Sunday, August 30, 2009

As The Lawyer Recession Continues, Learn Basic Lawyering

As BigLaw layoffs slow, lawyers stupidly are starting to think that "things are getting better."

Ever heard of a hurricane? It's a storm with what's called an "eye." The first part of a hurricane is a terrible storm, followed by the eye, where there is total calm, and then the "back side," which is sometimes worse than the initial storm.

We're in the eye.

BigLaw layoffs have slowed to a crawl because once you shave someone's head, you can't cut anymore until the hair comes back.

But let's be real.

What's most important here is the client mindset. This recession is doing one thing to everyone - causing us to re-think spending.

There will always be some form of BigLaw. Big companies can't have the law firm of You and Your Partner, P.A. handling the hundreds of legal matters that they face. But what will change, is that Big Company will no longer tolerate BigLaw's big billing and the use of one too many associate on their matter.

The winners here are solo and small firm lawyers, if they play it right and get back to basics:

[1] Clients are looking for legal services to resolve their issues. They are not impressed with how many hours you can bill.

[2] While you may not be able to "bill the shit out of this file," (that's lawyer speak for, well, it's pretty obvious), doing what the client wants, in less time than he thought, will get you more cases. If you don't understand that, you're part of the problem and I can't help you.

[3] Get to know your client.

I know, it's a client, with a file. But it's also a client, with a wife, family, hobby, fear, interest. Ask a few more questions.

[4] Screw the billable hour.

I laugh every time a civil lawyer tells me they got a small retainer and never got paid the rest. Payment plans are non-payment plans. Sending monthly bills is like sending a letter to the President and hoping for a real response.

Charge a flat fee, up front. Get the money out of the way and concentrate on the case. And don't tell me you can't do that. You can, you just don't want to do it.

[5] Learn about your clients.

I don't care what your client does, owns, or sells. Learn everything about whatever it is your client does, and not just his case.

[6] Figure out how to do better what you are doing now.

There's so much shit on the internet, free shit, funny shit. I'm not talking about the "how to make 10 million dollars with a blog," or "how a Facebook fan page will change your life," or "how I'm no longer practicing law but can tell you how to make a ton of money practicing law."

I'm talking about sites like these:

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Trial vs. The Florida Bar - What To Know

While many Bar complaints are dismissed, or settled, there are a portion that cannot be resolved without a trial. A trial may result from a client insisting he or she's done nothing wrong, an offer to settle that is considered unreasonable by the client and/or their lawyer, or the client has other Bar matters pending and cannot accept any discipline short of a judge finding them guilty.

This week I represented a client in trial before the Bar and realized afterwords that I rarely write here about what a "Bar" trial is like.

Bar trials are governed by Rule 3-7.6. While what's on the line is always serious, the process is pretty simple.

A complaint, like any other civil complaint, is filed. The lawyer (Respondent) has to file an Answer. A local judge is assigned, known in these proceedings as a "Referee." (Isn't that what a judge really is anyway?).

There's a pre-trial conference, maybe several. Discovery schedules are set, and a date for the trial (final hearing) is also set.

Both sides can take depos, issue subpoenas, and file motions just like in any civil case.

This is important: The nature of the proceedings before a referee are "Administrative in Character." As the rule states:

"A disciplinary proceeding is neither civil nor criminal but is a quasi-judicial administrative proceeding. The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure apply except as otherwise provided in this rule.
(2) Discovery. Discovery shall be available to the parties in accordance with the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure."

At trial, the Bar can call the lawyer as a witness. The lawyer can invoke any privilege, such as the Fifth Amendment.

After the trial, the referee can rule immediately and recommend discipline, or take 30 days to do so.

There is no jury, and the rules of evidence are the most relaxed I've ever seen in any proceeding. This can be a good thing, as it allows the lawyer to testify to hearsay instead of having to find witnesses that may be long gone.

I find that judges take these cases seriously. They know that their verdict and recommendation on discipline will be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.

I also find that judges often find the violations less serious than the Bar believes them to be.

Sometimes it's better to be before a judge then simply to tender a guilty plea and accept a greater level of discipline than may be recommended after a judge has heard all the facts.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Chapter In Every Ethics Textbook: Andy Nolen

There are two types of lawyers: Those that have a reputation, and those that try to create a reputation.

As many of the readers here are law students or recent admits to the Bar, I ask you - will you earn your reputation through the good and bad that you do, or will you simply use the internet, yellow pages, TV, and mailers to pretend that you are a good lawyer?

In this economy, there are lawyers surviving on their reputation, and those creating a false reputation in order to survive.

So yesterday my brothers and sisters who toil daily in Houston's criminal courts, took Andy Nolen to task.

Andy Nolen is a Houston Criminal Defense "Lawyer" with a huge internet presence. According to those who are well known and respected in Houston, his courthouse presence is not as "big."

Recently, a discovery was made that on a review page, every Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer was trashed by "someone" named "Jerry K," and Andy was lauded. That review page now appears to be empty.

The unknowing internet cruisers, looking for that cheap criminal lawyer, we're sure they'd found the perfect lawyer.

But I look to these real reviews posted yesterday by real lawyers, with real reputations.

Take Murray Newman, a former prosecutor now defense lawyer.

"I also dealt with Andy Nolen. His contribution to the reputation of the Defense Bar never held a candle to any of those he dared to insult."

Or Cynthia Henley:

"I know he has been in trouble with the State Bar. In the past, I've wondered what people are thinking when they hire him"

Or Paul Kennedy, who asks Andy:

"And what does it say about your sense of ethics? You don't seem to think it's a problem to have someone post fake "reviews" about other attorneys. Is there any line you won't cross? Is there any conduct that makes you cringe?"

Or John T. Floyd:

"By engaging in this kind of “despicable” behavior, Nolen has violated a fundamental ethical responsibility that requires every attorney must maintain the highest standards of professional conduct. This ethical responsibility exists not only when an attorney is dealing with his/her client or the general public but also in his relationship with others members of the bar."

Or the Immediate Past President of the Harris County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association Mark Bennett who sums up this charade as any leader of the criminal defense bar would:

"Among the lawyers panned by “jerry k.”: Don Becker (again, twice on this day), Todd Leffler, Dan Corrigan, Doug Durham, Dane and Leslie Johnson, Dennis Slate, Larry Douglas, Dan Gerson, Jeff Purvis, Mekisha Murray, David Breston, Paul B. Kennedy, Joe Salhab, Cynthia Henley, and John Floyd (again). Every one of them is at least ten times the lawyer Andy Nolen is.

We knew already that Andy Nolen was a lousy unethical lawyer; the true tale is told by the most recent real review on Andy Nolen’s Yahoo Local page:

Did not show to court on first day. this is not good."

Whether Andy did this himself, or someone else did it for him, is irrelevant. This story was posted all over the net yesterday, all day.

Andy's response: silence.

Click here for what a search for "Andy Nolen" looks like now on Google.

The phrase coined by comedian Andrew Dice Clay comes to mind: "I didn't do this to you, you did this to you."

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Sunday, August 16, 2009

How To Market Yourself As A Lawyer On Twitter

I'm on twitter. Yeah, "everyone's" on twitter, but like Facebook, we lawyers are a little shy about telling people.

Here's why I'm not shy: I was referred a Federal Criminal Tax Case, solely because another lawyer on twitter knew me. So twitter has paid for itself, thousands of times over.

I've also met some great people, received some good advice, read some great blog posts and articles, and have made connections for others that have been invaluable. Get on twitter, visit another city, tweet that you're looking for something, and within minutes someone will connect with you. That connection may lead to a free appetizer at a local restaurant, some good tickets to an event, or a tip that will make all the difference in your trip. That's just one example.

No, I'm not into the celebrity thing on twitter. I'm also not into those that have "others" tweet for them

When it comes to lawyers on twitter, some are downright in-your-face selling their practice, over and over again.

This weekend I unfollowed a lawyer who tweets nothing but tips on DUI, his location, and his phone number. I couldn't tell you the first thing about him, except that he's a DUI lawyer, where he practices, and his phone number.

I wouldn't refer him a case, ever.


Because I couldn't tell you the first thing about him.

See, when I refer a case, I like to tell people about the lawyer. Things, besides what he or she does, and their phone number.

When I first joined twitter, I quickly stopped using it. I didn't understand the concept. At dinner one night with someone active on twitter, I was given the advice I give everyone considering twitter: "go on there and just start talking to people."

Twitter, simply, is a conversation.

People converse about many things. Some are interesting, some annoying, some nonsensical, and some scary.

I post links to a blog post I've written, talk about my personal interests, ask questions, answer questions, talk about Miami, joke around, but never, end a post with MIAMI LAWYER and my phone number.

That's not conversing. That's marketing.

If you want to know how to market your firm on twitter, don't. They don't' want you there.

If you want to market yourself as a lawyer on twitter:

[1] Use your name.

I used to use MIAMICRIMLAW, but I'm not MIAMICRIMLAW, I'm Brian Tannebaum (@btannebaum).

[2] Follow people who share your interests.

Follow lawyers, and heavens forbid, non-lawyers. Interested in golf? Follow people interested in golf. Interested in Montana politics (for whatever reason), follow people interested in Montana politics. Want to find them? Go to

[3] Don't play the "I need followers" game.

Nothing magical happens at 100, 1000, 10,000 or a million followers. The more followers you have (that are not spam followers) the more your message gets out. But don't be needy. If you say something interesting or important, people will follow you. Which leads me to....

[4] Say something important or interesting.

Your practice area and phone number are not interesting, and are only important to you. Spend some time getting to know people on twitter, and people will know what you do. Stay out of their face.

[5] Do not auto DM, auto tweet, use tweetlater, or do anything else that causes you to tweet when you are not around.

If you're not on twitter, you don't know about any of those terms, and you're better off.

Oh, and one more thing, if the majority of your conversations involve you talking about yourself, not introducing others, not paying attention, not focusing on who's talking to you or taking no interest in anything else but yourself, forget twitter.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Two Keys For Solo Success - Carolyn, Elefant

Carolyn, if only I could hug you right now. Your newly published e-book From Biglaw to Yourlaw is nothing but a bundle of truth that every single BigLaw lawyer needs to read, and read now.

A masterpiece, that can be read in 10 minutes.

It begins "I want you to set aside the propaganda you've heard on either end - whether it's (1) the negative stereotypes about solo practice that you've been fed in law school or by your bosses or colleagues or (2)(I love this) the false promises of four hour workweeks and gazillion dollar practices that legal marketing experts and gurus hawk to desperate lawyers."

She continues: "Clients are beginning to reject the concept of paying premium fees for large firm services........ You can stick around (at Biglaw) and watch your firm evolve backwards into a dinosaur...."

She smacks the scam artists in the mouth: "....beware the marketers and gurus hocking their wares...... they'll try to convince you that you can work four hours a week and earn millions...solong as you purchase their special $10,000.00 silver bullett marketing program."

She destroys the notion all Biglaw firms tell their associates, that solo practice is "not the way to practice law:" "...Skadden, Arps, and Flom were a trio of lawyers who couldn't find jobs at big white shoe law firms....."

I'm not going to ruin your few moments of absorbing this great new e-book by quoting more of the spectacular information written there. I will just say that if you are a Biglaw, period, this is a must read.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Secrets To Getting Rich Quick As A Lawyer

My sole purpose in writing this post is to see the traffic that comes here as a result of the title.

The Google searches are getting out of hand.

"how to make money as a lawyer"

"are lawyers rich"

"making money lawyer"

Those are just a few.

Lawyers can make a lot of money, and they can also starve.

Law is a high calling, a profession that calls its members "officers of the court." But don't let me digress.

Appliance salesmen can make a lot of money, and so can electricians. My electrician drives a BMW, when he's not driving his Porsche.

But you want to make money, get rich quick, as a lawyer.

If you want to get rich quick as a lawyer, I, as a 15 year practitioner, will give you the secrets that the scam artists all over the internet will try to sell you. Here they are:

[1] Create a website and find an "Search Engine Optimization (SEO - I can get you on the first page of Google) expert.

[2] Create a brochure. Buy lists of potential clients and send them out pursuant to solicitation rules of your local Bar.

[3] If you are a young lawyer (less than 10 years out) do not say, on your website or brochure, when you graduated from either college or law school. Leave no evidence of how long you've been practicing.

[4] Find a creative writer that can make you appear more experienced than you are without crossing ethical lines. Use words and phrases like "aggressive," "experienced," "fight for you," and "in your corner."

[5] Emphasize that you take credit cards (big pictures of the credit cards) and that you have "flexible payment plans." Remember, the key is to get rich quick.

[6] Undercut the market. Charge less than most in your field. Emphasize the fee.

[7] You will get busy very quickly. Do not worry. Find young, unemployed and less experienced lawyers to do the work. Your clients are paying little money so it really doesn't matter who does the work.

[8] Find cheap office space and encourage clients to fax in their documents and pay by credit card over the phone. Tell them you'll meet them in court or somewhere in the city.

[9] Attend no Bar events, networking events, or other charity type or community events. These are time suckers and are only attended by lawyers looking to create referral relationships for the purpose of getting nice cases. You are not looking for this, do not waste your time.

[10] Demand referral fees on any case you refer, no matter how small, and no matter who the lawyer may be. Your practice is not about relationships, it's about transactions and money. Stay on focus.

[11] Resist the desire to become a "good" or "great" lawyer. This may make you rich at some point, but not right now. The goal for you is money, now, period.

Did I miss anything?

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

100 Best Blogs For Law School Students

On permanent display over to the right there is a new link to what deems to be the 100 Best Blogs for Law School Students.

Full disclosure: Yes, I'm in there.

This list has blogs from law students, lawyers, and professors, and blogs about financial aid, internships, and general news and information.

Thanks to for the recognition.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Difference Between Selling Law, And Selling Wine

Last night while sitting at the eventual 10 inning Marlins/Cubs game with my Dad (Marlins lost 9-8), I received a message from my friend Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is the Director of Operations at the 50 million dollar plus brick & mortar and online wine store Wine Library

It was a short message, just meant to say "hello." But it was personal and it wasn't from one of Gary's "people," several of whom I also know personally.

I learned about Gary while doing an internet search about "decanting wine," and found a video he had done on the subject. That was my introduction to the daily video blog

I then realized Gary had great deals on wine, and offered a daily special

Now let me tell you about my close, personal relationship with Gary V (as he is known):

I've met him once, for about 2 minutes.

I've communicated with him on e-mail, twitter, and U-Stream maybe a total of a couple dozen times. We've never had a meal together, I've never visited Wine Library in Springfield, NJ, and no, we've never had a glass of wine together.

I can tell you that Gary is married to Lizzie, has a brand new daughter Misha, brother AJ (who just graduated college) father Sasha, an occasional and loved addition to, that Gary is a rabid Jets fan (a team which he wants to buy someday), his favorite wine is Sparkling, and he has an obsession with seeing the previews at movies.

What does Gary know about me? Well, I would venture if you mentioned my name to him he'd probably make some crack about me being a Dolphins fan. The only other thing he knows about me is the most important thing to him about me:

I am his customer.

Am I his biggest customer? Not by a long shot. But it doesn't matter. Gary knows that I buy wine from him, and that I don't have to. He knows I know every wine website in the country, knows that I receive 5 wine emails a day offering me deals, and that I have several wine retailers/wholesalers in Miami that will deliver me anything I want within hours.

Now let me back up. Gary may not know these things specifically, but he assumes them, about all his customers. Gary knows every minute of every day, that every single one of his customers can buy wine somewhere else.He, like an airline, "knows we have choices when we buy wine," he's just a bit more sincere then your average airline about wanting you to choose him.

Gary has two kinds of customers: Those that simply buy wine from Wine Library because they need or want a bottle or two, and those that buy wine from Gary Vaynerchuk.

There is a difference. The first type of customer only needs to meet Gary, in the store or online, to realize that the business, is a person. The second type of customer, buys from Wine Library because Gary Vaynerchuk cares.

"Caring." This is the hokey "oh, c'mon" answer Gary always gives when someone asks this wine retailer with a daily online video show, over 700,000 followers on twitter, a Facebook account that is too full to add any new friends, and appearances on Fallon, Conan, the Today Show, Ellen, to name a few, how it is that he built little Shopper's Discount into the 8 figure sensation that it is today.

"I care."

I love when I watch a video of Gary at a conference giving this answer. The question is asked almost breathlessly: "Hey Gary, how do you, you know, how to you get to, uh, get you?"


This answer is frustrating to most. They see no business model in "caring." It wasn't taught in business school, and all the newly self-proclaimed business geniuses on the internet who will help you make a million dollars in a month working 3 hours a day don't talk about "caring."

If you don't get it, maybe you should.

So let me explain:

Wine Library is a wine shop with a website. They sell wine. Some is red, and some is white. They have sales, wine clubs, and a way for you to subscribe to their daily special via email. When you order wine from Wine Library, it comes in a box. The wine is not "magic wine," and many of the wines are available somewhere else.

They sell wine, and sell alot of it on the internet. Big deal. So do a half a dozen other wine shops on the internet. touts themselves as the #1 wine retailer on the internet. No doubt that's based on volume. Know who the people are behind Me neither. How about No? Me neither.

So here it is:

I don't buy wine from Wine Library. I buy wine from Gary Vaynerchuk.

Gary Vaynerchuk doesn't sell wine. Gary Vaynerchuk sells Gary Vaynerchuk.

Now for those lawyers who haven't figured out what I'm saying here, let me make the comparison:

You can be a lawyer that is nothing more than a fee receptacle putting on a suit and doing work for a client, or you can start giving a crap about 1. what you do, and 2. who you represent.

When my new clients come in, we don't talk about their case at first. We talk about them. We talk about me. I want to know where they went to school, their family, and whatever else tells me something unique about them.

I want them to leave the office knowing about me, and not just what I do.

I want them to know this is a relationship, not a transaction.

Many lawyers come from the school that you must have a completely distant relationship with your clients. I'm not talking about going to their kid's birthday parties, or drinking beer with them (although those things may eventually happen), or being their best friend.

I'm talking about being real, "caring."

It's as simple as one of my clients who said "you know what gave me a good feeling about you, that you have pictures all over your office of your family."

What you do as a lawyer is not magic. You're a commercial litigator? I know 20. You're a divorce lawyer? I know 30. Don't tell me, or the client that you are a "better" lawyer. They are looking for a good lawyer that they like, and trust. It's the entire package.

Think this is silly? Hokey? "Not a way to make money?"

If your clients think you could care less about them as a person, enjoy representing them in this case. They won't be back for the next, nor will they refer anyone to you.

If, like Gary, you do something that someone else does, you must ask yourself this question:

What makes me different?

Those of you, and there are a lot, who are just in law to make money, are missing the entire point of this. You're also missing the rewards.

While many lawyers are being laid off from their BigLaw dream, or struggling in their solo or small firm practices, remember one thing:

It's not about what you do, it's about who you are.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit