Friday, April 30, 2010

"I Found You On The Internet"

When I graduated law school, the most important goal was getting a job, learning how to practice law, and to those that wanted to, developing a reputation that would attract clients. Sure, some went right from graduation to the yellow pages, but that was rare. Very rare.

Today, the chronology is graduation, creation of website, creation of facebook fan page, twitter account, and all in the name of an online reputation. An offline reputation is secondary. No one's really checking anyway. It's all about the fee. It's all about the ultimate "how much do you charge" question.

The internet is an amazing tool. You can be the best attorney in the world on the internet, even if you've only been practicing a few months. Any good internet consultant will tell you to leave off your date of graduation if you're a bit green, as those that look for attorneys on the internet aren't really looking for a great lawyer, they are just looking for a great price.

Aren't we all? Don't we always turn to the internet to find the best deal?

It's no different when searching for a lawyer.

I get emails all the time from internet experts telling me they can help me with my website ranking, that I'm "miss out" on clients. Apparently, when someone is looking for a lawyer that does what I do, I am not first, and because I am not first, I am nowhere.

Therein lies the issue. The assumption that every lawyer wants that call. The call that comes from the potential client that isn't asking around for referrals, isn't really interested in credentials that are verified by others, but looking for the language on the internet that makes them feel good.

I get those calls. I get those e-mails.

"I found you on the internet."

Has anyone who "found me on the internet," hired me? Sure. Is it the norm? No.

Now someone out there is reading this and saying "of course, you don't get it. If you were first, or close to first, you would get more calls, and more clients."

More calls? Yes. More clients, no.

Because I don't compete on price. I compete on quality and service.

I remember a plumber once telling me "quality, price, and service. I offer two, pick the two you want."

Being first on the internet of course attracts calls and emails.

But I'm not looking for calls and e-mails.

I'm looking for clients that are looking fcr a particular lawyer.

Those clients normally don't find me on the internet.

You can have the others.

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Cause Of The Defenseless Or Oppressed - 15 Years Later

I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed

- Oath of Admission to the Florida Bar

On the evening of April 28, 1995, I entered the courtroom of the Honorable Stanford Blake to be sworn in as a Member of the Florida Bar. I first met Judge Blake when he was criminal defense lawyer Stan Blake, and I was his 19 year old client. The irony was apparent.

I had already been working at the public defender's office for 5 months under the certified legal intern program, but from this moment on I would be official. I could "talk in court" without the supervision of another lawyer.

Fifteen years is not 20 years, it's not 40 years, not a half century of practice, but it's 15 years, a decade and a half of practicing criminal defense law. I think it's something to talk about.

Fifteen years ago after graduating from the only law school to which I was accepted, I took the only job offer I wanted, to become an assistant public defender. I went to law school to become a criminal defense lawyer.

My salary - $28,000. After passing the Bar, I would receive a raise to $32,500.

I began in the county court division - DUIs, misdemeanors, homeless clients, drunks, and minor screw-ups. I learned everything I could about DUI, tried as many cases as I could, and did that for 18 months. It was there I had my first high-profile case representing a Santeria Priest who was charged with animal cruelty resulting from a videotaped ceremony.

It was there I learned that no evidence can result in a conviction, if the arrest is on Christmas Eve and a juror says "well, we just thought if someone was arrested on Christmas Eve, the cop must have thought they were really guilty." I also learned there that overwhelming evidence, that of a seriously drunk guy who hits a pole on a sidewalk and then pisses all over himself, can be acquitted if the jury "thought the cop was arrogant."

After 18 months, it was off to Juvenile.

I went kicking and screaming. I left after 8 months and 3 weeks. I hated it. I hated the parents who enabled and made excuses for their kids, and I hated the notion that there was something wrong with every kid, other than they were just being kids by getting into fights and doing stupid things.

After my stint in Juvenile, I went to "felonies." I tried some cases as a "C" lawyer, and then started to think about how long I would stay in the office. I didn't want to do death penalty work, and I really didn't see the benefit to staying more than 3 years. I loved the job, I just became a little bored and wanted the challenge of learning how to be a private lawyer.

While my salary was about to be raised to $39,000, I was offered a job at a DUI boutique for $50,000. I took it, and spent 9 months there. I learned how to run a business, and how not to run a business. I learned I didn't want to just do DUI work. We need those lawyers, lawyers who are experts in a particular crime, but it wasn't for me.

I quit. I had no money. I had the car they leased me, a new townhouse, and $10,000 coming in from court appointed cases.

I had made friends with a partnership of 20-year criminal defense lawyers who offered me a free office, free desk, and free computer. My P.A. was born.

These guys referred me their "junk" and taught me how to practice in federal court. They became mentors in all aspects of my life.

After 5 years I wanted to start a small firm. I got some furnished space, and my firm was born. After a year, we left and rented the space we are currently in, and the rest is history.

I've experienced every high and low of private practice, times when the phone didn't ring for weeks, good clients, great clients, nightmare clients, good judges, terrible judges, outstanding lawyers, awful lawyers, fascinating cases, and not so fascinating cases that became fascinating as the case proceeded.

Do I miss working at the PD's office? Everyday. Best job I ever had.

What have I learned in 15 years of practicing law?

[1] I love what I do. I could not imagine doing anything else but defending those in trouble, criminally, or before the Bar.

[2] You can make money as a criminal defense lawyer. You can make money doing anything you love. What matters is that you do it well, and that your clients see your commitment to your chosen practice area. There are criminal defense lawyers, and lawyers who take criminal cases. The difference is immense.

[3] One word of mouth referral is worth a year in the yellow pages, in-your-face Facebook Ads, and mailers to homes of those arrested.

[4] If you have decided the type of lawyer you want to be, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. Those that handle traffic tickets with zeal and professionalism deserve the same respect as a lawyer who handles complex "bet-the-company" litigation. Anyone who advocates for a client and does it well, is a lawyer deserving of respect.

[5] No case or client is worth your reputation.

[6] Honesty that hurts your position, is the best kind.

[7] Hearing that a judge is a bad judge never matters, unless you hear it 3 times, from 3 different people.

[8] Most lawyers are unhappy, because they are not practicing in an area that inspires them.

[9] Your reputation as a lawyer can be cemented within 90 days of admission to the Bar.

[10] If you are in private practice, work on your business, and not just in your business. There are people out there, go meet them.

[11] The length of time someone has been a lawyer has no bearing on their skills, ethics, or reputation, unless proven otherwise.

[12] A phone call is always better than a letter.

[13] There are 3 places where cases are resolved - counsel table, conference tables, and restaurant tables. Use them all.

[14] As to #13, weakness is not shown by breaking bread with opposing counsel.

[15] Never lie.

[16] If you burn a bridge, make sure you burn it to the point that it is unrecognizable, otherwise, expect it to come back to bite you. It will.

[17] Some people don't matter. Never treat them like they don't matter.

[18] Most people you deal with have either a family, a child, a personal issue, or something else that makes them just like you. If you need me to explain the relevance of this, just move on to...

[19] Your obligation is to the Bar rules first, and your client second. If you reverse that, you won't need to worry about it.

[20] People hate lawyers, think they are greedy, and don't respect them. That will never change. Don't waste your time trying to convince society otherwise. Spend your time convincing your client through your work that they shouldn't hate lawyers, lawyers aren't greedy, and lawyers deserve respect.

[21] The best case, is the one you don't take.

[22] "Money's not a problem," is never true. If money is not a problem, you won't hear that statement.

[23] Don't ever practice law at the level of your sleazy opponent.

[24] Immediately cease using the word "immediately," in correspondence with other lawyers.

[25] Threats are worthless.

[26] Take every opportunity you can to teach a young lawyer something, regardless of their response.

[27] If you have a bad feeling about taking a case, don't.

[28] If you are asked to be the second lawyer and you agree with the work lawyer #1 has done, don't.

[29] Never take a case from a friend.

[30] Never bad mouth the competition, even if they deserve it.

[31] If you want to be a lawyer that makes good money, gets good clients, and does great work, then dress like you are a lawyer that makes good money, gets good clients, and does great work.

[32] Remember that what your client told you, with nothing more, is what your client told you.

[33] A client who won't tell you the truth, should be fired.

[34] Some of the best lawyers, you've never heard of.

[35] The people you walk by and ignore, notice.

[36] People who want you to represent them, and will scrimp and save to retain you, are better people than those who think they own you for what they wrote a check.

[37] Always make time for a colleague who needs advice, and asks you for that advice.

[38] Never say "same shit, different day." I hate that.

[39] You never know where your next case is coming from, or who can afford your fee.

[40] Those who insisted I "just don't go into criminal law," I'm laughing at you.

[41] There are cases you are not right for, admit it.

[42] The best advice I've received on case theories, is from non-lawyers.

[43] Many lawyers follow none of these "rules" I've listed.

[44] As long as students enter law school to obtain a ticket to a job, our profession will dwindle into nothing but a trade.

[45] As Larry Pozner, Past President of NACDL said once - you make your worst decisions when business is slow.

[46] When business is slow, get the hell out of the office.

[47] The best way to get to know your client, is to get to know his family.

[48] Never object to a continuance for a family issue, or a vacation. Never.

[49] In court, always let someone go before you if they ask. You'll ask one day too.

[50] Speaking and writing is a better advertisement than your angry photo next to the words "aggressive," and "Available 24/7."

[51] Most "white collar" cases, are boring.

[52] A $250,000 case is not 25 times better than a $10,000 case

[53] Whenever you argue with a non-lawyer, they will tell you to "stop cross-examining" them, and that they are "not on trial."

[54] I have no interest in judges who are "nice off the bench."

[55] Lawyers who brag they "don't go on vacations," are miserable human beings that I never want to deal with on any level.

[56] There are three reasons people hate lawyers: Advertising, the perception that they charge too much and make a lot of money, and they sometimes win.

[57] Most people think a judge's job is to "keep bad guys in jail."

[58] There are 3 types of conversations not worth having: one that is from a potential client who thinks hiring a lawyer will make them "look guilty," one from the girlfriend, wife, sister, other family member, or friend of someone who was arrested and is not in jail, and one from a marketer who wants to help take your practice "to the next level."

[59] Payment plans, will consume you.

[60] Regardless of what others think of what you do, remember, there are three branches of government, you're an officer of one of them. Pretty cool.

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

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brian, Be Gentle With Us

My post below, suggesting that searching for "any job I can get," may not be the best move, angered a reader. I'll call him "Juan," because that's his name when he comments.

Juan pulled out the "must be nice" script in response to my post.

Unfortunately, this is a new era. The jobs just aren't there
Personally, after seven years of school, a six figure loan balance (undergrad and LS), rent to pay, car payments, insurance, gas, etc etc, I cannot afford to cherry pick employment. I would never grovel or sound deseprate either, but I did have to accept emplyoment in a practice area I am certainly not enamored with. This is not a sense of entitlement. This is reality.

Do you hear that? Let me translate:

I put myself in deep debt for the promise of a $150,000 salary when I graduated, and now that it's not there, I really don't need you telling me creative ways to enter the legal profession. I went to law school for a job, not to be a lawyer. Maybe you did that 15 years ago, but things are different now, and you just don't understand. Please stop talking about this, it upsets us.

So let me clear things up.

I understand, completely.

I spend a pretty good amount of time with law students. I also talk to law professors and others involved in the Bar admission process.

Yes Juan, the jobs just aren't there. But neither is the same character that was there "when I went to law school."

Sure, there were students who were looking to get that $55,000 BigLaw job.

Yeah, $55,000.

I learned that in my last year of school. I never knew when I went to law school what BigLaw lawyers made, it wasn't important, it wasn't really discussed. Now, it's the reason college graduates fill out the law school applications. It's not an application for a legal education for the purpose of becoming an advocate, it's a lottery ticket for a job.

Think I'm the only one who sees this? A few weeks ago I was speaking with a Professional Responsibility professor who oddly, likes what I write here. I asked him if the students were "different" today.

Most of them see the practice of law as just a job, he said.

I appreciate Juan coming here and speaking for the new generation of graduates, those that don't want to hear anyone tell them the truth about anything. Sure, I know there are law students and graduates that are looking for a career as a lawyer, and not just a six-figure salary, but they are in the minority these days.

What is clear is that those that went to law school for the cash are now stuck. No one wants to pay them their entitled to salary, and the grads really aren't looking to make much of an effort to create the career they want.

Nor do they want to hear any advice that doesn't comport with their wants and needs.

I don't write this blog for anyone. I owe my readers nothing but my honest thoughts. I've been blogging 5 years now and am well aware of those out there that will never put thought to keyboard except to comment on other's writings, but who feel I should write what they want me to write. Read any blog, and you'll see comments asking why the author wrote about a certain topic, why the author didn't write about a certain topic and demanding that the author write what the reader wants. We all see these comments, and mainly laugh before telling the commenter that when they get their own blog, they can write anything they want - subject to angry commenters.

While I was writing this post, a commenter asked what was more "angry," Juan's comment, or my response.

I don't know. I don't care. Am I angry? Angry that a bunch of entitled kids tried to enter a serious profession and are now upset that people like me are telling them the truth, which they would rather not hear? Nah, I don't call it anger. It's more like disgust.

"Must be nice" is what jealous, angry, entitled people say when they see others who have what they want.

So let me anger you further with more advice.

You want a serious legal career that makes you happy.

Spend less time telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, and go build a career. No one owes you shit, and no one cares about how much you "need" to make.

Stop the whining, grow up, get to work, or get the hell out.

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is Looking For "Any Job I Can Get" Hurting You?

Yesterday I was watching an interview with Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka.

Anyone who's watched her career realizes she is no "idiot-daughter." She works. Yes, she has a great name, went to the finest schools, and probably a few doors were opened for her just based on who her father is, but she said something important in this six minute interview.

She was asked: What is the biggest mistake people make when they come to you for a job - what don't they do right?

Ivanka: They don't know what they want. People are casting their net far to wide in this climate because they're looking for any opportunity.

I've heard this before, and I hear it a lot now. I hear law school graduates say they are looking for "anything," and I hear lawyers say that law students are looking for "anything."

What does that get you?

If you appear desperate, what will be the result? In anything? You'll get little to nothing.

I know, there's no jobs, there's loans that need to be repaid, bills that need to be paid, entitlements that need to be fulfilled. But why not narrow the search?

I have these conversations with unemployed lawyers. I ask "what are you looking for?" "Anything." I don't get it. If you want to do plaintiff's personal injury work, isn't your job search better conducted by focusing on that area of law? What result do you expect if your interest is family law and you are telling a partner in an employment law firm that you "just need a job" and will do "anything?" Why would they hire you?

If you are looking for a job to make money, why not just do something else rather than take a law job doing something you hate? Is it that important to be paid for legal work even though your life is miserable? Is your ego more important than your happiness?

I know you went to law school to become a lawyer (well, I know some did), but you didn't spend 3 years studying, then another few months studying to take the Bar for the purpose of taking "anything."

So don't.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Hot Job Lead: Law Firm Ghost Blogger

DC and Maryland Criminal Law Firm with 4 blogs and 6 sites is looking for a blogger to write and self edit 30-40 entries per month. Must be US based with strong writing and editing skills. Must have understanding of basic legal concepts and ability to take news stories and create entries from them. Basic SEO is helpful but can be taught. Would like to pay per article $20 or less.

Here's some examples of the blogs you will be authoring.

Interested? Here's how to apply.

But don't forget to read this first.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.


How To Make Money As A Lawyer - Rainmaking Is For Losers

As I look in my handy little program that tells me what google searches lead people to this blog, I am of course not surprised to say that "How to make money as a lawyer" still leads the pack.

This is not a search done with the same attitude that someone searches for, let's say "how to remove gum from a shoe." This search is done with anger, frustration, and the desire for immediate relief. The search is really "I went to law school, have $100,000 in loans, I missed the cut on the entitlement to my BigLaw job and mahogany desk, and I want my damn money so tell me how to make money as a lawyer, NOW."

Today we talk about the term that is running around the internet as much as unemployed social media experts that used to be lawyers before they were laid off, disbarred, arrested, or otherwise just got tired of working in an office that didn't have young people in green shirts working behind a counter and asking "room for cream?"


"an influential employee who creates a great deal of business or revenue for his or her firm." rainmaking n

"One who is known for achieving excellent results in a profession or field, such as business or politics."

"A rainmaker is also a person who can initiate progress, take a leadership role, and have the drive to succeed."

Well, here's my advice if you are trolling the internet looking to "make money as a lawyer:"

Forget Rainmaking.

At it's core, a rainmaker is someone who has deep relationships with a vast number of people that send business their way just like an open cloud sends rain from the sky.

This method, the true method of becoming a rainmaker, takes way too long. It can take 10 years before a lawyer, a real lawyer with clients, becomes known as a rainmaker.

You don't really want to be a rainmaker, you want to "make money as a lawyer," and waiting is not an option.

So spam.

Advertise like there is no tomorrow.

Plaster your card and name everywhere you can.

Forget becoming a rainmaker. A rainmaker is an influential employee who creates a great deal of business or revenue for his or her firm.

You don't want that. It takes becoming a good lawyer, gaining the respect of your colleagues and others in the community. It will only wind up causing you to have big cases, great clients, and a wonderful practice.

You're focused on making money as a lawyer.

That's not a rainmaker.

So stop frustrating yourself by asking how you become a rainmaker.

If you want to make money as a lawyer, your time is better spent with the guy from the yellow pages, the dude that can teach you to play on twitter, the life coach that can help you create a fan page on Facebook.

It's simple. Easy.

That's what you wanted upon graduation right? A simple, easy way to make money?

There you have it.

Screw the rainmakers. They're too busy establishing themselves as influential professionals.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Do People Who Aren't Hungry Go To Restaurants?

As I've gone through the years as a lawyer, there are things I have learned to deal with. I understand people "shop" for the cheapest lawyer, and no matter the qualifications and experience of any particular lawyer, the client looking for the cheapest lawyer, is only interested in hearing a fee that matches what's in the wallet.

I also have been able to judge pretty well the buzz phrases that used to mean something different when I was starting out as a young lawyer. Phrases like "money is not an issue," translated: "I have no money," or "I think this is a good case for you," translated: "I have no money but want you to think my case will make you famous." Then there's "I'll call you back," translated: "I won't ever call you back." There's also: "no matter what happens, you've done a great job," translated: "we better win."

And rearing it's ugly head recently (probably due to the economy):

"I'm not sure I even want to hire a lawyer for this. I think it may make me look (bad, guilty, like I'm trying to hide something.)"

Every lawyer who represents alleged criminals or anyone in trouble gets these questions. When I was starting out, I would entertain this notion to the point where it appeared I was almost begging the client to change his mind.

But recently I've received this question with increased frequency, and so along with my policies of no free consultations, no extended payment plans, no clients I think are nightmares, no rescheduling missed initial consultations (no, seriously, I.... don't), I.......

will no longer entertain this question.

My job is to represent my clients. My job is not to spend that time reassuring the client that the concept of even having a lawyer is something they should embrace. It's a waste of my time. If you don't think you want a lawyer for your problem, don't hire one, don't let one convince you otherwise, just go with your gut.

Just like when you make a dinner reservation, go to a restaurant, and when the waiter comes over ask: "I don't think I want to be here and eat food, what should I do?"

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ethics Alarms Go Off, "It's Jack Marshall! It's Jack Marshall!"

I had never heard of Jack Marshall until he made clear he believed Eric Turkewitz to be the scourge of ethical lawyers everywhere by, um, playing an April Fool's Joke that snared the New York Times.

Jack is the most ethical person in the universe, just ask him. Anyone who disagrees with him, is.... not-ethical. He's right, he's right, he's right, and everyone else is wrong. If you ask Jack a question, he will fully respond.

If you want to learn more about Jack, try to catch one of his classes at American University's Law School. According to his bio, he's an adjunct professor there. I'm not sure if he's taught a class since 2006 though.

Check back later, I trust Jack will say hello, but I won't laugh. I've already stopped doing that.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Slackoisie New Demand: "Starbuckslex"

Recently, New Jersey dropped a bomb on lawyers who chronically whine "why can't we do what we want," better known the Slackoisie.

Apparently in New Jersey, the Bar thinks lawyers should have offices. This comes as quite a disappointment to the Slackoisie, the new kids that want to practice law how they want, when they want, and absent any regulation that may hinder their cries to re-define the practice as needing nothing more than a pair of shorts, Ed Hardy shirt, Frappuchino and a laptop.

In Florida, we also like lawyers to have offices. Our Rule ruins the Starbucks dwelling lawyers day by stating that the a lawyer must have a "bona fide office," "a physical location maintained by the law firm or lawyer where the firm or lawyer furnishes or reasonably expects to furnish legal services in a substantial way on a regular and continuing basis." In Florida, a non-Starbucks office is determined by the following criteria:

Does the office have the firm's name on an outside office sign or on the building's directory?

Is the advertised location staffed by law firm employees who answer phone calls at that location from prospective clients?

Is the advertised location staffed by receptionists, secretaries, clerks, or paralegals employed by the firm on a full-time basis?

Other than client interviews and conferences, do firm attorneys furnish legal services from the advertised location?

Is the advertised location staffed by at least one firm lawyer on a regular and continuing basis?

But we provide for a little "Starbuckslex" existence:

Even though an attorney may not advertise an office location that is not a bona fide office, the attorney may nevertheless advertise that he or she is "available for consultation" at a specified location or may identify other locations as "limited service" or "satellite" offices.

My friend Carolyn Elefant, herself a lawyer (far from Slackoisie) with a former full-time office, is not happy with New Jersey's new rule, and feels that it will send the profession into a cost-prohibitive stratosphere that will only hurt clients.

AVVO's General Counsel (non-Slackoisie as well) Josh King is also not happy.

Josh wanted the New Jersey Bar to change the rule regarding bona fide offices. Why? because lawyers want to work in the "cloud?" Because lawyers don't want to pay for an office? What else don't lawyers like about the rules? Let's make a list why don't we?

Josh says New Jersey "could have easily found a more expansive definition of what constitutes a “bona fide office;” one that takes into account our present world of ubiquitous broadband connections, voicemail and mobile phones."

Josh says this is "not good for solos, and not good for consumers who will bear these increased costs."

Carolyn, and Josh, my good friends, you're wrong about the effect of this opinion, and if you were right, I disagree this is a bad thing.

Carolyn believes that the New Jersey opinion by two New Jersey judicial advisory committees finds that "virtual office arrangements, outsourced or shared receptionist services and even working outside of the office for more than a few hours violate New Jersey's bonafide office requirement." She calls the opinion "simply so moronic that it could readily be mistaken for a joke."

By way of New Jersey's bonafide office rule, Rule 1:21:

New Jersey defines a bona fide office as:

a place where clients are met, files are kept, the telephone is answered, mail is received and the attorney or a responsible person acting on the attorney's behalf can be reached in person and by telephone during normal business hours to answer questions posed by the courts, clients or adversaries and to ensure that competent advice from the attorney can be obtained within a reasonable period of time.

The opinion holds that virtual offices, Google "Regus," where as Carolyn says "lawyers can rent space part time to meet clients or use as a mail drop - are not a bona-fide office within the meaning of Rule 1:21 because lawyers use the space part time -- they do not keep files on site or employ staff who can assist walk-in client."

Carolyn disagrees with the rule because in sum:

Email, texting or voice mail "afford a far quicker, not to mention, less expensive way to contact a lawyer to obtain a response or advice within a reasonable amount of time than a receptionist and physical office space, and;"

"Many lawyers don't keep physical files in their office, but instead house them in the cloud while storing paper files off site."

Then Carolyn goes a little "the sky is falling:"

"Many lawyers, even those with full time space, like to spend time outside of the office. Back in the day when I had full time space, I often worked at the library, on site at one of my client's offices and occasionally from home. This too, would have violated the bonafide office rule unless I had someone babysitting the office, since the opinion states that: "If the attorney is regularly out of the office during normal business hours, then a responsible person must be present at the office."

No, not even close. And I will offer to pay for the Bar defense of any New Jersey lawyer with office space who spends 3-4 hours a day at the library or working somewhere else, while having daily office hours. "Regularly out of the office" would only come to light if clients started complaining to the Bar that they can never reach the lawyer, and the Bar went to the office for a few days in a row and found no one there. Trust me.

Carolyn continues:

"Essentially, the New Jersey ruling requires full time office space and a full time receptionist. Assuming $500 a month for space, and $20,000 for staff, that's $26,000 per year compared to the $3000-$5000 cost of a virtual office. It's clients who will absorb that cost."

Again, no. Wrong. The opinion wants the lawyer to have a "bona fide" office. I know plenty of lawyers who rent space from "Regus" type offices. They are there every day or at least most days, keep their files there, and have someone answer the phone. No other staff is involved. But let's say that wasn't the case, so what? State Bars don't exist to assist lawyers that want to re-invent the practice in order to avoid paying about $2,000 a month in rent and staff. If a lawyer is charging $100 an hour, working 40 hours a week, (Slackosie ignore this part), that's $16,000 a month. Let's cut that to $10,000 a month. We should be concerned about a lawyer spending 25% on rent and staff? Most real lawyers spend 50% on overhead.

Carolyn also claims this is bad for women lawyers:

"Moreover, the added cost of complying with the bonafide office rule is even higher if a lawyer has children. There, the lawyer will have to pay for child care so she can spend time at her physical location. And while the New Jersey ruling does allow a home office to meet the "bonafide office" requirement, most lawyers (particularly women) who work from home are loathe to use that address for security reasons, a point I made in this article.

So let me get this straight. You can work from home, but because women may not want to give out their address, it's a bad opinion? This is what I call "you can't make everyone happy all the time." What's left out, is that plenty of law firms have P.O. Box addresses for mail. If the female lawyer is concerned beyond that about having clients in the home, then yes, an office is required.

Carolyn believes this opinion is nothing more than "throwing up barriers to the burgeoning number of unemployed lawyers who may want to rent a virtual office to test the waters of starting a law firm. No offense Carolyn (I know, none taken), but state Bars are not in the business of making it easy for lawyers to define law practice just because a bunch of unemployed whiners want to practice while sipping mocha lattes at Starbucks.

What about the clients? Don't they have the right to have their files kept in a safe place? I feel much better having my file, my real file, with real documents, kept in a real office with insurance and security, than in the trunk of a car, or a den in a home with 4 kids, 2 dogs, and people visiting that I don't know.

Carolyn asks that the lawyers banking (no pun intended) on the virtual practice of law contact the New Jersey Bar and help "bring the New Jersey bar into the 21st century."

I say call all you want, my clients will always have the benefit of a meeting in a real office, where their files physically sit, in file folders, where a receptionist asks them if they want a cup of coffee, just not a Vente Mocha Latte with a shot of caramel, with room for cream.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Technology Curmudgeon Gives His Technology Secrets

Saturday the iPad was released. This is Apple’s equivalent of Sony releasing a 52 inch TV when the only one available was 20 inches. It’s a big iPhone with a few more features. It will not cure cancer, clean the house, get lawyers clients, or get you laid.

Still, tech geeks everywhere were hysterical. Prior to the release, bloggers were bold enough, as they always are whenever Apple farts, to say that the iPad would change the world.

It won’t. But that’s beside the point.

After it was released, techys on twitter went bonkers. It was, in a word, pathetic. I made fun of many of them, and that resulted in this post by my colleague Rick Horowitz.

All of this inspired me to finally disclose how technology works in my practice.

See, there are several folks out there that want to convince you that technology is what makes you a better lawyer.

It doesn’t. It never will.

It may make your life easier, but it will never make you a better lawyer. Sorry to blow the fallacy and bullshit that gets techy for lawyer folks credibility..

Now back to me and how technology works in my practice.

First, I have an office. A real office where I pay rent, have a reception area, a receptionist, a secretary, a conference room, and yes, even a kitchen. Note that the tech for lawyers crowd is mostly geared towards lawyers that have no office, save for an available seat at a local Starbucks with free wi-fi.

In my office is a telephone. My receptionist also has one, and so does my secretary. So do the 3 other lawyers in my office and the other support staff. This is how clients normally reach me. In a very non-techy way, my clients, mostly lawyers, law students, and alleged criminals, like to be pretty traditional and come to my office and meet with me. They’re not real big on video conferencing, email, or Starbucks.

The phone has a voice mail for after hours calls. If the client wants to press “9,” the call will transfer to my cell phone.

All messages left on my cell phone are transcribed to text and emailed to me. In turn, when I am in court, a meeting, deposition, or otherwise cannot listen to a voice mail or return a call, I can reply to the message via email or text.

My cell phone. That’s a blackberry. The latest version, 9700. Every time a new Blackberry is released, I get it immediately. I don’t blog about it, tweet hysterically about it, nor will I ever wait in line for one. I call at&t and have it sent to me. It’s all very quiet.

My Blackberry has a personal Enterprise Server for which I pay an additional $30 a month. This allows all emails, contacts, and calendar items to wireless sync with my office. It allows my receptionist and secretary to input and delete calendar items, and for me to do the same and have it appear instantaneously on everyone’s desktop and my Blackberry.

My office desktop is my laptop, and it is connected to a docking station. In the office I have two monitors – one for documents and one for the internet. Most “real lawyers” walk in my office and think that having two monitors is the most advanced thing they’ve ever seen.

All documents received in my office relating to client files are scanned into a client directory. Most other mail is thrown out, as it is largely from others who believe they can make me a better lawyer by selling me something. When I am not in the office, I can sign in to my office server from my laptop and access all of my client’s documents.

In watching the release of the iPad, I’ve heard tons about what games it has, how Kindle books are able to be read, and how Netflix movies can be downloaded. I’m sure the iPad has use for real lawyers in real situations, but the hysterics over it’s release have nothing to do with the practice of law. It’s all about the new toy, and the kids who are enamored with something new to play with.

So here’s a challenge, read this post, envision my practice, and tell me how the iPad will significantly change how I practice law.

I’m waiting.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Handy Checklist: Hiring A Social Media/Blogging/Marketing Expert

As the dream of going right from law school to an irrelevant BigLaw job has died, young lawyers everywhere are being advised to invest their time and money into other more important aspects of today's lawyer - twitter, blogging, web marketing, and SEO.

In an effort to assist young lawyers everywhere in making sure they hire the right "expert" to launch their marketing campaign, I've created this check list:

1. Is the expert a lawyer?

If no, ask for 5 references. You are now done with this check list. If yes, proceed to next question

2. How long has the expert been a lawyer?

3. What type of law does the expert practice?

If at this point it is learned the expert/lawyer no longer practices law, skip to 5.

4. Where is the physical office of the lawyer/expert?

If the answer has the word "virtual," or looks like a laptop, politely say "thank you," and end the interview.

5. If the lawyer no longer practices law, ask how long they practiced and why they no longer practice.

This is a difficult question, a question that 99% of desperate young lawyers don't ask. I have no idea why they don't ask, but the majority of lawyer/social media experts bank on you not asking that question.

6. After receiving an answer to 5, Google the name of the lawyer/social media/blogging expert and verify. That's right, you're a lawyer - verify that the answer is true. If nothing comes up, check the state Bar website of the Bar to which they claim to have been admitted.

7. Ask if the expert has ever been legally found to be an expert in what they claim to be an expert. If the answer is "no," and it will be, ask for 10 references.

8. Ask how may legal clients, that means clients with legal issues, the lawyer/social media expert/blogger obtained through social media as a lawyer.

If the answer to 8 is vague or causes you to say something like "I'm not clear on your answer," don't ask again, just take the previous advice listed after question 4 - politely say "thank you," and end the interview.

9. If the lawyer/social media expert uses the term "Rock Star," "ghost blogging," "link exchange," or "automatic feed," again, politely say "thank you," and end the interview.

There you have it, print it out, carry it around, use it. It's free. You're 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.