LawBiz® Blog

LawBiz® Blog

Your Practical Guide to Profit ™.

In with the new, out with the old

Posted in In The News, Management, Marketing, Personal Thoughts

When I first heard the news, I was surprised that Baker Hostleter accepted the assignment from the Republican Party to sue President Obama for allegedly overstepping the boundaries of Executive Power. Why? The first reason that came to mind was that such a high profile assignment would identify them as a Republican oriented law firm. This likely would alienate half the population.  Why would one willingly toss away one-half of your prospective market?

Of course, some believe that any publicity is good publicity. For example, Baker Hostetler was lampooned earlier this month when Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show ran a fake commercial for the law firm. “At Baker Hostetler, we specialize in one thing: suing the president,” the parody ad said. “For instance, have you ever been forced to pass Obamacare, even though you didn’t like it? We can help you waste thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to fight for what you sort of believe in.” For their target market, the business world, I do not think this is the image they want.

The second reason is that, at least in my mind, the case to limit Executive Power is likely not to be won despite a Republican-oriented Court. This essentially is a political issue that can be addressed in the political arena of electioneering. Elections will be held in the near future. Executive Power has expanded with each President, including Republicans. Any curtailment would apply to future Presidents, including Republicans. Why, as a Party, would they want to do this?

Of course, this is a suit against the Executive being brought by the Congress … and therein may lie the answer for the suit. That does not answer the question, though, as to why a law firm would want to be so identified. Baker understood its business base and perhaps had second thoughts. Quinn Emanuel, having recently won some big lawsuits, may be feeling its oats and believe they are impervious to such considerations … or perhaps they want to be so identified.

Serious Challenges for the New CalBar President

Posted in Coaching, In The News, Personal Thoughts

Congratulations to Craig E. Holden, the new president of the State Bar of California. Among other attributes, Mr. Holden is a partner in the major law firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, a person of color, a former member of the executive committee of the CalBar Law Practice Management & Technology Section, and the youngest person to be elected president of the California State Bar. Each of these attributes is sufficient to give Mr. Holden a sensitivity to the needs of the average lawyer. However, taken together, they provide an appropriate backdrop for one of his major goals during his tenure: to help lawyers succeed. Success in this context means helping lawyers be more effective in dealing with their clients, be more efficient and encounter less stress in their practice.

Not since Jim Heiting was president years ago as any California State Bar president suggested anything but a regulatory and enforcement goal for the State Bar. Mr. Holden is even suggesting that State Bar funds might be used to support this goal. He seeks to expand his concept by creating a system of mentorship for young lawyers. Personally, my hope is that he expands this idea to include all lawyers in the state of California.

Adopting Mr. Holden’s perspective can also be financially rewarding for the State Bar as well as its lawyer members. The current budget for the State Bar includes approximately 80%, or $32 million for disciplinary activities. If the education that Mr. Holden envisions enables lawyers  to avoid future discipline, even if only to the extent of 50%,  the State Bar will save $16 million. These funds could then be used to meet other goals of the State Bar.

“The proposed initiative is part of Holden’s broader goal to re-examine the State Bar’s mission of public protection. Ever since the Bar radically reformed its  governance structure four years ago (in response to legislative mandate), many lawyers have come to believe that ‘all we do is regulate,’ he said…. ‘That is the core function… But I don’t agree that that’s all we do.’” He continued by saying that “‘… My ultimate goal is to broadly define our mission and what it means to protect the public… Our mission should be retooled… To ensure that public protection is not viewed myopically… As a punitive machine.’”

Mr. Holden clearly has his work cut out for him. As noted in my recent writings, the State Bar has wrapped itself in the cloak of regulation and punitive enforcement. While the recent vote in Scotland was to remain part of the United Kingdom, I am sure that a similar vote among California lawyers would not be so favorable; based on recent actions and non-actions of the State Bar, I am convinced the overwhelming vote of California lawyers would be to separate public protection activities from lawyer education and improvement. Perhaps Mr. Holden will persuade a sufficient number of Board members to see the world as he does. This will be a tough challenge and one that I heartily endorse.

LawBiz® Registry Offers Easy Way to Buy and Sell Law Practices

Posted in Articles, Audio & Podcasts, Books, Buying & Selling a Practice, Cash Flow - Finances, In The News, Press Releases, Technology

Lawyers from around the country continue to call me, asking for information on how to sell their practices. In response,we recently opened our LawBiz® Registry.  Visit the archives  for articles about buying and selling law practices and  other ways to monetize the goodwill that you have spent so many years to build. In addition, you may want to buy one of our books or tapes in our store on  the profitable law office  exit strategy or planning for your next 6000 days.

Contact me at any time if you have additional questions.

CALBar annual conference in San Diego

Posted in Personal Thoughts, Uncategorized

I attended the CALBar annual conference this past weekend in San Diego.  Great learning and networking all in one place.  I was there for a meeting of the Law Practice Management & Technology Section of the CalBar, and since this was my last meeting with them, I was honored with kudos for my many years of service to the group.Ed Poll - Wife

Over the years of my involvement with this group, we have provided many education programs for the benefit of the lawyer in his/her client relations and law firm operations.  The section was responsible for a major writing effort and has thus far contributed significantly to two books, one on starting law practice and one on law firm operations.  Much has been accomplished and I am proud to have had a share.  A special cake was brought in with much hoopla ….

7 Easy Steps to Getting Paid

Posted in Cash Flow - Finances, Uncategorized

You’ve worked hard to address the challenges brought to you by your client.  You’ve put other matters aside to deal with his or her crisis.  You‘ve achieved their desired results.  And now, they’ve become a slow payer or non-payer.  Why?  What could you have done to prevent this, to know from the very beginning that they would not pay you as agreed, and to assure that you will finally get paid?  Failure to get paid, or low realization rate, is the bane of most lawyers.

See Collecting Your Fee: Getting Paid from Intake to Invoice, written by Ed Poll at the request of the American Bar Association.  Learn what to do at the very beginning to assure you get paid, learn how to anticipate whether your client will pay in accord with your agreement and learn what you can do if the client suddenly becomes a slow payer.

 

The police are never wrong!

Posted in In The News, Personal Thoughts

Perhaps, if we want to stay safe, we should listen to the advice of a police officer who said “… just do what I tell you to do.”

In a recent  OpEd piece, Erwin Chemerinsky, noted legal scholar and Dean of the University of California, Irvine Law School, suggests that the police are, with rare exception, never held responsible for shooting a civilian, even if death results. The Court has said, “…a government officer can be held liable only if ‘every reasonable official’ would have known that his conduct was unlawful…” Likewise, the local government which employs the police is not liable for prosecutorial misconduct

In a different opinion, Chemerinsky suggests that civilian oversight is important.  In fact, since the Court seemingly will not protect our citizens, we need to change the culture and attitude of the police on the street and reduce the potential for wayward or negligent actions on their part. This can be done, but only if there is civilian oversight setting the rules, following the rules and enforcing the rules before any issue gets to the court.

In another type of matter, a well-known entertainment lawyer, Milton Everett Olin Jr., was riding his bike and hit by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s car. The cyclist died. In California, it is illegal to drive and text at the same time. It seems, however, as noted above, that law enforcement personnel are governed by different standards. The officer was using his work computer rather than a personal electronic device, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has decided. Because he was using a work computer and was otherwise acting lawfully at the time, the District Attorney says he could not prove even the lesser charge of criminal negligence.

Full disclosure:  I am a cyclist.  The police motto, “to protect and serve,” has some holes in it when the enforcers can commit acts with impunity that, if committed by others, would result in harsh punishment. This is a civil event. What must the citizens of Ferguson think who know, that even if charged and convicted of a criminal offense, the officer involved will never be punished based on the Court’s rulings.

Is the Bar Prosecutor Alleging Murder When Only Manslaughter Is Appropriate?

Posted in Articles, In The News, Management, Personal Thoughts, Uncategorized

The state bar is overcharging its cases.” Thus started the commentary by Carol M Langford, in the newspaper, The Recorder, in San Francisco. Langford is a defense counsel and former chair of the State Bar’s Law Practice Management and Technology Section. She quotes the California Supreme Court to the effect that “bar matters are ‘quasi criminal’ in nature.” She asserts that respondents before the State Bar Court have none of the usual constitutional safeguards in a normal criminal proceeding.

She further asserts that the Chief Trial Counsel (Jayne Kim) commented that the bar had to be “tougher” as evidenced by the Supreme Court’s rejection of 24 stipulations in 2012. Ms. Kim responded to Langford’s August 28th Viewpoint column, claiming she was misquoted.

This sounds a bit like the classic prosecutor/defense counsel “difference” of opinion. Ms. Langford would obviously prefer more stipulations that favor respondent attorneys; Ms. Kim would obviously prefer that those attorneys being “charged” be locked in jail and the key thrown away. The bottom line is that the general fund of the State Bar of California is $64 million, 75 to 80% of which goes to fund the bar’s disciplinary system. That is a whopping $48 million, give or take, that is expended to discipline attorneys who allegedly violate the rules of professional conduct.

I have watched this scenario for more than 40 years. In that time, there is only one State Bar president who indicated that the goal of the State Bar was twofold, one to protect the public and two to educate lawyers in more effectively running their law practice. By doing the latter, we do achieve the former as well. But for Jim Heiting, the president who suggested this, the State Bar is now in an adversarial position with its members, lawyers.

Langford suggests that the State Bar should make “real offers to respondents to settle matters…”  A lawyer signs a stipulation still receives punishment. In none of the comments made by Langford did she suggest that the respondent lawyer not receive discipline. The focus is whether there be a stipulation without a trial (and the concomitant additional cost to both the State Bar and to the respondent) or whether all matters need to go to trial. Why does the State Bar trial department not focus its energies against lawyers who turned down good offers reflective of the misconduct at issue.

This is a good question and one that is not answered merely by suggesting that the current legislation in California mandates that the public be protected. “Cleaning out a backlog” by offering reasonable stipulations, educating lawyers (members of the bar) on client relations and economics of the practice of law and developing a mutually respectful relationship between the Bar and its members will go a long way toward reducing the cost of attorney discipline and (Heaven help us) reducing the cost of membership in the State Bar.