Putting the “Alternative” Back in Alternative Dispute Resolution

business conflict resolution concept

A recent settlement victory showed me once again that you can achieve amazing results at a mediation if you never lose sight of the fact that you are unrestrained by any “negotiating rules”, even if (or perhaps especially because) no one else in the room understands that to be the case.

Most who attend a mediation have in their minds that meditations must go a certain way, completely forgetting the “Alternative” in “Alternative Dispute Resolution”. Use that to your advantage, and don’t be afraid to let your crazy out.

I’m reminded of the scene from Fort Apache the Bronx, with Paul Newman. Not the greatest movie, but in one memorable scene, a cop (played by Newman) is confronted by a knife-wielding crazy person. Continue reading

How to Write Like a Pro in a New Content Niche

Here’s how to pivot your style and approach to write informative, engaging content in a new niche – Content Marketing Institute.

Source: contentmarketinginstitute.com

I want to share this great, very detailed article on creating content for a niche. Although not specific to law firm marketing, the concepts are the same.

One thing you should be doing is to monitor the most popular articles on your own blogs, in order to provide more of that sort of content. In this article, you’ll learn how to do the same for other blogs, in order to increase your awareness even further.

If you want to take your firm to new levels with an effective content marketing plan, be sure to read my Niche Marketing Roadmap series.

See on Scoop.itLaw Firm Marketing

Flat Fee Arrangements Promote a Winning Practice

The Practice of Law - Fee AgreementsFlat fee arrangements are amazingly liberating.

Most of my fellow litigators won’t take a case on a flat fee, either because they are concerned that they will grossly underestimate the time the case is going to take and end up with an effective hourly rate of $25, or simply because they think they’ll make more on a straight hourly basis.

I acknolwedge that some cases just do not lend themselves to a flat fee because of the unknown factors, but when you have a case with a reasonably predictable time factor, a flat fee is a fantastic way to go, not because it earns you more (although it can), but because it allows you to do more.

This may be counterintuitive to some, and probably blaphemous to attorneys that are only in it for the money, but I’m in it to win and a flat fee gives me greater freedom to do what I need to do to win.

Say you have a case that is crying out for a demurrer. On a straight hourly arrangement, your discussion with the client goes something like this:

You:  “I really think we should bring a demurrer. The third cause of action for breach of contract fails to allege performance, and here they really can’t honestly allege performance, so I think that will get rid of that cause of action.”

Client:  “So if you bring this motion the case is over?”

You:  “No, it will just get rid of that one cause of action if we prevail.”

Client:  “How much will the motion cost?”

You:  “With the motion, the reply and going to court, I can probably do it all in ten hours, so $4,500.”

Client: “So I pay you $4,500 and the motion may not work and even if it does it doesn’t end the action it just gets rid of one cause of action?”

And what the client is thinking is: “Damn attorneys, he’s just trying to run up the bill.”

With a flat fee, all those conversations are eliminated. If I think a demurrer is needed, I bring it. If I think more discovery is needed, I propound it.

And this isn’t pure altruism. Yes, I do this to win, but being free to do everything I want to do on a case may allow me to prevail on the action much more quickly, making the flat fee a winning bet for me financially.

A few tips for flat fees: Continue reading

Just How Scary Am I? — Wacky Big Firm Behavior

Oh, the wacky, wacky things big firms do.

My firm just took over a business litigation matter that has been going on for about eight months. It’s the usual nonsense where my client left a company and the company doesn’t want him to compete, so it is claiming he took trade secrets. I’ve had probably 50 of these over the years, and never once has the strategy worked. They try to beat the client into the ground, and when it doesn’t work, they slunk away. Shame on the attorneys who prosecute these cases.

But this one is getting entertaining very quickly. The Plaintiff company is represented by what appears to be a huge firm. I’d never heard of the firm before this action, but they list 30 offices on their letterhead, with offices all over the globe, and five here in California.

In typical fashion for some big firms, every time we’ve been to court, at least two attorneys have shown up from the other side. Continue reading

How Does Google Work?

In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I discuss all the factors Google looks at to determine which search results will appear on page one.

I came across this very good video that discusses the issues as well, and provides a basic summary of how Google works. The video covers only the basics, but I really like the example used to explain incoming links, which also covers the importance of proper anchor text. I also appreciate that the author never tries to sell anything.

As set forth in How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline, backlinks are important, and they are something you should strive for, but as I show, you can land on page one with no backlinks.

Enjoy!

Five Reasons Attorneys Fall for SEO Scams

In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I provide the following anecdote:

There is a classic Peanuts comic, where Linus is going door to door trying to sell wadded up pieces of paper as cat toys. His sales presentation is good, but he never makes a sale. He asks the cat owners to picture the hours of fun their cats will have playing with the wadded up piece of paper. Nonetheless, he can’t get past the fact that he’s selling wadded up pieces of paper. He loses the sale every time, because the prospective customers realize and explain that they can wad up their own pieces of paper.

I don’t know why that comic stuck with me, but I see it played out over and over in real life, especially on the Internet. To this day, solo practitioners who can’t afford it are spending thousands of dollars to have people build websites for them. To fulfill my continuing education requirements, I was at a law firm marketing seminar recently where someone claimed that incoming links are essential to successful search engine optimization (SEO). He claimed that you should have 30,000 incoming links to your site, and as luck would have it, he just happened to offer a link-building service for the “limited time, have to buy it now or the offer is lost for ever” price of $1,950 per month. He normally required a one year commitment, but attorneys signing up on the spot only had to commit to six months. Attorneys were lined up to pay $1,950 per month — a total commitment of almost $12,000 — for incoming links to a single website! The website fiverr.com offers 50,000 incoming links for just $5, and they are just as worthless as what this person was offering.

These sorts of absurd SEO claims and pricing are far too commonplace. By accident or design, many so-called SEO experts mystify the process so that you won’t realize it’s just wadded up pieces of paper, and you can wad your own paper, thank you very much.

I came across an interesting article by Jared Jorde entitled 5 Reasons Attorneys are Easy Marks for SEO Scams on a blog called LawLytics. Jorde has apparently witnessed the same sort of nonsense I reported, and provides a detailed look at the reasons behind the phenomenon. The article is worth a read to make sure you don’t fall prey to one of the scams yourself.

In Big Fat Pipeline, I explain how to create your own websites for just $6 per month, and I use that as a point of reference when someone is offering to create websites for me. I have no objection to farming out that work, and although I have no experience with LawLytics, I’d bet their websites are fancier than my own meager efforts. You went to law school to practice law, not to create websites. So by all means allow the pros to create your sites if your budget permits, but just keep in mind that it isn’t magic, and you can wad your own paper.

Attorney App of the Week – Car Finder Reminder

Car Finder Reminder App

I drove out to Riverside Superior Court today for an ex parte application set for 9:30 a.m.  In Southern California, as I’m sure in many other metropolitan areas, you just never know how long it will take to get somewhere due to the vagaries of freeway congestion. Drives times are always stated in ranges, as in:

“Joe, how long will it take me to get to Riverside Superior Court from here?”

“Oh, about one to two and a half hours.”

I leave crazy early for all my distant court appointments, anticipating that I will likely arrive up to an hour and half early, but with a big buffer in case traffic is bad. The buffer has saved me more than once. For each court, I have an established reward system, to make it less onerous to go to these distant courts. In the case of Riverside, it’s a little coffee shop right across the street with really good muffins. I settle in and have a muffin and some coffee while taking another look at the file before the hearing.

Ex parte hearings are usually at 8:30, and I arrive there so early that I have zero problem finding a parking space right in front of the court. But this one was at 9:30, and that one hour difference in my arrival time resulted in me not being able to find a parking space within blocks of the courthouse. I drove all over the place and finally found a spot in a residential neighborhood a few blocks away. I could see the top of the courthouse in the distance, so walking there was no problem, but how was I going go find my car afterwards?

No problem; I have Car Finder Reminder. There are a number of apps that remember where you parked, but I like this free one because it’s all done with just two taps on the screen. Open the program, tap “park” and it drops a pin on a map. When you want to find your car, it shows you where it is parked and will even provide directions to get you there. If you park at a meter, you can enter the time on the meter and it will let you know when the meter is about to expire. Continue reading

Don’t be That Attorney – If You Must Rant, At Least be Right

Angry man ranting and insulting rocketsI’m at the drive through teller at my bank yesterday, to cash a small check. I sign the back of the check and send it up the tube with my driver’s license and ATM card, a process I have followed dozens of times. But this teller is clueless. He asks if I have an account there, then asks for more identifying information, then he asks for the name of my business (even though the check is made out to me and has nothing to do with the business).

I remain calm, even when he comes back and says he cannot cash the check because they can’t find my account. I calmly ask, “You can’t get my account number from the ATM card?” He politely responds, “We can, but you only sent your license and a credit card.” I look down, and realize I had sent the wrong card. He had not been clueless at all, and was actually being quite accommodating trying to find my account information with what I had provided.

So what is the point of this quaint story? Imagine if when he had told me that he could not cash the check, that I had torn into him, calling him an incompetent idiot for being unable to look up my account information from my ATM card like every teller before him had been able to do? Then my diatribe would have all fallen back on me, and I would have been the idiot; a lesson I have learned from other times that I did not hold my tongue.

Realize that as an attorney, you can be wrong, no matter how convinced you are of your position, and that a rant seldom serves any purpose and can come back to bite you. Bringing us to today’s attorney not to emulate.

As reported by ABA Journal, Above the Law, CBS NewsPatentlyO, and even a blog about whiskey, a patent attorney apparently had had enough of patent examiners denying his applications. I don’t do patent law, but in my never to be humble opinion his client’s “Telescoping Tripod Sprinkler Cart” was not eligible for a patent. Examiner Alexander Valvis agreed with me and rejected the application. The patent attorney responded by FILING the following rant:

REMARKS: Are you drunk? No, seriously … are you drinking scotch and whiskey with a side of crack cocaine while you “examine” patent applications? (Heavy emphasis on the quotes.) Do you just mail merge rejection letters from your home? Is that what taxpayers are getting in exchange for your services? Have you even read the patent application? I’m curious. Because you either haven’t read the patent application or are … (I don’t want to say the “R” word) “Special.” Continue reading

Should You be Suing for Civil Extortion?

Extortion
A few days ago I reported on the case of Miguel Mendoza v. Reed K. Hamzeh, which found that an attorney’s demand letter amounted to extortion since it threatened criminal prosecution if money was not paid. The threatened party turned around and sued for civil extortion, and defeated the anti-SLAPP motion brought by the attorney who sent the letter.

Writing about that case got me thinking (contrary to the belief that no thinking goes into my writing). I have over the years seen a number of letters from attorneys threatening criminal prosecution. Should I have been advising the clients who received these demand letters to sue for civil extortion?

Thankfully my research was streamlined by a reader who graciously pointed me to Fuhrman v. California Satellite Systems (1986) 179 Cal.App.3d 408, 426-428. That case, and others I found, held that a civil action for extortion does in fact exist, but that like most torts requires a showing of damages. More specifically in the case of civil extortion, the extortion money must have been paid in order for there to be damages. Thus, based on my limited research, in the case of a garden-variety demand letter from an attorney that steps over the line and threatens criminal prosecution, there would not be a viable action for civil extortion.

That does not necessarily get the attorney off the hook. Continue reading