UCLA School of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law and Southwestern Law School have been awarded a one-year grant from the State Bar of California’s Commission on Access to Justice to establish a modest means incubator, a pilot program to help new attorneys launch and develop viable law practices serving modest means clients.
Sign up for LawBiz newsletters, and receive a free chapter each from Life After Law and The Profitable Law Office Handbook!
Thank you for reading my blog posts.
Did you know I also have a weekly newsletter, with hints, tips, comments, suggestions and useful ideas you can use every day in your law practice?
You can take a look at the Lawbiz newsletter archive.
If you would like to subscribe, please enter your information into the form on the webpage, or click here.
You will also receive a free chapter from my books, Life After Law and The Profitable Law Office Handbook, that you can download instantly!
A New York consulting firm recently conducted a survey and found that eight of the top 10 companies that no longer provided extraordinary support for their products and services for technology companies. Companies like Samsung, Apple and others apparently are appealing to a younger audience that is not accustomed to having handholding as an element of value.
Dunkin’ Donuts was one company that was more traditional and not technology based. Apple, while no longer enabling you to make an appointment at their “Genius Bar” online nevertheless still had a service component by opening more stores in more cities with more personnel to help those with operational issues. Apple found that the Genius Bar is better left for hardware and software glitches; other issues can be addressed by the consumer taking a class in either their store or their phone provider. But, Apple did not forsake its consumer who needed technical assistance.
Nothing replaces human contact, even for the youngest generation. A very astute technology company called “www.gethuman.com” build some of the gap for older folks by finding phone numbers of the very same companies who seek to hide their presence from consumers.
Companies, even technology companies, must realize that customer service is a marathon, not a sprint. Consumers, myself included, recently have left Samsung and purchased the new Apple iPhone 6. Why? because Samsung refused to connect with their consumer to solve the consumer’s issues. Apple does. And while Samsung’s commercials suggest that Apple 6+ is nearly a copy, it is a “copy” that works and carries with it a service component.
Within the last few days, a major law firm’s (Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP) Los Angeles office has been severely impacted.
One of the largest fires seen in the Los Angeles area (Da Vinci Apartment project) also damaged 8 of the adjoining building’s 16 floors that housed the firm’s Los Angeles office with 250 lawyers and staff. The office’s managing partner, Timothy R. Graves, put the best face on the situation by saying their experience in New York (Hurricane Sandy) gives them some advantage in dealing with the Los Angeles experience. Technology further helps alleviate potential damage that might otherwise have been experienced. Remotely working, however, does not remove the consequences of significant water damage to paper files and client unease … When one goes to sleep, one doesn’t expect a 1 a.m. fire to change your life, but it can happen.
A member of the California State Legislature announced that he will ask for “…a financial and operational audit…” of the State Bar. In his press statement, the Assemblyman said he wants the State Auditor “…to investigate, study, analyze, and assess the financial practices and the performance” of the bar. The politician said “… “(m)andatory bar dues should be spent on regulating our profession and improving legal services to the public,”
This utterance is not the only one arising from the recent turmoil resulting from the dismissal of the Bar’s Executive Director. The seriousness of the charges and counter-charges cannot be underestimated. But, the seriousness is heightened by the fact that the State Bar must get permission from the State Legislature to assess and collect annual fees from its lawyers. One might question whether this is a true separation of powers required by the Constitution, but it’s been the standard in California since 1927.
Perhaps the California Bar should be segmented, as is the New York Bar, into a regulatory/licensing function and a member benefit function. California lawyers had their opportunity during Gov. Pete Wilson’s reign and let it pass. Perhaps the issue should be revisited.
Achieving success in business—including, of course, the business of law—is an art. The artist (lawyer) must create a scene on a canvas (atmosphere) that draws in clients, making clients want to immerse themselves in that canvas.
Last night, I was talking with a friend and venting about the paperwork requiring signatures in order for us to complete the process of buying a house. Between the escrow company and lender, it seemed as though there had to have been pounds of paper, quite a few of which required a notarized signature. My friend commented that it took only a few pieces of paper with a simple signature—no notary—to buy and drive off in a Lamborghini or other fancy car. In contrast, a house can’t be moved. One would think that the lender and the seller would be more worried about the car than the house.
How have such signatory processes been formulated? More importantly, is the buyer made to feel like an honored and respected participant or, rather, like someone who is not trustworthy?
Although this metaphor is not totally applicable to the business of law and the lawyer-client relationship, the fact is that the lawyer must make his/her client feel honored and comfortable. The lawyer must make the client feel that the law office and the lawyer’s services are like an art museum surrounding the client with masterpieces that the client will willingly return to again and again.
To do less will put a ceiling on your success.
Those who are worried about there being too many lawyers may have their wish come true. The reports (LA Times, Dec 8) are that, for the first time in nearly a decade, the pass rate of the bar examination is less than 50%. And, there are fewer candidates. And law school enrollment is declining. This certainly will decrease the number of lawyers in the future … especially with the Baby Boomers retiring in greater numbers as each year passes.
However, as noted before on the LawBiz Blog, this is the wrong issue to focus on. Rather, we need to look at how to get our law school graduates and lawyers positioned to earn a living by serving the currently under-served population.
With the turmoil escalating in California by the firing of the Bar’s Executive Director and charges/counter-charges flying all over, the image, reputation and credibility of the bar and its constituent members continues to decline. No wonder people find it difficult to trust lawyers. As an aside, I was in a store yesterday and overheard a customer say to the employee, “I’m a lawyer, be careful what you say.” How arrogant! I felt the need to later apologize to the employee for his comment. She apparently is accustomed to that behavior.
When an organization is arrogant and ignores the best interests of its members or customers, there will be no support for the organization in challenging times. The State Bar of California finds itself, once again, in a time of challenge with little support from its members, the attorneys of the state pay dues to keep the organization afloat. This time around, however, should there be a move by the State legislature to abolish the State Bar and convert it to a licensing agency only, there will be little or no opposition from members of the bar.
In what is the scandal of all time, the Board of Trustees summarily fired its executive director, Joe Dunn. This followed an internal personnel complaint filed by the bar’s chief trial counsel, Jayne Kim. The exact nature of the charges and counter-charges are yet to be disclosed, though the Board said they were reacting to “… serious, wide-ranging allegations … ” of mis-deeds.
Dunn, a former state senator, was hired four years ago to shepherd the transition from a bar governing board comprising mainly of lawyers elected by other lawyers to one with members primarily appointed by the Supreme Court of the state and state officials. While a primary goal of the bar was to protect the public, a secondary goal of earlier boards was to help lawyers become more effective and more efficient in relating to clients. The bar never achieved this secondary goal because 75 to 80 percent of the State Bar’s budget was and still is directed to the disciplinary system.
The current scandal is now not only an internal matter within the bar, it is in the court system, Dunn having sued on being terminated. High-powered lawyers have been retained by all principles involved. It is clear we have not seen the last of this. It is also clear, however, that lawyers should expect no help, education or sympathy from the governing body they must join on entry to the bar.
Jeffrey Toobin, legal writer for the New Yorker Magazine, notes the following in this week’s edition:
“… As with law firms, the top law schools are doing fine. Graduates of the most highly regarded institutions may not have the cornucopia of options that their predecessors enjoyed a few years ago, but few, if any, will go jobless. These students have large loans, too, but they’ll be able to repay them. As in days past, they will migrate to the big firms, where, by and large, their prospects are bright. And the cycle will continue: the rich (in credentials, at least initially) prospering, and the poor struggling. So it goes for lawyers—and, it seems, for everyone else…”
But even the top law schools are reporting that their graduates are not getting placed as quickly or as high on the totem pole as in past years. Yet, the law school still seems to be a mecca for many students. Perhaps it is the image of being a law school graduate (a lawyer); perhaps it’s the Socratic method of learning that enhances performance in even non-legal endeavors.
But, the economics of legal education, its ups and downs with the rest of the economy, suggests one more piece of evidence that The Business of Law® is no different than other areas of economic endeavor.
How do you set yourself apart from your competition? Here’s a hint – don’t lower your fees!