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Solo In Chicago

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

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Free e-book

Rjon Robins at How to Make it Rain has a new free, e-book out entitled Ten Rainmaking Mistakes Made by Solo Practitioners here...give it a read.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Virtual law clerks needed

Hey I know I've dined with some law school students who read this blog so I thought I'd post a job listing aimed at law students if you're still out there:

Virtual law clerk. Part-time (flexible), as needed, virtual law clerk for small Chicago law firm. The position will include general legal research and law clerking. We also want someone with technology skills to assist with the Firm’s blogs and Web presence. The Olson Law Firm, LLC, 125 S. Wacker Dr., Ste. 300, Chicago, IL 60606, 312-629-9900. No telephone calls please. Please contact Peter Olson: petero@olsonlawfirm.net.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Turn off your e-mail

Here’s an interesting productivity tip, via LifeHacker:

Get one thing done first - THEN check your email:

Author of Never Check Email in the Morning Julie Morgenstern suggests spending the first hour of your workday e-mail free. Choose one task - even a small one - and tackle it first thing. Accomplishing something out of the gate sets the tone for the rest of your day and guarantees that no matter how many fires you're tasked with putting out the minute you open your email client, you still can say that you got something done. Once you're "open for business" and paying attention to incoming requests, it's too easy to get swept away into the craziness. So get your day started off on the right foot, with just one thing done.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

We're one of 12 million!

The Pew Internet and American Life Project put out a study here on blogging yesterday. Here's the NYTimes piece.

The report contains some interesting figures. It says that 4% of the U.S. population have blogs. The percentages of people who blog sort of track the numbers you see for general internet and technology usage in that its a bit more white and affluent than the general population.

Perhaps the bigger number to look at is that 39% of Internet users view blogs and that's a pretty big group if you're advertising or wanting to be seen generally.

CLE as a profit center for your firm

Has anyone else gotten any CLE mailings from small groups of private lawyers putting on CLEs? I mean not bar associations or affiliated with a IICLE group but just 5ish lawyers advertising CLEs?

This might be a profit center for you. I honestly don't know but it must not be that difficult to get certified by the Supreme Court to qualify. I just got a mailing for a family law seminar put on by former ISBA President Bob Downs, Joseph Gitlin and a handful of others coming up.

Not to be too cynical, but why should any of the fairly prominant lawyers in various practice areas speak for any of the bar association CLEs at this point when they can just form a small business of their own and profit from it?

Make it Rain seminar follow-up

Anyone make to ISBA's Make it Rain CLE on Tuesday? I think I'd give it a 6.5 out of 10 rating. I don't think it was particularly original but some of reminders are always useful and slightly different angles were given for sure. The presenter was lawyer turned consultant, Gideon Grunfeld, Successful Career Strategies, Inc. These are my personal take-away points to complete immediately and/or over the next quarter:

1. Business card redesign. Gideon calls this the most underutilized promotional tool. I think he's right. Possibly other than your Website, what do potential clients see more than your card? I fail in this area frankly due to my own cheapness. I need to have my practice areas on the card. I do have our three office locations listed. I need to tell potential clients what I do and/or what benefits I provide. Use the back of the card too. My card is limited right now just because I cheaply just used one of the template cards that limited my space rather than doing a more personalized design. Even nice business cards aren't that expensive and they're worth it!

2. Website
. He gives a lot of tips for these. I think I'm going to finally bite the bullet and outsource this area of our firm. One easy thing though that I can do within the next week is: have a direct call to action & contact information on every page of your site! I fail on this. The way search engines often bring up pages to your site that are not the front page or the contact page, I'm missing out of really closing the deal with clients in this area.

3. Billing. One thing Gideon talked about was Psychological Breakpoints in your fee setting. This is essentially the gas pricing rule of their $.9 rather than rounding up. Make sure you're not billing people at $205 or $305 an hour. He suggests each $25, $50 and $100 are important barriers to stay below. The other aspect of billing he discussed that I violate was his view that when a client asks how much something will cost, the answer should always some variation of "it depends." And obviously when you hear more facts of a situation, you will give a client some range or hourly rate. But don't volunteer right up front some set fee because then the client has you boxed at a certain rate and then they assume everything you do is at that rate and then the client may not use your services for something down the road where they don't think that rate you put out there is appropriate. Your rate should always DEPEND on the facts of each situation.

4. Contact Management. I need to get clearly separated batches of our clients in our three practice areas: real estate, family and elder law. Then very targeted mailings, legal updates, newletters, ect. can just go right out to the right group. Currently our contacts are just lumped together in Microsoft Outlook.

5. Speeches and Articles. Nothing new here, I'm just putting it down because I'm going to do these more. Anyone entering ISBA's Lincoln Award Legal Writing Contest? I am...can you take me?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Possible new referral source

I got an e-mail from one of the listserves I'm on about a new lawyer referral Website: lawrex.com. Take a look at the sight; they offer the intial six months free.

It appears to reward you for being an active referrer and a receiver of referrals. I'm not sure how much that has to do with lawyer competence, but maybe it has potential.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Basic skills course requirement

I've been seeing some of these ads from the various legal education providers regarding Basic Skills Courses for newly licenses attorneys. Recall that IL Supreme Court Rule 793 has a 15-hour basic skills requirement for new attorneys...ah, you thought your formal education was over for a while, right? Wrong!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tom Kane's top ten marketing tips

Tom Kane has posted his Top Ten Marketing Tips with links to some explanation and elaboration. There is great advice you can absorb in a couple of minutes. I regularly follow Tom's blog.

Do your clients know you?

Take a look at the Entrepreneur's Life blog on a good piece highlighting the problem of your clients not knowing the breadth of your ability or experience.

Are you in too small of a box with your clients? Tell them all that you really offer!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ah...family law

That blown-up house in New York yesterday sort of opens ones eyes about this glorious practice of family law in which I find myself. An interesting read here from the NYTimes.

Not quite at the same level, but I had an "acquaintance" renewed at my church this past Saturday evening with a former opposing client in a child visitation matter. I represented this gentleman's former wife in attempting to stop his visitation with their 17-year-old son which we were successful in doing. Now anytime I see this guy at church I get an earful and get sarcastically asked how his son is doing (thankfully it's a large church where I only see the guy maybe bi-annually).

Friday, July 07, 2006

A-Z of Professional Blogging

Take a look here for some great blogging resources...thanks for the tip the[non]billable hour.

More Work, but Cocktails Too

Though we're far from the "nation's biggest law firms" I did read with interest a piece about Summer Associate programs from the June 27, 2006 WSJ. The article suggests that summer associates are getting more training and a little less big-scale entertaining.

The article discusses beefed-up mentoring programs, formal deposition training, mock trials, mock transactional projects and regimented writing tutorials. I think this is good for the profession...hopefully law schools will get the hint too.

Don't be stupid

A new program with potential from ISBA:

There are no stupid questions in the practice of law, just stupid mistakes that are made by people who were afraid to ask for the answers.

The ISBA has an anonymous e-mail service that can shed light on the secrets of practicing law, managing an office or anything related to effective lawyering.

All you have to do is send an inquiry to nostupidquestions@isba.org. It will be passed along to an experienced practitioner or disseminated through e-mail discussion groups.

Personal responses are not guaranteed, but selected questions and answers will be published in the Illinois Bar Journal.

Using published articles

Are you getting the most out of your published writing:

1. Making copies and sending them to everyone in your Rolodex.

2. Framing them for decoration in your office.

3. Including them in your marketing package to (potential) clients?

Illinois' Pro Bono Reporting Rule

Well, we're back after a pleasant 4th of July in Eagle River, WI. I know this isn't too new, but how does everyone feel about the new pro bono reporting rule (here)? New Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(f) requires lawyers to report pro bono legal service they've provided in the past year.

Is this inevitably leading to some sort of mandatory pro bono hours requirement? Thoughts?

My initial reaction is that it hurts the small firms. I would speculate that those of us who are doing some billing, overseeing administrative employees plus practicing law have rather full plates. I suspect the large firm partner will just put it off on an associate or do some firm-wide project and take care of it for the year.

It seems to me that the Supreme Court is living in the past. As I see it, the "practice" (business) of law is becoming ever more competitive and business oriented...just as an issue of the general marketplace. Yet the Court is tying our hands with bureaucracy.