In the grand tradition of complex legal terminology, allow me to open this post with a polysyllabic word: paraskevidekatriaphobia. Now, before you reach for that smart phone to pull up ‘Black’s Law Dictionary’, you should know this word isn’t a part of the legalese lexicon. Rather, it’s the term used to describe the fear of Friday the 13th, which lands today. As a lawyer with honed analytical and critical thinking skills, you probably don’t fall victim to most superstitions and may even scoff at those who choose to walk around that open ladder. If today, however, you skip over that crack in the ground on your way to the office, rest assured that you are not alone in your superstitious behavior. Just don’t forget to check out each of the posts included in this week’s Roundup; that would be truly unlucky.
“The legal profession is changing. No, it’s not the economy. It’s that the legal profession is in the midst of an evolutionary process that’s changing the profession like a kaleidoscope. New forms of governance. Traditions superseded by the need to compete. Barriers between lawyers and marketers that have long impeded marketing progress are falling. Concepts of value now shift from value to the firm to value to the client. We’ve got value billing and two-tier law firms built on skills and talents rather than hierarchy. Today’s law firm is an active work in progress.”
As that time of year approaches where newly minted lawyers are weighing their career options against their accrued academic debt, Bruce Marcus weighs in on what it means to be a lawyer in the current legal environment. With the advent of legal technology and online marketing taking a larger stake in how lawyers practice, Marcus’ post details the changing tides of the legal profession and questions how to best navigate them.
“The proximate cause of me starting a practice of my own was when I was let go from a firm I had worked at about a year. By then, I had been thinking about going out on my own for a couple of years. As I applied to more and more jobs I didn’t really want, anyway, starting a practice gradually emerged as the most attractive option. So I went for it, and it was the best decision I ever made.”
Before you hang out your shingle just yet and begin picking color schemes for your office, are you sure you have what it takes to succeed? Particularly in our current economy, starting a solo practice, especially straight out of law school, can be a doubly rewarding yet daunting experience. Sam Glover offers up common sense rationale coupled with motivational quips pulled from personal experience in this insightful blog post.
“What I’m arguing is simple: No other industry organized around firms where brand name matters depends as much on stars as we do. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is insane. Stars come and stars go; they can decamp for greener pastures, and after that, the best predictor of being divorced is having been divorced. Investing in them is investing in a wasting asset with an uncertain half-life. We need to build brands around our firms.”
Unlike most other industries where brands can be entirely (and profitably) built around single players (think sports or music), Adam Smith advocates for law firms to build brands around their firm in its totality. Conceding the challenge facing law firms who aim to build a single identity around a firm with multiple players, Smith advocates that the ‘star-player’ model is self-defeating in nature.
“Ironically, the technology that lets us to portray ourselves to our clients in a more personal and authentic manner – by showing photos of where we work on websites or on Google Places – at the same time, enables us to engage in even more proactive and elaborate deception. Of course, part of our profession has always relied on appearances to some extent – a lawyer may barely be able to pay the rent, but will invest in a $1000 suit to make sure he comes across as professional and successful in public. But at what point do we draw the line?”
So you’ve finally invested in that iPad 2, downloaded all the latest apps for lawyers, and are ready to shuck the chains of a ‘brick and mortar’ office. While there are many merits to working from home, don’t fall victim to the ethical issues that come along with it. Carolyn Elefant elaborates on the potential moral pitfalls facing lawyers who practice within the virtual realm.
“If you had Googled Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, you would have found me,” the attorney writes on his website. “No one else. Mark S. Zuckerberg, bankruptcy attorney. If you had repeated the search two years later, you wouldn’t have found me at all.”
And lastly, an eponymous occurrence in the spirit of this infamous day. An unfortunate commonality or serendipitous coincidence? You decide.
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