American Bar Association
General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division

Solo
Spring 2003 vol. 9 Number 3
From the Editor-in-Chief: The Advantages of Sharing

By Robin Page West

Our four-lawyer firm handles litigation, estates and trusts, and corporate matters. We also have a niche concentration in federal government fraud qui tam whistleblower cases. We participate in two Web sites. One is a template-based site that highlights all of our practice areas.
The other Web site includes five law firms around the country, including ours, and describes only the federal qui tam whistleblower part of each of our respective practices. All five firms share the work of writing the Web-site copy, our knowledge regarding how to comply with ethical and professionalism guidelines and requirements, and the expense of hiring a Web designer and host.
The synergy generated when a small group of attorneys focuses on a single practice area can result in a very sophisticated Web site that can be extremely effective in educating potential clients and other lawyers. No mere billboard, the shared site presents detailed information about the statute and the attendant legal process.

Even though we share the expenses of, and space on, the Web site, we are scrupulous in our efforts not to create the impression that we are in the same law firm. Moreover, we do not share fees. To this end, we have disclosures and disclaimer language, as well as a page on the site that describes each of us and each of our separate law firms, so visitors understand that our practices are separate. On occasion, we may co-counsel with each other on a particular matter, and if we do, the engagement is set out in a written, signed fee agreement with the client that complies with all applicable requirements and guidelines for sharing of fees by lawyers not in the same firm.
Our site does not discuss fees or make any claims such as "no recovery, no fee." If a Web-site visitor decides to contact one of the attorneys, that attorney will explain his or her fees, which will be in accordance with the applicable ethical and professionalism requirements and guidelines for that jurisdiction.

We list our domain name in materials we disseminate when we give speeches or presentations on this topic. So, for example, when our Hawaii member gives a speech to a national association of lawyers and hands out materials containing our domain name, the rest of us indirectly benefit by gaining potential exposure to other lawyers who might eventually refer business or become co-counsel.

Developing a Web site this way can be professionally and personally rewarding, not to mention, fun!

Robin Page West is a shareholder in Cohan & West, P. C. in Baltimore, Maryland, and editor-in-chief of SOLO. Her shared Web site is at www.quitamonline.com, and she can be reached at rpw@cohanwest.com.

 

 

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