Friday, March 27, 2015

What newly licensed family law attorneys need to do

I have mentored many newly licensed attorneys over the years.

Here is a short list of things a Harris County family law attorney needs to do:

1.  Get a phone number and never change it.

2. Network, network, network at every opportunity.

3. Always be professional and nice to all attorneys that you interact with - you never know if that person might end up a judge or you might need a "favor" in the future.

4. Take your resume and introduce yourself to each judge and associate judge. Offer to accept some free and/or small fee cases to help you learn.  Many people don't like being appointed to "missing parent" cases so you can offer to do one for free or at a huge discount to gain experience.

5. Volunteer at Houston Volunteer Lawyers to gain some experience.

6. If you are a mediator, agree to do free mediations at the Dispute Resolution Center. Offer to co-mediate with an experienced mediator.

7. Join the Houston Bar Associate's Family Law Section and attend their monthly luncheons.

8. Attend the Advanced Family Law Section meeting each August. Even if you cannot afford to attend, go. Hang out and talk to attorneys and judges. Don't stay in your room.

9. Join Facebook attorney groups - there are many. You can learn a lot reading other posts.

10. There are many free internet sites to advertise on. Some are yelp,, Do this at least once a year since sites pop up all the time. Keep your information current. Answer questions on avvo and spend the time to answer their profile questions - it will get you a higher ranking.

11. Don't put all your marketing money in "one basket". There is not one site that will be "magical". Everyone claims they have the best site but basically that is wrong. I've never found the "magic" website.

12. When you accept a case, call opposing counsel and introduce yourself. If possible, take opposing counsel out to coffee or lunch. Get to know other attorneys on a personal basis. You can learn a lot hanging out with more seasoned attorneys.

13.  Keep your overhead low.

14. Return phone calls, text and emails promptly. This is the biggest complaint the State Bar of Texas has for attorneys.

15. If you have a "bad feeling" about a potential client - don't take them -- it's not worth it.

16. If a client does not "trust" you then withdraw.

17. Always document all communication with clients - even via text and email. Clients often "forget" how much they call or email you.

18. Send out monthly bills. Let clients see where their money is going. I always offer a few "no charge" phone calls or emails but I show the contact on their bill.

19. If a client does not pay you as agreed, consider withdrawing. If their plumbing at home breaks they will find the money to pay a plumber - so why not you?

20. Put your money into your IOLTA account and don't withdraw it until you have earned it. Be safe -- not sorry!

21. Never do anything to risk your law license - you worked too hard for it. Remember if the State Bar of Texas receives a complaint against you then you have the burden to prove you are innocent. Always document everything in the client's file.

22. If you withdraw from a case, immediately have a copy of all pleadings for your client to pick up. Be sure to have a form for them to sign that shows they received a copy of their file. Your notes are yours and you do not give client's copies of your notes! Notes are attorney work product and they belong to you only.

23. Find some mentors to guide you.

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