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  • WisBar News
    November 08, 2013

    Through Various Features and Columns, November Wisconsin Lawyer Focuses on the Economics of Practicing Law

    November 2013 Wisconsin LawyerNov. 8, 2013 – Interested in what other lawyers billed for their services in 2012? How to maximize your profits? How to accept credit card payments through your iPhone? How to stop underearning?

    You’ll learn about all these things and more in the November Wisconsin Lawyer, now available online and in mailboxes soon. With a unique focus on the business-side of practicing law, and the economics involved, lawyers will learn to better control the bottom line.

    It all starts with Dianne Molvig’s cover article, “A Changing Landscape: The Economics of Practicing Law,” which explains some key findings in the State Bar’s recently released “2013 Economics of Practice Survey Report.”

    Molvig talks to lawyers affected by the changing legal landscape, and captures insight from experts on these economic issues.

    The report, now available for purchase, provides in-depth economic information on law practice in Wisconsin, and allows lawyers in different practice settings to obtain data on key economic indicators, such as billing rates and office expenses. Information is gleaned from survey respondents in different subgroups.

    For instance, Molvig notes that the average hourly rate for Wisconsin’s private practice lawyers in 2012 was $229, up from $188 in 2007, when the last survey was conducted. About 57 percent of lawyers now charge flat fees for specific tasks, like simple wills. The report identifies flat fee rates and other billing information not available anywhere else.

    Why is this information useful? Nerino Petro, the State Bar’s practice management advisor explains in Wisconsin Lawyer’s webXtra video. For one, it helps lawyers determine whether their “economics” are in line with competitors in the area.

    The survey report covers 2012 data on private practitioners, corporate counsel, government and other lawyers, based on geographic region, office size and other factors.

    Other Feature Articles

    Bringing a lost-profits claim? Understand the legal principles governing lost profits and the principles governing their computation, valuation specialists Scott Shaffer and Brandon Greger explain in “No Harm, No Foul: Proving Damages in Lost-Profits Cases.”

    Lost profits damages are the profits the party would have made if not for the harm, minus any profits actually made during the damages period. But recovering this amount requires more than a calculator. Lawyers must prove a number of elements first.

    “This article explains the fundamentals of lost-profits damages and enumerates some of the considerations that must be taken into account when seeking recovery of these types of damages,” write Shaffer and Greger of Grant Thornton LLP.

    While Shaffer and Greger help you recover lost profits for your clients, Milwaukee lawyer Michael Moore, founder of Moore’s Law LLC, discusses how to maximize profits for yourself in “Profit Patterns: Maximizing Opportunities in Your Practice.”

    “From solo practitioners to small firms to large firms, a fundamental transformation in the valuation and delivery of legal services is underway,” Moore writes.

    “Attorneys who recognize the unique profit patterns within these changes and their application to a specific individual practice or law firm will have a competitive advantage and more likelihood of future economic success,” Moore explains.

    What Else is Inside?

    • A 101 column on “Using the Fee Agreement to Build Client Rapport,” by lawyer and law professor Gretchen Viney. “You must plan when and how to introduce the fee agreement into the client meeting, taking into account your style, the client’s personality, the area of law, and the flow of the interview,” Viney writes.

    • A “10 Questions” interview with Madison lawyer John G. Walsh, business lawyer by day, stand-up comedian by night. Walsh was a finalist at Madison’s Funniest Comic Competition in 2011 and 2012. In “Johnny Walsh: Leave ’Em Laughing,” Walsh explains his comedic exploits. Check out the webXtra video featuring one of his Walsh’s gigs at the Comedy Club on State Street.

    • An Ethics column on “Mining Social Media for ‘Dirt’ on an Adverse Party,” by Dean Dietrich, vice chair of the State Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee. “The information on [social media] postings is public information and may be used in legal proceedings,” writes Dietrich, before explaining other considerations.

    • Paula Davis-Laack’s On Balance column, titled “Other People Matter: Building Better Relationships in the Law.” She explains that lawyers tend to more easily connect with people intellectually rather than emotionally. “While that might work with other lawyers, it’s likely not the best strategy in nonlawyer relationships.” Davis-Laack provides some tips to communicate more effectively.

    • Tom Watson’s Managing Risk column titled “A New Cost of Doing Business: Protecting Against Cyber Risk.” Watson, a lawyer and vice president at Wisconsin Lawyer’s Mutual Insurance Company, writes: “Whether because of a data breach caused by hackers, careless disposal of client records, theft of mobile devices, or misuse of internal security protocols, lawyers need to consider threats to client and employee information.”

    • A Marketing column on “10 Ways to Boost Your Business on a Budget,” by Jenna Weber, a business development coordinator. Acquiring speaking engagements and getting involved in the community are two of the 10 different ways to get more clients and increase your revenue, says Weber.

    • A Final Thought from Madison lawyer Kevin Palmersheim, titled “The Economics of Practicing Law: It’s the ‘Principal’ of the Matter.” He says “lawyers need to recognize that we and our clients are frequently aligned economically, and it is our responsibility to not only protect our fees but also advise the client that spending money solely on principle may not be good business.”

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