Should You Become A Partner At A Law Firm?

When you’re law career begins, you may find yourself working at a law firm as an associate and provided with a base salary. Transitioning from employee to becoming a partner at a firm is a great leap.

The path from associate to partner at a law firm may not always be clearly defined. However, there are a few criteria that can assist you if you’re being considered or have been offered to become a partner at a law firm.

The Path to a Partner at a Law Firm

Firms hiring lawyers often choose the best they can find. Applicants from top law schools are recruited first with interviews being limited to specific schools only.

There is a chance of distinguishing yourself in another way, however, most candidates for law firm positions will be considered by pre-selected schools.

Upon hire, your career often starts as an associate. You will be working with a mentor to learn how to practice law. At this time, you will be paid a relatively high salary as the law firm is investing in you at their firm.

While law firms seek to find the best potential lawyers, not all make partner at their firm. Some may leave to start their own private practice or start a firm of their own after a few years with the firm. The path to becoming a partner can be long and take now take over ten years before it occurs.

Partner vs. Non-Partner

On becoming a partner at a law firm, you not only take on more responsibility but also receive an equity stake in the firm’s profits. This provides you access to draw profits to cover your bills and monthly expenses. At the end of the year, you’ll be able to take a larger share when profits are distributed.

This is the typical style of partnership, however, there is also the possibility of becoming a non-partner which does not give you an equity stake in the law firm. Law firms have been adopting varying styles of multi-tiered partnerships which provide increases in salaries (and responsibilities) instead of receiving a small percentage of the firm.

In some cases, law firms may have different types of partnerships available. For example, you can be able to become an executive or managing partner.

There are many factors that influence the structure of a law firm and how it establishes available partnerships. Depending on the size and growth of a firm, offering a non-partnership promotion may be more financially secure than offering equity stakes. Law firms can be an LLC or a corporation and their level of success can determine how much access to equity their rising associates may receive.

Cost of Making Partner

Becoming a partner may not come cheap. Law firms that offer a partnership with an equity stake will often ask for a “buy-in.” That amount varies for each firm, however, some of the top firm’s may require hundreds of thousands of dollars as a capital investment.

Law school is already an expensive investment and many lawyers take years to pay back their loans. If you’re one of the few being fast-tracked to a partnership, consider the capital that may be needed to partner-up.

The “base” capital investment is not the only expected cost new lawyers are expected to cover. Becoming partner means you will be responsible for the costs of benefits and additional income tax deductions.

Finally, some associates moving into a position of being a full-fledged lawyer may experience a shift in lifestyle. This too can come with a heavy price tag.

Putting the financial situation into perspective, law firms don’t want to see their selected partners making less than senior associates. Partners are carefully groomed into their position and law firm’s take precautions to choose them carefully.

Why “Buy-in” to a Partnership?

The capital required to “buy-in” to a partnership position is needed to make investments and expansions at the law firm. You may not have to contribute the full amount as some law firms allow for a contribution that is spread out over a couple years.

Firms may offer a loan structure which secures the capital while imposing a debt onto the partner. However, other firm’s may opt out of requesting “buy-in” capital to avoid paying out a partner who decides to leave after the first few years. Another approach may be to delay the required capital investment by a year so that new partners can develop their services and get into the flow of their new career.

Benefits to Becoming a Partner at a Law Firm

After years of law school and enduring the high-stress legal world as an associate, becoming a partner adds the following benefits to a career in law:

  • Increased pay
  • Equity stake in the law firm
  • Greater prestige and power

Disadvantages to Becoming a Partner at a Law Firm

While the increased pay and access to the firm’s profits may seem like a lucrative leap in your career, here’s a few things that may be disadvantageous:

  • May take years to the firm before being considered a partner
  • Greater liability (i.e. sued for malpractice or if the law firm goes bankrupt)
  • Must pay additional fees: medical insurance, malpractice insurance, etc.
  • Required capital “Buy-in”
  • Consequences for not keeping the firm profitable

If becoming a partner at a firm is not your interest, you may want to consider starting your own law firm.

What’s Inside A Lawyer’s Briefcase

Lawyer’s need the right tools to provide their legal services anywhere they have to go. From the office appointments to courtroom appearances having a full suite of supplies will keep a lawyer equipped for any situation.

If you’re soon to be associate at a firm or just a polished lawyer looking for a few new tools for the “toolbox,” here you will discover what’s inside a lawyer’s briefcase.

Digital Recorder

Although smartphones can provide this solution, some old fashion lawyers may still carry around a recording device. Recorders are important to make notes, collect thoughts and record instructions. If you happen to be one of those lawyers using a cassette tape to record, upgrading to a digital device can save a lot of time.

Digital Camera

If you’re required to collect evidence for a case, such as a car accident, having a digital camera is a must. There are many small and compact cameras that can fit inside a small inner compartment.

Smart Phone

You could probably eliminate all the previous items on this list by just using a smartphone. Calculators, recorders, and even matter management software can reduce the weight in lawyer’s briefcase. However, there could be privacy concerns if you’re using your personal phone for your clients. Designating a phone for your law practice can be a smart idea.

Cellular Headphone Set

Cellular headsets are great to have when reception is bad and a client makes an urgent call. These take up little space, however, using a clip from the office to bundle the wires is a smart way to avoid untangle them each time you pull them out.

Notebook Computer

A lawyer’s briefcase is usually designed to perfectly fit a notebook computer. If you’re carrying around your client’s notes, matter, and also a computer, you may want to get a briefcase with a shoulder strap to reduce the load.

USB Scanner

This may not be a common item found in a lawyer’s briefcase, but it can be useful if you’re always on the move. Having a USB scanner can put documents on your laptop whenever you need them. You can send priority documents to clients immediately after court hearings while waiting in the break room.

Stationary Supplies

All lawyers require the stationary supplies to be functional for their job. Pens, pencils, notebooks, and other essentials can be stored in designated compartments for quick and easy use. Don’t forget to replenish your supplies whenever they run out.

Legal Matter

Inside most briefcases, you’ll find a sleeve dedicated for loose papers and folders. Storing the necessary legal matter in these places not only protects the documents but can also keep them organized. However, if you’re caseload is very large, you may require a larger suitcase to handle the load.

Final Thoughts

A lawyer’s briefcase is more than just a bag full of tools to perform legal work. When going from the office to the courtroom, a briefcase provides a secure and safe way to transfer sensitive and private information. Having a briefcase with anti-theft features with tracking may be over the top, but in a worst-case scenario, you’d have no regrets.

One last thing to remember, especially if you’re using or own multiple briefcases, is to be sure to transfer the contents on one into the other. You may find yourself rushing out the door with the wrong briefcase and wonder why all your client files disappeared.

What Shoes Should Lawyers Wear?

As you step into the courtroom, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. Your appearance strikes an immediate impression and people are constantly looking you up and down as you move through the room.

A striking appearance can help you build an appearance of authority and your shoes are usually the first thing noticed.

When you’re out shopping for the best shoes for lawyers, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Tips For Lawyers Shopping for Shoes

If you’re reading this, you’re may be in need of advice to shop for the perfect lawyer shoes. To get things started, depending on price to determine the quality of a shoe is not a smart option. Many designer brands, like Prada or Gucci, depend on their brand reputation to make a sale. While they may offer well-constructed shoes, the overall quality may not be suitable for you.

When you are taking a look at the lower-end of shoe prices, quality can vary significantly. To help you with your shoe shopping, here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Soles: having real, genuine leather on the bottom of your shoe can improve longevity and comfort. When you’re browsing through high-cost shoes, be sure to check the material the sole is made of. Sometimes, shoe companies will use a synthetic leather or create a rubber material that seems like leather. These lower quality materials don’t last as long.
  • Stitching: don’t be fooled. There is a difference between how low-cost shoes and high-cost shoes are bound together. Shoes at a high price point will be delicately stitched together and often use a detailed pattern that is striking and aesthetic. Lower priced shoes tend to have each piece glued together with an illusion of stitching. This can lead to your shoes falling to pieces before the end of their first year.
  • Details: in the lower priced shoe range, you’ll find many shoe companies attempting to mask the markings of high-priced shoes. Instead of hand detailed designs in genuine leather shoes, you’ll find factory machine presses which may have details and miss prints in the final design. A common method of faking design is through injection molding which reduces the appeal of a shoe, especially for lawyers.
  • Leather Quality: avoid cheap leather shoes. It can be tempting for a lawyer to pick a cheap pair of shoes, especially if you’re on a tight budget. However, the factories in China producing many of the shoes being sold today are using cheap scraps of leather and gluing them together to produce high yields. In addition, these shoes will use lower quality, harder leather that will likely be stained to cover any imperfections. Over time, this kind of leather will crease and the imperfections will begin to shine through. Quality leather is often soft and develops a beautiful patina as it ages.

Universal Style

You don’t need a closet full of shoes to be a well-dressed lawyer. Keeping a simple, clean, yet classic appearance is all you need when heading to the office. To achieve that, all you need is black.

Black shoes are a universal standard when it comes to matching your suits to your footwear. It goes with everything and you won’t ever have to worry whether your new suit jacket, whether it is navy, charcoal, or black, will match your shoes.

One thing to keep in mind is that black won’t work with bright colored outfits. However, you are likely not going to be wearing a bright blue jacket into the courtrooms.

Because black shoes are the norm in the business world, it will be easy to find a pair of shoes that fits your budget.

5 Recommended Shoes for Lawyers

If you’re not sure which brands or styles you like, here are five recommendations to guide your shoe shopping.

Paul Evans Brando Semi-Brogue Oxford

While coming in at a high price, the Brando Semi-Brogue Oxford by Paul Evans offers a professional looking shoe for lawyers. It has a classic style with upper lacing and full-grain Italian leather. The Brogue pattern ingrained in the letter is what makes these shoes shine.

Florsheim Castellano Wingtip

The Chicago based company designing these shoes have been around since 1892. Not only do they offer a beautifully crafted for but it also comes at a fair price. If you’re looking for something with a little more elegance, this is the shoe you want.

 

Plain Toe Derbys by Dquared2

Here’s a simple yet powerful black shoe lawyers can wear in any situation. The Plain Toe Derbys by Dsquared2 is made with genuine black leather and use a simple lace style to tie it all together.

 

To Boot New York Finn Chelsea Boots

These professional looking leather boots are great for a lawyer on the go. The leather has a burnished finish with a soft calfskin upper. This shoe delivers confidence in any suit your wear.

Allen Edmonds Verona II Italian Loafer

If you’re looking for something more comfortable and relaxed, having a pair of loafers is a great alternative style of shoe for lawyers. The Allen Edwards Verona II features calfskin Italian leather and silver accessories to accentuate the style.

Suit Advice for Lawyers

The way you dress often has a lasting impression on people. Lawyers are typically known to wear sleek suits that give them an appearance of authority and power.

While some law firms may be adopting a business casual dress code, associates and lawyers would be wise to ignore this. Formal business appearances will always be necessary if you’re heading into the courtroom or providing a client consultation.

Being caught in a casual outfit is not going to set a professional impression. To truly look like a lawyer, you’ll want to dress like a lawyer. If you’re wondering what you should wear at the office or when heading into the courtroom, here’s some advice about suits to wear.

Suit Color for Lawyers

Before reviewing a few suits for you to consider, you may want to know some of the latest trends in fashion.

Just like in business, you should follow the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep It Stylish yet Simple.

Black – tends to be seen as the most professional go-to for suit colors, however, it may not be suitable to wear in the courtroom. Black suits are often worn at funerals and this is not the impression you want to set when you step in front of a jury

Navy – this is a common color found in the courtroom and having the additional pinstripes is a classic lawyer’s look.

Brown – this color is often seen as informal and may be best to wear in the office and not in the courtroom.

Charcoal – here’s another common color worn in the courts, charcoal can be paired with many colors to give yourself a complimentary look.

White – you might have to be a lawyer working with high-class celebrities to pull this off.

Olive think about your skin complexion, olive is a color that is difficult to match.

While color is an important feature when considering what suit to wear at the office and when going to court, style is equally important. Polka dots may be your thing, but it may not convey the impression you desire. Remember to keep it simple, flat colors with the occasional pinstripes can provide a great foundation for your lawyer’s wardrobe.

Suit Accessories for Lawyers

Your suit serves a few specific purposes: to look sharp, to look prepared and to look professional. When selecting accessories, there are a few items that can put your suit together or strip away the appeal.

Necktiesevery lawyer in a suit needs a necktie. Depending on the style of suit you wear, choosing the right necktie can accentuate your overall appearance. Having a simple silk necktie with stripes or a solid color can maintain a professional appearance. Using bright colors, while showing off your personality, can be distracting.

Cufflinksgetting a sophisticated pair of cufflinks that add a touch of style to your lawyer’s suit. Try not to get anything too bold as a simple set of cufflinks should be all you need.

Tie Clipswhile not a significant enhancement to your overall appearance, having a tie clip makes your suit more functional and looking neat.

Maintaining Your Suits

There’s something about suits that have an effect on people’s personalities. Suits tend to add a boost of confidence, make you feel stylish, and of course, convey that you are serious about your career in law.

However, suits can be pretty expensive. If you’re in your first year of practicing law or you’re experiencing a financial crisis, you may try to use the same suit from your university years.

In all likelihood, the body you had years before is not the same body you have today. Having a properly fitting suit can make all the difference when interacting with new clients at a free consultation. Consider getting your suits refitted at a tailor or make an investment and restock your wardrobe.

Another important thing to do with your suits it to properly care and tend to them. Here are a few tips to guide you:

  • Never put it in the laundry, always dry clean.
  • Hang it up with a hanger whenever you don’t wear it.
  • Have multiple suits to give some suits a break
  • Brush it down with a soft brush to reduce dry cleaning visits
  • You’ll ruin your suit if you use an iron

Suits for Female Lawyers

Women’s fashion tends to have much more diversity and flexibility than men’s. However, even with the acceptance of casual attire in some law firm’s, sticking with a conservative attire works well with interviews, court appearances, and client meetings.

In the past, skirted suits were the expected dress code for female lawyers. However, this has changed and women in law are now seen wearing pantsuits. If you are considering to wear skirts, the common rule of acceptance is that your skirt should fall below the knee.

While suits are a common necessity for lawyers, women can wear other acceptable clothing such as cardigans, vests and collared polo shirts.

Women searching for suits to practice law have a few more things to consider than men. Wearing tight-fitting suits and low cut tops of any kind will be seen as inappropriate. As well, wearing skirts above the knee can be distracting and unprofessional.

Overall, there are similar rules that apply to both male and female lawyers: wear suits that fit properly and maintain professionalism.

Office Supplies Every Lawyer Should Have

For lawyers who are starting their own law firm having the right office supplies with help with staying organized and improving productivity. An additional purpose that office supplies should provide lawyers is to set a strong first impression whenever clients enter the office.

Whether you’re changing directions in your career or just getting started practicing law, having the right supplies and best website design will be determined by your budget and personal preference. However, one thing to consider is that purchasing the supplies for your lawyer’s office is one of your first business decisions. Purchasing a beautiful mahogany wood desk then experiencing budget cuts, later on, could result in an office environment that’s less than ideal.

Furniture Set First Impressions

Although legal services aim to help people in various situations, lawyer’s must consider their practice with business in mind. Setting a good first impression begins the moment prospective clients steps foot in your office, takes a look at your suit, and scans the conditions of your office.

  • Desks: This will be your workstation. Having a spacious and large desk can help with productivity and reducing the feeling of working in a cramped space. You should consider the height of your desk in relation to your body size. If you have a computer, will you place it on your desk or have an additional side table to use it?
  • Chairs: While your desk is vital for your workflow, having the right chair requires careful consideration. Consider this the throne of your working world. You’ll want to invest in something that is comfortable for the days you’ll spend hours working on your cases. Depending on whether you purchase a chair with wheels or four wooden legs, you may want to purchase a plastic floor covering to improve mobility and reduce damage to the office floor.
  • Bookshelves: these are a necessity for a lawyer’s office. Bookshelves allow you to organize all your law books, keep them in place, and show them off to those browsing around the room. It’s best to choose a bookshelf that matches your office furniture to avoid clashing.
  • Writing Supplies: this one may seem obvious, but it is important to have a bulk supply of writing instruments to work with your clients. In addition, your clients may be required to fill out forms and provide their signature so it is important to have extras at hand. As your practice grows, you can invest in branding your law firm, you can get pens with your logo, law firm name, and contact number.
  • Envelopes: here’s an office supply lawyer’s don’t want to run out. Law offices send out letters to clients and other attorneys on a daily basis. Buying envelopes in bulk is a simple and affordable solution which allows you to have envelopes available whenever you need them.
  • Lighting: most offices are built with good lights to keep the office bright and functional. However, you may find that some parts of the office may feel darker than others, especially if you’re stuck working after hours. Investing in a lamp to provide additional light in the office can help make it more inviting.

A few more fundamental supplies lawyers should have in their office include trash cans, recycling cans, magazine and coat racks.

Lawyer Office Supplies: Quick Checklist

In addition to the items above, you probably need the following items below. You can cut costs if you buy in bulk and keep extras in a storage space. Also, creating a partnership with a supplier can provide you with additional benefits and discounts.

As you prepare your office it can be easy to forget all things you need for your office. Here’s a checklist to ensure you have everything you need:

  • Stationary supplies
  • Legal pads
  • Paper (legal-size and standard)
  • Envelopes
  • Protective desk covers
  • Coffee Machine (a must)
  • Sticky notes
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • File folders
  • Staplers
  • Staple remover
  • 2 and 3 hole punch
  • Tape
  • Sticky tabs
  • Scissors
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips
  • Corkboard and pins
  • Three-ring binders

This list should serve as a starting point to getting the supplies you need at your office. You will be able to find most of these supplies at your local stores or you can shop online to find more variety and style. While it may be tempting to cut corners to save some money in the start, remember that the environment of your lawyer’s office can shape the overall impression of your legal practice. If you’re not too concerned about your office space because you often meet clients somewhere in the community, here are some things you’ll find in a lawyer’s briefcase.

Legal Document Software for Lawyers

Imagine having a solution to writing out the same forms, again and again. For lawyers manually inputting information, legal document software may be a new way forward.

Legal document software provides lawyers with the ability to accurately and quickly create legal paperwork. Automation in the legal world may seem like a frightening future. However, when you can save time on redundant tasks, greater opportunities for the firm can be found.

What is Legal Document Software

Legal document software is a modern approach to improving efficiency and workflow at the office. By reducing the workload, lawyers can focus on reducing costs, saving time, and keeping their clients happy. Don’t be confused with legal management software, as this focused primarily on creating important legal materials.

Legal document software provides lawyers with a variety of templates that can be branded, designed, and customized for every client’s need. Templates allow lawyer’s and their assistants to complete tasks in much less time.

Functions of Legal Document Software

Aside from the obvious time-saving benefits of having ready-to-use documents, legal document software provides the following functions:

  1. Document Scanner Tools. If you have to scan your documents, you can easily upload into the program and convert them into PDFs and images to send to clients.

  2. PDF Tools. Since PDFs are a common document format lawyers send to clients, the PDF Tools allow editing, modifying, and adding signatures to legal documents.
  3. Automation Tools. There are certain parts of documents that must be added to every document. By creating a template in advance, these elements can be added to a legal document to save time.
  4. Data Control. Saving and organizing files are easily managed. You can also ensure that newer versions and updates never override previous versions to reuse them again if needed.
  5. Integration Tools. If you have a CRM service or want to send documents directly to your client’s emails, the integration tools allow you to connect your accounts.
  6. Legal Signature Integration. Some legal document software can be used with digital signature tools to create legally binding documents for computers or mobile devices.

Legal Document Software Precautions

Just as you secure your legal documents in locked cabinets and safe locations, you must consider the safety and security of your digital documents. Failing to keep your legal documents safe can lead to some serious legal consequences. Protecting your digital documents from hackers and theft must be a top priority.

To combat comprised data, legal document software offers a range of solutions to ensure you legal documents remain safe. Some may use a two-step authentication (i.e. providing a password and a pin code on your phone) or require a direct portal through a secure channel.

Storage Options

When deciding on which legal document software to purchase, you’ll want to consider whether to have a cloud-based storage or on-premise storage.

Cloud-based storage offers a secure server from the service provider to save and access data. Going back to the previous point, you should check with the service provider to ensure that your data is encrypted, has back-ups, and high-grade security.

These cloud-based products are offered via subscription license. You will be expected to pay a recurring monthly fee, or if available, a reduced annual rate. This may seem like an appealing choice as the fees are much less in the beginning.

On-premise storage allows you to manage and store documents directly on your devices. You own the software, instead of subscribing month-to-month, and you may require your own IT support. Keeping your data on private servers and away from your own laptop can prevent a situation where your computer malfunction and all data is lost.

Examples of Legal Document Software

MyCase offers cloud-based document solutions to improve communications with clients and minimize daily legal tasks. It features an intuitive form filling tool with task automation. They also provide solutions for organizing case documents, sending encrypted messages to clients, the one-click firm generated reports, billing solutions (i.e. invoicing and payment collection), and calendaring.

Pricing is just $39 per month for their cloud-based subscription. You can also try MyCase free for 30 days.

Abacus Law provides case management and document automation software. This is a cloud-based service with AES 256-bit encryption. With applications for androids and iOs, you can even access documents from your smartphone. In addition to their automation services, Abacus Law offers a full suite of useful tools such as email management, analytics software, and accounting software.

You’ll have to contact their sales department for a quote or schedule a time to see a demo.

TimeSolv has not only document management solutions and automation but also other tools to manage many aspects of your firm. Their document automation software allows you to create custom files unique to each customer while reducing the workload with custom templates.

They have a sliding pricing scale, depending on the size of your firm, with the starting price being $34.95 per month/timekeeper. You can also try it free for 30 days.

PracticePanther offer legal document solutions for small sized law firms. Their focus is to cut costs and save time for lawyers. They also offer a suite of services such as 1-click invoicing, email integrations, CRM, chat applications, and trust accounting. They offer a secure cloud service following HIPAA compliance.

Their monthly plan starts at $59 per month with a 7-day free trial.

Important Note

Legal document software is not an alternative to creating and managing all documents. The vast number of documents required for lawyers to perform their duties can be too much to convert into digital documents. Digital software should be used primarily to reduce redundant tasks and improve workflow in critical areas of your practice.

10 Tips To Avoid Legal Malpractice For Lawyers

Although lawyers fight to protect their client’s interests,  it is equally important to protect themselves from legal malpractice. Lawyer-client communication is one of the biggest factors that lead to situations where clients turn on their lawyers. Others include time management and not meeting deadlines.

Regardless of the reasons behind the claim, there are a few things lawyers can do to avoid legal malpractice.

  1. Require a retainer. To avoid losing funds request money in advance for your services (you can set up an automated accounting system to remind you when your trust fund is running low). Whenever a client fails to replenish the retainer, stop working. Your services are based on the hours you put in for the client which they have to pay for. By establishing this strict guideline, it holds you accountable for your services and reduces problems with collecting payments later on.
  2. Have a written contract. When you’re consulting a new client, be sure to provide them with your core services in writing. Include in this document information about your retainer, terms of service, and clearly define what you are obligated to do under the retainment.
  3. Document diligently. While it will be impossible to document every detail regarding your matter, putting a consistent effort toward documenting your interactions with clients can reduce legal consequences should your client sue. Letters may be effective, however having emails, notes, and documents with time-entries can be most effective. If you’re providing advice regarding serious issues due to drastic situations, you may want to consider recording this information. If for any reasons a client confuses your words and questions what you said, you can look back on your documentation to provide clarity and avoid malpractice.
  4. Get to know your client. This point should be number 1: know who your clients are. If you’ve established your law firm as a limited liability company (LLC) you’ll have to clearly distinguish between your responsibilities, your interactions with your client, and the relationship with the firm. You may have to state in clear terms that you are only a representative of the firm and what that means between you and your client.
  5. Never miss a deadline. For new lawyers, they can be most challenging if you underestimate your workflow and time management. Setting realistic deadlines and completing tasks ahead of schedule can avoid conflicts with your clients. Remember, when you deliver earlier than the client expects, the results tend to lead to a satisfied client.
  6. Avoid suing your clients for fees. Although you may have the documentation and support to provide a claim against your client, pushing a lawsuit on a client to collect fees can backfire. If you sure your client, they’ll likely review their own documentation and experience then find a way to countersue for malpractice (i.e. implying that was the reason they stopped paying in the first place). Even if you are insured, some insurance policies are exempted from protecting you from malpractice claims if you are suing your clients for missed fees.
  7. Refer clients to others. It can be tempting to take on clients in an area you are not familiar with if you are experiencing financial pressures. The best thing to do is to build your network and refer such clients to close connections to avoid misrepresenting a case that may be too much to handle. In the long run, building relations with other lawyers and firms can lead to referred clients coming back to you.
  8. Understand the ethical rules. This applies especially to conducting online marketing and other web related tasks. The ABA has ethical rules that all lawyers are expected to follow. While the rules themselves may not be black and white, understanding what you can and cannot do online can help you avoid problems should sensitive information be leaked or clients have a bad experience with some of your outsourced legal staff.
  9. Connect with your client. It is important to know your client, especially when detailing the contract for your services, but it is just as important to build rapport. Are you operating a profession or running a business? While it can be enticing to provide legal services to earn a salary, there comes a line between working for money and working for people. If your clients are just a means of making money to enjoy your lavish, rich lifestyle, it shouldn’t be a surprise that malpractice lawsuits continue to come in.
  10. Get malpractice insurance. In the worst case scenario, having malpractice insurance can protect you. Malpractice insurance policies vary from provider to provide so you should review carefully the terms and protective benefits before choosing the right policy. Here’s more information about malpractice insurance for lawyers.

These are just 10 points to avoid malpractice at your law firm. If your focus is providing exceptional legal services, build connected relationships with your clients, while providing fair fees, getting sued should be the least of your worries.

Life After Law School: What New Lawyer’s Need To Know

You’re one of many who have spent years in school studying the intricacies of law and spending thousands of dollars to get to the bar exam. Then, after all that hard work, what’s life like after law school?

You may have ambitions to become the best state lawyer or you may simply want to become a partner at a local firm. Whatever path you choose to go on, here you’ll get a glimpse of life after law school.

Competing for a Place in Law

There are only so many big law firm’s offering high paying positions. Often these firms are selecting the top of class from the world’s best law schools.

If you’re unfamiliar with these school, every year the National Law Journal (NLJ) publishes a report on which schools are sending their graduates to practice biglaw. Here is their list of the top 5 schools:

  1. Columbia Law School
  2. University Pennsylvania Law School
  3. University of Chicago Law School
  4. Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  5. Duke Law School

To see the entire list from NLJ, go here.

If didn’t attend one of the top schools listed above, there are still many choices available in your career of law. Some graduates choose to become an intern or start a clerkship to gain the experience and expertise to practice law at a higher, more competitive level.

Some internships offer a paid position and clerkships are done alongside a judge. Taking this route after law school can provide you with insight into how the law is practiced within the courtroom and prepare you for other aspects of the law.

Other options include continuing to study law at a doctorate level and obtaining a degree such as:

  • Juris Master – M.S.
  • Master of Laws – L.L.M.
  • Doctor of Judicial Science – S.J.D.
  • Doctor of Comparative Law – D.C.L.

Each of these educational routes will add an additional year or two of study. However, the investment can be well worth the time and can lead to a better paying lawyer salary.

Life as an Associate

Traditional law firms use to function using a two-tier system for lawyers which included: associates and partners. An associate would be expected to work at the firm for almost a decade before being considered a partner. If you became a partner, you would be given equity and given a share of the firm’s profits.

Before the 1980s, many associates would stay with one law firm working hard to become a partner. However, when American Lawyer, a monthly magazine dedicated to lawyers, published a listing of the country’s profits per partner at the largest firms, the working world of law began to change.

Now, it is likely that both associates and partners will work at multiple firms, for both experience and profit, over the duration of their career. Life after law school can be extremely stressful for newly appointed associates that have high debt while dealing with a heavy workload.

However, as an associate, you will have the freedom to explore the area of law that interests you. As well, responsibilities like court appearances, client consultations, and depositions will gradually increase after the first year of practice. You may even be expected to continue educating yourself about your area of practice as you work at your firm. This is a part of the grooming process if you plan to stick around and become a partner.

Becoming A Partner

Although the path to partnership differs from firm to firm, most associates seek to become an equity partner and receive a portion of the profits.

Before becoming a partner, you may first become a senior associate and then a non-equity partner. Both advancements will receive a higher salary and significantly more responsibility. However, when becoming an equity partner, there is also an added level of liability which makes you responsible for keeping the law firm profitable for years to come.

You will likely not become a partner straight out of law school, however taking this big step in your career provides guaranteed employment and becoming a partial owner of the firm.

For more about becoming a partner, go here.

Alternative Paths to Law

Depending on your situation and your experiences out of law school, you may decide that working law firm as an employee is not fit for you. The years, dedication, and hard work may seem too far away to yield the career path you dreamed about while studying for the bar.

An alternative path to becoming an associate and waiting to become a partner may be starting your own law firm.

There are a few things to consider if starting your own law firm is the path for you:

  • Registering your business (i.e. LLC, Sole-proprietorship, etc.)
  • Establishing your presence in your community
  • Developing a website for your law firm
  • Marketing your legal services
  • Finding new clients
  • Avoiding malpractice

If you’re thinking about starting your own law firm, here are a few articles to guide you toward developing a successful legal career:

Getting Your Law firm Started

Having A Website For Your Lawfirm

Marketing Your Law firm

Understand Risk

Software to Improve Your Law Firm’s Efficiency:

Top 7 Law Firm Accounting Software For Lawyers

Accounting programs for lawyers make your legal services run more effectively and efficiently. There are many accounting programs available and most are designed to improve time management, billing, accounting, and case management.

To save you time, here is a review of the top 7 law firm accounting software designed specifically for lawyers. Hopefully, you will find the best software program that is the right fit for your legal services.

#1: Clio

Clio’s focus is to reduce the number of time lawyers spend on administrative tasks. The best part about Clio is that you only need to pay for the monthly subscription. After you subscribe, you won’t need a network administrator to maintain the software and you can run it on your PC or mobile device.

In regards to security, Clio’s cloud-based allows you to store sensitive information on your computer while being accessible to you anywhere.

Clio is one of the most simple accounting software programs for lawyers by handling all your basic administrative tasks while on the go.

Features:  

  • Matter Management
  • Time Tracking
  • Billing
  • Client Payments
  • Legal Accounting
  • Calendar
  • Lead Tracking
  • Document Management

Pricing starts at $39 per month and you can get started with a trial using just your email.

#2: Xero

Xero has been rising in popularity in recent years and has been in competition with QuickBooks (#5 on this list).

Xero features an easy-to-use software service because it is entirely web hosted. There is no downloads or installations required. You can access your accounting information from any device and all browsers (Google, Firefox, Windows, etc.).

With a subscription to Xero, you can add unlimited users to manage your accounting. There is no additional fee for users which is common in other accounting software services on this list.

The highlighting feature of Xero is that is most useful for small law firms and includes comprehensive user guides as well as responsible customer support.

Features: 

  • Payroll Management
  • Unlimited Users
  • Expense Tracking
  • Invoicing and Billing
  • Customizable Reports
  • W2’s and 1099’s
  • Direct Deposit

Xero’s starter plan limits you to 5 bills and 20 bank transactions. However, you can try their software free for 30 days.

#3: Bill4Time

Bill4Time is a dedicated billing software solution for lawyers. They focus on providing law firms with the ability to create professional invoices quickly and easily.

Clients will have the option to pay online which will be tracked and recorded on the dashboard. Bill4Time accepts Paypal, Stripe, and all major credit cards. From a billing perspective, Bill4Time makes client billing seamless.

Features:

  • Client Billing
  • Time Tracking
  • Invoice Templates
  • Client and Account Management
  • Reporting
  • Online Payments
  • Expense Tracking
  • Mobile Apps

Bill4Time’s starting price is focused on solo law practitioners with more options for those running a law firm with multiple partners. You can also sign up to try Bill4Time for 30 days.

#4: Legal Files

Legal Files provides case management and matter management solutions to improve a law firm’s legal management needs.

Legal Files is commonly used by corporate legal departments, law firms, university legal departments, insurance companies, and various levels of government.

Its features allow lawyers to manage their cases, emails, documents and contracts, contact information, e-billing, and invoicing. Legal Files’ key feature is that it allows lawyers to automate their office workflow to free up time for lawyer’s to dedicate to their clients.

Features:  

  • Corporate Matter Management
  • Government Case Management
  • University Matter Management
  • Insurance Litigation Management
  • Contract Management
  • Law Firm Case Management
  • Investigation Management
  • Legal Aid Case Management

Legal Files offers pricing licensing packages with a one-time payment. You’ll have to contact the company for more information on a package that suits your firm.

#5: QuickBooks

QuickBooks made the list because it provides a powerful accounting software solution for every industry. It has detailed reporting metrics allowing you to capture the costs of all your firm’s activities. From gas mileage to expenses to payroll, QuickBooks does it all.

QuickBooks for its well-rounded accounting solutions and robust set of features. They have an as strong reputation and have been in operations since 1983.

While the capabilities of using QuickBooks and all its add-ons may seem overwhelming, their user interface and customer support make integration into your law firm’s accounting needs simple and straightforward.

Features:  

  • Cash Flow Control
  • Expense Organization
  • Spending Automation
  • Custom Invoicing
  • Easy Payment Solutions
  • One-click Reporting
  • Multiple-user Access
  • Payroll Solutions
  • Taxing

QuickBooks has some of the most affordable pricing plans for their accounting software. You can save 50% by purchasing right away or start with a trial for 30 days. There are also additional add-ons such as Enhanced Payroll ($19/month) and Full-Service Payroll ($49/month) available for the Simple Start, Essentials and Plus plans.

#6: PCLaw by LexisNexis

PCLaw by LexisNexis is a trusted software management solution used by over 15 000 law firms. It offers complete control over your billing and lets you charge for the time effectively.

PCLaw is a robust accounting software for lawyers and is streamlined toward accurate billing through their Time Entry Advisor.

Installing PCLaw just takes minutes and all upgrades are managed within your maintenance plan. For a worry-free, lawyerfocused accounting software, PCLaw would be a great choice.

Features:  

  • Accurate Time Tracking
  • User-Friendly Interface
  • Billable Hours Tracking
  • Accounts Payable, Receivable, and Banking
  • Financial Reporting
  • Trust Accounting
  • Advanced Security Settings
  • Visual Analytics

#7: ProLaw by Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters is a dedicated and trusted intelligence technology company that has developed ProLaw specifically for lawyer’s accounting needs.

This accounting software is suitable for mid- to large sized law firms. Their suite of accounting solutions provides expense management along with mobile tracking for lawyers who spend time working on cases remotely.

Like other law firm accounting software on this list, ProLaw offers custom invoicing, accurate tracking, and document management. The program is more sophisticated than others here but their training modules and both online and email support provide you with the help you need to get set up.

Features:  

  • Case and Matter Management
  • Secured Data Storage
  • Financial Reporting (1099s, Budget, Billing, etc.)
  • Cost Recovery
  • Expense Tracking
  • Calendaring & Docking
  • General Ledger
  • Online Bill Payments
  • Billing and Invoicing
  • Bank Reconciliation
  • Accounts Billable and Receivable

To start using ProLaw, you’ll have to contact their sales team for a quote.

SEO Secrets for Lawyers

If your law firm has a website, you may want to have an understanding of SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and this helps your website get placed on the first page of search engines.

SEO for lawyers requires techniques, strategies, and sometimes coding to get your website ranked and capable of bringing prospective clients to your law firm.

Getting on the first page of any search engine (like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) provides your law firm with significant benefits. You can reduce the costs of ad spending by creating an SEO focused lawyer website that allows search engines to provide you with organic traffic.

This article reveals some SEO secrets specifically for lawyers.

Onsite SEO for Lawyers

If you’re don’t understand computer coding, at the very minimum you should try to grasp the concept of onsite SEO.

In order for search engines to do their job and showcase your website in their search results, you have to give them detailed information on your website.

In your articles and web pages, there are elements known as title tags, headers, meta descriptions, and URLs. Having a solid foundation in onsite SEO will deliver successful results in the other parts of SEO found here.

When it comes to your titles to articles, best practice suggests to keep them up to 70 words in length. Anything longer and they won’t b displayed in the search results.

For the meta description, use between 150 to 160 words.

Another important feature of SEO is including a keyword. This keyword is used as a primary identifier of the page or article. Use this keyword in the title, meta description, and URL.

Your article or page should also include the keyword in a readable and non-intrusive manner. Using a keyword too often, known as keyword stuffing, can actually have a negative effect on your site’s SEO.

For lawyers, keeping your keywords and content relevant to your readers while including the appropriate title tags and meta-descriptions will be of benefit to your search engine rankings.

Schema Markup for Lawyers

Since you may be busy with clients and other aspects of legal work, SEO on your website may not be within your scope to perform.

If you intend to outsource SEO to an expert, something you may want to be aware of is Schema Markup for Attorneys. Although this may not have a significant impact from an SEO standpoint, the added coding involved provides more informative results for people using a search engine.

Schema Markup allows you to add more details to your meta-descriptions which can be displayed in the search engines. From business hours to special events, these details will be coded in a way that engines can recognize and input in the results.

For more information, please see schema markup for attorneys to understand which markups to include on your website.

Local SEO for Lawyers

Local SEO is an effective strategy to get your law firm’s website noticed by those searching in your area. There are a variety of ways you can apply local SEO to your website.

To get started, add your website to business directories (i.e. Yelp, Foursquare, Yellowbook, Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, and more).

Once you have placed your website on these directories, especially those connected to search engines like Google and Bing, when a prospective client makes a search in New York…

… your law firm is in a better position of being ranked and discovered.

Here are some statistics about local searches from Business2Community and SearchEngineLand:

  • 46% of Google searches are local
  • 50% of mobile searchers look for local business information (i.e. address or phone number)
  • 96% of all PC owners perform local searches

If you haven’t done so already, register your law firm’s location in Google maps and other mapping engines. Whenever a prospective client performs a search in your area, your law firm will pop up.

Link Building for Lawyers

Link building can be time-consuming, however, if done correctly, it can lead to a lot of traffic to your website and inquiries for a consultation.

There are all kinds of links you can have, the most important being links placed on another website that directs to yours.

These links can be in the form of text, images, or other pieces of HTML that include a hyperlink (i.e. “href” attribute) for your website or a specific page.

Getting your links out there can be as simple as providing quality content that people share and include in their own articles, new pieces, and blogs.

If you have a partnership with other lawyers, considering exchanging their links on your website with your links on their website.

Other ways to build strong backlinks to your website include:

  • Writing guest posts on other blogs and lawyer websites
  • Adding your link to online resource pages
  • Commenting on forums / online communities
  • Writing responses on Quora
  • Posting on Reddit
  • Set up a Wikipedia page for your law firm

These are just a few suggestions. Backlink building requires strategy and careful planning. If you use tactics such as hacking other’s websites to inject backlinks, hiding text on your page which cannot be read by visitors but found by search engines you may be negatively impacted by search engines.

Search engines use sophisticated ways to scan the internet and gather information about your website. It knows who has links to your website and where your website is linking out.

NoFollow vs. DoFollow Links

One thing you should keep in mind is that there are different kinds of links: follow vs. no follow.

Nofollow links are those that do not give you any boost in the search engines. They simply send traffic from that website to your website. That’s it.

DoFollow links are those that give you a boost in the search engines. These links are telling search engines to rank the site.

This reason this exists is to prevent spamming, however from a lawyer’s SEO point of view, you may want to know what kind of backlink you are building and whether that will provide a benefit to your search engines results.