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Practicing law in the black

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Image from Library of Congress’s website.

Critical to practicing law is placing clients ahead of money. To do the opposite likely will result in less income for a lawyer, or else in income not sufficiently or properly earned.

Fortunately, many lawyers believe in the importance of doing good for society on the road to doing well; staying committed to social justice while practicing law; doing pro bono and low bono work; and helping others (including competitors) rise along with the lawyer, rather than stepping on their throats and heads in the process.

The Community Legal Resource Networks is a living example of focusing the practice of law on doing good while doing well. In Maryland, this approach is seen in the Civil Justice Network, which originated at the University of Maryland Law School.

When law is practiced in the foregoing way, the concept of the law firm as a business that needs to be run efficiently and competitively becomes less distasteful than if the idea were to make money at all costs no matter the endeavor. In that spirit, below are some ideas and idea sources for self-employed lawyers and all other small business owners to run profitable and rewarding businesses:

Praised be Foonberg. Lawyer Jay Foonberg remains an indispensable adviser and cheerleader for lawyers to be successful as solo and small practitioners, as I discuss here.

The E-Myth: A fellow Trial Lawyers College attendee recommends the E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael R. Gerber. Many of you may already have heard of Michael Gerber and his E-Myth philosophy that appears to be keeping him busy with books, seminars, and consulting; numerous other people write along E-Myth lines. I have just started reading the foregoing book, so will learn how much of his words and promotion make sense rather than any Tony Robbins-type overhype mixed in.

Dealing with the IRS. The same lawyer who recommends E-Myth Revisited also recommends Don’t Let The IRS Destroy Your Small Business: Seventy-Six Mistakes To Avoid. At first blush, finding ways to reduce tax payments sounds like a favorite topic of right wingers and rabid capitalists. On the other hand, federal and state taxes are a big expense for businesses. At the very least, businesses need to have sound financial and accounting practices and controls, to protect their assets from theft and other loss, to sail through any IRS audit, and to pass credit reviews by vendors and lenders.

Taking some pages from Sun Tzu. When buying E-Myth Revisited, I came across and bought Gary Gagliardi’s Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for the Business Warrior, in which the author juxtaposes each page of The Art of War with some excellent related tips for entrepreneurs. Some of the book’s advice also applies well to battling litigation opponents, seeing that the Art of War is about competition in the first place.

BlackBerry Freeware. A busy trial lawyer needs access to email and other computer technology both in the office and on the road. I recently bought a BlackBerry, and have found some of the following freeware and other useful links:

– The BlackBerry freeware page. In addition to freeware, this site includes some useful email addresses for organizing information.

– Mobile file manager software; spreadsheet; document file viewer; BlackBerry utilities; RSS reader, to review blogs; media player; New York Times in BlackBerry-compatible format; expense tracking; ringtones; games, for a change of pace; and EBook reader.

– For pay, MS Word and Excel-compatible software for BlackBerries.

Thanks to everyone who has shared their experience and knowledge with me over the years for running a law firm that is at once compassionate, successful, and rewarding. Jon Katz.