My Shingle

Eight years ago, at a conference sponsored by Ms. JD , I attended a gripe-session about the hardships of big law for women, to which I responded by listing the benefits of starting one’s own firm. As I described here, my remarks were received tepidly, and in fact, one woman responded:

Starting a firm is all well and good, but if everyone flees biglaw life, firms will be left stranded as the last bastions of male dominated hierarchy.”

Seems that women aren’t interested in saving big law any longer now that everyone is jumping ship. For example, Joan Williams, who heads the Center for Work, Life Law  (tagline: jumpstarting the stalled gender revolution) has now jumped on the disrupt big law bandwagon, with an article in the Harvard Business Review about the new business models like Axiom that are poaching big law talent, then turning around and “siphoning off the [routine] work that big law used to rely on to balance its books.” Moreover, these ventures are offering superior work-life balance options to both women – and men. Moreover – and while not mentioned in the article, the new business models give women more opportunities to run the show – as a growing number of these lawyer-on-demand services – such as those mentioned here are run by women. [click to continue…]

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Last week, two of my longtime blogging buddies, Bob Ambrogi and Scott Greenfield tackled the question of why websites dedicated to crowdsourcing legal research haven’t taken off. Citing a quote by entrepreneur Approva Mehta whose own crowdsourcing attempt failed, Bob suggests that the odds are stacked against crowdsourcing from the get-go in the legal industry since “lawyers don’t like technology and don’t like to share.” Despite this inherent obstacle, Bob remains ever optimistic that crowdsourcing legal research can succeed if implemented in a way that facilitates and rewards lawyers for contributing and makes the content useful to others. (But read the comments too). By contrast (and not surprisingly), Scott isn’t so sanguine about crowdsourcing because lawyers – at least good ones — don’t work for free, and derive no benefit – either financial or even “exposure” from annotating or commenting on case law or statutes on someone else’s profit-generating crowdsourced platform.

Yet there’s a third reason why crowdsourcing legal research won’t take off: because it doesn’t work for – and may potentially harm – solo and small lawyers, the silent majority in the legal profession.  Unless solos and smalls can be engaged, crowdsearched research platforms will have to develop a product that big firms will pay for in order to become financially viable (in fact, that’s my guess why JD Supra ’s original “give content, get noticed” mission added a for-fee service to help large firms circulate content more widely). [click to continue…]

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Maybe all those new age start-ups that anointed themselves industry disruptors weren’t exaggerating after all. As Tech Crunch reports, Zirtual , an online, on-demand provider of administrative services did just that: today, Zirtual, without advance notice suspended service, due to “market circumstances and financial constraints” — causing enormous disruption for customers who had come to rely on company for virtual assistance.

Ironically, many of the selling points that Zirtual claimed set it apart from using Craig’s List or personal referrals to find an assistant — such as quality control, established systems for the VA to follow, and guaranteed refunds or replacements for under performers – have now exacerbated inconvenience to customers resulting from the service suspension. For example, as I learned from my own month-long trial of Zirtual, assistants are required to transmit all written assignments – such as research summaries or list of websites on dog-sitting – through posting to Google Docs. By corralling assistants into one system used by many (but not all) potential customers, Zirtual could truthfully claim that it “trained” its assistants. Unfortunately, in practice, this “training” made the service less useful to customers. This is because Zirtual imposed time limits on the availability of information in Google Documents and if it wasn’t downloaded within a week, it would disappear.  As a Zirtual client, I wasn’t a fan of this system – many times, I was too busy to immediately download the information, and since I don’t use Google docs as a base system, it was inconvenient to be forced to go into yet another portal. And as a Zirtual client whose service has now gone down, I’d be really ticked off if research that I’d requested vanished into the ether.

Likewise, while Zirtual promised a refund or back-up if an individual assistant didn’t work out, it never contemplated – and customers never expected – that the entire platform might vanish. Having grown dependent on a steady stream of Zirtual services – which is what Zirtual wanted – customers must scramble even harder to find replacements now that supply has been cut off.

For solo and small firm lawyers, on-demand services for virtual assistants, bookkeepers, house-cleaners or handymen are a good idea in theory because they spare firms from the investment of a full time hire, and instead, allow them to pay for only those services they need, when they need them. Still, even though on-demand services don’t require a long-term commitment, as the recent Zirtual experience shows, these services aren’t risk-free. Below is a short checklist of ways that you can enjoy the benefits of an on-demand administrative assistance while minimizing risk. [click to continue…]

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The following is a guest post by Jack Dawson,  a web developer and UI/UX specialist at BigDropInc.com.

16 Characteristics of a Good Business Mentor Relationship

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From time immemorial, people have always passed on skills from one person to the other through a direct relationship between the person in the know and the person acquiring the skill. This is what a mentor relationship is all about.

In business, entrepreneurs should be in charge of mentorship programs if they are going to oversee the success of the business. If mentorship is done properly, business growth can be accelerated because a large pool of expertise on the job tasks will be developed and this can improve efficiencies and effectiveness in performance. [click to continue…]

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watermelon

Earlier this summer, when gifted a large watermelon, I accidentally discovered an easier approach to cutting it.  After splitting the watermelon in two, instead of balancing the watermelon on its rind and slicing down on the fruit, I found that flipping the watermelon over and cutting directly into the rind enabled me to finish the job in a matter of seconds – and with more uniform, attractive slices besides.

Admittedly, mastering watermelon is a small task (plus one I could have figured out years ago if I’d consulted the internet – duh!) – but it’s made a huge difference. Since my discovery, my daughters and I have easily consumed a dozen watermelons (not to mention watermelon feta salads and watermelon fruit water) – whereas typically, we would have indulged only at picnics or other events where someone else was doing the cutting.

My watermelon experience got me to thinking: are there are small, seemingly insignificant tasks in a law practice which if changed could produce far greater financial benefits or personal pleasure?  Again – I’m not talking about big structural reforms like adopting a law practice management system or hiring an employee, but rather simple changes in habits that alone or collectively improve your mood or your bottom line.

Here are two quick examples from my practice: [click to continue…]

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MyShingle Is Back, Thank You.

July 29, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

Six weeks. Long time to go not just without posting, but without even reading other blogs. Now I am back. Resuming blogging was hard because my husband was here for the hundreds of posts I’ve penned except for this one.  Every post I write from now on, he will never read, never see. The posts […]

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Nine Years Later, Avvo Is Pretty Much the Only Game In Town

July 29, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

Earlier this week,Avvo the first online lawyer rating site announced another round of funding – to the tune of $71.5 million – to expand product offerings and bring on new hires, reports the ABA Journal.  News of Avvo’s expansion brought the usual grumblings on some of the lawyer list-serves where I participate – ranging from […]

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In Memoriam, My Husband Bruce Israel, 58 Years Old

June 5, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

Over the years, I’ve pierced this blog’s professional veil to share glimpses of my personal life: my ongoing struggle to balance parenthood and practice, my father’s passing, my daughters’ growing up and my oldest’s departure for college last August. Yet I’ve rarely, if ever, blogged about or even mentioned my husband — which come to […]

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Will the Future of Law Look Like the Future of Medical Practice?

April 30, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

As with the legal profession, medicine is rapidly changing, driven by technological advancements, cost pressures and physician shortages.  Healthline reports on some of the  new business models cropping up in response. One company, Turntable Health is a subscription service. A flat fee of $80 per month buys an adult an unlimited amount of monthly visits […]

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Document Automation Isn’t the Only Disruptive Legal Technology…And What That Means for Solos & Smalls

April 28, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

  Thanks to technology, advance directives- legal documents that specify what actions should be taken if patients are no longer able to care for themselves – are readily available. Free advance directive forms abound online at sites like this, while those who don’t care to read through lengthy instructions can create an advanced directive at […]

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