Popular Threads - January 2020

Classic Start Menu for Windows 10

I finally installed Windows 10 on one of my computers, and I do not like the Start menu. I Googled it and found a *Shell* ( I think it was called) that will convert Windows 10 to the classic Windows Start menu. But then I saw an article saying that the Shell was easily hacked. Any comments or counsel will be appreciated.

Shells can create issues. I suggest you treat it as an adjustment item, where you deal with it and probably won't notice the difference over time.

Darrell G. Stewart, Texas

Anyone know of a website to review the "significant" changes that Windows 10 makes --- that is, changes that should concern the user in daily simple word-processing and internet browser operations? I have looked for an overall user guide --- so that I don't do something wrong or stupid in my start with Windows 10. I haven't found a suitable site that provides a list of Windows 10 gotchas or Windows 10 significant features (that are different from windows 7). Yes, I just did make the change to Windows 10 and so far, it is not "bad" I hope.

Roberta Fay, California

I can’t stand Windows 10.... having used Windows 7 for years, I have yet to figure out how to go to my "computer" tab in my "D" drive and access my files. It is very hard to look for things imo. Not very user friendly at all.

Bobby Lott

There are things that I dislike about Win10, and have had to just accept, like the way it insists on ordering the file structure. But for the Start Menu, I've been using Classic Shell [http://www.classicshell.net/] for a few years and prefer it. I haven't had an issue with hacking, maybe I've been lucky, but I do use common sense in browsing, and lots of security, including a tightly secured router, and antivirus.

Miriam N. Jacobson, Pennsylvania

The "control panel" is inside the tab "Windows system"

There is no "windows update".

the label "this PC" inside the tab "Windows system" contains the info that was "computer" but it only contains some of what were front-and-center in windows 7. Why? The devices and drives do not include the Brother printer and scan sna that are attached to the pc as peripherals. Also my external storage device does not show up in the display. OneDrive is everywhere !$!

I don't know how to "turn on" network discovery in Network and Sharing Center. What to do I don't know.

Roberta Fay

Classic Shell has been renamed Open Shell. You should replace Classic Shell with Open Shell as there are some incompatibilities with certain Windows 10 Updates. Here’s a home page for Open Shell:


Here is a direct download link:


Mike Phillips, North Carolina

Think I looked at that with my recent new computer last month, and it looked too geeky to me, so I stuck with Classic Shell.

Miriam N. Jacobson

As a high level user, I don't understand why are you even using the Start

Menu at all. W10 can easily "pin" anything you want to the taskbar (just open whatever it is; while open, right click the icon and you can "pin to taskbar". Or I think you can drag it there.) I have 15 things pinned there, from Office to Python to programs, folders, and services msc. You can even pin batch files. I even have room for another 8-10; I doubt most folks really need more. (If you care that much, you can make your taskbar twice as high and probably hold 50 things.)

Everything there is visible, accessible, and opens with a single click. In fact, for many programs (including Word, Acrobat Firefox, Excel, and more) you can even right-click the taskbar icon and see a list of recent files, and open a recent file directly from the taskbar.

In the very rare situation that I need something which isn't already on my taskbar, it's much faster to use the search box than the Start menu. If you're really picky, you can even make a folder full of your favorite rarely-used shortcuts, and pin THAT folder to the taskbar, at which point it works like a customized Start menu which only has the things you care about (click the folder and then double-click your preferred app.)

Erik Hammarlund, Massachusetts

Don't be surprised when you get the warning that Classic Shell is no longer supported or compatible with Windows 10. Some Windows Updates have broken it on some computers.

The website is confusing. The program is the same code base. You should switch. Or you can wait until you have to.

Mike Phillips

Can someone explain to me why it was necessary to change the Windows 7 interface. I understand the need to upgrade a program, but I don't believe it's necessary to change in interface we all got used to. When I'm in Windows 10, everything takes longer. I find myself making many adjustments and putting commands on my desktop. The paranoid part of me believes that all software manufacturers feel compelled to make new interfaces simply to support their claims of the need for new software. Can't let the 2020 Honda look like the 2018 Honda. My rant for the day.

Jim Winiarski

Planned obsolescence, the cornerstone of our way of life.

Robert Thomas Hayes Link, California

I started in DOS and have been a heavy Windows user since 3.0. In retrospect, two things have generally been true:

1) I hated learning the new systems

2) Most of them were better than the old ones, for most purposes.

As for "why", the answer is simple: Why improve everything BUT the interface? Over time, not only do we have more time to see what works and what does not, but there are also continued developments in the entire field of designing interfaces. The next gen will probably be a bit better as well.

Erik Hammarlund

Some of the changes were reportedly to support touch screens better.

Mike Phillips

If you're experiencing slowness and problems in Win7, your computer may be too old to stick with at this point. Certainly, you should be worrying about security issues if you stick with Win7.

I just got a new all-in-one computer, and was warned to not get a touch screen, because those fail much faster than an non-touch screen.

I also agree with Erik Hammarlund's statements, and I've been around computers as long as he has, and have grown up through the various iterations of DOS, actually having started with CPM, one of its forerunners, and the various flavors of Windows. If you adopt them, not at the bleeding edge but a little after they've been introduced and get used to them, they're not as hard as when you wait 3 generations to jump in.

Miriam N. Jacobson

I've grown up through the various iterations of DOS myself, and started learning computer programming in 1976, but feel differently. I have Windows 7 on my desktop computer, and Windows 10 on my laptop. Here is why I *hate* Windows 10, as opposed to 7:

1) I have had my information in c:\Data, and documents in c:\Data\Documents, forever. My files are quite well organized, and systematic. Windows 10 insists on changing "Documents" into "My Documents" (and "Photos" into "Pictures", etcetera) every damned time there is any sort of minor update. No way to tell the system that one wants the default folders to be named differently.

2) In Windows 7 I can do a search for a phrase and have all sorts of documents and photos pop up. Windows 10 downgrades that search by using Cortana, which preferentially shows Web results. If I wanted to search the Web, I would have done it from a Web browser.

3) Constant admonitions and programs trying to get one to commit all one's calendar and contacts information to Microsoft, especially OneDrive and the unreliable OneNote, which cannot be uninstalled or eliminated.

4) Plenty of other Microsoft programs that are uninstallable and unhideable.

5) Finally, I cannot think of one blessed thing that actually improved on Windows 7, as opposed to change for change's sake.

Yeah, I'm a fossil. Software is a pretty odd duck, when it comes to products, since, unlike clothes and cars and most other thing, it never wears out. I think most software pretty much hit its peak 15-20 years ago, and since then it has been a frantic rush to try to load things onto it to keep the revenue stream moving. Way back when, new editions of software actually added new and handy features, and made things easier: I wouldn't want to have to go back to DOS and having Timeslips and Sidekick run as TSRs. But I have not run into anything (other than, of course, the Web and the information available thereon) that actually has made a difference in my practice - other than making things actually more difficult - for 20 years at least.

Michael A. Koenecke, Texas

Part of it is actual design and use considerations, part of it is like your vehicle analogy, where a change is made to emphasize a new model, to my view. Treat it as a learning curve. I did, but did so when it was first out. After some time, you won't remember the old way. I don't generally, although I still have a Win 7 laptop I don't really use.

Darrell G. Stewart

Adjusting to change in software requires time and training. Skipping training increases time, unless you have an intuitive understanding of the issues. Basically, it is a learning curve.

People learn different ways. There are a lot of YouTube videos. There are training classes. There are books. You can get certifications. All of it takes time.

Darrell G. Stewart

Hopefully everyone has Windows 10 Pro, not the basic Windows Home. It was designed for business use.

There are settings that can be modified regarding communications back to Microsoft. Most of them are under privacy. 

Windows explorer works approximately the same in both versions. I have Cortana basically shut down. It slows me down based on how I operate a computer. 

Calendars and contacts can be adjusted as to which programs access them. I have the settings turned off. Same thing for microphone and video and a lot of other settings where I don't need them.

I have OneDrive turned off in AutoStart. I never activate it so it does not bug me.

I use a local account to sign on. 

All of these are settings.

Darrell G. Stewart

Perhaps that is the main problem, as Windows 10 Home came with my laptop. I have tried various settings to correct the issues, but perhaps most of those can be fixed in the Business version. Even so, I do not think the interface and features improve on Windows 7 in any way.

Michael A. Koenecke

*1) I have had my information in c:\Data, and documents in c:\Data\Documents, forever. My files are quite well organized, and systematic. Windows 10 insists on changing "Documents" into "My Documents" (and "Photos" into "Pictures", etcetera) every damned time there is any sort of minor update. No way to tell the system that one wants the default folders to be named differently.*

I won't lie, this *is* annoying. You can always work around it if you'd like.

*2) In Windows 7 I can do a search for a phrase and have all sorts of documents and photos pop up. Windows 10 downgrades that search by using Cortana, which preferentially shows Web results. If I wanted to search the Web, I would have done it from a Web browser.*

I can't recall if there is a setting to disable Cortana web results. I think there has been one before. In any case, assume you have at least one folder pinned to your taskbar....? Searches from within a folder are limited to within that folder and any subfolders, which is a handy way to do things.

3) Constant admonitions and programs trying to get one to commit all one's calendar and contacts information to Microsoft, especially OneDrive and the unreliable OneNote, which cannot be uninstalled or eliminated.

I never get those notices, though then again I only use Windows 10 Pro.

4) Plenty of other Microsoft programs that are uninstallable and unhideable.

Again, the Pro version will often solve those issues.

5) Finally, I cannot think of one blessed thing that actually improved on Windows 7, as opposed to change for change's sake.

Well, security; tablet compatibility; better disk support; and a bunch of other stuff which in my mind makes it a better OS ;)

Frankly it sounds like you should get Pro. Then you can fix many of the things you don't like, either with special settings or GPE.

Erik Hammarlund

Thanks for all these comments! My problem is that I bought my pc system at Costco and it was windows home premium and it worked fine. I just recently upgraded to windows 10 --- which I "guess" is the parallel system to "home premium" in windows 7. I would gladly upgrade to "pro" but the entire windows upgrading process is fraught with potential problems and aggravations. I will just settle with what is acceptable because I can't spend my time becoming an expert on the flaky windows 10 product. I literally sit with bated breath waiting to see if it "works." The guides and how-to info on the front pages are grossly inadequate and I have not found a good YouTube video.

Is it easy to switch to windows 10 pro from the home premium version? Is it worthwhile at this point in time?

Roberta Fay

I feel like I've been having these conversations since early in the Win95 days, and am reminded of my remarks about planned obsolescence earlier today. Heroin is kinder than Windows.

Robert Thomas Hayes Link

I just bought a new system from Lenovo that came with Windows Home. I upgraded to Pro through the Windows Store, as that was easiest. You buy it online and it updates automatically.

Instructions exist to do it other ways also. You pay Microsoft $100 for the upgrade through the Windows Store. I thought it faster to do that than use alternate approaches (basically a time and money analysis). 

Darrell G. Stewart


If you are using a laptop, I think the biggest advantage to Windows 10 Pro is that it includes BitLocker so you can encrypt your laptop data without having to use a third party program to do that. A couple of recent seminars I went to really stressed what a disaster it would be if a laptop with a bunch of client data is lost or stolen. This seemed to be a pretty good article comparing the versions if anything else catches your eye: https://www.lifewire.com/windows-10-home-vs-pro-4177144 

Michael J. Polk, South Carolina

About two weeks ago someone on our group provided a link to a *free* installation of Win 10. I used it to install Win 10 Pro on one PC. That link remained valid as of last weekend. I expect that you could do a Win 10 Pro installation over Win 10 Home if you wanted to. If you cannot find the string and the link, contact me off line and I will send it to you.

Curtis Drew, Arizona

The Windows 10 free upgrade can be found by searching for "Media Creation Tool". It's been available all along. From what I'm told, it will only upgrade 10 to the same version you have on 7 or 8. It will not upgrade the version, say from Home to Pro.

Mike Phillips

Windows 10 Pro question -- I upgraded from windows 7 home premium to windows 10. The speed has not degraded -- so far. If I upgrade to windows

10 pro (cost of $100 in windows store) will that slow down my pc during ordinary usage? (I cannot find any definitive info about a possible pr slowdown if I make this switch. I like the extra seemingly protections that windows 10 pro lists.) Thanks for this thread!

Roberta Fay

Win 10 Pro does not run slower than Win 10 Home, to my view. I have one laptop on Win 10 Home and I don't see a difference beyond the chip in it.

Darrell G. Stewart

Is Lawyer Behaving Degenerating?

This is a question.

My contention is that lawyer behavior is worse than it was when I started 35 years ago. 

In court today a very experienced lawyer moved to consolidate 2 cases, ex parte, before the defendants had appeared in the second case, before the cases had been “related”, that is, brought into the same courtroom before the same judge. Ok that was all wrong and I’m not complaining about that. (I was on the opposing, winning side of this battle.). What was troubling was that whenever this lawyer opened his mouth out came a stream of lies. 

This would have been shocking and highly unusual, in my experience, 35 years ago. It is not as rare today as it was then, in my experience. This lawyer has lost his way. It seems more frequently to be the case nowadays.

Question: Am I misreading the times, past and present?

It has been my experience that lawyer behavior was never as bad as it was during the late 80's and early 90's. I remember silly drawn out colloquies during multi-day depositions over evidentiary and discovery matters, ad hominem attacks, and the routine use of tactics such as trying to get opposing counsel disqualified from cases. It was also a time when CLEs with titles such as Dealing with the SOB Attorney became fairly standard offerings. Ultimately (and belatedly) the courts stepped in and actually began issuing rules and sanctions to address such misconduct. There was also a movement among attorneys that advocated for civility that had the effect of ameliorating the level of ill-mannered discourse.

There are still bad apples practicing law, but my impression is that bad apple behavior is now almost universally regarded negatively as opposed to a skill set that "competent" attorneys should strive for.

Bert Krages, Oregon

I have only been practicing about 16 years and I recently said the same thing to myself. Your email made me feel better (not about the topic) but that I am not alone in noticing the conduct. I work hard not to be that lawyer but at times, I feel like a chump for practicing with integrity.

Jay Calhoun, Arizona

I just looked up Jay, Roger, and Rob (nice sunflower!) on the ABA Member Directory… I keep my State Bar directory and the ABA directory links on my browser favorites for quick reference: https://connect.americanbar.org/network/members

Deian McBryde New Mexico

I've only been practicing since 1997; but Bert makes the point that it was pretty bad in late 80's and early 90's; that's when the bar started pushing for "professionalism", seminars, rules, etc. I suspect it was pretty bad back in those days.

 And, of course some of it depends on your jurisdiction; the worst behavior I have seen from lawyers have all been from South Florida (meaning, Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties): which is not to say ALL of them have; some of the best most reasonable behavior has been from lawyers in those counties but the absolute Worst behavior has been from them; small firm, AMLaw 100, doesn't matter. A friend of mine who used to practice down there said it was likely because they could get away with it; there were so many lawyers and so many judges that it was unlikely you would deal with a particular lawyer again and that people burnt bridges. At least in Ocala lawyers really do try to get along; the bar is sufficiently small that everyone knows everyone else; and the standard is somewhat higher here than elsewhere.

 From a Florida Bar Journal article on Professionalism:

Rules governing attorney discipline, at times, have been found to be unconstitutionally void for vagueness.20 What will happen when a lawyer from Miami-Dade County, who holds a license from The Florida Bar and can practice in any county court, travels to a deposition in Marion County, and violates local professionalism expectations? Depending on the facts, the professionalism code and its definition of unprofessional conduct may be insufficient to enable the South Florida lawyer to navigate between the acceptable and the prohibited. When people of reasonable intelligence disagree over local norms, constitutional claims involving the void for vagueness doctrine seem likely

Ronald A Jones, Florida

My take on this type of lawyer behavior is that it is financially-driven.

In other words, the lawyer knows their case is lousy and that their client is an idiot who actually did do the things he or she is accused of.

However, the lawyer needs to pay their mortgage, their alimony, their country club membership, etc. and so they need to put on some sort of show of trying to advocate for their client. Sometimes this is with the client's consent -- imagine a divorce case where one spouse is motivated by anger and wants a "pit bull" to go after their ex. Other times the client has no idea they are being led astray by a lawyer who only sees dollar signs.

However, because the lawyer knows that their efforts are ultimately pointless (e.g. because their client's case is crap), the show they put on is half-hearted. They don't bother learning the facts, they recycle pleadings that haven't been proofread properly, etc.

I hope I'm not unusual in this way, but I turn down potential cases all the time when it is clear that there is no merit to what the client is asking for or I can't move the proverbial needle at all. The most common requests lately seem to be divorce cases where the potential client wants me to terminate the other parent's rights to the kids just because the other parent is disagreeing with what the PC wants.

Andy Chen, California

The whole lawyer civility movement goes back to the 80's. The NDTX blog describes the Dondi Properties case, which has been cited many times on the civility issue: https://www.ndtexblog.com/2010/09/17/dondi-turns-22/

While I cannot dismiss the factor of lawyer financial desperation, a bad case is a bad case and acting like the end of one's alimentary canal will not make the client's case better. The lawyer opposing such behavior needs to not allow such conduct to be rewarded unless his client cannot pay the freight to oppose such tactics.

Earlier in this tread I saw references to geographic regions and counsel conduct and IME there may be some basis for that belief. About 5 years ago, I was in a bankruptcy in Lubbock and the entry of counsel into the case from a certain northern Texas city resulted in comments from co-counsel about litigating with area code "214 lawyers." Perhaps not coincidentally, the Dondi Properties case originated in that same city. 

While I saw an uptick in this behavior in the 80's, I don't see much difference between the lawyer bad behavior of the early 90's and that of now.

Craig A. Stokes, Texas

This question has come up in my Inn several times over the years, and we've generally seen more incivility where:

- You aren't going to see opposing counsel ever again

- You aren't going to see that judge again

- You are in a practice area that rewards bluster and/or delay tactics (like depositions with short time limits)

- The court does not have or does not enforce a code of civility

The bankruptcy bar, particularly the consumer bankruptcy bar, is pretty small where I am. We know most of the faces, including the LA attorneys who represent the big banks. We only have 7 judges sitting in NDCA, and they generally sit for 20-28 years. You are also likely to face the same opposing counsel. We don't have a lot of incivility for that reason, and the folks who are not civil really stand out.

That said, I had a newish attorney serve papers on my client at a 341 meeting. He threw them down on the desk and said "consider yourself served." When I asked counsel for a card, he said "my contact info is on the paperwork," and then strutted out. He probably thought he looked cool, like someone in a legal tv show. I found the whole thing funny.

I was lucky enough to have a mentor as a law student who sat me down and told me that opposing counsel can be some of your best friends, that just because your clients are fighting (this was in family law), it didn't mean that you had to fight. I hope that law students and new attorneys are getting that message.

Corrine Bielejeski, California

Only practicing a decade. I have found, without exception, that a****** behavior by OC has resulted in worse outcomes for OC client. 

One of my very first cases was a family law post-decree issue. OC was a jerk. I was virtually certain he did not relay a settlement offer to his client. Since I was new to the bar I took a chance. During argument on the motion I mentioned the settlement offer.



REFEREE: Umm, Mr. X, your behavior...

OC: Oh, stay out of this!

The result is I suspect predictable.

After ruling in my client's favor, just before dismissing us, the Referee cleared her throat and said, "Um, Mr. Frost, I know you just started practicing. We don't normally favor discussing settlement matters in court."

ME: Yes, your honor, I apologize.

She knew, and I knew she knew, and so did OC, and we all knew she let it happen b/c OC was an utter jerk who was just trying to jack up his fees.

Larry A. Frost, Minnesota

Must Client File 1099 for Amounts Paid as Attorney Fees?

A client has requested that I provide her with my TIN for a 1099. The client is an individual, not a business. However, when I was paid, the check was issued by a partnership in which the client and her husband are co-equal and exclusive shareholders. 

Individuals are not required to issue 1099 for payments for personal services. What I received was a payment for personal services. I represented the individual - not the partnership. 

In this circumstance, is a 1099 required and am I required to disclose my TIN to this client? 

The amount in question is greater than $600, which is the threshold above which 1099s are required of businesses. 

It appears that the relevant regulation is 26 CFR §1.6045-5 located here:


But the examples provided are not exactly analogous. 

A separate question is whether amounts paid as a retainer and deposited in a client trust account, but not yet claimed as a fee are subject to 1099 reporting? This is the same client as in the first part of my question, but unlike what was paid directly as a fee, the amount in the client trust account cannot be claimed as a fee unless and until the fee has been approved by the Social Security Administration and approval has not yet been sought. The funds are the client's funds at this point.

Attorneys generally get 1099 if over $600, to my understanding. Running some searches confirmed my understanding, but I did not tie it back beyond general guidance.

Darrell G. Stewart, Texas

I believe you are required to provide your TIN to someone that gave you money. Whether they should be filing a 1099 is a different question. There is a specific box to mark for money paid to an attorney (Box 12 maybe).

Nonetheless, if you received the money and attributed it to firm revenue, what is the downside?

Phil A. Taylor, Massachusetts

Not a tax professional so YMMV.

1099s need only be issued by those operating a business in any capacity when certain conditions are met (i.e., $600 or more, attorney or medical services, etc.). An individual is not required to issue a 1099.

If you performed worked for the individual, they did not need to issue a 1099 but there is really no harm since you are claiming the revenue you made in your business anyway.

I suspect while you may have performed personal work for the individual, they paid you through their business and thus why you received the 1099.

Loyd J. Bourgeois, Louisiana

So, my CPA is telling me that we need to issue a 1099 for every lawyer with whom we fee-split, so I have to get W-9’s from them. I believe him but I was surprised. Is that what everyone else is doing?

Deian McBryde, New Mexico

I believe the rule is 1099s don't generally need to be filed for a corporation but there is an exception for attorneys' fees, i.e., even if your practice is incorporated, the payor still needs to file a 1099 if more than $600 is paid in the tax year.

Lee Kaster, California

It's all about tracing the money. If company X pays your client a big settlement and the check is written out to you, you are going to be expected to pay the tax on it. Then you issue 1099s to everyone you've transferred the money to, so the IRS knows to go after them for some of that.

I think of it as CYA.

When I do contract work for other firms, I expect them to issue a 1099 to me. I may not get one from one firm, since I only did about $150 of work, but the others will be issuing them.

Corrine Bielejeski, California

You’re sending out 1099s even if you just received the money in trust and then paid it out to your client or other parties and never put it in your operating account?

Deian McBryde

To my understanding, your CPA is explaining general practices. Most commonly, a W-9 is obtained before funds are remitted on fee-splits between attorneys.

Darrell G. Stewart

This explains a bit more about the dilemma.


I can only think of one case where the 3rd party didn't issue 2 separate checks and where I 1099ed my client. Why? Because I don't want the IRS thinking I earned the entire amount, particularly when I only earned a tiny bit of it. It's all about filing timely paperwork to avoid an audit and to support your position during an audit.

Think of it this way. If the IRS thinks you earned 100K on a particular case, because you receive a 1099 for that amount, but you actually paid me 25K of it, wouldn't you want the IRS to know you paid me that? Wouldn't you want me to include that in my taxes, rather than you including it in yours? That's the general principle.

Corrine Bielejeski

I've seen that article, and it's not entirely correct. Notice how there's no cite for the 'pay to the trust and don't 1099 anyone' paragraph?

Wages are reported on W2s. Wage-related claims (waiting time penalties, for example) are not reported on the W2, but a 1099.

All other taxable settlements are on a 1099.

It is the *payor's* responsibility to determine if a settlement is taxable or not; the IRS will generally respect an agreement, but is not bound by it.

If the check is *payable to the lawyer's trust only *then *both *the lawyer *and *the client get 1099s for the full amount. The lawyer does not have to 1099 the client. (This is the part the SF article got wrong, b/c it made it appear the client didn't get a 1099. They do.)

If the check is *jointly payable* (to lawyer and client), then the client gets a 1099 for the full amount, and the lawyer gets one for their fees.

Where lawyers split fees, then each lawyer/firm should get a 1099 from the payor in the amount of their fees. If the various lawyers/firms don't want to let the payor know the split, then the firm getting the fee must 1099 the other firms.

Them's the rules. They are frequently broken/ignored.

Gregory Zbylut, California

Selling Your Law Firm

I was thinking about selling my law firm. Any ideas about valuation? I was told today by someone that law firms typically sell for around 1.0 x annual fee revenue. If that's true, I don't think I'd ever sell my firm. That's like selling a goose that lays egg for one egg! What am I missing?

There’s a webinar from ABA featuring Prof. Gary Bauer called "Valuing Your Solo or Small Firm Practice: A Cornerstone of Your Succession Plan" produced by GPSolo and available on demand:


Also, Prof. Bauer wrote a book "Hire and Retire: A Plan for a Continuing Income Stream in Retirement from Any Practice” that might be useful. Also from ABA GPSolo:


Deian McBryde, New Mexico

Before I launched my practice, I looked into the possibility of buying a retiring lawyer's practice. I learned that most lawyers think their practice is valued more highly than it actually is because, apart from assets and receivables, the only other component of value is goodwill.

There's no guarantee that your client base will continue to use the buyer's services; in fact, your departure may prompt existing clients to seek help elsewhere. Now, maybe you can work out a deal in which you stick around for a transition year or so, maybe mentoring the buyer (if necessary) and making your clients comfortable with the new lawyer. Such a deal might increase the value of your practice since the buyer is getting more than just your furniture, computers, and a list of clients.

Just my $0.02.

Andrew C. McDannold, Florida

I expect you'll get as many opinions as you get responses: It depends.

* Is your practice area one that lends itself to repeat clients? You can only go on Social Security Disability once, so the value there is not the client base, so much as the reputation and the ability to process a claim cost-effectively. You'll note, if you watch the market, that most of the larger, well-known disability and PI firms will tend to go through transitions of A & B Injury Law being replaced over time with B & C Injury Law, and later, C & D Injury law, as the senior partner retires, pulls out equity, and leaves The Machine and the brand to the new senior partner. I know I’ve watched it happen at least half a dozen times in the last 10 years with the largest regional PI/SSDI firms. (Of course, those firms, if managed well, are cash cows, so presumably the partners are socking away those million-dollar settlements…)

* Solo firms tend to market ourselves on the personal brand and personality; a multi-member firm makes it easier to cash out of the partnership and retire without disrupting the continuity of the firm. That being said, as an "insider" in the local small-firm marketplace, I've been surprised at how often mid-sized firms tend to rearrange and reconfigure themselves, at least around here.

* If you have a general practice with a recognized name, as mentioned, you might find that "handing over" the practice, rather than selling it outright, allows you to add more value by spending a year or two doing a knowledge transfer and engaging client continuity with the new partner(s), tapering off your active time, and perhaps even continuing to lend your name to the firm "of counsel" after you semi-retire.

* If you have a plan for selling your firm "down the road," consider rebranding with a more general name than just your own. My firm is "me," and I don't have any associates, so it's not clear what I'd be selling beyond a client database and tangible assets (that have negligible value).

* While a client database, even with several thousand names, has some value, that value will depend on how much intelligence you have about those clients, and how well it's organized for your successor to use to market and drive new business. Again, if you're thinking of selling, look seriously at what it is about your business that you'd want to buy if you were starting out. A list of names? Well, I can download the voter rolls, county tax database, etc. (and I have), and get hundreds of thousands of *unqualified* names for free. If you don't have information in your CMS (or if you don't have a CMS...) that adds value and depth to that information, there's not a whole lot of marketing value there. If I sell my client history, you get phone call notes from 2008 forward, records of people who called about practice areas I don’t personally serve, etc.…

* Goodwill is ephemeral. Unless you're big and have a well-known, well-established brand identity backed by substantial infrastructure, it's not going to be valuable; for a solo, your biggest goodwill asset is you, personally, and you can't just sell that, you have to pass it on carefully.

* If you are a solo, unless you have some valuable specialty, I would not base my retirement plans on selling my firm.

Personally, part of my plan was the ability to reduce my workload to supplement Social Security someday, if my student loans are paid off before I die. Maybe I’ll be able to cut back to just 40-50 hours per week…

Richard J. Rutledge, Jr., North Carolina

I agree with Rick. Most solo law firms are not going to be worth an enormous amount of money in an outright sale. Goodwill is fine but it can evaporate quickly. Existing client base is fine, but unless it is the type of thing where you get a bunch of repeat business it's more of a potential marketing list than any sort of steady income stream. It depends on the nature of the practice; in my case I've done something like 2000 wills over the years, every single one of them has my name and phone number on it; a certain percentage of them will 'come back to me' for the probate IF in fact a probate is needed; on the other hand, they certainly have a long tail on average, 15 or 20 years or more and if people move or redo their will there's no guarantee they'll come back to me. Is that worth something? Yes. Is the phone number worth something? Yes. But in most cases, it's not worth an enormous amount of money. How much? I don't know, $20,000, maybe $30,000 at best. Certainly not anything that you could plan on retiring on. Unless you've got other assets, i.e., a building or such. And I agree that you may be better off picking someone up with an eye to transitioning to them down the road, maybe you remain of counsel, maybe declining percentage of income, I've seen that happen. 

 Ronald A Jones, Florida

Generally speaking, when a professional practice is sold, the purchase is usually contingent upon retention. So you might sell for $200K, but you don't get that up front. You get $100K in year 1 if X% of the clients stay, and another $100K in year 2 if Y% (usually somewhat lower than X%, but not much lower) stay. I've seen 90/80, 95/85, and so on - the possibilities are limitless, and driven by the type of business, etc.

You may or may not be asked to stay on, but you will have a noncompete (the kind CA does uphold), and you are likely to have a percentage retention provision to prevent you from stealing away any clients (and to prevent someone for paying for a practice that vaporizes as soon as the transaction closes).

Greg Zbylut, California

In the consumer bankruptcy world, we look at money in the pipeline.

- Active 13s with money still to come in are a positive (subtracting out the 1-2 hours of wrap up work at the end of every case).

- Active 13s with no more money coming in are negative.

- Other cases in the pipeline will be a positive, but not the entire amount currently held in trust, since some folks don't end up filing.

We also look at long-term leases, fixtures, etc. Most of the bk folks who retired in the past few years either closed their offices (stopped taking 13s 5 years before they planned on retiring, focused on 7s and contract work, etc.) or sold to other experienced attorneys who knew what to do to close out the cases, so those clients didn't come back and sue the original attorney 3 years down the line.

For your business, you probably have cases in the pipeline that might have a positive value as well as wrap up work on cases that might be a negative. You should also look into malpractice insurance (I think it's called tail coverage) on those cases.

Corrine Bielejeski, California

Yeah, but, if you have 70-90 new clients a year, and not even five of them have been your client for more than three years, then the retention theory doesn't work.

In other words, if you help the little people, and disdain the big clients, then you have a different form of practice.

Still worth a lot of money. But then, the pattern of success over time is measured, and the systems that assure continued clients, not the retention of particular clients. Nobody wants your old stinky relations anyway. LOL

Art Macomber, Idaho

Right. If you have a steady base of clients with whom you regularly do business, you're looking at a retention-type plan.

OTOH, if you have a bunch of one-and-dones, then you're looking not at your client list, but the IP behind the client list - where the clients are coming from, and can it work with just anyone, or is it dependent upon you?

IF the former, you'll get some value, but if it's the latter, you'll have to deal with a discounted sales price. Obviously, if you have associates who help make the rain fall, that's another factor.

Greg Zbylut

No, no, you cannot depend on the person. The SYSTEM must be able to generate the business. The person dies, the system runs on, because potential clients learn that it is the system that handles their legal matter, not just one person.

That's the answer.

Art Macomber


Isn’t it true that people come to the Gene Lee law firm just for you and no one else? 

And aren’t they one-off clients without repeat business? 

Why would a client come to the Gene Lee law firm if Gene Lee had moved to Idaho to grow potatoes and no longer operated the firm?

Roger M. Rosen, California

Ed Poll is an expert in selling law practices. See https://www.lawbiz.com/selling_a_law_practice.html.

Lisa Solomon, New York

Today's episode of the Lawyerist podcast talks about this exact issue (along with many others):


Dave Rakowski, Pennsylvania

Why Do You Need the Fanciest Cell Phone?

Listening to a friend’s lament about the loss of her $1,500 iPhone 11 Max Super-duper Pro Elite whatever not two months after a thief had plucked its predecessor from her purse, I wondered what the super-deluxe cell phones really do that a mid-range model won’t, except maybe for including better camera.

It's not like anyone really notices, like they might a Rolex, a nice car, a Gucci purse, or even a souped-up laptop.

And what do most of us really need a better camera for anyway? That reminded me of a lawyer who was really, really struggling in his practice, always late on his apartment rent, barely able to afford anything, and who insisted that he needed the latest cell phone because it offered up a better camera. He was a lawyer, not a photographer, and all he was likely to do with that camera was photograph lunch.

Is there some sweet spot for cell phones beyond which everything else is just hype?

The big one is the camera. Any camera you have in your pocket will always take better pictures than the camera you left at home. As a parent, I have many great pictures of my kids which wouldn't otherwise exist, because I don't walk around with my DSLR. I used to own a video camera (not anymore!) Etc.

Beyond that it's mostly media, I think. If you play phone games or watch a ton of phone videos (I don't) that would probably matter to you.

That said, if you choose carefully, modern phones can have the best battery life; my XR is amazing in that regard.

Erik Hammarlund, Massachusetts

Good question; I'd like to know also. Until recently, I had an iPhone4s.

When it took on the characteristics of a paperweight, I bought an 8. Besides liking the economies of staying a little bit behind the curve, I think the cellphone is a pestilence (so I really don't care about it). I used to buy the phones outright for a discount but I have a 30-month, $15 payment plan on this one.

Then I looked at my bill and saw a $15/month insurance charge. Called up AT&T and inquired about deductible: $300! So, I cancelled the insurance and I'm taking my chances on this one lasting many years.

John Leonard, Connecticut

The only phones I've seen approach 1500 (and I don't use an iPhone so I don't look at them) are ones that have 5g capability. That seems to tack on at least $200 just to have the 5g radio. It isn't worth it if you don't live somewhere with 5g and 5g has a shorter range than LTE does, so you need to be somewhere with really good 5 g coverage (which is almost nowhere right now) before that makes any sense financially. I did spend nearly $1k for my most recent phone, and mostly I paid full price because the only deals I could find either require trading in a phone (which I'm not comfortable doing, no matter how many thousands of overwrites I might do on my phone to effectively erase the data) or to activate a new line, which is a waste of time and money when I don't need a new line. It is possible to get the phone cheaper if you are going to trade in a phone (like usually at least $300 cheaper if not $500, depending on the deal) but you have to be comfortable with doing it. As far as why I'd spend that much on a phone?

To get the specs I want that will last me long enough to not need to get another phone any time soon.

Lesley A. Hoenig, Michigan

My cell phone is a circa 2012 model which I've had for three years and which cost $20 new. The cell provider recently warned me that it's 3G and won't work properly on their new network this year, so I may have to spend an additional $20 to get a newer model. (I buy 400 minutes every three months for $25.) It's usually charged up but turned off; occasionally I turn it on when I'm driving since it connects to Bluetooth in the car. Most of the time I have calls forwarded from the cell number to Google Voice, which sends me an email with a sound file and machine transcription of the message if I don't pick up, or I can pick up the call on my 12.9-inch iPad Pro (which I use for everything including taking photos and writing and reading and listening to music and telephone calls, because it's in wireless range 95% of the time, and I can use Google Voice or Facetime). 

I far prefer the iPad Pro to squinting at a little phone screen. And I never use it while I'm walking.

L. Maxwell Taylor, Vermont

I suppose it depends on how you define "need". Cellphones are very useful and better cameras, faster processor times, and increased storage improve their utility. I use my cellphone far more than I do my computer. As far as impressing others, I rarely care what others think enough to be concerned with their impressions. I wear Lucchese boots because of the quality; few people can recognize them anyway. Don't have a Rolex, although I do like some models; I have an Omega and a Bulova Precisionist which work very well for me, but aren't particularly recognizable.

I use an iPhone almost exclusively for emails, taking photos of documents and convert them to PDF rather than photocopying them, review client files on my computer using Sugarsync and occasionally email those documents, receiving faxes, keeping my calendar updated, using browser to bring up statutes or case law, check Apple weather app, play Scrabble with my wife, and least important; monitor this list. That said, I use an iPhone 7 but intend to upgrade to at least an iPhone 11 next year when the new models come out.

Duke Drouillard, Nebraska

Nobody "needs" a $1500 phone, or to spend $249 on Air pods---for those who wish to make a statement of some type (and continue helping the world's wealthiest corporation get even richer), god bless ya:


Plenty of phones with wonderful cameras in the $500 (and less) range:


Dave Rakowski, Pennsylvania

I bought the iPhone X the minute it came out (in late 2017) and have been extremely pleased with it. The overall performance is great and I find FaceID to be a big upgrade over Touch ID. That said, I still have the same phone. I may upgrade later this year, or I may not, but I will have gotten at least 3 years of use out of this phone even if I do upgrade this year.

I am a technology fan and I use my phone heavily for everything from writing to reading to watching vids to listening to books (I love Voice Dream Reader and Audible) to accessing my Macs remotely (via Splashtop). So my phone use is very very high and it is worth it to me have a nicer experience, and having a recently updated processor/RAM/screen are all things that can help the experience. But even for my use and preferences, if I buy the top model right when it comes out, it can last a while.I also have an Apple Watch, which is even more optional than my phone. Definitely not a need. It's nice though. I like it.

Incidentally I have an add on to my renters insurance that separately covers my portable electronics should they be stolen or mysteriously disappear. And AppleCare+ also covers theft. So there are ways to protect against the situation that happened to your friend. Anyone who can't easily self-insure the loss of their phone should look into that.

Justin Mallone

This seems backward to me. Those who buy top-end phones for appearances subsidize those who get them for function. You get the world’s knowledge in the palm of your hand, a decent communication device, and a powerful video and still camera. And it works pretty well. An amazing value compared to a gold-wrapped Swatch.

Jeffrey Burack

I'm kind of skeptical of the very high end cell phones, some of it is a status symbol. But I don't live on my cellphone either; I've still got landline at house and office and nearly all of my internet stuff is either done on a desktop (here at office) or an an iPad at home (I do have relatively high end iPad Pro; which replace my old iPad with Retina but I'd also had that for probably 7 years or so). I intend to keep the iPad pro for similar length of time.

 As far as the phones go, i used to be on Tracfone, which was cheap, less than $100 per year but only used it for 'emergencies and urgencies". I had Nokia which was great; long battery life, good signal, easy to use; alas it literally disintegrated after about 10 years, the buttons eventually started turning to powder in my hands. Might of had to do with in the car in Florida in the heat. Then I replaced it with some other Tracfone, running on android; the problem with it was it wasn't real reliable; bad signal, not real clear; I realized it was a problem when I was in a mediation in Orlando and had to call my client in California; I could barely get a signal, right in downtown Orlando; at which point I figured I needed a decent cellphone with good coverage.

 So, I went to Virgin mobile, bought a refurb iPhone 4S for like $200; it was already 'older' but it worked; plus it ran whatever apps I had thru my iPad. I didn't want to spend several hundred on the latest and greatest it was adequate; good coverage, good signal, clear to speak into and to hear. I kept that for several years and replaced it with a 'refurb" 5S which is my current phone, which is getting a bit long in the tooth; it works but they're not updating the IOS at this point. I'm hanging on to it until apple comes out with their SE2, supposedly in the spring; price is supposed to be either $300 or $400, which seems reasonable to me, and will be up to date with architecture and IOS system. I'm not springing for the 10, or 11 or whatever the top of the line is now. I can wait and will until they come out with a bit of a budget model.

 Ronald A Jones, Florida

I get that the camera you got with you beats the camera you got at home (sort of like a gun; the gun you got in your pocket beats the gun in your cabinet when you need it)(hrmph). 

 And there have been improvements in cameras; but at this point they're sort of incremental. A 12 MP camera is not 50% better resolution than a 8 MP camera; in order to double resolution you have to quadruple the megapixels, i.e, a 32 MP camera will have twice the resolution of an 8 MP camera. See for explanation.



Nonetheless, higher end phones may have better, or more, lenses. 

 Ronald A Jones

With the exception of certain designer and "luxury phones," like the $4,000 gold smart phone that HTC made for a while, there are usually real differences between various models that can justify at much of the price difference. More memory and faster processors will allow you to use the phone longer before upgrading, etc. Whether it makes sense for someone to spend that extra money will obviously depend on their circumstances.

I'm currently using a Pixel 3a because, when I bought it, it did everything I need and is likely to receive operating system upgrades for a relatively long period. Since then I've found that I'll get a lot of value out of a dual SIM phone and I'll spend more to get that feature when I eventually upgrade.

A friend who teaches high school mentioned that kids use phone brands as a reason to bully each other. That's not really relevant for this discussion as I think the point holds for most adults, I only mention it because it was a good reminder that I am extremely glad that my teenage years are well behind me.

Noel French, Michigan

I don't care much about status symbols. I am willing, however, to invest more money in something that I will use every day, or which is important to my practice. I have a last-generation iPhone (XS Max, I believe) and last year's Apple watch, because I use them all the time for both work and exercise. I run several ultramarathons a year, and the improvements in both GPS and battery life are important to me. For example, my iPhone 5 wouldn't make it through a three-hour run using both the GPS and music. By contrast, last fall I ran a 13-hour race with my current phone and watch and didn't need to charge either of them until I got home (and neither were in danger of dying on me when I got home).

Kevin Grierson, Virginia

Great example Kevin...it's something that you need and use.

This conversation reminds me of people who buy trucks and 4x4's----some need them, the rest are just making a statement.

Dave Rakowski

I am extremely happy with my LG G7. Life is good and we got a great deal at T-mobile with buy one and get one free. $650 for 2 great phone for me and my wife. I don't imagine paying close to $1500 for a single phone at all. I think LG is always under the radar due to iPhone and Samsung domination of the market.

John Kang, Nevada

Everyone has to analyze their use. Personally, I get a most current version phone when the one I own starts having problems, being difficult to update, or has battery issues. In practice, that means I skip multiple generations. I had an iPhone 6, then moved to iPhone X and should be good for at least a couple of years more.

Some people trade phones annually, just like some people trade vehicles annually. It is a choice. 

I do try to pay careful attention to the reception quality on any phone. Cell phone reception in rural counties of Texas is not optimum. I worry about that more than getting a connection generally in a major city (probably because less populous areas is the only time I have trouble). AT&T has legacy towers, which in some rural areas may be all that is available. That availability has been important in my choices, but if you never get off the freeways and major towns, you probably don't care.

Darrell G. Stewart, Texas

Mid-line phones exist and continue to sell. Some phones cater to that market. It is what I look for getting phones for the generation above me.


The above is a link to a December analysis of moderately priced phones. It comports with what I would look at in the market today, were I shopping.

Darrell G. Stewart

People do actually notice this stuff! I'm an old fuddyduddy when it comes to cell phones, but I have family members and friends who love to get the newest and greatest. They notice when others have the same one and lament when they can't justify upgrading yet. I imagine it's like noticing the red sole on someone's black pumps - if you know what it means, it means something. To everyone else, you probably just see a pair of shoes. For the record, I'm oblivious to most of this stuff, but I have started learning purse designers so I can remind my clients to list and value them in their schedules.

Corrine Bielejeski, California

I know some folks who just swap back and forth between Verizon and AT&T every 2.5 years or so. Since they're a couple, they can get the 2-for-1 deals so they functionally only pay half price. Two to three years seems like a decent compromise. I think that last year they negotiated a "please don't leave us" bonus which was even better than the 2-for-1.

Erik Hammarlund

"Cell phone reception in rural counties of Texas is not optimum. I worry about that more than getting a connection generally in a major city (probably because less populous areas is the only time I have trouble). AT&T has legacy towers, which in some rural areas may be all that is available. That availability has been important in my choices, but if you never get off the freeways and major towns, you probably don't care.”

Funny you should mention that….

I’m always amused by the cell phone advertising that claims that the XYZ phone company provides service to __% of the country (or __% or the population, or whatever). Why should I care if your network has better service in East Nowhere, if I never go to East Nowhere? What I care about is who has the best service around my home and my office (where I spend close to 90% of my time). Similarly, when I go camping with my son, I don’t really care whether your network doesn’t get service out there in the middle of nowhere—because no other network does, either. 

Perhaps if I was a “road warrior,” I’d care about that stuff, but it doesn’t make an appreciable difference in my life.

Brian H. Cole, California

Nothing could get me to switch to ATT

Lesley Hoenig

My last upgrade was from a Galaxy S3. to an S-7. I'm sure the cameras have improved, =However, unless you take a lot of pictures the software sucks. Maybe when I retire I'll find better software..

Personally the latest and greatest isn't that much greater.

John Davidson, Pennsylvania

I literally run my office from my phone so I really do need a top of the line phone. My current phone is a Galaxy Note 9 which I paid well over a thousand dollars for. Not one person has been impressed by my phone since Samsung phones all pretty much look alike. No one has even noticed it's a (once) expensive Note 9 (maybe because its price has dropped so much since it's no longer the latest and greatest). But that's not why I bought it.

This is the first phone I've ever had that has not caused me to curse in frustration because of chugging or lag. The camera comes in handy for photographing signed documents or evidence, but I'm no photographer so I'm not all that big on the camera.

Eugene Lee, California

I don't know that any particular phone serves as a status symbol any more, at least not to adults. Phones look so similar from generation to generation now that somebody would have to pay a LOT of attention to what particular model you are using to figure out what it is. I'd bet that folks who want the latest and greatest regardless of functionality are probably just folks who enjoy being on the bleeding edge of tech for its own sake, rather than for showing off. And some people really do want the functionality. I got a new Apple Watch when the 4 came out not because the version I had (a 2) was faulty in some way but because the 4 was larger and easier to read without reading glasses.

Kevin Grierson

I too choose a good phone because I run my practice from it about half the time. I have a Pixel 3 and also had the original Pixel. The memory, speed and battery life make it worth it to me.

Suzanne L. Hawkins

Why? I had to leave T-Mobile and go to ATT. I had horrible phone reception. It’s cost more, but its worth it.

Sonya Armfield

A. ATT reception here is not great. When Verizon took over Alltel, they were forcing all Verizon customers here to switch to att. Instead I cancelled (because we had that option. I did have to give up my previous cell number to do it) got a PO box in Midland MI and got a new Verizon account. Verizon's reception here is great. I wouldn't get T-Mobile or Sprint either.

B. I had ATT wireless during law school and was roaming in my own apartment and they wouldn't let me have a national plan (I switched to Verizon which did let me have a national plan). I have been given no reason to think ATT has gotten less horrible.

Verizon, while not perfect has never treated me the way ATT has.

Lesley Hoenig

Phones may look similar. But the case on mine draws lots of comments.


or rdbl.co/2vBbVhh


James S. Tyre, California

That site only seems to have cases for iPhone and Samsung phones. That is rather unfortunate.

Lesley A. Hoenig

FWIW, I periodically look at buying a satellite phone to more permanently address this issue. To date, I have not done so, but I think seriously about it when I know I am going to be spending any significant time in rural/remote areas.

Darrell G. Stewart

I've got zero patience when it comes to anything related to computing. I don't change phones every year, but eventually smart phones get really slow. Especially when Apple updates iOS over and over again. Then your phone doesn't get the latest updates, and then stuff stops working.

When I upgrade, it's to the fastest chip, because the older processors do end up feeling less snappy.

Joseph D. Dang, California

I keep my phones for a few years and right now I still have an iPhone 6s.

I am considering getting a certified refurbished XS or a new 11 (not the

Pro) from the Apple Store. Veterans get 10% discount. I need a bigger screen for my not so young eyes and I want a faster processor. My wife got the latest 11Pro and it is fast.

Dennis Chen

I'm with Dennis, I'm still rocking my iPhone 6s from years ago. I have generally noticed that when your cell phone contract is about to expire (which mine is) they'll either give you a nice upgrade for free or greatly reduced price, which is what I've been doing since I've had a smartphone.

I *have* actually had several lawyers make a comment/mock my "old phone" at networking events though, so perhaps the fear of it reflecting poorly on you has some validity, heh. I also drive at 10+ year old vehicle (that's totally paid off and in great condition) so I'm not really banking on the "impress everyone with my displays of opulence" strategy anyway. Opulence...I don't has it <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkB9OT2XVvA>.

Bryce Davis

Verizon did away with contracts a few years ago. No more new every two discounts. Sprint leases phones, which just seems ridiculous

Lesley A. Hoenig

Last year we switched from Sprint to AT&T without getting new phones. Our existing phones worked fine going from Sprint's CDMA to AT&T's system. I did not want a contract or any obligation so we did not upgrade any of the phones. I am much happier with AT&T. I get a big discount as a veteran.

I think it is 25% off the base fee.

Dennis Chen

Perry Mason had a car phone. 

Roger M. Rosen, California

I get my iPhone direct from Apple, that way I don't play games with my carrier about my rates. Apple will let you pay for your phone over two years with zero interest. You can also trade in your phone after a year to get the latest and greatest, or keep it for two years, and either stop making payments or just keep it and hand it off to someone else when you get a new one.

Kevin Grierson