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Solo In Chicago

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Legal management resource...

I saw this on one of the list serves that I frequent:

Legal Management Resource

A product of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), the Legal Management Resource Center (LMRC) is a knowledge management portal for professionals in the legal administration field. Visitors can locate articles, white papers, and other resources arranged by topic, such as “Facilities & Operations Management,” “Law Firm Marketing,” and “Technology & Information Systems.” The portal offers a section called “Online Tools,” which is a collection of useful sites that provide information on travel, news, stock market quotations, and other business-related miscellanea. The LMRC has also produced a collection of forms and checklists that are specific to the management of law firms and corporate or government legal departments. Like many portals, the LMRC links to pages and sites outside the ALA’s domain, but doesn’t indicate when these pages of links were last verified, placing this burden on the visitor. The site is searchable and ALA-produced materials are available in PDF and Microsoft Word. Some linked articles and reports are only available for purchase.

New legal magazine...

We got Vol. 1 No. 1 of the JD Journal yesterday. Here's the Website. Looks like good small firm and law school student resource. Hopefully my free subscription will continue for a while.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Be a happy lawyer!

A good blurb from a recent Technolawyer newsletter:

For me the key to being a happy lawyer is to find an area of practice that you really enjoy, and concentrate on that. For me that's general counsel work for smaller companies. I really enjoy the give and take with the clients and solving problems as they come up. There are plenty of tasks I still don't enjoy (billing!) but overall I enjoy my job quite a bit.

For those who are unhappy, take the time to really think about the part of the job that you enjoy, and try to find a way to get that part bigger. If you don't enjoy any part of your job, consider changing to a new environment. If you work for a big firm and can't stand it, get out! Life is much less stressful in a small firm environment. You can trade in the politics and staff meetings for a practice actually working with your clients.

The other key is to not let work rule your life. Take time out to do the other things you enjoy. Get a remote connection working and spend some time working at home. Take an afternoon off once a week and spend it with your kids. Or take a hike, or something to get away from the pressures of the office.Frankly there are much worse ways to earn a living than being an attorney. We are very well paid and don't have to get calluses on our hands (well maybe a few on the fingertips from typing ...). So let's cheer up out there!

Online eBay-like resource for legal services

Hey gang, I got an e-mail from one of the people behind www.lawsourcing.com/. Check out the site. I think it just went online very recently...there aren't too many projects posted as yet. But, I think it has potential.

Here's some commentary I received:

The site is called LawSourcing, and it's an online marketplace where lawyers can post projects (need for research memos, discovery drafted, documents reviewed, etc.), and other lawyers and law students can bid to complete those projects in an auction format (somewhat like eBay, but for services for lawyers).
We think it's going to be a great way for (1) lawyers to outsource some of their work to other lawyers and law students (thus having a year-round "virtual clerk"), and (2) allow lawyers to pick up project-based work at their discretion.

We launched the site last week and are just starting to get the word out to lawyers through "grass roots" efforts. We also have a blog
http://www.lawsourcing.com/blog/) on the site focused on the outsourcing of legal services, which has been gaining a lot of attention as of late (the topic, not our blog). If you have a few minutes, we'd appreciate any feedback on the site (we're looking for critical feedback so we can improve it).

Know your Parentage Act!

We've seen a number of pieces in the media about the fact that 37% of U.S. births are now to unwed parents. I'll leave my moral judgment out of this post, but there's definately opportunities out there for the practicing attorney.

I'm amazed at the number of "family law" attorneys who do a lot of divorce work and don't do parentage cases. I think there may have been a stereotype in the past that these cases were essentially poor, teen mothers but the latest numbers refute this. Teen pregnancies actually decreased...it's older, unwed parents that are increasing. Don't ignore this business opportunity.

Also, target fathers who have the IL Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services coming after them. Just defending against IDHFS could save your clients thousands of dollars.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Solo and small firm trends

Here's a good piece from Attorney Robert Denney regarding solo and small firm trends...he spoke at ISBA's solo and small firm conference.

Some things I found interesting were the fact of the "old-fashioned" generalist continuing to be in demand despite continued specialization. Price is one reason for this. Also, people like the one-stop-shopping option. Another part of this solution were sole practitioners with relationships with lawyers who have other lawyers perform the work but they bill clients themselves. Does anyone do this? I'm curious to learn more myself.

Small litigation firms are enjoying unexpected growth. They're less expensive than the big firms and also more flexible in how they work with clients.

How to seek referrals from other lawyers...

I got a mailing recently from a lawyer, Karl H. Magnus, in Arlington Heights. Here's his Website. I don't mind giving him a plug...maybe he reads the blog. He sent out a 1/2 page glossy mailer saying "Referrals Wanted" for probate, real estate, estate planning and personal bankruptcy. He likely sent out the mailer to everyone who's a member of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association of which I'm a member.

I raise his mailing just to question the effectiveness of this is a marketing tool. Has anyone garnered decent business from this sort of mailing? I know Jay Foonberg recommends doing this and I think that's where a lot of people get the idea. I did this myself some two years ago when I started my solo practice and my experience was that it returned virtually ZERO. I think I got one referral that didn't turn into anything and I was put on one lawyers newsletter mailing list. I know a handful of larger firms run an ad every month in Chicago Lawyer seeking referrals.

My thoughts are if you're a smallish firm practitioner, then there's value in this sort of mailing when your practice is real niche. I don't think there's great value if you're in the family law, real estate, probate type areas. I know too many lawyers in those fields. Also, I think the big firm doing this might have some value. For example, any PI or med. mal. type stuff I always refer out and typically to bigger firms.

Client service in law firms

Daily nuggets:

1. According to Jay Foonberg 67% of clients who stop using a particular lawyer do so because they feel they were treated poorly or indifferently and 27% changed lawyers because their previous lawyers weren't available.

2. Most clients can't evaluate the quality of your legal work. What they can and do is evaluate the experience of working with you.

How much are you investing in the non-lawyer segment of your service team? Or how 'bout the "service" components of your lawyer team?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Judicial retention

I won't name names but boy I wish I were a resident of one of the (non) collar counties (one beyond the collars) on election day where I have trial going that is literally going to last over one year. We've had three court dates stricken by this Judge and when there are trial days we get like two hours in the afternoon. It's a simple case about dividing two pieces of real estate between two co-owners.

Aren't the judicial retention elections the real flaw in our system of selecting judges? Okay, there's the old elect'em versus appoint'em debate. But if we're going to elect'em, why do we have these (not) elections where upwards of 95% of Judges get retained? Thoughts?

Trib. article about lawyer blogging

I don't think there's any news here but today's Trib. did write about the ramifications of lawyer blogging. One never knows where our Supreme Court may take us. Let's avoid the Kentucky model though please.

File retention & digitization

Here's a piece from Minnesota Laywers Mutual's quarterly newsletter re. the above. Really, who wants a basement full of old client files??

Alright...daily flights to Southern Illinois

For those of us who like to spend time in the only topographically pleasant part of our state, this is good news. Good old Air Midwest!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Niche marketing

Tom Kane over at the legalmarketing blog has an interesting post on niche marketing for lawyers. Take a read. I know this general concept is one of the 3-4 big questions I've grappled with since going solo some 1.5 years ago. How wide should you throw your net? Or, how deep do you dig in a specific area or in a couple limited areas?

Another related thought, in your attorney bios, include the titles of specific classes you've attended. This will show your audience exactly the things you're up to date on. It's more useful than just knowing you graduated X law school in 1997.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ed Poll on blogging

Ed's piece on blogging here from Law.com.

Law school: where's the ROI?

Here's a piece from today's Daily Herald regarding young prosecutors and law school debt problems. Boy some of those debt amounts are mind-boggling. I thought my $40k in debt was bad. The gist of the piece is simply the difficulty in doing public sector work when law school debt is what it is. I didn't know about the fact that public defenders were unioned whereas state's attorneys were not...hmmm.

Broader discussion, why has there been such an increase in education costs (college and graduate) over say the last 20-30 years? How is it justified? It's significantly out-strapped inflation or wage increases over that time.

As we near another election day, question, why do we hear ZERO discussion about substantive education issues or health care affordibility?? I battle the law school debt issue too and as a small firm lawyer, health costs are a battle. Why aren't issues of substance dealt with in the public square? Maybe it's time to throw my hat into the ring...