My Shingle

shutterstock_283901066As I’ve described before, I consider myself a practical technologist  – I choose tech tools based on cost and what they can do to help me right now rather than paying top dollar for the latest-and-greatest gadgets that may not work for my practice. Likewise, I track technology on a “need to know” basis – keeping abreast of developments that I might need, instead of staying on top of everything that’s out there.

So two months back, when I began prepping for my first jury trial in more than a decade, not to mention my first in federal court, of course, I was aware of the iPad as an option for trial technology. But with my focus largely on appellate work (where I limit my notes, if any, to a single page of paper) or pre-historic regulatory hearings (in one case, we were assigned our own blue plastic tub to store the hundreds of pages of paper documents circulated each day), I realized that I’d fallen behind on modern trial tech and needed to get up to speed – and fast.  So here are the steps that one iPad novice took to ensure a smooth and seamless maiden voyage with my iPad at trial. [click to continue…]


Post image for Message to Moms: New Law Is Not A Permanent Career Option – You Need to Own It

For the second time in just a month, the media has anointed AltLaw as the savior for  lawyers – particularly women – who want to parent and practice.

Back in August, the Harvard Business Journal profiled various “new law” models that gaining traction as alternatives to the big law partnership track. And just today, The Atlantic touts many of the “new business models” that assign freelance lawyers to temporary gigs   – companies like Montage Legal or Bliss Lawyers – as a middle ground for women who want to raise families but don’t want to leave the law either.

Call me skeptical. It’s not that I don’t support new law ventures like Bliss or Montage. To the contrary, I’m a huge fan because these models make legal services more competitive and affordable, while offering career options that have always been available (see, for example, Lisa Solomon, an independent freelance lawyer who’s been in business for two decades), but were not necessarily as accessible.  But viewing these models from the perspective of the women providing the services, I’m not convinced that they offer a viable long-term career path for women who want to parent and practice, as these recent news stories suggest.

To begin, how many women can these new law models actually place?  The Atlantic  piece says that Bliss Lawyers draws on a network of 10,000 women for secondments to law firms and corporations. Yet, even if Bliss is dispatching women on massive document review assignments (which doesn’t appear to be the case), it can’t possibly be keeping more than a small fraction of its network members busy.  Who wants to be in their 50’s, hanging out by the phone waiting for an assignment to come in?  [click to continue…]


It’s been three years since the first release of the popular e-book, The Art, Science and Ethics of the 21st Century Representation Agreement. For those unfamiliar, the product included various clauses necessary for an agreement to incorporate 21st century practices like outsourcing, unbundling, credit card payment, flat fees and the cloud – and contained ethics support behind the agreements. I also included some bonus contract provisions that might be needed to start and run a law firm – like website terms and conditions and an independent contractor agreement.

At this point, the book is becoming outdated, so I’m pulling it to make some significant upgrades. That’s where you come in: I want your input on how to make the product as useful as possible to solo and small law firms. So here’s what I’d like to offer: [click to continue…]


shutterstock_212129986For the next generation of clients, texting, particularly through mobile apps like Facebook’s messenger app or Snap Chat – is fast replacing email or phone calls as the preferred mode of communication,

according to a Pew Research Center Study released last month.  Based on interviews with over 1900 adults, Pew’s research team found that 36% of smartphone owners overall, and 49% of smartphone users between 18 and 29 are using messaging apps. Of those users 17% overall, and 41% in the 18-29 range use apps that automatically delete sent messages such as Snapchat.

Still, it’s one thing to idly chatter with buddies over text – but would users actually use text apps for serious matters such as finding or communicating with a lawyer? Yes – though I base my prediction on an unconventional but accurate bellwether: today’s dating scene, documented in Modern Romance, a new book by Aziz Ansari describing how technology has transformed romance in the modern age. For example, based on various focus groups, Ansari found that many participants – largely young people in their 20s and early 30s’ had been dumped by text – even those who’d been in serious relationships that lasted months or even years. Meanwhile, phone calls were considered the second to least favored form of communication (with email hardly used) – with several respondents commenting that having a conversation either to ask someone on a date, or to break up later created such a high degree of social anxiety that the phone (or in person communication) was to be avoided at all costs.  The point is that if today’s young people are so averse to phone or in-person communication even for something as personal and serious as relationships, wouldn’t the same behavior potentially apply to lawyers?   [click to continue…]


When Faced With Loss. Say Anything

by Carolyn Elefant on September 2, 2015 · 4 comments

in Client Relations, MyShingle Solo

Interacting with a coworker who’s just suffered the death of a loved one is awkward enough in a traditional workplace, according to this June 2015 article from Forbes – which also helpfully offers some best practices on what to do in this situation. But the etiquette of condolence is even trickier for lawyers in solo and small firm practice where relationships with colleague and clients are often sporadic and may not touch on personal matters.

Like many of my solo colleagues, I’d always felt awkward on the giving end of condolences. The situation raises a myriad of questions – either ones that I’ve had or seen posted on list serves. Like:

  • Should I show up at the funeral or wake or shiva if I haven’t seen or spoken with this colleague in a decade?
  • Do I include a business card in a sympathy note that I’m sending to a past client – or will that make it appear as if I’m trolling for business?
  • My colleague hasn’t shared his or her loss – I discovered it on [Google/Facebook/Newspaper Notice – you fill in the blanks]. If I mention it, will I seem like a stalker?
  • What if I say something stupid or offensive?
  • Is it OK to send an email, or do I have to send a card?

Sadly I’m now on the receiving end of condolences. What being in this place has taught me is that even saying the wrong thing (and I did hear a few of these) is one hundred times better than not saying anything at all.  Still, if you want to do more than simply not cause harm, here are a couple of things that you can say or do to ease a colleague’s or client’s loss: [click to continue…]


Second to Last First Day

September 1, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

Today, for the second to last time, I snapped a first-day photo of my younger daughter before she departed for the bus. On this go-round, Mira is a junior, so after next year, my first-day photo snapping will end – and as with my older daughter, I’ll have to rely on a screenshot of Facebook […]

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Now That Men Are Leaving BigLaw, Does That Mean It’s OK for Women to Leave As Well?

August 28, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

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 […]

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Crowdsourcing Legal Research Won’t Work Because It Doesn’t Help the Majority: Solo and Small Law Firms

August 19, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

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 […]

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Zirtual’s Interruption Causes Real Disruption for Virtual Clients

August 12, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

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 […]

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Guest Post – Mentorship Relationships

August 10, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

The following is a guest post by Jack Dawson,  a web developer and UI/UX specialist at 16 Characteristics of a Good Business Mentor Relationship 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. […]

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