Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Want To Compete With BigLaw? Intimidate With An Ipad

Jay Shepherd, who closed his practice to open a company to teach civil lawyers how to bill like criminal defense lawyers have been billing since time immemorial, exposes the deep, dark secrets (just go with it) of how small firms and solos can compete with BigLaw:

Toys and tech.

I know, I know, can't anyone advocate that better lawyering is what makes us, um, better lawyers?


No, no, and no.

Toys....and tech. Get with the program.

Here we go, grab the Starbucks:

[1] Jay asks why are you using Windows XP, an operating system launched ten years ago last week. Seriously? You’re using an operating system from the Clinton Administration?

Yes, I use XP. It works fine. Does everything I want.

[2] ...small-firm lawyers have a better chance of carrying the latest iPhone or Android device, while their Biglaw counterparts are still lugging around their 2002-ish BlackBerries.

I have a 2010 blackberry. It emails, texts, accesses the net, you know, has the ability to communicate with people and websites. Works fine. Does the job.

[3] Social media. Because you can't talk about lawyers without talking about social media.

[4] Intimidate witnesses with an iPad and impress clients at the same time.

When the iPad came out last year, I made a point of using it in depositions. I uploaded all of the written-discovery documents into my GoodReader app. Then, instead of referring the deponent to the typical stack of photocopied documents, I’d flick and pinch on the iPad screen to pull up the bookmarked documents, then ask him, “Is this your signature?” while I highlighted it on the glass. Yes, I was showing off, and it wasn’t necessarily any more effective than the stack of photocopies. But it was potentially intimidating to the witness, and more importantly, it showed our client (one of the world’s largest banks) that we were on the cutting edge. And that gave them comfort.

So there you have it. Change your operating system, get rid of the blackberry, get an iPad and use it to impress.

Congratulations, you can now compete with BigLaw.

Now if I can just remember one client in the last 17 years that gave a crap about any of this...

But I don't want to get in to what really makes clients want to be your client or how to compete, lawyer to lawyer, with BigLaw. It's boring, and doesn't involve shiny intimidating toys.

Non-anonymous comments welcome. Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


Andreas said...

A couple of weeks ago I visited the man who I articled for and learned criminal law from. He was called to the bar in 1963 and has defended just about every imaginable offence in the Criminal Code of Canada.

In his office there was a desk, a phone, a television for watching police videos and a dictation machine. He has a cell phone -- not a smart phone -- just a regular old cell phone. He has no computer or blackberry. While I was there he didn't check his e-mail -- because he doesn't have an e-mail account.

In front of him were files. He was preparing for an upcoming trial by, you know, reading the disclosure. No ipad or blackberry can help you actually read and understand the case.

I should also add that this man who has been practicing for longer than I was born answers his own phone. Sure he has a secretary and a bunch of junior lawyers working for him but he still answers his own phone. That is one of the many things that I learned from him and practice myself. Answer your own goddamn phone.

I was in his office for 40 minutes and three people called asking if he would represent them. Shit, Brian there have been times when three people wouldn't call me in a week when I started building my criminal law practice.

Oh yeah and for those of you out there who only care about money well he could probably buy and sell me a few times over. He drives a nice luxury German car, loves good wine and good food, takes a month long vacation once a year and goes home every night for dinner with his wife.

And he is one of the best criminal defence lawyers out there.

Victor Medina said...

This guy should totally tweet about this and start an online coaching program launched with a teleseminar that promises to reveal the secrets "THEY" don't want you to know.

Oh, and use tons of red font and yellow highlighter in the copy.

techno undrtkr said...

Who answers his phone when he is in court or on holiday? Sorry to be snarky. Seriously though I don't think the blogger was intimating that tech is a substitute for knowledge and competence.

Carolyn Elefant said...

Guess what? Social media and fancy ipads won't even help lawyers compete with biglaw.

The ipad example that Jay offers is extremely deceptive because he implies that one of the world's largest banks hired him because of his tech prowess. Actually, they most likely hired Jay because he was cheap and because the matter didn't involve bet the company litigation.

With limited exceptions, practice areas like employment law, trusts& estates and immigration law are considered "second tier" at big law. They aren't money makers. After all, immigration and T&E usually involve individual clients or businesses with limited budgets and potentially routine matters (e.g., 50 visas for a company hiring 50 workers). In fact, that's why Cameron McKenna, a big UK firm outsourced its entire immigration practice to a smaller boutique (as discussed in a Furlong post) Similarly, in employment matters like those handled by Jay, big firms typically defend companies which are being sued by individual plaintiffs who don't have deep pockets to really pursue the case in a meaningful way. Hardly bet the company litigation.

When a large firm hires a solo/small firm for these kinds of cases, it may be because of the firm's unique experience. More likely, it's because the solo/small firm costs a lot less and it's not worth it to the client to pay more for a relatively insignificant matter. Either way, the firm isn't hiring the solo not because of social media or fancy tech, as Jay tries to imply.

Furthermore, you can bet that in a huge proxy fight or major bankruptcy or corporate deal, these same clients that are hiring small firms will call in AmLaw 100 or AmLaw 200 firm. And they're not hiring those firms for social media or tech either.

Big clients are busy people. They have other people to "do tech" for them, so they rarely pay attention. They expect lawyers to have tech just like they expect a law firm office to have a bathroom. It's so commonplace that it's not a decisive factor. As for social media, right now, big clients are so busy trying to keep their employees OFF social media that I doubt that they consider it a compelling factor in their decision to hire. (I predict that this will change, but that's how things are now).

Andreas said...

Let's just see if we can't have some fund with Jay Shepherd:

"Most law firms are using Ball Point pens as their writing instruments. Some people might even tell you that they like it, although you really gotta wonder about their sanity. To be sure, it’s less buggy and more stable than a Roller Ball. But Ball Point Pens were launched 123 years ago. Seriously? You’re using a pen from the Cleveland Administration? So many law firms love to tell people on their websites how innovative they are, yet they use absurdly outdated technology like 123 year old pens."

Thomas Stephenson said...

Wow. Does Apple pay these guys to pimp their products?

I also use a Blackberry. It gets the job done and, get this, I got it for free instead of blowing a couple hundred bucks on an iPhone.

David Fuller said...

Alas, the iPad doesn't do everything. It makes a terrible hot plate.
Jay Shepherd can call me when his "technology" can reheat the coffee I poured 3 hours ago. Till then, I'm sticking with a legal pad and one of those coffee mug warmers.

Jackie Carpenter said...

I have an iPhone, and iPad, and a MacBookPro. I can honestly say that not one of those tech savvy devices have caused a client to retain me. As a matter of fact, the client probably did not know I even had one unless and until they showed up at the office for a face-to-face meeting. And, stupid me, despite the technology, I still like to write things out on paper before typing them. Weird and counterintuitive, but it is how I am.

shg said...

I come back to find Jay Shepard embarrassed himself again with insipid posts demonstrating why he no longer practices law? It's like I never left.

Fred Flintstone, Attorney at Law said...

The first time I saw a lawyer with a laptop in court, he was making a big production about setting a date on his whiz bang Buzz Lightyear Super Duper computer calendar. Boy, was I impressed, being a primitive who uses a paper day book.
His license was suspended for inattentiveness to various matters. I dislike sports analogies, but remember, the guy with the newest carbon fiber baseball bat still might not be able to hit a lick.