Have you considered handling criminal appeals? If you’re appointed to represent indigent appellants, this isn’t a very profitable practice area. The key to making it work financially is finding efficiencies wherever you can.
In California, many criminal appeals are handled through the indigent appointment system. The Administrative Office of the Courts staff works with nonprofit organizations that recommend to the Courts of Appeal the appointment of private attorneys to represent indigent appellants.
The hourly pay for appointed attorneys under this system is less than the prevailing rate for privately retained appeals. This means that the appointed attorney will need to keep costs low to be able to make a profit.
Here are some cost-efficiency ideas to consider:
- Work out of your own home. You will obviously save on overhead, but there are issues with working from home. For example, personal safety concerns may lead you to use a separate business (or post office box) address so that your clients, the opposition, and the general public won’t know where you live.
- Save on shelf space by buying primary resources (cases and statutes) and secondary sources (practice guides) in electronic format. When funds are quite limited, buy only the publications and software that are used frequently, and use the rest at the county law library. But note that using the library may not end up being less expensive if you factor in costly travel time.
- Don’t hire a secretary, or, if you handle both trial and appellate work, share one. You may be able to use a pooling or sharing arrangement for a secretary who works on trial-related matters, including scheduling, phone-answering, and the like (take into account your malpractice carrier’s requirements for calendar management).
- Choose software with the features needed for writing briefs, e.g., the ability to correctly and efficiently generate a table of authorities, as well as those needed for trial court pleadings, such as the ability to internally generate pleading paper with the lines numbered 1 through 28 down the left side.
- Look to technology for time-saving and cost-saving ideas. This would include learning new types of law-practice-management tools, as well as how to use existing tools like Word, Excel, and Outlook more effectively.
Every practice can benefit from some belt-tightening. What are your tricks for gaining efficiency?
Get more practical advice on criminal law practice management in the “crim law bible” from CEB—California Criminal Law Procedure and Practice.
Click here to see all CEB blog posts of interest to those practicing criminal law.
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