VICTOR LEGAL SOLUTIONS
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I am a lawyer. I am married to a lawyer. I am the friend of hundreds of lawyers and hold thousands more in great regard. If you're a lawyer (or love them), welcome. I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas in this space.

Referring and Collaborating, Part 1 – Giving

Getting and keeping legal work is how lawyers survive and thrive. But there are frequently circumstances in which it makes sense to give away some or all of a piece of business. Even the best lawyers cannot do everything, or be right for all clients. Therefore lawyers both refer and collaborate, and indeed the English-speaking legal profession has a strong tradition of referral and collaboration. How to choose with whom to “partner”, whom to trust with the care of your clients, whom to trust to not poach your clients, is a decision that should be made with great care. Whether to stay involved in a particular transferred matter, at least in a small way, or to delegate work entirely is typically the threshold question for a lawyer soliciting another lawyer’s help.

Whether it is crucial to stay involved largely depends upon three things: whether you will be doing a substantial part of the work, how bonded you are to the client, and how much you trust the other lawyer who will be working with your client.

If you will continue to do a substantial part of the work, you will, of course, be in the thick of things. You may be the gatekeeper for all legal matters, and perhaps the other lawyer will even bill through you. For instance, if you are a general business lawyer for a small chain of restaurants, you may handle their finance matters, acquisitions, employment and leasing issues, and probably more. If your client hopes to acquire a new location with an environmental issue that needs to be settled before it can open, you need to bring in an environmental specialist.

Once you have introduced your client to the environmental lawyer, if you are certain the other lawyer will not be able to or want to steal your client, you can comfortably allow your client and the new lawyer to develop their own relationship. You need to be kept informed about what is happening, but you can stick to your own expertise. How involved you will be with the environmental issue is a personal preference, and not a crucial career decision. Your client knows that you are the primary lawyer.

If you can collaborate, the choice of how to handle the matter is streamlined. For example, after a transactional real estate lawyer helped a client with a building purchase, someone brought a lawsuit. The client does not blame the lawyer, so asks the lawyer for help in getting the suit dismissed or settled. The transactional lawyer needs a litigator to get involved, but will also be an important part of the litigation. From a legal perspective, the transactional lawyer knows more about the purchase than anyone else. The two lawyers may speak daily, and neither is going to be in a position to grab the other’s work.

How you decide which collaborating lawyers to trust will be based on experience and reputation. Get to know lawyers in other fields through legal networking groups, bar associations, and other legal organizations. It is a good idea to let fellow lawyers with skill sets different than yours know you sometimes need help with their expertise. Then ask for a meeting, and, if that goes well, references. Just as you want to be on other lawyers’ radar screens, they want to be on yours. We refer business to people we know personally and believe are good lawyers.

A large percentage of lawyers work in solo practice or in firms with five or fewer lawyers. The ABA’s most recent study on the subject puts that percentage at 63%, while Harvard Law School’s Program on the Legal Professions, with less specificity, has the percentage as over 50%. These solo or very small practices, in combination with the fact that for several decades lawyers have narrowed their practices, requires well positioned lawyers to maintain a retinue of people to whom they can refer. Otherwise they lose work, and maybe even clients.

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La Verne Law School Shoots Straight

La Verne Law School, is doing well. That is a turnaround from 2011 when La Verne, the only law school in the Southern California Inland Empire, lost students and, temporarily, lost its solid reputation for training lawyers. In that year the ABA denied La Verne Law its final accreditation because of a low first-time Bar pass rate.

Since then the school recruited a dynamic new Dean from the University of Baltimore, Gilbert Holmes. Dean Holmes, the faculty, and the staff resurrected La Verne Law. It is again viewed as a significant developer of young lawyers, many of whom stay in and practice law in the Inland Empire, an area with a dearth of lawyers. The school encourages local practice.

The school confronted its ABA accreditation problem head-on, partly by creating a Center for Academic and Bar Readiness within the law school. The Center operates during all of the law school years, and specifically teaches third-year students subjects and methods to pass the bar. It worked: La Verne’s most recent first-time Bar pass rate was 87.5%. Based on that Bar pass rate, La Verne Law should receive final ABA accreditation on its next evaluation. Continue reading

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Whistle While You Work

There is a silver lining for lawyers in the storm cloud of the legal world’s continuing recession. Lawyers, law students, and people considering law school are paying more attention to what makes them happy. Because law school is no longer a sure road to a financially comfortable life, lawyers, and people contemplating a life in the law, are focusing more than they have since the 1960s on whether they will be happy as lawyers.

How precise are you, how thoughtful, how careful? Without those qualities, diligence and creativity are not sufficient for a happy and successful legal life. Happy lawyers tend to enjoy both creativity and precision. When lawyers only like one or the other, their professional happiness is diminished. Continue reading

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When Women Negotiate — for Themselves

When I get together with other professional women to talk about business, our discussions frequently turn to how far women still have to go to close gender-based professional gaps. Without doubt, gender-based pay and other gaps have narrowed in the last few decades, but there is still a sizable difference in what is expected from and given to women professionals, and such distinctions start right after graduation. (See, Gender Pay Gap, The Careerist.)

We all recognize, of course, that the gaps result from a history of discrimination, but in deeper discussions we also acknowledge that at least some portions of the remaining gaps result from our own attitudes and actions. Continue reading

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Academic Matters

You graduated law school between a few years and a few decades ago. Regardless of when you left school, if you think the academic career that launched your professional life should be put behind you, think again. Your school and the connections you made there always matter, and you can make them matter to your advantage.

If you went to an elite school or graduated at or very near the top of your class at many schools, you already know that your academic record opens doors. In fact, there are certain doors that simply will not open without a high level academic pedigree. (See, The Careerist, March 11, 2014.) But even if you did not attend an elite school, or have a stellar academic record at a lesser ranked school, your academic career and connections are an invaluable asset. You can and should, with a plan and focus, use them for your professional success. Continue reading

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