Tales from the Trenches: A Brief Interview with MFAN Co-founder Emerald Gratz

One of MFAN’s founders, Emerald Gratz, recently took a job with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings. We will miss her, and wanted to share her parting thoughts on freelancing with our readers. The interview has been modified for clarity.   MFAN: Congratulations! We’re glad you’ve connected with a great gig, but are sad you’re leaving the freelance community. Any regrets about freelancing? Emerald: Absolutely no regrets about freelancing! In building a freelance practice over three years, I learned several valuable lessons. First, I learned how to run my own business and everything that goes along with it: marketing, technology, necessary paperwork (billing, taxes, contracts) etc. Second, I practiced law in the private sector, something new to me. Third and most notably, I met and connected with (both professionally and personally) tons of new people in the legal community. MFAN: What was your favorite part of freelancing? Emerald: Connecting with new people. Being an enthusiastic extrovert, freelancing gave me a great reason to constantly pour energy into meeting and building relationships with new people in the legal community, both attorneys who might need freelance help as well as attorneys who could spread the good word about freelancing itself. Prior to freelancing, my network consisted primarily of public sector and government attorneys I knew because of my work at the AG’s Office and federal court. But freelancing allowed me to more than double my network and fill it with private sector connections. MFAN: Okay, what was your least favorite part? Emerald: Running my own business was challenging, especially the marketing part. MFAN: What surprised you the most about freelancing? Emerald: Over the course of three years, I never ceased being amazed by the variety of freelancing opportunities out there. It just took time, effort, and a calculated plan of attack! MFAN: How did freelancing affect your job search? Emerald: Freelancing...

MFAN Member Karin Ciano Reports from the Great Minnesota Solo and Small Firm Get-Together

Earlier this month I attended Minnesota CLE’s tenth annual Duluth conference, Strategic Solutions for Solo & Small Firms. If you don’t go, you should. It’s a great chance to learn practice management tips applicable to freelance practice, earn CLE credits, get special deals and savings on publications, demo practice management software, get a free headshot, take a harbor cruise, collect serious swag, and best of all, to network with hundreds of solo and small-firm lawyers from all over Minnesota. Mark your calendars: next year’s get-together is August 3-4, 2015. This year’s conference featured several presentations of interest to freelance attorneys and the lawyers who hire them. Carolyn Elefant’s plenary session, “The Future of Solo Practice in the Next 10 Years: Making Solo Sustainable,” anticipated increasing growth by non-lawyer providers who aggregate legal services, including freelance-services providers such as Custom Counsel, Axiom and Hire an Esquire. Minnesota’s own ethics maven and former HCBA President Eric Cooperstein presented on several topics, including “The Ethics of ‘Of Counsel’ and Other Attorney Relationships.” Eric’s session addressed the different types of relationships between lawyers, devoting significant time to some of the same issues MFAN addressed in its spring CLEs on working with freelance attorneys, but going into more detail on the differences between freelancers, associates and “of counsel” relationships. I look forward to posting on these great presentations in more detail. Were you in Duluth this year? What’s your best tip for getting the most out of the conference? Share it with us in the comments! 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...

Delegating on a Deadline: Motions to Dismiss

Everybody knows the longer a case goes on, the more money you spend, and that the closer you get to trial, the faster you spend it. If it’s a case you don’t want to try, or believe you shouldn’t have to try, dispositive motions offer a way out. Dispositive motions—motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment—are the kind that make or break the case. You get one good shot, and your motion must make it obvious to the court why the case should proceed no further. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal in 2007 and 2009, respectively, motions to dismiss under Federal Rule 12(b)(6) have experienced a renaissance. These motions are directed to the allegations of the complaint, and may be filed instead of an answer within the 21 days provided by Rule 12. Let’s say your client gets served with a federal complaint and must choose—soon—whether to answer or dismiss. Research into current pleading standards is critical. Ideally, you’ll need cases with similar factual allegations that were dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6). Compare those allegations to your complaint; if similar cases get dismissed, there may be grounds for a motion. Remember that procedural posture matters: cases dismissed after discovery on motion for summary judgment, or after trial, or on appeal, will provide little support for the argument that a claim was not properly pleaded. Done right, a motion to dismiss can quickly end a case that has no chance of success. If not well supported by proper authority, however, it can be an expensive shot in the dark. Because sophisticated research is essential and time is short, motions to dismiss can be a great project to delegate to an associate or a freelance attorney. Karin has been a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton; a law clerk to three Minnesota federal...

Freelancing: Declaring Independence

One benefit of freelancing is that you’re suddenly part of a large and growing entrepreneurial group. Last year I registered my freelance law practice at the Freelancers Union, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of all independent workers, not just freelance attorneys. I’ve found the Union’s tips translate well into freelance law practice. This week’s example, by business coach Justine Clay, is a post called The Secret to Nailing Your Marketing Message. “Message” is marketing-speak for your pitch, your elevator speech, the short description of your practice that communicates what you do in a way that sets you apart from others. Because freelance lawyering is a new niche, people are always asking me, “what exactly do you do?” And so I get hundreds of opportunities to refine my message, but usually without any feedback on what potential clients actually care about. Can I do better? Here’s Clay’s advice: this summer, reach out to a handful of your very best clients. Ask them to help you sharpen your message by chatting with you for 20 minutes. When you meet (or call), ask why they came to you, why they’ve stayed with you, what effect working with you has had on them, and what they need that you don’t offer (yet). Try a live, real-time chat rather than an email questionnaire, because you want spontaneous feedback. Listening to your clients? What a concept! I’ve never sought out this kind of feedback before, mainly because I’ve worried that my clients are too busy. Clay assures me people are more receptive to this approach than I might think. So this summer, I’m going to ask for—and listen to—client feedback. Because we’re independent, but not alone. Have any of you interviewed your clients? What did you learn? Karin has been a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton; a law clerk to three...

Delegating on a Deadline: Opposing Summary Judgment Motions

My last post discussed making a motion for summary judgment. Now let’s imagine you’re on the receiving end of that motion. You have to review the evidence and frame a response, fast. How to proceed? Remember the standard of review favors the non-movant, and the non-movant is you. The court must view the facts in your client’s favor. Movants often forget this, and devote pages of their briefs to their own evidence, leaving little space for what the court really wants to see: non-movant’s (your) evidence. Summary judgment is all about questions of fact, and you’ll want to show the court all the facts supporting your claims. The best time to prepare the facts supporting your opposition brief to a summary judgment motion is, of course, during discovery; as you gather documents and depose witnesses, you should organize documents and transcripts in a file and keep track of which evidence establishes which elements. When the movant’s brief comes in, review its supporting evidence carefully and identify everything that favors you. Now marshal your supporting evidence, and use it to write a detailed fact statement setting out your case. If the fact statement is twice as long as the legal argument, that’s okay: just get your version of the facts squarely before the court. Opposing summary judgment is a make-or-break moment in a case. It can be time consuming, and if a motion comes in while you’re in trial or have other critical work, there may not be much time to marshal the evidence and present it in its best light. This can be a great opportunity to delegate—an associate or freelance attorney can help you review the evidence and prepare the opposing brief and supporting materials. Cases survive summary judgment where there are clear factual disputes for a jury to resolve. Marshaling the facts will put your case’s best...

« Older Entries Next Entries »

Pin It on Pinterest