My Shingle

I am so excited to be judging the upcoming round of the Iron Lawyer Competition, to be held at Georgetown Law School, 11 am – 1 pm December 3, 2014, details here . I blogged about the inaugural round of the event back in April 2013, and have returned to watch the subsequent rounds. Each time, I’ve been impressed with the level of detail that goes into development of these apps – from mastery of the subject matter to figuring out an attractive way to package it.

As a practicing lawyer, you should try to attend if only to get a peek at the future of law. You’ll learn about the power of the tools that are out there, and you might come up with some ideas for your own practice. Plus, these students who take the Iron Tech challenge are inspiring because they devote so much time to this venture. Trust me, it’s great way to spend your lunch hour – and I’d love to meet you if you come by.


“I had no idea that cellphones had GPS capabilities at that time…if I had known it, I’d have been on it like a dog on a bone.” [26:19]

A recent Forbes article reports on a case out of Calgary, billed as “the first known personal injury case that will use activity data from a Fitbit:”

The young woman in question was injured in an accident four years ago. Back then, Fitbits weren’t even on the market, but given that she was a personal trainer, her lawyers at McLeod Law believe they can say with confidence that she led an active lifestyle. A week from now, they will start processing data from her Fitbit to show that her activity levels are now under a baseline for someone of her age and profession.  It will “back up what she’s been saying,” says her lawyer, Simon Muller of McLeod Law…

“Till now we’ve always had to rely on clinical interpretation,” Muller says from his office in Calgary. “Now we’re looking at longer periods of time though the course of a day, and we have hard data.” His plaintiff will share her Fitbit data with Vivametrica for several months as part of an assessment period. “We’re expecting the results to show that her activity level is less and compromised as a result of her injury.”

Of course, using a client’s Fitbit data to reinforce her claims is just the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities for use of Fitbit and other wearable tech data are endless: insurance companies could demand an plaintiffs’ Fitbit log to assess the veracity of claims that an injury prevented them from engaging in physical activity; a criminal defendant could present Fitbit data showing that he was in the midst of a vigorous ten mile run at the time the alleged shooting went down.

Right now, all of this sounds very futuristic. So much so that many lawyers are likely to ignore the potential impacts of Fitbit and wearable technology, dismissing it as a shiny new fad –  like social media or mobile technology –  that real lawyers needn’t waste their time learning about.

Fair enough. Because that’s how wearable technology looks today.  But the real question is, how is that outlying, seemingly nutty tech trend going to look tomorrow?  [click to continue…]

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Product Development for Lawyers

by Carolyn Elefant on November 17, 2014 · 9 comments

in Guest Post

Editor’s Note:  I’m very excited to host this post by Eva Hibnick and Allen Rodriguez, co-founders of a law innovation agency, One 400, focusing on helping law firms build products, create inbound marketing channels and acquire clients. I realize that many lawyers don’t want to see legal work commoditized, but if that’s inevitable, I’d rather have lawyers than non-lawyers creating the charge. Also, “product development” which is the subject of this post needn’t be taken literally – the steps that Eva and Allen describe can be applied to any new law firm endeavor from exploring a new practice area to developing a better intake system to serve clients.

Companies spend a lot of time and money on developing new product lines and perfecting existing products. In business, product development is a fairly common term but not so common in relation to lawyers and legal services. For lawyers, the common practice is trading time for money. Clients are billed for the number of hours you spend on a given motion, brief or contract. However, by shifting your mindset and breaking from tradition you’ll find that offering your services much in the same way tangible products are offered will help you increase your client retention rate, decrease your sales cycle and increase your client satisfaction. The additional benefits offered by this method is a better more scalable process and increased revenue.

Legalzoom was one of the first recognized companies to productize legal services though many other non-attorney owned providers have been offering flat fee commoditized services since the 80’s. Using Legalzoom, consumers can purchase many do-it-yourself legal products without talking to an attorney.

We believe that lawyers can use the same methodology as Legalzoom and over their legal services as products. Lawyers have one huge advantage over Legalzoom, which is the human interaction that many clients want when dealing with legal issues that seem uncharted and mystified.

Below are some tips on how you can offer legal products at your law firm. [click to continue…]


It’s all about the clients. And what’s great to hear is that many of today’s clients don’t just tolerate but increasingly, are coming to accept lawyers for whom work-life balance matters. At least that’s been the experience of Frances Wood and Jennifer Gold, the two women who founded Wood Gold, an Ontario-based, family friendly law firm featured in The Star.

Undoubtedly, the firm has succeeded because of the partners’ legal talents – they toiled for years at large firms before teaming up to launch their own. Moreover, these women aren’t slackers – they’ll come in on the weekend or work after hours to get the job done. But ultimately, the reason that the arrangement works is because the firm’s clients support it. Take this example:

Not long ago, [Gold] was finalizing a matrimonial settlement for the vice-president of a bank. He came in to go over the details but wanted a number of changes. “I can come in on the weekend, but I’ll have to bring my two-year-old,” Gold told him. He agreed and she completed the redraft with a toddler on her lap. “He never complained. In fact he has referred other clients to me.”

A family-friendly law firm isn’t for every client – just as a blustering attorney who  promises to get rid of the vermin that is your spouse  isn’t every client’s first choice either. However, as corporations grow more family friendly, and as technology enables more individuals to start businesses nights and weekends while working a day job, the need for law firms that know how to work flexibly and accommodate odd schedules.  [click to continue…]


Do you send holiday cards each year with little business to show for your effort? That’s not surprising. After all, many firms are inundated with holiday cards and may do little more than glance at yours. So why not start a new end-of-year tradition: a law firm annual report. Here’s some tips on how to get started.

  1. The Content

As a first step, decide on the contents of the report. You can model an annual report on a traditional corporate annual report, summarizing key cases you’ve handled and successes you’ve enjoyed. Depending upon your practice and how you track cases, you could include charts showing the number of cases opened or resolved within the course of the year.

Of course, an annual report doesn’t have to focus on your firm. Instead, you might highlight key developments in your practice area. Since 2012, I’ve included an annual summary of FERC appellate cases in my law firm newsletter. It’s an eagerly awaited feature, plus it forces me to read the thirty or so decisions issued each year.   [click to continue…]


Future Fridays: Hey, ABA – Why Do Solos and Smalls Bear the Burden of Access to Justice?

November 7, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

Four years on the heels of its Ethics 20/20 Initiative, the ABA is once again trying to make itself relevant. This time around, the ABA has established a Commission on the Future of Legal Services , with a goal of inspiring innovation and leveraging technology to expand access to justice.  And guess who’s expected to […]

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Solo by Choice Now Available on Kindle

November 5, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

In the five years since I first published Solo by Choice, potential buyers have increasingly been asking for an e-book version. I wasn’t able to release an e-book when I updated the book in 2011. But a few months ago – with little fanfare – the electronic version launched and is available here on Amazon […]

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Legal Advice on a Dime – Should Lawyers Play?

November 5, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

With last week’s announcement of Legal Zoom’s recent partnership with Sam’s Club to offer deals on legal services as well as Avvo’s launch of Avvo Advisor, the blogosphere’s abuzz with discussion of “should lawyers participate or shouldn’t they?” ( See  Susan Cartier-Liebel, The Bridge Builders  at Above the Law, Bob Ambrogi’s coverage of Avvo Advisor […]

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Another Solo Practice Bites the Dust

October 27, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

This week, it’s Above the Law  columnist Shannon Achimalbe’s turn to Monday morning quarterback a solo practice that ran out of steam- a topic covered previously by Lawyerist , MyShingle and Simple Justice. In spite of this handful of posts, failed law firms or failed start-ups don’t get much coverage (and when they do, it’s all smoke or […]

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Do Corporate Counsel Really Want Freebies – or Do they Want To Put Big law in Its Place?

October 23, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

In a buyer’s market for legal services, great work alone often isn’t enough to attract or retain a client. At least that’s what two in-house counsel advised in recent interviews posted at JD Supra and summarized at Daily Report Online. According to these interviews, today’s in-house counsel expect outside lawyers to take the time to […]

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