General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Solo/News for Sole Practitioners

Manufacturing Evidence (Legally!)
Take one: You've gathered photographs of the marital home, the cars, the furniture, the pool--of everything that's necessary to depict the parties' lifestyle. But none of the photos is larger than a postcard: "Your honor, I have some snapshots (cringe) I'd like to mark...." Lucky for you, the judge has brought along her reading glasses.

Take two: You've gathered photographs of the marital home, the cars, the furniture, the pool--of everything that's necessary to depict the parties' lifestyle. But none of the photos is larger than a postcard. These snapshots aren't going to have much impact, you realize, but--lucky for you--there's time before court to stop by that new copy place and get some 11- x 17-inch color copies of the photos. And once that's done, you can pick up some foam-core board at a stationery store and mount your color copies on it with rubber cement. (Unlike poster board, foam-core board stays rigid.)

That's it. You're ready for court: "Your honor, I have some demonstrative evidence I'd like the bailiff to mark as P-1, P-2, P-3...."

No need to cringe.

Source: Paul D. Kreisinger, a sole practitioner in Rutherford, New Jersey.

A Little Help for Lawyers Lost on the Internet
Of course you know that the legal resources on the Internet are "virtually" endless, but the one time you logged on--your daughter walked you through it--you landed on the home page of some bicycling magazine. You didn't find anything even remotely connected to the law.

Now you can. A new book by G. Burgess Allison, The Lawyer's Guide to the Internet (ABA Section of Law Practice Management, 1995), will show you not only what's accessible on the Internet, but also how you can find it. In addition to providing legal reference listings, the book covers basic Internet services, such as e-mail and World Wide Web, as well as tips on how to "browse with an attitude" and "Netiquette." You'll also get the basics on choosing a service provider and getting connected.

The cost of the book is $29.95. To order, call 312/988-5522 or fax to 312/988-5568.

A New Class of Lawyers: Contract Workers
Attorney John B. Wallace, 41, is evidence of a growing trend among lawyers. He has left permanent employment to become an independent contractor. Wallace's long-range goal is to establish a solo practice, but in the meantime, he views his independent contractor status as a way he can build up a client base without paying overhead.

His fifteen years as a litigator have proven to be valuable on the open market. Since becoming a contract attorney, Wallace has worked nearly full-time, handling cases that involve products liability, sex discrimination, and personal injury, and appeals involving RICO and antitrust.

Chere B. Estrin, president of the Quorum/Estrin legal staffing organization, says the typical contract attorney is someone who wants to practice law independently, work flexible hours, and pick and choose his or her cases. The pay in California, where Wallace works and Quorum/Estrin is based, is between $45 and $85 per hour, depending on experience. (Remember: Contract attorneys are paid for every hour they work.)

Wallace cautions would-be contract attorneys to work only for agencies that pay them directly, regardless of when or whether the agency collects from the client. He also notes that contract status doesn't make sense for new lawyers. It is /important to get some solid work experience first, he says, as that is what gives a contract attorney value.

Some of the implications of the growing availability of contract attorneys are:

  • They provide traditional firms with a low-cost alternative to permanent hires.
  • They provide corporate law departments with a low-cost alternative to hiring traditional firms.
  • They provide out-of-state corporate law departments with low-cost, in-state attorney representation.
Source: Polk Communications, Los Angeles.

You May Think You're Incognito, but You're Not
You can take off your suit and let down your hair, but don't assume that people won't realize you're a lawyer.

An informal polling of maitre d's, restaurant owners, consultants to law firms, and lawyers themselves suggests that lawyers share more than a few recognizable traits: They have good posture, make steady eye-contact, walk quickly, tip poorly, and possess an air of confidence that leans toward arrogance. And they love wine.

"Lawyers are the largest percentage of wine drinkers we have," says David Bouley, owner of Bouley, a four-star New York restaurant that draws a hefty percentage of its customers from the legal profession.

"[Lawyers] look as if you've rolled them out of a pressing machine," says Marie Hallas, the maitre d'hotel at the Regency in New York. "They're so starched."

Another hallmark, according to Hallas, is the expression on lawyers' faces. It is very focused, even when they're relaxed. "[Lawyers'] eyes never wonder off," Hallas says. "Other people look around and look to see who is coming in. Lawyers never do." "Lawyers identify themselves not only by their dress but by their bearing as well," says Wendeen H. Eolis, a consultant to law firms.

Attorney Sara E. Moss of Manhattan agrees. "Being a lawyer is in your bones," says Moss, who confesses that she once told her three-year-old daughter, "That's not a substantial difference; that's a procedural difference."

Case closed.

Source: Andrea Higbie in The New York Times, May 27, 1995.

The Truth Is Stranger than Fiction
What's the most humorous or unusual case you've ever hear of? When an independent research firm asked that question of one hundred attorneys from the nation's top 1,200 firms, their answers included the following:

  • A man filed suit against Satan for placing obstacles in the man's path that allegedly caused his "downfall."
  • The devil was also the culprit in a second case in which a lawyer and his client were being sued by a Satanic high priest. The fearful client presented the lawyer with a necklace of garlic to wear for protection.
  • Another case involved two competing small-town newspapers. One published a quiz to increase circulation--a prize was offered--and the other published possible answers to the quiz.
  • And: A man who was injured while attempting to drive a boat with his feet--he was sitting on the roof--sued the boat manufacturer for failing to prevent such a maneuver.
  • Finally, in a similar case, a nurse damaged her hearing when she tried to clean her inner ear with an oral hygiene appliance. She sued the appliance maker, claiming it should have put a label on the appliance warning people not to put it in their ears.
Source: The Affiliates, a legal staffing service with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, and Washington D.C.

Something Nice You Can Do for Your Divorcing Clients
It's not news to lawyers that divorce is never easy, but it's sometimes news to clients. Some clients have no idea what to expect from the process of divorce; they simply feel vulnerable and out of control.

You can help. You can purchase--or suggest that they purchase--the new audiotape version of "The Divorce Manual." Produced by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the audiotapes (two 45-minute tapes) offer clients information that will help them understand and cope with divorce. Based on the 64-page book of the same name, published by the Academy last year, the tapes outline key aspects of the divorce process, provide answers to common questions, examine ethical issues, and define relevant legal terms.

The table of contents includes: the divorce process, reconciliation, counseling, children and divorce, the lawyer-client relationship, domestic violence, attorney fees and costs, estate planning considerations, and more.

The tapes are intended to serve as an educational tool, not as a substitute for good legal advice. The cost is $10. To order, call 800/422-6595. For more information, call 800/431-4233.

Source: American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

One Way to Tame Stress Is to Keep Track of It
It sounds a bit compulsive, but it works. If you're really serious about reducing stress in your life, start paying attention to what's causing it. The next time stress happens, ask yourself:

  • What event prompted these stressful feelings?
  • Who else was there?
  • What day and time was it?
  • On a scale of one to ten--ten being "extremely upset"--how would you rate your stress level?
  • How did you respond to the event?
  • What were your thoughts?
Write down your answers, and then repeat this process the next dozen times you feel stressed. After several days, you will have a lot of answers. Review them carefully and look for patterns: Is there a certain time of day when you're most vulnerable to stress? Are there certain situations that always get to you? Do you always respond to stress by eating (or by feeling nauseated)?

As you become aware of what causes your stress, you can take steps to avoid it. At the least, you can take steps to respond to it in a more productive way. Here are some possibilities:

  • Get up and move around. Take a walk if you can. Brief physical exercise releases stress and increases energy.
  • Take some deep breaths, and concentrate on breathing deeply all of the time. It really will make you feel better.
  • Don't view your schedule as an endurance test. Build breaks into your day.
Source: Eve Kochanek in the ABA Institute Bulletin.

Taking Care of Fido
You love your pet. It's not something you brag about--it's a little embarrassing--but the truth is, you'd like to know that your pet would be protected if something happened to you.

"Providing for Your Pets (in the Event of Your Death or Hospitalization)" is a 15-page brochure containing same will clauses and other information you'll be glad to know. It is published by The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals.

For your copy, please send a $2 check (made out to the Association) and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Office of Communications, 42 West 44th Street, New York, New York 10036-6690. Please allow several weeks for delivery.

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