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"Does the future belong to virtual law firms?" That question was posed by an American Lawyer article earlier this week that focused on Virtual Law Partners, a growing firm nominally based in Silicon Valley but in fact operating, well, wherever its lawyers are. Virtual firms - two others, FSB Legal Counsel and Rimon Law Group, are also cited - consist of partners who operate independently, charging rates well below what they would require were they (still) at large firms and profiting by the huge savings in overhead and other costs.

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Marketing your firm online is no longer cutting edge, it's required. People turn to the search engines for answers before the Yellow Pages, television, or radio. Heck, when someone is looking for a bankruptcy lawyer they will often go online before asking even their closest friends.
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Some solos, particularly tech-savvy ones, say no, but I'm not so sure. I think those who believe practice management software is a waste of money miss some of the most important reasons for using these programs in your practice. Maybe you think you don't need it, but here are a few things that may be worth considering.
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tech_turbulenceDuring this economic downturn, here are 10 questions law firm managers should ask IT directors, in order to best exploit existing technology. (Editor: This article is no longer available on the hosted website.)

social_media_group"For paralegals seeking jobs in today's economy," he said, "it is essential to have a strong and ever expanding network of personal contacts utilizing online social media. Certain "well seasoned" paralegals I've met still exhibit the ostrich "head in the sand" view that social networking is only for a younger generation than their own, and is something that they neither understand nor even want to learn more about.
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costrecovCost recovery has always been a controversial area of law firm billing. Law firms incur substantial administrative costs in servicing their clients, and yet clients are generally resistant, even hostile to the idea of these costs being billed back to them. Given the current economic crisis, law firms are having to justify their fees and costs more than ever before, so they need tools and data to help them demonstrate that their rates are fair and competitive.
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deathspiralYou've probably seen it. The fish monger sees a decline in business, so they have less money to spend on upkeep and inventory, so they keep the fish a bit longer and don't clean up as often, so of course, business declines and then they have even less money... Eventually, you have an empty, smelly fish store that's out of business.

cautionThere are a number of reasons law firms have for changing their accounting system. In some cases, it is justified, but in most cases it's not. And if firms who had changed accounting software were honest about it they would almost certainly admit that, with hindsight, they should rather have stuck with their old accounting system.

gearsEarly financial data suggests a grim 2009. It's the perfect time for firms to fix their business model -- if they have the courage. First the bad news: Profits per equity partner were down 3 percent; this figure would have been a bit worse if the three Am Law 200 firms that failed last year were included. "Bad news?" you ask. "That's much better than we'd expected. I guess law firms have once again shown they're bulletproof."
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freeze_moneySweet & Maxwell asked 25 top-100 law firms what measures they have implemented to cut costs while avoiding staff redundancies. According to the results, only one firm has gone ahead with pay cuts, but 36% said they are considering them. A quarter (24%) of firms have put salary freezes in place, with 60% considering this as an option.
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boardwThere's an old song, originally made famous back in the 1930s by Ella Fitzgerald, which goes: ‘It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it - that's what gets results.' As with many other classic lyrics, these words have a timeless quality: in this case they have a particular relevance to the way in which law firms implement successful sales strategies. (Editor: The article by the Law Gazette has removed the original article - sorry)

10rulesFor your consideration: Ten "Rules" of Legal Technology. Not many are new, and very few apply only to lawyers, but these are a few more nuggets I'm pulling out of previous posts.

hourglassLaw firms give their professional employees quotas of "billable hours" they must achieve per year, ranging from 1700 (at the very low end) to 2100 or more. Young professionals often find it difficult to meet billing requirements.
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willYour clients fall into this category whether they want to or not. You are their “one stop shop” in giving advice before as well as after death!
Make sure that.....

stay afloatWhether they're contract attorneys, virtual law firms or freelance sole practitioners, the lawyers who've figured out how to provide less expensive service to corporations are the ones flourishing now. Here's a formula for success in a brutal economy: Figure out a way to save general counsel money on their outside legal spending. The attorneys who have done that are growing their revenue while others are not.
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trnA good article from Adriana Linares on how to take advantage of training opportunities, especially now when things are a little slower than normal. Do you know that a lot of vendors offer free training to their clients? So now is the prefect time to ensure that every_ person who uses the application gets trained and if needs be, re-trained. Phone your vendors and ask them about their training offers - what is there to lose? Also Adriana shows us how it benefits the individual as well, something we all tend to forget. (editor: This site has been removed and the links are no longer available.)

onyourwayLawyer turnover has been increasing for years-but it may be especially high in firms this year because of the need to reduce costs. In addition, lower levels of income may cause some partners to leave for greener pastures. Plus, many associates never intended to stay the course in the first place and, having received their postgraduate experience from you, are about to move on to the next stage of their careers just as they become profitable.
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overbillingA tongue-in-cheek look at how to pad your bill, unless of course you don't mind getting arrested or disbarred.
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miningWeb logs (blogs) simultaneously provide Internet users with social network prospects and employers a source of information suitable for employment assessment decisions but previously inaccessible.  While social networks users may argue that posted content is private, courts have unequivocally ruled that the revelation of personal information in a public manner results in the diminution or elimination of reasonable privacy expectations. To avoid legal difficulties, employers are well advised to employ three particular policies when using information mined from blogs.
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secting_picTo parents, it's even more frightening than the huge monthly bills teens run up on their cell phones. To prosecutors, it's yet another way that technology has complicated their jobs.
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big_soloWith a long dark winter ahead, according to Punxatawny Phil, Spring may not come at all this year for many BigLaw lawyers. As fallout from the economic chill that is gutting the bread-and-butter corporate business of BigLaw, an increasing number of large firm lawyers are jumping ship, before it sinks. And what are many choosing to do? They're going solo.
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survive_the_stormSo the recession is really starting to bite now, and we're starting to see law firms closing down and partners getting out of the profession. It's OK though: Most bank economists agree that we'll see an upturn in 2010 - so perhaps you can still outride the storm. But what if they are wrong?  And even if we do see an "upturn", will that be enough to save your practice? And for those firms who haven't been saving for the proverbial "rainy day", how do you hang in there?

billablesWhen an East Coast law firm ignored a client's suggestion and announced a nearly double-digit percentage billable hour rate hike for this year, the customer shifted some of its business elsewhere.

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dla_piper_logoWhat should you do when confronted with the disclosure of confidential metadata? Conversely, what should you do if you learn that confidential metadata has been disclosed? Browning Marean, a partner at DLA Piper, delves into recent e-discovery cases that may offer insight.

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larry_bodine_logoDon't believe all the gloom and doom. Many firms are profiting in this economy. And that is certainly true today in most parts of our economy including the legal profession.  Yet legendary investor Warren Buffett sees this downturn as providing opportunities.  And, despite the dissolution of some firms and lawyer and staff layoffs in a number of others, many firms - particularly mid-size and smaller - are doing more than just surviving.  Some are even doing well.

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Sadly, we'd probably be wasting our time if we tried to get South African lawyers to give us their opinions on the recession, since it has been our experience that local lawyers tend to shy away from any type of survey. So we have latched onto an article commissioned by the American Bar Association in January 2009. Given that our recession is pretty much worldwide, their opinions should generally hold true for the South African legal profession too.

 

cancelRecently a Durban conveyancer mentioned in his weekly newsletter that conveyancers are measured by the banks on their turnaround times to get the bonds registered.

abaIn the first of a series of columns on recession survival tips, the focus is on shoring up your management practices.

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Robert DenneyIt's back! The annual look at the trends that will shape practice management and marketing in coming months and years.

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head_in_handsWays to successfully manage your workday by getting more done in less time. Some really practical ideas in this article!

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failure

Although this article was originally from legal management consultants Hildebrandt, it seems to have lost its link to the article on their site. This article which also looks at the most common reasons why law firms fail from http://edwesemann.com makes for a good alternative reading.

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icaewLaw firms are discovering they are not immune from the impact of the economic downturn. The big slump in the residential property market has already led to job losses in some conveyancing departments and other practices have introduced short-time working. The credit crisis is also stifling corporate finance activity.readmore

BLFSHere are ten things that we can do now to prepare for the upcoming growth cycles of the economy from both a business and technology perspective. By Steven Best.readmore

marshallI was recently asked for my opinion on whether a business using a paper service order form could save space and hassle by referring on the form to standard terms located on the business' website.

It seems natural that in this day and age this should not only be possible but actually encouraged, but the answer is more difficult than it might at first appear.

pound-sign90Around 500 firms have been referred to the so-called intensive care units (ICU) of their banks because they are facing financial difficulties. It is understood that 21 of the UK's top 150 firms are being treated in Barclays' ICU, which is known as ‘business banking support', although the bank refused to confirm this number.

 

piggybankTough economic times lie ahead for law firms. A recession means re-evaluating the budget and tightening the proverbial belt. It means thinking strategically about how best to spend-and save-money. 

stormIn today's economic "perfect storm," it may be hard to know where to turn. A practical strategy is to look no further than your own firm or practice, focusing your perspective through three distinct lenses. See the full article Three Lenses for Law Firm Recession Survival - LawBiz Management

 

 

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