“For the first time in my life, it makes me deeply question what women can achieve in this society.” “I still can’t believe all this is real.” “There is no silver lining here.” Many reacted to last night’s election with so much shock and pain. I feel the pain and despair too, very deeply. But I get a perverse kind of comfort from the thought that I—and so many others—feel pain and despair, on a smaller scale, almost every single other day too. To work for the little guy, in isolation and in anonymity, with little or no financial reward or social recognition, and sometimes with no success, is to feel despair on a daily basis. I don’t have the mantle of authority that comes with being part of an organization, especially a respected white-shoe firm or district attorney’s office. I’m just me, a young, inexperienced, soft-spoken, slight, insignificant woman, who works in an attic […]

Legal Technology Big Change Through Small Revolution Guest post by BlueLine staff Investment in legal technology has moved at a staggering pace over the past few years. Tech start-ups promise to radically disrupt law practice by automating everything from document review to legal research, while Lex Machina and Judicata promise to empower lawyers with data-driven insights and analytics. Despite these revolutionary possibilities, myriad simple legal tasks, such as cite-checking, pulling cases, and reviewing quotes, still consume absurd lengths of time. We question whether the low hanging fruit is being left on the tree. The low hanging fruit has already been picked in practice management software. Lawyers are now familiar with digital time-entry, e-billing, and expense-tracking applications. There has been less interest in applications that are specifically designed to improve the tasks that lawyers can actually bill their clients for doing. Perhaps this is because lawyers focus on automation that speeds […]

If you have no idea how to choose a bank based on anything other than how long it takes you to walk to the closest branch (or whether they offer lollipops at the teller window), I off the following checklist of other factors to consider. Not all banks are created equal, and most experts recommend reevaluating your banking needs not just at the start of your business but also every few years. As you comparison-shop, a business account officer from each bank you’re considering should be available to answer all your questions—though you might get the best scoop by asking around among your colleagues. Is it approved for IOLTA accounts? If you plan to hold client fees in trust (i.e., before you perform the work), you need to hold the money in an “Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account” (IOLTA). In Massachusetts, attorneys may only hold IOLTA deposits in financial institutions that have […]

Some of my favorite tips from legal writing authority Bryan Garner: Don’t rely exclusively on computer research. Also use print indexes, digests, and treatises, including resources like Corpus Juris Secundum and American Jurisprudence, to round out your understanding of the subject matter. Google Books (especially the advanced-search function) can provide fresh resources to supplement what you find with Westlaw or Lexis. Lead with a summary of your conclusions, not with a full statement of facts. Start your brief, opinion letter, or research memorandum with an up-front summary, which will typically include the principal questions or main issue, the answers to those questions, and the reasons for those answers. Never open with a full-blown statement of facts. Facts are useless to a reader who doesn’t yet understand what the issue is. Instead, integrate a few key facts into your issue statement. Make your summary understandable to outsiders. Your biggest challenge is put your upfront summary in a way that your friends and relatives […]

Declarations provide the factual basis for claims made in memoranda of points and authorities, briefs, and writs. (I.e., every statement of fact in a brief must be properly supported with a citation to a declaration.) Here’s how to write a really good declaration: First, write the declaration in the declarant’s own voice, using her own language, from her own perspective. Second, tell a good story. The declaration should be a narrative, and it should be comprehensive with regard to the incidents it relates. Finally, follow the rules of evidence. Everything in a declaration must be admissible as if it were testimony in court. There must be foundation (how the witness knows what she knows) and there must not be inadmissible hearsay. Show personal knowledge for every claim in the declaration. For example, do not say, “I applied for General Relief last week but I can’t get it for six more weeks.” Instead, […]

Chris Wimmer graduated from Columbia Law School in 2005 and opened his own practice, Emergent Legal, in 2013. I spoke to him in March 2014. “A good lawyer has to have a genuine desire to relate to his clients in order to advance their interests.  He has to be genuinely interested in understanding who they are and what motivates them.” Tell me about the path that led you to start your own legal practice. I went to law school to be a human rights lawyer.  But I had a daughter not long after I graduated from law school, and I had to think about how to support a family. So after I finished my clerkship with Judge Jack B. Weinstein in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, I went to work in commercial litigation and white collar disputes, first at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP and […]

Taking on pro bono cases is an oft-used way for new and seasoned lawyers alike to learn new areas of law and/or begin to develop a network for referrals. Here are some resources online to find the right pro bono opportunity for you: Probono.net’s  Volunteer Guide lists organizations with pro bono opportunities, by state. You can narrow your search to specific areas of law, specific populations served, specific counties, and/or specific type of project. The Boston Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer Project lists specific cases or shorter-term projects. Like probono.net, the site also lists programs and organizations that can refer pro bono cases that might not be listed on the site.  

ABA’s Legal Rebels project – Profiles innovative lawyers “finding new ways to practice law, represent their clients, adjudicate cases and train the next generation of lawyers.” James Baron, Esq. – Special education solo practitioner. Helen Gulgun Bukulmez, Esq. – Immigration law solo practitioner. Lee Rosen, Esq. – Family law solo practitioner.

If you want to hang your own shingle, or change the structure of your existing practice, one of your first decisions will be whether to form an entity for your business, and, if so, which one. Note that the law governing entity formation is mostly a matter of state law, so check your local rules. First some general considerations: Every person or entity doing business in the City and County of San Francisco must obtain a valid Business Registration Certificate from the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector. Check whether your locality has a similar requirement. Every person or entity conducting business under a name  other than that person’s or entity’s full legal name must also file a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the County Clerk. In some places, you may not call yourself a firm if you are a solo practitioner, no matter what entity you practice under. (See California Rules of Professional […]

We . . . turned our courts into giant unthinking machines for sweeping our problem citizens under a rug. . . . [I]nstead of dealing with problems like poverty, drug abuse and mental illness, we increasingly just removed them all from view by putting them in jail.” ~ Matt Taibbi, “Cruel and Unusual Punishment,” Rolling Stone  The Myth Criminal punishment was at one time often very public: we whipped or executed outlaws before throngs of onlookers, or displayed them in the stocks in the public square.  Now we spirit the condemned away to hidden prison cells, forgotten by the rest of us, a modern-day form of ostracism.  The punishment of convicts occurs behind closed doors, much of it in secret. Adding to the cloak of invisibility is the popular media, which saturates us with fictionalized and misleading versions of what prison and the people inside it must be like. The new show […]