Archive for September, 2012

Although “quitting” a failing project or business is often seen as a sign of failure, it is really a perfectly normal part of the creation-destruction process, and a necessary step in responding effectively to new knowledge and changing circumstances. Much has been written about the ossification of education – from K-12 up through graduate and professional schools – which in most major ways looks strikingly similar to the outdated education models that were created a century ago, if not earlier. As described in a 2008 McKinsey Quarterly article, resistance to change – and staying with a failing and/or outdated model – is a common problem in business too. A number of studies indicate that executives tend to stick with a losing project, business, or industry when clear signs indicate they should get out. I’ve outlined some of these finding below because these lessons apply as much to building and running a law […]

Erik Mazzone on Law Practice Matters suggests sticking to just a one- or two-page business plan, which can be created in a couple hours. No need to make it fancy. Just enough to allow you “to run through the most critical big picture questions without getting bogged down in details that are not mission critical on day 1.” One-page business plans are readily available on the web. Things to include in your one-page business plan (/business pitch): Your passion Your mission Opportunities — well-defined market or niche Practice areas, broken down by the percentage of money you think you will earn from each — think about including a new 21st-century practice area Potential clients — and, among those, your target clients Goals — for the next 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months, and 10 years — Think about metrics such as # of clients or annual income How you will make money — What you will […]

First, discuss the unpaid bills with the client. This might give you insight into why she is not paying. (E.g., maybe she didn’t understand the payment arrangement you made.) Second, inform the client that if she fails to pay the past due amounts, you will have to withdraw from representation. ABA Model Rule 1.16 and most states’ ethical rules allow a lawyer to withdraw from representing a client for nonpayment of fees if the client “has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled.” Third, if the client agrees to pay, secure the commitment to pay by a certain date in writing. If you do not receive payment by the agreed date, withdraw from the representation. Resist the temptation to keep the case based on the client’s promise to pay later. This will make it significantly more difficult, if not impossible, to withdraw later. In […]

Demand for more cost-effective legal services models, increased interest in self-representation, and advances in technology have made unbundled legal services (limited scope representation) more appealing to clients. Limited scope representation applies to a range of areas of law, such as family law, employment law, consumer issues, insurance coverage, and small business assistance. Model Rule 1.2(c) allows a lawyer to offer limited scope representation “if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.”

There is a large, and growing, mismatch between either (1) the number of law school graduates we are producing and the jobs available for them to fill or (2) the kind of law school graduates we are producing and the jobs available for them to fill. Or both. The numbers gap Over the last five years, ABA accredited schools have graduated at least 73,652 students (33.5 – 38.1% of graduates) who did not obtain jobs practicing law within nine months of graduation. In the most recent year, 2011, the percentage was 40.2% (best case) to 44.0% (worst case). (Source: Deborah Jones Merritt, “The Declining Job Market for Law School Graduates, 2001-2011“) According to figures recently released by the National Association of Legal Professionals, nine months after graduation, 83% of 2011 graduates from the 20 schools with the highest employment were working as lawyers; 31% of those from the bottom 20 were working as lawyers. The […]

Last month, Inc. magazine surveyed the founders of Inc. 500 companies who had launched successful start-ups in the midst of the economic collapse of 2008 to see what drove them to start a company in such a shaky economy. Only 4% cited the loss of a job as a factor in their decision to start their own company. As for the rest, 50% said they had an idea for a business model that would do well in an economic downturn, and a full 46% said they were aware of the increased risk posed by a teetering economy but decided to take it anyway because “I’m an optimist and this is my dream.” Some examples of the cock-eyed optimist crowd: Larry Borden launched Aardvark Event Logistics two months after Lehman Brothers collapsed and six months before his second child was due. Chris Pershing, the sole provider of a family of five, walked […]

Glitz and glamor One night during my first couple weeks at law school, my First Law Professor Ever — scion of an old-world order who still enjoys a nightly bourbon and cigar — invited my class of about 150 people, plus guests, to the offices of a prestigious New York City law firm for a little soiree overlooking the city. Somewhere between a sip of wine and a bite of cheese, FLPE stopped us all for a moment to welcome us to the profession. Sweeping his arms toward the sparkling night vista before us — the towering skyscrapers of the Financial District, the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge, the thousands of tiny pinpricks of light below — he finished off his little speech with a stentorian, “You’ve made it! The world is your oyster!” It was perhaps the setting — in a swanky law firm, with the city at our […]

In Spiritual Intelligence, The Ultimate Intelligence, Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, write, “The young son of a Chilean biologist, Umberto Maturana, became unhappy at school because he felt his teachers were making it impossible for him to learn. They wanted to teach him what they knew, rather than drawing out what he needed to learn. As a result Maturana wrote “The Student’s Prayer,” of which this translation is an abridged version. It expresses the spiritually intelligent individual’s response to the conforming pressures of parents, teachers, bosses or the crowd.” A Student’s Prayer Umberto Maturana Don’t impose on me what you know, I want to explore the unknown And be the source of my own discoveries. Let the known be my liberation, not my slavery. The world of your truth can be my limitation; Your wisdom my negation. Don’t instruct me; let’s walk together. Let my richness begin where yours ends. Show me so […]

Doing low bono foreclosures or even court appointed work (which in many jurisdictions, is another version of low bono) lets lawyers gain valuable experience and earn a little money while doing good, ultimately, a 100 percent low bono business model is not sustainable in the long run . . . Carolyn Elefant, “Solo Incubator Launches at UKMC”

When I decided to go to law school I was five years into a doctoral program in education policy. I had completed all my course requirements and passed my qualifying paper, but I was hitting a wall trying to come up with a dissertation proposal that would simultaneously interest me and satisfy my three advisors. As they dragged their feet with reading the qualifying paper and proposal drafts, I was running out of both money and patience.  To distract myself from frustration, isolation, and flagging sense of purpose I focused instead on wedding planning and on an injury I thought at the time was carpal tunnel syndrome but that now I think was just a manifestation of stress. On the day after my wedding in Salem, Massachusetts, the first of these distractions was gone. With no more wedding to plan, I sat with my mother and new husband in my […]