My Shingle

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 1.13.58 AMLike law, the energy and utility industry where I spend my days has traditionally been heavily regulated.  What that means is that rules for participants or relief for consumers come by way of regulatory commissions rather than statute or contract. But that model changed when utilities dipped their toes into social media where as this slide (from one of my presentations) whimsically illustrates, regulation accounts for only one fifth of the authority that companies must abide.

Likewise, as legal technology advancements enable more digital and dynamic law practices, lawyers cannot depend on legal ethics alone to govern our conduct. Instead, now that we lawyers are playing in the real world of digital commerce, we’re subject to real laws on deceptive advertising, data breach disclosures, customer privacy  (for firms that harvest big data), independent contractor laws  (for lawyers who rely on freelance help) and terms of service  (for anyone engaging social media or other third party platforms).   [click to continue…]

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Although employment prospects for new law grads are showing signs of life, overall post-graduation employment remains at a dismal  56 percent average rate for all law schools.  And while connections, solid skills and networking can improve the odds of finding a position , your best bet for finding a job after law school may just be to bet on yourself.

That’s what enterprising University of Pittsburgh 3-Ls, Marlene van Es and Jaclyn Clifford are doing, reports the Post Gazette. Come November 2015 when they’re licensed to practice, the pair will hit the ground running at Trellis, an unconventional law firm that will specialize in urban agriculture and food policy.  Already van Es and Clifford are showing that they’re as much entrepreneurs as lawyers, availing themselves of start-up competitions and crowd funding sites (I was so inspired that I contributed here) and devising unique pricing structures like subscription models (to do it ethically, see my post here). [click to continue…]

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The New York Journal reports on a recent Court of Appeals ruling interpreting NY Judiciary Law §470 as requiring attorneys who are not residents of New York to maintain a physical office in the space to practice. That physical office requirement means a real space – not a kitchen table or a corner in Starbucks. The requirement only applies to non-resident lawyers, New York attorneys who reside in the state aren’t similarly bound.

So how come I’m not criticizing this apparently idiotic ruling as I did five years ago when New Jersey issued a similarly restrictive reading of the bonafide office requirement (which has since been changed)? Because the New York Court of Appeals ruling is the first step towards the long and exceedingly slow journey to its demise.

More than six years ago, New Jersey based shingler Ekaterina Schoenefeld  challenged the constitutionality of New York’s office requirement, arguing that it violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the United States Constitution, imposing undue burdens on out-of-state New York attorneys’ ability to use their New York bar license.   [click to continue…]

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What Makes A Great Client?

by Carolyn Elefant on March 31, 2015 · 3 comments

in Client Relations

shutterstock_117278152Tales about  clients from hell abound. Visit any lawyer listserve and you’ll encounter weekly threads populated with complaints about crazy clients or advice on how to fire them. Bad clients aren’t exclusive to the legal profession either – doctors deal with them and one designer even set up a Clients from Hell website dedicated to them.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the horror stories, not to mention the shared sense of camaraderie that they breed, as much as anyone. But aside from the cathartic benefit for the lawyer, client-from-hell stories aren’t all that useful in changing behavior. After all, many clients from hell either don’t recognize themselves in the story – or don’t understand why certain conduct may be counter-productive.

So I’m posing the question to all of you: what makes a great client? [click to continue…]

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Deceive – to mislead by a false appearance or statement

By now, in 2015, most of the general public over the age of 21 have been using Google, Facebook and LinkedIn for nearly a decade. During that time, they’ve acclimated to the culture of each of these online universes, and grown as adept in distinguishing casual informational websites and biographical profiles and chatty personal exchanges from paid advertising as a seasoned world traveler in recognizing an American tourist.

Yet while the majority of online users with an IQ over 80 understand the prevailing online social order, apparently bar regulators do not. So like imperialists swooping in to “civilize” native colonies, comes now the 100-year old  New York County Bar Association (NYCLA) to inflict its ethics rules on LinkedIn through the issuance of Formal Opinion 748 . As summarized by Allison Shields and Nicole Black, Formal Opinion 748 purports to offer lawyers guidance on when a LinkedIn profile constitutes advertising and when it doesn’t. Not surprisingly, this devolves into an exercise in hair-splitting: pure biographical information consisting only of one’s education and employment history isn’t advertising, but a description of practice areas, skills, endorsements – and even a detailed description of work performed for a former employer is.  And of course, as we all know, once the regulators classify something as advertising, we can’t disseminate it to the public without first marking it with a big scarlet A, er – disclaimer.

And therein lies the problem. Because slapping the phrase “this constitutes lawyer advertising” in the context of the LinkedIn universe causes MORE confusion for the public. When potential clients see a scarlet “A” on a lawyer profile, they’re going to assume that the lawyer paid for the ad and that it’s inherently less truthful than the other non-advertorial profiles on LinkedIn. Worse, users are likely to draw inaccurate conclusions – either that the lawyer is doing well enough to pay for a spendy ad on LinkedIn, or is so desperate that he can’t find clients without paying for social media exposure. Either way, requiring lawyers to include an advertising disclaimer on an otherwise ordinary LinkedIn listing has the effect of “misleading by creating a false appearance” and therefore, is deceptive.   [click to continue…]

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Dismal Legal Employment Rates for Class of 2010: It Could Be 1937 All Over Again…Except Now, The Solo Option Is Feared, Not Revered.

March 23, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

  For a profession that prides itself on hewing to precedent, how soon we lawyers forget our collective history. This time, amnesia has taken hold with respect to findings about unemployment trends in the legal profession as well as the promise of solo practice in a recent article, What Happened to the Class of 2010? […]

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Three Reasons Why Other Solos Have the Potential To Be Your Great Friends

March 20, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

In the past, when I’ve worked at jobs, most of my friendships – to the extent that I formed them at all – never left the workplace. So this article, Lifehack  article, Ten Reasons Why Your Coworkers Have the Potential To Be Your Greatest Friends caught my eye, if only to enable me to belatedly […]

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Your Law Firm As a Family Business

March 19, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

Back in the day, farmers always hoped for at least one son who could provide free labor to keep the farm running. Likewise, today’s lawyers can also ask their children — or other family members — to lend a hand in the family business. I’ll confess that I’ve done so on more than one occasion. […]

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Does An Ethics Rule Requiring Technologic Competence Mean Much?

March 18, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

Do as we say, not as we do. That’s the message that the regulators send, as they fall in lock step behind the ABA in adopting the ABA Model Code’s rule requiring lawyers to keep abreast of the benefits and risks of technology, as reported by Bob Ambrogi at Law Sites. According to Bob, thirteen […]

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Women Lag At BigLaw But Lead As Solos

March 16, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

Only in the twisted hierarchical legal profession would an increase in the number of women as counsel and staff lawyers be viewed as cause for celebration. Yet according to this Law 360 article, “industry experts are applauding the fact that 40 percent of non-partner and associate roles at law firms are now occupied by women […]

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