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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.

Thanksgiving – Sometimes You Pay It Forward

Referrals Within Your Firm PHOTO, Lazy Susan at RestaurantThanksgiving starts the holiday season in which most of us remember, appreciate, and thank the people who have helped us throughout the past year. For lawyers, thinking about who shared or referred business is often easy to remember: the bills you sent are probably good reminders. Gifts may be appreciated, but are seldom crucial. Contact, however, is crucial. Thank your clients and referral sources. Any form of direct contact will do, but don’t forget. Pick up the phone or send an e-mail or note, making explicit reference to what the person did and your gratitude.

It is also important to explicitly thank people who gave you professional help that cannot be measured in dollars – whether they shared insight into a colleague or client, showed you how to be a more careful thinker, taught you writing skills or technical legal information. Anyone who helped you be a better practitioner should be acknowledged. And the principle is the same one you have with clients and referral sources – be specific. Gratitude is compellingly and obviously genuine when tied to specific acts.

When people who helped you are approximately your professional peers, make it clear you have your antennae out to help them in whatever reciprocal way you can. Even if it is not clear that you will be able to reciprocate, offer knowledge or connections. Make an effort to understand the less obvious things that might help someone. If the person who helped you has expressed frustration or disappointment about any aspect of her or his professional life, consider whether you could share an insight or a sensible suggestion. Then share it. When you offer help about something mentioned, even if off the beaten path, it is clear you were listening. Being listened to matters to us all, sometimes most of all.

If you have received help from someone unlikely to benefit from anything you could give in return, pay it forward. And you need not be quiet about your indirect thanks. Let the “wise and wonderful” person who helped you know you are giving back to a more junior colleague of his. For instance, if you are a young corporate partner with clients, a friend of yours in need of relatively low level estates work may be an inappropriate referral to a senior partner at a boutique estates firm who has sent you work, but a perfect referral to a more junior lawyer there. Call the senior lawyer and ask her which junior lawyer might be good for the work. Then let the senior lawyer know you have followed through with a phone call or a copy on the referring e-mail to the junior lawyer. That is not puffing. It is showing you understand the best way to say thank you is sometimes through the generations.

Thank you all for your thoughts, insights, referrals, and business during the past year.

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Referrals Within Your Firm

Referrals Within Your Firm PHOTO, Lazy Susan at RestaurantFrom a logical perspective, you would think that your best referrals from other lawyers would come from within your own firm. However, in my experience, firms often leave internal referrals to chance and good will. Therefore, firms that do not organize for or teach the art of internal referrals have lots of “leakage”. Work is sent elsewhere, or is otherwise not captured. Fortunately, such leakage can be prevented. Firms can institutionalize activities that encourage cross-referrals among its lawyers. Continue reading

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Referring and Collaborating, Part 2 – Getting Work

Working_Together_Teamwork_Puzzle_Concept (1)One hallmark of a contented and mature personal life is that you can help others without expecting a return. Few of us are consistently mature, but many lawyers do give referrals without strings to other lawyers. It is also true that lawyers’ maturity may not be tested much, because lawyers who help their fellows often get helped in return.

In the world of legal referrals and business collaboration, long-lived selfless giving is not expected. Business reciprocity is not about love, or even karma. It is about respect, helping each other’s (or shared) clients, and getting a job done well. You will not, and should not, be sent work for which you are ill-suited, and which you could not do well.

Three key ways to obtain referral work from other lawyers are 1. Having and maintaining technical legal skills and acumen, 2. Having a reputation for the same, as well as for good judgment, and 3. Being trustworthy regarding not stealing another lawyer’s clients. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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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