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ABA TECHSHOW 2015 Liveblog, Day 3

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 09:00
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

ABA TECHSHOW 2015 Liveblog, Day 2

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 09:00
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

ABA TECHSHOW 2015 Liveblog, Day 1

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 09:00
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Email and Accounting: Two Features that Distinguish Some Practice Management Software

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 16:16

When it comes to practice management software, there are two features in particular that distinguish some options from others.

Email

First, email. While older practice management software like Time Matters includes email, it is clunky. Once you’ve gotten used to Outlook or Gmail, it’s pretty hard to put up with something like that. That is probably why most cloud-based practice management software doesn’t include an email client. Most let you associate emails with contacts and matters, but you have to use an Outlook plugin or a Chrome extension to do it. You don’t have to use a clunky email client in your software, but it’s just clunky in a different way.

Some cloud-based practice management software, like MerusCase and apparently the brand-new Zola, do include an email client. And there are probably plenty of lawyers who don’t mind if it isn’t as slick as Outlook or Gmail because it’s so convenient to have it integrated into their practice management software. Which isn’t to say that MerusCase and Zola (which I haven’t even seen yet) aren’t good for email. It’s just that it’s pretty hard to compete with the industry standard. I mean, Clio has a great calendar. It’s not quite as good as Google Calendar, in my opinion, but nobody should complain about it (and anyway it syncs with Google Calendar so you can keep on using it if you want to; maybe that’s why MerusCase lets you keep on using your preferred email client if you want to).

Accounting

The second distinguishing feature is full double-entry accounting. The most popular cloud-based practice management software options include lightweight bookkeeping that’s fine for many small practices. For firms with more sophisticated needs, they integrate with Xero or QuickBooks. MerusCase and CosmoLex, on the other hand, include double-entry accounting, including specialized trust accounting. They are obviously targeting lawyers who really want the all-in-one package. As with email, Xero and QuickBooks are definitely more full-featured, but MerusCase and CosmoLex will get the job done and keep your accountant happy. Plus you don’t need to juggle two different products.

I don’t think fuller-featured practice management software is automatically better, or that software with less robust email and accounting is automatically worse. Cloud software started out as simpler software initially and there are some good reasons to prefer simpler software (I do, as a general rule). But now that everyone is moving to the cloud, there is also a need for software for law firms that want all the bells and whistles in one place. Last year at TECHSHOW, there wasn’t a good cloud-based option for those firms. Now, finally, there are several.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Tune in to the Appathon from ABA TECHSHOW 2015 at 7:30pm Central Tonight

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:02

Like a hackathon, the idea behind the ABA’s Legal Appathon is for teams to develop a working, legal app within a short, focused time period. Four teams have been doing that, and they will be presenting their ideas at ABA TECHSHOW tonight at 7:30pm Central. Spoiler alert: I’ll be on the panel doing my best Shark Tank impression.

Tune in to our Day 1 liveblog (that link will work starting at 5:30pm Central) to see what’s happening at the Appathon.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

5-Step Legal Marketing Plan, Step 1: Identify Your Niche

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 06:12

If you want to ensure your marketing efforts provide a good return on investment, you must start with a marketing plan — a step often skipped in small or solo firms. You can avoid making emotional and often expensive decisions if you have a great marketing plan that identifies problems you may encounter in the future.

This series of posts will break down the five steps of building a useful marketing plan. By focusing on these five aspects, you can create a well-balanced marketing plan for your law firm that will help drive clients to your firm. Step one is below and covers identifying and defining your ideal client and niche. Over the next few months the other four steps will be covered, so stay tuned!

Spoiler alert: Advertising strategies will not be reviewed until step four, so don’t put the cart before the horse.

Know Your Ideal Client and Your Niche

Related “Let Your Ideal Client Guide Your Marketing Strategy”

Too many people skip the first — and possibly most important — step when they create a marketing plan: identifying the demographics of an ideal client. The easy answer is that anyone is an ideal client, but clients want you to appeal to their uniqueness. Someone who has a unique need is going to look for a law firm that focuses on that specific area — not one that claims to be right for everyone. People like to hire experts. And while it may seem like you do not want to limit your options, trying to please everyone is not the best way to stimulate long-term success.

Drill Down to Your Ideal Client

Identify your ideal client by getting specific. Ask yourself some questions about your ideal client and get specific as possible:

  • Consider the age, sex, occupation, etc. of the people you can best help, and who can best make your firm grow.
  • Consider what kinds of problems you want to solve. Maybe you don’t want to be involved with violent cases.
  • Where does your client spend time both online and in the real world?
  • What kind of car, home, and lifestyle does your perfect client have?
  • Consider who can afford your services and who will be likely to give you repeat business.
  • What sort of job does your ideal client have?
  • Which organizations and groups does your ideal client belong to?
  • Draw a picture in your head (or clip a picture from a magazine) of your ideal client. Ideally this can be based on a past client who was great to work with in the past.

You can use this image to practice your pitch — how you grab this person’s attention. What is important to this person? Also take some time to identify the sort of clients you do not want to work with. This small step will help you avoid agreeing to take a case that you’ll regret.

Identifying your target market is the first step in developing a marketing plan because it will help you to focus your efforts in all of the following steps. Start identifying your market by finding your niche.

Find a Niche

Instead of trying to please everyone, let people know what you do. Do you specialize in bankruptcies, accidents, or work-related claims? Smart clients don’t want a just a lawyer. They want a lawyer who is also an expert. Choose your niche and present yourself as a specialist in that area. Not sure how to declare yourself an expert? Start a law blog or publish articles posted on websites about your niche. You could also write helpful articles for a local paper, speak at a local legal event, or make other presentations to your target audience.

Define Your Niche

Defining your niche is more than just having a fuzzy idea of it. Get a high-definition picture of your niche. Then work on crafting your answer to the question: What’s your specialty? Put into words what you do, and don’t use boring terms to describe it. Explain your niche in a way that even a-non-lawyer will understand and remember. For example; “I help families through especially difficult divorces.” or “I work to make bankruptcies as painless as possible for middle-class families.”

Identify Your Aspirational Niche

While it may seem to go against the idea of a niche, it is possible for you to have more than one.

Your second niche should be “aspirational,” or a practice area you hope to focus one day. You should simultaneously keep your “practical” niche, an area that is profitable and pays the bills while you work towards attracting more clients in your pre-determined aspirational niche.

In this case, it can be a challenge to decide how to present more than one practice area. To do this effectively, slightly broaden your overall message to include both your aspirational and practical niche.

For instance, marketing your firm as “aggressively seeking justice for the underdog” or “providing personal attention to your needs” can easily cover more than one practice area.

The Importance of Identifying Your Niche and Target Market

Once you define your niche and ideal client, build the rest of your marketing plan around that information. The first step is to identify what you are selling (or what services you are providing) and who you are selling it to. Research other firms and organizations that also target your market and ask these questions:

  • What colors, designs, imagery, and graphics are used on their websites?
  • Do they seem to target younger, tech-savvy clients or an older more established group?
  • Where do these clients spend time online, and what publications do they read?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you determine whether and where to place ads and what they should look like. Additionally, pay attention to what your competition is doing that seems to be ineffective or unappealing. It is helpful to know what you do not want to do, too.

Keep in mind that you are not cruising your competitors’ sites so that you can steal their look and image. Once you get an idea of who you are going after, you will want to consider your Unique Selling Proposition — now that you know what you’re up against, what makes you better than your competition? In the practice area you chose, surely other lawyers are specializing — why should a client choose you over your competition?

Defining a niche makes it easier for you to focus your time and be efficient and productive. Working on the same types of cases, each with its own challenges and unique differences, makes you an expert. If you suddenly switch to trying a different type of case, you may need to relearn some steps. Working on similar cases over time will leave you with a cache of templates and boilerplate text that you can use again and again. Constantly moving between vastly different cases will make you a jack of all trades, master of none, and each time you sit down to work on a case, you’ll be starting from scratch.

Next month’s post will focus on how to perform your own SWOT analysis, and the process consultants use to help lawyers identify their strengths and weaknesses (so they can transform them into strengths).

Featured image: “business man walking step by step of business to success ” from Shutterstock.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Oderus Urungus’s Dad Sues GWAR for Taking His Son’s Ashes

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 20:57

From Bitter Empire:

Sadly, lead vocalist Oderus Urungus, or Dave Brockie as he was known off-stage, passed away in 2014 from a heroin overdose. … Dave’s father, William Brockie, is now suing the shock rock band for the return of his son’s ashes and is seeking $1 million for breach of contract and punitive damages for the unauthorized use of his image.

The suit accuses GWAR of “trying to capitalize on the death of Dave Brockie” and claims that when William requested Dave’s remains, he was only given “a small fraction of his son’s ashes, which were delivered in a used plastic bag with a Discover credit card logo on it.”

There is zero chance I will ever pass up an opportunity to put GWAR on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #14: Marco Santori on What Lawyers Should Know About Bitcoin

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 06:12

Bitcoin is seriously cool technology with the potential to transform the financial industry — and any other industry that needs trusted transactions. Marco Santori talks with Aaron about what Bitcoin is, the hurdles to its wider adoption, and why every lawyer should accept legal fees in Bitcoin.

Plus, we also talk about why computers are only as secure as the people who use them, which means the computers in most law firms are not very secure.

Why People Screw Up Security

You can design the perfect data security system, but one flawed human being can blow it wide open. Sam and Aaron talk about why Luddite lawyers are more dangerous than the cloud.

Interview: Marco Santori

Marco Santori has been called “the dean of digital currency lawyers,” and he has built a practice around the crypto-currency, Bitcoin. On today’s episode, he introduces Bitcoin, including where it comes from and how it works. He explains why you should care about it even if most of the people using it right now are paying for drugs. And he explains why lawyers should seriously consider accepting Bitcoin from clients.

Listen and Subscribe

To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button.

Thanks to Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode of our podcast.

To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or any other podcast player. Or find out about new episodes by subscribing to the Lawyerist Insider, our email newsletter. We will announce new episodes in the Insider, and you can listen to them right here on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast: Sam Glover on the Law Podcasting Podcast

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 22:13
http://media.blubrry.com/lawpodcasting/p/content.blubrry.com/lawpodcasting/LPP019.mp3

Last week I talked to Gordon Firemark for his show, the Law Podcasting Podcast, about our show, the Lawyerist Podcast. Here is Gordon’s description of the episode:

I spoke with Sam about Lawyerist’s beginnings, and about what drove the decision to launch a podcast, some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of creating the show, and the philosophy behind what Lawyerist does.

What I found most interesting was the objective to build a community of solo and small firm lawyers, and how the podcast serves that mission by allowing listeners to get to know the hosts better.

One of the things I found most interesting about recording a show with Gordon was his “live-to-drive” method of recording. Instead of stitching together the various components of the podcast (intro, voiceover, conversation, outro), he does it all live on the recording. That way there is no assembly required. He basically just records a show, uses Auphonic for cleanup, then publishes it. Very cool.

Anyway, give it a listen.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How to Stay Married to a Lawyer

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 06:12

What are the challenges that come with marrying a lawyer and maintaining a happy marriage with a lawyer? Are there special rules or considerations when loving a lawyer?

I sat down with two therapists, Laura Freeman and Will Meyerhofer to help me figure this out. Freeman, a clinical psychologist in California, is in a unique position to share her insights and advice because she is married to a lawyer, Brian Freeman. Meyerhofer is a former Sullivan & Cromwell BigLaw refugee who went on to become a psychotherapist.

It is fair to say that both Freeman and Meyerhofer have many helpful thoughts on the subject of staying in a relationship with a lawyer.

Insight into the Lawyer World

First, let’s start by offering some insight for the non-lawyers into the lawyer world. When I asked Freeman what nonlawyers should understand about their lawyer-spouse’s world, she said:

One of the most prominent stressors I’ve noticed is that my husband constantly has people upset with him. There seems to be very little reward in the daily grind. He or she has clients who are hurting and confused, and they look to Brian to magically solve their ailments. Understandably, they are upset when he cannot fix their problems, or it takes a long time to fix their problems. Then, in court, he has opposing counsel and judges who seem to be upset with him (there probably isn’t anything personal there, but the nature of the courtroom is adversarial). So all day long, he deals with people being upset with him. It is like a glorified customer service representative position, which takes its toll on my husband.

Every lawyer can relate to this. Most clients do not visit lawyers to share happy news. Inevitably, they come to us with a problem, and the client wants the lawyer to make it go away. Often, the cases we are working on have a lot at stake. This pressure is extremely stressful because so much of what we are expected to do is completely out of our control. A lawyer can prepare day and night, work around the clock, try his or her absolute best, and still lose. But lawyers are expected to deliver a win regardless of the lack of control a lawyer has over opposing counsel, her client, the judge, and the jury.

Attorney Emilie Fairbanks explains it this way:

We work all the time. We think about work all the time. We are not good at being wrong. We are sore losers. We tend to be verbal and take up all the air in the room. We live in a world measured by winning and losing which colors your view of the rest of your life. We problem solve when empathy is needed. Many of us are secret introverts, protecting our precious alone time after days of fighting, just when our partners want our attention.

Lawyers, Know Yourself!

As a lawyer, you can take control of the stress and anxiety instead of letting it bleed into your relationships. One way you can do this is through mindfulness. The only way you are going to know your work life is having a negative impact on your love life is by having awareness. Awareness can only be gained by carefully paying attention to each moment. Moreover, in addition to awareness, we also need to practice acceptance.

Freeman explains:

When we stop trying to get rid of the stress (we stop fighting it; we stop hating and resenting it), and we simply accept that stress is there, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon — that’s when we notice a reduction in the subjective experience of stress … It’s a paradox. Hate the stress = very stressed. Accept the stress = less stressed.

In other words, when you are feeling stressed, work on acknowledging and accepting rather than judging the experience. Acceptance and commitment therapy is an excellent type of therapy for this issue.

Meyerhofer also suggests you begin by becoming aware of the problem and approaching others with kindness. This awareness is the cornerstone of mindfulness practice. When you are in hyperdrive due to the stress from work — preparing for a trial, coming up for partnership, or facing deadlines — you can gently bring awareness and attention to your emotions.

Tips for the Non-Lawyer in Supporting a Lawyer

As the non-lawyer in the relationship, what can you do to help or support the lawyer you love?

Learn Empathy and Compassion

Like any relationship, empathy and compassion are key. Empathy is the ability to share and understand someone else’s emotions. Compassion is the ability to see the suffering of others together with the natural desire to help. Truly, one of the best gifts we can offer to our loved ones — and to any human being — is compassion and empathy. Freeman practices compassion and empathy by asking herself how she would feel in her husband’s shoes after arguing with people all day.

Recognize the Challenges

Meyerhofer says that lawyers can be very needy. They often come home emotionally drained from a long day at the office. Of course, even as a non-lawyer, you may also have had a terrible day. Both you and your lawyer partner should recognize the difficulties of each other’s work. A lawyer will often see his or her job as the hardest job in the whole world. Remind your partner that your work can be difficult and time-consuming too.

Be Supportive

Meyerhofer also says that lawyers will often suffer from mild forms of depression, which shows in the lack of appropriate emotional response. For example, when the partner at the firm says “this work is terrible, you aren’t even trying” after the lawyer pulled several all-nighters to do something that she has never done before or given appropriate guidance on, an appropriate response should be anger. However, lawyers will instead internalize these negative criticisms.

Again, it requires awareness to notice that your partner is overly harsh with himself. That he or she is holding themselves up to an impossibly high standard that no one can meet. Lawyers are often expected to be perfect and expect the same from themselves. But mistakes will and do happen. When mistakes do happen, be compassionate. Recognize that your partner is in pain and simply be there for him or her.

Finally,  Meyerhofer suggests celebrating victories. Lawyers are often motivated by the stick rather than the carrot. When the lawyer lands that big client or finally gets the mergers and acquisition deal completed, give them a carrot and celebrate these wins. Tell him or her she did a great job. Offer genuine words of praise and support.

Self-Care is Your Responsibility

Of course, empathy and compassion must be mutual. You can only care for others as well as you are able to care for yourself. Which brings me to the next important topic: self-care.

Self-care is the mindset that we can only care for others if we care for ourselves. As is repeated on every airline safety video: Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.

Examples of self-care include exercise, mindfulness, proper sleep, nutrition, and vacations. Another key component to self-care is setting boundaries between your work and family responsibilities. Self-care doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive. Treating yourself to small things that bring you pleasure such as reading a great book, going for a walk, or spending time in nature can make a huge difference.

Here’s how Freeman practices self-care:

I learned the hard way that during a busy day with multiple appointments, I must schedule a few minutes of time to myself every hour — a bathroom break, a walk around the building, 5 minutes to close my office door and not be disturbed, etc. Without those small breaks, my day doesn’t go well. Self-care can be big-scale like a vacation, or it can be small like taking a bathroom break.

It’s important to remember that self-care is something you can only do for yourself. You can certainly encourage each other by doing things as a couple that nourishes each of you. However, you can’t force your partner to exercise, eat right, or get enough sleep.

How to Engage in Conflict with a Lawyer

Many lawyers live in a world of constant conflict; therefore, it’s entirely possible that your lawyer partner is much more skilled at fighting than you are. However, the biggest difference is that at the office, lawyers fight on behalf of his or her clients so that they win. But in romantic relationships, “winning” the fight probably harms the relationship. While it may give the winner a temporary satisfaction, it will likely foster resentment and eventually escalate the conflict.

Freeman emphasises the need to be able to express emotions safely:

With couples, it’s essential for each person to be aware of and [be] able to express his/her own emotions in a safe and non-harmful way. Then, each person must hear the other’s perspective and show compassion for it.

Related to the idea of expressing emotions in a safe and non-harmful way, Meyerhofer adds what he calls “illegal remarks.” As a therapist, he is never supposed to tell someone what he or she is thinking. Similarly, don’t assume you know what your partner is thinking.

Meyerhofer recalls a partner at law firm saying things like “you’re not even trying” or “did you put any thought into this?” These are illegal remarks because the partner is assuming he knows how much effort or thought Meyerhofer put into his work. Of course, no one but Meyerhofer could know that. A more appropriate comment might be, “This work doesn’t meet my standard.”

Your thoughts are a very private place. No one can tell you what you are thinking or feeling. When you are engaged in conflict, be mindful of “illegal” remarks and don’t try to read your partner’s mind.

The Neediness of the Law

I recall a partner at a law firm telling me that the law is a very possessive mistress; I tend to agree. Most lawyers work too much.

There is no easy solution to this because lawyers earn a living by selling their time. When the goal is to maximize profit, it requires the lawyer to work as many hours as humanly possible.

Freeman offers this practical advice:

  1. Take time each weekend to look at your calendars for the week.
  2. Keep each other in the loop about how busy the week looks. This helps to set and adjust expectations.
  3. Plan couple and family times each week even if it’s short and simple.
  4. Make your relationship, marriage, and family a priority

Our careers are fulfilling and financially important, but we are replaceable at work. We’re not replaceable at home. So we take the time to plan when we can spend time with each other. It’s about priorities.

At the end of the day, if there are difficulties in your relationships and approach them with curiosity and gentleness. Also, recognize your own difficulty in being in the relationship. When things get tough, it is helpful to remind yourself that this difficult moment will pass.

Featured image: “ Close-up Of Wooden Gavel And Red Heart On Table ” from Shutterstock.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Yes, Your Personality Matters to Clients

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 06:00

Finding clients, meeting with clients, and getting clients to retain your law firm is part of the daily grind for most attorneys.

Many attorneys resort to hard-sell techniques — emphasizing how awesome they are, recent successes, or industry awards — and neglect to actually connect with potential clients.

Your Skills are Still Number One

Let me be clear: The number one thing a client wants is results. If you can not or do not establish your problem-solving skills, nothing else matters. That said, your personality still counts.

Most clients are also savvy enough these days to know that more than one attorney can help them. When a potential client comes to your office, they have likely decided that you have the skills and experience to help with their problem. What many potential clients are trying to decide is whether they want to work with you.

At this point, potential clients are no longer trying to decide if you can help them; instead, they are trying to decide if you are the right attorney to help them. And for some potential clients, that means they want to know who you are, not just what you can do.

Small Talk is an Essential Skill

Image Credit: xkcd

I teach “beginner” practical skills to first year law students — things like client intake and handling client meetings . By far the most common mistake is a complete and utter lack of small talk skills. Law students just treat the fake client like a piece of meat and start chomping away.

Actual people need a little more of a warm up. People hire lawyers because they have problems that are causing them stress. And for many people, all they know about lawyers is what they see on TV (or from a prior bad experience with a lawyer). Establishing a comfort zone and a comfort level with your potential client is critical.

If you do not take the time to small talk, you will never establish a comfort level with your client. Instead, you may come across as a busy lawyer who only talks about fees. This will give your potential client you only care about the bottom line.

Add Personality to Your Office

Nobody is going to ask you about your law school diploma, and they probably won’t ask about any awards hanging on your walls.

To keep it simple, decorate your office with items that are important to you. For instance, behind my desk are two canvas prints: one from my wedding day and another picture of my two little kids. I put them there because those are the most important things in my life. Having these pictures makes it easy to connect with potential clients, because it’s usually the first thing people ask about. This always leads to me asking about their kids. And if there’s one way to create a connection with people, it’s talking about their kids.

That does not mean you need pictures of kids to engage in small talk. Maybe you are passionate about something else such as marathon running, quilting, collecting old medicine bottles, or winter camping. Everyone has a hobby or something they do when they are not being a lawyer. Those interests will help you connect with clients.

Your Personality Counts, Maybe More Than You Think

Maybe you’re the greatest attorney in the world, and you have carte blanche to act however you want. If you are, I doubt you’re reading this post.

For everyone else, remember that your personality matters. Clients want someone to help solve a problem. But lawyers aren’t robots, so don’t act like one.

Updates
  • 2013-07-09. Originally published.
  • 2015-04-10. Republished.

Featured image: “Man with a paper-bag on his head working on the laptop” from Shutterstock.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #12: Ellie Krug on Starting a Firm and Litigating as Both a Man and as a Woman

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 20:15

Google is going to start directly penalizing websites that aren’t mobile device–friendly. We explain why this is important. Also, in its secret labs Google is learning to tell whether you are lying or not. Just something else to worry about. Then, in this week’s interview, Ellie Krug has a lot of interesting things to say about starting a law firm, building a strong reputation, trying cases — and yes, trying cases as a man, then after coming out as a woman.

It’s Time You Had a Mobile Website

Related “Why You Need to Make Your Website Mobile Friendly”

In just a few weeks, Google wills start penalizing mobile-unfriendly websites. I know, I know, this sounds like another wonky SEO thing. It’s not. Aaron and I spend a little time talking about why, if you care about your clients, you should make sure your website is well-designed and mobile-friendly.

Google’s Lie Detector

This seems crazy, I know, but Google is working on a way to “allow factual validity to contribute more heavily to a page’s search ranking.” That’s pretty cool.

Interview: Ellie Krug

Related Getting to Ellen: Living and Litigating in Two Genders”

Okay, the headline here is very true. Ellie has litigated as a man and as a woman, and she has some pretty interesting things to say about that — as well as some advice for male litigators.

But Ellie was also a real-deal trial lawyer back when litigators actually tried cases, and she took a huge risk by investing $70,000 to start her own law firm back when a laptop cost $4,000. And she built a successful practice with a reputation for aggressive advocacy and honest dealings.

In addition to all that, Ellie wrote a book about her transgender journey, Getting to Ellen, and started an award-winning public interest organization, Call for Justice.

Listen and Subscribe

To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button.

Thanks to Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode of our podcast.

To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or any other podcast player. Or find out about new episodes by subscribing to the Lawyerist Insider, our email newsletter. We will announce new episodes in the Insider, and you can listen to them right here on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Dropbox is Not “Insecure”

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 18:57

On SoloSez recently, someone asked whether Dropbox is secure or not, to which someone responded “Treat it as insecure, because the consumer version is insecure.” I thought my response might be worth posting here, as well:

Dropbox is most certainly not insecure.

In fact, secure/insecure is not a binary thing. There is a security spectrum, and Dropbox is somewhere in the pretty-secure-but-not-as-secure-as-it-could-be-if-it-made-a-few-more-tradeoffs range on that spectrum. It is secure enough for some (including some lawyers) and not secure enough for others. Or, if you like, Dropbox is secure enough for some uses, but not secure enough for others. Plus, there are ways to make Dropbox more secure so that it will make everybody happy.

Related “Is File Sync (Dropbox, et al.) Safe?”

Asking whether Dropbox is secure or not is asking the wrong question. What you need to figure out is (1) what security measures does Dropbox take, and (2) are you and your clients comfortable with those security measures. Most lawyers aren’t sufficiently technologically competent to accurately assess the first question, much less decide the second — and that is a problem. But maybe I can help a bit with that.

What measures does Dropbox take? Here are the ones I think are relevant:

  • Dropbox does not encrypt your files before they leave your computer.
  • Dropbox does transmit your files from your computer to its servers using SSL encryption.
  • Dropbox encrypts your files for storing on its servers.
  • Dropbox has the ability to decrypt your files.
  • Dropbox has strong internal protections against the wrong person decrypting your files, or any person decrypting your files for an unauthorized reason.
  • Dropbox will obey legal process, even if it means providing your data to another party without notifying you first.
  • Dropbox does not claim to own your data, although people routinely raise the alarm that it does.

If that sounds like Greek to you (assuming you do not speak Greek, in which case pretend I wrote “If that sounds like Chinese to you …”), then maybe the following comparisons will help.

Note that I wrote objectively, but we could probably have a lively argument about each of those statements that would involve a lot of words that sound like Greek/Chinese to most people. As in all things tech that relate to clients, I think you have a duty to become competent enough to judge for yourself. The ability to have those arguments is important. But hopefully this will help you make a decision in the meantime.

(As for me, I use Dropbox, but I also use Viivo for additional security for client files, among other things. This involves tradeoffs that make Dropbox less useful, but I’m willing to live with them.)

—Sam

Related “Dropbox for Lawyers and Law Firms: the User Guide”

What I didn’t add — but probably should have — is that Dropbox is probably more secure than your own file and Exchange server unless you have an expert IT security professional keeping a close eye on it.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How to Fight Inbox Overload with Outlook

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 07:45

It’s a real dilemma: the busier your law practice gets, the more cluttered your Microsoft Outlook inbox will be.

Related “This Simple Email Habit Will Make You More Productive”

While there are all sorts of tools that can help you achieve Inbox Zero nirvana, you owe it to yourself to take a look at the inbox management features already available in Outlook itself. Here’s how some of those features can help you fight inbox overload.1

Move Routine Emails Out of the Way with Rules

It sure would be lovely to have someone available 24/7 to screen your email, highlight emails that need immediate attention, and move the rest to the side to deal with later. With Rules, you can.

For instance, I’ve created Rules that flag every email received from any uscourts.gov subdomain and moved them into case-specific subfolders based on its case number in the subject line. If one case is particularly hot, you can deal with those emails immediately and leave the rest for later in the day.

You can harness this same trick for moving newsletter subscriptions to a Read Later folder.

The easiest way to set up a rule is to open an email you want typically want to automate. Just right-click on that email and, in the contextual menu that pops up, choose Rule > Create Rule.

While you can do a simple rule in the Create Rule dialog box, the more powerful option begins with clicking on the Advanced Options button. This will take you into the Rules Wizard.

The Rules Wizard asks you three questions:

  1. Which of your emails need to be automatically handled? For example, these could be emails you receive from certain email addresses or with specific text in the subject line.
  2. What do you want Outlook to do with those emails? Once Outlook spots an email that meets those criteria, do you want to move it to a new folder, pop up an alert, or forward it to another recipient?
  3. Are there any exceptions to the conditions in #1 above? For example, if you’re rerouting emails from the CM/ECF system to your assistant, you wouldn’t want to do that if your assistant is already getting cc’d (his/her email address would appear in the body of the email as a recipient). Those of you who practice in multiple federal districts (some of which do not allow secondary notification emails) will appreciate the convenience of such exceptions.

The Rules Wizard steps you through these three questions with checkboxes to select the available options. In this example, I’ll show you how to move an incoming ECF email automatically in a specific case to another folder and flag it for follow-up.

Step One: Select Conditions

First, will check two conditions: the subject line and the sender.

With each of these conditions, you’ll need to click the blue underlined text and tell Outlook what specific words or phrases it needs to look for. Here’s where starting with an email like the ones you want to handle comes in handy, because Outlook will automatically take that subject text and bring it into the Rules Wizard. However, to use that text as criteria, you often need to tweak it.

The second criteria is the sender’s address. It’s the same drill: click the blue underlined text and specify what pattern Outlook needs to look for in the sender’s email address.

Step Two: What do You Want to do with the Message?

I’m telling Outlook to move that email out of my Inbox and flag it for follow-up so it appears on my To-Do list. The steps are very much like the ones in the previous dialog box. We will click “specified” to pick the folder to move the email to, and then click “follow up at this time” to choose which flag will be applied to the email.

Step Three: Are There Any Exceptions?

In this particular example, we do not have exceptions. But if you wanted to exclude any ECF emails that were also sent to your assistant, you could check the box next to “except if the body contains specific words” and substitute your assistant’s email address.

One-Click Email Handling with QuickSteps

Some of you are shuddering right now. I totally get it. The thought of having “the machine” move your emails to heaven-knows-where without alerting you first can lead you to believe an important email will disappear into thin air. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can use QuickSteps to achieve the same result without adding too much work.

QuickSteps is, basically, a macro (though Microsoft carefully avoids using that word). A QuickStep lets you click one button to start a series of commands, like marking an email as “read” and moving it into another folder (or forwarding to your assistant).

Look on your Home tab in Outlook, and you will see several QuickSteps Outlook provides to you by default:

Click on “Create New” to create your own QuickStep.

There are all sorts of options, and you can choose multiple Actions for the same QuickStep:

For example, you could make the first Action “Mark As Read,” then add another Action “Forward,” and a third Action “Move to Folder.”

Depending on which Actions you choose for your new QuickSteps, you can select a whole bunch of emails, click the QuickStep button, and they’ll all get magically handled.

Redirecting Replies to Your Assistant (or Anyone Else)

Ever send out an email to a large group — co-counsel in a case, the Young Lawyers section of the local bar association, whomever — and asked them to send their responses to your assistant, only to have them send an avalanche of return emails to you instead?

To be charitable, they’re probably just too swamped to read your directions carefully. But you can turn his or her inattention into your advantage.

Before you hit send, go to the Options tab and, over on the right, click “Direct Replies To.” Delete your name from that field and substitute your assistant’s (the Select Names button takes you to your Address Book). When done, click Close, then send your email.

No more avalanche.

Get Creative with Inbox Management

You can probably look at your Inbox any given day and group 90% of the emails into a category (read later, forward to someone for handling, etc.). Avoiding email overload may be as simple as strategically deploying one or more of these tools.

Featured image: “Young man getting overload with emails.” from Shutterstock.

  1. Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows. 

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Cultivating Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 06:12
According to a Small Business Trends and Verizon 2014 survey, 85% of small business owners say they get most of their business through word-of-mouth referrals.

Word-of-mouth referrals are the lifeblood of new clients for lawyers. But ensuring that a steady stream of referrals continues to roll in is not easy. It takes time and effort to build a base that consistently passes you quality referrals.

If you’re not proactive about creating a process for getting more word-of-mouth referrals, it just won’t happen. So what can you do with the little time you have? Try focusing on the following tips — they will help build and nurture your referral base, which will result in stronger referrals.

Make It Easy to Refer You

The easiest way to ensure others will refer you is by doing good work. But that is often not enough to keep the referrals consistently rolling in. Here are four additional steps you can take that can make it that much easier for others to spread the word about you:

  1. Ask for a specific referral. It is essential you create very specific “asks” that make it easier for those around you to recommend your services. The level of specificity can vary, but it should be more than, “Do you know someone who could use my services?”
  2. Give your referrers something to pass along. This can be simple, as long as you create a process that ensures you do this with every potential referrer. As an example, I know a website developer who includes a couple business cards in the same envelope as part of her thank you letter. The benefit of this offering is that people cannot forget your name or your business name if they have something of yours within reach.
  3. Send a survey. A survey is a simple and yet effective tool to use in gathering feedback about how your clients felt about the service you provided. In the survey, you should ask point-blank, “Would you refer me to someone you know?” If the person answers in the affirmative, respond to them with a message that gives them easy options to refer you.
  4. Remind people. Everyone needs a reminder now and then. You can do this subtly by putting referral reminders in your email signature block and on your website or blog. It is also ok to do this overtly through direct asks via email or over the phone.
Focus on Building Relationships

To nurture word-of-mouth referrals, you must invest time and effort in building relationships with the people around you. Go beyond asking your network of past and current clients, colleagues, friends, and family for referrals. Spend time with the people you know who do or can send you referrals.

Occasionally, take your referrers out to lunch and talk about family, hobbies, and more. Attend social events — not to talk about yourself, but instead to listen to others and show them you are interested in what they have to say. The more you focus outward, the more others will focus on you.

Stay Top of Mind

Out of sight, out of mind. It is as simple as that. To nurture your relationships with your referral base, you need to stay ever-present. Here are two sure-fire ways that will help you remain at the forefront of your referrers’ minds:

  1. Send newsletters. Whether you invest in email marketing or print marketing (or both), you should absolutely consider sending regular newsletters to your clients and colleagues. Email marketing offers a fairly cost-effective method of keeping in touch. Print newsletters help you stand out from the crowd — how many people get nice-looking, informative mail these days? Regardless of the route you take, make sure you are focusing on sharing short snippets that highlight your expertise. Do not push heavy marketing messages.
  2. Speak at CLEs and conferences. Showing your referral base that you know your stuff makes it that much easier for them to send potential clients your way. Be on constant lookout for speaking opportunities such as seminars and CLEs. To make the most of these opportunities, make sure you have ample time to engage with the audience before and after your presentation.
Reward Your Referrers

One of the most important steps to take in cultivating your referral relationships is to recognize your referrers. After someone sends you a referral, respond quickly with a thank-you. A thank-you email is fine, but a handwritten note goes much farther in showing your appreciation. Putting pen to paper simply shows that you have put more thought and effort into acknowledging the referrer.

Related “Lawyer Referral Fees: Worth Paying?”

You should also consider doing more than just saying thanks, especially for individuals who consistently refer solid leads your way. Consider paying a referral fee if your local ethics rules allow it. Or just send a gift such as a fruit basket or bottle of wine. (Again, check the rules to see what you are allowed to give.)

Whatever the form your thank-you takes, be sincere. A little bit of grace and gratitude can go a long way.

Featured image: “Business man hand writing Referrals” from Shutterstock.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Starting a Podcast? Here’s What to Buy.

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 07:00

When I was trying to figure out what kind of equipment we needed to start podcasting, I was frustrated by the lack of a good just-get-this-stuff list so I didn’t have to research what to get, buy it, realize it’s the wrong thing, then buy something else. Fortunately that only happened a couple of times. To save you the same frustrating experience, here is my just-get-this-stuff list, which is also what we are using right now to record the Lawyerist Podcast.

Equipment
  • Blue Snowball. You can get better USB microphones (like the Blue Yeti, for example), but the Snowball delivers good sound at a good price.1 If you are still podcasting in a year, treat yourself to a top-of-the-line mic like the Heil PR-40.
  • Mic boom. Your mic should be 6–12″ from your mouth, and the microphone that comes with the Snowball just isn’t big enough. This boom lets you keep your mic at the ready, and you can swing it out of the way when you aren’t using it.2
  • Pop filter. If you are close to your mic like you are supposed to be, your Ps and Bs will create unpleasant pops on the recording. To eliminate them, get a pop filter. This one is cheap and gets the job done.
  • Headphones. The sound from your speakers can feed back into your mic, so wear headphones. It doesn’t really matter what kind, but the Wirecutter (which I tend to go with) recommends the Bose SoundTrue headphones.
  • Audio switch and patch cable. This makes it easy to switch between your speakers and your headphones. Just plug your computer’s audio out into the back, your speakers into one side, and your headphones into the other.
Software
  • Skype. In order to call phones (land lines work best unless the other person also has a good-quality mic and a fast Internet connection), you will need to buy Skype credit or just subscribe to one of the calling plans, which start at $2.99/month for the US and Canada.
  • Pamela (Windows) or Call Recorder (Mac). These apps work with Skype to make it easy to record calls. Make sure you set the audio quality to uncompressed.
  • Audacity. There are plenty of other sound recorders and editors out there, but Audacity is free, has lots of features, and gets the job done. Plus, it’s very widely used, which means there are plenty of tutorials out there for you to learn from. If you aren’t going to record calls and just need to record your own voice, you can do it using Audacity.
  • Libsyn. You need a podcast host to store your audio files and serve them up to iTunes and wherever else you want to publish them. There are other podcast hosting platforms out there (SoundCloud has a program in beta, for example), but we went with Libsyn because it is cheap, it has been around forever, and it is used by many of our favorite podcasters.

I think that’s everything, and if you get all this stuff, your podcasting setup will look pretty much like Aaron’s and mine.

Happy podcasting!

  1. Set the switch on the back to position 1. 

  2. It’s not obvious how to mount the Snowball, but this guy will show you how to do it. 

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How to Tell Whether Your Bad Date is Tax Deductible

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 06:12

While dating is not a typical business activity, one prospective client asked if he could claim a business deduction for online dating activities including his monthly subscription fee, meals, and entertainment expenses. While every woman he met online ultimately rejected him for a long-term personal relationship, they continued to maintain a friendly business relationship. A few even referred customers to him.

Using this situation as a backdrop, we will cover the basic business entertainment deduction rules if you are an attorney seeking to entertain clients, potential leads, and other sources of business. The rules, detailed in IRS Publication 463, are complex, vague, and, to a degree, rely on the honor system. The interpretation of these rules is complicated further by the elements of personal recreation and pleasure often involved in business entertainment.

Because of this, some will misunderstand or even abuse the rules. But don’t be afraid to take deductions that you are legally entitled to.

By understanding these rules, you can confidently write-off fifty percent of your business entertainment expenses and structure your entertainment activities to make them tax-deductible.1

Entertainment

According to the IRS, entertainment includes any activity generally considered to provide amusement or recreation. Examples include (but are not limited to) entertaining your guests at these places:

  • Nightclubs
  • Social, athletic, and sporting clubs
  • Theaters
  • Sporting events
  • Yachts
  • Hunting, fishing, vacation, and similar trips
  • Meals

For an entertainment expense to be deductible from your self-employed income, it must pass two tests:

  1. The “ordinary and necessary business expense” test.
  2. Either the “directly related test” or the “associated test.”
Dues Are Not Tax-Deductible

Unfortunately, your dues (including initiation fees) for membership in any club organized for business, pleasure, recreation, or other social purposes are not deductible as a business expense. This also includes country club memberships (which Treasury Regulations particularly disapprove of deducting) and your online dating subscription fee.

Ordinary and Necessary Expenses

As mentioned previously, your expense is ordinary if it is customary in the industry. An expense is necessary if it is appropriate and helpful in developing and maintaining a business. An expense will be deemed a nondeductible personal expense if business activities are incidental.

Finally, the expense must be reasonable. This means that the expense must not be overly lavish. It would be unreasonable to spend $44,882 for two ringside tickets to the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight to entertain a client who will pay a maximum of $10,000 in legal fees with no expectation of future business or referrals.

Entertainment deductions — particularly meals — should not be deducted on a regular basis with the same people because it will not be recognized as a reasonable business expense.

In Moss v. Commissioner, attorneys in the same law firm met for lunch daily at a local restaurant to discuss their ongoing cases. On their tax returns, they deducted the costs of the meals as a business expense. The court disallowed the deduction, finding that eating lunch daily is a routine personal expense, even when you discuss business during the meal.

As a solo or small firm attorney, clients generally come from referrals in your network. Therefore, it is customary, appropriate, and helpful to meet with potential clients, colleagues, or referral sources over a meal or an entertainment event to develop trust and rapport.

As for our online dater, while he failed to capture the heart of his dates, he was able to capture their business. Since he can prove that he met referral sources and obtained clients through his dates, he can prove that his expenses — aside from his dues — were ordinary and necessary.

Directly Related Test

There are two ways to prove that an entertainment expense is directly related to the active conduct of your business. One way is to show that the entertainment took place in a clear business setting. This is viewed objectively, so nightclubs, theaters, sporting events, country clubs, or social gatherings, such as cocktail parties, are not considered to be clear business settings.

If the entertainment does not take place in a clear business setting, the directly related test can be met if you can show that you engaged in good faith business activities, and the main purpose of the entertainment was the active conduct of business. That said it is not enough to just show a general expectation of income or a specific business benefit.

As an attorney, it will be harder to prove that your entertainment expense meets the directly related test because said expenses are incurred with a general expectation of income or a specific business benefit. In other words: networking and establishing goodwill.

You may meet potential clients and referral sources for the first time at social gatherings, charity functions, birthday parties, and other places that are not clear business settings.

Therefore, our online dater will fail the directly related test. No one goes on a date at a “clear business setting.” Also, even if an active conduct of business occurred, the main purpose of a date is to get to know a potential romantic partner.

If an entertainment expense fails the directly related test, then you have one more test available to you.

Associated Test

An entertainment expense can be deductible as a business expense for two reasons:

  1. It is associated with the active conduct of trade or business
  2. The entertainment event takes place before or after a substantial business discussion. This requirement is met if the entertainment is held on the same day as the business discussion.

The associated test is more flexible than the directly related test. IRS Publication 463 defines how the associated test is applied:

Generally, an expense is associated with the active conduct of your trade or business if you can show that you had a clear business purpose for having the expense. The purpose may be to get new business or to encourage the continuation of an existing business relationship.

Whether a business discussion is substantial [for the purposes of the associated test] depends on the facts of each case. A business discussion will not be considered substantial unless you can show that you actively engaged in the discussion, meeting, negotiation, or other business transaction to get income or some other specific business benefit.

The meeting does not have to be for any specified length of time, but you must show that the business discussion was substantial in relation to the meal or entertainment. It is not necessary that you devote more time to business than to entertainment. You do not have to discuss business during the meal or entertainment.

You will have a better chance at deducting your business related entertainment expenses under the associated test. The associated test permits meeting and discussion to establish goodwill and does not have a time requirement to discuss business. But these expenses may be disallowed as a nondeductible personal expense if they are connected to regular meetings with the same people.

Under the associated test, you may also be able to deduct dating expenses. For instance, if there is no romantic chemistry, you should switch the topic of discussion to business and keep it that way. If there is a possibility of a future business relationship, then any entertainment expenses incurred after the discussion can be tax deductible. That gives our online dater the ability to deduct expenses using the associated test as well.

Finally, if you meet that special someone, can you deduct the entertainment expenses from your dates even though your activities could pass the above tests? I wouldn’t recommend it. The IRS is very suspicious of transactions between related parties. So although you lose the tax deduction, remember you have gained a priceless and nontaxable relationship.

Featured image: “Revenue Service IRS Finance Taxation Government Concept ” from Shutterstock.

  1. Generally, meal and entertainment expenses under seventy-five dollars do not require a written receipt. Regardless, you should record the amount spent, the time and place of the event, its business purpose, and the business relationship of the individuals involved. 

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How to Prepare for Oral Argument

Tue, 04/07/2015 - 23:30

Oral argument is one of the most exciting parts of litigation, and only a few lawyers are really good at it. But even if you aren’t a naturally-talented presenter, you can still improve. The important thing is to get away from your outline and use a more “modular” approach to oral argument.

Many lawyers — especially those new to law practice — prepare for oral argument the same way, by creating an outline and rehearsing as they would for a speech. They may prepare for questions by talking through the issues with a colleague, but this does not usually result in effective oral argument. What it does result in is a stiff argument, awkward recovery after answering questions, and an ineffective presentation overall.

That’s because oral argument is so much more dynamic than an outline — even if you have a “cold” bench. In order to prepare for dynamic argument, you need a more dynamic approach than an outline and a few run-throughs.

Preparing for oral argument takes a deep understanding of the law, the facts, and the arguments. Then, you need to break up your argument into “modules.” You can organize your argument (not just outline it) around your modules, but then you must practice making your argument in and out of order. Only by doing this will you be prepared to field questions and deliver your argument with skill and nimbleness, instead of rigid adherence to an outline.

Ditch the Outline

An outline isn’t inherently good or bad, but it encourages rigid thinking. Lawyers who rely on an outline alone tend to get thrown off by questions, which often results in repetition and skipped issues.

Worse, many lawyers also haul a binder (or several) full of cases, pleadings, exhibits, and briefs to the podium, which they try to rely on while delivering their arguments. I think this is because they rely on their stacks of paper in place of adequate preparation.

Of course you can use an outline if you really want to — I do — but it is important to shed the rigid thinking and intellectual laziness that outline-as-preparation encourages.

Practice Intense Preparation

There are no tricks to good oral argument, and the single most-important component of great oral argument is preparation. I realize it is one thing to say Prepare! and another to do it with a full caseload, but it is a lawyer’s duty to prepare adequately, if not better. You must find the time.

You must know four things about your case for every argument:

1The facts. Know the facts of your case backwards and forwards. Make sure you know which are actually in the record, too.

2The law. Although you probably researched the law at various points in the litigation, including when you wrote the brief, you should review at least the key cases before your argument, and learn them well enough to talk about the nuances without the case in front of you. The same goes for any statutes or rules involved, which you should know inside out.

You must also be able to state the rule you want the court to adopt and apply, whether it is a rule from existing law or a new one that you want the court to adopt. Enough judges have asked me about this that it has become one of my favorite questions to ask students when I judge moot court competitions — few are prepared with a rule. But if you want to win, you had better know how you want the court to do it.

3Your argument. Make sure you can explain why your client should win. This ought to go without saying, but I have seen an astonishing number of attorneys who cannot seem to articulate a coherent reason why their client ought to win.

Your job is to convince the court that your client ought to win, and give the court a legally-permissible route to that result. Don’t forget the second part. You cannot win without it.

4What you want. This should go without saying, too. You must be able to tell the court what you want it to do. By the way, as part of this, you should make sure the court can do what you want it to do. Your client won’t thank you for the time and expense of a motion hearing if the court doesn’t have the power to grant your motion.

Organize and Practice Your Argument

Here’s how I like to organize my argument. I write each issue I want to discuss or point I want to make on a separate index card (or piece of paper, but the idea is to keep it short — these are prompts, not parts of a script). Then, I take each index card and practice the argument around that topic or idea. Usually, the oral argument starts to organize itself as I do this, because I generally refer to other cards as I go. As the argument begins to take shape, I start laying out the cards on the floor to sort them.

As I lay all the cards out on the floor (this works great for organizing the topics you want to discuss with a witness on direct examination, too), I put them in the order that makes the most sense. Group them into the two or three main topics you need to argue. Even if your argument is going to be complicated by necessity, group it into a few main topics, if you can.

Now, turn those main topics into a roadmap. Starting your argument with a concise roadmap is helpful for the court, because the judge will know right away if she is likely to get an answer to her questions, or if she should just go ahead and ask them now because you aren’t likely to cover them.

Spreading out index cards on the floor works for me, but you could also do an outline, if you prefer. I just think it works better to start with something more flexible, and convert it to an outline as it starts to come together.

Whether you do an outline or not, you should also practice your argument as a single, cohesive unit. You might get a cold bench, after all. I usually run through my argument this way a few times, then set my index cards and outline aside and go for a walk. (Bring your dog, if you are preparing at home.)

With no prompts in front of you, go through your argument several more times from memory. Work through it without resorting to your outline or notes. This will force you to learn your argument much more thoroughly than if you are always relying on your notes.

Practice your argument with non-lawyers, too. If they look bored, you aren’t doing a very good job. Keeping a non-lawyer interested forces you to boil down the facts, issues, and arguments to their essentials. You can always go into the nitty-gritty (boring) details if you need to, but it’s generally better to get to the point — especially with judges.

Commit Your Argument to Memory

Outlines, binders full of reference material, and other paper and props are distractions, not performance aids. The best way to argue is from memory (although it won’t hurt to bring your index cards or outline with you, just in case — or just for show).

If you have followed my advice so far, you have essentially committed your argument to memory. Deep understanding of the facts and law will give you the ability to discuss the issues without an outline to guide you. Practicing your argument out of order helps dissociate each issue from your outline. Getting out of your office and walking as you practice will help you embed your argument in your brain. As you walk around, your brain will associate your argument with your surroundings, which will make it easier to remember your key points when you are under stress at the podium.

Your goal is not to remember your argument word-for-word; that is counterproductive. Your goal is to know what you want to say about a topic whether or not you are interrupted. If you are interrupted, you must be able to locate the question in your argument, then segue gracefully back into your argument after you answer. In other words, know what you want to say, and then cover at least the key points whether or not you are interrupted with questions.

If you have followed the steps above, you should have your argument sufficiently “memorized.”

If You Can, Moot Your Argument

Not every argument merits the time and expense of a moot session — or several. But if you can moot the issue, you will get invaluable information and feedback. If your “judges” do a good job, you will have a good idea of what you may hear from the bench. You will also get great feedback on the way you argue so that you can improve.

I’ve had the opportunity to conduct several moot sessions on both sides of the “bench,” and it has been well worth the effort in each case. Do it if you can.

Last-Minute Prep On the Day of Your Argument

Here is what works for me on the day of my argument, but what you do is not as important as having a routine that quiets your nerves and gives you one last refresher of the facts, law, and your argument.

I usually get dressed, then go walk the dog. (My hearings tend to be first thing in the morning.) While we walk, I run through my argument — out loud — two or three times (wear a Bluetooth headset if you don’t want to look crazy, and people will think you are just on the phone). I keep it up in the car on my way to court. I don’t have my index cards or outline out when I do this.

When I get to court (always at least fifteen minutes early), I sit down and jot down my main “talking points” on a legal pad, referring to my outline if I need to. When my case is called, that’s all I take to the podium. I don’t try to review cases or the facts at this point. If I don’t know them by the time I am sitting in the courtroom, I’m not going to learn anything in those few minutes before I stand up to argue.

Preparation is key. If you have done enough, you will be confident behind the podium, and you will rarely be surprised by what happens in the courtroom. Don’t half-ass your preparation; it is always better to be over-prepared.

Updates
  • 2012-3-05. Originally published.
  • 2014-03-02. Updated and republished.
  • 2015-03-27. Republished.

Featured image: “Speaker’s table in conference room” from Shutterstock.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #13: Keith Lee on Going from Law School to Law Practice

Tue, 04/07/2015 - 06:12

During this week’s conversation, Keith Lee talks with Sam about his book, The Marble and the Sculptor and how new lawyers can become good lawyers. Before that, Sam waxes poetic about one of his favorite lawyer-friendly iPhone/iPad/Mac apps, Soulver.

Soulver

Look, if you have to do calculations and you have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac (the iPad version is probably the best one, actually), get Soulver. I’ve never found anything as good for calculating settlement offers or shareholder distributions.

Interview: Keith Lee

The transition from law school to law practice isn’t easy. Keith Lee’s The Marble and the Sculptor is pretty essential reading for new law-school graduates. Just like today’s podcast is essential listening for law-school graduates and lawyers alike.

Listen and Subscribe

To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button.

Thanks to Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode of our podcast.

To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or any other podcast player. Or find out about new episodes by subscribing to the Lawyerist Insider, our email newsletter. We will announce new episodes in the Insider, and you can listen to them right here on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

These Lawyers’ Bio Photos Make You Look Like You’re Standing Still

Mon, 04/06/2015 - 18:45

The lawyers at Levitt & Grosman sure are animated.

Literally.

(h/t Sam Harden)

Categories: Teknoids Blogs