The MFAN e-newsletter – now available quarterly in your inbox!...

To celebrate our third year supporting and raising awareness of independent freelance attorneys, the Minnesota Freelance Attorney Network has begun a quarterly e-newsletter.  Our goals remain the same:  to let you know who we are and what we do,  to explain how we fit into the “new normal” for legal services, and to make it easy for those who would like to join us or work with us to learn what they need to know to take the next step. We’ll deliver the same great content you’ve come to love in our blog, plus an expanded range of articles on substantive legal developments and practice management tips from the growing community of Minnesota’s independent freelance attorneys.  In your inbox, four times a year.  It doesn’t get more convenient than this, folks. Want to know more?  Visit our website and sign up for our email list – first issue coming to your inbox in January 2016.  Make this the year you resolve to find more time for yourself in your practice by connecting with fellow professionals who can help you with your workload. May your 2016 be busy and prosperous.  Thank you for your support and happy new year! Karin has been a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton; a law clerk to three Minnesota federal judges; a legal writing teacher at NYU Law, William Mitchell College of Law, and the University of Minnesota Law School; and a sole practitioner and freelancer in Minnesota… MFAN Bio | Email | Web | LinkedIn | Google Plus | MFAN...

Let a Freelancer Help You Enjoy Fall...

The days are getting shorter.  There’s a nip in the air.  Leaves are turning.  It’s time to enjoy fall before the snow flies. What should you do to enjoy it? Go to a Wild game in St. Paul.  The season is just starting. Go leaf-watching.  Here’s where the best color is now. There will be some rainy blustery days.  Take that time to bake a cake.  A simple one or something more complicated. Check out the new exhibit at the History Center on the history of suburbia in Minnesota. Walk around a lake with your kids.  Any lake. And help your kids with their homework. Six things you can spin off – to free up more time:  Some legal research.  A freelancer can do some research you may need for trial or appellate briefs.  Or just for assessing the strength of a case. Drafting some motion papers.  A freelancer can draft motion papers for you.  Pieces of a brief or a memorandum.  Or the whole thing. Putting a brief together.  A freelancer can help assemble the facts, research and argument you need for a winning brief. Get help with estate and probate matters. Discovery.  A freelancer can help go through documents to respond to discovery.  Or help draft your discovery requests. Get help with E-discovery in particular. Editing.   A Freelancer can edit briefs or other papers for you. Get help with your website, blog or CLE materials. Whatever it is that you like to do – reading for fun, hunting, going to galleries, watching kids grow, or just goofing off – figure out how a freelancer can help you make that happen. Think about your practice, what you don’t like doing, what can be spun off.  You can do lots of things with time you conserve when you get outside legal help.  Hire an experienced freelance attorney to free up your time for other things. Karen graduated from William Mitchell College of Law in 1986, first in her class. She then clerked for three years: one year for a Minnesota Supreme Court justice, and two years for a federal district court judge. Later she became a partner at two firms… MFAN Bio | Email | Web | LinkedIn | MFAN...

IT’S TIME TO ENGAGE IN E-DISCOVERY!...

I started an e-discovery-focused practice because, well, e-discovery is foreign or even scary to many lawyers. But here’s the thing: you have to engage with the process. All the information that your clients need you to have to represent them effectively exists electronically, and you’re probably missing the boat by not being involved in the process. Sure, you can hire an e-discovery vendor or litigation support firm, or delegate tasks to a paralegal or a “tech guy,” but there’s an important difference between them and lawyers: the former aren’t lawyers. To paraphrase what a colleague of mine (a “tech guy”) said when I worked for an e-discovery vendor: “To technologists, the stuff we’re collecting is just data—ones and zeros. The content doesn’t mean a thing to us.” As a lawyer, my response was along the lines of, “The content is what this process it all about. It’s, you know, evidence, and it certainly does matter to our clients.” I do not mean to knock the professionalism, skills, or dedication of non-lawyers in the e-discovery world, but, for the most part it’s true that they simply don’t think like lawyers. You likely haven’t told them much detail about the causes of action involved in the case, what you know about the facts, or what you need to prove to win or successfully defend your case. You just told them to handle the data and set it up for review. You may have even had them do a first-pass review of the data for you. Now, some may be very, very good. But how effective can they be when they don’t have all the information or training to make decisions with respect to this specific case? How well can they conduct a first-pass review if they don’t realize that an e-mail that doesn’t directly address the product in the case is nonetheless relevant because it could actually trigger a whole new cause of action or defense to the allegations? Those are legal decisions. And if you aren’t participating, you are leaving them on the table. Is that really doing your best for your client? You, the lawyers running the case, need to be involved and see what’s happening with the data from the case at the outset. You need to be involved in the process of deciding what is needed, what to collect, how to collect it, where to put it, etc. Or you need experienced e-discovery counsel to do it...

Three Tips for Setting up a Freelance Practice in a New State...

I didn’t realize the power of a network until I moved from Minnesota—where I went to law school and worked for three years—to Utah, where my network consisted of only a few family members who were attorneys. Over the past few months, I have learned some key lessons in building a new practice in a new state.   Ask other attorneys, “Whom should I talk to?” When I moved to Utah, I opened an appellate and freelance practice. I spent the first few months talking to the few attorneys I did know and asking them about which attorneys in the area did appellate work. I then contacted those attorneys and went out to lunch with them. And I asked them whom I should talk to. I did the same thing with freelancing—I asked those I knew about which attorneys could use some freelancing services. This way, I started to develop relationships with the group of attorneys who could either use my services or refer cases to me. Get involved in organizations where your ideal client is. I had to figure out who my ideal client was and who would refer those ideal clients to me. The next step was figuring out where those ideal clients and referral sources would be. For me, both my freelance clients and my referral sources for appeals were solo and small law firms (large law firms have in-house appellate groups, so my services would be redundant). So I got involved in a few Utah State Bar organizations where I expected the solos and smalls would be. I originally attended bar organizations for women, young lawyers, and labor and employment; I have recently reassessed where I found the most success so that I can narrow my focus, and I have consequently cut out the labor and employment section. I also attended several CLEs that were focused on solos and smalls so that I could meet attorneys there. Keep in contact with your old network. Some of my most interesting work at my new firm came through a law school colleague that I connected with a few months before I left Minnesota. That connection resulted in three amicus briefs—two before the US Supreme Court and one before the Eleventh Circuit. So check in with prior colleagues once in a while! Emily Adams started her own firm, Adams Legal LLC, where she focuses on appellate and freelance work. Before starting her own firm, Emily graduated magna cum...

Introducing Emily Adams

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to post on MFAN’s blog! The attorneys at MFAN substantially impacted the way I thought about practicing law, and because of them, I am in the process of building a solo law firm—even though solo practice never crossed my mind in law school. Law school, although challenging, was a wonderfully exciting and stretching experience for me. I attended the University of Minnesota Law School, and I loved it. I ended up clerking after law school for the Minnesota Court of Appeals for a fantastic judge who mentored me and had very high standards. I learned immensely; words mattered and had to be chosen carefully; research must be accurate and recent. After my appellate clerkship, I clerked on the Federal District Court for the District of Minnesota for another very intelligent judge. I learned firsthand that quality lawyering mattered, especially with frantic district-court schedules. During the two years I spent clerking, I saw many law school colleagues progress in their careers; many of them moved to different firms or in-house right around the two-years-out mark. I was surprised with how many expressed frustration with their employment. Because I had two small children by the time I finished my clerkship, I was especially keen to the hours worked and the practicality of daycare schedules and sick leave. My husband was in the process of becoming an attorney, also, so I became aware of how two-attorney households managed everything. And I was a little discouraged. I had eight months between the time I finished my federal clerkship (and had my second baby) and the day I would be leaving Minnesota for Utah. My husband was finishing law school, and we decided to move to Utah to be closer to family. Given the short time period I would be in Minnesota and the fact that I was recovering from having a second child, I didn’t think that traditional law firm practice would work. Instead, I emailed several attorneys in Minnesota to see if I could do some contract work for that eight-month period. One attorney bit, and I ended up doing research and motion-drafting for her from home. Because her files were on the cloud, I had all the information I needed at my fingertips. And I even took a few depositions and did an oral argument before I left. I loved the flexibility and control of that sort of practice. And then I met some...

Attorney Happiness and Freelance Practice...

A Johns Hopkins University study found that lawyers suffer a depression rate 3.6 times higher than the rate of employed persons generally.  This should prompt all attorneys to ask themselves: “Are you happy?”  To find some answers, a 2014 study entitled “What Makes Lawyers Happy?” used theory-driven empirical research to find out who is happy in the legal profession and why. The study, conducted by a professor at the Florida State University College of Law, polled thousands of lawyers in four states, each representing a different geographical region of the United States. The Florida study authors remind us that “happiness is a prime human motivator,” one that pushes many people to enroll in law school in the first place.  Yet the study finds that law school students report increasing anxiety and depression before graduating into a profession with high rates of depression and substance abuse. Among the most important factors predicting happiness in an attorney was competence.  Happy attorneys felt that they were competent in conducting their work.  In addition, work-life balance had a strong correlation to attorney well-being.  In fact, vacations and exercise correlated to well-being as much as or more than salary. Perhaps high levels of attorney depression and substance abuse relate to the demands of the traditional law firm business model.    Volume is important to a profitable law firm.  High volume gives an attorney less time to allocate to each case, task, and document.  Meanwhile, clients demand and deserve effective representation at an efficient cost, making it impractical to hire extraneous support staff and salaried associates to handle volume. Thoroughness and preparation speak to competence as much as knowledge.  Freelance attorneys help busy attorneys do thorough work.  Thereby, freelance attorneys can empower you to feel competent in your work.  This feeling of competence can contribute to your happiness.  It can also simply give you the time you need to take care of yourself and enjoy your life. I became aware of the “What Makes Lawyers Happy?” study in the summer of 2014.  Around that time, I was taking CLEs to meet my August 2014 reporting deadline.  I took course after course on attorney mental health and work-life balance.  They had an effect.  I reprioritized, and I started my own law firm, where I focus on competence, thoroughness, preparedness, and autonomy. Now, I am a hard-working attorney with a great answer to the question, “Are you happy?”  So, I ask you, “Are you happy,” and “can a...

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