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Posting Attorney-Client Communications On The Internet Is A Very Bad Idea

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 15:43

When you first see the headline “Lawyer Is Suspended for His Response to Internet Criticism,” it is easy to assume that a tech-hating functionary sitting in a professional responsibility office somewhere fundamentally misunderstood the internet and hung some poor lawyer out to dry. Yeah, not in this instance.

After doing the run-of-the-mill sorts of things that always get attorneys in trouble — asking for money for filing fees when there actually are no filing fees, failing to keep clients apprised of litigation events — Colorado attorney James Underhill found that his clients were, unsurprisingly, unhappy with his performance. In fact, they took to social media to talk about it, which is where things went awry in a spectacular and novel fashion.

He responded with internet postings that publicly shamed the couple by disclosing highly sensitive and confidential information gleaned from attorney-client discussions.

That is a bad idea! And then Underhill made it even worse.

Underhill then sued the couple for defamation. Although he knew that the couple had retained counsel, Underhill communicated with them ex parte on several occasions, even though their counsel repeatedly implored him not to do so. […] When the lawsuit was dismissed, Underhill brought a second defamation action in a different court, alleging without adequate factual basis that the couple had made other defamatory internet postings.

Even if you have only the most rudimentary understanding of how the Internet works, you are probably pretty clear on the idea that you do not post privileged information there, and you are certainly clear that ex parte communication with someone you are suing is the worst idea ever. This lawyer isn’t a Luddite, he’s a fool.

Featured image: “Furious frustrated businessman hitting the computer” from Shutterstock.

Posting Attorney-Client Communications On The Internet Is A Very Bad Idea was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How to Accept Credit Cards from Clients

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 06:00

In this post, we will compare four credit-card processors designed for lawyers: LawCharge, PayPros Legal, LawPay, and Lex/Actum. In addition, we will look at three general-purpose credit-card processors: Stripe, Authorize.Net, PayPal, Square, and QuickBooks. All these services let you take credit card payments via the web, and some will let you hook up a physical terminal, as well.

IndexEthical Issues

Related Find Your State Bar Opinion
LawPay

Credit card payments and trust accounting can be a thorny ethical issue. While moonlighting at Attorney at Work, Megan Zavieh wrote that lawyers should get over the fear of taking credit cards because (a) credit cards are how most people pay for things, and (b) there is no prohibition on taking credit cards. Familiarize yourself with the rules on advance fees and credit-card chargebacks in your jurisdiction. Finally, consider using a lawyer-specific credit card processor that avoids taking fees from trust accounts. It can also be helpful to put language in your retainer requiring your client to dispute payment with you, first, instead of going straight to the credit card company.

Understanding Credit-Card Processing

Credit card processing is a complicated mess of components and fees. No matter who you choose, it is hard not to feel as if you are getting nickeled-and-dimed.

That said, credit card processing boils down to two main components, each of which involve a monthly fee that applies to every transaction:

  1. The payment gateway is what you or your clients use to enter credit card information. This can be a physical card reader, a form on your website, or a virtual terminal — basically a credit card entry form that you can use to enter a client’s credit-card information yourself.
  2. The merchant account receives the money and holds it for a bit before the transferring it to your firm’s bank account.

Although there are a lot of different fee possibilities, it should not be impossible for you to determine how much money you will spend. For any service you choose to use, expect monthly fees anywhere from $5–100. Per-transaction fees generally include a flat fee plus a percentage of the amount charged. This can vary from 10-75¢ for the flat fee, and 1.95-3.5% for the percentage. (The per-transaction charges get smaller if you do enough business by credit card. If you expect a lot of payments, investigate the options.)

You usually have to pay for extra services, like recurring billing, or integration with external software like Quickbooks. Unlike monthly fees and processing costs, this information may not be easily available. You may have to talk to a sales representative to get more information. Additionally, these extra costs may vary widely based on how much business you are planning on doing, and how much the processor wants your business.

Lex/Actum

Lex/Actum’s pricing tier was not readily available on its site, but it took only a quick email to get detailed info about its plans. Lex/Actum’s pricing structure forgoes certain types of transaction costs in favor of higher monthly costs.

With Lex/Actum, attorneys that process less than $10,000/month of payments have two choices:

$19/month
  • 25¢/transaction fee
  • No separation of trust, and operating accounts.
  • Unlimited processing
$39/month
  • 25¢/transaction fee
  • Separation of trust, and operating accounts.
  • Unlimited processing
  • Invoicing software

Attorneys that process more than $10,000/month also have two options:

$59/month
  • 10¢/transaction fee
  • No separation of trust, and operating accounts.
  • Unlimited processing
  • Invoicing software
$99/month
  • 10¢/transaction fee
  • Separation of trust, and operating accounts.
  • Unlimited processing
  • Invoicing software

All of the options come with a dedicated payment page for your firm (example here).

Much like LawPay, the lower tiers of Lex/Actum do not include the separation of trust and operating accounts, making those plans a poor choice if you regularly deal with advance fees.

Although Lex/Actum does not charge percentage fees, you can not get around the interchange costs charged by Visa and Mastercard, which are 1-2% of a transaction. Every merchant pays those fees, period. Card processors typically pass this cost along to you and then add a bit on top, which is why you see the 1.95-3.5% fees with other providers. Lex/Actum gets rid of additional fees in its pricing scheme (though you’ll still pay them to Visa/Mastercard no matter what) in favor of the higher monthly costs.

Lex/Actum is a good choice for firms that can predict how many transactions they process each month, and would rather have the certainty of steady monthly costs.

LawPay

If you feel most comfortable with a high-profile endorsement, LawPay is for you. LawPay boasts endorsements from the ABA and 39 state bars. That does not mean you are free of worrying about ethical issues, but it does indicate acceptance among lawyers, for whatever that is worth.

LawPay offers three separate tiers of service depending on your firm’s credit card processing needs:

Small Firm Plan
  • 3.5% transaction fee
  • $5/month subscription fee
LawPay Plan
  • 1.95% + 20¢ per transaction fee
  • $15/month subscription fee
LawPay Trust Program
  • 1.95% + 20¢ per transaction fee
  • $20/month for deposit to multiple accounts.

None of the plans come with setup fees, though those may exist if you have special processing needs. Both the Small Firm Plan and Lawpay Plan are attractive to small firms at first blush, as the low monthly subscription fee keeps your overhead low, but those two plans will not provide you with the seamless trust account options that the Trust Program offers. If you choose the Trust Program, you get a plan that separates your funds immediately into trust and operating accounts, with processing fees being deducted from your operating account. There is no commingling and no need to move money from one account to the other depending on the kind of payment.

LawPay also integrates with Clio and Rocket Matter, and offers a mobile platform that allows you to charge payments via iPhone, iPad, or Android.

The lower-cost plans are good choices for attorneys who process a few, usually-small transactions each month, but the real accolades for LawPay are based on the features of the highest-priced plan. That said, the $20/month fee and 1.95% + 20¢ transaction fee are completely in line with other plans we looked at. If integration features are appealing, and you frequently need to deal with trust accounting issues, LawPay may be your first choice.

PayPros Legal

PayPros Legal is a lawyer-specific branch of a long-time credit card processor, PayPros. Although it is geared towards general credit card processing questions, PayPros seems to understand the ethical obligations lawyers face, and can set up separate operating and trust accounts for you. Additionally, PayPros Legal ensures that fees are deducted only from the operating account. PayPros also partners with MyCase and Lexis, among others. Along with the standard virtual terminal, PayPro Legal provides eBilling and a mobile payment platform. However, much of the business model is built around encouraging a physical card swipe.

PayPros Legal’s pricing structure is the functional opposite of Lex/Actum. PayPros does not charge any monthly fees, nor does it require a contract. Instead, you will pay anywhere from 1.69% to 2.99% per transaction depending on the type of card you accept. However, that low-end rate of 1.69% is only available if you swipe rather than key the card, which means you have to buy a swipe terminal from PayPros Legal ($60), or pick one up elsewhere. That may be an unattractive option for an attorney who is looking to handle payments with minimal fuss. If you (or your client, possibly) key in a card, you will pay 2.75% per transaction. While the transaction cost is high, the lack of monthly fees might make this a great option for an attorney who only needs to take credit card payments sparingly.

LawCharge

LawCharge provides the key feature — ability to deposit to multiple accounts, and thus avoid commingling — that the other legal-specific providers do. However, the website comes with a relatively loose explanation of how fees will be charged.

Your setup fee will be $100-$200, but you can request that the fee be waived if you are moving from another processor. Your monthly charges can range anywhere from $0 to $20. Per transaction fees can span anywhere from 19¢ to 75¢ per transaction, and your percentage per transaction can only be obtained by calling for an additional quote, and that quote will be determined by the type of processing you need. However, once you are all set up, LawCharge will let you deposit fees to both your trust, and operating accounts, with fees debited from the operating account at the the end of the month.

LawCharge also offers what it calls a “private payment portal,” where your client would go to LawCharge’s website, and pay via that site. The client then pays the transaction fees as a convenience fee, essentially, and you never have access to their credit card information.

LawCharge integrates with Clio, and offers a mobile app as well. It is entirely possible that LawCharge can live up to its claim that it is the most cost-effective option for attorneys, but unfortunately you will not find that out unless you invest some time discussing pricing scenarios with them directly.

With so many lawyer-specific options, it is tempting to avoid the general service credit card processors entirely. Regardless, these services may be valuable for lawyers who charge flat fees or rarely deal with trust funds.

Authorize.Net

Three years ago, we were impressed with how responsive they were to pricing inquiries, and how easy it was to set up their services. They offer the obligatory virtual terminal, and a free mobile app. Even though they have shifted the pricing structure on their website, it remains roughly the same as when we looked three years ago, which is nice to see.

Authorize.Net does not offer different tiers, but instead charges extra for some add-ons. Here are the fees you have to pay no matter what you are setting up:

  • Setup fee: $99.00
  • Monthly gateway fee: $20.00
  • Transaction fee: 10¢

Setting up recurring billing will cost you an additional $20/month, and fraud protection runs $9.95/month.

It is easy to connect Authorize.Net to external software like Freshbooks and Xero, and Authorize.Net makes it seamless for attorneys to generate invoices, and clients to pay those invoices. The only downside to Authorize.Net for lawyers is that it is not set up for trust payments, and given that a lot of lawyer-specific services now exist, that might be a dealbreaker, as you will either need to engage in some very complicated maneuvering to deal with advance fees, or forego them entirely.

Stripe

Full disclosure: Lawyerist is currently using Stripe.

Though Stripe will not help you address the trust account issue, if you do not frequently find yourself processing advance fees, Stripe is probably a good credit card processor. Your only fees are a 2.9% + 30¢ transaction fee. There are no monthly fees, no setup fees, and no small-print-at-the-bottom-of-the-page fees. If you process an upwards of $80,000/month, shoot them an email for a custom pricing scheme.

Stripe provides a payment form that works across smartphones, tablets, and desktops without any additional setup on your end. They will also transfer funds to your existing bank account for free, but they will charge you 25¢ per transfer if you want to send it to a third-party account. If you enjoy having a wide variety of features, Stripe has a large number of third-party add-ons that can handle tasks such recurring billing, integrating with Quickbooks, or building your own custom payment platform. If that was not enough, Stripe is also an official partner of Apple Pay. All the options.

Braintree

Acquired by PayPal a year ago, Braintree is the closest competitor to Stripe. While Braintree does not offer as many third-party apps, it does offer exclusive integration with PayPal’s ubiquitous payments platform. There are no minimum or monthly fees, and there are no transaction fees on the first $50,000 in payments you process. Braintree will also support Apple Pay, even though its parent company took out a full-page ad against Apple.

PayPal

Three years ago, PayPal was clunky to navigate. That has changed somewhat as PayPal has moved towards trying to offer a Stripe-like out-of-the-virtual-box experience. Paypal will charge you the same amount as Stripe — 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction — for the basic PayPal experience that many of your clients may already be familiar with. However, if you want to keep your clients on your site while they pay, rather than kicking them over to PayPal, you will need to go with PayPal Payments Pro, which will run you $30/month. This will then lead you down the most complicated labyrinth of possible fees imaginable.

Several years ago, PayPal was an attractive option despite its misgivings due to its familiarity, and integration with services such as Quickbooks — albeit at a steep cost. Now, the PayPal interface feels dated and it is still difficult to navigate. It is also unseemly to kick your client over to the same type of website he or she would use if they won an eBay auction for a vintage Metallica t-shirt. If you need to accept credit cards more than a few times a year, there is no reason to go with PayPal when Stripe or Braintree exists.

Square

Square has always focused on point-of-sale credit card swiping, and is an excellent choice for small merchants who sell products on the go or at multiple locations. They will even send you a free card reader just for signing up. Swiped cards cost you 2.75% in transaction fees, which is well within the average range of other payment processors.

You can also send your clients a Square Invoice via email, which they can pay using their credit or debit card. However, Square invoices come with some significant limitations. You cannot apply discounts or send the invoice to more than one email address. Additionally, the invoices look very much like an invoice for a sale of an item, not a charge for services. That said, Square provides you with a dashboard to track your invoices, and sends payments to your bank within one to two business days.

If you choose to accept a credit card without using the free Square reader, you will be charged 3.15% + 15¢ a transaction, which is definitely in the high range. It is difficult to see why Square would be a useful option for lawyers given the number of competitors that offer more versatility, lower fees, or both.

Intuit QuickBooks Payments

Many lawyers are likely using Quickbooks to track accounts payables and receivables and other profit/loss information. If that is the case, it is natural to look at QuickBooks Payments as a credit card processor. For an existing QuickBooks user, Intuit’s card processing service has no set-up fee and no contract, which is attractive to the attorney who only needs to run a few credit card payments per year.

QuickBooks offers two processing options for current QuickBooks users. For $19.95 a month, your transaction cost will be 1.75% + 25¢ for swiped cards, and 3.15% + 25¢ for cards that are keyed in. At $0 a month, a transaction will cost you 2.4% + 25¢ for swiped cards, and 3.4% + 25¢ for keyed cards. QuickBooks also allows you to send invoices, and updates your books when the invoice is paid. Additionally, QuickBooks will auto-deposit your funds. For current customers, these extras make Quickbooks an attractive option to Stripe, even though the swiped card rates are higher.

If you are not already a QuickBooks user, the transaction costs will remain the same, but you will have to use their GoPayment mobile app to accept payment. If you want to accept payments via the web, you or your client have to go through QuickBooks’ unattractive and cumbersome Online Service Center. Like PayPal, your clients will also have to leave your site to make a payment. This makes Stripe a superior contender to Quickbooks if you are not a customer.

Closing the Sale with a Credit Card

Three years ago, there were virtually no lawyer-specific options, leaving us to recommend the best general card processor. In that arena, Stripe is the current leader, simply because it has taken the guesswork out of running a credit card processor. However, for attorneys that need to routinely process advance fees, it is difficult to go with a general services provider.

In that event, LawPay’s mountain of bar endorsements speaks to the fact that it is well-respected. Keep in mind, however, if you go with LawPay, you need pay for their Trust Program to get the benefit of the trust account separation. If you are using any of the other payment services, let us know how those are working out for you.

 

Featured image: “Businessman in business suit pay by credit card.”

How to Accept Credit Cards from Clients was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

5-Step Legal Marketing Plan, Step 4: Marketing Strategies

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 06:12

Choosing the methods you will use to promote your law firm is one of the most concrete stages of a marketing plan. But unless you spend time on the first three steps, you will not have the essential data you need to create a smart, data-driven marketing plan. If you have read the prior posts, you’ve defined your niche(s) and ideal customers, identified your strengths and opportunities, and developed your unique competitive advantage.

Now, let’s put together concrete ways to get clients.

### Advertising

The most obvious method of getting clients is advertising. Getting advertising right among today’s skeptical audience is a big financial investment. But it also shows that a firm means business.

However, most traditional forms of advertising — advertisements in newspapers and in the Yellow Pages, for example — feel a little dated. The best form of advertisement in the Internet Age is content marketing — giving people useful information that provides them with value so that audiences associate your business with quality. Traditional advertising invades and interrupts, while content marketing is made up of actual useful content, sponsored by your firm that promotes your reputation.

Writing recurring columns in local or national publications is a fairly simple way of gaining “expert” status and being seen as a resource. Not to mention, small articles and interviews are often picked up and spread across the Internet.

Make Appearances

Related “How To Give a Killer CLE Presentation”

So much of marketing is just showing up. You can show up to lead workshops, speak at classes or for associations, or get quoted as an expert on a subject in a publication. This strategy can be particularly effective for excellent public speakers. People who are dazzled by your knowledge and ability to lead a room will remember you when they need a lawyer.

One key to making a good impression is actually packing your workshop or CLE with valuable information. Do not worry about giving away too much information. Show audiences how insightful you are and how helpful and capable you can be in your field. These appearances are not just events where you tell people to hire you. Giving people some sort of value will make them remember you.

Brainstorm on what you feel comfortable speaking about. What problems can you solve for people just by laying out a plan or delivering some information? Also be prepared with a game plan for following up after the appearance.

Networking

Related “How To Network: Get out and Do Things. With People.”

The easier, less formal method for interacting with people to drum up business is networking. If your forté is one-on-one interaction rather than speaking to a room, invest in conferences, associations, and political events that will allow you to show off your people skills. Do not think only in terms of where lawyers congregate. Think instead about the associations and events that attract your ideal client.

Avoid slipping into all fun and no work by setting a clear goal for your efforts. At a conference, your goal might be to find a new associate. At an exclusive country club, your goal may be to get your card into people’s hands or to mention that you are a lawyer specializing in a certain practice area. However, keep a balance between work and friendliness. Try to make professional friends and take the connection offline.

In any networking situation, the main goal is to develop relationships with people who may refer you to others. The point of networking is helping others who may one day help you.

### Online Presence

Related “Be Less Awful About Your Social Media Use”

Customers expect to be able to find your website as well as seeing reviews of your service through sites like Yelp or Avvo. They expect to see your firm’s lawyers mentioned in articles or in association with reputable organizations. Build an online presence with a website, blog, and some social media accounts where you can draw people to your page with consistent reminders that you are still in business.

Advertising on the web can be a complicated process because of the hidden skills that go into crafting SEO-heavy content that will cause your page to rank well in search engine results and attract certain audiences. Hiring a professional who can design and maintain your online presence will free up your time to focus on higher level tasks.

Developing Specific Marketing Strategies is Important

You’ve probably seen thriving businesses that have made you stop and wonder how they can be doing so well despite their poor service. The answer is marketing. Great marketing can make or break a business. While a mediocre firm with great marketing can succeed for a while, it is also true that a phenomenal firm can fail without marketing. Every firm must invest in the marketing strategies best aligned with the firm’s competitive advantage and effective with their ideal clients.

Next month’s post will focus on how to pay for all of these excellent — but often expensive — marketing strategies.

Featured image: “Man with a Note and Strategy Concept” from Shutterstock.

5-Step Legal Marketing Plan, Step 4: Marketing Strategies was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Briefs: Police Computers, Drone Future, RBG Nails, Etc.

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 19:26

The Oakland PD uses a computer running Windows XP with a paltry 80GB hard drive to store license plate photos — and ran out of space like your parents on vacation. The upside is they will stop trying to store license plate data forever. [Ars Technica]

Ten (apparently) reasons visitors leave your website:

  1. Bad or dated design
  2. Poor content
  3. Information is lacking
  4. It looks terrible on a phone
  5. Annoying stuff (pop-ups, auto-playing videos, etc.)

Click the link for the full list. (Or hey, get our guide and you won’t have these problems.) [VinciDigital]

Lawyer v. Yelp. Again. Lawyer is going to lose. Again. [Popehat]

The future if drones become ubiquitous. (It sounds horrible, but merits consideration if you plan to submit sci-fi to our short fiction contest next year.) [Gizmodo]

Get a Notorious RBG manicure. You know you want one. [Above the Law]

Ubuntu did a dumb thing with its disk encryption implementation, but it’s fixed now. [Cyber Smashup]

If you use Dropbox for Business, Sookasa can scan users’ accounts for files that violate your security policy. [Sookasa]

Briefs: Police Computers, Drone Future, RBG Nails, Etc. was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How Cross-Examination Bullying Can Wreck Your Case

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 09:11

When a lot of lawyers think of cross-examination, they think of a fight-to-the-death cage match between the lawyer and the witness. They think of scenes like these from prosecutor Juan Martinez’s cross-examination of Jodi Arias:

Those of you who don’t want to do cross-examination like this can breathe easy—there’s a better way. You’ve guessed it; Terry MacCarthy says it best:

To improve and to change your thoughts on cross-examination, I suggest you seek, in cross-examination, to:

Look Good

Tell a Story

Use Short Statements

MacCarthy on Cross-Examination, pg. 5

How does the Jodi Arias cross-examination meet this test? Looking at just the first section of at the snippet above, we watch this happen:

  •  Juan Martinez’s question (at 0:10) “The messages, what did they say?” allows Ms. Arias to tell her story—and she jumps at the chance;
  • He loses control of Jodi Arias and quibbles with her about whether she was “offended” or “hurt” by her boyfriend’s text messages;
  • He looks like a bully when she tells him (starting at 1:35) she can’t remember what she just said because “you’re making my brain scrambled”; and
  • She gets under his skin when she says (starting at 2:30) “I think I’m more focused on your posture, on your tone, and your anger.”

It goes downhill from there. Takeaways: (1) he looks bad; (2) Jodi Arias gets to tell her story about being mistreated by her boyfriend and Juan Martinez; and (3) he feeds Jodi Arias long questions instead of short statements. I’ve been there. This kind of cross-examination looks more like an argument between 3-year-old children:

What is Juan Martinez trying to show the jury before he is sidetracked? That Jodi Arias hung out with a supposedly abusive man after he sent her text messages that she found offensive. Here’s another way the cross-examination could have gone:

Q. I’m going to ask you questions about some of Travis’s text messages. You understand?

A. Yes.

Q. They were on his phone?

A. Yes.

Q. He was asleep?

A. Yes.

Q. You looked at them when he was asleep?

A. Yes.

Q. You read the messages?

A. Yes.

Q. They were sexually explicit?

A. Yes.

Q. You told the jury on direct that they offended you?

A. Yes.

Q. After reading these offensive messages, you went on vacation with Travis?

A. Yes.

And so on. He proves his point, and if she answers anything other then “yes,” she looks bad. The jury doesn’t have to squirm in their seats. And there are many other ways to attack her memory.  I’ll address how to deal with a witness’s faulty memory in a future note.

Featured image: “Boxers In A Posed Series, Dunlevy Gym, Sydney, Between 1925-1940 / Photograph” by Sam Hood is licensed CC.

How Cross-Examination Bullying Can Wreck Your Case was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

States That Require a Bona Fide Office

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 06:00

Although most states have come around — a mere five years or so after everyone else —  to being comfortable with lawyers storing data in the cloud, that semi-forward thinking is not extended to being comfortable with lawyers not having an office. A few state bars have issued ethics opinions explicitly affirming your right to go virtual, but several still retain the “bona fide office” rule, which says you have to have an actual physical office in order to practice in the state.

And then there is the weird middle ground: many states track the language of Model Rule 7.2, which states that if a lawyer advertises, they must “include the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.” A cautious reading of that would be to assume that state requires you to maintain an actual office. A less cautious reading would be to assume that state only wishes you to provide some sort of address on your advertising materials.

Here’s where all fifty states (and the District of Columbia) stand on the issue right now.

AlabamaNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.AlaskaA bona fide office is required. Under rule 7.2 of the Alaska Rules of Professional Conduct, any attorney advertisement "shall include the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content."ArizonaNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.ArkansasNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.CaliforniaNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office. California has sanctioned virtual law offices from a technology security perspective, but has not otherwise addressed the issue.PennsylvaniaPennsylvania has issued an ethics opinion that states that virtual law offices are permitted.DelawareDelaware requires a bona fide office in the state and suspended an attorney for two years for maintaining only a virtual office.New YorkNew York has issued an ethics opinion that it is permissible to use a virtual law office address to satisfy the "principal law office address" requirement in the New York rules if the attorney is a New York resident. If the attorney is licensed in New York but resides elsewhere, New York statutes currently require the nonresident attorney to maintain an office, although a current lawsuit may change that.ColoradoA bona fide office is required. Under rule 7.2 of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, any attorney advertisement "shall include the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content."North CarolinaNorth Carolina has issued an ethics opinion that states that virtual law offices are permitted.FloridaA bona fide office is required. Under Florida Rules of Professional Conduct 4-7.12, all advertisements must include "the city, town, or county of 1 or more bona fide office locations of the lawyer who will perform the services advertised."GeorgiaUnclear. Rule 7.2 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct states that "any advertisement shall include the name, physical location and telephone number of each lawyer or law firm who paid for the advertisement and who takes full personal responsibility for the advertisement." However, the rule goes on to say that in the absence of a bona fide physical office, the lawyer may disclose the full address to the Georgia Bar instead.HawaiiNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.IdahoA bona fide office is required. Under Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content."IllinoisA bona fide office is required. Under Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content."IndianaA bona fide office is required. Under Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content."IowaA bona fide office is required. Under Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 37:7:2, all advertisements must include "the name and office of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for the content."KansasNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.KentuckyNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.LouisianaNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.MaineA bona fide office is required. Under Maine Bar Rules Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content."MarylandNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.MassachusettsNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.MichiganNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.MinnesotaNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.MississippiUnclear. Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2 states that an advertisement "shall disclose the geographic location by city and state of one or more offices of the lawyer or lawyers whose services are advertised or shall state that additional information about the lawyer or firm can be obtained by contacting the Mississippi Bar at a number designated by the Bar and included in the advertisement."MissouriNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.MontanaA bona fide office is required. Under Montana Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content."NebraskaA bona fide office is required. Under Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3-507.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content."NevadaNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.New HampshireA bona fide office is required. Under New Hampshire Rules of Professional conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content."New JerseyNew Jersey's Rules of Practice explicitly allow for virtual law offices.New MexicoNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.North DakotaA bona fide office is required. Under North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."OhioA bona fide office is required. Under Ohio Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."OklahomaA bona fide office is required. Under Oklahoma Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."OregonA bona fide office is required. Under Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."Rhode IslandA bona fide office is required. Under Rhode Island Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."South CarolinaA bona fide office is required. Under South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."South DakotaA bona fide office is required. Under South Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."TennesseeA bona fide office is required. Under Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm assuming responsibility for the communication."TexasNo clear prohibition against having a virtual law office.UtahA bona fide office is required. Under Utah Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."VermontA bona fide office is required. Under Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."VirginiaUnclear. Rule 7.1 of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct states that all advertising must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer responsible for its content; or, in the alternative, a law firm may file with the Virginia State Bar a current written statement identifying the lawyer responsible for the law firm’s advertising and its office address." However, a 2013 ethics opinion seems to consider the possibility of virtual offices.WashingtonA bona fide office is required. Under Washington Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2 all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."West VirginiaNo clear prohibition against having a virtual office.WisconsinA bona fide office is required. Under Wisconsin Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."WyomingA bona fide office is required. Under Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2, all advertisements must include "the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents."Washington D.C.No clear prohibition against having a virtual office.ConnecticutNo clear prohibition against having a virtual office

Featured image: “woman handcuffed to her desk at work” from Shutterstock.

States That Require a Bona Fide Office was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Briefs: Smart Socks, the Death of BigLaw (Again), Accordions, Etc.

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 17:51

That political cartoon appears to be an older political cartoon by Jack Ohman while he was at the Oregonian. The archives don’t go back to April 2012, though, which is apparently when it ran in the paper. It seems about right for the current state of law enforcement.

What This Is

Like many people who research and write about the legal industry, I come across a lot of links I can’t write about (in some cases because they have nothing to do with law practice). So a few times a week, I’m going to collect the best ones here, in a series of posts I’m calling Briefs. I hope you enjoy them.

Briefs

Great, now your socks can be hacked. [Fusion]

Apparently there is still some question about whether you can have an all-Mac law office. Related: it’s now possible to communicate with people electronically using something called “email.” Be sure to tune your television dial to the news at 11 for more information. [Attorney at Work]

You cannot copyright a chicken sandwich. Sandwich trolls everywhere cry out in frustration. [Fusion]

The death of BigLaw may have been misunderestimated. [BloombergView]

I’m so conflicted about Lenovo. On the one hand, ThinkPads are among the best computers ever made. On the other, now they come with unremovable crapware. [Bitter Empire]

And now for something completely different:

Briefs: Smart Socks, the Death of BigLaw (Again), Accordions, Etc. was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #31: Shantelle Argyle’s Non-Profit Law Firm

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 06:12

Shantelle Argyle has a non-profit law firm, something many people talk about but few attempt. Well, the non-profit firm Argyle co-founded doesn’t just work, it’s flourishing. Find out more on today’s podcast after we talk about the ridiculous disconnect between law and science — and by the way, should trials be held virtually?

The Disconnect Between Law and Science

Insane doesn’t mean what the legal system thinks it means. Eyewitness testimony is often worthless. Latent bias has more to do with the outcomes of trials than anyone wants to admit. These are just a few examples of the disconnect between law and science mentioned in a recent article in Wired.

We talked about these problems, and also about one of the proposed solutions: virtual trials, which could eliminate the effect of bias by presenting a jury with neutral avatars in place of the judge, parties, and lawyers.

Shantelle Argyle’s Non-Profit Law Firm

Shantelle Argyle is one of the founders of Open Legal Services, a non-profit law firm in Utah that represents clients who fall into the access to justice gap — those with incomes starting at 125% of the federal poverty line. All clients are represented on a sliding scale, from $60–145 per hour — numbers that allow the non-profit to fund itself through legal fees.

In this episode, Argyle talks about what it takes to start a non-profit law firm, how OLS has become profitable and grown from two lawyers to six in less than two years. She breaks down the fee schedule works, and explains how to go about starting a non-profit law firm of your own.

Thanks to Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode!

Listen and Subscribe

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

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.

Podcast #31: Shantelle Argyle’s Non-Profit Law Firm was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Lean Legal: Three Techniques for the Agile Lawyer (Sponsored)

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 05:55

The following is an excerpt from the latest informative resource from Clio, read the entire article here.

A growing number of attorneys are turning to a set of project management and process improvement techniques commonly known as “Agile.”

As you might expect from the name, going Agile certainly helps businesses be more nimble and responsive to their customers. However, Agile also has been shown to pay huge dividends in improved productivity, increased teamwork and worker engagement, and higher quality products and services.

Agile is more a philosophy than a methodology. Although the term “Agile” was coined fairly recently, many of its teachings are grounded in age-old wisdom about individual productivity and group dynamics.

While it would be impossible to give a full explanation of these methods in these brief pages, there are several techniques that are common to Agile practices that are easy to adopt but that can pay immediate dividends in productivity, client satisfaction, and the overall health of your practice. I’ll discuss three of them that you can start using today.

Technique #1: Make Your Work (and Your Workflow) Visible.

The simplest way to start experiencing an Agile methodology is to just grab a pack of sticky notes and clear a patch of your wall (windows work too). Make three stickys for your column headers and then write out a separate sticky for each task you can reasonably hope to accomplish today. Those notes go in your “to-do” column with the most important task on top and the least important on the bottom. As you begin work on a task, move it over to the “doing” column (ideally you’ll do them one-by-one, but at least keep it to 2-3). Then as you complete the tasks move them to done. It’s that simple. Then review your completed tasks at the end of the day, maybe populate your “to-do” column with a few things you hope to accomplish tomorrow, and then do it again tomorrow.

Technique #2: Trade in tasks for stories

Agile practitioners most commonly use a set of open-ended sentences known as a “User Story” to describe problems that need solving. In short, a User Story is a snapshot of a particular customer need and the reasons behind that need. User stories follow a simple format:

As a _______________, I need to be able to _______________________, so that I can __________________.

Each blank represents information that you need to capture based on the best information you have about the customer.

Once you’ve developed these high level stories you can use them to inform the work you do in your practice. Family law, for example, a lawyer might replace a task (or set of tasks) having to do with filing temporary orders at the beginning of the dissolution with one or more user stories describing what problems she is trying to solve for her client. The measure of “done,” then, becomes not whether the work was completed but whether the problems have been solved.

Technique #3: Be Retrospective

Where the first three rituals are mainly about planning and doing the work, the Retrospective is about the process for doing the work. It typically follows a three-question format, and everyone on the team is expected to participate (though they are equally powerful for the solo practitioner). The questions are simple:

  • What went well that we should keep doing?
  • What didn’t go well that we should stop doing?
  • What should we try that is different?

The answers to these questions (and the act of addressing them) provide the basis for continuous improvement (a/k/a the Lean concept of Kaizen). By getting into the habit of conducting a periodic retrospective, you and your team are forced to acknowledge both your strengths and your shortcomings. Better yet, it allows you to come up with a plan to capitalize on the former and reduce the latter.

John E. Grant is an attorney and Agile Certified Scrum Master with a passion for helping lawyers and legal teams improve their practices and have fun doing it.

Lean Legal: Three Techniques for the Agile Lawyer (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Lawyers Whose Direct Examinations Sound Like James Joyce Novels

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 09:11

Direct examination is one of the most important parts of trial. It is your vehicle for establishing the key facts in your case, laying the foundation for your evidence, and connecting with a jury. An effective direct examination doesn’t happen by accident. As Gerry Spence notes, it must be part of a bigger narrative:

If we haven’t spent the necessary time preparing out direct examination will be of little value. And most assuredly, if we can’t tell the story effectively, our direct examination will be more confusing than enlightening. The direct examination is also storytelling—telling the story through the lips of the witness. Our job is to help the witness tell the part of the story the witness knows.

Win Your Case, pg. 149

In the James Holmes theater shooting case, his counsel set out to prove that James Holmes was legally insane when he opened fire on an Aurora, Colorado theater audience and booby-trapped his apartment with explosive devices. Here’s a snipet (ending at 1:06:20) of his lawyer’s direct examination of an expert witness:

The direct could be much better. What went wrong? His questions are long, leading, and they tend to squash the expert’s ability to display his expertise. Notably, the lawyer uses almost no who/what/when/where/why questions. Here’s what a much better direct examination looks like, followed by an analysis of how it could be even better:

What’s the difference?  Some of Terry MacCarthy’s Rules of Trial Advocacy illustrate why Ms. Wilson’s direct is better:

  • The lectern is for putting things on not for standing behind: she doesn’t stand behind the podium;
  • Body language is essential to effective communications: she has open body language that effectively communicates her message, and she often looks at the jury;
  • Speak in a courtroom the way you would speak in a bar: she uses plain language;
  • The importance of eye contact: she continually looks at the witness and the jury, never looking down;
  • Do not use fillers—“and”, “like”, “ah”: she never uses these;
  • Your stories should paint pictures: she allows the witness to tell her story without getting in the way;
  • Appeal initially to emotions—a granular reaction: she starts with the accident that killed the plaintiff’s children;
  • No legalese: jurors can understand every word she uses;
  • No powerless words—hedges, qualifiers: most of the time she avoids these, except when she uses the word “little” at the beginning;
  • The transition is a wonderful tool: her question “did you ever hear from Rebecca Hartwell herself” is particularly good;
  • When you get something good in direct “loop it”: she loops wonderfully when she says “when you saw the child laying in the street, what did you do?”; and
  • When something good happens on direct, “milk it”: her question “Did you ever hear Ms. Hartwell apologize herself” was a great way to milk the plaintiff’s testimony about Ms. Hartwell’s non-apology.

Don’t you wish more lawyers were this good at direct examination?

For more great trial advocacy material, check out Professor Charlie Rose’s YouTube channel.

Featured image: “Justices of the Peace, Thomas Ryan, William Young and Frank Davis sit on the bench at the Drouin Courthouse,Victoria” by National Library of Australia is licensed CC. The image has been modified.

Lawyers Whose Direct Examinations Sound Like James Joyce Novels was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

The Road to Not Getting Paid is Paved with Good Intentions

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 06:12

73% of law firms deal with past-due accounts from as much as 39% of clients. What the heck is going on here?

In ten years, only three clients owed me money. The first was because I didn’t know any better. The second, years later, was because I needed a reminder not to work unless I have been paid. And the third was basically unavoidable due to a weird confluence of things.

Never work unless you have been paid.

There is no great secret to getting paid. All you have to do is follow this rule: never work unless you have been paid. Contingent-fee matters are the only exception. In that case, your client has given you everything you asked for by signing your contingent-fee agreement. In all other cases, get paid first.

Related “Solve the Receivables Problem Forever”
Divorce Discource

It is a simple rule, and you should always follow it. Whenever I have been tempted to make an exception, I think of how the first two clients made me feel taken advantage of. It’s a sucky feeling, and the only way to avoid it is to get paid before you agree to do any work.

Getting Hourly Fees Up Front

Despite the increasing popularity of fixed fees, hourly fees are still the most popular way lawyers charge for their services. Traditionally with hourly-fee clients, you send out a bill every month for the time you billed during the previous month. That’s fine — as long as you have already been paid.

How? Require your client to give you a retainer — an advance on fees — that is large enough to cover the work you are going to do for that client. If you use up the retainer, require the client to give you another one before you do any more work.

Be draconian. If someone says they will have your money next Monday, tell them you will start working for them on Monday when they sign your agreement and hand over a check.

Consider including a “dead-man’s switch” in your hourly-fee agreement so that your client’s failure to refresh the retainer is all the notification required to terminate the representation.

This representation will terminate when the retainer exhausted unless you pay any outstanding invoice(s) and refresh the retainer within 10 days after receiving an invoice with an outstanding balance.

When your client’s retainer reaches zero, send a friendly letter with your invoice that includes a reminder of this provision and a due date. If you do not get a check by the due date, send your letter acknowledging that you have been fired. If the client calls you in a panic as soon as he gets your letter and offers to drop off a cashier’s check that afternoon, think twice. You may not want to represent him again after he has shown an inability to pay on time.

Getting Flat Fees Up Front

The rule is more obvious for flat-fee arrangements. Get the fee before you do the work. Any time someone asks for a few days to come up with the money, make an appointment for the day they plan to have the money and tell them you will be happy to start working with them on that day. Do not sign a retainer agreement before you have the money in your hand.

Sure, some potential clients won’t come back. Those are the ones who probably would not have paid you anyway, so it is no great loss.

For more complicated billing arrangements like billing in phases, separate the phases by carefully defining the scope of representation in your retainer agreement. For example, if you are going to represent someone up to but not including trial, make sure your agreement lays out when the representation will terminate, and make sure that point in the litigation will not prejudice the client or make it difficult for you to withdraw. Then if the client wants to hire you for trial, execute a new agreement and get paid.

If you will not be able to withdraw once you start, get the entire amount up front.

Bounced Checks

If a client bounces a check, follow up immediately and give her a very short time frame to show up at your office with cash or a money order, or to wire the money to your account. Bouncing a check may be a show of bad faith, but it is definitely a sign of an unreliable person. And it is a breach of your retainer agreement. Make sure your client understands that if she wants a lawyer, she has to pay your fee.

To prevent check bouncing, you might want to require cash for some fees. I used to require cash for all fees and retainers of $3,000 or less if I had to take any action on the client’s behalf (like filing something with the court) within 10 days. (If you do this and your bank isn’t within about a block of your office, you might want to get a safe.)

Even if your client makes up for a bounced check by giving you cash right away, you should give them a stern talking-to about the importance of making payments on time. Make sure they understand that any further bounced checks or missed payments will result in immediate termination of the representation, because you do not work for free, and you do not work for people who try to take advantage of you,

Pro Bono v. Free “[Pro bono] is not work you do for people who don’t pay their bills.”

You should absolutely do pro bono work, but writing off a bill is not the same as pro bono. That’s called working for free. That’s also allowing yourself to be taken advantage of.

Pro bono is work you do for people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. It is not work you do for people who do not pay their bills. The decision to work pro bono is one you make at the outset, not after a client has decided he cannot (or will not) pay your bill.

How do free consultations fit in? Go ahead and do them if you want to. Just don’t bill for something and then write it off later and call it pro bono.

Remember this Rule Never work unless you have been paid.

It is deceptively simple, but it is the only 100% guaranteed way to ensure you never have to worry about dealing with past-due accounts again. Next time a someone asks you to do something, ask yourself whether you have been paid for that work. If the answer is no, do not do it. Ask your client for some money, first.

Featured image: “man handing over money on white background” from Shutterstock.

The Road to Not Getting Paid is Paved with Good Intentions was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Science Proves Jerk Lawyers Beget More Jerk Lawyers

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 09:49

Se we learned a while ago that an unwarranted percentage of lawyers are essentially high-functioning psychopaths. You might be telling yourself you dodged that psychopath bullet because you are just not that awful. You are nice to your spouse, children, kittens, stray dogs, etc. It is just at work that you are a ball of stress and anger. Well, guess what? Your jerkiness is literally turning the people around you into jerks as well.

Encountering rude behavior at work makes people more likely to perceive rudeness in later interactions, a University of Florida study shows. That perception makes them more likely to be impolite in return, spreading rudeness like a virus. […]

Just like those who experience rudeness firsthand, people who witness it were more likely to be rude to others. When study participants watched a video of a rude workplace interaction, then answered a fictitious customer email that was neutral in tone, they were more likely to be hostile in their responses than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.

So, next time you are wondering why everyone in your office is just so hostile and rude, look within yourself, young Padawan, and see if you are a jerk.

Featured image: “Big Boss screaming to businessman” from Shutterstock.

Science Proves Jerk Lawyers Beget More Jerk Lawyers was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

5 Ways To Keep Your Client Occupied During Mediation Downtime

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 06:12

Sam Glover tipped me off to a piece about how to entertain your clients during the long empty spaces that are the hallmark of a mediation session. Advice like “chat up the mediator” and “get to know your client.” No disrespect to the gentlemen solicitor authors (wait, does Canada have solicitors or lawyers?) but people, we need more.

What if the mediator doesn’t make many visits? What if your client is a terrible bore? Let’s spice things up with some much better ways to pass the time when you are locked in a room with someone for hours at a time.

5 Ways To Keep Your Client Occupied During Mediation Downtime was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How To Give a Killer CLE Presentation

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 06:12

Related “How To Prepare for a CLE Presentation”

Lawyers aren’t simply born public speakers. If you want to be good at it, or even okay at it, you need to practice.

There are countless resources available to help you cope with public speaking issues. My best advice is elementary: you have to do it. You have to find places to speak publicly. At a party, do not just politely nod at everyone. Jump in with a story.

If you want to get more serious, try joining a local Toastmasters group. You will end up getting total strangers to listen to you.

Here are the best practices I can offer on giving a good CLE.

Never Tell Your Audience Why You Will Suck

If you are nervous, the audience will figure it out. If you are unprepared, they will figure that out as well. Do not take up your valuable speaking time offering a useless disclaimer about why, ultimately, the CLE was not a priority for you. Each one of these pre-excuses is an attempt to tell your audience they were not important enough for you to adequately prepare for.

Is Now a Good Time for a Joke?

A priest, a rabbi, and a cowboy walk into a bar . . . .

How is this joke going to help you? It won’t. Even if you run it by all of your friends who are priests, rabbis, and cowboys. Telling a joke at the beginning of any CLE is a time-honored tradition. But that does not mean it is a good tradition. Jokes are destined to offend at least some portion of your audience. If you are going to say something funny, it should not be from a book. Instead, tell a true and humorous story about your practice that relates to your CLE.

If you must use something canned, try a trivia question you have researched that is marginally related to your topic. It can involve the audience.

Face the Audience

If you are using a slideshow, and most CLE speakers do, your laptop should be in front with the screen facing towards you. The screen that the audience sees is behind you. If you are turning back and forth between the screen and the audience, you are more difficult to hear. Control your slideshow with a remote if possible.

Be Heard

If the audience cannot hear you, it makes no difference how brilliant your CLE presentation is. You must speak loudly so the audience in the back of the room can hear everything you say.

Some CLEs require microphones. Maybe the CLE is being streamed or even recorded for later playback and a microphone is essential. But if it isn’t, a microphone can counterintuitively make it so you don’t speak loud enough.

You need to throw your voice just like you are throwing a ball to someone. If they are right next to you, you do not need to throw very far. If they are across the room, you may need to throw the ball as hard as you can. If you are focusing on making sure your voice is loud enough for the back row, you will instinctively speak louder. A microphone may give you the false sense that your voice is carrying far enough.

Check your volume frequently. Make frequent eye contact with audience members in the back row to make sure you do not lower your voice as the CLE progresses. If the back row cannot hear you, they will either lose interest or give you a signal asking you to talk louder.

Do Not Read Slides The literacy rate for lawyers is pretty much off the charts. Do not read slides to your audience.

Watching a speaker read a slideshow verbatim is painful, especially at the beginning of a CLE. The literacy rate for lawyers is pretty much off the charts. Do not read slides to your audience.

As the speaker, your slides should merely be a launching point for what you want to say.

For CLEs, do not get caught up in reading case names or statutes. If you need to refer to a statute, do not cite it in an oral Bluebook compliant fashion. Just say, “the statute on the screen,” or “that statute” while pointing at the screen.

Likewise, do not give a full cite to a case.1 If you must refer to the case by name, just name the parties. It is also okay to say, “The state Supreme Court ruled in the Dillinger case that…”.

Always Repeat Questions

Remember how I mentioned that you have to throw your voice to the back row of the audience? The same is true of an audience member that asks a question.

If you see a hand go up, grab your water, and walk away from the questioner while staying in front of the audience. You should then call on the person asking the question. They will be forced to throw their voice to where you are. They’ll have to speak up. More of the room will hear the question the first time.

After the question is completed, you should repeat it. If it was long, you should summarize what you think they were asking. When you do this summary, look at the back of the room; do not look at the questioner. Once you are done with the summary, clarify that you summarized correctly.

Try to Be Standing

It is rare to see a speaker not stand, unless the CLE is done in a panel format with multiple speakers.

For long CLEs, I have sporadically used a stool. But a regular chair is a terrible idea for long periods. It nullifies your ability to make eye contact with many of the people in the room. You are not tall enough to be seen.

### Use the Stage

If you want your audience to stay awake while you present, make them move. Occasionally move from one side of the stage (or front of the room) to the other. Your attendees will be forced to turn their heads slightly. They may even shift in their seats. Anything that makes attendees move is a good way to keep the audience engaged.

Always Take Questions (with a Caveat)

I have always found that questions work much better during a CLE, instead of at the end, when the question may relate to something said an hour ago. There are many positives to taking questions during a CLE.

  • The crowd hears a different voice, breaking up the vocal monotony.
  • A question probably means your audience is paying attention.
  • The question might be asked because something you said was not clear. This helps you clarify that point.
  • It tells the audience that they should feel active in your CLE.

But not all questions help. Some can derail a well-planned one-hour seminar. You have to be able to recognize when you can afford a time-sink question and when you cannot.

If you are running short on content, and you know that you will have twenty minutes of dead air at the end of the CLE, you may welcome any question. The best questions are ones that will clarify an earlier point or add to what you have already said.

There are three types of questions you should avoid:

  1. The irrelevant question. You can tell when the question starts that doesn’t relate to your CLE topic. Try to end this conversation as quickly as you can.
  2. A question you know you will address later in your presentation. This is probably the most common type of unwelcome question. An easy way to address this is by saying, “I’ll be talking about that later in the hour. If I don’t answer your question then, please remind me.”
  3. The hyper-technical question. If you are giving an introductory CLE on Real Estate Closings and someone asks about a rigid technical and tiny detail which affects less than 1% of all real estate closings, try something like this. “That’s a good question, but it’s very rarely applicable. To answer your question, yes, you’re right, that statute applies. I’d be happy to dive into that with you more about it after the CLE.”
Something will Go Wrong. Move On

Do not let something small, or even something big, throw you off.2 If you trip over your words or seem to be stammering, just pause. Take a drink and restart. Do not let your preparation be lost because of some glitch or even because of some major unforeseen problem.

If possible, think of a way to smile, laugh through it, and get to your main job: giving a killer presentation.

Featured image: “Rear view of male speaker on the podium.” from Shutterstock.

  1. Especially bad, I saw a speaker give the state specific cite and the Northwest Reporter cite as well. 

  2. I was out of town, staying with my uncle and giving a speech at 8:30 in the morning. As I got ready, the zipper on my pants broke. It was completely unfixable, despite my incredibly sad attempt to find the sewing kit in the house and suddenly know how to sew. There weren’t any stores open, and I had to get to the CLE. Was I panicked? Fully. All I had with me for clothes was the useless pair of suit pants, the basketball shorts I had from the drive up the day before, and pajama pants. After my first ever attempt at emergency sewing repair (and some blood being spilled), I ended up borrowing a pair of my uncle’s pants. He was slightly taller than I was, so I had to roll up the cuffs. The real bonus was I had a great opening line for my presentation. “Raise your hand if, like me, you’re wearing someone else’s pants today…” I then told the story. It was easily my best CLE opener ever, because it was sincere and obviously true (band-aids on two fingers and rolled up pants for proof). I now bring two sets of “speech clothes” to any out of town presentation. 

How To Give a Killer CLE Presentation was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Beyond the Billable Hour: How Alternative & Contingency Fees Are Changing Law Firms (Sponsored)

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 05:55

JOIN OUR WEBINAR AS WE DISCUSS THE INS AND OUTS OF ALTERNATIVE FEE ARRANGEMENTS. Does your law firm offer alternative and contingency fee arrangements, in addition to hourly billing? Did you know that 1 in 5 Chief Legal Officers pay only flat fees to law firms for litigation work?

Law firms are finding themselves dealing with at least 7 new types of fees – from blended rates and conditional fees to damages-based agreements. Proactive firms have a lot to gain with flexible billing strategies.

Many lawyers are discovering that when they provide their clients with different billing options, rather than using the traditional hourly billing method, their firm becomes more profitable. However, law firms need to understand these new fee structures and their impact on a firm’s ability to represent clients.

In this free, 1-hour Clio webinar, learn what you need to know to successfully add contingency fees and alternative fee billing into your law firm, including:

  • Lessons learned from practice areas that have shifted to alternative fees
  • Ethic rules surrounding contingency fees and alternative fee structures
  • Resources for implementing alternative fees in your firm

Date: Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Time: 11AM PT | 2PM ET

Speakers: Joshua Lenon, Lawyer in Residence, Clio

Join the Webinar

Beyond the Billable Hour: How Alternative & Contingency Fees Are Changing Law Firms (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Avoid the All-in-One Printer, Scanner, Copier, and Fax Machine

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 06:00

Lawyers often choose all-in-one solutions when buying hardware and software, probably because it feels cost-effective to get a bunch of things bundled into one package. But when it comes to scanners, printers, and copiers, it is better to buy dedicated machines. You can be more productive with a ScanSnap and a good laser printer than you can be with a typical all-in-one machine.

First, you probably do not need a scanner, printer, copier, and fax machine. You probably just need a scanner and printer.

Copying is just scanning and printing without bothering to save the document in between. That is fine if you do not have digital files. But you should be scanning everything anyway. It will save time in the long run if you just scan documents and save them to your computer. Then you can print as many copies as you need, whenever you need to.

Fax machines, however, are not worth having any longer. Use an electronic fax service like HelloFax and you’ll never miss having a fax machine (or the cost of paper, supplies, and an extra phone line).

Those unnecessary functions are just bloatware. They add more things to the hardware that can break, and they add stuff you don’t need to to the software you use to operate the combo unit. What you’re left with is an okay printer and a not-very-good scanner.

If you are serious about going paperless — and it is hard to imagine why you wouldn’t be — you need a serious, dedicated document scanner. And while it’s all well and good to shop around, in the end there’s only one you should buy: the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500. Once you use it, you’ll understand why your brilliant plan to save money with a printer/scanner/copier/fax machine is so misguided. It just isn’t very good at scanning, which is what you will be doing with it most of the time.

As for the printer, nearly any good laser printer will do — until you are trying to print out four copies of all your exhibits the night before a deposition or trial. Then you will wish you spent the money on a good laser printer. Any good workgroup printer will do; just don’t rely on a cheap laser printer unless you’ll never need to print large batches of documents quickly.

If you really want a copier, just get a copier. All-in-one machines aren’t really copiers, after all. They just scan and print without saving. Most document scanners have a “copy” mode that works the same way in tandem with your printer. Or just go to a FedEx Office store the very few times you will need one. (In fact, I cannot remember needing to make copies for any reason since I went paperless.)

The only real advantage to an all-in-one machine is the price. A good scanner and a good printer will probably add up to $800–1,000. You can get a laser all-in-one for under $200, and a decent one is still under $400. The problem is that even a good multi-function is still just an okay printer and a substandard document scanner. If you spend a bit more to get the right tools for the job, you will save a ton of time and aggravation in the long run.

Stay away from all-in-ones.

Originally published on 04-20-2011. Last updated on 08-19-15.

Featured image: “Man fixing photocopier” from Shutterstock.

Avoid the All-in-One Printer, Scanner, Copier, and Fax Machine was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

The Happy Lawyer’s Guide to Running Your Firm like a Business (Sponsored)

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 05:55

Look, no one wants to be miserable at their law practice.

It just kinda happens.

Because most attorneys get out of law school wanting to do good and make their mark, especially when hanging their own shingle. Unfortunately, the realities of owning a firm swoop in and make the day-to-day not just challenging, but downright frustrating.

Working Hard, or Hardly Working?

Unfortunately, that old saw holds all too true for many solo and small-firm attorneys. There’s no doubt they work hard; too many just don’t seem to get a lot done without a great deal of stress and doubling back on tasks that didn’t get completed the first go-around.

It’s easy to blame all the typical small-firm hat wearing, distractions, lack of office support, and “not enough hours in the day,” but those are just symptoms to the overall problem that most of them face: they don’t run their practice like a business.

The Cure for the Underearning Blues

Practice management guru and ABA-published author Ann M. Guinn, Principal of G&P Associates in Seattle, teaches attorneys what they don’t learn in law school—how to build and maintain high-earning, client-centered, and satisfying law practices.

“I’ve never met an attorney or law firm that I didn’t believe could make more money. —Practice Management Consultant Ann Guinn”

“Underearning is about making choices in your law practice – either actively or passively – that cause you and other members of your firm to feel stress about not having enough money,” Ann notes.

But she says there’s always a bright side to every firm’s story: “In my 30-something years in the legal industry, I’ve never met an attorney or law firm that I didn’t believe could make more money.”

And during those years as a successful practice management consultant, she’s seen it all.

Like the attorneys whose offices look like a bad episode of “Hoarders” (but honestly, are there any good episodes?).

Or the attorney who logged his activities for a week and had multiple entries that read “stared out the window.” (Yes, that really happened.)

And plenty more whose biggest mistake was thinking that owning a law firm was about practicing law. Ok fine, of course it is, but it’s just as much about running—and growing—a business.

“Great,” you may be thinking right now. “I operate like a lawyer, too, not a businessman.”

But before you start beating yourself up because you didn’t get that combo JD/MBA your mother kept not-so-subtly mentioning at every holiday meal, take hope.

Because Ann has come up with nine tricks that any attorney—from the new shingle hanger to the seasoned litigator—can use to turn the tide and go from feeling overwhelmed and underpaid to becoming Master of a Profitable Practice.

Free Webinar, and Of Course a T-Shirt

On September 1st from 2-3 p.m. EST, Ann will share her best tactics for running your own successful legal business, including:

  • How to craft a vison for your law practice
  • How to set billing rates that reflect your true value
  • Maximizing existing profit centers—and finding new ones
  • Growing your firm, automatically
  • Losing those underearning behaviors once and for all
  • And more

Those who register (and attend—nice try) will also receive a free “Happy Lawyer” t-shirt, courtesy of the webinar’s sponsor, LexisNexis Firm Manager® online practice management.

So get off the hamster wheel and start practicing—and earning—like you should.

Sign up for this free September 1st webinar now.

Can’t make it? Sign up anyway and we’ll email you a link to the recording. Sorry, no free t-shirt, though.

 

The Happy Lawyer’s Guide to Running Your Firm like a Business (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

MetaJure Does Document Management Backwards (and That’s a Good Thing)

Tue, 08/18/2015 - 17:06

I was introduced to MetaJure today, and it’s the first document management system I think is worth serious consideration by small firms.

Most firms start thinking about the need to centralize document management when they get to three or four people. Well-managed documents make it easy to find examples, templates, and that email you know someone sent to opposing counsel three months ago.

Traditionally, to take advantage of document-management software you would have to migrate all your firm’s documents on all the computers, servers, etc., to your document management system, train everyone how to use it, and count on everyone to actually use it properly. MetaJure does it backwards.

With MetaJure, you don’t have to do anything but install the MetaJure agent on all your firm’s computers. It scans each computer (except for any folders you tell it to ignore) for documents, copies them to MetaJure’s secure server, OCRs and indexes all of them, and makes them available to everyone in your firm (except for anyone you don’t want to share with). When you need something, just search like you would with Google. Want to see all the NDAs your firm has drafted? Just type in NDA or non-disclosure agreement and they’ll all pop right up.

You don’t have to worry about saving documents to MetaJure. It takes care of all that. And you don’t have to worry about getting locked into a proprietary system. MetaJure leaves all your documents right where they were. Worried about getting buy-in from all the stubborn lawyers who have their own system and they don’t want to change? No worries. Everyone at your firm can keep on using whatever personalized file structure makes sense to them, but MetaJure will collect everything, centralize it, and index it.

It’s beautiful, actually.

However, MetaJure could use better cloud integration. Currently, it depends on your documents winding up on a computer that can run it’s agent. That’s fine for Outlook, Dropbox, and Box, since your email and files are synced to your computer, but if you want to use it with Gmail, Google Docs, iCloud, or Clio, it is inelegant. There are workarounds, but I hope MetaJure will plan to plug directly into cloud-based services so that it captures everything no matter what you use.

Also, the pricing is reasonable but regressive. MetaJure starts at $45/user/month for firms of at least 5 lawyers, and drops to $25/user/month for firms with more than 200 users. It doesn’t seem fair that small firms have to pay nearly twice as much as large ones, even if this sort of regressive pricing is common.

Even with those caveats, I am impressed. MetaJure let’s you take advantage of centralized document management with very little effort and zero disruption to your workflow. No other document management software that I’ve seen is so easy to implement or so effortlessly useful.

MetaJure Does Document Management Backwards (and That’s a Good Thing) was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

jEugene Might Free You From The Tedium Of Proofreading Contracts

Tue, 08/18/2015 - 14:13

If you have been laying awake nights worrying about whether you will be replaced by a robot, you may find the existence of jEugene somewhat jarring. jEugene (nope, no idea why that is its name) is a web-based app that proofs your contracts for you.

jEugene is basically an automated proofreader crossed with that first-year associate that you made read those stupidly long contracts. (This may be bad news for the first-year person.) It says that it can catch your typographical errors:

It can detect even the most obscure problems (en-dash v. hyphen in a defined term, two spaces instead of one between words, etc.), no matter how deeply they are buried.

Who among us doesn’t need help with the whole en-dash/hyphen thing? But jEugene also says it finds other types of drafting errors.

jEugene jumpstarts definitions checks. In seconds, it highlights undefined terms and unused definitions right in the text of documents, so that lawyers can focus on harder problems.

Not sure there is actually a harder problem than that en-dash thing.

jEugene is free for casual users (10 documents/month) and non-profits. If you have bigger needs, you have to reach out to them because there doesn’t appear to be fixed pricing for that yet.

A word of warning: since jEugene runs as a web app, you are uploading your enormous sensitive legal document to their servers. However, jEugene says that your documents will self-destruct within minutes if you don’t download them and as those results await you, they are protected by bank-level encryption. Larger firms can have jEugene installed locally for increased speed and security.

Well, at least if jEugene goes all Skynet and takes over certain legal duties, it can at least be getting rid of a job no one liked to do in the first place.

Featured image: “Pile of documents on desk for managed” from Shutterstock.

jEugene Might Free You From The Tedium Of Proofreading Contracts was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #30: John Grant’s Agile Project Management Tips for Lawyers

Tue, 08/18/2015 - 06:12

Agile project management is huge in software development, but lawyers can take advantage of Agile, too. John Grant explains how to adapt Agile for law practice. But first, is the legal market really experiencing “modest job gains”?

The Legal Job Market’s “Modest Job Gains”

The American Lawyer reports that “[t]he legal sector added 200 jobs in July … continuing a trend of modest and intermittent growth in 2015.” However, it also says there were 1,122,000 jobs in July, meaning the “modest job gains” are an unimpressive .0178% increase. That’s not modest; that’s infinitesimal.

John Grant’s Project Management Tips for Lawyers

John Grant thinks lawyers should take advantage of modern project management and productivity systems like Agile and Kanban by adapting them for the specific needs of law practice. Does that sound dry? It’s not. It’s pretty exciting.

In today’s podcast, you’ll learn how to adapt Agile for a law practice — not just as a way to manage your matters and to-do lists but as a way to streamline your practice and make it more nimble than ever.

Thanks to Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode!

Listen and Subscribe

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

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.

Podcast #30: John Grant’s Agile Project Management Tips for Lawyers was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs