California Lawyer


July 2013

Voice of Experience
In response to "Starting Small" [April]: My wife transitioned into working from home after a career in high-tech law a few years ago. I take care of all her administration and billing and offer the following advice:

My wife tracks her daily activity in a Word document by date, time worked, reference for the work, and a simple description for each client.

I bill each client right after the month ends. I use a spreadsheet that reflects the daily activity recorded. Also, I list the hourly cost and total cost for that day of work. It is emailed both to the primary contact and an accounting person. About a week before the bill is due, I follow up to find out the status of payments with the people who process them.

All work sheets and billing statements are kept electronically, using a name for the client, month, and year. My wife is also excellent at naming documents using Word and filing the documents by the client and contract or matter for easy retrieval. I file all emails electronically by client, including incoming and sent emails.

An external hard drive constantly backs up our files. Others may want to use a Web service to do this, but the files need to be backed up somehow. I also have an IT person I can rely on. (This person helped transfer all the files to a new computer in 2012 after the previous computer failed.)

Good organization starting early will go a long way in managing a small law firm.
Andrew Smith
Santa Rosa

A Treasured Resource
I just wanted to say that "A Labor of Love" [April] is really well written, and it reflects the many obstacles that LGBT immigrants have to overcome in order to apply for asylum within a year of their arrival in the United States. Most of them have a really hard time finding someone as knowledgeable, compassionate, and understanding as attorney Cara Jobson. She has helped many others on a pro bono basis, and she is an outstanding person and lawyer. We are very lucky to have her work on behalf of those who are often left in the dark.
Noemi Calonje
San Francisco

Let's Get Visual
"Ready, Aim, Mediate" [MCLE, April] offered excellent advice. There is really no downside to putting time and effort into treating mediation like a trial. The only point I'd add is that attorneys who want to increase the power of their presentation should consider preparing visual aids - such as time lines, charts and graphs, PowerPoint presentations, and other litigation graphics. Graphics are an underutilized tool in mediation, and the very process of preparing these demonstratives will help test and refine theories of liability or defense; then you can increase the settlement value or be that much more ready to take the case to trial.
Morgan C. Smith

Liberties Taken
The quote attributed to John Quincy Adams's argument before the Supreme Court as portrayed in the motion picture Amistad [ESQ., Reel Law, April] is compelling. However, it is pure fiction. In the opinion in United States v. The Amistad and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad (40 U.S. 518 (1841)), we find that Adams's "able and interesting" remarks were not received from the reporter. It states, however, that "As many of the points presented by Mr. Adams ... were not considered by the Court essential to its decision, and were not taken notice of in the opinion, ... the necessary omission of the argument is submitted to with less regret." (40 U.S. at 566.)
David P. Curnow
San Diego

We welcome your comments!


E-mail: (will not be published)

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.

Enter the characters on the left: