Although I’ve been reading several labor law books in trying to get up to speed for a matter I am reviewing, I decided against reviewing these books due to their rather boring, and mostly technical details. Instead, as I am currently writing down my budget and costs for my month abroad in China, I thought I’d detail some of the events and do some simple scans while I review some of the places I went for the next week or so.

In an odd twist of events, I’ve also been called to jury duty, and that is keeping me from work. We’ll see how it goes.

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I’ve returned from a rather long, month-long trip to China.

It was a rather unusual experience, punctuated with a lot of interaction with the locals because I could speak mandarin. There are several pros to being able to interact with locals, one being a realization that as an industrializing nation, China very much suffers several of the same drawbacks that a third world nation has. This includes the rather abysmal transportation and power shortages resulting from a mild snow storm in the weeks before the Chinese New Year, observing how lovingly the locals like to fleece tourists, and how bad the western tourists have it because they lack what economists call “information” in order to make a good trade.

Language is a fascinating thing, with cultural meaning and other aspects attached to its use. It is interesting to see how people there view the government, the news, and discuss items of interest to us Americans such as 9/11. The language usage also differs between mainland China and Taiwan, and to see the difference was rather marvelous.

I will be resuming my posts momentarily. Lately I’ve been in contact with several people who need my services, and it has been hectic getting things going. Taxes are due, financial statements must be filled, clients must be reached, tasks must be completed and necessary items must be purchased.

I am not the only person from my graduating class who has decided to start his own practice right out of law school; Kristen Bryant has opened up an estate planning office and we have been discussing some of the joys and nuances of solo practice. What it takes to start an office, the documents involved, library of paperwork, and fees.

Oh, fees. To make money….

I recently bought a safe to lock important items in, and a shredder to eliminate confidential paperwork. I also had to go buy myself an all-in-one machine, which should be arriving tomorrow since I could not fit it into my car. I’ll review it, I suppose, once I manage to get it up and running.

There is a stack of paperwork sitting on my desk, begging to be read. In due time, I say.

Volume II is on Human Resources and Fees, Billing, and Collections. Published by the ABA Law Practice Mangement Section, and edited by Gary A. Munneke and Anthony E. Davis, this binder
contains some useful stuff, namely, FORMS. As in the forms one uses to bill clients and ask to get paid with. Or engagement letters. Useful, with accompanying disks or CDs of said forms so that one can properly equip their own law offices with useful bits and pieces of data.

I can’t say the Fees, Billing, and Collection portion of this form provides anything other than the basic information you can learn from elsewhere, such as from reading the Rules of Professional Conduct or creating-your-own-law-practice books, but the beauty of this volume is in the forms, and I’ll review Volume I and III later.

In my previous book review I gave the most awesome review to the 1974 “Law Office Management” textbook. In that post I mentioned the ABA publishes several other books, including “The Complete Guide to Marketing your Law Practice”.

This is the kind of book that your MBA your salivate over. By that, I mean a byzantine list of organizational “Hey, this is what you should do” fluff. It’s the kind of document produced by someone that Google, an organization that prides itself on hiring people who get things done, would NOT hire.

The 1999 edition I’m looking at, edited by Hollis Hatfield Weishar and James A. Durham, does have a few gems for the impatient solo practitioner who just wants to use some practical information to apply instead of bureaucratic “Get your firm mentality in order!” and “Design your strategy!”
I’m sure this is useful, for the law firm looking to change itself, but not for someone like me.

Chapter 6 talks about marketing yourself through the spoken word, through your interaction with friends and other people at social events. Somewhat helpful and suggestive, although I much rather prefer Foonberg’s “How to get and keep good clients”.

Chapter 8, Internet Marketing, would be more interesting if it actually talked about the interactive nature of the Internet potentially opening new venues for marketing through blogs. Being that it was published in 1999, I’m less inclined to be so hard on the book for such non-inclusion. However, the problem with Chapter 8 is that it views the Internet as a ‘push’ medium for publishing just a listing of your services, much like the yellow pages. While the author recognizes the Internet is international, I don’t think the chapter accounts for the back-and-forth nature of the Internet, potentially providing you with ways to manage client interactions and provide marketing opportunity through leaflets, as discussed in other parts of this book…

Chapter 12 was enjoyable to read, especially for the short tax story Singerman writes in it. Chapter 10, discussing potential win-win pricing strategies, falls short of recommending possible reforms to the ‘contingent’, ‘hourly’, and ‘flat fee’ systems.

In yet another one of those “let’s see what the library has to offer” in terms of law practice information, I wandered around KF 318.S825.1974 to come up with “Law Office Management”, edited by Kline Strong and Arben Clark. As the call number suggests, this law practices book written in 1974 is full of useful suggestions, for the law student, support staff, and practitioner, who wishes to use state-of-the-art pegboards for facilitating time management and financial accounting.

In addition to the wonderous world of time slips, file cards, and manila envelopes, one can learn more about the usefulness of having support staff provide indexing services, creating your own ‘low cost information retrieval system’ with selector heads and strange looking devices, and other tidbits of information that if I was actually able to find an office supply store selling these items, might actually be useful.

The ABA publishes regularly a list of publication for ‘law practice management’, which might be more useful than this old, old textbook that apparently use to be the former property of my Evidence professor.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I began reading this book after realizing how little I knew procedurally about setting up an adoption. For the tweedledum and tweedledee lawyer who hasn’t a clue how to go about with an adoption in Hawaii, this is where you start.

Most helpful was the references to the Hawaii Revised Statute section 578, which gives the law regarding adoption. I say helpful, since I don’t happen to have a westlaw or lexis research account at this time (that itself is another story…) It lists the kinds of people who can adopt, who must receive notice (such as the “presumed father” and “concerned natural father”), and other useful details that your normal business transactions lawyer would have no clue.

Also useful was a library bank of adoption forms, which are probably outdated by now, in Appendix XI. If and when Family Court moves out to Kapolei, forms such as “Notice of Time and Place of Hearing” will need to be updated as Family Court will no longer be in town. But it is a place to start, after checking that the HRS references and law is still intact and holding, as well as any other things to consider in going about updating the form for current use.

One item that I would say I learned after reading this book was of the unusual status and need to check whether the adopted child is American Indian. This makes me wonder whether there are specific issues to consider when it comes to a Native Hawaiian, and if the Akaka Bill should pass, anything specific adoption-wise when it comes to an adopted child of Native Hawaiian ancestry. Also new to me was the ’10 year old’ getting child’s own input discussion. I’m not sure whether this is still the law, as my recollection from family law class was that they base it on whether the child is capable of stating a preference and not merely age alone. A question, I imagine, for someone with a client, time, money, and need to go look up themselves.

Another useful thing in the book was the types of questions and checklists to look into by the legal support staff to help in doing the filing material, such as the adopting parent’s family background, and other items that will help show the court that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.

If I ever have to do adoptions, I wonder if there is a newer edition of this book (1st Edition, 1984) and where one goes about buying it. The publisher is the Hawaii Institute for Continuing Legal Education. I suppose if I start joining the HSBA sections I’ll start getting the information I need to figure these things out.

I found “The Complete Guide to Contract Lawyering”, 2nd edition while wandering about the Univ. of Hawaii Voyager catalog looking for more random books that might help me while I go about establishing a business. This is part of my effort to get some idea about how to go about creating a law practice while spending a little dough as possible to keep costs low. I picked the older, 2nd Edition because it was the one I could actually take home instead of reading while in the library.

Contract lawyering is the idea of working for other lawyers who might have too much extra business to really handle. Basically, you take what you can get when you’re starting off, and it’s one way to get some amount of dough rolling in.

The book’s helpful in giving one some idea about the ethical consideration to think about, as well as how to approach other lawyers for business. They also mention how to figure out your rates, if you’re suited to this job, and the rather low reputation lawyers sometimes have for contract lawyers (see Chapter 3, The Case for Working as a Contract Lawyer).

However, I find the book is somewhat more suited for mainland situations. For one thing, I’m not sure the example rates are realistic in Hawaii, nor does malpractice insurance coverage extend to contracted lawyers. Nor does there seem to be a lawyer placement agency locally. Hmm, perhaps that invites a market opportunity…

I would say this is a book worth reading if one is considering contract lawyering, for both the person approaching it as a means of earning an income and as the solo starting out and attempting to have some sort of cash flow.