LawBiz® Blog

LawBiz® Blog

Your Practical Guide to Profit ™.

Baseball

Posted in Cash Flow - Finances, Management, Personal Thoughts

In yesterday’s news, the Oakland A’s (the best team at this point of the season) announced trades that brought them 2 outstanding pitchers. Why did they do this? After reading Moneyball, you will know why. Teams’ trade activities highlight the two seasons of baseball, the first that will end in a few days and the second that begins after the “trade deadline” date.

I just finished reading “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.” Great expose by Michael Lewis about the 2002 A’s and their general manager, Billy Beane who changed the way the game is played. How could a team with the lowest payroll in baseball win more games than any other team?

Beane used new data to understand baseball talent, data that was ignored by traditionalists and older scouts. Because of his non-traditional perspective, he was successful in attaining the talent he needed at bargain prices … He won “the game” while being strategic and cost conscious.  I suspect that was what prompted yesterday’s trades.We’ll know by the end of the season.  :-)

Are you doing that in your law firm as well?

Are you a lawyer or a manager?

Posted in Cash Flow - Finances, Coaching, Management, Marketing, Personal Thoughts, Technology

In a recent case, the lawyer was successful in growing his practice. So much so that he engaged 30 staff; they met with clients and even provided legal advice in loan modification matters. The net result is that the attorney did not provide adequate supervision for his staff and allowed them to five legal advice. This was the unlawful practice of law. The attorney was guilty of violating the Rules of Professional Conduct and was suspended for two years. Punishment could have been more, but the lawyer made financial restitution to aggrieved clients and agreed to community service during his suspension.

Moral to the story: Grow your practice with appropriate supervision of unlicensed staff and technological support. Don’t allow unlicensed staff to provide legal advice. Coaching helps both with growing your practice and with operating your practice efficiently and within professional guidelines.

The larger one’s firm gets, the more management issues arise. Running a law practice is equivalent to running a professional service business and management principles are as important as being legally competent.

Are you still practicing law?

Posted in Articles, Cash Flow - Finances, Management, Marketing, Personal Thoughts

In years gone by, many people attended law school because a legal education enhanced their skills. In today’s world, entry into law school  is first evaluated based on ROI, return on investment. And, in some instances, the comparison is coming up short. After the Great Recession, getting a job after law school was not guaranteed. Law school graduates, in addition to being uncertain about their job market, faced extraordinary debt burden.

A 2012 survey indicates that at least 24% of law school graduates are not practicing law. Rather, they were finding their way into nonprofit and education sectors and the federal government. This compares with9% in a similar 2003  survey. One factor pushing this statistic is the need to reduce or pay some of that student debt.

And when considering whether lawyers are satisfied in their chosen career, measured against whether they would go to law school again if given the opportunity, almost 2 out of seven said “no.” This latter statistic seems to be consistent with similar statistics of earlier years. In the 1970s, in response to a survey that I commissioned with the State Bar of California, almost 1/3 of the respondents indicated they were not satisfied with the practice. But they didn’t have the huge amount of debt that today’s graduates are carrying.  I suspect that what keeps people enrolling in law school is another statistic:  those graduates with the highest grade point averages have median pay levels that exceed $121,500, more than those who achieve the lowest grades. This is a significant difference, and the reason for the continued attraction of law schools.

Change of Plea Out the Window!

Posted in In The News, Personal Thoughts

Most prosecutors will negotiate with accused offenders. Obviously, this is done to move the trial court calendar along, eliminate the need to tie up resources that could be used elsewhere, truly not needed when the defendant is willing to change a plea. Even in civil matters, parties negotiate settlements in order to achieve reasonable business outcomes and reduce the cost of litigation.

In at least one civil instance, an insurance company said they will not settle any case, large or small, that everything had to go to trial. This clearly delays the outcomes … and enables the insurance carrier to withhold payment for some time. I’ve not seen any studies about the merits of such activities from the carrier’s perspective. It does, however, frustrate plaintiffs. Frustration without economic benefit is hardly a good business outcome. And the carrier has since reversed this policy.

Now, we have a new version. The State Bar of California has announced that it will refuse to accept “no contest” pleas from lawyers accused of ethics violations. The issue here is not one of criminal liability, but rather of retaining one’s license to practice law. One has to ask what more can be given to the Bar once the lawyer-accused has agreed to take his/her punishment?

The Office of Trial Counsel maintains that accused lawyers are not accepting responsibility for their actions unless they are tried and convicted or accept a guilty plea. That is why they will not accept a nolo contendere plea. Other than civil damages, the effect of a nolo plea is the same … and punishment is no less. Criminal prosecutors understand this. But, the Bar wants its “pound of flesh.” It is questionable whether this is a question of morality.
This is just one more example of the California State Bar’s new adversarial attitude toward its members … Although the legislative directive to the State Bar is that its primary, if not sole, function is to protect the public (not help its members who pay all the expenses of the Bar), one has to wonder how the public is being better helped by this new approach.

Civility?

Posted in Coaching, In The News, Management

The conduct of lawyers, not just litigators, continues to go “south.” Why is this? Have the teachings of our mothers and fathers gone unheeded? Or, in this more litigious world, and the greater incidence of divorce (most of which is with great conflict), do manners, good taste and just plain “niceness” go out the window?

For many years, bar associations have been wringing their hands over how to improve the reputation of the legal community. Clearly, the lack of civil behavior does nothing to enhance our profession’s reputation or regard from among the lay public.

Recently, the State Bar of California modified the lawyer’s oath of office. It is a court rule (9.4), not a rule of professional conduct. And, there does not seem to be any consequences to a violation of the new oath that does not already exist with the judge in a given matter. The language, specifically, includes the words “dignity, courtesy and integrity.” As it stands now, this seems to be a subjective standard and does not increase the power of the court to impose sanctions on any lawyer activity.

When California Chrome did not win the Belmont Stakes this last weekend, its owner went berserk and complained that the race was not fair. He suggested that all horses run under the same rules. In other words, any horse eligible for the Triple Crown should be run in all three races, the Kentucky Derby, the the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Taken in the abstract, his criticism might be correct. The point, however, is where and how he said it. In other words, he didn’t play by the “rules” of genteel civility.

There may be other reasons why California Chrome did not win at Belmont. One such reason is that he appears to have stumbled coming out of the gate, injuring himself; another, his post position was not to the liking of his team. Whatever other reasons there may be, the ultimate conclusion is that California Chrome ran three races to the single race of the winner of Belmont. The words of the owner will be an asterisk or afterthought to the history of this horse. And, if the rules of horse racing are modified in the future, perhaps his outburst was appropriate.

When lawyers are uncivil, or lack civility, in dealing with one another, no one receives a benefit. Lack of civility is not seen as a strength, but merely as an annoyance. Civility does not make one weak. Nor, in most instances, do our clients appreciate the added expense that oftentimes results from having to overcome one’s adversaries’ lack of civility. Yes, there is a difference between horse racing and the practice of law. But, in both scenarios, as my mother used to say, “one can get more with honey than with vinegar.” Equally important for lawyers, our clients do not believe this is better lawyering. On the contrary, they tend to disrespect us for not being civil and causing them increased expense.