Are You “Experienced”?

July 5, 2014

Not only a good album, but a good question. Attorney advertising has been around as long as I’ve been practicing law, as have the Rules of Professional Conduct, which govern attorney behavior, including advertising.

In Pennsylvania, attorney advertising is governed by Rule 7.2 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. As part of these rules, a lawyer may not use “inherently subjective terms” like “experienced” to describe their practice. This rule seems to be observed more in its breach than in lawyers’ adherence to it. Google “Experienced Pennsylvania Lawyer” (or just click that link) and you’ll see what I mean.

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Winning Ugly

June 18, 2014

Judge Papov looked pissed.

“You’re really going to instruct your client not to answer the question and waste everyone’s time, Mr. Rushie?”
“Judge, you’re not giving me much of a choice here…”

The judge didn’t even bother to hear argument. He looked at me, looked at my older adversary, and made a decision as soon as we reached the podium.

A week ago I had instructed my client not to answer a question in a deposition because it called for privileged information. The other side filed a motion to compel a response.

Before coming to court I had done the research and written a brief on the issue, confirming that my instruction not to answer was appropriate. No judge in their right mind would force my client to divulge privileged information with 5th Amendment implications, especially when the case law was this clear, right?

Of course, this was discovery court, where the dreams of young lawyers go to die. When it came to justice or convenience, convenience always seemed to win out. At one point the judge mentioned “If you don’t like my decisions, maybe you should work out your disputes before hand.”

As the judge glared down, I think this was the last place in the world I wanted to be. It was 85 degrees, and was packed to the brim with dozens of lawyers hoping to be heard quickly and get out. I waited over two hours to be called. Until my hearing, the judge had been moving through his docket quickly, mostly making decisions that seemed almost arbitrary. For a brief second, pressed shirt now drenched with sweat, I pictured myself laying on a beach somewhere drinking a piña colada. I could hear the ocean.

Judge Papov brought me back to reality and bellowed, “Mr. Rushie, I told you once, and I will not tell you again. Instruct your client to answer the question. I don’t have all day.”
Gary turned and whispered in my ear. “We can’t give them that information, right? You gotta fight for me…” Gary was right.

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Smokey the Cat

January 5, 2014

“Jordan, have you ever done an eviction before?” my boss James asked me. I had been working for a small firm in suburban Pennsylvania for about three years now, and was beginning to hit my stride as a lawyer. James was letting me handle files from start to finish with more regularity.
“Nope. But I’m sure it’s not rocket science. Just give me the file, old man,” I said with a grin. “This one sounds boring.”

The case was simple enough. A woman named Agnes was renting a house from one of James’s biggest clients. She hadn’t paid her rent in a long, long time. The client decided he didn’t want her living there anymore. Too easy, or so I thought.

I drove to the courthouse that day and filed the paperwork. A few weeks later I had a default judgment and a writ of possession, meaning I could have the constables remove the tenant with force, if necessary. The constable posted notice on the house, and we made arrangements for the eviction. Again, too easy. Chalk this up as another win.

“How is the eviction case coming along, Jordan?” James asked me a few weeks later.
“Great! We got a default judgment. I’m going to the house tomorrow morning to remove her. Next time consider giving me an interesting assignment, old man,” I said laughing.
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The Plea

December 3, 2013

It is Tuesday at 9.30am and I am in the booth.

The booth is a tiny box where I have the honor of talking to my client through an inch of bullet-proof glass. I say “talking”, though it’s really more like yelling, since it’s pretty hard to hear through that glass.

“Booth” is a misnomer too. “Booth” reminds me of the precursor to something fun. You buy tickets to a movie or carnival rides at a booth. No such fun was happening today.

Really, the booth is purgatory, a limbo my clients sit in after they’ve made their way from the prison and to the courthouse basement’s holding cells, but before they enter the courtroom where they await final judgment.

This particular morning, I am wearing a navy flannel Brooks Brothers No. 1 sack suit, a white shirt I freshly pressed at 5.30 that morning, and a somber tie that reflected my mood.

In gross juxtaposition, my client is in an orange prison jumpsuit and has a thermal on underneath to keep warm. I guess this hell follows Dante’s rules.

My client is a good man who’d recently made a series of terrible decisions, all of which led to where he is today. Despite his cock-ups, he was truthful and admitted his mistakes not only to his family, but to members of his community.

Then the police became involved.

And he got arrested.

And his mistakes became a “case.”

And that’s how we ended up on opposite sides of the same sheet of glass on Tuesday at 9.32am. Read the rest of this entry »


Trash Day

November 24, 2013

“Leo, bro, it’s Jordan… you gotta see this. It’s Christmas in Fishtown. Come to the office!”
“I have caller ID. I know it’s you, Jordan. Why are you calling me on a Saturday? And don’t ever refer to me as ‘bro’ again”.
“Bro, err, Leo. Just trust me. Come to the office. And wear jeans and a t-shirt if you own anything like that.”

Before me on that hot Saturday morning stood the most beautiful thing I had ever seen – a giant mountain of trash. Well, a mountain full of discarded office furniture. Old filing cabinets, used chairs, pens, desks, you name it. Apparently one of the businesses in our building had left abruptly and figured it would be too expensive to move any of the furniture, so they threw it all in a big dumpster. I swallowed my pride, called the building manager, and asked if I could take their trash.

“It’s trash, Jordan. You can do whatever you want.”
“Thanks, Jess! You’re the best!”

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Sharks and Dinosaurs

August 20, 2013

“Look at that old fart in the corner sleeping. What is the matter with him?,” John said to me, laughing.

John had just started his own solo practice about two months ago after getting laid off at an insurance defense firm. John is about my age. Why did I sit down next to him? It’s gonna be a long afternoon I thought to myself…

I looked over to my left. There was old Pete Keating, slumped over in a chair dozing off. Pete must be in his 80s by now. Although he didn’t look like much, Pete was a legend among the criminal defense bar.

Today I was covering a routine status conference for Leo. Show up, get a continuance, and then go home. Although I don’t practice criminal defense, that seemed like something I could handle.

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A Question For Rachel Rodgers – If It’s Not Legal Advice, What Is It?

August 19, 2013

I didn’t want to write about Rachel Rodgers again. Really, I didn’t. Rachel is smart, web savvy, and pretty cute. Honestly, I feel like a big hurtful bully by continually writing about the stuff she does. If Rachel were selling real estate or things on etsy, I would probably give her props. She is a heck of a business person and makes nice websites. We are also both are fans of Tim Ferriss.

But this is law we are talking about, and Rachel is continually finding new and clever ways to straddle that grey line of “is that ethical.”

Today, Rachel’s new venture takes the cake. Absolutely takes the cake. I tried not to write about it, I really did. But I just couldn’t resist. This is truly unbelievable…

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A Virtual Law Office For All The Baby Lawyers With Too Much Debt And No Jobs?

August 16, 2013

Today I came across what could possibly be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Florida Coastal has decided to respond to the crisis of too many unemployed JDs with mountains of debt by creating a Center for Law Practice Technology (CLPT). What is this CLPT? According to the school’s website:

“At its core, the certificate offered through the center will ensure students graduate with the technological competence all lawyers need in light of the demands of the profession, namely how to leverage technology to serve clients more effectively and efficiently,” Granat said. “However, we also understand it is perhaps even more important to prepare students for new positions in the burgeoning market of companies offering technology solutions for legal services, including electronic discovery, legal process outsourcing, law practice management software, automated document assembly and more.”

So your solution to the debt crisis is to teach recent law graduates, most of whom don’t have any savings to start their own virtual law firms? Hmmmmmmm….

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Technology Is Still Not How You Build A Law Firm

July 7, 2013

Today I read an… interesting… article suggesting something that only lawyers on the internet believe. Apparently “virtual technology” (I guess stuff like cloud computing and iPads) is going to reshape the face of law. This will allow young lawyers with very little supervision to offer cheaper legal services to people, thereby undercutting large and mid-sized law firms. The author states:

I’ve seen new law school graduates successfully fill the void between the brick and mortar model and the other option of downloading do-it-yourself legal forms on-line by serving this market virtually.  Clients can find the attorney on line, the attorney comes to meet the clients  at a time and place convenient to the clients, the clients can access their attorney and documents on line and everyone is happy.

The obvious regarding my questions about “virtual lawyers” aside (where do they take depositions? Where do they store deposition transcripts, or client files securely for that matter?), here are a few observations from a young guy who has their own practice that is doing well.

Of course, take my advice for what it’s worth because I only started my own firm in 2012, and it could all fall apart tomorrow. But these are my musings…

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Can I Start A Law Firm With No Money?

June 29, 2013
STRAIGHT CASH

This is how you get paid.

I think one of the most common questions I get asked is, “Jordan, I want to start my own firm, but I have like $1700 in my savings account. Can I start a law firm with no money?”

The simple answer is yes, yes you can. It doesn’t take much more than a law license, a working computer, a printer, and a cell phone to start a law firm.

But here is the better question. Will your law firm succeed in the long term if you start it with no money?

Well, that answer is a bit more complex…

I will preface this post with a true story. A friend of mine was abruptly laid off from biglaw. He couldn’t find a job so he decided to start his own practice with no clients, an office from home, and very little money in savings. During the startup period, he defaulted on his mortgage and his house was sold at sheriff’s sale. He also defaulted on his motorcycle loan, and rides a pedal bike around the neighborhood. At one point, he was on food stamps. Yes, a lawyer who once made a six figure salary working for a law firm was on food stamps. A few years later, his solo practice finally pays his rent, but he lost everything in the process.

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