My Shingle: Inspiring Solo and Small Firm Lawyers



Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 17, 2008 at 06:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)



Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 16, 2008 at 03:09 PM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pick up my new feed here

I've moved to a Lexblog platform and apparently, my RSS feed has changed. You can re-subscribe here at or re-register at the newly designed site,

Carolyn Elefant

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 29, 2008 at 07:36 AM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Letter to A New Lawyer

What advice do I have for a new lawyer?  That's the money question from my friend and colleague, Susan Cartier Liebel who's preparing this week's Blawg Review #142 on that very topic. 

To start, I asked myself what kind of advice I would have found useful two decades ago when I was a new lawyer.   Unfortunately, back then, I disregarded the little advice that I did receive, because I thought I knew better.  For example, one older and somewhat doddering professor at my law school regularly told students that if we wanted a job at a particular firm, we ought do what he did "back in the day" (which for him was the 1930s) - put on a nice suit, march up to the firm's office with resume in hand, ask to see the managing partner and introduce ourselves.  My buddies and I had a laugh over our professor's well intended words of wisdom, mercilessly mocking him as completely out of touch.  But would it have hurt us to try what he suggested?  None of us ever did.  And now...all these years later, I now see the nuggets of value buried in my professor's seemingly outdated advice: the importance of putting yourself out there, taking initiative and most of all, making a personal connection.  So my first piece of advice to new lawyers is that you should keep an open mind.  Most advice is well intentioned.  It may not be right for you, but don't reject it out of hand. 

Other advice, I've addressed in past posts at MyShingle.  It includes:

  1. Remember that sometimes the smallest things we do have the greatest impact;

  2. Sometimes you may have to do something desperate to succeed;

  3. While keeping in mind that law and running a law firm is a business, don't lose sight of the higher purpose we can serve as lawyers and;

  4. Like Randy Pausch of the Last Lecture , embrace karma !

Two final pieces of advice.  First, don't waste effort seeking certainty or waiting for "the right time" - whether it's the right time to change a job, start a law firm or get married or start a family.  Not only does surety always elude you, but in focusing on it with spotlight intensity, you miss the best part of the journey:  living the questions, as Rainer Marie Rilke writes in his Letters to A Young Poet (this is my very favorite passage):

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now...because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Second, always remember that you are a part of a profession that pays homage to  precedent.  That doesn't mean we're bound by old ways, but rather, that we have the ability to create new approaches with lasting effects.  New ways of doing business, of achieving justice, or serving clients.   As a lawyer, you have an opportunity to leave your own personal mark on the law that will remain long after you're gone.  Don't waste it. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 12, 2008 at 08:02 AM in MyShingle Solo | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

More Lawyer Videos, From Beverly Hills IP Solo Michael Cohen

As my regular readers know, I'm a major fan of videos - and I've been tracking solos' use of videos for marketing in posts here and here. And I see today that my Third Wave colleague Chuck Newton has posted on the topic as well.

More and more solos are using videos to convey their message. Recently, I discovered this video series by Beverly Hills IP attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen's videos are more polished than the usual YouTube fare; they're posted here at Video Jug.

If you're using video drop me a line - I'd be happy to link to it here at

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 7, 2008 at 05:51 PM in Marketing & Making Money | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Book Trailer for Solo By Choice: Proof of Concept and Work in Progress

Here's a video trailer that I created for my upcoming book, Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be. It's a proof of concept in learning how to use my iMac software. Unfortunately, I'm still learning how to use the editing tools, so the transitions aren't entirely smooth and there's a very, very long dead space at the end, because I couldn't figure out how to cut the audio clip. But I'd spent so much time on the video, that I decided to put it out here in beta, and solicit advice from readers on how to fix some of these problems. So please send your input below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 1, 2008 at 07:16 PM in book, Marketing & Making Money | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Make 2008 The Year You Start Your Law Firm

As another year draws to a close, do you find yourself thinking about hanging out your own shingle? Perhaps the thought occurred to you the other night while you were polishing up a brief, wishing that you -- not the partner who isn't at all familiar with the case -- were going to argue it.

Or maybe after a year of working the temp circuit, using your Ivy League law degree to perform paralegal work, it occurred to you that you couldn't be any worse off if you started your own practice.

So what's holding you back?

I wrote these words three years ago in this article, Make 2005 the Year You Start Your Own Law Firm. But my advice still rings true today. Take a look and see if I've convinced you to make this year the one that you start your firm.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 27, 2007 at 08:57 PM in MyShingle Solo | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

A Great Video Ad To End the Year:

I posted on this video here. In my view and for the reasons I described in that post, it's hands down the best and most effective lawyer ad that I've seen this year, rivalling my favorite ad of 2006, by criminal defense attorney Allison Margolin, that I wrote about here.

Lights, camera, action - are you video-ready for 2008?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 26, 2007 at 12:20 PM in Ethics & Malpractice Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

This Solo Has No Problem With Avvo

For a few days now, the blogosphere has been abuzz with news of the dismissal of a class action lawsuit against lawyer directory and rating service, Avvo and the subsequent Wall Street Journal's endorsement of Avvo. These events evoked an impassioned post by respected solo-centric blogger Susan Cartier Liebel, who argues that Avvo's rating system harms solos, does not help consumers and unfairly generates investor profits off the backs of lawyers who never asked for a ratings system. As such, Cartier Liebel urges lawyers not to participate in Avvo's system. Since then, commenters to Scott Greenfield's Avvo posthave launched a debate over Avvo's benefit to consumers and its impact on solos. Though I'm a little late to this party (having been away and off the grid for two days), I wanted to chime in to make clear that not all of us solos oppose Avvo, nor should we. Here's why.

Continue reading "This Solo Has No Problem With Avvo"

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 25, 2007 at 10:57 PM in Marketing & Making Money | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

Lawyers Appreciate...Passion, Baby, Passion!

Yes, you read my headline correctly - lawyers appreciate passion. At least, that's my official response to the Second Annual what do lawyers appreciate meme , for which I've been tagged by my friend Sheryl Schelin.

My answer may surprise you. After all, we generally, we don't associate staid lawyers with passion - unless it's kind of carnal passion like thisthat keeps bar disciplinary committees in business. But lawyers appreciate the another kind of passion: the inspired committment that the best lawyers bring to bear in representing clients, running their practices and participating in the blawgosphere. In fact, if you think about it, passion lies at the core of our profession, formally codified in our duty to zealously represent clients. What is zeal, after all, if not passion?

So how do I know that lawyers appreciate passion? Well, first and most obvious, because even though in our profession passion is in short supply, either squeezed dry by the rigorous demands of a job we don't like or the monotony of the same cases over and over again, many of us lawyers yearn to restore passion to our own practices. Second, because passion accounts for the public success and personal satisfaction of those lawyers at biglaw or their own solo practice, who practice law with joy and purpose, and in doing so, evoke our admiration. And finally, because passion drives the success of our beloved blawgosphere, home to memes such as this one. The blawgosphere depends upon the participation of hundreds of lawyers who blog their hearts out for audiences of ten or ten thousand simply out of sheer passion for exchanging and sharing ideas. And silly contests aside, for those laywers who passionately and genuinely captivate and inspire their readers, the blawgosphere bestows a wealth of riches like complimentary comments, mutual respect, intellectual satisfaction and, as Sheryl said, friendship.

That said, while I may appreciate passion in the practice of law, I don't have much passion, just patience, for memes. But I'll dutifully tag Scott Greenfield, Nathan Dosch, Bob Kraft and Ed Poll and Greatest American Lawyer. And of course, you don't need to wait for an invite - feel free to jump in and join the party as I did last year (lawyers appreciate...clients).

Update 12/24/07 made a few stylistic edits.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 24, 2007 at 07:52 AM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Another Contest: Law Is Stranger Than Fiction

My sister sent me this notice about a legal fiction writing contest sponsored by SEAK, a company that provides seminars and training for expert witnesses, lawyers and medical professionals. Either short stories or a novel excerpt of 2500 words or less qualify for submission. Entries are due March 31, 2008.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 22, 2007 at 05:08 PM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Get Yourself Noticed: Go Forth and Comment!

So, guess who won the Wall Street Journal Law Blog's Lawyer of the Year contest? No, it wasn't Alberto Gonzales (the ABA's first choice , until it changed its mind, or Clarence Thomas or even the overly litigious Roy Pearson who spawned dozens of bad puns about lawyers suing the pants off businesses. Nope. As I posted here, a pseudonymous second year law student who goes by "Loyola 2L" took the prize, for his constant commentary that spotlighted the poor job prospects for graduates from lower tier law schools.

Here's why you should care about Loyola 2L's victory: because it shows the power of commenting at a highly trafficked website. And while blogs like Above the Law or WSJ Law Blog, with their immature and often frivolous remarks may not be appropriate for practicing lawyers, these blogs are far from the only game in town. For example, the WSJ also has blogs on health care issues or Business Technology. Each post lists commenters in the side bar, so if you post under your real name, you'll get some mention right on the web page itself. Plus, when readers email story links to others, recipients will view your comments as well. Most other major news outlets also have an unmoderated comment section, where you can post on a story.

Posting comments at popular blogs can give your recognition beyond the actual blog site. Your comments will show up in search engines and the reporters who've authored the posts will come to regard you as an expert for future stories.

Continue reading "Get Yourself Noticed: Go Forth and Comment!"

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 22, 2007 at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Round Up of Opportunities for Solo and Small Firms

Here's a quick round up of some opportunities for solo and small firm lawyers.

Check out Susan Cartier-Liebel's contest, So You Want to Fly Solo. The contest, which is open to all lawyers - "newly minted or well seasoned," and current and/or wannabe solos, offers a two hour consult (value: priceless) with Susan as the grand prize. Visit the link for details on how to enter.

If you're part of what has been dubbed the Practical Blawgosphere (someone tell me who's responsible for coining this term for future accreditation), sign up to join the Wiki of the Practical Blawgosphere, described in more detail by Scott Greenfield in this post.

Though it's a bit early (and I'll be reposting this), mark your calendars for a blockbuster event that I've organized for the DC Bar's Law Practice Management Steering Committee, entitled Practicing Law in the E-Court of Public Opinion: How the Internet Can Make Or Break Your Reputation and What You Can Do About. In a profession where a negative image can harm our clients or hurt us financially, all lawyers - from solos to partners at ginormous law firms - owe it to ourselves to understand how the Internet affects our reputation. The panel features a star studded cast, with David Lat at Above the Law and Mark Britton, CEO of Avvo who will discuss both the positive and negative effects of their popular websites on lawyers' images. And the panel will also include two D.C. attorneys Andrew Mirsky and Jonathan Frieden who will respectively provide expert advice on the role of First Amendment and libel law in protecting reputation and practical ways that you can guard and enhance your image. I'll be moderating the panel. The event will be held at the D.C. Bar on January 24, 2008, and best of all, even if you're not physically in DC, you can listen in via teleconference. Here's the sign up form for this not to be missed event.

Finally, if you know of any other events, conferences or activities that might prove useful to solo and small firm lawyers, email the information to me at

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 22, 2007 at 09:41 AM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Talk About Hypocrisy: Doesn't the Bar Have Anything Better To Do Than Go After a $35/Hr. Contract Attorney?

With billing fraud rampant at major law firms, guess who the Illinois disciplinary committee decided to prosecute? Was it the the partners at a
Chicago office of a national firm, whose own colleague shined a light on overbilling? Nah - that's too large a target. Why not go after the smallest possible potato instead - like a $35 an hour contract attorney who allegedly overbilled by $2913.75 for work performed on a month long document review gig for Mayer Brown (a firm whose own rap sheet includes firing 45 equity partners to preserve the firm's $1 million profits-per-partner ratio and a partner just indicted on charges of criminal fraud).

Continue reading "Talk About Hypocrisy: Doesn't the Bar Have Anything Better To Do Than Go After a $35/Hr. Contract Attorney?"

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 22, 2007 at 07:43 AM in Ethics & Malpractice Issues | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

Lombardi's Response to My Post on Listserves

Earlier today in this post, I described my disagreement with Iowa personal injury attorney Steve Lombardi's complaints about misuse of listserves. Lombardi has now weighed in with a responsehere.

Lombardi raises one issue to which I gave short shrift: that lawyers should not blindly rely on advice offered on listserves without conducting their own independent verification. However, those lawyers who willingly accept advice from other lawyers (e.g., "The statute says X") without checking the source are the same lawyers who, in the absense of the listserve, probably wouldn't even bother to research a question to begin with (For example, I know one lawyer who will file a motion without any caselaw and then let his opponent "do the work for him" by researching and citing applicable cases in the response. Let's just say that this lawyer's clients wouldn't be any worse off if this lawyer relied on unverified advice from a listserve).

Lombardi also mentions the problem of too much listserve garbage that he claims don't interest experienced attorneys - the endless stream of "me too's" and political discussion and posts by lawyers in way over their heads. However, information overload isn't unique to listserves; it's a product of the Internet era where we're regularly inundated with a constant stream of information from listserves, blogs, news sources and RSS feeds. As lawyers, we need to find ways to manage that information, to cull the wheat from the chaff in an efficient and proactive manner. Yes, many listserves do benefit from moderators, but we lawyers must take responsibility for moderating information for ourselves. This means liberal use of mail filters, search tools and most of all, the "delete key."

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 17, 2007 at 06:35 PM in Solo Practice Trends | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

...and this is how it looks....


It's not going to be available until January 7, 2008, but you can preorder and get some more details here. In the meantime, this is how it looks!

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 17, 2007 at 05:52 PM in book | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Listserves: The Problem or the Solution For Improving Lawyer Competency?

When I'm asked to list the resources that have helped improve my competency as a lawyer, I'd place blogs and listserves high on the list. In particular, the guidance that I've received from that mother-of-all-solo-listserves, Solosez has helped me tackle issues far more effectively than I could have on my own, while other feedback has enabled me to avert unwanted conflicts and difficult clients.

So I was surprised to come across this post on the misuse of listserves at the Injury Board by Iowa personal injury attorney Steve Lombardi. Lombardi writes:

But the lawyer LISTSERV has become a place where lazy lawyers fool themselves into thinking they can get questions answered and avoid associating with more qualified lawyers. I suspect they do this for several reasons, none worthy of discussion because no excuse is good enough for me when the client's interests are being subjugated to the lawyer's...The lawyers I'm referring to who misuse the LISTSERV are lawyers with enough experience to know better. They are usually on their own, sole practitioners with a history of taking cases they have no business taking and who regularly settle cases without ever trying one. They advertise themselves as being trial lawyers but have very little trial experience.

Lombardi argues that trial association listserves must do a better job of monitoring the lists to weed out or discourage "inexperienced lawyers" who "con their way into a case" and use the listserve as a fallback.

Continue reading "Listserves: The Problem or the Solution For Improving Lawyer Competency?"

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 17, 2007 at 03:33 AM in Tech & Web | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

I Hope That This Hillman Article on Client Choice Isn't Intended to Create More Hurdles for Shinglers-to-Be

Under legal ethics principles, a clients' right to the attorney of their choosing trumps even the economic interest of the firm representing the client. For that reason, firms cannot force lawyers to enter into non-compete agreements or impose onerous restrictions that would prevent a client from following a departing attorney to another firm or to his own practice. Were it not for the principle of client choice, the increasing trend of "biglaw to yourlaw attorneys" (that I've described in various posts )here would stop dead in its tracks since most big firm attorneys are generally manage to take a few clients with them, who provide a source of revenue as they grow their new firm (in fact, many large firm attorneys find that the clients who migrate with them provide them with even more work, because the attorney can charge more affordable rates as a solo). And attorneys would be forever married to a single law firm, even if another professional opportunity presented itself that was more beneficial not just for the attorney, but for his client as well.

But now comes this seemingly benign article by Professor Robert W. Hillman, entitledClient Choice, Contractual Restraints and the Market for Legal Servicesthat lays the groundwork for upending the existing scheme. Hillman writes that client choice doesn't justify the present bar to non-compete agreements because client choice is only a myth. Hillman writes that as a practical matter, the only clients who have choice are sophisticated large firm clients, while clients of lesser means may not be able to afford lawyers at all, or are forced to settle for those who charge the cheapest rates. Because client choice is a myth, Hillman suggests that there's no basis more basis in law than in any other profession (such as medicine or accounting) for prohibiting non-competes or other restraints on lawyers' ability to take clients with them when leaving a firm.

Continue reading "I Hope That This Hillman Article on Client Choice Isn't Intended to Create More Hurdles for Shinglers-to-Be "

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 16, 2007 at 05:42 PM in Solo Practice Trends | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Reach Out And Make A Connection

Arnie Herz at Legal Sanity offers a great tip, echoed by What About Clients: reconnect with your business network so that you can continue to nurture and reinforce the trusted relationships that produce not only business referrals, but personal fulfillment. Taking a page from Curt Rosengren, Herz recommends that you try speaking with someone personally whom you know via email or the Internet, but haven't actually spoken with. Why don't you give it try?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 16, 2007 at 04:05 PM in Blogging, Client Relations, Ideas & Tips | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Google Yourself...For Fun and Necessity

AP is reporting here on a recent study by Pew Internet and American Life Project that found that 47 percent of US adult internet users have searched for information about themselves through Google or some other search engine. That's double the percentage of users who did so in 2002. Mary Madden, a Pew research specialist quoted in the article expressed some surprise that more users don't engage in "self-searching," particularly with the increase in content that's posted about us on the Internet.

For lawyers practicing in an Internet age, self-searching isn't just an act of fun or vanity, but one of absolute business necessity. In this electronic era, we must assume that existing and prospective clients and colleagues will search for us on Google, so we need to stay ahead by always keeping on top of what's out there.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 16, 2007 at 03:53 PM in Marketing & Making Money , Tech & Web | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)