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Billing by the Hour: We Didn't Always Do It That Way

Billing by the hour is just one of many established customs within the legal profession. Why do we do it that way? I’ve always been amused by the answer to that question. Inevitably, the answer is, “because we’ve always done it that way.” End of discussion. In the early 1980’s, when I first entered the legal profession, billing by the hour was well ingrained as the standard for all but a handful of practice areas. As a young associate in a large law firm, the thought never even occurred to me that attorneys could bill clients in any other form. Now, of course, I know better. I am very familiar with the flaws of the hourly rate system. I suspect you are, too, since the legal blogosphere is full of posts on this topic. Instead, I’… ... Read More
Categories: Practice Management

Law School Regrets

I graduated from law school 30 years ago. When speaking to law students about how to find a job today, I mostly cover the basics. But I draw on my own experiences, too, and offer one bit of advice rarely provided by most career counselors. I arrived at this advice when, to prepare my presentation, I asked myself: “Knowing what I now know about legal careers after all these years, would I have done anything differently when I attended law school?” Continue reading post on attorneyatwork.com ... Read More

Signage for Solos

I recently received a call from a former lawyer-coaching client of mine seeking marketing ethics advice. He’s a solo practitioner and plans to relocate to a new office building. In the new location, he will office share with two other solos. His question: What kind a signage is appropriate when three solos are sharing one office at the same address? The two-word answer attorneys always provide to clients applies here. “It depends.” It depends on what the sign says. The signage must not confuse the public into thinking that there is actually a three-person law firm at the location, rather than three solos in one location. One really doesn’t need a lawyer to make this determination. Just ask anyone who drives by the office. Moreover,… ... Read More
Categories: Practice Management

Unhappy Lawyers; Why So Many?

Not surprisingly, there are thousands of unhappy lawyers who are new to the profession. After all, there’s plenty to be unhappy about if you’re unemployed and trying to pay back six-figure loans. But what about more-experienced attorneys who have stable jobs and little-to-no debt? Are they a satisfied lot? A 2007 American Bar Association survey found that only 55 percent of lawyers were satisfied with their careers. In my opinion, this is because many of them become lawyers with vague or unrealistic expectations about what a career in the legal profession would be like. Why Did You Go To Law School? First, I’ve learned from my experience as a coach, that many seem to decide to become lawyers by default. I’ve coached well over 100 la… ... Read More
Categories: Legal Careers

Career Change and Money

Whenever attorneys consider any type of career change, whether minor or major, the issue of money inevitably comes up. That’s hardly surprising. Often, the changes being contemplated require some sort of financial sacrifice, at least in the short term. Some require short-term and ong-term sacrifice. For purposes of this post, I consider a career change to mean, among other things, a modification of a practice area, switching work environments, going solo,or even getting out of law. Don’t Let Money Interfere Too Much Far too many lawyers let the money aspect of any career change get in the way of making the best choice. Risk-avoiding lawyers are often unwilling to assume any risk, no matter how reasonable it appears on paper. This is unf… ... Read More
Categories: Legal Careers

Pro Bono: It Pays to Be Good

Recently, New York became the first state to require that law students perform 50 hours of pro bono work before they can be admitted to the bar. Plenty of bloggers have already chimed in on whether this is a good or bad idea. There’s little that I can add to that debate. But I like to remind lawyers that the benefits of performing pro bono work go well beyond feeling good about “doing the right thing.” Too few of us recognize that it can also yield substantial, practical economic benefits for ourselves, our organizations and our profession as a whole. When it comes to pro bono service, “it pays to be good.” Continue reading this post on www.attorneyatwork.com ... Read More

Client Service: Are Your Clients Really Satisfied?

If you are like many lawyers, you assume your clients are satisfied. Oftentimes, three reasons support their assumption. Their clients don’t complain, they pay, and they come back. Each of these answers seems reasonable as an indication of client satisfaction. In reality, however, they provide little support. My Clients Don’t Complain Many of you eat at restaurants frequently, I suspect. I do. Unfortunately, I often receive lousy food, lousy service or both. Do I complain to my server or to the host/hostess? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. It usually depends on just how bad the food or service was, and upon my mood. Although I am not shy about voicing my opinion, many times I simply walk out of the restaurant without expressing a word of… ... Read More
Categories: Practice Management

A Personalized Cover Letter Should Accompany Legal Bills

Do you include a cover letter when you send out your monthly legal bills? Most of you do, I suspect. In my previous life as an in-house lawyer for more than a dozen years, I reviewed more outside legal bills than I care to remember. Certain things stick out. The more important portion of legal bills, of course, are the page with the “almighty” time entries and descriptions. However, I also clearly remember the attached cover letter. They all said the same thing: “Enclosed, please find.” What a waste of a valuable opportunity. Personalize Your Cover Letter Consider sending out your legal bills with a personalized cover letter. Now, before you start whining about yet another “soft skill” client service suggestion that seems on its… ... Read More
Categories: Practice Management

Why Be Afraid of Networking?

Unfortunately, most lawyers aren’t particularly excited about the idea of networking. Even lawyers who’ve taken steps to get help with business development will object, inevitably, when it’s time to test their networking ability. Two primary fears seem to be the basis for their lack of enthusiasm and their objections. So let’s take a look at why those fears are unfounded. Continue reading this post on www.attorneyatwork.com ... Read More

Alternative Careers for Lawyers

Alternative careers — doing something other than practicing law — are looking more attractive to both new and experienced lawyers as the job market gets more dismal. Of course, the notion of lawyers using their legal degrees to do something other than practice law is nothing new. After all, the U.S. President and his challenger both have J.D.’s. I’m sure that many of you thought along these lines when making the decision to attend law school: “I may not ultimately practice law, but a legal degree is something that can always be put to use.” Implied in that logic is the notion that a J.D. enhances one’s value in the overall job market and that an alternative career is very possible. Indeed, that seems to be the conventional wis… ... Read More
Categories: Legal Careers

A Coach Reviews The Lawyer's Guide to Professional Coaching

At long last, the ABA has published a book about coaching for lawyers. As an attorney coach for almost a decade, I understand that many lawyers don’t even know that the option of coaching for their profession exists, let alone understand how coaches can help their careers. The publishing of this book by the ABA should enhance the credibility and popularity of lawyer coaching. With those thoughts in mind, I eagerly sat down to read The Lawyer’s Guide to Professional Coaching, by Andrew Elowitt. The Basics of Coaching Elowitt does an excellent job providing an overview of the basics, including why a lawyer would need a coach, how coaching works, why coaching is more than a fad, and how to select a coach. That said, much of the material co… ... Read More

When Networking, Confidence and Enthusiasm Are Essential

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Usually I agree with Woody Allen, who is famous for (among other things) making this remark. But when it comes to networking for purposes of business development, I’ll have to differ from the well-known filmmaker. Confidence and Enthusiasm Are Paramount Networking is a complete waste of time and money — unless one can sound confident and enthusiastic when doing so. Just showing up is not enough. Simply put, no one wants to hire an attorney who sounds tentative and is not passionate about what he or she does. Think about it. Would you hire a lawyer who tells you, “I’m not so sure how to do that, but I think I can figure it out”? Would you hire a lawyers who says, “Been there; done th… ... Read More

ABA report: No New Rules Needed for Law Firm Rankings

When U.S. News & World Report decided to rank law schools, this ranking – for better or worse — fundamentally changed the law school admissions process. Continue reading this post on myshingle.com ... Read More

LegalZoon: Good or Bad News for the Legal Profession?

In the past ten years, LegalZoom has had more than two million customers. Its revenue in 2011 was $156 million. What does the apparent success of LegalZoom and other online document companies mean for the legal profession as a whole? ... Read More

When is a Lawyer Like a Barber?

When it gets right down to it, what lawyers do is all about clients. Those wonderful, awful, charming, annoying, challenging and gratifying people who actually pay you to do your work. So we are declaring it “This Business of Clients” week here at Attorney at Work. You will receive some new and some of our best encore posts this week, designed to give you and your desk-side manner a quick refocus. Good for you. Good for them. First up? Roy Ginsburg and the guy who cuts his hair. Continue reading this post on attorneyatwork.com ... Read More

Buying a Law Practice Makes Sense

As baby boomers age and start to think about retirement, these lawyers begin to think about selling their legal practices. At the same time, younger lawyers are looking for ways to expand or diversify their practices. They are also thinking about buying a law practice. Buying a law practice is a strategy that offers sellers and buyers alike significant gain with minimal risk. Don’t be a Skeptic Even though the risk is small, it is enough to scare off some potential buyers. Lawyers, after all, are blessed with ultra-cautious DNA. For many, the term “risk” is not part of their vocabulary. Perhaps the following hypothetical example will persuade skeptical buyers by demonstrating the small risk and potential high reward of a law practice… ... Read More

Lawyers: Beware Low Billing Rates

Lawyers bill too little for two reasons. First, they believe that a lower fee will yield more clients. Alternatively, especially when they represent individuals and small business owners, lawyers feel sorry for their clients and end up billing what they think the client can pay — not what the lawyer is worth. Do not fall victim to either of these faulty arguments. Never, ever compete on cost Other lawyers may bill less for their services than you do, and you may fear losing business to these low-cost competitors. Don’t. Chances are good that these lawyers are not making a profit and will soon go out of business. You don’t want to join them. If I had excess capacity in my practice, I wouldn’t waste it by taking on legal work that los… ... Read More
Categories: Practice Management

Work the Room When Speaking in Public

You’re a lawyer who’s accepted an invitation to speak and the speech is ready to go. It’s now show time. Are you are ready to reap the benefits? The primary benefit of any speaking engagement is not the speech itself. Rather, it is the opportunity to interact in person with members of a select audience of clients, potential clients and referral sources. A lawyer/speaker who arrives at the venue at the last minute, reads through a speech without pausing for audience involvement, and then rushes from the room to the next appointment is making a huge mistake. Speaking engagements offer valuable opportunities for personal interaction before, during and after the actual speech. A few days before your speech, try to obtain a list of attende… ... Read More

Cold Calls Have Chilling Effect On Many Lawyers

Telephone calls to prospective clients or employers can be “cold,” where the person is not expecting your call. They can also be “warm,” where the prospective client knows something about you and is expecting your call. When coaching lawyers, I am often asked about the effectiveness of cold calling. Lawyers who want to develop more business wonder if this highly popularized sales technique might work for them. Lawyers who are looking for jobs wonder if cold calls ever generate warm informational interviews. Almost always, I counsel my clients to turn a cold shoulder on cold calling. The telephone is a “cold” medium The goal of cold calling is to plant a tiny seed that can grow into a relationship —… ... Read More

Asking For The Business: IMHO, Rarely Ethical or Effective

In a previous post dealing with the ethical traps in networking, I discussed how “asking for business” can run afoul of the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct. In this post, I want to discuss how “asking for business” can be ineffective as well as a business development tactic. Continue reading post on www.solopracticeuniversity.com ... Read More
Working and getting together with Roy for the past eight months has been enjoyable and enlightening. It made me much more confident and effective in networking and interviews." Read the rest
– Associate General Counsel, Falls Church, VA corporation

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