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Don’t Let Intimidation Drive Your Litigation Strategy

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 06:12
If someone could burn down your house, would they really knock on your door and blow smoke in your face?

One of the toughest things for inexperienced lawyers to learn is how to deal with opposing counsel. Older attorneys love to huff and puff at new attorneys. Some days it feels like there is a giant target on your back — which, basically, there is.

Related “The Mental Fortitude Necessary to Practice Law”

The next time opposing counsel blows smoke, take a step back and decide whether there is any fire behind the puffery.

Intimidation Can Be a Lawyer’s Greatest Weapon

Law school does not teach you all the dirty tricks opposing counsel will use to throw you off your game.

By nature, many lawyers are bullies. Think of an experienced lawyer as the senior jock in high school. When that jock sees you walking down the hallway in suspenders and carrying a Trapper Keeper, your lunch money is as good as gone.

Just like those jocks, some lawyers rely on their tough image to get things done. Don’t get me wrong; the power of persuasion (in any form) is certainly a tangible skill. And to be fair, the best lawyers I know make the most of their specific talents. In many situations, attempting to scare a young attorney is their best leverage.

Make no mistake, opposing counsel will attempt to bully you. The good news is that just like those high school jocks, the bark is often bigger than the bite. And once you push through the facade, you are in good shape.

Huffing, Puffing, and Chest Thumping is Usually Just That The best defense counsel will not bark, scream, threaten, or jump up and down.

Opposing counsel will often tell you that your case sucks. But here’s the thing: if a party (or lawyer) has a really good claim or defense, they raise it in the pleadings. They don’t yell and bark about it, they just file a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment (or serve you with a motion for sanctions).

If I believed every huff and puff that was sent my way or screamed at me, I would have closed my practice years ago. Do I put some stock in huffing and puffing? Sure. Do I put much stock in it? Nope.

Usually about once a month I am told “your case/claim is garbage for the following reasons …” That conversation usually ends with an offer to settle my client’s claims, despite the fact that my case has “no merit.” On rare occasions, I have had defense counsel bring motions to dismiss when they truly think the case has no merit (note: none have succeeded). When they want to try and scare me, they just blab about it.

If there is a real issue, the best lawyers will just lay it out for you. They will not bark, scream, threaten, or jump up and down. They just put it out there. That makes me listen — I may not always agree, but at least I’ll listen.

Just remember: if an issue is so clear or winnable, it’s usually not wrapped up in a bunch of bravado. It’s kind of like my old dachshund when I was kid. He barked louder than any dog I know (and would usually scare bigger dogs), but there was no way he would ever win a fight — he just tried to prevent one from happening.

Yes, I am suggesting that you picture opposing counsel as a wiener dog. That should help with any intimidation issues you may have.

Do Not Ignore What You Know About Your Client

If direct intimidation doesn’t work, opposing counsel will often try to turn you against your client. Usually this starts as vague statements like “well, I’ve looked into your client and there are some things that I don’t think you want the court to know” or “I’ve reviewed the evidence, and the allegations in the complaint don’t match up with what actually happened here.”

You have to know your clients and their allegations inside and out — cross-examine them before you file the case. Will you still be surprised sometimes? Sure. But there is a reason why I am picky about who I represent. I know that my client’s credibility will become a central issue in the case.

That does not mean you should ignore a warning shot from opposing counsel. It does mean that you should always take opposing counsel’s comments with a grain of salt and believe it when you see it or hear it. Make them produce whatever evidence they claim makes your client look bad. Then decide for yourself how it impacts your case and your client.

If you let opposing counsel dictate your opinion of your client, you have already lost your case.

Do Not Ignore What You Know About Your Case

The bad news is that opposing counsel just told you that “courts throw out cases like this all the time.”

Related “How to Lose Your Case”

The good news is that unless it is the United States Supreme Court with the exact same fact pattern as your case, you don’t need to pack up the tent and head home.

When I get hit with this, I ask for the decisions they are referring to. I’ll guarantee you three things:

  1. The case is not binding precedent.
  2. There are other decisions that reach the opposite conclusion.
  3. The facts are distinguishable. A circuit split with favorable facts? I’ll take my chances on that one everytime.

One of the smartest things I ever heard a judge say is “you can always find a case that supports your position; tell me about the facts.” In other words, good facts matter. If you have the greatest facts and a couple of cases on your side, you probably have a good chance.

Get the Court Involved

I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty of ridiculous statements, attacks, and shenanigans. Fortunately, it usually happens early in the case, even before the parties attend a pretrial scheduling conference.

For example, I had a FDCPA case in federal court. The FDCPA is a federal statute, so even a first-year lawyer would understand that federal jurisdiction is proper. The first time I discussed the case with opposing counsel, a partner from a big firm yelled at me and told me something along the lines of “the federal court is going to hate this little case — and they don’t even have jurisdiction anyway — we will just move to dismiss on those grounds.”

At the end of our pretrial conference, the magistrate judge asked if there were any other questions or concerns. I very politely told the magistrate that I was confused about my opponent’s argument about lack of jurisdiction. I then asked opposing counsel to explain to the court why they intended to bring a motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction. Opposing counsel immediately turned bright red and mumbled something about not currently pursuing it, or something to that effect.

Did that win the case? Of course not. But it put the other side on notice that I call BS when I see it. (And we resolved the case shortly after that pretrial.)

If shenanigans happen at another point in the case, I will usually find a way to show the court what kind of malarkey I am dealing with. That generally involves sending very polite letters documenting the other side’s insanity, then bringing a motion or scheduling a phone conference with the court. Courts are not fond of dealing with discovery disputes, but they also have little tolerance for absurd behavior.

When the situation calls for it, take opposing counsel to the principal’s office.

Do Your Research On Opposing Counsel

Let’s assume that opposing counsel has some bite behind their bark. Just because they can bring a motion does not mean they will. Don’t forget, they have to tell their client “we want to charge you $10,000 to bring this motion, and it’s probably a 50/50 chance we win.”

Reach out to your network of attorneys and find out what they know about opposing counsel. Most people have a reputation, and it could include “they love motion practice” or “they always settle at the 11th hour.”

There is no guarantee they will follow their prior course of action, but a little gossip can still be helpful when trying to predict how they view the case and what they might actually do.

Regardless how they litigate, you will almost always get some nugget like “just offer to buy them coffee, and they’ll stop threatening you” or “don’t push them on this thing; that will send them into orbit.”

I am not saying you should let their personal preferences dictate how you run your case. But you should consider it, and if it helps you get a better result for your client, you should absolutely use that information to your advantage.

Bottom Line: Smoke Does Not Equal Fire

If someone could burn down your house, would they really knock on your door and blow smoke in your face?

Have faith in your case and your clients. If you decide there’s a problem, then deal with it as you see necessary. But don’t ever let opposing counsel dictate your view of your case and your client.

Originally published 2015-01-21. Revised and republished 2016-04-29.

Featured image: “Verbal aggression against female employee” from Shutterstock.

Don’t Let Intimidation Drive Your Litigation Strategy was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Marc Randazza, Klingon Lawyer

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 13:25

Marc Randazza is hands down the most entertaining legal writer in the English Klingon language. In this amicus brief, he doesn’t just make the argument that Klingon has all the elements of a living language, he shows it:

Qapla.

Marc Randazza, Klingon Lawyer was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Briefs: BarBri Faces ADA Lawsuit, Say Goodbye to Thomas, Etc.

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 13:01
Lawsuit: BarBri Isn’t ADA-Compliant

BarBri’s online bar prep is a great idea in that you no longer have to slog to some semi-disused auditorium all summer and sit in the dark, mole-like, for four weeks. Instead, you can sit in the relative comfort of your own home and be terrified that you do not know enough about parol evidence. However, online bar prep isn’t that great if it isn’t accessible to everyone.

Three law students have filed a federal lawsuit against BarBri Inc. contending that the company’s online bar-exam preparation materials aren’t fully accessible to the blind.

The suit, filed Monday in Dallas, alleges that BarBri violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing appropriate accommodations […]

The plaintiffs are seeking class action status, a court order requiring BarBri to provide such accommodations and compensation for those who have suffered without them.

USB Ports and Devices Can Be Computer Virus Vectors

Some people (cough cough Sam Glover) have been telling us all along that we should be wary of USB ports. thanks to a malicious hack where malware is installed in the firmware of the USB device. Perhaps it is time to start paying attention. For example, a nuclear power plant in Germany was just found to be riddled with viruses spread by USB.

The viruses, which include “W32.Ramnit” and “Conficker”, were discovered at Gundremmingen’s B unit in a computer system retrofitted in 2008 with data visualization software associated with equipment for moving nuclear fuel rods, RWE said.

Malware was also found on 18 removable data drives, mainly USB sticks, in office computers maintained separately from the plant’s operating systems. RWE said it had increased cyber-security measures as a result.

W32.Ramnit is designed to steal files from infected computers and targets Microsoft Windows software, according to the security firm Symantec. First discovered in 2010, it is distributed through data sticks, among other methods, and is intended to give an attacker remote control over a system when it is connected to the Internet.

The same article recites a litany of other times that USB data drives were used to spread viruses or steal information, from plane cockpits getting infected because workers charged their phones via the USB ports in the cockpit to a U.S. power plant needing to go dark for three weeks after a tech inserted a USB stick that infected the turbine control system. Scared yet?

Google Just Made Scheduling Easier for Organizations Using Google Apps

If you are using Google Apps to run your organization and you and your colleagues are using Android devices, you can now find meeting times that work for everyone much more quickly.

Starting today, if you use Google Apps for Work or Edu, you can schedule meetings from anywhere with “Find a time” in Google Calendar for Android.

With a single tap, “Find a time” helps you find meeting times that work for everyone—even if they’re in different time zones—based on their availability and the times they usually have meetings. If there are no times that work, Calendar will look at which conflicting meetings can most easily be rescheduled.

If Google made that available cross-platform and device agnostic, requiring only that you use GCal, who wouldn’t want to use it?

It Is Finally Time to Say Goodbye to Thomas

Oh, Thomas! When thomas.gov  launched 21 years ago (!!) it was groundbreaking: free and full public access to Congressional bills and other information and a noble goal of consolidating Congressional information scattered all over other government websites.

Over the past few years, the Library of Congress has been working on Thomas’s replacement, Congress.gov. In just a few months, Thomas goes dark and a newer, shinier, more responsive Congress takes its place.

Congress.gov is the system that we wished THOMAS could be, but could not because of its older, fragile infrastructure.

There are great Congress.gov features like responsive design (which means it adapts to the device you are using), facets to refine your search results, member and legislation email alerts, status of legislation tracker, and member pages. All of these features were unavailable on THOMAS. […]

We are retiring a twenty-one year old website and replacing it with a more modern, robust site with an agile development plan in place.

Let the countdown begin until THOMAS retires to Monticello on July 5, 2016.

Briefs: BarBri Faces ADA Lawsuit, Say Goodbye to Thomas, Etc. was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Wikipedia: a Guide For Lawyers

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 06:12

By now, Wikipedia is the thing that needs no introduction. Literally everyone, if everyone means 8someone who is reading this post on the Internet*, knows what Wikipedia is. Wikipedia is the airline seatbelt of the Internet.

But what if you want to use Wikipedia as more than just a reader? What if, rather than just visiting Wikipedia to settle arguments over whether or not you can feed your vegetarian guests the Peeps that have been hanging around since Easter, you want to contribute new pieces to Wikipedia or edit existing pieces?1

Here’s how you should do that.

Wikipedia: the Definitely Do Nots

Before going any further, let’s talk about the things you really should not do on Wikipedia unless you want big trouble with the denizens of Wikipedia and possibly the rest of the internet.

Do Not Create Your Own Page

Do not decide the first, last, and only thing you want to do is create a Wikipedia page about your law firm. Wikipedia frowns on people who promote themselves, and there is a whole policy dedicated to it. That conflict of interest policy is replete with examples of embarrassing self-promotion or self-protection, such as the bad habit of Congressional staff editing articles about their bosses.

If Wikipedia is to function as a crowd-sourced encyclopedia, it can’t be written by PR flacks or you acting as your own PR flack.

Do Not Rage Edit

While contributing to Wikipedia is technically anonymous, tools like Wikiscanner can figure out, with reasonable precision, what IP address made rage edits on a page. Some Maryland state government employees got busted for work day Wikipedia-ing several years ago. The chances you can remain entirely unknown are slim and the risk is just not really worth it.

Do Not Be Biased

One of the fundamental principles of Wikipedia (what Wikipedia calls the “Five Pillars”) is that entries represent a neutral point of view. Presenting both sides of an issue, if there is significant and easily sourceable content, is fine, but Wikipedia isn’t the place for you to make an impassioned argument that King v. Burwell was wrongly decided.

Do Not Post Original Research

Wikipedia is not the place to post your original research on a topic. All statements on Wikipedia are to be attributable to a reliable published source. Generally, you are not a reliable published source (sorry!) and, to the extent you might possibly be an expert on a particular field, citing to yourself will run you headlong into the “no self-promotion” policy.

Wikipedia: The Definitely Do

Now that you know what not to do, what should you be doing on Wikipedia?

Edit Using the Right Methods

Wikipedia now has two interfaces you can use when you want to edit an entry. Back in the day, you needed to feel moderately comfortable with HTML-style markups in order to edit a page. If you are comfortable with that, great. Keep the list of Wikipedia’s markups handy and go to town. Most people, though, will probably end up using the visual editor. The visual editor looks a lot like WordPress or a really stripped-down version of Word.

Spend some time with the user guide to get familiar with the various tools you can use to format. If you know how to bold something in Microsoft Word, you will know how to bold it in Wikipedia’s visual editor. Always keep in mind that you can undo your changes and if you monumentally screw something up, Wikipedia tracks all changes and can fix it for you. In other words, you can’t accidentally delete the whole of Wikipedia or even a specific entry.

Explain Edits

Explaining your edits isn’t mandatory, but it is courteous. Why did you add or change something? Here is the 2015 edits page from King v. Burwell. You will see people briefly explaining both substantive and minor edits.

  • Explanation of a substantial edit. “More formal, effective wording. Made distinction of ‘qualifying persons’ for subsidies, and those subsidies are subject to the ACA’s jurisdiction”
  • Explanation of a minor edit. “Fix header to avoid confusion; ‘DC Court of Appeals’ usually refers to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which is totally separate from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.”

Explaining your edits isn’t just polite. Doing so helps you look authoritative. Someone changing pages willy-nilly for no real reason is a nuisance. Someone changing pages because they have an understanding of the mechanics of a case or the nuances of a legal news story is useful.

Cite, Cite, Cite, and Cite

Remember how you learned in legal writing 101 that the judge did not care what you personally thought and only cared about what cases and statutes said? The same principle applies here. Anything substantive you add to an entry must be linked to a verifiable source, save for things that are generally considered to be well-known, such as the capital of a country. Wikipedia even has a citation scheme that has full cites, inline cites, and short cites. Lawyers will feel right at home.

How To Find Things You’d Like to Edit

It is permissible for you to edit nearly every page on Wikipedia. That does not mean you should. Obviously, you may wish to find law-related things to edit, but you might have other interests as well. Your starting point is, essentially, “what is a thing I am interested in talking about, but is not a thing I will personally benefit from talking about?” Further, everyone knows that once you start looking at Wikipedia, you will follow links forever, or until your spouse tells you it is time to go to bed. In this case, don’t hesitate to go down a Wikipedia hole. It may lead you to something that has not been well covered.

Or, if you want to use your knowledge where it is most needed, WikiProject Law has a bunch of ways to contribute, including lists of articles that need to be updated.

A good example of a law-related page that would benefit from additional information is the entry for legal aid in the United States. The existing entry is very light on how the system works, and there is a note at the top from Wikipedia editors:

This article possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed.

Let’s say that you spent time in law school researching the history of legal aid for your law review article. You may have run across documents that would help explain the historical underpinnings of the legal aid movement and be able to add to the woefully brief 7-line history that appears here. Indeed, any time you see the “possibly contains original research” note, that entry is a good candidate for you to consider editing if you have some expertise on the topic and can link to verifiable sources.

Adding entries to broad categories is also a useful way to edit. For example, the legal technology entry only lists a few legal tech corporations and is weighted towards older and bigger providers. Updating that list by adding brief new entries on legal tech companies you are familiar with and linking back to the larger legal technology entry would be very useful.

Finally, if you have an interest in some fairly obscure artist or band or historical event, have at it. One day, I will get around to updating the distressingly thin entry on the Shillelagh Sisters, a mid-1980s all-female rockabilly group. Someone has to do it.

Above all, your topic choice, legal or otherwise, should be something you enjoy researching and writing about, but not something you are so invested in you are willing to get into fights with strangers on the internet about it. That path will only lead to heartbreak.

  1. Wikipedia to the rescue: You can’t serve your vegetarian friends Peeps. They have gelatin in them. 

Wikipedia: a Guide For Lawyers was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Smokeball: Organization, Collaboration, and Automation for Solosmall Lawyers

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 09:30
“Smokeball automates tasks that are both tedious and error-prone, like re-entering client information or calculating fees.” — Lawyerist

Smokeball is practice management software built exclusively for solosmall firms, but it comes with the sort of features you expect to find in software that is custom built for much bigger firms, like document automation and extensive reports for tracking productivity.

Details

Smokeball is Windows-based case management software that tightly integrates with the tools a law firm is most reliant upon: Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook. (It works with Windows 7, 8, and 10, and Microsoft Office 2007 and onwards.) If you find you are spending more time tracking down who was supposed to do what or where a particular document should be, Smokeball can help.

Smokeball offers the things you have come to expect from practice management software, such as contact management and streamlining the opening of matters. It also offers complete document automation, so you can create templates for each commonly used document or court form. Smokeball automates tasks that are both tedious and error-prone, like re-entering client information or calculating fees.

Smokeball creates a complete plain-text searchable database for all your tasks, documents, emails, and matters. Thanks to this, you can easily track staff productivity, see what types of client matters offer the best return on investment, and, perhaps most importantly, stop wasting time looking for things in digital and physical files.

How to Get It

You can get started with Smokeball by viewing their free demo. Interested in more than a quick overview? Get in touch with and they will set up a live demo for you.

Smokeball costs $69 per month per person, plus a one-time onboarding fee. Onboarding includes installation and setup of Smokeball and two training sessions. Smokeball will also set up your letterhead and pre-load up to 15 forms or letters into your Smokeball library.

To keep up with new developments, visit Smokeball’s blog.

Smokeball: Organization, Collaboration, and Automation for Solosmall Lawyers was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How To Handle Tire Kickers

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 06:12

One of the biggest challenges for attorneys is balancing their current caseload against making sure new cases are coming through the door. Not every potential client, however, is created equal. Beware of the dreaded tire kicker—also known as a time vampire.

Here are some tips for handling a tire kicker the next time they call.

Hallmarks of a Tire Kicker

Let’s be honest, spotting a tire kicker is like spotting pornography—you know it when you see it. That said, here are just a few of my personal favorite hallmarks of a tire kicker:

  • “I just need some quick legal advice.” Did you pay attention? This tire kicker isn’t looking for a lawyer. They are not looking for information. They are looking for quick legal advice. You might as well replace the word quick with free.
  • “I’m calling to get my free consultation.” There are plenty of people who will call a lawyer because they offer a free consultation. But the people who actually want to hire you will rarely start off the conversation by referring to the free consultation. It’s also important to pay attention to the verbiage here. They are not calling to ask how the free consultation works. They are calling because they believe they are entitled to a free consultation.
  • “Yeah, I just have a question that I need answered.” Again, pay attention to what they said. They are not looking for an attorney. They are looking for information.
  • “I’m just calling around talking to various attorneys about  . . . ” You lost me at “calling around.”
  • Repeated calls without leaving a message. This type of tire kicker will not leave a message. Why? Because they know you will instantly identify them as tire kicker and not call them back.

Another type of tire kicker is the person who wants you to backseat drive their current representation or pro se case. I debated whether this person is truly a tire kicker—they have already paid another attorney. But they are still a tire kicker because they probably bargained their way into the cheapest attorney, and now they want you (the real expert) to help them out. They don’t want to hire you, they just want you to give them the roadmap to handling the case.

Go Ahead, Give One Free Test Ride

Yes, I’m suggesting you (slightly) indulge the tire kicker for two reasons:

  1. There is always the chance the potential client is not a tire kicker.
  2. Even if they are a tire-kicker, they can still say good (or bad) things about you. It only takes a few minutes to create a memorable impression, as opposed to a negative one.

Tell the potential client you understand their concerns and that you can help. And you can also provide information (not advice) about the general options the potential client can pursue.

Related “The Bad Client You Don’t Take Will Be the Best Money You Never Made”

At that point, close the loop. Explain to the potential client you need to review documents and meet with them further in order to evaluate their options and decide on a course of action. Take this time to explain how your fees work for that type of meeting—which will likely run the gamut of a paid consultation to formal representation.

Does that open the door for more free questions? Of course it does. But you’ve made it crystal clear you will not provide any advice without more information and a representation agreement. You have hopefully proven to the potential client you know what you are talking about, and that you can help.

Sometimes, you can convert a tire kicker into an actual client.

And if nothing else, you have informed one more person that you know what you’re doing and you can help. Maybe they won’t hire you for this issue. But they may hire you the next time. Or they might tell their friends. Both have happened to me.

Free Advice is Bad, Incomplete, and Unhelpful Advice

Giving legal advice over the phone is like asking your doctor to diagnose you over the phone.

You can, and should, empathize with the potential client and explain you understand their desire for an easy answer. But you also need to explain to the potential client you cannot provide a quick answer because, at this point, you are not their attorney and you would be doing them more harm than good. In order to evaluate options and remedies, you need the whole picture from the potential client. Don’t make things worse by letting them plow ahead based on an incorrect assumption or misunderstanding.

Many tire kickers, in response, will say, “I’m not looking to hire an attorney at this point” or “I can’t afford an attorney at this point.” If they say they cannot afford an attorney, go ahead and provide them with the names and numbers of a couple legal service providers. You might be surprised how many tire kickers will say they make too much for legal aid and just need some quick answers. Take this as another opportunity to explain to your potential client why quick answers are usually not good answers.

Only One Free Ride

You should have an unwavering rule for the second call or inquiry from a tire kicker: you cannot tell them anything else until you represent them.

This rule should have two effects on the tire kicker: either they will stop calling you, or they will hire you. If you crack open the door, even just a little, you will find that tire kickers will frequently request small “follow ups.”

If you aren’t paying attention, that request may seem innocuous. If you are paying attention, you should realize that between five emails and three phone calls, a tire kicker has basically cobbled together your legal opinion and advice on an issue.

This increases your exposure to a potential ethics complaint or malpractice claim. You don’t represent the tire kicker, and you are not getting paid for your time. And you probably don’t know enough about the tire kicker and their situation to offer good advice.

When In Doubt, Trust Your Gut “Sometimes, you can convert a tire kicker into an actual client.”

I represent consumers because I like fighting for the little guy. That also means, despite my rather grumpy personality, I’m a softie who wants to help people. Sometimes that means my heart overrides my brain when I get a call from an obvious tire kicker.

But not every perceived tire kicker is an actual tire kicker. Maybe they just don’t know how to talk to an attorney. Maybe they have never talked to an attorney before. Or maybe they just got ripped off or had a bad experience with another attorney. In other words, you cannot and should not have hard and fast rules when it comes to dealing with perceived tire kickers.

If you think someone may have a good case or may hire you, make that additional effort to show them you are the right attorney. On the flip side, if they seem like a potential client, but they are driving you crazy, go ahead and cut them loose. Your gut is usually right.

Featured image: “Top View of Business Shoes on the floor with the text: Free Advice” from Shutterstock.

How To Handle Tire Kickers was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

FactBox: Fact-Intensive Litigation Case Management Software

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 09:30
“FactBox is specifically designed to organize your thoughts and sources when you have a lot of facts to juggle.” —Lawyerist

FactBox is legal case management software aimed at litigators in fact-intensive practices like personal injury and medical malpractice. It helps users easily capture facts, make new connections between facts and issues, and easily generate reports and memos.

Details

FactBox is a cloud-based application that runs in your browser, so you can use it whether your practice is Windows or Mac-based. It is specifically designed to organize your thoughts and sources when you have a lot of facts to juggle.

When you open a case in FactBox, it allows you to immediately start inputting your key facts. To take notes (or add facts) in FactBox is virtually the same number of clicks as copying into a Word document or Notepad. You can start cutting and pasting new information into the case, but the software also lets you upload documents and link to information on the internet. It is a great way to quickly jumpstart your organization of your case and efficiently capture all your facts.

As you add facts, you can start adding tags and issues. Doing so helps you start seeing new patterns and relationships in your data. You can sort and filter your facts and sources any way you would like so you are able to quickly drill down and see key information.

When you start getting ready for trial, you can export your facts in a table or memo format so that you have everything at your fingertips. With one click, FactBox generates a Word document that is both polished and organized, no matter how much material you have to manage.

How to Get It

FactBox offers both a free 14-day trial and a demo. The free trial allows you free rein to set up cases, generate tables and memos, and all other features of the program.

FactBox costs $45 per month per user, but if you pay for a year at a time, your cost drops to $38 per month. That includes integrations with external cloud storage like Box and Dropbox, unlimited data storage, unlimited cases, and live support from FactBox.

If you refer colleagues to FactBox and they sign up, you get a month free. FactBox’s blog provides information about changes to the program, helpful tips on how to use FactBox, and interesting articles on the future of legal software.

FactBox: Fact-Intensive Litigation Case Management Software was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #65: What You Need to Know About the Cloud Services You Use, with David Tollen

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 06:12

“Whether you are negotiating [cloud-service contracts] or not, there are a variety of terms you should look out for.” —David Tollen

As more law firms go paperless, using cloud services for billing, timekeeping, and client files is common. But not all cloud services, especially those that offer free packages, will promise to keep your client data secure. Many of these services even reserve the right to use the data you store with them in marketing materials. David tells us what we should do about this and what we should look out for when subscribing to a new cloud service.

Law School Roulette: Which Top 20 Law School Will Shut Down? “We’re now crossing our fingers that we don’t get ghosted by our law school.” —Sam Glover

In an analysis of law schools, writer Dorothy Brown predicts that the University of Minnesota Law School will be one of the first top 20 law schools to shut down. Sam and Aaron discuss what this means for their alma mater and whether or not future law schools will have to follow suit.

What You Need to Know About the Cloud Services You Use, with David Tollen

David Tollen is the author of ABA Publishing’s bestseller, The Tech Contracts Handbook: Cloud Computing Agreements, Software Licenses, and Other IT Contracts for Lawyers and Businesspeople. He also provides advice and assistance related to e-commerce, social media, industrial design, and intellectual property.

Follow David Tollen on Linkedin and visit his website.

Thanks to Smokeball and Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode!

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Podcast #65: What You Need to Know About the Cloud Services You Use, with David Tollen was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Briefs: Bill Your Clients for Interns, 25% of Texas Grads Don’t Have Law Jobs, Etc.

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 13:52
Another iPhone Privacy Case Solved Without Apple’s Help

First, we had the big San Bernardino iPhone case end with a whimper rather than a privacy-destroying bang thanks to the FBI figuring out how to break into the thing without Apple’s help. After that, though, the FBI demanded Apple help it in a New York drug case, but Apple pretty much laughed at them.  Turns out that the FBI didn’t need any help after all.

For the second time in less than a month, the Justice Department has backed off using the courts to force Apple to help it gain access to a locked iPhone in an investigation.

On Friday, it told a federal court in Brooklyn that it no longer needs Apple’s help in pulling data from a drug dealer’s iPhone after someone came forward with a passcode.

Guess that settles that.

You Can Charge Your Clients for the Work Your Unpaid Interns Perform

…at least in New York.

[T]he NYSBA ethics committee said that there was nothing in the state’s ethics rules that would prohibit a law firm from billing clients for the services of a law student-intern on either a fee basis or as an expense to the firm, even if the firm didn’t pay the intern or the law school. […]

While the firm could bill the student’s work to the client as legal fees (by the hour or per task, for instance), the committee also approved the possibility of billing the work as an expense instead.  In that case, the committee said, “the lawyer may charge the client ‘either … an amount to which the client has agreed in advance or … an amount that reflects the cost incurred by the lawyer’ to sponsor the intern (e.g., the cost of supervising the intern).”

In other words, although the law firm does not have any direct costs in connection with using an unpaid intern, it does incur overhead costs, and may peg the expense value of the  intern’s work to include those costs to the firm.

Courtroom Sketch Artist May Have Inadvertently Drawn Justice Thomas Napping

If you have been dying to have a print of Justice Thomas possibly sawing logs, you can buy a print from the website of the courtroom artist, Arthur Lien.

Reminder: Don’t Accept Credit Cards for Bankruptcy Fees

A Florida law firm allegedly allowed its clients to pay bankruptcy legal fees with a credit card. While we routinely talk about how to accept credit cards for your law practice, that is not a thing you are allowed to do if you are a bankruptcy attorney, because new credit charges equals new debt equals something that can be wiped out in, you guessed it, bankruptcy.

When Loyd Cadwell decided to file for bankruptcy, he allegedly paid legal fees to the Orlando, Florida-based KEL law firm in January using two credit cards […] [W]hen Cadwell later decided to switch to another law firm, Jacksonville-based Mickler & Mickler noticed the unusual payment and filed suit Tuesday against KEL on his behalf.

The lawsuit is seeking class-action status, alleging this was routine behavior for KEL.

Almost 25% of Texas Law School Grads Are Unemployed or Underemployed

The attorney market is getting better! No, wait! The attorney market is getting worse! You can get whiplash trying to keep up with the various ways the market statistics are sliced and diced. The most recent news out of Texas isn’t encouraging, however. Nearly 25% of the 2015 class from Texas law schools are not working as lawyers or, worse still, working at all.

About 12 percent of graduates are employed full-time in non-lawyer professional positions.

More than 13 percent of newly minted Texas lawyers are unemployed, which is actually worse than in 2010 — the year the Great Recession hit the Texas legal industry the hardest — when 9 percent of Texas law school graduates could not find a job after graduation.

Three percent of 2015 law graduates are stuck working part-time jobs — some of them having nothing to do with law at all.

Long range, the outlook isn’t much better. Texas has 9 law schools hurling 2000 lawyers per year into a legal job economy that only added 3500 jobs in the last four years. Is it time to consider just manufacturing fewer lawyers?

This Startup Will Rate You Based on Your Win-Loss Record

From the minds of a couple of Harvard University undergrads comes Legalist, which will profile and rate you based on your win-loss records and how many cases you handle. Over at Law Sites, Bob Ambrogi breaks down some of the potential problems.

I recently spoke with Shang and Haigh [the developers]  and asked them how their algorithm will handle all the cases that never go to trial, where the docket would not show a winner or loser. All of those cases will be factored into the overall experience rating, they said, in that if a lawyer has handled a high number of a certain type of case, even if all the cases settled, the algorithm would presume that the lawyer is better at those cases than one who’d handled only one or two.

Another concern I see is that winning or losing is not a reliable measure of lawyering skill. Top-notch lawyers lose cases. It is often the best lawyers who are willing to take on the toughest matters with the lowest odds of success.

While tools to evaluate lawyer effectiveness are great, reducing people to their in-court success is a pretty narrow metric. Hopefully this tool will be able to evolve a bit.

Briefs: Bill Your Clients for Interns, 25% of Texas Grads Don’t Have Law Jobs, Etc. was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

8 Ways to Improve Your Law Firm’s Customer Service

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 06:12

There are some scary customer service statistics regarding lawyers:

  • Fewer than 10% of clients who call a law firm will actually get to speak to a lawyer.
  • More than 40% of people who leave a voicemail or fill out a web form wait two or three days before they hear back.
  • 11% of callers hang up within 10 seconds of calling a law firm because they’re frustrated at not getting to speak with the person they ask for by name.

In short: Most law firms are terrible at customer service (client service, if you prefer). This is a big problem as well as an opportunity.

A bad customer service experience for your clients means you face the very real possibility of losing a client who could stick with you for years.

1. Learn From Other Companies

Zappos is a great example of a company that offers stellar customer service. Zappos makes it ridiculously easy for customers to return shoes, making them well known for their no-hassle customer service.

Good customer service doesn’t just exist in the business of shoes, either. Law firms can also give their clients award-winning customer service. Sadis & Goldberg won awards from ACQ and Corporate Intl. Magazine, in part for its responsiveness, cost-effectiveness, and customer service.

You can deliver great customer service, too, by making every step in your law firm client focused. Your website, your policies, and your employees should make it easy for your clients to get the information they want and need. Clients should never feel like getting an answer to a question is a hassle. When you make it easy for clients to do business with you, there is no incentive for them to go to another lawyer.

2. Understand Life From the Perspective Of Your Client

It’s the Golden Rule of customer service: treat your client like you want to be treated.

Family law, personal injury, tort law, bankruptcy, criminal law, and even estate planning all have one thing in common: They can bring out the worst in people. Even mild-mannered professionals can suddenly become rabid shells of their former selves when they need a lawyer. You see people at their worst, when they are filled with anxiety and fear about the system, getting on with their life, and their future.

To provide the best customer service, you must have a basic understanding of emotional intelligence and interpersonal communication. Those two skills can help you identify the emotions and feelings of your client so that you and your staff can respond with a professional level of empathy.

Occasionally take the time to touch base with your client to see how they are doing during the case. This one small action goes a very long way toward increasing client satisfaction.

3. Customer Service Starts with First Contact

To create the best possible customer service experience for your clients, you have to examine your entire client intake process. Start with the very first time your clients call or fill out a form on your website.

One of the most important things that you can do is to hire the right person to answer your phone and return emails generated from your web form. It’s more than hiring someone with a pleasant voice for the phone. This person needs to sound friendly, go above and beyond when it comes to doling out patience, and they need to be empowered by you to make decisions that can solve problems. Above all, they need to understand your firm is client-focused.

When interacting with clients yourself, use active listening techniques. Active listening will reduce your client’s anxiety and positively impacts your attorney-client relationship.

4. Embrace the Details

When you were in law school, you learned how to pay attention to the details. Those details could make your break your analysis (and your grade). Take that same detail-oriented attitude and apply it to your clients. Not only will your customer service improve, but your clients will place more trust in you. The more your clients trust you, the more they will tell you. The more they tell you, the better you can help them and their case.

To do this, send out emails or make a quick phone call to a client who has expressed some sort of change in their life, such as the birth of a child or any other positive event. Knowing these small details will let a client know you care and increase referrals.

5. Take the Time to Explain Your Policies to Your Clients

During the initial consultation, you should do more than listen to stories and talk about money (although those two things are certainly important). Explain how (and when) your firm returns messages, provides unsolicited updates, and how your client can get their billing questions answered.

This will help set expectations. Bonus points if you include a “cheat sheet” that they can refer to later.

6. Call Clients Back within 24 Hours

Always return calls in a reasonable amount of time. All phone calls should be returned within 24 business hours. This even works if you still don’t have an answer for their question. Just touching base can go a long way.

7. Keep Clients in the Know

The number one bar complaint (PDF) is that clients don’t feel like their attorneys keep them informed. So set expectations by informing your clients during the initial consultation how often they can expect updates. Then follow that policy using email, phone calls, or with help from software.

You should also be careful about the language you use when you talk to your clients. Legal jargon can cause frustration and can even come off as condescending. Use plain english to explain updates or progress of the case. If there are terms that you simply can’t replace, make sure that you explain the concept.

8. Embrace Technology

Since customer service starts with the very first contact, make it simple and easy. Contact relationship management (CRM) software can help you streamline intake, stay in touch with your client, and automate followup during the representation and after you have closed the file.

Other tech-based solutions such as booking appointments through your website or using artificial intelligence could also help improve customer service at your firm

Customer Service is the Key to Growth

It doesn’t matter how great of a lawyer you are if you don’t have any clients. If you want to continue to grow your law firm, you must focus on customer service. Happy clients refer your firm to others, and it isn’t that hard to make sure this happens. It’s just a matter of providing your clients with good customer service.

Featured image: “Professional business people handshaking in office” from Shutterstock.

8 Ways to Improve Your Law Firm’s Customer Service was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

New Lawsuit Says Gov’t Shouldn’t Profit from PACER

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 15:06

There is no question that none of us like paying our PACER fees, particularly given that navigating the site often still feels a lot like you are back using Netscape Navigator. That said, most of us grudgingly agree that using the site (and paying the fees) is quite literally the cost of doing business as attorneys. However, PACER fees can be prohibitive for non-profit legal providers who have minimal budgets and cannot pass costs along. Those fees get even more problematic for nonprofit groups that use PACER for broader research.

Several of these nonprofits have now sued the government, alleging that the PACER fees are higher than they are allowed to be by law and are basically subsidizing other projects.

The groups cite the E-Government Act of 2002, which authorizes PACER fees necessary “to reimburse expenses in providing these services.” The suit says that millions of dollars in PACER online access fees have been diverted to other courthouse projects instead. The system was once a dial-in phone service and became an Internet portal in 1998. Fees began at 7 cents per page, rose to 8 cents, and now sit at 10 cents.

“Rather than reduce the fees to cover only the costs incurred, the AO instead decided to use the extra revenue to subsidize other information-technology-related projects—a mission creep that only grew worse over time,” the suit (PDF) claims. Citing government records, the suit says that by the end of 2006, the judiciary’s information-technology fund had accumulated a surplus of $150 million with $32 million from PACER fees [PDF]. When fees were increased to 10 cents a page in 2012, the amount of income from PACER increased to $145 million, “much of which was earmarked for other purposes such as courtroom technology, websites for jurors, and bankruptcy notification systems,” according to the suit.

You can read the entire complaint here.

New Lawsuit Says Gov’t Shouldn’t Profit from PACER was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Yes, Your Personality Matters to Clients

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 06:12

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.

Originally published 2015-04-10. Last updated 2016-04-22.

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

Yes, Your Personality Matters to Clients was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Kansas Supreme Court Says It’s Unethical Not to Track Your Time

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 09:44

From the opinion:

“Upon termination, a lawyer needs to be in a position to accurately determine the fees earned to date. That requires lawyers to keep time records reflecting actual time spent in the representation.”

The lawyer in this case had plenty of other issues, but every law student knows it takes more than a time sheet to determine the reasonableness of a lawyer’s fee. And what’s the point in billing flat fees (which at least some clients do want) if you still have to reduce everything to time in the end? [MyShingle]

Kansas Supreme Court Says It’s Unethical Not to Track Your Time was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Hiring Someone to Run Your Legal Marketing? Here’s What You Need to Know

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 06:12

If you outsource your legal marketing to an agency, you must ensure it adheres to the rules governing legal advertising.

Your Advertising Must Not Mislead “A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.”

While there are specific rules in each state governing legal advertising, the overarching principle is encapsulated in the first sentence of Model Rule 7.1: “A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.”

It is much harder to know the impact of a potentially misleading ad than it is to know whether a contract paralegal’s work fulfilled the lawyer’s duties of competence and diligence. If an advertising agency or platform does not follow the rules of professional conduct, the potential harm to the general public is unquantifiable.

Generally, to be subject to attorney advertising rules, the communication must be made by the attorney for the primary purpose of soliciting business. If someone else says something about you or your services, the advertising rules do not apply because you did not say it. If you put out a statement publicly, but the statement is not intended to solicit business (a tricky point heavily analyzed by regulators), it will not be subject to advertising rules.

But an ad you purchase on Avvo or a pay-per-click ad you place on Google is a statement made by you for the primary purpose of soliciting business, and it is advertising. Under Model Rule 5.3, you must supervise the service publishing and maintaining the ad to ensure compliance with your ethical obligations. The advertising service may not permissibly violate the rules any more than you may, so if your ad is holding you out as an expert in an unfamiliar area of practice, you have a real problem.

You Cannot Control Many Digital Advertising Platforms

On your website, blog, or social media platforms, you can often quickly revise your ad to ensure compliance with your state’s ethical rules. However, with many digital advertising platforms, your ability to ensure the ad is just as you want it to be and remains that way is extremely limited.

Consider an ad on a directory site like Avvo.com.1 With Avvo, you can advertise your legal services to specific subscribers using keywords. You can even edit the tagline of your ad and your profile based on the keyword. But it is important to remember you have no actual control over the programming of the site. For instance, if you are a personal injury lawyer, it is possible that an error made by your preferred advertising platform will start showing your ad in response to searches for trusts and estates lawyers—potentially putting you in the crosshairs of Model Rule 7.1.

You Cannot Delegate Everything

The ABA Model Rules make it clear that even when you engage non-lawyers to perform functions in your practice (be it trust accounting, money management, legal research, or administrative functions), they cannot commit acts you are not permitted to commit. The clearest statement of this is Model Rule 5.3, Responsibilities Regarding Non-Lawyer Assistance, which imposes a duty to ensure non-lawyers are not violating legal advertising rules. You are responsible for a non-lawyer’s violation of the rules if you knowingly order or fail to remedy the violation.

Rule 5.3 is written in the context of in-house assistance, but comment 3 to Rule 5.3 clarifies that it also applies to non-lawyers who provide services you contract—including document management companies and contract paralegals: “When using such services outside the firm, a lawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the services are provided in a manner that is compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations.”

How to Ensure Advertising Compliance

Practically speaking, you are not required to look over the shoulder of your service providers, nor do you need to know how the back office work is done. Instead, you must make reasonable efforts to ensure that advertising complies with attorney advertising rules. If your address must appear on your advertisements, you need to make sure that when you design your ad with a design agency, your address appears.2  If your state prohibits the use of certain words like specialist, you need to work with the design agency to ensure that the word does not appear.

Then, once the ad is live, you are responsible for monitoring how it continues to appear. Reasonable diligence in monitoring the way your ad is presented is required to make sure you continue to remain in compliance.

You can also ensure compliance using other media you do control, such as your website. For example, if a banner ad or a Google Adwords ad contains only a few words (which cannot possibly contain every disclaimer required by your state’s rules), the ad will link to your website, where you can ensure that all requirements are met.

Bottom line: Advertising through a service in which you abdicate some level of control over your presentation does not relieve you of your ethical obligations. You remain responsible for monitoring your public statements to remain compliant.

Featured image: “Advertising Advertisement Branding Commercial Concept” from Shutterstock.

  1. Disclosure: I advertise on Avvo. 

  2. This is probably required in your state under Model Rule 7.2

Hiring Someone to Run Your Legal Marketing? Here’s What You Need to Know was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Microsoft Commits $1 Million to LSC for Access to Justice

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 15:06

Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the largest organization that funds legal aid programs, announced yesterday that Microsoft has committed $1 million of funding and resources to build out what LSC is calling “legal portals” – basically, online resources that will direct low-income people to legal providers.

As its first step, the LSC’s portal project will create pilot websites in one or two states, with the aim of creating a template that can be replicated elsewhere. Pro Bono Net, a nonprofit that promotes innovative uses of technology to increase access to justice, will also work with Microsoft and LSC.

The current system of accessing legal services is confusing, opaque and inefficient for many people,” said LSC president James Sandman in a statement. “The goal of the portals is to simplify the process by providing a single, statewide point of access to effective help for people needing civil legal assistance.”

While this may seem somewhat attenuated or small in scope, it is important to remember that access to justice only works when people can easily find resources. A patchwork of government services, courts, non-profits, and private corporations can be prohibitively hard to navigate. LSC says that it hopes to have the first programs up and running within two years.

Microsoft Commits $1 Million to LSC for Access to Justice was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How To Write Your Practice Area Page

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 06:12

Your website’s practice area page—the page on which you explain what kind of law you practice—has a big job to do. A well-executed practice area page is often what convinces prospective clients to contact you. But if your website has a poorly executed practice area page, potential clients may just drift away—and land on another lawyer’s website.

Here’s how to approach that page (or pages) and write about your practice area on your website.

Goals for a Practice Area Page
  1. Attract search engines. Focus on terms your prospective clients are likely to search for, like family law, DUI, and employment contract.
  2. Speak to prospective clients. Clearly communicate what it is you do, how you do it, why you do it, and why someone should choose you.
  3. Elicit action from prospects. Every page of your website should tell your prospective clients what to do next, whether that is to call your office to schedule a consultation, to download a form, or to sign up for a newsletter.
Focus on One Topic

Each practice area page should focus on only one topic, for two reasons:

  1. A single topic is much better from an SEO standpoint. Once you start combining topics, you start diluting the benefits.
  2. A prospective client with a specific issue is more likely to relate to a practice area page about that specific issue.

If all you handle is family law, then title your page Family Law instead of the generic Practice Areas.

You can take this further by creating practice area page hierarchies on your site. This is especially useful for attorneys with multiple practice areas. Using the example hierarchies below, write overview pages for general areas of your practice, with specific practice pages nested underneath. For example:

  • Family Law (Overview)
    • Divorce
    • Alimony
    • Child Custody
    • Child Support
  • Criminal Defense (Overview)
    • DUI
    • Drug Offenses
    • Juvenile Offenses
    • Theft Crimes
  • Employment Law (Overview)
    • Wrongful Termination
    • Employment Discrimination
    • FMLA Violations
    • Breach of Contract

The more focused you get, the better off your site will likely perform from both a search and a conversion standpoint. For instance, if you are a criminal defense attorney, but you mainly just want DUI cases, focus all of your practice area pages on DUI-related matters:

  • DUI Defense (Overview)
    • First-offense DUI
    • Felony DUI
    • Ignition Interlock Devices
    • Breathalyzer Tests
    • Field Sobriety Tests
Write to an Actual Person

You are not writing for you. You are writing for your ideal prospective client. Picture this client in your mind while you write. Think about how that client might be feeling when they are searching for a lawyer. Write emotional appeals that respond to those feelings.

Are you unsure what your ideal client is like? Take a few minutes to create a buyer persona with the help of this free guide and template from HubSpot.

You should also write using words your clients use, not legal jargon. For instance, use the term alimony instead of spousal support or spousal maintenance. Most prospective clients use colloquial terms. If you want to use the legal term, mention it once and then move on (e.g., “alimony, known as spousal maintenance in [state] … ”).

Answer a Prospective Client’s Burning Questions

The most effective practice area pages answer a prospective client’s questions and address their fears and worries. When writing your practice page, consider answering these questions in your copy:

  • What issues do you handle?
  • What does the process require of the client?
  • What would happen to the client if they don’t hire you?
  • What would happen to the client if they don’t hire a lawyer at all?
  • What does a client gain by choosing you over your competition?

Your goal is to write directly to your prospective client. Focus on them and their concerns, not on your skills, education, or awards.

Close with a Call to Action

As mentioned above, you want to close out your practice page with a specific call to action (CTA). Your CTA should state in no uncertain terms what your prospective client’s next step is—if you leave them guessing, they probably won’t do it.

Three Things to Avoid
  • Legalese. Avoid all terminology that makes it sound like you are writing a brief. This is marketing copywriting, not brief drafting, and you are probably not marketing to other lawyers.
  • Legal advice. Keep in mind you will be responsible for any advice you give. The better practice is to give information, not actionable legal advice.
  • Typos. Your credibility can hang on a dangling modifier, a misspelled word, or an omitted punctuation mark. Have someone copyedit your piece before your publish.
Remember to Write for the Web

People read content on screens differently than they do content on paper. Review these best practices for Web-based writing to learn how to craft and format your copy for greatest impact.

Be Thoughtful

Your practice area page is not a dumping ground. Do not throw an exhaustive bullet list on this page and call it complete. Instead, be strategic in how you approach this page or set of pages. And be thoughtful. Prospective clients are more likely to respond well to content that has been carefully crafted to directly connect with them.

Featured image: “Male hands working on a white laptop on a wooden desktop and copy space at right” from Shutterstock.

How To Write Your Practice Area Page was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Find the Right Legal Tech Consultant for Your Firm

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 13:16

Inspired to innovate but unsure where to start? Need guidance executing on your vision for your firm?

For years people have asked us to do that kind of consulting, but we prefer to leave the consulting to others so we can focus on publishing information and ideas about law practice, and building community. But if you do need a consultant, we can help you find one that meets your needs and budget.

If you are looking for a consultant, use our IT needs assessment to help us understand what you are trying to do and get some background information that will help us find a good fit. There’s no algorithm behind it. We (usually Aaron) will review your responses and follow up with more questions to make a personal referral. Based on what you tell us, we will refer you to one of the IT consultants we trust to do a great job.

Get Started

As with our website needs assessment, if you sign up with the consultant we recommend you might be supporting Lawyerist, too. That’s because some of the consultants we refer to have agreed to give us a commission. So hey, win-win!

Find the Right Legal Tech Consultant for Your Firm was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #64: What the Internet of Things Means for You and Your Clients, with Andy Mergendahl

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 06:12

“If you’re going to use [cutting-edge] technology… you should use it in a way you feel comfortable telling your clients about.” —Sam Glover

Sam and Andy Mergendahl chat about the ever-increasing prevalance of Internet-enabled devices, otherwise known as the Internet of things, and what impact it will have on your practice and your daily life. The worst part of all this? You may now have to read the Terms of Service that comes with every new software packagae you buy.

 The Future of AI Is Chatty Bots “[AI] is definitely the way of the future.” —Aaron Street

With the news that X.ai (a bot that schedules meetings for you) just raised $23 million in VC funding, Sam and Aaron take the opportunity to discuss where we are at today with AI tech. Short answer: AI is still in its infancy. But even though AI is still learning to walk, it’s clear that automation, AI, and chat bots are the future.

What the Internet of Things Means for You and Your Clients, with Andy Mergendahl

Andy Mergendahl is a privacy officer at a large commercial bank. He’s also been a solo practitioner and a judicial law clerk. He considers himself a foot soldier in the War on Legalese (also known as the War Without End). Andy enjoys collecting names for bands that do not (yet) exist, being a runner (but not the act of running so much), and the bourbon Old Fashioned at Eat Street Social in Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter and Linkedin, and check out his articles on Lawyerist.

Thanks to Smokeball and Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode!

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Podcast #64: What the Internet of Things Means for You and Your Clients, with Andy Mergendahl was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

URL Shorteners Are Attractive, Convenient, and a Security Risk

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 14:45

Those services that automatically shorten unwieldy and lengthy web addresses are great. They allow you to send something that is a few characters long rather than some mess that spans three full lines. Unfortunately, at least some of them can be compromised to reveal personal information. Worse still, they could create an easy pathway to get malware onto your computer.

[Microsoft] used Bit.ly to generate shortened URLs for files or folders that people have made shareable on its OneDrive storage site. So the Cornell researchers randomly generated more than 71 million possible OneDrive short URLs, of which more than 24,000 turned out to be live, working links to files and folders. […] The researchers say they could often tweak that web address to access other files or folders uploaded by the same OneDrive user. And about 7 percent of the files or folders were editable by anyone who visited.

That means, the researchers point out, that they could not only mess around with peoples’ data, but even add malware to their cloud storage, which—thanks to a synchronization feature—is often copied automatically to the victim’s PC.

Of course, this method of compromising the URLs takes brute force random generation to accomplish, but that’s basically what computers are built to be really great at. Lest you assume that this was a Microsoft only problem, the researchers did the same with Google Maps, which also uses Bit.ly to share shortened links to directions. Brute forcing a whole bunch (23 million, to be exact) of Google Maps URLs resulted in about 10 percent of links being real directions someone had looked up.

To fully illustrate the creepy potential of that publicly accessible mapping data, the researchers went so far as to identify one “young woman” who had shared directions to a Planned Parenthood facility. Starting with the Google Maps data from shortened URLs that pointed to her home, they were able to confirm her address, full name and age—thankfully none of which they shared in the paper.

Google has since lengthened its shortened URLs, which helps increase security, and Microsoft removed the short URL option from OneDrive, but the researchers warn that the privacy concern remains with any shortened URL scheme and, worse still, a bunch of the data they found remains live. Sometimes convenience isn’t necessarily worth it.

Featured image: “Closeup of Address Bar of Web Browser” from Shutterstock.

URL Shorteners Are Attractive, Convenient, and a Security Risk was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Briefs: Uninstall QuickTime ASAP, Apple Trolls the DOJ, Etc.

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 12:20
Get Rid of QuickTime Now if You Are a Windows User

You probably have not even been paying attention as to whether you still have QuickTime on your Windows machine, because Apple hasn’t issued a major Windows QuickTime release since 2005, which is one million years ago in internet time. In January, Apple stopped supporting QuickTime entirely, which is more of a problem then you might think. In fact, it’s enough of a problem that the Department of Homeland Security wants you to get it off your computer.

The company decided this week not to issue any more security updates for QuickTime on Windows, despite two major vulnerabilities in the software that can allow hackers into people’s computers. […]

QuickTime for Windows will continue to work, and is curiously still available for download. But Apple and DHS urged Windows customers to uninstall the program.

“Using unsupported software may increase the risks from viruses and other security threats,” DHS said in its alert. “The only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.”

Grammar-Obsessed People Are Mean

Are you the kind of person that wants to crawl out of your skin when you receive an email where someone misused their/there/they’re? Turns out you are maybe not as nice as people who are not bothered by such things.

According to Boland and Queen’s research, more agreeable participants (as determined by the results of the Big Five Personality index) tended to rate grammar errors less harshly than less agreeable participants, who showed more sensitivity to “grammos” — homophonous grammar errors like to/too, it’s/its[…]

Introversion/extroversion and conscientiousness also had some correlation with how grammar errors were perceived.

“More extroverted people were likely to overlook written errors that would cause introverted people to judge the person who makes such errors more negatively,” the study says. “Less agreeable people were more sensitive to grammos, while more conscientious and less open people were sensitive to typos.”

Don’t Use Stolen Privileged Information (Even If You’re Not The One That Stole It)

An attorney in Missouri just got suspended for using privileged information that his client, not he, had obtained illicitly.

In the case of [Joel] Eisenstein, his client in a divorce case obtained the client’s wife’s payroll information by guessing the wife’s email password, according to St. Louis Today. Another nice little treat was a list of the direct examination questions prepared by opposing counsel. The client passed this information on to Eisenstein in 2013.

You may be wondering how this ever came to light and became a sanctionable offense?

Eisenstein blundered and included this pilfered information in a stack of exhibits that Eisenstein gave the opposing lawyer during trial. 

Pro-tip: if you are going to be unethical and privileged information, at least don’t be monumentally stupid about it. Better yet, don’t be unethical in the first place. 

Now Apple Is Just Openly Mocking The DOJ

Though the DOJ was eventually able to get into the phone of the San Bernardino shooter without Apple’s help, they have continued to request Apple’s assistance to break into other iPhones. Most recently, the government has insisted that Apple help them break into the phone of a New York meth trafficker. Last Friday, Apple filed a brief indicating how utterly uninterested they were in providing such assistance. The most hilarious part of the brief? Apple telling the government that perhaps they could just call the people that hacked the San Bernardino iPhone.

Google Can Digitize And Upload All The Book Excerpts It Wants

Google and the Authors Guild have been fighting for 12 years over whether Google had the right to scan and digitize twenty million books in their entirety and then upload snippets of copyrighted materials for the Google Books project. At the heart of the case was the Guild’s argument that the wholesale scanning of books wasn’t fair use and wasn’t transformative. Last year, the Second Circuit held that Google making piles of material available for everyone to access, even in snippets, was transformative and tossed the authors’ case. Today, SCOTUS denied the Guild’s request to hear the case, which means you can continue to Google book excerpts to your heart’s content.

Forum Shopping Might Get You Sanctioned

Attorneys on both sides of a class action case agreed to change forums, which is not uncommon, but in this instance, the federal judge did not like it one bit.

Chief U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III announced that he intends to impose nonmonetary sanctions on all but one of the counsel of record for both sides in a class-action insurance coverage case, for using settlement tactics intended to benefit the attorneys at the expense of the plaintiffs. […]

Holmes found that the 16 lawyers violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by agreeing to dismiss their Fort Smith, Arkansas, federal case and then immediately refiling it in state court with a stipulated settlement. Doing so, he says, was intended to avoid the greater scrutiny that a federal court would have given the purported $3.4 million settlement—which potentially could have provided monetary relief to nearly 15,000 homeowners with a USAA insurance policy but, due to onerous requirements, had actually seen claims filed by about 650 as of February. Meanwhile, the lawyers involved got an immediate payout of more than $1.8 million in attorney’s fees.

Featured image: “ Online reading news. Flat line contour illustration concept” from Shutterstock.

Briefs: Uninstall QuickTime ASAP, Apple Trolls the DOJ, Etc. was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs