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Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Good "flying solo" article from Lawcrossing.com

Lawcrossing.com has a pretty good 'flying solo' piece here. I think most of the advice from the piece is pretty right on from my experience.

If you are in the pre-client (or few client) stage upon start-up, I think you need to go home office or space-for-services set-up with other lawyers. I had some five clients when I started our practice in April 2005 in a space-for-services deal. I was immediately profitable...my expenses weren't too much. The thunderbolt that I had to deal with was when the lawyer who owned the office condo I was in got up and left for a law firm job and put the floor on the market. Having to pay rent probably increased my expenses by some 300% immediately.

Immigrants flock to the suburbs

Here's a piece from yesterdays' Sun-Times about immigration in the Chicago area. Is your Firm feeling the same effect? The numbers are, not suprising to me, but still fairly stagering. Naturalized citizens of voting age were more than 12% of the suburban population and more than 13% of Chicago's. I found it suprising that between the six collar counties with Cook separated between Chicago and suburban Cook, DuPage County actually has the highest naturalized citizen population at 14.4%.

I think the questions that small law firm managers need to be considering are:
  • How can I reach out to these populations (marketing)?
  • How much do I stand to lose by not targeting these populations?
  • How much do I stand to lose by not having foreign language interpretors in my office?
  • Do I (lawyer) need to be fluent in more than one language?
Obviously immigration has huge ramifications that our Congress is having a hard enough time coming to any policies regarding as our federal government; it's a tough issue. That being said, I'd be hard pressed to think of many places in the Chicago area that should not be having Spanish language interpretors available all the time. The same may apply to Polish on the north and northwest sides of Chicago.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Yeah, I think I'll blog for Vault.com's well-being

Got my weekly e-mail from Vault.com (Vault.com is a popular career and legal employment Website) that included the following:

Wanted: Bloggers on Vault

Dear Vault Member,
Are you a blogger? Do you want to be a blogger? Consider blogging on your favorite career web site, Vault.com.
Send in our quick and easy application today. As long as it's career or school-related, Vault may host your blog on our site and put your blog in front of millions of Vault visitors.

Apply To Blog on Vault
To get your blog on Vault, send us an email to
blog@vault.com. Please send us the following information.

The general topic of your blog and the name of your proposed blog
A brief bio
The number of times per month you plan to post
A sample introductory blog post
Your e-mail (This is how we'll contact you, and it will appear on your blog)
Your blog name (this is the name you would post under - it can be your actual real name, a pseudonym, or a clever combination thereto) If your blog is approved, you will hear from a Vault blog editor with further details. Expect to start blogging this September.

Vault Blog FAQ
Q: Will I automatically get my blog on Vault?
A: No. Vault reserves the right to reject blogs that promise to be off-topic, incoherent, created for the purpose of selling diet pills, or just generally insane.

Q: Do I have to pay?
A: No. You will need to be a basic Vault member, though. (Basic Vault membership is free.)

Q: I raise goats. Can I write a blog from the viewpoint of my favorite goat, Clover?
A: If Clover wants to blog about agricultural business, maybe. If Clover wants to blog about what a hassle it is getting milked, no. Remember, we are looking for something career or school-related, whether that's your journey through law school, your experiences in pharma sales, or job search observations and advice.

Q: Can I link to my own awesome personal site from my Vault blog?
A: Probably. Vault does reserve the right to monitor links from our blogs to screen out direct advertisements, and other inappropriate material.

Q: I only want to post once a year. Is that OK?

A: We'd like bloggers to post at least once a month, if not more. Remember that regular posting is the best way to reach your readers.

Q: Will people be able to add comments to my blog?
A: Yes.

Q: I don't know if my blog is right for Vault or not.
A: E-mail us at blog@vault.com and ask.

Who wants to put all the effort into a good blog solely for the monetary benefit of another company? Doesn't Vault know how easy it is to generate Web traffic to a blog these days?

Anyone gonna sign-up?

Is your law firm happy?

Here's a good post from The Chief Happiness Officer about creating a happy work environment at your company.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lawyers' MBA-in-a-day

Look beyond the stupid title at this seminar put on by the Chicago Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. If you're at all like our firm, it sure seems like we're too often haphazard law practice rather than lean, mean, legal services BUSINESS!

Where's the JD-in-a-day program for wannabe lawyers?

Free marketing tele-conference

No guarantees from the management (as the late great Louis Rukeyser used to say on Wall Street Week), but I thought I'd just put out a quick post for this free tele-seminar from the Law Offices of John M. Preston in CA...

To learn more about the Preston A.P.C. Marketing Program, email us at ken.wilson@prestonestateplanning.com or call 1- 800-698-6918 to sign up for my free marketing teleconference.

I just e-mailed them myself. It's free so if it's convenient, what do you have to lose?

Another thought is, what affliated/side businesses can you develop to complement your law practice? For this guy, it's legal marketing. I know we're actively considering providing CLE courses for IL attorneys now that we have MCLE. What compliments your practice?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Thank you for your financial support of lawyers

It's lawsuits like this here (teenager's parent suing another teenager regarding a lost iPod) that at least make me secure in the fact that I shouldn't have to worry where my next meal is coming from. The greater ramifications and the health of our society is a differnent question.

Can you afford not to blog?

I was reading the NYTimes' day-after analysis of the National Security Agency's surveillance program decision from Judge Anna Diggs Taylor and was struck by how widely the columnist used bloggers as sources quoted in the article. By my count the first three quotations from a private attorney and two law professors, are referenced as bloggers.

Question: Have we reached a point in some fields where not having a blog is really going to limit ones influence and cut into their business/influence, period??

I think the answer to the question is clearly yes and I'm just uncertain and just don't have the breadth to say exactly what fields are most imminently impacted. In the legal field, it seems like if you're a law professor who really wants to have influence outside the small law review world, i.e. the mainstream media, you need a blog. Second, I think if you're a legal consultant, you need a blog. Those are the two that jump out at me in my industry. Speaking as an attorney in private practice, I could go on about the benefits of blogging but I won't. What I will say is that I don't think a blog as a private practice attorney is a "need" yet. However, I would say if you want to be someone who the mainstream media contacts and have some press relationships regarding particular subjects, having a blog may be particularly critical.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Illinois MCLE Board Website up and running...

The Illinois MCLE Board recently published updated Frequently Updated Questions and Forms on their temporary web page. It provides answers to questions about the new Illinois MCLE rules. There's quite a bit of information available including FAQ sections for attorneys and CLE providers.

Much of the information regarding approved CLE providers and specific activies that are approved for CLE has not yet been provided by the board. I'm personally somewhat curious as to how they'll view legal writing. Supreme Court Rule 795 references "law books" and "law review" writing as items for which CLE can be gained. Those of us who edit legal newsletters are keeping our fingers crossed about that writing being included.

Anyone want to be a CLE provider with me? Shoot me an e-mail. I surely think that there are two or three areas of law I'm fairly expert on. We can market our law firms like typical CLE presentations offer, gain our own MCLE credit, and run a viable side business. Let's do it!

Friday, August 11, 2006

So what's the deal with blogging?

Well, the ISBA conference police have told me I need to get my written materials in by Monday for our presentation at the Solo and Small Firm Conference and I'm brain-cramped. The Bears look lousy in their preseason game and I'm exchanging text messages with my wife who's in Witchita, KN.

So, what does everyone want to know about blogging...I'm all ears?

Marketing your practice with a blog

Here's a great overview from ABA's Law Practice Today regarding marketing your practice with a Weblog.

Biglaw's 'culture of fear'?

Here's a good piece from Law.com's Small Firm Business. Here's a good quote:

However, we also live in a culture of fear. Fear we won't meet our student loans, fear we won't be able to pay our living expenses, fear we won't have clients, fear we won't know what we are doing, fear of not having a steady paycheck and health insurance and so on. And then there is fear of what others will think if we try to go out there and make a go of it. We absorb all that fear to our detriment. And in turn, we sell ourselves to anyone who will hire us rather than trust ourselves. We sell out because of fear and, usually, too cheaply. I say, "No deal."

Remember, 74% of U.S. lawyers are in firms with four lawyers or less. Small firm life is the typical lawyers' life...even when you are in Chicago's Loop!

Technology habits

Here's an informative posting from the [non] billable hour regarding various age groups' online habits.

According to this study:

Gen Yers spend 12.2 hours online every week -- 28 percent longer than 27- to 40-year-old Gen Xers and almost twice as long as 51- to 61-year-old Older Boomers. Gen Yers are also much more likely to engage in Social Computing activities while online. For example, they are 50 percent more likely than Gen Xers to send instant messages, twice as likely to read blogs, and three times as likely to use social networking sites like MySpace. "All generations adopt devices and Internet technologies, but younger consumers are Net natives who spend more time online than watching television," said Forrester Research Vice President and co-author of the report Ted Schadler. "Younger generations live online, reading blogs, downloading podcasts, checking prices before buying, and trading recommendations."

You better believe that if you're targeting young adults that you need to be a part of online referrals services and an active blogger. I know in our practice, the referrals we get from the blogsphere have focused on young home buyers and young adults with family law problems.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Time Management for entrepreneurs

Here's a helpful piece from today's Times entitled, Entrepreneurs Take Time to Manage their Time. That's what us smallish law firm lawyers are right? So we're not only entrepreneurs who need to manage our time well but we're also in the business of selling time so time management is doubly important.

Here's a great quote from Attorney Diedre Wachbrit, a California lawyer:

But she said it was important to resist the temptation to take two minutes to do something and instead to "take five minutes to think how someone else can do it, because that will save me hours if you think about how often I do that same task over and over again."

I couldn't guess how many times I make that mistake.

Another good quote that I'm guilty of:

"I was a firefighter. All I did was put out fires. I never prevented fires from occurring, as I do now. I did not get any business growth or development accomplished."

Are you a firefighter??

Monday, August 07, 2006

SIU's most notorious graduate & client selection

As some of you may know, I'm a graduate of The Southern Illinois University School of Law. I'm a big supporter of what they're doing down there and it's a very underrated and yet economical law school.

So all of us Saluki's are just waiting for the day when our fellow graduate and now-lawyer, Matthew Hale just drops off the radar screen...is that day ever going to come? Here's his latest antic, a $30 million malpractice suit versus his former defense attorney, Thomas Durkin of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw.

From afar it's sort of sick and humorous to see him flail away within the justice system. But speaking with my managing shareholder of a law firm hat on, why would anyone have gotten into this case representing him? Wasn't both the loss and likely this malpractice suit almost inevitable? Are some of these larger law firm's financially secure enough whereby the monetary threat really doesn't matter and essentially they'll risk it for the publicity? From where I'm sitting it's a lapse in judgment and one wonders the rigors with which Mayer, Brown selects whom it will represent.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"In circulation"

There's a very interesting profile of Attorney Ron Miller from Miller, Shakman & Beem in the August Chicago Lawyer. He's nearing 75 and was sort of looking for a challenge and how to reinvent himself. So he started this monthly luncheon group called The Public Affairs Round Table where he'll bring together different "players." Once a month or so, he invites some 40 or so people to sit down at the firm's conference room to start a discussion about public affairs...whatever sparks his interest.

He has a nice quote in the articles that I think is true and applicable to blogging: "I never know what's going to work and what's not going to work. When something works it's usually a suprise. I never know what's going to bite, so I keep in circulation."

I'd like for the blog and things beyond the blog to have a bit of this "Round Table" effect.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Lawyers and bankers

Here's a nice piece from ABA's Law Practice Today that discusses how lawyers should "partner-up" with bankers. It has three nice sections on cash flow management, bank loans, and handling credit card payments. It's some of that good financial information that too many of us lawyers ignore.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hidden malpractice traps within law firms

There was a nice piece in Lawyers Weekly (article's not on the cite) by Nancy B. Jones regarding hidden malpractice within law firms. She discusses a number of points beyond the obvious things like missed deadlines, conflicts of interest, poor client relations, ect.

Some highlights:

1. Sloppy leadership. Are lawyers bad at leadership? Or, is it simply a time issue. I remember a law school professor who'd always say how bad of managers lawyers are. See I think I'm personally a good leader (unbiased too), but I think this point is generally right on from my previous firm experience.

2. Ineffective daily management. She mentions that many law firms fail to even fill the role of legal administrator. We don't have that role at our firm. She sees this person as a non-lawyer with authority who is in charge of day-to-day management.

3. Greed. Are you carrying TOO MANY cases?

4. A firm in name only. Do you share the costs and liabilities of partners, but otherwise operate as individual practices that just happen to be under the same roof? I see this one a lot.

5. No accountability. What does this mean in your firm? Are there clear job descriptions for each position?

6. Poorly balanced lives.

$500,000 Alienation of Affection judgment

As a family law practitioner I was suprised to see a $500,000 verdict awarded to a woman based on the tort of alienation of affection in Greensboro, North Carolina. Here's the Greensboro News-Record's take on the case.

Pretty smart defendant who was not represented and didn't show up for court at any of the proceedings.

We still have this tort in Illinois and I've looked into it on behalf of clients. I know there was a suit within the last five years involving Olive Garden restaurant as a defendant. As an admitted "family values" guy, I support this tort and making dissolution of marriage a little more difficult than it is frankly.