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Illinois Supreme Court Agrees to Decide Fiduciary Duty Claim Against Former Counsel

In a few weeks’ time over at Appellate Strategist’s sister blog, the Illinois Supreme Court Review, we’ll address the question of just how rare it is to get an unpublished decision – what we in Illinois call a Rule 23 order –...more

Only in DC: Ethics Rule Permits Non-lawyers to Own Law Firms

Mar. 19, 2014 (Mimesis Law) -- Mike McDevitt, CEO for Tandem Legal Group, is not a lawyer, but thanks to an obscure rule in Washington, D.C.'s code of ethics for lawyers he is able to have an ownership interest in the law...more

Consumer Law Revolution: The Lawyer's Guide to Working with Online Marketing Tools (Branded Networks)

This ebook will serve as a practical how-to manual with best practices for lawyers wishing to collaborate with branded networks to market their law practice, deliver legal services to clients online, and for lawyer brand building and client development. Introduction There is a revolution occurring in the delivery of legal services in the United States. Consumers in need of personal and business legal services are turning to the Internet to seek legal assistance. This should not come as a surprise. The public is going online for almost every other consumer need in their personal and professional lives. Instead of marketing legal services to the public, lawyers need to understand how to create a better marketplace for legal services. Companies focused on the legal industry have identified this enormous unmet market need and are making strides to brand their reputations online as affordable and accessible solutions. These companies are developing technology platforms to deliver services directly to the public. They are also inviting lawyers to team up with them to deliver legal services online. Speeding up consumer law revolution, the number of legal technology startups has grown rapidly. They are obtaining funding from major venture capitalists, gaining support of academic institutions and startup incubators, and entering into relationships with companies outside of the legal profession that have more experience in ecommerce. These startups are also testing the waters of lawyer regulation and ethics to find models of monetization that will sustain their growth. More importantly, these companies are actively building their lawyer networks. They need licensed lawyers who recognize the change in the legal marketplace to join with them to serve the consumers seeking online legal services. The legal profession must learn to collaborate with nonlawyer legal service companies in order to meet the public’s need for affordable and accessible online legal services. Rather than attempt to compete with the online “branded networks” with million-dollar marketing budgets, innovative lawyers will understand how the consumer law revolution impacts the legal marketplace, their private practices, and their clients, and will learn to collaborate with these companies and their branded networks. As a form of lawyer advertising and client development, the use of online marketing tools has great potential to increase access to justice in our country for certain legal needs, as well as become a resource for additional client development and revenue for many lawyers. The purpose of this ebook is to introduce the different and evolving models of branded legal services networks and to review the different forms of online marketing tools they provide. Included in the full book is a background on online lawyer advertising with a discussion about the underlying assumptions behind our existing restrictions on methods of advertising legal services. The full book also goes into the many ethical issues that may arise from the use of online marketing tools without the lawyer’s attention to best practices.more

Protecting a Law Firm’s Crown Jewels

Here’s a real shocker for you: When a partner leaves a healthy law firm, he and his or her new firm can be required to return to his or her old law firm the profits made the cases he or she brings along. These obligations do not spring up only in the case of law firm implosions like so many mushrooms sprouting in a bog. The fact is that it century old hornbook law that profits from business taken from a partnership to a new law firm belong to the old law firm and are recoverable. For some odd reason, many lawyers think that the Jewel v Boxer line of cases, often referred to as the “unfinished business doctrine” is an aberration of California’s unique culture and permissiveness. When the spate of a dozen or more Coudert Jewl v Boxer claims arrived on the scene about a year ago, many scoffed and gave these cases short shrift. The United States District Court for the Sothern District of New York has now carefully instructed the profession that these Jewel v Boxer claims are serious stuff indeed and law firms hiring partners from firms that have imploded should get their checkbooks out. Heads are still spinning and the issue has now raised a great deal of serious debate. But what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The simple fact is that unfinished business profits are the property of healthy as well as sick law firms. Again, the law on this subject is a century or more old and rock solid. The day is coming very soon when law firm lenders and landlords will be requiring law firms to have tightly written partnership agreements in which the firm will be assured of recovering profits from unfinished business from departed partners and their new law firms. Lenders will likely require perfected security interest in these assets. Law firm leaders will be proposing appropriate amendments to their partnership agreements. Law firms will be writing checks and collecting remittances for these unfinished business claims. What is your bargaining position going to be? more

Next Battlefield in Dewey Liquidation: Pursuing Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims

Dewey & LeBoeuf’s inglorious galactic implosion changes all of the rules; it was not too big to fail, it was, however, far too big and corroded to fail in the relatively orderly way others before it failed. The next battlefronts in this immense tragedy are likely to be pretty massive and probably fairly scandalous breach of fiduciary duty claims, fought on a level and at a pitch never seen before. These battles are going to be completely unseemly and they will probably suck in a host of law firms that made homes for Dewey refugees. Thus may result in a form of tribal warfare never before seen in Western society. Rarely has the gap between assets and liabilities of a failed law firm been as wide as they appear to be in Dewey & LeBoeuf’s case. With liabilities thus far reported at about $315,000,000 (which may ultimately come close to doubling) and assets of a mere $215,000,000 (which may eventually realize less than half that amount of cash), there just doesn’t look like there is much there there, particularly when we consider that of its liabilities listed thus far, some $225,000,000 is secured debt, the lion’s share now owned by vulture funds, which reportedly much much of this debt at fifty cents or so on the dollar. They don’t call these guys vulture investors without reason. They are smart and omnivorous. They probably expect to double their investments and will do so by picking away at every morsel of the carcass and anything edible within range. They are not like traditional banks or landlords; they have no expectation of doing business of doing business with these lawyers or their new law firms and aren’t going to be anything but single-minded in squeezing every ounce of blood from every stone. In light of this, every remaining constituency, particularly former partners, who are seeking to avoid as much pain as possible and general unsecured creditors are presumably plumbing worn legal texts and laying out battle plans for both offensive battles and planning out defenses for what may be pitched battles. Here, then, is an early assessment of the order of battle for global breach of fiduciary duty claims which stands every likelihood of deploying scores of lawyers in fratricidal battles that will last for many years and will forever change the landscape of BigLaw and most certainly lateral recruiting will never be quite the same. more

REGULATORY BARRIERS TO THE GROWTH OF MULTIJURISDICTIONAL VIRTUAL LAW FIRMS AND POTENTIAL FIRST STEPS TO THEIR REMOVAL

The spread of disruptive technologies to the legal profession is changing the dynamic of how law firms are structured as well as the value propositions associated with the delivery of legal services. The number of law firms with a national presence has grown due to the cost benefits and efficiency of using cloud computing. New models for expansion across jurisdictional boundaries are increasing. However, the regulatory barriers to create these new firm structures are numerous and costly. This paper reviews the evolution of technology in multijurisdictional firms and examines the primary regulatory barriers to their further development. A starting point for standardization of regulations is proposed as well as potential first-steps to removing barriers to the growth of multijurisdictional virtual law firms. Published in the NORTH CAROLINA JOURNAL OF LAW & TECHNOLOGY, 13 N.C. J.L. & TECH. ON. 165 (2012) at http://www.ncjolt.org/sites/default/files/3Art_Kimbro_165_226.pdfmore

Are You Prepared to Kick Butt?

Here's a blunt message to all General Counsel: "No More Mr. Nice Guy!" Given the the realignment of power in the legal profession's "New Normal," you have to exercise authority more forcefully. Demand more accountability from outside counsel. Impose sterner consequences for unacceptable law firm behavior. Just do it.more

ABSs & the SRA Handbook - A New Era for 2012

Three months under the new regulatory regime - how is your business adapting, what should you be thinking about, and what are the responsibilities of your COLP and COFA? From 3rd January 2012, non-legal persons may now apply to own or operate a law firm or other legal business. Khiara Law LLP can assist with the structuring, licensing process and constitutional changes required.more

Common mistakes in LLP agreements

LLPs have now been around for a while and some common and serious errors are emerging in the way LLP agrements are written - even by commercial publishers. Does yours need reviewing?more

How to Pick an Asset Protection Lawyer - Due Dilligence Questions

Article with key due diligence questions to help consumers and their advisors determine exactly who and what an Asset Protection planner is, how to avoid amateurs and common mistakes and how to pick the best help in a complex field. proactive Asset Protection planning is a vital element of all effective business, estate, financial or legal planing.more

Law Firm Crisis Management: Planning, Developing and Implementing a Public Relations and Communications Program for Law Firms

Every law firm maintains a disaster recovery plan in order to be prepared for natural or man-made disasters so that the firm can continue in operation. However, most law firms fall short in maintaining a public and media relations plan in the event of a body blow to the firm. As we study each of the 41 major law firm failures over the past quarter of a century, we find that many of these firms failed because of ineptly handled media relations. As well managed law firms prepare for every contingency to assure continued smooth continuing operations in the event disaster hits, we too often find inadequate preparation for media relations if some calamity should befall a law firm. Media relations for law firms in crisis requires several steps: first, designating a team to deal with the issue; having regular meetings of the team. Second, war gaming various scenarios. Third convening the media relations SWAT team when crisis strikes. Third, developing a crisis communications plan. Next, communicating the plan to the law firm partnership and having the partners circle the wagons around that plan. Following that, open communications with staff must be conducted followed by communicating in one consistent voice to the media. Preparing for media relations in the event of a law firm crisis and implementing such a plan when a crisis strikes can mean the difference between life and death. more

It Shouldn’t Suck to be an Associate at a Law Firm

Law firms inexplicably eat their young. Attrition of law firm associates has always been a blight on the profession. This attrition is financially painful as associates leave BigLaw in droves during their third or fourth years, at precisely the point when these associates become significant profit centers at the law firm. Attrition at these levels often reach the 60 – 80% level. The financial pain to law firms is compounded by the fact that law firms have by that point spent upwards of $500,000 to recruit and train each associate. In the current market, with clients by and large refusing to pay for the training of young associates, the financial burden to law firms caused by this attrition is further exacerbated. But this financial drain is all too often self inflicted by law firms. Incivility visited on young associates in the form of arbitrary deadlines, sleep deprivation prompted by minimum hourly billing requirements as well as bonuses predicated upon hours billed is, well, virtually a form of torture. The result is a strong likelihood of malpractice and ultimately, associates clambering for the escape hatches. Retention of associates and avoidance of expensive attrition can be achieved with having law firms take a more humane approach in dealing with associates. Substantively productive mentoring programs, keeping associates informed about matters affecting the firm and associates’ careers as well as minding and fostering a reasonable work/life balance enhances associates’ productivity. Most significantly, improving the quality of associates’ working lives costs virtually nothing in hard dollars, yet adds immeasurably to a law firm’s bottom line. The answer is assuredly not throwing money at associates, either in the form of large salaries or year end or spring bonuses. The real answer is to create an environment in which associates don’t go home daily thinking “take this job and shove it. “ more

Practicing Law Without an Office Address: How the Bona Fide Office Requirement Affects Virtual Law Practice

This Article from the University of Dayton Law Review, Volume 36-1 (2011) examines virtual law practice as a necessary and inevitable solution to the globalization of law firms and the lack of access to justice in our country, and it will consider how bona fide office requirements in some states may work against this practice management method. Recent changes to the legal profession due to the globalization of law firms, trends in outsourcing of legal services, and the public demand for online legal services all indicate the need for a wider variety of law practice management structures with continued accountability and connection between the legal practitioner and the state bar. more

Are Partners Protected by Antidiscrimination Laws In the Event They are Discharged? Are Law firm Partners Owners and Not Employees? Law Firm Partners Are Actually Employees at Will

The fact, rarely spoken of publicly, is that law firm partners are simply employees at will. The issue is framed in the context of (1) a recent federal case in which a female partner was ousted by her partners and claimed she was removed because of her gender and should be afforded the protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Law, which bars employment discharges because of gender; and (2) recent EEOC proceeedings against several law firms which, in accordance with their partnership agreements were mandatorily forcing partners to retire, again an alleged violation of federal antidiscriminatory laws. In both instances, the law firms argued that law firm partners were owners and therefore employers and not employees. The defense advanced that enterprise ownership was not subject to Title VII. The Courts and federal agency dealing with these issues found that partnership was simply an emolument of employment, not enterprise ownership. The simple fact is that law firm partners are not just employees, but largely employees at will. The good news is that law firm partners are afforded some statutory benefits: They cannot be discharged based on their membership in certain protected classes. Nor can promotion to partnership decisions be affected by such consideerations. The troubling news is that the dream of life tenure afforded by admissions to law firm partnerships is largely an illusion, rarely publicly discussed or acknowledged. Equally causing some degree of consternation is the fact that the contractual protections of partners detailed at length in partnership agreements is equally mythical in the real world. The American dream is further shattered: Excelling as an associate does not guarantee employment. Partnership does not grant life tenure or even assured continued employment. more

Law 2.0: Running a Law Firm Like a Software Business

Originally published in the July/August issue of Legal Management, a publication of the ALA. It is commonly said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Unless, however, what almost kills you also happens to transform your environment and you’re left bewildered, trying to figure out how to regroup and what first steps to take. Not only did the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 machete revenues at law firms, but it also fostered long-fermenting industry changes. Cost-conscious clients now force firms to offer alternative fee arrangements, calling into question the time and place of the traditional billable hour. Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) and consumer access to do-it-yourself legal services add commoditization pressure to segments of the legal market. So as you look around at the bleak, smoldering landscape through which you must shepherd your firm, why not draw on some of the lessons of an entirely different vertical? Like legal, the software industry is a highly collaborative, mission critical, can’t-afford-an-error type of business. Delivering tremendously complex technology products to market on time, on budget, and without catasrophic bugs is a tough nut to crack. To combat these challenges, software development processes and methologies evolved over time to reduce both risk and cost as well as eliminate inefficiencies. Learning all the fine points of running a software business is a full-time job for software people, let alone lawyers. But the following tidbits are simple, actionable tips law firms can learn from the hard-wrought experience of the high-tech world. more

Do You Trust Your Intuition? - 4 Steps to Checking Your Gut

Do You Trust Your Intuition? - 4 Steps to Checking Your Gut On attempting to free oneself from cognitive biases.more

Saying Goodbye: When to Terminate Law Firm Relationships

As law departments — and often right behind them, the company's CFO or procurement officers — continue to demand more quality and value from their outside counsel partners, general counsel look for ways to evaluate their own relationships with outside counsel and to help them determine whom to hire back for various projects — and whom not to engage again. This article discussed what and how clients evaluate law firms and lawyers.more

In-House Cousnel Seek Fee Accountability

The goal of any legal cost control program should be cost-effectiveness, not necessarily the lowest legal fees. After all, nothing is more expensive than a cheap lawyer. However, with that in mind, in-house counsel can do more than slow the growth of legal costs, it can reduce them with the appropriate legal cost control techniques. more

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