Attention Walmart Shoppers . . . The Law Store Is Now Open

Imagine shopping at Walmart for groceries, household goods, clothes . . . and legal services?  Well, now you can at select Walmarts in Georgia and Missouri.  If you live in the Atlanta area, there is a Kaine Law in your local Walmart.  And if you live in Joplin or Neosho, Missouri, there is The Law Store in your local Walmart.  According to a June 21, 2016 article titled “Law firms already inside some US Walmarts,” both provide full legal services for low to middle income legal consumers, and both offer a range of fixed fee and certain free services.

imagesKaine Law bills themselves as a full service firm.  Since they specialize in personal injury, wrongful death and auto accidents, they refer cases outside their expertise to other firms. The Walmart locations offer fixed fee legal services and certain free services, including basic wills and notary services.

It’s about being able to offer a service to the community. We have to minimize the stigma of expensive attorneys.

According to their website, The Law Store seeks to provide legal services to those legal consumers who choose to forego legal services due to cost and other factors:

The Law Store™ was created by a group of passionate lawyers who felt that the cost and delivery of services from traditional law firms often were inconsistent and unpredictable. We believe everyone should have access to quality and affordable legal services. Through the use of technology, expanded hours, convenient locations, and upfront pricing, The Law Store provides legal help to individuals, families and small businesses without the uncertainty and expense clients often experience in traditional law firms.

The Law Store’s price list reflects its fixed fee billing structure and the services they offer for free.  And the initial consultation is free.

Kudos to both firms for finding a way to serve an unrepresented demographic.  We wish them success and applaud their efforts to make legal services a win-win for those of limited means.

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Are “Super Lawyers” Really Super?

We’ve all seen those advertisements naming “Super Lawyers,” “Rising Stars,” “Best Lawyers” and other top lawyer lists.  But what do those designations really mean?  Are the attorneys on those lists really the best?

imagesThe short answer is sometime yes . . . and sometimes no.  After receiving a number of complaints, the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Lawyer Advertising just issued a Notice to all New Jersey attorneys “reminding” them of how they can properly advertise those accolades.  Attorneys who are members of the New Jersey Bar can only advertise these designations when the selection process included an examination of the attorney’s fitness (more than years of practice and lack of disciplinary history) and when the process can be verified – but not when the award amounts to a popularity contest.  The Notice included the following example of a proper advertisement:

Jane Doe was selected to the 2016 Super Lawyers list.  The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thomson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found at  No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

We applaud the New Jersey Committee on their efforts to keep these advertisements honest and transparent and wish that all jurisdictions required a similar disclosure.  For legal consumers, it is important to understand what criteria is used to select these “Super Lawyers,” so you can make informed decisions when choosing counsel.  Because while some “Super Lawyers” really are super, some are not.

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Yet Another Cautionary Tale

In 2000, Elizabeth Berardi hired New York law firm Phillips Nizer to help negotiate and draft a post-nuptial agreement with her husband.  According to a May 17, 2016 article on titled, “Judge OKs malpractice suit over law firm’s successful fight to uphold client’s postnuptial agreement,” the agreement granted Ms. Berardi a 49% interest in her husband’s bus companies, but did not address whether she could liquidate that interest.  Five years later, the Berardis started divorce proceedings, and Ms. Berardi hired Phillips Nizer again to represent her in the divorce.   Mr. Berardi took the position that the agreement was invalid, but Ms. Berardi prevailed and the agreement was upheld.

imagesUnfortunately, prior to 2000, the shareholders and business partners in the company limited the ability to liquidate the interest Ms. Berardi received in the Agreement.  It is reported that a junior attorney at Phillips Nizer learned of the limitations before the divorce proceedings and failed to notify the senior partner.

Ms. Berardi filed a malpractice lawsuit against Phillips Nizer.  She claims that had she known of the limitation, she could have agreed that the agreement was invalid and sought an equitable distribution of the marital assets and a cash buyout.  She thus claims that the $1.4 million in legal fees was excessive under the circumstances.  The firm sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, but the judge denied the dismissal.  The firm has counter sued for the approximately $750,000 in unpaid legal fees.

Without weighing in on the validity or strength of either side’s allegations, we do believe that this is an unfortunate situation for both sides.  It is important to keep in mind that even a seemingly minor detail can have a major impact.  This is yet another cautionary tale for attorneys and legal consumers alike.

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How Emotionally Intelligent is Your Lawyer?

Emotional intelligence is defined by as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”  We discussed in our last post how beneficial to the attorney/client relationship an attorney’s emotional intelligence can be.  But how can you tell if your lawyer is emotionally intelligent?

imagesAccording to a May 8, 2016 Forbes article titled, “5 Signs of High Emotional Intelligence,” the following are signs that a person (like your lawyer) has high emotional intelligence:

Sign No. 1: They handle criticism without denial, blame, excuses or anxiety

Emotionally intelligent people are self-aware and can address their faults and shortcomings in an honest and clear way.  When faced with criticism, an emotionally intelligent person will take note, analyze their mistake, and correct the issue rather than fall into an emotional downward spiral.  “People with high emotional intelligence do not deny it, blame others, make excuses or melt into a pool of anxiety.”

Sign No. 2: They’re open-minded

People who are emotionally intelligent listen to others without jumping to judgment and do not immediately dismiss another’s idea.  “You won’t find them chit-chatting all day, or tolerating negative personalities, but they do have a knack for helping people quickly set things right.”

Sign No. 3: They’re good listeners

Those with emotional intelligence can separate emotions that prohibit them from listening so they can hear the facts.  “They’ve worked at developing the ability to divorce themselves from those emotions so they can remain open and able hear what is really being said.”

Sign No. 4: They don’t sugarcoat the truth

Emotional intelligence includes speaking the truth in a way that ensures the truth gets heard.  “Frank, I’ve got a tough message to deliver.  There’s no getting around it, but I want you to understand that I’m doing this out of a concern for your wellbeing.  Because if you don’t fix this stuff, your career here is in jeopardy.”

Sign No. 5: They apologize when they’re wrong

High emotional intelligent people know when they are wrong and do not spend time or energy proving they are right.  Rather than offer excuses, emotionally intelligent people simply apologize and get back on track.  “It sounds something like this: ‘I’m sorry’ I messed up and chose some bad words that sounded like I was attacking you.  This is not what I intended.  Can I try again?”

There are many traits that good lawyers should have, and they include emotional intelligence.  So, how emotionally intelligent is your lawyer?

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“Emotional Fitness” Training for Lawyers? . . . Brilliant!

On the heels of a successful trial program in its Chicago office, BigLaw firm Kirkland & Ellis is expanding the Life XT “emotional fitness” training program to all of its offices according to a May 4, 2016 article titled “Kirkland & Ellis to offer ’emotional fitness’ training at all law offices.”  The program is reportedly aimed at reducing stress and improving coping skills and includes workshops, weekly e-newsletters and on-site meditation and yoga sessions.

Described as “P90X for the soul,” by Life XT co-founder Eric Langshur, the program is billed by as:

Life Cross Training (LIFE XT) is a human performance program that provides your team with the necessary tools to increase resilience to stress and maximize productivity, joy, and meaning.

So why should a program about productivity and attorney emotional wellness be of interest to legal consumers?  Because increased “emotional fitness” can mean increased emotional intelligence.  And attorneys who are more emotionally intelligent can better empathize with their clients, and that can lead to more respectful, positive and productive interactions and better attorney/client relationships.

We hope this type of program and the thinking behind it catches on.  Because “emotional fitness” training for lawyers is brilliant.


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If It Can Happen To Prince . . . It Can Happen To You

The untimely death of the multi-talented musician Prince has the media outlets abuzz and those fascinated by The Purple One awash in stories about his life.  We at LPR are among his many fans.  Delving into the mass of articles, we stumbled upon a September 1, 1977 article from the St. Paul Dispatch titled “18-year old Prince signs first record deal” that we wanted to share with all legal consumers.



As a budding artist, Prince signed a $100 million recording contract with Warner Bros., which according to the article, was one of the largest ever for a new act.  The contract reportedly named Prince as the producer giving him artistic control, also unusual for a new act.  While the contract at the time seemed beneficial to Prince, he would later regret entering into it.

According to an August 10, 2015 article on titled “Record breaker: a brief history of Prince’s contractual controversies,” years later, Prince and Warner Bros. disagreed over the release of his music. Because Warner Bros. owned his music and his name, Prince appeared with “Slave” written on his face and changed his name to a symbol.  Prince’s name change, however, did not allow him to release music outside of the Warner Bros. contract, and he remained under contract until it expired.

While there are many reasons Prince will be remembered, for legal consumers his contract dispute with Warner Bros. should be a cautionary tale.  What seemed like (and probably was at the time) an incredibly beneficial and lucrative contract, in practice turned out to be problematic for Prince.  It is important to think critically and long-term when entering into any contract, as they are often impossible to break.  After all, if it can happen to Prince . . . it can happen to you.

RIP Prince, and thank you for the amazing music and personal legacy you have left us.


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Bill Campbell’s Leadership Advice

Silicon Valley lost their “Coach” last week when Bill Campbell died.  Mr. Campbell, who had been head football coach at Columbia, an Apple executive and board member, and chairman and CEO of Intuit, was an adviser to Steve Jobs and other tech executives. Recently, the Business Insider posted an article titled “Silicon Valley legend Bill Campbell has died — here is some of his best leadership advice,” detailing Mr. Campbell’s advice for tech leaders.  Some of his advice is also applicable to law firms leaders:

  • images

    Bill Campbell

    Know that great products drive success. Everything else is a supporting function – Although Mr. Campbell was talking about technology products, attorney’s services and outcomes also drive success.  It is important for attorneys to always keep an eye on the end result.

  • Trust your managers, and make sure they trust their subordinates – Senior/equity partners should develop trust in their junior/non-equity partners and make sure that they in turn trust their subordinate associates and paralegals.  A trusting atmosphere lifts everyone’s game.
  • It is imperative that you stop infighting as soon as it arises – As Mr. Campbell simply put it, internal warfare “brings companies to their knees,” and it is the leaders’ job to stop the infighting.
  • Determine cultural values from the outset and then model them – “Values allow employees to hold each other accountable, and the CEO must embody the values or else no one will follow them.”  The same applies to law firms.
  • Evaluate your managers by what their employees think of them – This is one that few law firms employ but should.  A bad apple can be at any level and can spoil the whole basket.
  • Maintain a culture of respect – Respect from the bottom up is essential, but many law firms should require respect from the top down as well.
  • Be honest with your team – Mr. Campbell advocated being upfront with praise and criticism, so that all team members can strive for success.

Truly wise words indeed.  RIP Mr. Campbell.

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Attorney Tip #14 – 5 Coffee Challenge

Believing that “more lawyers could benefit from slowing down and taking time to build relationships,” Canary General Counsel Josh Beser, created a program to teach lawyers to network using casual conversation over coffee.  Interviewed by for an April 1, 2016 article titled “5 Coffee Challenge can help build a client base,” Mr. Beser explained that networking skills are lacking in many law firms today:

imagesIf you try a cookie-cutter approach to these [meetings] and ask everyone the same question, it’s going to be uncomfortable and you could look stupid . . . . But if you build the muscle, you can become comfortable and confident in your ability to meet people and foster relationships.

According to the article, many lawyers today have no time to network, and young lawyers are too busy making their hours to learn how.  Damian Thomas, co-chair of the ABA Section of Litigation’s Young Lawyer Leadership Program, agrees:

When young lawyers first come into a law firm, the partners want them to work and make their hours and receivables. . . . Then when you become more expensive, they suddenly expect you to start bringing in business, but they don’t tell you how.

Mr. Beser developed the 30-day program to teach attorneys how to meet and cultivate potential clients.  The program is reportedly available through the Law Leaders Lab for a fee that is based on the number of participating lawyers.

Although we know little about this particular program, we at LPR believe that generally lawyers are and have been too busy billing hours to learn how to effectively network in an ever-growing economy.  Without weighing in on the value or effectiveness of Mr. Beser’s program, we believe he is correct that learning to meet and foster potential client relationships is a much-needed skill.  Hopefully Mr. Beser’s program also teaches attorneys how to treat these potential clients once they sign on.

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Anna Alaburda’s Case Against Her Law School

There has been quite a lot of buzz about Anna Alaburda’s case against her former law school, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, for publishing fraudulent post-graduation employment statistics to entice perspective law students to apply.  There are many opinions about the folly of such a lawsuit, and even some unkind sentiments about Ms. Alaburda.  Going against the establishment is never easy.

imagesThe jury today reached a verdict in the law school’s favor.  The 9-3 jury verdict was against Ms. Alaburda on all counts.

Yesterday, after closing arguments in the trial, Jeff Bennion wrote in support of Ms. Alaburda’s lawsuit for Above The Law, titled What The Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson Law Case Is Not About.  And today, after the verdict, Staci Zaretsky wrote in support of Ms. Alaburda in an Above The Law article titled Verdict Reached In The Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson Law Landmark Case Over Fraudulent Employment Statistics.  

We agree with both Above The Law articles and applaud Ms. Alaburda for having the courage to stand up in the face of public misunderstanding and ridicule.  Even though the verdict was in the law school’s favor, we hope that all law schools take heed.

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U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland

The news is all abuzz about President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court and whether he should be considered by Congress or whether the next president should be the one to fill the vacant seat.  According to multiple outlets, shortly after President Obama’s nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, Mitch McConnell (Senate Majority Leader) and Charles Grassley (Senate Judicial Committee Chairman) both voiced that Judge Garland should not be considered.

imagesDespite all of the partisan buzz, we at LPR were intrigued by President Obama’s description of Judge Garland:

[He] is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence.

On April 26, 2010, in anticipation of filling an earlier Supreme Court seat, Tom Goldstein wrote an in-depth article for, titled The Potential Nomination of Merrick Garland.  In the article, Mr. Goldstein also praised Judge Garland’s judicial demeanor:

Judge Garland’s record demonstrates that he is essentially the model, neutral judge.  He is acknowledged by all to be brilliant.  His opinions avoid unnecessary, sweeping pronouncements.

So regardless where you stand on the political spectrum, we hope all can agree that Judge Garland’s attributes as reported are admirable and are a standard to which all judges should aspire.

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