Legal Practice

Run a 21st-century law firm with these books

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Run a 21st-century law firm with these books

Running a small law firm isn’t easy. Practicing law is a full-time job in and of itself, and as a result most small firm lawyers don’t have the luxury of letting others run the back-end of their law firm. Instead, they’re often responsible for many of the day-to-day tasks involved in managing the business end of their practices, whether it’s hiring employees, managing the books, invoicing and collecting payments from clients, or marketing their practice.
And then there are the administrative and IT functions that small firm lawyers take on themselves. These can include handling client intake, managing calendars, drafting documents, choosing and maintaining computer hardware, and selecting software for the firm.
No wonder you sometimes feel overwhelmed! Because you singlehandedly take on so many different roles, there’s too much to do and not enough hours in the day. You need all the help you can get! Fortunately, there are lots of books available designed to do just that: provide you with the guidance you need to run your small law firm efficiently and profitably. What follows are a few of my top recommendations.
First, there’s “Solo By Choice: How to be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be” and the “Solo By Choice, the Companion Guide,” both written by lawyer Carolyn Elefant. These books walk you through the ins and outs of starting your own law firm and cover everything you need to know about starting and managing a successful solo or small firm practice.

Next up is “The 2019 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide,” written by Sharon D. Nelson, John W. Simek, and Michael C. Maschke.  In this book, which is updated and revised annually, you’ll learn all about how to make smart technology decisions for your law firm. This book will help you sift through your technology choices, which range from hardware options to legal software tools designed to simplify the lives of solo and small-firm lawyers.

Speaking of technology, if you have senior lawyers in your law firm who are either resistant to technology or are struggling to keep up, make sure to invest in a copy of “Technology Tips for Seniors, Volume 2.0,” written by Ashley Hallene and Jeffrey M. Allen. This book includes a mobile device app guide and offers lots of other useful information that will help senior lawyers improve their productivity by learning about, understanding, and using technology.

Another book to consider if you’re seeking ways to innovate and stand out in today’s increasingly crowded legal marketplace is “Legal Upheaval: A Guide to Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation in the Law.” In this book, author Michele DeStafano explains why the legal industry is in the middle of an unavoidable transformation, and provides ideas to help lawyers innovate in order to succeed in the new world order.

“How to Capture and Keep Clients: Marketing Strategies for Lawyers, Second Edition” is another book to read for advice on how to successfully market your law firm in 2019. This book is edited by jennifer j. rose and includes chapters from more than 27 lawyers and legal marketing experts who offer lots of great legal marketing ideas and advice.

As you put all of your learnings into action and your firm begins to thrive, you’ll no doubt seek to grow your firm by hiring new employees. That’s where “Effectively Staffing Your Law Firm, 2nd Edition” comes in. This book is also edited by jennifer j. rose and each chapter is written by experts - many of whom are lawyers - and covers everything you need to know about hiring staff, firing staff, and everything in between.

And last but not least, as you begin the process of hiring new employees, you’ll most likely encounter a Millennial or two along the way. If so, you may be struggling to understand your new hires. That’s where “What Millennial Lawyers Want” comes in. In this book, author Susan Smith Blakely explains what makes this generation tick and how managing law firm partners can change their outlook and embrace the many qualities that make Millennial employees a unique and valuable asset for law firms.

So what are you waiting for? Invest in a few of these books today and then put your newfound knowledge to work. In no time, you’ll be reaping the benefits of your investment and will be on the path to a successful and profitable law practice!

 

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com. 


Round Up: Secure Communication, Cybersecurity, Podcasts for Lawyers, and More

SpiralI often write articles and blog posts for other outlets and am going to post a round up here from time to time (but won't include my weekly Daily Record articles in the round up since I re-publish them to this blog in full). Here are my posts and articles from October 2018:


Round Up: Legal Beach Reads, Alternative Fees, Cybersecurity, And More

SpiralI often write articles and blog posts for other outlets and am going to post a round up here from time to time (but won't include my weekly Daily Record articles in the round up since I re-publish them to this blog in full). Here are my posts and articles from May 2018:

 


Round Up: Robot Lawyers, Document Management Software, Productivity Tips, & More

SpiralI often write articles and blog posts for other outlets and am going to post a round up here from time to time (but won't include my Daily Record articles in the round up since I re-publish them to this blog in full). Here are my posts and articles from February 2018:


Plan for 2015 with these solo/small firm resources

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "

Plan for 2015 with these solo/small firm resources."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Plan for 2015 with these solo/small firm resources

 

The new year is upon us and it’s time to start planning for 2015. For solo and small firm lawyers, annual planning can be an arduous task. Not only do you have to stay abreast of changes in your practice areas — you are also tasked with making business decisions about the direction of your law firm.

The good news is that there are lots of resources out there for solo and small firm lawyers to help you stay on top of running your busy law practice. Here are a few to get you started.

First, there are lots of great books that cover the basics of running your law firm. There’s the recently updated “Solo By Choice: How to be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be” and “Solo By Choice, the Companion Guide,” both written by solo guru Carolyn Elefant. There’s also the more traditional stand by, “How to Start and Build a Law Practice by Jay Foonberg.” Another great book for 21st century legal practitioners is “Limited Scope Legal Services: Unbundling and the Self-Help Client” by Stephanie L. Kimbro. And, of course, I think that my book, “Cloud Computing for Lawyers,” is a great technology resource for lawyers, but then again I might be biased.

Law blogs devoted to solo and small firm attorneys are another great way to find information to help you plan for 2015. First, there’s Attorney at Work, a group blog focused on a wide range of topics focused on running a small firm practice. Lawsites is a blog written by Bob Ambrogi and covers everything you need to know about the latest in legal technology. My Shingle is Carolyn Elefant’s long-standing and helpful blog dedicated to all things solo. Finally, there’s the ABA’s Law Technology Today blog, which addresses need-to-know technology topics for solo and small firm attorneys.

There are also a number of useful online forums available for solo and small firm practitioners. First, there’s Solosez, a free listserv for solos sponsored by the American Bar Association’s GPSolo section and where lawyers discuss all aspects of running their law firms. The Macs in Law Offices Google Group, is a great forum for lawyers who use Apple computers and devices in their law offices. Also useful is Solo Practice University, which is an online university designed to teach lawyers how to open up and run a solo practice. And last but not least, there is the Google + Community, Lawyers on G+, where lawyers gather to discuss the ins and outs of running their practices.

Finally, don’t forget about the vast assortment of legal conferences aimed at solo and small firm lawyers. These conference provide fantastic educational and networking opportunities, so why not invest in your practice and your future by attending at least one or two of these next year? First, there’s the solo/small firms conferences, which cover a variety of topics of interest to lawyers seeking to run their law firms more efficiently and economically and are always well worth the time spent attending them. The American Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm annual conference is a great place to start. Also useful are the various solo and small firm conferences sponsored by state bar associations, And last but not least, consider attending ABA Techshow, a conference held in the spring in Chicago, which focuses on using legal technologies to run solo and small firm law practices.

So now that you are armed with law practice management resources, why not spend some time coming up with a plan to get your firm off on the right foot? Invest a little time up front and make 2015 the best year it can be!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


Ethics of VLOs and advertising in New York

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Ethics of VLOs and advertising in New York."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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The legal profession is in a state of flux. New technologies are changing the ways that lawyers advertise and deliver legal services. Internet-based tools, including social media and cloud computing, offer lawyers more choices than ever when it comes to running their practices and reaching potential clients.

As a result, innovation in the delivery of legal services, driven by rapid changes in technology, has increased greatly in recent years, with virtual law offices (VLOs) being a prime example. VLOs — where lawyers deliver legal services using an online portal — have become much more common, both because these types of practices are very flexible and cost-effective and because new cloud-based platforms have been introduced which are designed to support VLOs.

But as is always the case when lawyers innovate in the delivery of legal services, VLOs can trigger a host of ethical issues. Last month, the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics addressed some of those issues in Opinion 964 (April 4).

In this opinion, the committee addressed two questions asked by an attorney who operated a virtual law practice out of her home and provided legal services and interacted with clients primarily using the Internet or by other electronic means. The inquiring attorney sough clarification regarding two different issues: 1) Whether she could use a commercial mailbox service address, in lieu of her home address, as her only office address listed in advertisements, and 2) Whether she could use a commercial mailbox service address as the only office address listed on business cards and letterhead.

The committee first addressed the definition of the term “principal law office address” as set forth in Rule 7.1(h), which provides, in relevant part, that “[a]ll advertisements shall include … the principal law office address … of the lawyer or law firm whose services are being offered.” The Committee reviewed past iterations of this rule, including the advertising rules adopted by the Appellate Divisions in 2007, which  changed the term “office address” as set forth in DR 2-101(k), the prior version of the rule, to “principal law office address” as it section now appears in DR 2-101(h), the current version of the rule.

The committee explained that it interpreted the fact that the term changed so little from one iteration of the rule to the next to mean that the Appellate Divisions’ intent continued to be that “all lawyer advertisements were to disclose the address of an office where the lawyers were present and available for contact, and where personal service or delivery of legal papers could be effected.”

Accordingly, the committee concluded that in order to avoid misleading the legal consumer, all advertising for legal services must include the street address of the lawyer’s principal office, even if that address is the lawyer’s home address, as was the case with the inquiring attorney. However, the committee also determined that so long as the attorney’s business cards and letterhead were not being used as advertising, but instead were being “used in the ordinary course of professional practice or social intercourse without primary intent to secure retention,” then a mail drop address could be listed as the sole address without mention of the attorney’s principal address — in this case, her home address.

I believe the committee’s conclusion in this case is misguided and fails to acknowledge the realities of a 21st century law practice. In fact, I criticized the requirement that a lawyer include the address of a home office in advertisements back in 2007 when the new advertising rules were enacted. As I explained in 2007, one way to avoid the risk of misleading the legal consumer regarding an attorney’s location while maintaining the privacy and safety of a lawyer with a home office is to require that attorney advertising list the county or city in which the attorney practices along with a mail drop address, but not the exact address of the home office.

This opinion surprised me, since more often than not, the New York State Bar is ahead of the curve when it comes to addressing the ethical issues triggered by new technologies. But in this case, the committee’s decision is surprisingly short-sighted and penalizes innovative lawyers seeking to serve legal clients more efficiently and cost effectively. This is an unfortunate decision that I don’t think will withstand the test of time.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


A Mobile Practice Management Infographic and a Giveaway!

First, the giveaway. Head on over to the MyCase blog to enter to win a free copy of the JuryPad app, compliments of the good folks at Bench&Bar, LLC. The JuryPad iPad app is designed to streamline the jury selection process by assisting lawyers during voir dire. Using this app you can create voir dire templates and then keep track of potential jurors’ demographics and voir dire responses using a customizable seating chart. Enter to win today!

Next, check out this great infographic that we created and published at the MyCase blog that is chock full of useful and interesting statistics about lawyers use of mobile law practice management tools. It offers lots of insight into how attorneys are communicating with their clients and managing their busy law practices while mobile and on the move.

 

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Win a copy of "Solo by Choice" or "Social Media for Lawyers"

Social media book cover
Each month at the MyCase blog, we hold a giveaway. Last month two Geminus Genius iPad cases were up for grabs. This month, don’t forget to enter to win one of two books:

If you’d like a chance to win, head on over to the MyCase blog and sign up!

And, while you’re at it, check out my past posts there about law practice management and legal technology issues, including mobile computing and cloud computing for lawyers.

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2012 technology trends for large law firms

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "2012 technology trends for large law firms."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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 2012 technology trends for large law firms

Earlier this month, the American Lawyer released its annual technology survey results. The Am Law Tech Survey 2012 compiled the responses of 83 Am Law 200 CIOs and technology chiefs regarding their law firms’ use of technology over the past year. The end result was clear — large law firms were no more capable of resisting the tidal wave of consumer-driven demand for cloud and mobile computing than any other industry.

For example, the most interesting trend from this year’s results was that law firms were giving in to the inevitable, shifting away from typical enterprise-friendly devices and toward those more suited for consumers, especially when it came to mobile devices.

Specifically, there was a decided shift from law firm use of familiar, clunky BlackBerry phones to the more nimble and consumer-friendly Apple and Android smartphones, with 88 percent of respondents expecting a decrease in BlackBerry users and 4 percent reporting that they would cease BlackBerry support altogether. Interestingly, iPhones were the most used device, with 99 percent of respondents indicating that there were iPhone users within their firms and 75 percent reporting the use of Android devices.

Tablets are also influencing purchasing decisions. When it came to new hardware, 37 percent of respondents indicated that there were plans to add a tablet to hardware purchasing decisions for individual attorneys in the near future, with 25 percent planning to issue attorneys a desktop and a tablet and 12 percent planning to issue a laptop and a tablet instead. And, 8 percent of firms reported that they already supplied their attorneys with tablet computers.

The use of cloud computing by large law firms is also increasing, albeit at a slower rate than that of solos of small firms. Nevertheless, there has been an uptick of cloud computing use, with 74 percent reporting using hosted computing services, a decided increase from the 65 percent that reported using these services in last year’s survey. And, 50 percent reported an increase in the use of cloud services compared to the prior year.

But how did respondents use cloud computing in their law firms? 63 percent used it for e-discovery and litigation support, over 37 percent used the cloud for human resource matters, 38 percent used it for email management, 13 percent reported using cloud services for data storage, 7 percent used it for billing and 8 percent used cloud-based platforms for document management.

The main cloud computing benefits cited by respondents were simplified support and maintenance (83 percent) and the reduced need for in-house servers and other hardware (44 percent).

Finally, the survey results indicated that social media use by large firms is also on the rise, with 75 percent of respondents indicating that their firms used social media as part of their firm’s marketing strategy. Of those firms, 90 percent used LinkedIn, 64 percent used Twitter and 61 percent used Facebook.

So the results are clear — like most other industries, large firms are not immune to the long-reaching effects of the Internet and mobile computing. These new tools are changing the ways that we interact, communicate and conduct business and ignoring the impact of these technologies upon our societal landscape is no longer an option. Accepting and embracing 21st century technologies is the most reasonable course of action and, at long last, law firms are doing just that. It’s been a long time coming.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycaseinc.com.

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Lawyers' Collective "Milkshake Mistake"

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers' Collective "Milkshake Mistake."

A PDF of this article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers' Collective "Milkshake Mistake"

We’ve all enjoyed a cold milkshake on a hot day, but it turns out that milkshakes are far more than a dessert. Milkshakes, like most products, including legal services, are whatever the consumer needs them to be.

Clay Shirky, noted author and Internet and technology pundit, examines this idea in his book, Cognitive Surplus and Generosity in a Connected Age. In his book, Shirky, (who will be the a keynote speaker at the upcoming Social Media and Communication Symposium at RIT on September 29th), describes how Gerald Berstell, a researcher hired by McDonalds, was tasked to improve the sales of milkshakes.

Unlike the other researchers, rather than focusing on improving the product, Berstell focused on the consumer’s expectations and needs by tracking customers’ purchasing habits. As he did so, he noticed something interesting. Most milkshakes were purchased in the early morning by commuters. Even though McDonald’s marketed the milkshakes as a dessert, its customers disagreed. For most customers, milkshakes were a neat, tasty, convenient and easily transportable breakfast meal--more so than any of McDonald’s other breakfast options.

As Shirky explained: “Not one conventional breakfast item (fit the) bill, and so without regard for the sacred traditions of the morning meal, those customers were hiring the milkshake to do the job they needed done.”

Shirky referred to this phenomenon as “milkshake mistakes,” something that occurs when an industry adopts a narrow view of its products, while simultaneously ignoring the needs and expectations of its customers.

Shirky then turned to traditional media and applied the “milkshake mistake” concept to the changing viewing and leisure habits of consumers. He described how people are now foregoing television to create and consume content online. In other words, rather than watch shows or read articles created by “professionals”, many consumers are instead choosing to spend their leisure time watching YouTube videos or reading blog posts created by “amateurs.”

After noting that this change in viewing habits occurred in record time, he then suggested that perhaps the traditional media industry had never truly understood the needs of its customers: “But what if, all this time, providing professional content isn’t the only job we’ve been hiring the media to do? What if we’ve also been hiring it to make us feel connected, engaged and just less lonely?”

Most lawyers should be able to relate to this concept. How many times has this happened to you? After explaining to a potential client that litigation would cost more than the amount at issue, your potential client retorts: “I don’t care! It’s the principle of the matter!”

This is because although lawyers are purportedly hired to solve legal problems, we’re also hired to make the client feel better about their situation. In many cases the primary underlying motivations behind seeking legal counsel include reducing anxiety, mending bruised egos, satiating anger, achieving justice, and even obtaining revenge against perceived wrongdoers, no matter what the cost.

In other words, lawyers tend to overlook their client’s multi-faceted needs and assume that they’re only being hired for their legal expertise. For many potential clients, that’s simply not the case, and if there is an easier, cheaper way to ease their worries and accomplish their goals that isn’t as intimidating as hiring a lawyer, they’ll use it.  And, just as is the case with traditional media, online tools are a disruptive force that provide consumers with a variety of newfound ways to meet their needs through legal self-help.

The Internet offers legal consumers more alternatives to traditional legal services than ever before--smack dab in the middle of an economic downturn during which the average citizen is highly motivated to solve their own problems and avoid costly legal bills. Whether it’s virtual law offices, legal forms from LegalZoom or RocketLawyer, legal forms for uncontested divorces provided by state court websites,  or crowdsourced legal advice from LawPivot, more and more online platforms are emerging that offer an increasingly vast selection of low cost tools to assist legal consumers with commonly encountered problems.

Of course lawyers serve an important function in our society and I’m not suggesting that all forms of traditional legal services will ever be replaced by online tools or platforms. But the legal profession must avoid making the “milkshake mistake.” The delivery of legal services is changing and consumers now have more choices when it comes to meeting their needs. Astute, forward-thinking lawyers will recognize, not ignore this phenomenon, and find ways to position their law practice to meet the needs of legal consumers in the midst of this rapidly changing technological landscape.

If you’d like to hear more from Shirky and others (Nicole Black will be speaking on a panel as well) the RIT Social Media and Communication Symposium will be held on Sept. 29, 2011 and the cost is $35 for the day (www.rit.edu).

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.

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