Archive for the ‘Legal practice tips’ Category

When Is Your Office Really Your Home?

May 19, 2011

An interesting post from My Law License, wondering about attorneys working out of their homes but  renting an office where they have their phone answered and mail received.  If they have a photo of their “office building” on their website, are they misleading clients and potential clients?  In California, there is the B&P code 6158 which states that electronic advertising as a whole can’t be misleading.  But really is there a significant different between placing your office address on the website and the building in terms of misleading potential clients?  I don’t think so but it’s an interesting question.

Bar Associations – Helpful for Attorneys?

April 23, 2011

Here is a useful post from the Solo Practice University about the value of Bar Associations.  The author does a good job of looking at all the ways that Bar Associations are helpful – from free resources for legal research, setting up your practice, figuring out where to practice and the like.

What about Local Bar Associations?

She doesn’t address county bar associations in this post but I would suggest that they are where attorneys can really get lots of value. They provide plenty of room to get involved, connect with other attorneys, write articles and give presentations. I belong to a couple of top-notch county bar associations – Alameda County Bar Association and the Contra Costa County Bar Association.  They provide individual attention to assist their member attorneys to get as much as they can out of the bar association experience.

Voir Dire by iPad

February 19, 2011

More evidence of how the social media revolution is impacting the court system.  A District Attorney in Texas equips his prosecutors with iPads so they can check out potential jurors’ Facebook page.

He claims that the department discards the information collected once the selection process is over.  I have a feeling he will need to do more than provide such weak assurances.

Contra Costa Attorneys – Check out the BAR Group

February 8, 2011

One of the difficult issues for any small business is identifying the right resources for your specific niche.  Attorneys, in particular, have demands that only apply to them – professional responsibility issues that effect how they can talk about clients, how they can work with clients and how they can obtain new clients.  And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the many special issues for lawyers.

Big firms can manage this

But solo practitioners and small firms have to spend an inordinate amount of time managing their businesses rather than practicing law.

The Bar Group to the rescue

Business Advisory Resources (B.A.R.)  is an independent network of local professionals providing a wide variety of business resources to small and solo law firms in Contra Costa County.  We aim to be the one-stop shop for busy Contra Costa attorneys to assist them with the business of running their practices.  Check out our website and read our blog, “Bar Tips” where we are featuring each of our businesses and what they can offer Contra Costa attorneys.

Bookkeeping Tips – this month

Check out what Monica Casale of Optimium Accounting has to say about ways to collect bills from clients.

Twitter for Legal Bus Dev – All Hype?

December 31, 2010

When I talk with attorneys and legal marketers about using social media as a marketing tool, mostly people are respectful of LinkedIn and blogs.  They mostly are dismissive of Facebook and Twitter. Adrian Dayton in this post about the value of Twitter for attorneys, makes the excellent point that typically it takes at least seven touches with a potential client before they will reach out and buy from you.  He suggests that Twitter can help to fill in some of those touch points – send a quick alert to potential clients about new developments in the law, or a blog post or online article link to someone you know would be interested.

Even more than that

I would say that beyond that approach, you need to communicate with your potential clients in the way they are most comfortable. If you know some of your clients are very active on Twitter, then it makes sense to use this medium also.  Same with Facebook. Now, if they are mostly having fun with these sites – posting recipes, photos of their new dogs – then inserting a business related item into their status stream, maybe inappropriate.  But if they seem to use these tools for everything, then you might want to do that as well.

BusDev Tips for Attorneys in 2011

December 23, 2010

Here is an okay article providing tips to young attorneys on business development issues.  Its just okay because the suggestions provided are so superficial as to be useless.

Example:

“Identify the types of people who will bring you work and target your efforts to them. If you are a business lawyer, networking with other business lawyers will only take you so far; you need to meet businesspeople — the consumers of your legal services.”

How?

This advice is an excellent start but neglects to address two essentials questions – how to find out the right places to network and how to network effectively?

1.  Find the right place to network – start small and learn the basics of networking. This can be Business Networking International (BNI) or the Rotary or many other networking groups.

2. Give yourself at least a year in any organization. It takes time for people to get a sense of you are and for you to know who they are.  Also it takes time to understand the referral process – who most naturally works with other people.  Its not always a matter of complimentary businesses. Sometime its based on a personal affinities.

3. Make sure where-ever you network that there is accountability as part of the process – yours and others.  Any group that lets you come and go as you please, isn’t much use.  People need to be accountable to network because its hard to get yourself to a meeting on a voluntary basis. Sometimes you just don’t feel like it but if your membership is on the line, you will do it anyway.

4. Listen, listen, listen: What are people saying and how do they say it?  Part of listening is to pay attention to body language.  When you tell people what you do, are their eyes glazing over?  Do they turn away?  Do they quickly change the subject?  These are all signs that you need to improve your quick pitch about your business.  Keep working on it.  Networking will improve how you talk about what you do.  At first I stumbled and looked away, my voice dropped and I communicated nervousness and discomfort.  Now I speak up, look the person in the eye and express my gratitude for getting a chance to give them information about myself.  And the responses I get are much more positive.

5.  Refer thoughtfully and often: You are much more valuable if you are someone who knows lots of great professionals and are willing to help out those in need.  Go to networking events listening for how you can help others with their business problems – regardless of whether its a lawyer who can solve their problem.

Quality Content Helps Your SEO

December 20, 2010

We are passing through the time where loading a blog with content filled with keywords and little else will help your search result standings.  As this Nolo blog post states, Google has changed its ranking algorithm to focus on quality rather than merely quantity. 

How Does This Impacts Lawyers?

If you have a blog called, “Personal Injury San Jose” and feature posts about recent car crashes with a boiler plate paragraph at the bottom about why you should contact an attorney immediately if you are the victim of such an accident, then this is bad news.  However, if you provide quality articles about how people can work with their car insurance adjusters and ways they can protect themselves through how they purchase their insurance, then you probably are helped by these rules.  Google is looking to promote content which contains professional and technical expertise rather than that which is merely saturated with keywords.

CA Attorneys Beware Working in Coffee Shops

December 19, 2010

New California Bar Ethics opinion on whether an attorney violates rules of confidentiality by performing client work on an open wireless network.  The opinion makes clear that if the attorney has their own firewall and security loaded on their laptop, then performing this work may not be an issue.

What is less clear is whether the opinion is talking about wireless networks without any security or if the coffee shop requires a password, that would pass muster.  My guess is it would not because if the same password is available to all those working in the coffee, then this isn’t confidential.

Opinion here

Website Disclaimers – No Magic Shield

December 16, 2010

Lawyers think that if they have a disclaimer somewhere on their website they will be shielded against pesky lawsuits or Bar violations. Wrong. Increasingly, state bars and the A.B.A are putting lawyers on notice that an effective disclaimer needs two additional elements:

  • The language of the disclaimer need to be comprehensible to the reasonable person.  For example, simply stating no “attorney client privilege” is invoked when a person sends an email from the lawyer’s website is not enough to vitiate the confidentiality of the information a person sends because the average person has no way of knowing that the attorney client privilege concerns confidentiality.
  • The disclaimer needs to be located within the proximity of whatever action the person engaging with the website might undertake.  For example, if an attorney has an email form with no disclaimer nearby, then that isn’t good enough for the ABA.  This is particularly pertinent to lawyers and law firms that create separate “disclaimer” pages.  If the visitor is expected to have clicked on the disclaimer page in order to understand that the lawyer is disclaiming liability in same way, this isn’t sufficient.

Speaking at Santa Clara School of Law in Dec.

November 13, 2010

I will be speaking at Santa Clara School of Law on Dec. 3rd on the topic of “Finding and Developing Your Clientele” at 2:15pm.  It will be part of the law school’s “Opening Your Own Practice” program.

Actual Networking

While I will discuss the value of social networking, I will put more attention on actual networking.  If an attorney wants to open their own practice, there are several fields which are most promising – estate planning, bankruptcy, personal injury, family law and employment law.  Clients will most likely consist of small businesses and individuals and the best way to reach such people is to join a networking group.  There is the Rotary, Toastmasters and many others.  I belong to BNI (Business Networking International) which may not be that easy for new attorneys to join because attorney categories in BNI chapters are competitive.  However, if you are lucky enough to be invited to join, these groups are terrific training grounds for the basics of building your business.  Here are some of the things you will learn:

  • How to speak to regular folks not just attorneys
  • How to talk about your legal practice in a compelling and engaging manner
  • How to give and receive business referrals
  • Who are your power partners both within the chapter and beyond
  • How to stay engaged in building practice every week as you are required to attend a meeting a week

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