Casemaker for access to Georgia law.
We also talk about the important differences between access to law, access to lawyers, and access to justice.
We love our sponsors, but they are only covering part of what it costs us to bring you this podcast. So we need your help. If you enjoy the show, please click this button and make a contribution:
To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button (or click the link to this post if you are reading this by email).
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 #54: Open Access to Law, with Sarah Glassmeyer & Ed Walters was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
In a press release announcing its new integration with QuickBooks Online, Rocket Matter dropped this bomb:
As Intuit changes its strategic focus to the cloud, they are eliminating communication channels (APIs) to their desktop product that companies rely on for synchronization.
In other words, if you want to be able to do anything interesting with QuickBooks going forward, you are going to need to use QuickBooks Online, not the QuickBooks Desktop product. If you are dead set on using QuickBooks Desktop (Pro and Premiere), you will be able to. Intuit’s VP in charge of QuickBooks has said “I can’t see a time when we are not doing a desktop release.”
But the writing is on the wall: the future of QuickBooks is QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Desktop probably isn’t going to get much more love from Intuit.Don’t Worry, Lawyers Are on the Scene of the NYC Crane Collapse
Ambulance chasing, sometimes known as barratry, refers to a lawyer soliciting for clients at a disaster site. The term “ambulance chasing” comes from the stereotype of lawyers that follow ambulances to the emergency room to find clients.
In addition to being in really poor taste, Eric Turkewitz points out that this textbook example of ambulance chasing is almost certainly unethical under New York’s anti-solicitation rule. [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]Casemaker Says Nobody Else Can Publish Georgia Law. Fastcase Calls Bullshit and Sues. “If we can establish that private publishers can’t own public law, then the implications could be huge.”
Bob Ambrogi gives the background:
Casemaker’s parent company, Lawriter, has an agreement with the Georgia Secretary of State designating it as the exclusive publisher of the Georgia Rules and Regulations and giving it the right to license that content to other publishers.
You can’t copyright the law. It’s not even a question. And yet lots of states do claim copyright in order to enter into similar publishing agreements.
This makes it harder for anyone to come along and do anything innovative. As Fastcase CEO Ed Walters told Bob Ambrogi, “[i]f we can establish that private publishers can’t own public law, then the implications could be huge.”
The ABA wants to open the door to allowing non-lawyers to provide legal services. Its one-page resolution on regulatory objectives contains uncontroversial objectives like “[p]rotection of the public,” “[e]fficient, competent, and ethical delivery of legal services,” and “[p]rotection of privileged and confidential information.” But it also says state regulators “may choose to develop [regulations] concerning non-traditional legal service providers.”
Well when some ABA delegates read that last line, they lost their minds.
The ABA’s Litigation Section, as well as the bar associations of Illinois, Nevada, New York, New Jersey and Texas, are all on record opposing Resolution 105 …
But if there’s a way for non-lawyers to provide competent, ethical legal services, what is the objection? I suspect the real reason for the opposition is fear of competition.
I’m not convinced that allowing non-lawyers to own law firms or provide legal services will have a big impact on the access-to-justice gap. My own experience and my podcast with Billie Tarascio suggest people would rather hire lawyers even if the lawyers are preparing the same documents they can get for free. LegalZoom is working with lawyers for similar reasons. But maybe the collective impact will be greater than I think, and anyway I see no reason not to try as long as new regulations meet the ABA objectives.
This has got to be the first example of a lawyer’s viral ad campaign (which is rare enough in its own right) getting picked up for a major corporation’s viral ad campaign?
Does anyone know if this is showing on TV anywhere, or is it YouTube-only?
Featured image: “CIRCLE THE WAGONS” from Shutterstock.
Briefs: QuickBooks Goes Online, Fastcase Sues Casemaker, the Texas Law Hawk Eats Tacos, Etc. was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Everybody wants productivity and profit, and there are many theories on how to achieve it. Companies spend billions of dollars trying to sell you the promise of them.
Most of the time, those products aren’t actually making you more productive or profitable. Instead, they only produce what renowned management theorist Eli Goldratt called local efficiency: an improvement to a part of a workflow that doesn’t translate to an improvement in the business overall.Find Your Bottleneck “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
There is typically only one bottleneck constricting the flow of an entire system (occasionally, but rarely, there are two) according to Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints. There may be several parts of our workflow we think are bad, but only one can be the worst. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Two important corollaries follow from the single-bottleneck theory:
Since local improvements feel like overall improvements, this second corollary is harder for most people to grasp, but you can think of it like this: removing a boulder at the part of the river where you are standing will make the water look like it is flowing smoothly from that vantage point. In the big picture, however, you are probably just raising the water level at the gorge a bit further downstream.Understand the Whole Flow “Think globally, act locally.”
The first step to improving your legal process is to make sure you are setting out to improve the system overall, not just a small part of it. In other words, think globally, act locally.
There are, generally, only a few large-scale goals legal practices are shooting for: get more work, improve client satisfaction, and, ultimately, make more money.
Once you’ve established your broad goals, think about how your day-to-day activities work to achieve those goals. If you were so inclined, you could do some fancy Lean Six Sigma stuff and map out your end-to-end value stream, but frankly, that would be a waste of time. It is better to start with your big-picture workflow and only dive into the details when a legitimate need arises.
And that big picture workflow probably isn’t too complicated. Most law practices have a workflow consisting of roughly the following stages:
This is highly generic, but that’s the point. It is a heuristic technique, not a perfect one. There may be some recursive steps for litigation or complex deals, or skipped steps for simple matters, but most legal tasks fit into one of these top-level categories. Call them what you want, add or remove categories to fit your practice, but try to keep it under 10 stages at first. Otherwise, you risk getting lost in the weeds.Make Your Work Visible
Once you have your categories, the next step is to try to find your bottleneck. This is a process of trial and error, but there are two ways to get started:
The simplest way to make your work visible is to build a workflow kanban board. Find a whiteboard and make a big vertical column for each of your workflow stages. If you don’t have a whiteboard, any wall will work. Use sticky notes for the column headings and painter’s tape for the lines.
Now grab a pack of sticky notes and write out a note for every matter you are currently working on. You don’t need a lot of detail right now, just the client and matter will do (if you stick with kanban, you may add details later). For each matter, place the sticky in the appropriate column on your board.
Once you’re done, take a step back and look for patterns. Determine which columns are either especially full or empty. Full columns often indicate a bottleneck at that stage, and empty ones can mean the bottleneck lies immediately upstream. Ask yourself, do the patterns match your hunch? If so, great—you’re on track to identify your constraint. But don’t worry if not; you’ll get there.Run an Experiment
Once you’ve got an idea about where your bottleneck is, it’s time to run an experiment to try to improve it. An experiment will tell you whether your adjustment improves the bottleneck and if the constraint to that part of your system has been relieved.
Some keys to running a good experiment on your business come from Eric Ries’s bestselling book The Lean Startup. First and foremost, you need to figure out what you’re going to measure to validate your efforts. If, for example, you hypothesize your bottleneck lies in your marketing efforts, you may decide to run an experiment to drive more traffic to your website. Before you launch that effort, however, you’d better take a baseline of your recent traffic patterns to measure against.
Second, make a minimum viable change to your efforts. Don’t spend $10,000 on a complete website redesign when you can spend a fraction re-working a single page. Remember, you don’t know for sure you’re working at the bottleneck yet. Improving a part of your system that is not the constraint is a waste of money. So come up with a simple improvement you can do as a trial balloon, and then use that trial to determine if you’re on the right track.
Finally, if you’ve run your experiment and measured an improvement in that part of your workflow, congratulations! But you’re not done. Your last step is to check your work against your big-picture goals to see if you’ve made a difference. Using the same web traffic example, say you managed to drive 100 more unique visitors to your website in a month. That’s great, but did those visits result in phone calls? Those phone calls to new clients? Were the new clients of the same quality as your existing mix?Rinse and Repeat
Ultimately, if you move the needle on your global goals then you are probably at your bottleneck, which is great. Run another experiment on the same part of your workflow and see if you can measure another system-wide improvement. Repeat this process until your local improvements no longer generate system-wide results. At that point, your bottleneck has moved, and you need to go back to square one (albeit with an improved end-to-end workflow to show for it!)
If your local improvement doesn’t generate system-wide impacts, that’s a clear signal you weren’t working on your workflow’s true constraint. If you only made a small investment in your efforts then no big deal. You may not have improved upon your goals, but you’ve gained an important piece of knowledge, so your investment has paid dividends.
Think of your small experiments as investments of your time, effort, and resources. You could go for a big payoff, but those usually come with a big risk. It’s better to make lots of little investments, learn more about your bottleneck, and then let your improvements compound over time. It may not be as sexy, but it will almost certainly pay a higher return over time.
Featured image: “Side profile company employees sitting in row inside electric lamp” from Shutterstock.
Everyone knows the hoary old Paper Chase quote that law professors used to always trot out, right? “Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year.” I do not think law schools see one third of their students dropping or flunking out any longer (if they ever did), but the one-in-three statistic is apparently spot on for something else lawyer-related: the percentage of lawyers who have serious problems with alcohol. A big new study of nearly 13,000 attorneys (the largest ever for this sort of thing) co-funded by the ABA and Hazelden, found
36 percent of respondents had results consistent with hazardous drinking or possible alcohol abuse or dependence. That compares to 15 percent of physicians, a group whose substance use has been studied far more extensively, the study says.
Certainly attorneys live in a high-stress high-workload culture, and one that often makes it difficult to ask for help. The same can be said, however, of doctors, which makes that comparison useful and apt.
Some other highlights from the study:
The full study is here.
Featured image: “Businessman’s hand pouring vodka into a glass” from Shutterstock.`
New Study Confirms One Third of Lawyers Have a Problem with Alcohol was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
There are those people that will tell you that any tattoo for a lawyer is ill-advised, as it does not fit the nobility of our profession. I am more in the “as long as it is covered at work” camp of tattoo thought vis-à-vis attorneys. But what if, for some inexplicable reason, you decided to get a tattoo that reflects your love of the law? Should you flaunt it?
There are scores of scales of justice and Lady Justice tattoos, but those are far too common for our purposes. We are talking about those law- and lawyer-related tattoos that are embarrassingly on point, be they too sincere or too ridiculous. Tattoos like the ones that follow.
Originally published 2015-01-30.
Many lawyers are tired of hearing about legalese, and many still haven’t embraced plain language in their own legal writing and speaking. This post won’t try to change their minds. If Bryan Garner’s life work can’t convince lawyers, how can I?
But there is another issue often lost in the plain-language wars: where did all these legalese words come from? The perception on both sides seems to be these words and phrases once served a purpose, but don’t anymore. But what if we discovered that they never served any purpose?Legalese as Reminiscence
When I recently conducted a Twitter poll on most-disliked legalese words, I was struck by this fact: 25% of the participants said they loved legalese.
If I could get rid of one word, it would be…
— Brendan M. Kenny (@KennyBrendan) January 15, 2016
Let that sink in. 25% of lawyers active enough on social media to vote in a Twitter poll are not on the plain-language bandwagon—and they don’t want to be. I have a theory.The Majesty of the Law
No doubt about it, some things in the law should sound solemn and ancient, because as Lord Hewart noted, “Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”
For example, most lawyers wouldn’t change the opening of every Supreme Court session:
The Honorable, the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court.
But when the court goes all-out old-fashioned, we often get this (ending at 6:42):
One can only imagine what they jury thinks after hearing that recital.
And when lawyers try to tell a story using legalese, it’s as though they are trying to tell Star Wars like this:
Lawyers are smart people, so our persistence in alienating our audience had puzzled me. Then I had this exchange with an old friend (not a lawyer) about a plain language post I wrote.
Chris might be on to something. Lawyers persist in using clumsy language even when it makes us less persuasive to our intended audience. Maybe that is because we believe or fear that words mean things when they really don’t. This may be a superstition, but it is a superstition that all the arguments in the world in favor of plain language will not overcome.
In the last century, lawyers have recognized that constantly using Latin words and phrases when English ones serve just fine made legal writing and speaking unnecessarily stuffy and ambiguous.
Of course, there are some terms of art that don’t have ordinary English equivalents, such as res ipsa loquitor, prima facie, and alibi.1 Other words with ordinary English equivalents are nevertheless so standard as to be unabjectionable, such as bona fide, amicus curiae, and versus.2 Few seek to remove this type of Latin from the law.
Today, most lawyers will recognize that writing or saying in praesenti (“in the present”), contradicto in adjecto (“contradiction in terms”), or ex abundenti cautela (“out of abundant caution”) is to present “pompous, turgid deadwood.”3
Perhaps many lawyers today resist cutting out non-Latin legalese because they view it with the same respect that 19th-century lawyers viewed Latin. Let’s see if that respect is warranted.Grammatical Grotesquerie “Wherever lawyers stand on legalese, they should, at least, stand on reason.”
This is a term Bryan Garner uses to describe legalese that no one intended to make a thing. He notes that when he was a young lawyer in Texas, the traditional denial in a defendant’s answer went like this:
“Defendant generally denies each and every, all and singular, the allegations contained in the plaintiff’s original petition.”
—Bryan Garner, Garner on Language and Writing: Selected Essays and Speeches of Bryan A. Garner 319 (American Bar Association) (2009)
He surmised that the justification for “all and singular” was likely in the same vein as Chief Justice John Fortescue’s famous statement: “We have several set forms which are held as law, and so held and used for good reason, though we cannot at present remember that reason.” After doing some digging, the first use of “all and singular” he found was in a 1847 Texas Supreme Court rule, and he notes:
The anonymous drafter of that rule, perhaps a justice of the Supreme Court, perpetrated a synactic blunder that would be repeated (with minor variations) in Texas pleadings for more than a century and a half.
—Id., p. 319
It’s bad enough that lawyers use antiquated phrases that have little or no meaning. It’s worse when we don’t even use the same antiquated language. For instance, I found four different versions of the sadly common “Further your affiant” language at the end of an affidavit used in Minnesota:
We should note three things about “Further affiant…”
Here’s a challenge: Find oddest phrase that lawyers routinely use in your state and investigate its origins. Cut it from your writing if you discover that it is unnecessary and encourage other lawyers to do the same.The Whys of Whereas
“Whereas” is one of those words that pops up on all sorts of contexts. In my experience, many lawyers think the word needs to be in anything signed by the court.
When I was working in the California Attorney General’s Office, I needed to draft a routine stipulation for the court to sign. Like the Bryan Garner fan I was, I wrote it in plain English and sent it to opposing counsel, who worked for a top-25 law firm. Opposing counsel responded by redrafting the stipulation as a whereas-ridden monstrosity. My then-supervisor responded with characteristic wit:
When I called opposing counsel about it, he said they always used whereas in stipulations and his managing partner had insisted on using them in this case. This led me to ask: is there any reason to use whereas clauses? According to Garner, the answer is no:
One significant feature of these whereas clauses is that they usually have no legal effect: they are merely preliminary statements providing introductory background information before the binding promissory language.
—Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage 929 (Oxford University Press) (2nd ed. 1995)
Let’s break this example down:
Until lawyers can rid themselves of this fear, they will never embrace plain language in writing and speaking.The Direction of Your Attention
Lawyers love to direct people’s attention to things. It could be an exhibit (“directing your attention to the bloody glove”), another witness’s testimony (“I’d like to direct your attention to the plaintiff’s direct examination”), or a legal concept (“directing your attention to the reasonable-person standard”). As many have already written, there are much better ways to transition into another topic.
In this post, I have two different concerns: what is the purpose of the phrase and where does it come from?
On the first point, I have found absolutely no evidence that the phrase has any special legal meaning. If anyone finds evidence that it does, please let me know.
On the second point, I have heard rumors that this phrase was used by lawyers in Elizabethan England, but I’ve only been able to track the phrase back to 1784.
— Barry Popik (@barrypopik) January 17, 2016
Almost no one outside of the legal community has used the phrase since the early 20th Century.
And if a ScotusSearch of US Supreme Court oral arguments is any indication, even lawyers are using the phase much less often. Lawyers and the justices used the phrase a total of 86 times since 1959, but only 8 times since 2000.Enclosed Please Find Gobbledygook
Legal motions and correspondence are replete with “enclosed please find,” and its close cousins “attached please find,” and “please allow.” This is nothing new.
These pleases have been criticized by writing treatises since the 19th century.4
A more ridiculous use of words, it seems to me, there could not be.
—Richard G. White, Every-Day English 492 (1880)
Enclosed please find’s lineage is not particularly distinguished or even connected with the law. It seems to have picked up steam just as “herewith enclosed” declined, and it became part of the form language used in magazine mail order forms, like the one below:
Attached please find has a similar background, and the first use I could find was this request in 1856 to place advertising in a magazine:
Today, it serves as an electronic enclosed please find typically used for work e-mails.
And don’t forget the begging that please allow this evokes:
In this instance, lawyers can stop saying please and just attach, enclose, and include.Check Your Premises
“Premises considered” used to be a word people actually used in Jamestown in the 17th century:
The Heathen enter frequently into some of the remote dispers’d habitations of the Christians, the premises considered, what can they see which should make them in love with their Religion?
-Anonmyous, “Advisive Narrative Concerning Virgina” (W. Godbid) (1662)
The phrase hasn’t had a place in standard English since 1810.
These days, premises considered shows up in the pro-forma conclusion to a shapeless pleading written by a lawyer who has no clue what it means:
One who writes “wherefore premises considered” in the prayer of a court paper would be hard pressed to say what the premises are, other than everything that has gone before.
—Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage 685 (Oxford University Press) (2nd ed. 1995)
We need to let this one go too.To Know These Presents Is to (Not) Love Them
Yes, lawyers still write know all men by these presents to mean “take notice.” This one goes back a long time. It first comes up in Google Books in 1695. And no, there probably was never a reason to use this phrase, either.
Wherever lawyers stand on legalese, they should, at least, stand on reason.
Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 518 (Oxford University Press) (3d ed. 2011). ↩
Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 314 (Oxford University Press) (3d ed. 2011). ↩
Lawyers, Stop Writing (and Saying) These Things Immediately was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
While Gmail’s new “Undo” feature can save you from an all-too-hasty click, it cannot save you from your own stupidity.
On January 7, the Louisiana Hearing Committee recommended one fiery lawyer’s permanent disbarment after determining he “had to be admonished for brandishing about his shillelagh, his action clearly inappropriate for a disciplinary proceeding.” The lawyer had been suspended from practice in Louisiana on an interim basis since March 2009.
When the court suspended his law license, the lawyer riposted by calling them a “bunch of pigs,” “gutless dogs,” and referred to the chief justice with a “sexual and offensive nickname” we can only conclude is too heinous to even include in the hearing report.
A week later, the lawyer sent another email to Disciplinary Counsel Ad Hoc denying the use of racially disparaging terms all the while “including many such terms along with other offensive terms” in the email. The same day, the lawyer he “notified Disciplinary Counsel Ad Hoc that he was a “pimp”, a “puppet”, an “Uncle Tom”, and an “OREO.””
In his next email, the lawyer explained “I Just Can’t Help Myself” then “launched into a string of racially offensive and obscene terms.”
It didn’t stop there.
On April 15, 2009, at 3.25 p.m., Respondent advised by email he had developed yet another nickname for Disciplinary Counsel Ad Hoc. This nickname was intended to be equally offensive. Later, at 5:27 p.m., Respondent offered by email to substitute a new offensive nickname for the prior offensive nickname.
On April 26, 2009, Respondent emailed Disciplinary Counsel Ad Hoc to advise him that Respondent was thinking of him and used a string of racially offensive and obscene terms to communicate his message.
The poor behavior continued with emails referring to opposing counsel in conflicting precedent as “SCUM” and “VERMIN”—and a judge as a “BIG GORILLA” who was attempting to accomplish “INSANITY.”
Comparing him to a “child who is sorry he got caught but not sorry for the infraction,” the committee found that the lawyer had committed numerous ethics rule violations and recommended permanent disbarment.
Not all jobs let you speak as boisterously as Donald Trump. Lawyering is one of them.
Featured image: “Man in shirt and tie sticking his tongue out and making the letter L” from Shutterstock.
Shillelagh-Brandishing Potty Mouth Loses Law License was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
How do you know whether your cloud software is sufficiently secure to meet your obligation to protect your clients’ information? Right now, there is no easy answer. You just have to educate yourself and then make up your own mind.
That could change as a result of the draft security standards that the Legal Cloud Computing Association released today at LegalTech. The standards are basically a sensible checklist of things you should expect to know about the software you use, like:
Plus, the standards set the expectation that you should be told all of these things, up front, by any cloud software provider that wants your business. The standards themselves make it clear that a company shouldn’t be able to earn your trust just by advertising that they comply. Compliance, in this case, would have to mean providing clear disclosures.
It’s possible to be cynical about this since all the members of the LCCA (Clio, DirectLaw, Rocket Matter, NetDocuments, CalendarRules, NextPoint, and Onit) sell cloud software to lawyers. But lawyers make their own rules, so why not cloud software providers? Besides, the LCCA has reached out to bar associations and hopes to work with them to help clarify what reasonable care looks like in the cloud.
The LCCA draft security standards for cloud computing are a pretty important step in setting expectations among lawyers, cloud software providers, attorney regulators, and clients.
Legal Cloud Computing Association Releases Security Standards was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
A brand-new Windows PC, fully updated and unsullied by crapware, is a wonderful thing. Sadly, very few people ever get to experience it, because so many PC manufacturers bundle loads of junk software with the computers they sell. Instead of the high-performance machine you thought you were getting, you get a computer bogged-down by stuff you don’t need or want. If you bought a high-end computer, you may not notice right away. Speedy hardware generally covers up the drain on system resources. But sooner than it should, that extra baggage will make your high-end PC feel underpowered.
Don’t let that happen to you. The next time you buy a new computer, clean out the crap and set it up properly right from the start. This guide will walk you through the process.
(We do not have a similar guide for Macs because most of the important things you need to do to set up a Mac are covered in our 4-Step Security Upgrade. You should absolutely get that guide if you own a Mac or a Windows PC.)
27-page PDF download.$20.00 – Add to Cart Checkout Added to cart
New Survival Guide: How to Set Up Your New Windows Computer was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Money matters, every lawyer knows this. The big picture, it allows us to live the life we dream. The simple picture, it keeps the lights on. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your accounting systems.
In this free guide from Clio, you will learn five key steps that every lawyer will want to use to safeguard and simplify their accounting system, including:
If you aren’t sure exactly what is going on in that image tweeted by Tony Webster, that code is showing that someone deliberately set the link to file a claim to show up black and without underlining instead of the default blue.
There is no way this could have happened by accident. By default, links are colored blue and underlined. Someone deliberately removed the color and underlining from this link. Why?
PayPal’s liability is capped at $4 million, and it won’t get any money back if there are fewer claims. The plaintiffs’ lawyers get paid before the class members. They have no incentive to reduce the number of claims. Actually, the Electronic Frontier Foundation would benefit most if there were fewer claims, since the EFF is designated to receive any leftover funds. But the EFF does not have any influence over the settlement notices.
So what happened? Well, the settlement agreement included an email template as an exhibit:
You’ll notice that the link to submit a claim is a placeholder (“available at www.________.com”), and it is black, with no underlining.
That’s it. That’s the explanation. The settlement administrator, Epic Systems, Inc., was just following the email template precisely. If anything, Epic made it easier to submit a claim by creating a link.
The lesson, as Webster pointed out in a follow-up tweet, is that lawyers need to pay attention to form and style of notices, not just the words.
PayPal Class Action Notice Intentionally Obscures the Link to Submit a Claim was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Billie Tarascio started out trying to build a firm that furthers access to justice, and wound up building a pretty innovative law firm with a software backbone that allowed her to deliver legal services at every price point—and it didn’t work. You’ll find out why in today’s podcast, but first, don’t forget that clients and customers are looking for very different things.Client v. Customer
When talking about law practice, many draw analogies between selling iPhones and talking to potential clients, talk about product design like delivering legal services, and conflate holes and estate plans. Those can be useful analogies, but there is a fundamental difference between a customer who buys iPhones and a client who buys legal services. Lawyers aren’t iPhones. Seth Godin explained it in more detail in a recent blog post:
The customer buys (or doesn’t buy) what you make.
The client asks you to make something.
Don’t confuse the two.Putting Access to Justice into Practice, with Billie Tarascio
Billie Tarascio has two companies:
The thing is, Access Legal is at once really innovative and exciting and almost exactly what everyone says small firms need to be doing, and it didn’t work. Tarascio tried to eat her own lunch, and it just didn’t work.
Listen now to find out why. There may be some important lessons to take away from this.
We love our sponsors, but they are only covering part of what it costs us to bring you this podcast. So we need your help. If you enjoy the show, please click this button and make a contribution:
To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button (or click the link to this post if you are reading this by email).
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 #53: Putting Access to Justice into Practice, with Billie Tarascio was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Designed for legal professionals by legal professionals to be intuitively straightforward, the flagship Amicus Attorney improves the efficiency and profitability of your firm by getting you the most out of the time you spend practicing law.
From matter management to document management… legal calendaring to tasks… automated workflows and document assembly… time entries… expense tracking… integrated billing—including integration with most desktop billing systems—and trust management… all simple and easy to use.
New features in Premium 2016 begin with Version Control, which keeps track of every different version of a document – who did what, where, and when. By default it opens the current version. Don’t worry about renaming each version, because Amicus does that for you. And because all versions are indexed, you can search for them rapidly.
Searching is even faster thanks to the new Document Preview feature, which opens a document for your review in a preview pane as you scroll through your document list. You can open a document in its native application, print it, zoom into the preview, and preview the whole document as you scroll through the list. Choose where to put the preview pane—right or left or bottom, or turn it off; all with a click. Open several documents if you like. Preview also works in files.
An Amicus Advantage subscription further enhances your practice with Full Mobility using Browser access. Work from anywhere, anytime – in the back seat of a taxi, at your home computer, and on your tablet or phone.
Document Preview works the same in the Browser, instantly opening the document without having to download it or wait for the native app to open.
Custom fields vastly increases your productivity when working remotely, by making all custom field information in your files available in your browser. Document versioning and drag and drop documents capability are also in your browser.
Amicus Client Portal is especially valuable during the intake phase. Clients can provide information when it is convenient for them, saving you time and them from being billed simply for you filling out forms. Additionally, there is less chance of a client blaming you later for misinformation when it was them who completed the form.
With features too numerous to mention here, including an optional fully integrated billing system, Amicus Premium has helped thousands of law firms find more billable time, save administration time and boost profitability.
For a full overview of how the new Amicus Premium 2016 features further help you manage your law practice, see this webinar recording.
Introducing the Law Practice Management You’ve Always Wanted: Amicus Premium 2016 (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
There will be nearly 80 vendors showing off their products and services at ABA TECHSHOW 2016,1 but only a handful are accessible to people with disabilities.
Over the month of January, in partnership with ABA TECHSHOW, we asked all 79 of the 2016 vendors to tell us whether their products and services are accessible to people with disabilities. Just 8—about 1%—said yes, although one responded twice and also said no. I’m not sure what to do with that.
That said, here are the companies that say their products and services are accessible to those with disabilities:
The rest have got work to do.
Fortunately, there is plenty of guidance. We linked to the BBC Mobile Accessibility Standards and the US Section 508 standards in our survey. Both Apple and Microsoft have extensive accessible design guidelines for software developers. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishes accessibility standards for the Web. IBM’s accessibility guidelines include information about designing accessible hardware. There are many resources on designing products and services to be accessible by those with disabilities.
Unfortunately, it looks like accessibility has been largely ignored by legal tech companies up to now. But this March, ABA TECHSHOW will shine a spotlight on accessibility by showcasing some of the products and services that make accessibility a priority. Hopefully that will light a fire under the rest.
Featured image: “outdated keyboard” from Shutterstock.
MyCase relies on the accessibility features of the browser and operating system. ↩
Some Legal Tech Companies are Focused on Accessibility, but Most Aren’t was originally published on Lawyerist.com.
Once you have decided leaving BigLaw is right for you, there are still many practical and logistical questions you need to answer carefully before you can walk out the door. It can be daunting to figure out how much notice to give, anticipate what’s going to happen after you do, and notify clients you are leaving.
But don’t give up. Those concerns are what any responsible, conscientious lawyer would seriously consider and deliberate before giving notice.
We are recent BigLaw defectors who grappled with these questions, and we asked other BigLaw alums about their experiences with leaving BigLaw for solo or small-firm practice, and life after the leap.Why to Leave “The biggest [reason] was a search for meaning.”
The decision to leave is rarely made on impulse. Short of a full-on breakdown where you run screaming from the office, you will have to grapple with some questions when deciding whether leaving BigLaw to start your own practice is the right move for you.
The most important question to ask when deciding to leave BigLaw is why. Why leave a six-figure salary, health insurance, partnership prospects, a steady stream of business, and a 401(k) to venture into the unknown? If you don’t have good answers for those questions, then perhaps these questions might help:
Your answers should help you determine (and might make it glaringly obvious) whether or not you need to leave.Financial and Practical Considerations
The fear of the unknown and the loss of a healthy salary and benefits sway many to stay in BigLaw. As Cynthia, a lawyer who left a top New York firm, explains:
The biggest concern [on] leaving was (a) the fear that I had been trained to do one thing my entire legal career and I was doing a 180-degree transition to a different practice area, (b) the inevitable pay cut . . . , and (c) the fact that I was taking a major chance giving up on a potential partnership opportunity at a BigLaw firm.
It takes a pretty high level of dissatisfaction and unhappiness for us to consider leaving our comfort zones—especially when it involves a prestigious firm name, high pay, good benefits, and a clear career trajectory—to trek down an unfamiliar path.Finding Balance and Being Happy Again
Lawyers are risk-averse and trained to define success and happiness myopically. There are reasons why law is the only job with an industry devoted to helping people quit, why “associate attorney” is frequently listed as one of most unhappy professions, and why the annual attrition rate for associates in BigLaw consistently hovers around 20%. When you find yourself dreading getting out of bed every morning and drinking copious amounts to rid yourself of Sunday-night anxiety, it may be time to seriously consider your alternatives.
Among those we interviewed, the most common theme motivating departure was sustainability. Whether they were talking about the lack of work-life balance, feeling like a cog in a wheel, or yearning for something more professionally fulfilling, most people who chose to leave said life in BigLaw was simply not sustainable or compatible with the life they hoped to lead. Cynthia felt that her decision to leave BigLaw was motivated by a need for more control over her life. She said her desire to leave was based on two factors:
Others we spoke to were not deterred by the long hours, unpredictable schedule, and intense demands of BigLaw, but were discouraged by the lack of personal and professional fulfillment that comes with exclusively representing large corporations in multi-million-dollar business transactions.
“The biggest [reason] was a search for meaning. If I was going to work the long hours required by BigLaw, I wanted to put in the hours for something that really moved me,” Daniel, an attorney who left BigLaw to start his own legal consulting practice, tells us. “I liked the experience of BigLaw on an intellectual level, but I just didn’t have the passion I was looking for and wanted to direct my energy towards something more personally fulfilling.”Gaining More Autonomy and Control
For others, including the authors of this article, a combination of both factors made the departure inevitable and the decision to start our own firm a foregone conclusion. Personally, we found the environment and culture of BigLaw to be extremely rigid and, at times, uninspiring and unfulfilling. We found ourselves envying an entrepreneur’s ability to build something from the ground up—from what computers to use to what sort of culture and environment we wanted to develop for ourselves, our employees, and our clients.
The desire for more autonomy, fulfillment, and control were at the core of why we, and many others, left BigLaw to build our own practices.When and How to Leave
The best way for you to leave BigLaw will depend on the circumstances surrounding your relationship with the firm, your level of seniority, and the type of practice you are starting when you leave.Obligations to Your Future Employer, Savings, and Benefits
Lawyers leaving BigLaw to start their own firm in the same practice area as their current firm should prepare to be escorted out the same day they give notice.
Other factors to consider when leaving are:
Take the time to strategically plan your departureLeaving on Good Terms
Almost all of the attorneys we interviewed made it very clear leaving on good terms was an important factor (and asked us not to use their full names, just in case).
Depending on what your new practice will be, a tense departure may be inevitable, but the fear that this could all be a huge mistake leads many to try to burn as few bridges as possible. How much notice you give (more is better than less) and when you give notice (ideally not in the middle of a big case or a busy season) is critical.Giving Notice: When and How Much? “The only thing anyone will remember about you after you are gone is how you left.”
While two-to-three week’s notice is the industry norm, attorneys going solo generally have more flexibility with their start date and may stand to benefit from leaving on good terms. Recognizing this, many offered longer notice periods of several months.
Daniel explained the importance of leaving on good terms:
I gave four months notice to my firm when I left. Staying on good terms with the firm was important to me and has proved very powerful in the long run, as my old firm has been a huge source of new business for me, and has taken a vested interest in supporting my new consulting practice.
While a generous notice period is ideal, the flexibility of your new “start date” also depends on the plans in place for the new practice and whether you want to take any time off before hanging a shingle. Most of the attorneys we interviewed tried to carve out time for a vacation following their departure from BigLaw, indicating that the allure of a smartphone-free trip after several years of “working vacations” was too strong to pass up. Others were eager to get their new practices up and running as soon as possible.
One attorney, for instance, had several potential business opportunities in the near future they wanted to pursue out of their new practice immediately or risk losing the business. In our case, we had found the perfect office space and had to sign a lease that would become effective in just a few weeks.
Even when you have flexibility, what makes leaving BigLaw even more difficult is the inability to predict your firm’s reaction to your departure. If you are escorted out of the building the day you give notice, you don’t want to be left scrambling to get an office up and running in a matter of days. On the other hand, if you are asked to serve a longer notice period, you don’t want to spend your precious start-up capital on several months of rent for unused office space.
As one partner said to us when we gave notice: “The only thing anyone will remember about you after you are gone is how you left.”Post-Departure: Regrets, Surprises, and Life after BigLaw
Across the board, lawyers felt good about their choice to leave on good terms and provide as much notice as possible. Daniel said:
I have no regrets about the way I left. My ability to maintain good relationships has allowed me to build a practice that is quite attractive to other firms.
For our part, we are happy we did everything above board and did not leave our former colleagues in the lurch or prevent our clients from receiving seamless service throughout our departure period. The clients who liked working with us reached out regardless of when or how we left. And the additional time spent “gainfully employed” let us work on setting up our new practice on evenings and weekends, while still receiving a salary, without going behind anyone’s back.
For those who did not leave on the best of terms, such as Alicia, an attorney who left her firm to strike out as a solo practitioner in the same field as her BigLaw employer, the lack of a relationship with her prior firm has not been hugely problematic:
While I was definitely concerned about being blackballed, in the end I’ve been able to remain outside their radar and build my own practice. While being a one-woman shop can certainly be stressful and overwhelming at times, the pride I take in my work and the ability to be my own boss and still make a healthy living makes the challenges worth it to me.
It pays to stay on good terms with your prior firm, but you can’t always predict or control their reaction to your departure. In the end, remember you are leaving for a reason, and it is possible to succeed with or without their blessing or support.Making the Tough Call to go Solo is on You
There is no one right or wrong way to leave BigLaw and no formula for a perfect departure. The one constant among all the former BigLaw lawyers we spoke with, however, is no one had any regrets.
Featured image: “Man Leaving Employment” from Shutterstock.