Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Don't put a kid in charge of your professional image

Someone named Brad Friedman posted a link to this article on LinkedIn's Legal Blogging Group.

The article, "11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn't Run Your Social Media," by Hollis Thomases, appeared August 10 on Inc.Com. An excerpt:
Just because you don't understand social media doesn't mean you should forfeit all common sense and hire your niece, nephew, or any other recent college grad (say, your best friend's sister-in-law's kid) because "they're really good on Facebook."

If your business targets the young and hip, most definitely look to a recent grad or young social-media nerd to help your business. But don't assume, either, that you need to hire someone young to manage your social media "just because."
Thomases goes on to detail all 11 reasons, and they're all good -- but to Ms. Thomases' list I would add one more: Don't let someone launch a social media strategy for you unless you can understand both what the strategist is trying to accomplish and how the strategist proposes to accomplish those goals.

If you can't understand what the heck your social media maven is doing or how he or she is doing it, it might be because you are old and dense and simply no longer 'with it.' Or it might be that your social media wunderkind works only with smoke and mirrors:

From Randall Munroe's webcomic, xkcd
(click on the link to see the cartoon in situ -- and
to read Mr. Munroe's embedded comment)
At depositions lawyers typically ask a number of background questions of a witness. Sometimes these questions are necessary in case the lawyer needs to locate the witness later on for trial, but most lawyers go beyond 'name, rank, and serial number' when starting a witness deposition.

What the lawyer is doing is getting a 'feel' for how the witness answers uncontroversial questions -- how the witness speaks normally and without stress. This preliminary testimony provides a baseline for comparison. Does the witness talk easily and expansively on softball, background questions -- and in clipped monosyllables when the 'meat' of the deposition is reached? Those differences in tone and inflection and speech pattern tell the lawyers something about the credibility of this witness or, at least, the likelihood that the witness will come over well before a jury.

I had a deposition recently of a young man who was employed by some advertising concern in some social media capacity. He had no difficulty expanding on his explanations about his job and his duties -- but every expansion made his testimony more opaque than it was before. None of this mattered to the case and I had to move on -- but, if I was interviewing this same man to market my firm, I would be profoundly concerned by his inability to tell me what he does and how.

If your strategist can't explain to your satisfaction what he or she proposes to do and how he or she will do it, can you really hope that this same strategist can adequately explain your business to potential clients?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lawyering for the middle class?

Shortly after I posted this morning's page one article, Two articles in today's Law Bulletin suggest structural flaw in the legal profession, I happened across this article on ABA Journal Law News Now, Underserved Middle Class Provides Opportunity for Recent Law Grads, Ex-US Attorney Says.

The article, by Debra Cassens Weiss, describes a National Law Journal article by former prosecutor and Miami lawyer Kendall Coffey. Quoting now from Weiss's article:
“The reality is that with prudent office economics, recent law graduates could earn decent compensation and launch successful practices, with the opportunity to continue to earn more,” Coffey writes. “Rather than work for a law firm at high rates, of which two thirds goes to the employer, new lawyers could charge much lower rates and keep the earnings for themselves. Rates of between $50 and $125 per hour would make new lawyers affordable to the middle class while providing the lawyers with enough income to succeed.”
More clinical training in law school and peer mentoring afterward would be necessary to accomplish this, according to Coffey.

It has been my observation, over the years, that big firms charge big hourly rates because they can (and, indeed, they must, in order to maintain both the levels of service that wealthy clients demand and the income expectations of very talented partners), while smaller firms and solos charge high hourly rates (though not as high as the big firms) because they so often run into collection difficulties: A client's willingness to pay the lawyer is often directly proportionate to the client's immediate peril. When the lawyer does his or her job well, reducing the imminent threat, clients too often forget where their checkbooks are located.

Whether setting up a new generation of lawyers with lower hourly rates would be greeted with enthusiasm by established practitioners (the mentors Mr. Coffey would like to see) is open to debate. (Established practitioners might see new lawyers with low hourly rates as a threat to bid down hourly rates generally.)

What is not debatable is that there is increasing recognition within the profession that some means must be found for the unemployed and underemployed members of our profession to deliver quality legal services to the swelling ranks of those who need our help but are unwilling to pay according to the traditional models.

I closed this morning's page one post with a throwaway -- that hourly rates, per se, are not the problem here.

Mr. Coffey does not persuade me otherwise. I think there are ways we can price our services that can make them affordable to more persons in need other than lowering hourly rates. I will return to this topic in future posts. But in the meantime, let the debate continue.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Here's something I need to write about... sooner or later

ABA Journal Law News Now put up a post on August 14 about how persons prone to procrastination can avoid the pitfalls thereof.

Meanwhile, I've got it on my reading list.