Sunday, August 30, 2009

As The Lawyer Recession Continues, Learn Basic Lawyering



As BigLaw layoffs slow, lawyers stupidly are starting to think that "things are getting better."

Ever heard of a hurricane? It's a storm with what's called an "eye." The first part of a hurricane is a terrible storm, followed by the eye, where there is total calm, and then the "back side," which is sometimes worse than the initial storm.

We're in the eye.

BigLaw layoffs have slowed to a crawl because once you shave someone's head, you can't cut anymore until the hair comes back.

But let's be real.

What's most important here is the client mindset. This recession is doing one thing to everyone - causing us to re-think spending.

There will always be some form of BigLaw. Big companies can't have the law firm of You and Your Partner, P.A. handling the hundreds of legal matters that they face. But what will change, is that Big Company will no longer tolerate BigLaw's big billing and the use of one too many associate on their matter.

The winners here are solo and small firm lawyers, if they play it right and get back to basics:

[1] Clients are looking for legal services to resolve their issues. They are not impressed with how many hours you can bill.

[2] While you may not be able to "bill the shit out of this file," (that's lawyer speak for, well, it's pretty obvious), doing what the client wants, in less time than he thought, will get you more cases. If you don't understand that, you're part of the problem and I can't help you.

[3] Get to know your client.

I know, it's a client, with a file. But it's also a client, with a wife, family, hobby, fear, interest. Ask a few more questions.

[4] Screw the billable hour.

I laugh every time a civil lawyer tells me they got a small retainer and never got paid the rest. Payment plans are non-payment plans. Sending monthly bills is like sending a letter to the President and hoping for a real response.

Charge a flat fee, up front. Get the money out of the way and concentrate on the case. And don't tell me you can't do that. You can, you just don't want to do it.

[5] Learn about your clients.

I don't care what your client does, owns, or sells. Learn everything about whatever it is your client does, and not just his case.

[6] Figure out how to do better what you are doing now.

There's so much shit on the internet, free shit, funny shit. I'm not talking about the "how to make 10 million dollars with a blog," or "how a Facebook fan page will change your life," or "how I'm no longer practicing law but can tell you how to make a ton of money practicing law."

I'm talking about sites like these:

MyShingle.com
BitterLawyer.com
Lawyerist.com

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

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3 comments:

Cyn said...

And, please quit coming to "the other side of the street" to "practice" criminal law. You don't know what you are doing - you don't know the law, you don't know a good/bad deal, you just don't know. I tire of seeing civil lawyers whose business is slow coming to play with the lives of people accused of crime. It is not a game. Stay on your side of the street.

Anonymous said...

Why not spend more time discussing criminal law rather than bashing on Biglaw and civil lawyers? As a criminal defense attorney and PD to boot, I have little occasion to think about these folks - why not leave them be and spend some time offering practice tips, advice, and local gossip? Or perhaps you could just brief the FLW's for us every week.

Brian Tannebaum said...

Well, this really isn't my criminal law blog, and trust me, BigLaw and civil lawyers spend plenty of time bashing criminal lawyers, so I'm happy to return the favor.

I will consider a weekly briefing of FLW for you.

Ok, I considered it. Nope.

As far as local gossip, I leave that to my brother at http://southfloridalawyers.blogspot.com and the ever entertaining Rumpole at http://justicebuilding.blogspot.com