Each weekend, I round up the best law blog posts I have found during the previous week. You can help by sending me links using our contact form, starting discussions in the Lab, or tweeting the link to @lawyerist. Or just tell me what I missed in the comments.A Solo Practitioner’s Manifesto
It’s true. We are the weakest link. Frank Strong offers some tips for being less soft and weak. [Business of Law Blog]“I don’t think these people … intend to be dishonest. I just think they don’t get it.”
Rick Horowitz perfectly describes a lot of lawyers online, whether the subject is blogs, Avvo, or just about any other form of online marketing used by lawyers. [Probable Cause]Three Quick Writing Fixes
For a more detailed explanation and more tips, see Steven Taylor’s post. [Attorney at Work]Find Well Settled Law
The essential premise of WellSettled.com, written up by Bob Ambrogi, is pretty simple: scoop up all instances of a judge writing things like “it is well settled that …” or “it is well established that …” in opinions. It’s like a legal research shortcut so you don’t have to assemble your own string cites from scratch. [LawSites]Trolling with Email Disclaimer
I wanted to post an excerpt of the amazingly stupid email disclaimer Mark Bennett posted, but you really should just read the whole thing. Here is a sample that does not do it justice:
If you are the intended recipient or receive this communication intentionally by the intended recipient, subject to Texas Rule of Evidence (including rule 408) you are granted express consent to disclose, copy, and/or distribute this communication. In return, you agree to not alter it, for example, by removing any of these disclaimers. In violation thereof, you agree to (1) be personally liable for a minimal of $15,000 in liquidated damages, reasonable attorney fees, and court costs in collecting these damages
Note: Email disclaimers are pretty pointless, period. This one goes well above and beyond pointless. [Defending People]Investors Are Betting on Legal Tech
When Clio announced its $18 million investment, it was exciting for legal tech, but it was also an outlier. Now NetDocuments has raised $25 million, which looks more like it could be the beginning of a trend. [LawSites]
Featured image: “Businessman in a suit holds wrench” from Shutterstock.
Taking notes by hand is better than typing notes, because it forces you to slow down and focus on what is important. Slowing down greatly increases your understanding of information, which is why you need to become better at note-taking.
It is absurdly simple to arrange your notes in the Cornell fashion. Take your standard legal pad and draw a thick vertical line down the left-hand side of the paper approximately 2-3 inches from the side of the page. Then draw a horizontal line all the way across the paper about two inches from the bottom of the page. You’ll end up with something like this.
If this line-drawing strikes you as too daunting or ugly, you can design one in seconds online and print it on any old paper you’d like. You can also purchase Levenger pads optimized for the Cornell Method.
There. You’re all done getting ready to take notes Cornell-style. Easiest life hack prep ever.The Structure of the Cornell Method
Dividing your paper gave you three sections. The largest one is your note-taking section, the left-hand margin is your key points/key questions section, and the bottom is your summary.
Opinions differ wildly on what should happen with your notes section. Some people — particularly those that recommend it as a college study tool — subscribe to a fairly elaborate set of rules about recording, reciting, reflecting, and reviewing. You probably don’t need to go that deep. However, there’s one principle that should guide you if you’re going to take notes using the Cornell Method, write less not more. If you’ve gotten used to taking notes on a laptop, you are already guilty of writing down too much stuff. Treat your notes section like an outline. Shoot for key points, not a verbatim transcript. Think of that section as an outline you will return to later, after your lecture or meeting or motion hearing has finished.
The left-hand margin is your cue/recall section. When you’re using Cornell as an academic note-taking method, the cue functions as a memorization and comprehension tool. You should be able to cover up your notes section, and answer any questions you posed to yourself in the cue section. You probably aren’t going to need to do that with your notes. Depending on what you are taking notes, this section can contain a series of questions, a roundup of notable points, or, to get all business-speak, action items. You should be able to throw your entire notes section away and walk out of your meeting, hearing, or lecture with the key ideas intact. If you are the kind of person who likes to distill your oral arguments down to one notecard, this will seem pretty familiar.
The summary at the bottom is exactly what you would expect — a quick summary of the notes on that page. Internet nerds differ on whether you should do that right when you are done taking notes or after you’ve reviewed them. I tend to summarize right away, because otherwise that summary section sits alone and unloved forever.How the Cornell Method Works For Me
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the Cornell Method helps me in every note-taking situation I have encountered in my professional life.
In meetings, I use it to easily call out follow-up items by dumping them in the cue section. This can be anything from a statute I need to look up to a call I need to return. Pulling those to-do items and reminders out of the main text of the notes really highlights them. Every time I fall in love with a new type of notebook that doesn’t have the Cornell margin, I go back to trying to just circle, underline, or highlight my follow up items and two things happen. First, my notes look like an utter mess, and second, I can’t easily find the things I want to do just by glancing at the page.
Pulling your next steps/to dos/action items over into the left-hand column also works well if you like to reduce your notes to an actual to-do list that you put on an index card, in a computer file, or a fancy Getting Things Done tickler file, because that left-hand column is now functionally your list of next actions. In meeting situations, the summary usually ends up being nothing but the date, time, purpose, and attendees of the meeting, but even that can be helpful, as it gives me a way to file the notes easily.
When I am listening to someone else talk for any length of time, whether an opponent in court or speaker at a CLE, being forced to organize my notes Cornell-style on the fly means that I am actively engaged and listening. If I don’t take handwritten notes, my mind drifts, and suddenly I’ve missed everything. Here, I use the notes section to force me into keeping a cohesive outline, even if the speaker wanders around a bit (as lawyers often do).
Then I use the recall section to break out big-picture points I’m going to address and key questions I’d like to ask. Again, pulling those things out of the notes section cleans up my notes visually, and creates a quick mini-outline that I can refer to quickly.
The arena in which I’ve definitely found the Cornell method most helpful is in organizing my own teaching notes. The notes section covers the main points of my lecture in an outline and forces me to stay on task. The recall section is my dumping ground for everything I can’t deal with in my notes without things getting messy. Questions I plan on asking appear there, linked to whichever part of the lecture they’re related to. Reminders to myself also go there when I’m re-reading notes before getting up to speak. Notes on sources, if I need to mention those, go in the side margin as well.
With that wide Cornell margin, my teaching notes last three or four semesters instead of one. This is because I’m able to use that recall section to highlight key changes I want to make next time I present the material. Finally, the summary functions like the tagging function in Evernote. I’ve got the week of the semester the lecture occurs, the name of the class, the major topics I’m covering that week, and a page number. This way, when I’ve hopelessly shuffled and reshuffled the pages while speaking, I can easily put them back together again when I’m done (or let’s be honest, mid-lecture).
If you are hopelessly disorganized like me, but wish you were an organized person hacking your own tendencies towards chaos, you really can’t go wrong with taking your notes by hand using the Cornell Method to force you into a specific but flexible note-taking framework. All my notes — meeting notes, lecture notes, deposition notes — look and function the same, which means I always know where to put information when I am writing, and I always know how to find information when I’m reviewing later.
The Cornell Method is the only productivity tool that has stuck with me for more than a year, and I’m never giving it up.
I didn’t pursue the Cornell Method as some sort of lifehack or magic productivity enhancer. I stumbled upon it because I wanted some really nice legal pads. Well before law school, I’d developed a completely unnecessary fondness for the Levenger catalog, which carried within its pages nice pens, some lap desks, and some legal pads that cost approximately five times any other legal pad I’d ever seen. The catalog waxed rhapsodically about the weight of the paper and the smooth as silk feel you’d have writing on it with your fountain pen, but never explained the weird huge margin at the left hand side. I figured I’d live with that, and plunked down $25 in 2001 dollars for a five-pack. That large left-hand margin turned out to be my introduction to the Cornell Method, and I’ve been a devotee and an evangelist ever since. ↩
Not all clients are created equal. Great clients will enhance your legal skills, your reputation, and your bottom line. Bad clients can make you question your skills, destroy your reputation, and result in the worst money you have ever made.
Once you have a better understanding of how bad clients can wreck your practice, you will get better at spotting them and avoiding them. And it will be the best money you never made.Money is Money, Right?
Bad clients have an amazing way of sapping time and energy in ways you cannot bill for. You probably cannot bill a client extra for meeting only in the evenings or on the weekends. You definitely cannot bill a client extra because you have a personality conflict.
Even if you could bill for scheduling issues, you cannot bill for stress. You cannot bill for screaming when you get off the phone. You cannot bill for not sleeping well. You cannot bill for spending an hour talking about why you already wrote off a third of your time and why your bill is reasonable. Talk to any smart attorney and they will tell you that the total cost of a problem client does not add up in the long run.Bad Clients Can Crowd Out Good Clients
Bad clients are like a virus that spreads throughout your practice. They make you icky and grumpy while you marathon-watch Arrested Development all day in bed.
Bad clients can cause you to turn down good clients for two reasons:
Let’s go back to the virus metaphor. When was the last time you started to get sick and magically woke up feeling better the next day? It’s pretty rare. Same thing with bad clients. They usually become much worse before they get better. And when I say better, I mean the case ends or you fire them.
You are doing yourself a disservice if you tell yourself “it can only get better” or “it has to get better from here.” Sure, you can cross your fingers and hope they suddenly start responding to phone calls or emails. Maybe the first three appointments they missed truly were emergencies (although I doubt it).
Hopefully your retainer has a provision for these scenarios. Hopefully you are not afraid to invoke it and terminate your representation. I am not suggesting you become cut-throat and cut loose every client that is five minutes late to a meeting. But if they no-show, or are two hours late, that is a serious red flag — and a giant flashing sign that there will be more trouble down the road.The Warning Signs Are Usually Clear
Now that you understand all money is not created equal, you can sharpen your intake skills to avoid bad clients. Over the past five years I have talked to thousands of potential clients. Without fail, the most important thing I have learned is to trust my gut.
Someone might call with what sounds like the greatest case in the world, but something makes me question the case or the client. Whether it’s during the first meeting, the second meeting, or right before the case implodes, my gut is almost always right. I used to fight it and talk myself into taking cases. Not anymore. If my gut says no, then I say no.
If you are not ready to live and die by your gut, here are some other warning signs that trouble could be brewing down the road:
That is not an exhaustive list by any means. Those are just some of the red alerts I have encountered. As noted above, if your gut says something is not right, something is probably amiss. That is the perfect opportunity to bounce the case off another attorney and get some feedback. But never try and convince yourself that any client is a good client. It’s not that simple.
Featured image: “employee gets punched through a smart phone on the face by an angry caller” from Shutterstock
I love Evernote and I use it every day, but I am uncomfortable with the idea of using it for client data.
The other day on the Macs in Law Offices (MILO) group, someone said they were exploring using Evernote to manage client files. I responded that I do not think it is a good idea. Here are my two reasons:
In response, Rocket Matter‘s Larry Port reached out to Evernote’s head of security for a response.Encryption at Rest
Here is what Evernote’s security chief had to say about encryption at rest:
We are not encrypting data at rest unless you manually encrypt selected text inside a note (http://evernote.com/contact/support/kb/#!/article/23480996). Encryption at rest is an answer to a different question depending on who you talk to. Some people want us to encrypt their data on the client to protect against data loss when their phone is stolen. Some want us to use it to protect against a server being stolen. One of the main reasons a service provider looks at encryption as a control is to protect against unauthorized physical access. Because we operate our own infrastructure in our own physically secure data center cage, we’ve mitigated much of that risk. We haven’t dismissed implementing encryption at rest and will continue to consider it when looking at ways to protect Evernote users’ data.
Our computing infrastructure is physically located inside dedicated cages in multiple data centers. We rely on those data centers to manage physical access controls and each one has a third party auditor attest to their ability to do so securely.
Here’s what I glean from that. Evernote has its servers in third-party data centers, where they are protected by a cage like this one. It sounds like the data center has the key to the cage and the responsibility for ensuring that only authorized people can get through the gate. Third-party auditors have attested to each data center’s physical access controls.
This requires a lot of trust in procedures and the willingness of third-party server admins to comply with those procedures.
However, if Evernote encrypted the data on those servers, it would still have all those physical access controls in place, but encryption would render the data on the servers pretty much useless to anyone who did get unauthorized access to them. With data encrypted at rest, you don’t have to worry as much about who might have physical access to Evernote’s servers, or how Evernote disposes of old hard drives.
To be fair, Evernote does let you encrypt portions of your notes. Just highlight what you want to encrypt, right-click, and select Encrypt Selected Text…. This works fine for one thing at a time, but it is obviously impractical for securing your notes in bulk.
To put this in context, cloud storage providers like Dropbox mostly encrypt data at rest. This makes Dropbox objectively more secure than Evernote, yet many are still debating whether Dropbox is secure enough to store sensitive data. With Dropbox, the concern is mostly that Dropbox keeps the encryption key, which means some Dropbox employees could decrypt your data. There are fewer people to trust than with Evernote and its third-party data centers, but there are still some people you have to trust, in addition to any spy agencies who might take an interest in your clients or scoop up your data on a whim.
If you aren’t comfortable storing sensitive information in Dropbox without an extra layer of encryption, you definitely won’t want to use Evernote. Even if you are comfortable storing sensitive information in Dropbox, you might not want to do it in Evernote.Playing Fast and Loose with Data
Is Evernote “playing fast and loose with the data entrusted to it,” as Kincaid alleges? That may be overstating it, but I don’t think Evernote is living up to the spirit of its “Your Data Is Protected” promise. Reading that statement, Evernote seems to see the issue as one of privacy, not security.
Evernote’s actual security practices don’t seem to reflect the concerns of a company that makes security a top priority. I don’t think there is a sensible argument that it is somehow more secure not to encrypt data at rest. It is just more convenient (and probably cheaper) for Evernote.
It also refused to implement two-factor authentication because it would be inconvenient. Evernote finally implemented two-factor authentication only after it was hacked.
The useless security page doesn’t help, either. Evernote could certainly tell users more about its security practices without compromising security. Saying nothing feels evasive, as if Evernote isn’t comfortable telling users what it is doing to protect their data.
Adding it up, I don’t come away with the impression that the security of users’ data is a top priority at Evernote. While Evernote is obviously not ignoring security entirely, I don’t think it is taking it all that seriously. So I do not store sensitive information in Evernote. Instead, I use it for stuff like lists of books I want to read, cases or law-review articles I want to hold onto, cocktail recipes, pictures of restaurants’ take-out menus, and CLE notes. I would like to use it for things like receipts and deposit slips and notes on client meetings, but I just don’t think they would be well-enough protected.
It is certainly possible I have gotten the wrong impression by reading the wrong things into Evernote’s statements and drawing the wrong conclusions from a few errors and omissions. You might very well have read the above and come to the opposite conclusion. If you do, I would be interested in reading your thoughts in the comments.Securing Evernote
If you do decide to store client data or other sensitive information in Evernote, definitely follow the security chief’s advice, at a minimum:
We recommend that you enable 2-step verification to protect your account from hackers that may try to guess your password or phish you for it. Because your data also lives on the devices you sync it to, we recommend you make use of the security features available on your devices to protect it.
Also, make a habit of selectively encrypting any especially-sensitive information within your notes by using the Encrypt Selected Text… option. (This does not seem to work with images and attachments, however.)
One of the most common objections to going paperless is from people who say they don’t want to read documents on a screen. That turns out to be a valid concern, but probably not because paper is inherently superior to screens. And as far as going paperless is concerned, it is a red herring.Paper v. Screen
Scientific American took a look at the studies comparing paper to screens and e-readers and concluded that “[w]hen it comes to intensively reading long pieces of plain text, paper and ink may still have the advantage.” Interestingly, the reason boils down to attitude. We don’t take screens as seriously, so we scan rather than read deeply. Plus, computers are basically distraction machines, which means our reading is often interrupted by other activities. According to Scientific American, “people reading on screens take a lot of shortcuts—they spend more time browsing, scanning and hunting for keywords compared with people reading on paper, and are more likely to read a document once, and only once.”
Specifically, people who read on paper are more likely to engage in metacognitive learning regulation. That’s what psychologists call the process of reading, re-reading, and interpreting information in a document. So when you need to understand something thoroughly (like a contract or a summary judgment memorandum), paper is the way to go. When you are reading quickly, it doesn’t really matter whether you read on paper or on a screen.
Your age may matter, too. The attitude that makes people take screens less seriously could very well be the result of experience. Today’s young people start using screens so early that they might grow up with a different attitude about reading on screen.Going Paperless Still Makes Sense
None of this means you should avoid going paperless.
Going paperless just means having a digital copy of every document. It means moving The File from your file cabinets to your file server, but you can still keep your file cabinets if you want to. At a minimum, you probably have to hold onto original copies of some documents. It would be wasteful to shred documents you may use again as exhibits. And if you prefer to hold onto some documents so you can read them on paper, go ahead.
The advantages of going paperless are numerous, and there is no rule that says you cannot hold onto paper copies or print documents. The important thing is to think through your firm’s paperless workflow so that it accommodates your needs and preferences — one of which should be keeping paper copies of documents you need to read and understand thoroughly.
Featured image: “Businessman reading a document” from Shutterstock.
Each weekend, I round up the best law blog posts I have found during the previous week. You can help by sending me links using our contact form, starting discussions in the Lab, or tweeting the link to @lawyerist. Or just tell me what I missed in the comments.Should Judges Blog?
Yes, says Nebraska Federal Judge Richard Kopf, after giving the matter serious consideration:
The implicit assumption … is that mystery and mythology are better for the legal profession and the judiciary than transparency, particularly when the transparency revealed is raw. I profoundly disagree.
Phew. Although he says he intends to elevate his rhetoric a bit from now on:
Like the gross Sancho Panza, I have in the past, albeit inadvertently, sometimes played the earthy and profane foil to the mad knight. In so doing, I allowed myself to become a caricature rather than the teacher of transparency that I aspired to become.
Truly, I will try to do better.
I hope he doesn’t elevate it too much. One of the great things about reading Judge Kopf’s blog is his extreme candor. [Hercules and the Empire]Your Brief’s Secret Ambition
‘The secret ambition of every brief should be to spare the judge the necessity of engaging in any work, mental or physical.”
Well now you know. As Keith Lee points out, this shouldn’t be considered a secret. This should be obvious to anyone who has spent any time on motion practice. [Associate's Mind]Do You Work Too Much?
According to the ABA Journal, “When American University law professor Andrew Taslitz died in February, his admirers praised his productivity, scholarship and devotion to work.” His wife has a different perspective:
His life was not normal, at least not to me, and it certainly wasn’t balanced. Yes, I know he genuinely loved his work and yes, I know he had a brilliant and unusual mind, and yes, I know he was cut down in his prime when he still had so much more to give. But all of that came with a price. Not the teaching or the mentoring, but all that scholarship. …
So what was the price in the end? In the entire time we were married we only took a two-week vacation once, and just about every vacation we did take was wrapped around one of his conferences or presentations. The furthest he went on each of his two sabbaticals was his front bedroom, because he spent every single day on his manuscripts. …
So in the end how do I feel about his productivity? Yes, he enjoyed it, but he also killed himself trying not to disappoint people or to break deadlines.
And as I sit here with the dogs on July 4th, I think was it really that important to add one more book review to his CV or to do one more tenure letter as a favor for someone he never met? I’m glad his peers all loved him for the reliable genius that he was, and I don’t know how he feels wherever he is now, but I am very, very bitter.
Yes, he was a great academic mentor and collaborator, but the price for all that frenzied output was me, and there’s a part of me that will never forgive him for it, because he died right after he promised to slow down and enjoy life itself more.
Maybe you should take some time off. [ABA Journal]Lots of Baby-Lawyer Incubators
Law school are taking the tech startup incubator concept and adapting it for new law practices (the ABA keeps a list). The latest was just launches this fall at Widener Law. It will help two or three graduates of the Class of 2014 launch a solo practice or small firm by providing office space, equipment, and mentoring. [Legal Skills Prof Blog]Law Firm Homepages Are Losing Traffic — and That’s Maybe a Good Thing
Traffic to law firm homepages (that is, the front page of the website) is either stagnant or dropping, but Steve Matthews says that’s probably a good thing.
The funny truth is that the lower the percentage of visitors who arrive directly at the homepage, the healthier the site is. Because it is a sign that folks are either directly accessing information about your firm’s services and lawyers or that people are consuming your firm’s commentary and ideas.
In short, Matthews says that because people are generally going straight to what interests them instead of browsing from the front page, they are probably more interested in what they do read. [Attorney at Work]The Fastcase 50
The Fastcase 50 is in its fourth year, and highlights “entrepreneurs, innovators, and trailblazers” in the law. And bloggers, apparently. One of the best things about the Fastcase 50 is the Twitter list of honorees, to which you should subscribe. Aside from me, the past and present Fastcase 50 are some of the most interesting people on Twitter. [Fastcase]
Featured image: “little nestling chicks and white egg on grey background” from Shutterstock.
If you want to read a book about the pros and cons of the death penalty, this is not it. The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice Among the Worst of the Worst fails to do much more than further Professor Robert Blecker’s career as a crusader for the death penalty.
For the sake of full disclosure, I am not a death penalty advocate. I find the imposition of the death penalty to be barbaric and believe that it should be abolished. So Professor Blecker and I will never come to a meeting of the minds due to our opposing moral certainties. But, this is not my book, it is Professor Blecker’s. He does not claim every murder requires the death penalty. Indeed, he proclaims that only “the worst of the worst” should be executed.
In support of his argument, Prof. Blecker relies on conversations with death penalty prisoners over the last 10-plus years. Examples of the cases he discusses include multiple murders of children, cases involving torture followed by death, rape-murder cases, and other heinous crimes.
There is no question that the cases he writes about will make your blood boil. Throughout the book, Blecker talks about how emotional this subject makes him, and how much he wants the monsters perpetrating those acts to be killed. This, of course, is part of the problem. The criminal justice system must be administered by professionals in a fair and impartial manner, not over-emotional law professors.
Thankfully, Blecker does spend time discussing the notion of proportionality in sentencing. His proposal is that the death penalty should be reserved for only the “worst of the worst.” This is not exactly a novel position, as penal law recognizes that different crimes require different times. For example, in New York State, where Blecker teaches, there is no death penalty. However, murder in the first-degree can carry a penalty of life without parole while murder in the second degree carries a maximum penalty of 25 years to life. Murder in the second-degree at least carries the possibility of parole.
There are, of course, many different homicide categories in New York State, including manslaughter, vehicular homicides, negligent homicides, etc. Each of these crimes has a specific penalty attached to it based on the New York State Legislature’s determination of the seriousness of the crime. This business of proportionality depends on the nature of the crime and the intent of the actor when committing the crime.
The Death of Punishment is written from an academic point of view. As a result, it suffers some shortcomings. He has gone out and interviewed people on death row and a few people working in the actual prisons. There were not, that I saw, any interviews or conversations with trial lawyers, although Blecker did have some conversations with appellate attorneys.
As is often the case, ivory towers are sometimes claustrophobic. If Blecker was serious about tackling problems in sentencing, he might wish to walk the floors with a prison guard or try a case or two with seven in the trenches. In this way, he might have come up with a more balanced view of how the criminal justice system actually works.
As a reviewer I think it appropriate to ask why this book was written. As far as the pros and cons of the death penalty go, it is of very little value. In terms of sentencing individuals to the death penalty, Professor Blecker does not really come up with any particular construct. Advocating for administering the death penalty to the worst of the worst raises too many obvious, unanswered questions. If we are to accept that proportionality is the key to fair sentencing then legislatures all over the country have already come to that conclusion.
Professor Blecker is a very smart man, make no mistake about that. But The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice Among the Worst of the Worst fails to do much more than further his career as a crusader for the death penalty.
We have reviewed a lot of iPad keyboard cases. Here are some of them:
In the end, Randall picked the Logitech cases as the best. But I recently received a Brydge+ with Speakers to review. The Brydge+ is a full-size, all-aluminum Bluetooth keyboard that basically turns your iPad into a small laptop. Build quality is excellent, although you might notice that the lines on the Brydge+ make it look more like a MacBook Pro than an iPad.
Since I no longer have a full-sized iPad, I delegated the testing to my wife, who is a staff attorney for the educator’s union in Minnesota. Her offices uses Windows, but Jess almost never uses a regular computer when she isn’t at work, even for doing work. She has my old ThinkPad, but I bet she hasn’t powered it on more than twice in the last three months. Instead, she uses her iPad 2 for almost everything she does when she is not in her office.
Here is what she liked and didn’t like about the Brydge+ with Speakers.
First she says it is really great for typing. She really likes the keyboard as a keyboard. And battery life is great (without the speakers turned on, anyway). She’s charged it maybe once in the last month. If battery life is a concern, though, you will want to keep the speakers off (there is a hard switch for this, so it’s easy to keep them off until you need them). They are nice if you want to listen to a voicemail or play some music in the background, but they do drain the battery quite a lot faster.
Jess mainly attaches the keyboard when she is actually doing work (answering emails, taking it to meetings, and using the iPad more like a laptop). She especially liked it during a three-day conference, because she was able to keep up with her work without any major compromises.
And the weight of the keyboard means the iPad isn’t tippy. It stands up well, like a laptop ought to, instead of tipping over from the weight of the iPad like many lighter-weight keyboard covers have an annoying tendency to do.
On the negative side, Jess said the Brydge+ isn’t easy to get on and off of the iPad. She doesn’t like leaving it on all the time because she still likes to use her iPad as a tablet most of the time — for reading her favorite blogs, catching up on email, and other stuff. She doesn’t actually want a laptop all the time, after all. Just when she needs to get work done.
(When I mentioned the Logitech Ultrathin cover, she said “oh, I’d love one of those” because all you have to do is drop the iPad into a slot instead of maneuvering it into the grabber things on the Brydge+. Of course, the Logitech Ultrathin is less laptop-y, as well.)
It doesn’t actually protect the iPad very well, either, since it’s just a cover and not a case. And if you want to want to take the Brydge+ off of your iPad, you have no protection at all. It means you may want to carry a protective sleeve or a case with you, if you are worried about your iPad. But that means extra bulk, which seems silly when you are carrying an iPad.
All in all, Jess really likes the Brydge+ with Speakers. It lets her get more done with her iPad so she doesn’t need a laptop.Summary
The Brydge+ with Speakers is a full-size, all-aluminum Bluetooth keyboard that basically turns your iPad into a small laptop.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Brydge+ with Speakers, reviewed by Sam Glover on July 10, 2014.
If the idea of learning a productivity system like Getting Things Done is keeping you from being more productive, here is a simple practice that requires nothing more than reading this pretty-short blog post. The best part: it will instantly make you more productive, every day.
Most Important Tasks (MITs) is a simple idea that (I think) was first outlined on the Zen Habits blog. At the beginning of each day, sit down and write down the two or three things you must do that day. No matter what else you do that day, get those things done.
Three seems like a small number, but if you strive to accomplish at least three things, you will have done something besides just putting out fires. And working from a short list of MITs is a lot easier than working from the huge lists you probably have in your practice management software or your GTD system. That helps you to be more productive.
You can write down more than three things — I have five today. But make sure you can realistically complete all the tasks during your day. Don’t put down “draft motion for summary judgment” if you haven’t even started it yet and it isn’t due for a week. That’s probably not a must-do-today task, and it is too big a task for one day, anyway. Try something like “draft statement of facts” instead.
If you like, you can put together your MITs the night before. That is what I do, actually. I spend a few minutes looking at my inbox, reviewing our project management software, seeing what is coming due in Remember the Milk, and checking my calendar. Then I write down my MITs for the next day. I do it at night because it helps me get to sleep if I know I already have done my planning for the next day.
If you finish all your MITs, you obviously are not done for the day, but you should feel better knowing you have already had a fairly productive day. So if you finish, go back to your to-do lists or inbox and pick another task or three to try to complete before you are finished for the day.
I even do MITs for the weekend, although I let my kids help with that. So things like “go to the Pumphouse Creamery for ice cream” and “build a fairy house” usually end up on our weekend MITs.
You can write down your MITs on whatever you want. I usually use a little notebook or index card, but a work plan or TeuxDeux works well, too. Just put them on something you will carry with you throughout the day.
Setting aside a few minutes every day to put your MITs down on paper will make you more productive. And knowing what’s most important every day will probably lower your stress level a bit, too.
Featured image: “Close up shot of filled check boxes with red pen” from Shutterstock.
MITs: A Simple Way to Be More Productive is a post from Lawyerist.com. The original content in this feed is © 2013 Lawyerist Media, LLC. This feed is provided for private use only and may not be re-published.
Lawyers who cannot not find the courage to leave a law firm for solo practice usually have one fear that stops them dead in their tracks. They know the consequences of going solo, and they know in their heads and hearts that they should leave, but they can’t quite do it.
Most of those fears are well-founded, though, and none of the lawyers I have helped confront their fears have decided to stay at their firms. All of them left, and are happy they did.
In no particular order, here are the fears they overcame.1. There Is More Job Security at My Firm
Have you read the newspapers recently? There is no such thing as job security in law. The lawyers who have the most job security are those with the most clients, because they can go anywhere and prosper.
The size of a firm or its revenues does not provide any job security. In fact, sometimes the larger firms provide less security because high overhead costs have weighed them down.2. My Clients Will Not Follow Me
Don’t be so pessimistic. Clients (individuals as well as businesses) hire lawyers, not law firms. If your client relationships are strong, they will follow you when you go solo.
Probably not all of them, but most will — and if most will, why stay?3. I cannot Afford the Start-Up Costs of Going Solo
Yes you can. You should consider yourself lucky that you are in a profession where the start up costs are relatively low.
Spend a little more to get help from consultants if you think you need to. Even so, starting a law firm is a relatively inexpensive venture.4. My Former Partners Will Hate Me
So what. Every time I heard this excuse, the next words out of their mouths were that they wanted to leave in order to get away from these same people. You have always thought they were jerks; why should you care how they feel towards you in the future?5. Prospective Clients Want to Know There Is a Firm Behind Me
See number 2, above.
Law firms do not develop relationships; lawyers do. Continue to develop strong relationships and convince prospects that you are capable to do the work. Few, if any, will care that you are no longer part of a firm with lawyers doing lots of other things that the client could care less about.6. I Will Miss Bouncing Ideas Off My Colleagues
You still know plenty of lawyers at other firms who will be more than happy to talk to you on the phone or respond to an email. Join a listserv. Do some conventional and social networking.
Most lawyers — especially other solos — are happy to let you use them as a sounding board, as long as you are willing to return the favor.7. I Do Not Have the Business Know-How to Run My Own Firm
You probably don’t. It is a skill set few lawyers possess. That is the bad news. The good news is that your competitors are just as clueless about managing their practices as you may be. They all somehow seem to make a nice living. You will, too, if you work at this.8. I Will Miss the Prestige
Yes, there is a certain cachet to be able to tell others you work at Big Law Firm, P.A. But you just told me all of the reasons why you hate going to work there. Is the prestige really that important to you?9. If a Big Case Walks in the Door, I May Not Be Able to handle it
You probably will, actually. Have you ever heard of co-counseling matters and referral fee arrangements? If you are lucky enough to have that big case walk in the door, there are plenty of lawyers who will be more than happy to help you. Ditto for expertise.10. I Hate Change and Fear the Unknown
Join the club. But wouldn’t it be nice to proactively create a change in your career that you control? You cannot stop change. Sooner rather than later, there will be changes at your law firm creating many unknowns that you will have to react to with your partners. Wouldn’t you rather deal with change when you are in the driver’s seat?
Go for it and don’t look back. Life is too short. Although there are no guarantees, the chances are very good you will not regret it.
This was originally published on June 23, 2010. It was revised and republished on July 8, 2014.
Featured image: “Closeup portrait of young nerdy funny female” from Shutterstock.
Going Solo: Debunking the Top Ten Fears is a post from Lawyerist.com. The original content in this feed is © 2013 Lawyerist Media, LLC. This feed is provided for private use only and may not be re-published.
Welcome back from the holiday weekend, Americans! I hope you had a great weekend drinking things, grilling things, and watching pretty explosions. (Non-Americans, I guess it was just a regular weekend for you, but welcome back, anyway.)
Each weekend, I round up the best law blog posts I have found during the previous week. You can help by sending me links using our contact form, starting discussions in the Lab, or tweeting the link to @lawyerist. Or just tell me what I missed in the comments.
This is a short one, because the legal blogosphere was pretty sleepy leading up to the holiday weekend.Real Numbers on Solo Practice
Another update from Florida Esq, who had a great June.
Overall, June was not only the best month I’ve had by far, but a better month than I ever thought I’d have my first (or even second) year. I feel like my efforts in getting my name out there have finally started to pay off, and now momentum is on my side.
I love following this column. It reminds me of my first few years in practice, and it is a great perspective on what it’s like to start a solo practice — unlike the bluster and braggadocio you will get from local solos over drinks. [Associate's Mind]“You Are Going to Be Paperless Whether You Like it Or Not”
Pretty much. Despite the truth of this statement, I’ve met many lawyers who seem to be planning to die or retire before they buy a scanner. The good news is that nobody is going to take your paper away. You just have to learn to deal with digital files, too. [Law Technology Today]Your New Lock Screen Wallpaper
Courtesy of the boys at Philly Law Blog, a reminder just where it will be needed most:
(More options at this link.) [Philly Law Blog]Youth ≠ Tech Competence
Most young people know how to use Facebook and Instagram, but properly formatting a Word document using styles isn’t the sort of thing they teach in social media 101. This is Vivian Manning’s point about young people and technology, and it bears repeating — especially to lawyers who assume they are getting an IT department when bringing a young law clerk on board. [Attorney at Work]
Law Blog Week in Review: Smartphone Warrants, Real Numbers, and Going Paperless by Force is a post from Lawyerist.com. The original content in this feed is © 2013 Lawyerist Media, LLC. This feed is provided for private use only and may not be re-published.
This was originally published as “Reducing Research Costs with Google Scholar: What You Don’t Know About Google Scholar (But Should)” in the June 2014 issue of the Cincinnati Bar Report. It is republished here with the permission of the author. — Ed.
Clients have been increasingly reluctant to pay for legal research. In this age of bundled services, they think that research costs should be included with an attorney’s hourly or flat-rate fee. If you are seeking ways to reduce research costs, here is one good option: Google Scholar. It is an online research service that you should use to find cases and secondary sources—for free. This article first explains the primary benefits of Google Scholar. But before you cancel your subscription to LexisNexis or Westlaw, read the second part of this article on its limitations.Extensive Database of Cases
Google Scholar has an extensive database of reported cases from state and federal courts. Its database covers cases from the United States Supreme Court (since 1791), the United States Courts of Appeals and United States District Courts (since 1923), and supreme court and intermediate appellate courts from all states (since 1950). It also has federal and state cases that have not been officially reported. The inclusion of unreported cases is useful to Ohio attorneys because appellate opinions issued after May 1, 2002 are binding.1 Unfortunately, Google does not identify the scope of coverage, but its database appears to have more unreported opinions from federal circuit courts than federal district courts.Reliable Search Algorithm and Advanced Searching
Unsurprisingly, Google Scholar is powered by Google’s powerful search algorithm. When searching for federal and state cases using keywords, the relevancy of the results are comparable to the results on WestlawNext and Lexis Advance. In fact, like those paid services, Google Scholar will likely return relevant results even if you do not use the proper terms of art. Its search algorithm works best for commonly-litigated issues but often returns irrelevant results for novel issues.
Google Scholar also allows you to filter search results by date and court. For example, say you need to determine whether the Ohio Supreme Court has recently addressed your client’s issue. You would first run a keyword search in the database of Ohio Supreme Court cases. After receiving those results, you can then limit the search results to cases that were decided since 2013 or 2014 (the filter is on the far-left column). You can also limit a search to specific federal courts, such as the Sixth Circuit or the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Additionally, you can sort your results by relevancy (default) or date.Useful Proximity Connector
Most free services do not allow users to run searches with proximity connectors. Thus, if you want to find cases where “warrantless” and “search” and “vehicle” appear in the same sentence or paragraph, you cannot. But Google Scholar has one proximity connector—AROUND. For some odd reason, Google wants only the “in-crowd” to know about this search functionality; in fact, it does not even mention the connector “AROUND” on the official Google Scholar Blog.
After experimenting with this proximity connector, I learned a few useful tips. First, you can use “AROUND” only to search for a term that appears after another term. For example, assume you need to find federal cases addressing when the police may conduct a Terry stop based on a suspected misdemeanor crime. One search string could be “Terry AROUND(15) stop AROUND(15) misdemeanor.” In that string, Google Scholar will search for cases where “stop” appears within 15 words after “Terry” and “misdemeanor” appears within 15 words after “Terry” and “stop.” It will not find cases where “misdemeanor” appears before “Terry” or “stop.” Second, you must capitalize “AROUND,” have no space between it and the parenthetical, and include quotation marks around the entire search string. Without quotation marks, Google will run a natural language search. Third, the connector “AROUND” does not work for phrases. Thus, if you used the search string “Terry stop AROUND(15) misdemeanor,” you will receive no results.Citation Service for Cases
Google Scholar has a citation service for cases that is similar to Shepard’s and KeyCite. To find subsequent authority that has cited your case, simply click “cited by,” which appears at the bottom of each result (see image below).
And the results can be organized based on the depth of discussion—meaning, the first listed results would have discussed your case in more detail than later results. The depth of discussion is represented by horizontal bars next to each case name: the more bars, the greater the discussion of your case. Thus, you will immediately know which opinions did more than merely cite your case. You also can create citation alerts and have them delivered to your email.Free Secondary Sources
Although Google Scholar has no database for secondary sources, you can use it to find legal articles that are hosted on other websites. Some sites are free and some require a paid subscription. For instance, if you searched for articles on Ohio tortious interference law, Google Scholar would provide links to articles on bepress (free), the Social Science Research Network (free), and HeinOnline (paid).Limitations of Google Scholar
Google Scholar has several limitations … it will not put Westlaw or LexisNexis out of business any time soon.
Despite my praise for Google Scholar, it should not be an one-stop shop for your research needs. Google Scholar has several limitations; as a result, it will not put Westlaw or LexisNexis out of business any time soon.
First, it has no database of statutes—not even the United States Code. If a statute covers your issue, you will not find it on Google Scholar. And you may not even find cases addressing your statute. For example, say under Tennessee law your client wants to recover non-economic damages for the wrongful death of her dog. If you searched Tennessee cases with the terms “non-economic damages death pet,” you would not find any relevant authority because a Tennessee statute governs this issue and no case has cited that statute.
Second, Google Scholar’s citation service is not as effective as Shepard’s or KeyCite. Although you can cite check cases, you cannot cite check statutes. And you cannot cite check unreported cases—a must for issues governed by Ohio law. Consequently, if your unreported case was overturned on appeal, you may not know. Further, Google Scholar’s citation service does not indicate whether a case remains valid or how subsequent courts have treated it. (Of course, you should not rely on the colorful symbols next to cases on Westlaw or LexisNexis.)
Third, for some cases, its database contains duplicates. Duplicates can occur when an unreported opinion is released and then designated for publication. One example is In re Aqua Dots Products Liability Litigation, No. 10-3847 (7th Cir. Aug. 17, 2011). A keyword search of federal cases returns the unreported and reported versions of that case. If you found only the unreported opinion on Google Scholar, you would not know that the opinion was later reported, which makes it binding on federal courts within the Seventh Circuit.
In short, you should research with Google Scholar to reduce costs, but you should not rely on it exclusively. There is still a place for paid research services.
Featured image: “3d illustration of magnifier glass sign button on keyboard” from Shutterstock.
Rep.Op.R. 3.4 (“All opinions of the courts of appeals issued after May 1, 2002 may be cited as legal authority and weighted as deemed appropriate by the courts without regard to whether the opinion was published or in what form it was published.”). ↩
Reduce Legal Research Costs with Google Scholar is a post from Lawyerist.com. The original content in this feed is © 2013 Lawyerist Media, LLC. This feed is provided for private use only and may not be re-published.
I recently put TrialPad 4.0 through its paces during a two-week trial — but not from the start. As in the past, I felt to overwhelmed to add figure out a new app to my trial prep to-do list.
So I started trial using Acrobat to display documents. I am very comfortable with Acrobat, and I knew I would not have to wonder about how to find a particular feature or function in the middle of trial.
After all, like most paperless lawyers, I use Acrobat on a daily basis. But by day two of what I knew would be a two-week trial, I was frustrated with the limitations of Acrobat, particularly the inability to do a call-out on the fly. This was hampering my ability to really emphasize key pieces of evidence.
A heavenly light should have descended.
I had a copy of TrialPad from Ian O’Flaherty, who developed it. Ian was kind enough to provide me with a code to download TrialPad at no cost. This is probably why I felt no need to use it, since I wasn’t invested in it. But now I had to get up and running overnight if I wanted to use something better than Acrobat during my trial. And I did get up and running overnight. I went back to my hotel room, loaded up the documents I knew I would be working with the next day, ran through the process of presenting and annotating, and then set back to prepare for the next day of trial.
With more than a little trepidation, I hooked my iPad up to my projector the next day at trial.
A heavenly light should have descended. I’m not kidding, TrialPad was nearly magical. To say that ease of use is built in is a vast understatement. Using TrialPad was simple and intuitive. I was calling out and highlighting key passages with ease like I had never experienced before. I have tried cases against trial teams with dedicated IT teams, and their process was so cumbersome and prone to error that I had sworn off dedicated trial presentation applications.
By day four of trial, my opposing counsel had switched to his iPad and TrialPad as well.
TrialPad brought all the features of the dedicated trial presentation programs that work (when they work) and more, and it was so simple to use that literally anyone could do it. By day four of trial, my opposing counsel had switched to his iPad and TrialPad as well.
Here are the features I found to be the most important.Adding Files is Easy
TrialPad 4.0 allows you to add files via Dropbox, Box, and iCloud, using wi-fi or Bluetooth. You can import photos from the Photos app on your iPad, and you can also connect your iPad to your computer to add files in bulk via iTunes.
I used both iTunes and Dropbox to import files throughout the trial. My only complaint is that files added via Dropbox are not automatically updated when you make changes to the file on your computer. I understand that allowing continuous sync of files like this could lead to problems if multiple people are working on the files during the course of a trial, but for a solo like me it would be a huge convenience. Perhaps one solution would be to allow this to be toggled on or off as a setting.
That being said, one thing I found surprising was how quickly I could edit a document on my computer and re-upload it via Dropbox. All I needed was a wi-fi connection. I had to do this on numerous occasions on the fly, during lunch and other breaks.Presentation Tools Are Simple, Easy to Use, and Great-Looking
Trial Pad has five presentation tools: Callout, Highlight, Pen, Redact and Laser.
I relied almost exclusively on the Callout and Highlight tools. A simple tap on the Callout tool icon allows you to draw a box around the selected text or portion of a document. That portion is immediately enlarged to nearly the full image, emphasizing the selected portion. It is the same process for Highlight. The only trouble was that, on a couple of occasions my fat finger made selecting a small portion of text troublesome. The solution was simple: use a stylus.
The Pen tool simply lets you draw on the document — whether you want to add text or circle a critical element. Redact works just like the Highlight and Callout tools but hides the selected text. And Laser simply “projects” a replica of a laser pointer so you can point things out without looking for your laser pointer.
Another really nice feature of TrialPad is the ability to project two documents side by side for comparison. This is also easy to do.Presenting with a Projector or External Monitor
The courtroom I was working in had recently added a 50″ monitor I could have used. Instead, I opted to connect my iPad to my own projector via HDMI. As I expected, it was a simple matter of plug and play. No muss, no fuss.Exhibit Stickers and Introducing Exhibits
I generally pre-mark my exhibits using Acrobat stamps, so I did not use the Exhibit Sticker feature of TrialPad this time — although I probably will use it in the future. It is simple and intuitive.
The feature for tracking evidence that had been admitted was a great addition to version 4.0, although figuring out how to do this in the midst of trial was one of the few things that was not entirely intuitive. To use either the Exhibit Sticker or Admitted feature, you tap and hold on the document image. A window will open allowing you to chose whether to mark the exhibit as admitted, rename the document, or assign and exhibit sticker. That explanation may have been in the quick start tutorial, but I missed it if it was.
Admitted documents get sorted into their own list so you can access them quickly.The Key Documents Feature
One of the features I appreciated the most was the ability to mark an entire document or even just a page from a document as a key document. Like admitted documents, the key documents can be called up in their own list for quick access.
My particular trial had more than 10,000 pages of medical records and deposition testimony, so it was fairly document intensive (to say the least) and I gave the Key Documents feature quite a workout. One thing I’d love to see added, if possible, would be multiple sets of key documents so that you could pre-identify key documents to use with different witnesses. Instead, I found myself re-shuffling key documents before each day of trial in order to be ready for that day’s witnesses. The ability to do that in advance for multiple witnesses would be a great addition to the application.Other Features
TrialPad also has the ability to display audio and video files. While I have not tried this live in trial, I can easily understand how this would be useful for short video clips, such as those you might use to impeach a witness. Given the size of most video deposition files, I would doubt that this would be a reasonable method for playing full video depositions.
The video display feature does have basic video editing options for capturing a frame or a video clip. Like other features, it is simple to use and designed so you can use it on the fly, if necessary.The Bottom Line
Every iPad-toting trial lawyer should buy TrialPad and use it at your next trial or mediation. You won’t regret it.
Overall, TrialPad is an outstanding addition to a trial lawyer’s arsenal. It simply and elegantly duplicates the most often used features of many different trial presentation programs, at far less cost. A single license for Trial Director is $695. While Trial Director obviously does more, I seriously doubt that it does what TrialPad does with the same ease.
TrialPad is an absolute bargain at $89. And unlike Trial Director, there is no annual maintenance cost.
Every iPad-toting trial lawyer should buy TrialPad and use it at your next trial or mediation. You won’t regret it.Summary
TrialPad is an outstanding addition to anyone’s trial arsenal. It simply and elegantly duplicates the most-used trial presentation features at far less cost than the competition.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
TrialPad, reviewed by Todd Hendrickson on July 2, 2014.
TrialPad 4.0: Trial Presentation Made Easy is a post from Lawyerist.com. The original content in this feed is © 2013 Lawyerist Media, LLC. This feed is provided for private use only and may not be re-published.
In the past, we’ve covered some alternatives to Microsoft Word, including Google Docs. For quite some time now, Google Docs has done a lot of things exactly right. Easy collaboration, compatibility with a wide variety of formats, cloud-based, free. However, Docs has also lacked some things that are often necessary for a law practice, like track changes and mail merge. Aiming to increase Docs’ utility and attractiveness, Google recently introduced add-ons for Docs, which lets third-party developers create tools that extend Docs’ functionality.
As with most things Google, getting the add-ons is dead simple. In order to get to the add-on store, you simply call up a Google Doc and go to Add-ons – Get Add-ons in the menu. Once you do, you’ll have access to the whole store. There are many things you likely do not want or need, like the Rhyme Finder (or maybe you do!), but here are several that may make using Docs as your only word processor a bit more viable.
A brief note: almost all of these third-party services will require you to either sign up for that third party or use your Google ID as your login credentials. Forewarned, forearmed, and all that.
7 Google Docs Add-Ons You Should Try is a post from Lawyerist.com. The original content in this feed is © 2013 Lawyerist Media, LLC. This feed is provided for private use only and may not be re-published.
No. [ATL: Redline]In Which A Not-Yet-Licensed Law School Grad Recommends a Change to Rule 1.5 on Billing
In my mind, there is no question that Model Rule 1.5 needs a makeover. Rule 1.5, “Fees,” lists eight factors to be considered in determining whether a fee is reasonable. Of these eight factors, only one accounts for the value of the legal service to the client. In contrast, at least three of the eight factors directly address the cost of the representation to the attorney, including preclusion from the attorney seeking other work, the time and labor required, and time limitations.
And here is the marked-up rule. [Legal Rebels]Get a Warrant, Bitches
Nobody expected the Supreme Court to come out so clearly in favor of requiring police to get a warrant before searching a cell phone:
Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple— get a warrant.
I think Scott Greenfield best characterized that sentence:
This may be the first time I have ever felt it unfortunate that Supreme Court opinions don't end their holding with "bitches."
— Scott Greenfield (@ScottGreenfield) June 25, 2014
[Everybody]Assessing Your Work Product
At Attorney at Work, Mary Lokensgard lays out three questions you should ask yourself about every piece of legal writing you do, whether it is a contract or a brief:
[Attorney at Work]Logical Fallacies
I’m officially making an appeal to the Internet to make this graphic pop up every time an argument breaks out online:
Can you be successful on social media if all you do is go through the motions? Adrian Dayton thinks so, and he’s building the service to make it happen. Bob Ambrogi just revisited ClearView Social, Adrian Dayton’s master plan/app. Apparently, it is essentially a human botnet for distributing ghostwritten Findlaw blog posts. But lawyers who use it will at least be able to raise their hands at the next marketing seminar when someone asks the room how many lawyers are using social media. Oh yeah, we’re engaging now, baby! [LawSites]Big Bird on the Lam
Last and sort of least, if you’re going to steal a giant yellow bird costume, maybe don’t wear it when the police come looking for you. [Lowering the Bar]
Featured image: “High resolution render of an / Botnet Herder / and small bots” from Shutterstock.
Law Blog Week in Review: Watch Out for Human Botnets Spewing Social Media Spam! is a post from Lawyerist.com. The original content in this feed is © 2013 Lawyerist Media, LLC. This feed is provided for private use only and may not be re-published.
In tough economic times like these, some new lawyers may want to open their minds to a different type of risk and go west — or north, or south, or east — to find a job beyond their urban dreams.
I met with a lawyer a couple of weeks ago in a small town about two hours outside of the Twin Cities. Our conversation turned to operating a law firm in a small town and the lawyer told me two things I probably knew but did not really appreciate. One was a complaint about how difficult it is to attract new lawyers to join law firms in rural areas. The other was the lawyer’s prediction that in the next ten years, half the lawyers in her quarter of the state were going to retire from the practice of law.
That prediction probably is not unique to Minnesota. New lawyers unable to find a job in a major American city may want to broaden their job searches beyond their local beltways.
There are many benefits to practicing in a smaller community. First off, there is plenty of work to do. All those farms you pass as you drive that two-lane road into the country? That farmland is worth several thousand dollars an acre in many areas. Those farm families need estate plans, contracts, and business advice. There are teachers, small business owners, bankers, and other professionals as well. The folk in small towns sometimes get divorced, commit the occasional DWI, and get in car accidents. They need local lawyers and they do not want to pay for some lawyer from the city to drive out to the rural courthouse to represent them. They need trusted advisors they can form life-long professional relationships with. That could be you.
Not sure what area of practice is best for you? In small towns, many lawyers are generalists. They take a variety of cases and get experience in multiple areas. Eager to get inside a courtroom? You may get more opportunities in a small town than you would as an associate in the big city.
The economics can work as well. The cost of housing may be less than half of what you would find in a major city. Your mortgage could be so small that even with your law school debt you would have less overall debt than you would have living in the city.
I know, you could never give up the city. You would miss the theater, even though you only go once or twice a year. Where would you shop? (Although you do most of your shopping online nowadays.) A small town only has one movie theater! (Of course, you stream most of the movies you see through Netflix.) These fears of cultural isolation may be just that — fears. The lawyer I met with told me that she and her colleagues are simply more intentional about going to the city for entertainment and probably do so more than city-folk. Many people in the city think nothing of traveling three hours each way in the summer to go up to the family cabin; rural residents just do a “reverse commute” to attend sporting events, concerts, and other big city attractions. I have a client who lives 2½ hours from Minneapolis and has seasons tickets to the Minnesota Twins.
Granted, there are some impediments. If you are single, it may be harder to find a mate in a smaller community. Even if you are married, your spouse may not be able to find suitable work in the same area. But rural lawyers love to tell you how nice it is to raise children in a small town, where they can ride their bikes to every friend’s house and you know the parents of all of their playmates.
Quite frankly, rural lawyers probably do not want you to just show up for two or three years and then pack your bags and go back to the city. But there is always the possibility that once you get out to the country, you might like it and stay. There is risk in any venture, whether it is joining a big firm or starting your own practice. In tough economic times like these, some new lawyers may want to open their minds to a different type of risk and go west — or north, or south, or east — to find a job beyond their urban dreams.
This was originally published on September 7, 2010, but it seems equally relevant in 2014.
Featured image: “Main Street and Old Common Road sign in autumn” from Shutterstock.
The legal tech space has become explosive. Investors are pouring millions into legal innovation as founders excitedly plan to disrupt the legal space. Some attorneys are thrilled about the thought of new technology to better their practice while others are skeptical about the need for disruption — or even using the term disruption.
In any case, legal startups are big and getting bigger.How Big is the Legal Startup Market?
According to AngelList, there are roughly 350 companies in the U.S. tagged in legal. If you break those down to legal startups, there are 101 listed. Josh Kubicki reported that legal startup funding is at an estimated $77 million year to date with the prediction that it will be much higher than the $458 million invested in 2013.How Many Will Succeed?
David Perla, legal tech entrepreneur and investor, explains that, realistically, “a significant majority will fail.” When they do, people will say it is “evidence that the legal market is stuck in the dark ages, that it’s not ripe for disruption, that there’s no innovative … but the vast majority of startups in every industry do fail.” Watch the rest of this fascinating interview with Perla by Lee Pacchia:
Before we look at the startups moving to change the legal space, let’s talk about the legal startup recipe.What is a Startup?
Paul Graham says, “A startup is a business designed to scale dramatically.” His essay “Startup = Growth” explains that a startup does not have to have venture funding or an exit to be considered a startup. The only essential thing is growth.
Eric Ries explains, “A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”
While Steve Blank, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at Stanford and Berkley among other institutions, describes a startup as such: “A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”
Next: the 2014 list of legal startups.
There are plenty of Android apps for lawyers including apps for case management, billing, trial preparation, and legal research. This list includes every legal app for Android that we could find in the Google Play store.
There are just a few exceptions. This does not include apps that are dead links in the Google Play store. Apps that are mobile versions of legal publications aren’t here either unless they aggregate content in an unusually useful way. Additionally, the Google Play store has a large number of applications that just repackage freely available content such as codes and statutes. Those are not here unless they provide some sort of added value like the ability to annotate.
The table below is searchable, and you can sort by each column. Use the comments to let us know if we missed an app.
Looking for legal iPhone and iPad apps?NameCostDescriptionWestlawNextFree, but requires paid WestlawNext subscriptionAllows mobile access to databases in WestlawNext. Ability to search, KeyCite, save, highlight and share materials.CourtLinkFree, but requires a current Courtlink user ID/password from Lexis.Allows review of recent court docket activity. Ability to set up Alerts and Tracks on the CourtLink website and then monitor via the app.MyCaseFree, but requires paid MyCase subscription.Allows communication with clients, ability to check schedule, edit and view cases, time, billing, and invoicing. Email and calendar access. Unlike iOS app, does not yet allow client login.AgileLawFree, but requires an AgileLaw account.Install this app on your iPad, hand the iPad to the deponent, and navigate through the deposition without ever using a printed exhibit again.American Arbitration AssociationFreeAmerican Arbitration Association rules, codes, protocols, and contact information.
For lawyers and anyone else who makes a living from words, the ability to type fast is an essential — not optional — skill. Unlike notetaking, which is better done by hand, one of the keys to writing well is eliminating any bottlenecks between your brain and the page. Until computers can read our thoughts, the best way to do this is touch typing.Transcription Fluency
Quality matters to lawyers. … So lawyers must learn to type fast.
The term transcription fluency describes the process of getting ideas out of your head and onto the page. With a pen or pencil, your transcription fluency is low. That is exactly why taking notes by hand works better than typing, but it is just the opposite when it comes to writing.
If you’re struggling to hunt-and-peck your way through writing an essay, you’re losing too much mental effort to the task of merely forming words.
That comes from tech journalist Clive Thomson, interpreting a 2007 research paper. In another study, Boston College grad student Michael Russell even proved that fast typing improves the quality of elementary-school students’ writing. While his results suggest that the faster the better, he guesses that being able to type about 20–24 words per minute is where the big leap in writing quality comes.
In other words, if quality matters, you need to be able to type, and the faster the better. Quality matters to lawyers. Or it ought to, at least. So lawyers must learn to type fast.Learning to Type Fast
RelatedLearn to type with Dance Mat Typing
In order to type fast, you need to be able to use all your fingers and type without looking at the screen. This is pretty easy to learn. Use a typing tutor to get started, and then practice. In very little time, muscle memory will take over and your fingers will start punching out your thoughts without you having to think about the keys you are pressing.
The best way to practice is just to write a lot, which should not post many problems for most lawyers. If you want extra practice, find more reasons to write. Spend some time arguing on the Internet, or start a blog about something you love.Dictation and Speech Recognition Software
If transcription fluency is the key to better writing, then dictation or speech recognition software should do the trick, too. But I don’t think traditional dictation using a tape recorder is a very good idea.
With speech recognition software, … you don’t have to employ a transcriptionist.
First, if you have to pay someone to transcribe your dictation, that is pretty inefficient, for you and for your clients, to the extent your overhead may be related to your fees.
Second, because dictating to a voice recorder requires you to “write” linearly. You basically have to start at the beginning and dictate through to the end. You can probably go section by section, but you cannot jump around much.
But writing is not naturally a linear process. There is a reason we talk about constructing an argument — because we do a little here, a little there, then back to the beginning, then look up some research, and so on. We take apart a sentence and put it back together. We take apart our logic and distribute it to different parts of the document.
As a result, a brief dictated to a voice recorder and transcribed is usually pretty easy to spot. They have a different quality than a brief that was actually written.
Speech recognition software is entirely different. Siri and Dragon NaturallySpeaking (or Dragon Dictate for Mac users) and Windows Speech Recognition are all good and getting better. With speech recognition software, you can still move around your document and write non-linearly. And you don’t have to employ a transcriptionist.
A couple of years ago, I broke my hand and could only hunt and peck with one finger on my left hand. Windows Speech Recognition and the Dragon iPad app got me through it. I prefer typing, but I could deal with speech recognition software if typing weren’t an option for me.Touch Typing Works on Tablets, Too
I don’t know why, but very few people seem to have experimented with touch typing on their tablets. Here’s the thing: even though there are no physical keys, you can absolutely touch type. If you practice a bit, your fingers will quickly memorize where they need to go.
The iPad has the advantage, here, by the way. Its touchscreen is more responsive than Android and Windows tablets, which makes it easier to touch type. You still can touch type on an Android or Windows tablet, but the slower screen will slow you down a bit, and you might make more mistakes.
Learning to type fast and getting comfortable with speech recognition software are complementary skills on any device. If you want to do your best work, you need to improve your transcription fluency, and fast typing is the best way to do it, with speech recognition software as a good alternative.
This was originally published on November 23, 2009. It was completely rewritten and republished on June 24, 2014.
Featured image: “Macro image of human hand with forefinger going to press key on keyboard” from Shutterstock.
88 wpm for me, although I am pretty sure I can type even faster when I am full of caffeine and ideas and in the zone. ↩
These posts come from the law blogs hosted by Lawyerist Sites.
Steve Baird does a great job highlighting the best coverage and summarizing the Washington, D.C., football team’s recent loss:
What I will say quite happily is that the decision is tight, focused, well-reasoned, and built to withstand the team’s promised appeal.
What I can’t explain is why the team continues to deny what has become so obvious to so many people: The R-Word must go.
[Duets Blog]Banning Laptops from the Classroom
When I was teaching in the moot court program at the University of Minnesota Law School, I did not allow my students to use laptops in class. It’s just the wrong way to take notes, especially when the subject matter is not factual. But this week, James Levy highlights an interesting post by New Yorker blogger Dan Rockmore and a response by Robert Talbert from the Chronicle of Higher Education. The gist: schools are still figuring out technology. Also you should take notes by hand, even if you are doing that — somehow — on your laptop. [Legal Skills Prof Blog]Hipsters Love Cops, Hate Plaintiffs
Elie Mystal breaks down a New York Post article about “jury gentrification” in Brooklyn:
It turns out that the upper middle class white people who now make up the majority of people who are able to afford rent in Brooklyn are much more “pro-police” than the borough’s more modest residents. And they’re also “anti-plaintiff,” which means if you slip-and-fall in their precious Whole Foods, civil juries are more likely to side with the huge conglomerate over the individual shopper with serious medical bills.
Let the record reflect that I was into justice before it sold out. [Above the Law: Redline]Is Your Website Responsive, Yet?
It better be. Kevin O’Keefe cites a study that says mobile traffic will make up 35% of all Internet traffic by the end of the year. Many websites and blogs already have higher mobile readership than that. If your site doesn’t work well on a phone, it’s time to fix that. (P.S., we can help.) [Real Lawyers Have Blogs]The Futures of Law
Joshua Lenon thinks all this talk about the future (singular) of law is misleading.
There is no one future for legal professionals. Each jurisdiction and practice area will have different outcomes. The future will be diverse and will arrive in fits and starts.
Can’t disagree with that. I’m less excited about Joshua’s prediction for the future of litigation: a lot more online dispute resolution. We got a pretty unsettling peek at that future last week [the Clio Blog]The ABA Wants Your Cocktail Recipes
The ABA was apparently planning a cocktail recipe book, although all references to it have been removed from its call for recipes. It looks like some of the commenters thought asking for cocktail recipes was inappropriate because alcoholism.
Well, I love cocktails, so here is my recipe:
Muddle a thin slice of orange, a sugar cube, and a splash of soda in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, 2 oz. of vanilla vodka, and 1/2 oz. of absinthe.1 Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of orange peel.
So far, its name is “Orange Vanilla Absinthe Cocktail in Need of a Better Name.” I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. Even without a name, though, it’s damn tasty. [ABA Journal]
Featured image: “Welcome to Brooklyn sign at the Brooklyn bridge in New York” from Shutterstock.
If you want more booze, feel free to double these portions. ↩
Law Blog Week in Review: Hipsters Love Cops, Hate Plaintiffs, and Lawyers Share Cocktail Recipes is a post from Lawyerist.com. The original content in this feed is © 2013 Lawyerist Media, LLC. This feed is provided for private use only and may not be re-published.