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November 2013 Archives

What's the True Impact of the Nuclear Option on Judicial Nominees?

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate invoked the so-called "nuclear option," killing the ability of senators to stall voting on presidential nominees via the filibuster. Some have called the move a "power grab" by Democrats, and a "court-packing plan." Others defend the move as a necessary reaction to unprecedented gridlock, and an appropriate response to Republicans' continued refusals to confirm nearly any of President Obama's nominees.

Necessary or not, the move unquestionably reduces the ability of the minority party to debate the merits of nominees. On certain courts, the move all but assures that the party in power can appoint whomever they want, no matter how extreme the nominee's views. However, the effects of the move will be obviated, in part, by the not-so-well-known "blue slips" process.

5 Things To Be Thankful For This Year

What do you have to be thankful for this year? With Thanksgiving almost quite literally just around the corner, this is a good question to ask for all. Especially as hardworking attorneys, sometimes we need a little perspective and reminder of what we already have to keep us going.

So, this year, before you bring your plate of turkey and dash back to the office to finish up that last brief (really, please don't -- enjoy the time with your family), here are five things that you should be thankful for this year:

One More Worst Lawyer Commercial: Law Firm Uses Racist Caricature

We've seen plenty, and we do mean plenty, of bad lawyer commercials, from rapping attorneys to two guys stuck in a 90s music video. This one, however, just took the title of worst, and it's not just bad, it's actually offensive.

How does one outdo every bad lawyer commercial ever made? Meet Mr. Wong Fong Shu.

Thanksgiving, is quite possibly the best holiday ever. It has little to do with personal beliefs, and everything to do with stuffing your face. What's not to like? As you get ready for the weekend of all weekends, make sure you take these steps so you can actually enjoy a few days off (yeah right).

Office Furniture: Expensive, Weird, Ergonomic and Functional

Is there such a thing as office furniture porn? Food porn is a thing (safe for work, non-sexual Wikipedia link). People flick through dozens of pictures of beautifully-presented meals, but oddly enough, there are no recipes, cooking, or eating. They just look at food. It's never been my thing, but it has a Wikipedia page, so it must be pretty popular.

So yes, office furniture porn should be a thing. Odd and functional furniture is far more interesting than a stuffed pepper. Here are a few of the most intriguing office furniture pieces I've stumbled upon:

5 People Skills You Need to Succeed at Your Firm

Do you have the right people skills you need to succeed at your firm? Because sometimes, lawyers are not the most personable. Maybe you're a superstar in the courtroom or when discussing matters that you know like the back of your hand with your client, but remember that how you behave at all times -- especially among the other associates and your staff at your firm -- can go a long way.

People skills are crucial, especially when you essentially work in a service-oriented industry. Not only that, but it can help boost the general flow and contribute to more productivity and just a better atmosphere at work.

So, with that said, here are 5 people skills that may help you succeed at your firm:

Senate Goes Nuclear; Judicial Vacancies Will Soon be Filled

Well, the filibuster option is now dead, at least somewhat. Cue the fears, justified or not, of the tyranny of the majority. In the short term, expect the much-debated three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, as well as the hundreds of other vacancies across the country, to be filled with little to no opposition.

What cleared the gridlock? Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called for a vote to change the rules of filibustering, with passed 52-48. Now, a simple majority vote for cloture can end a filibuster on presidential nominations for everything but the U.S. Supreme Court.

Guy Gets $550 for Sexual Harassment. Lawyers Get $350k.

Who says law is no longer lucrative?

A guy gets sexually harassed by his female boss. She sends him vulgar texts, including one about banana "Luv cake" which involved milk jugs and is far too gloriously offensive to repeat here. (See the unpublished appellate court opinion for all of the naughty texts.) She also comes on to him, and other male coworkers at work.

But bottom line, the jury (a) didn't think that the company knew about the harassment and (b) didn't think his emotional distress lasted a full four years, as he claimed. They awarded $550. His attorneys, meanwhile, are set to walk away with nearly $350,000 in legal fees, unless the California Supreme Court intervenes.

Personal Injury Videos: Should You Use Them?

Have you ever thought about using the services of a video production company -- not to make a cheesy lawyer TV ad -- but to create personal injury videos for use in legal proceedings?

The videos, which are typically used in litigation, mediation, and arbitration, give a bird's eye view of how an injury affects a plaintiff (or in a wrongful death suit, the victim's loved ones) or how an accident occurred.

Here's an overview of common types of videos used in personal injury cases and a few of their caveats.

As lawyers, we spend most of our days sitting at a desk, working on a computer. And while our ever-expanding concern over our ever-expanding "office chair ass" is legitimate, there are more important things at stake -- like our health.

House GOP Turning Back Time With Rule 11 Mandatory Sanctions

Those darn lawyers, always filing frivolous litigation. We need to curb the rampant abuse and frivolous litigation that plagues our court systems!

Yep. You've heard it before. We've heard it before. And even if there is a problem with frivolous motions and litigation, we're not so sure that the solution proposed by the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2013 will do anything whatsoever to help.

In fact, if the history cited by the ABA is any indication, it'll have the opposite effect -- clogging the docket with Rule 11 litigation.

"Work smarter, not harder." We hear these workplace mottos all the time, but sometimes workplace efficiency has less to do with how you are working, and more to do with your surroundings.

We were inspired by an article we recently read in Forbes, and thought we'd share five things for you to look out for in your office that may be holding you, and your employees, back.

How Can Lawyers Avoid the Holiday Weight Gain?

The next few weeks are going to be hell for your health.

There's stress. Holidays can be stressful, especially if you have "that uncle" who is now unwelcome at family events, or if your arrangements are complicated by joint custody and a bitter ex-spouse. Plus you have clients who get holiday party DUIs, or have their own custody disputes. And year-end deadlines, and balancing case loads with family obligations.

And of course, there's the eating and drinking. Early Thanksgiving with friends. Two family Thanksgivings. Christmas. Holiday parties. Egg nog. New Year's. Holiday potluck at work. That bottle of rum snuck in under the Santa suit to make Christmas tolerable.

It's all going to add up -- and add to your waistline. Belly fat puts you at risk for death. Let's fix it, shall we?

When you hear "project management," you may be think, "That's a business term, how does that apply to me?"

As a small firm owner, you are running a business, and each of the cases and assignments you take on are "projects." The organization that goes into project management is just as relevant to lawyers as it is to business people.

Here are some tips to "project manage" your case load:

Affair Between Judge, Public Defender Leads to 5 Retrials

Just south of Hotlanta, things are getting messy in Georgia.

In late 2008, a deputy's patrol car caught assistant public defender Kim Cornwell in the steamy embraces of local Judge Paschal English, known more widely as the fourth-place finisher on "Survivor: Marquesas." The pair were recorded by the cruiser's camera, allegedly engaging in a sexual act in the back of a car.

Obviously, this created a few issues, not the least of which were the hundreds of cases that she'd handled in Judge English's courtroom over the preceding few years. Now, some of those cases, involving serious offenses, will be headed back to the courtroom.

Are Your Contract Attorneys 'Independent Contractors'?

Are you thinking about hiring your first (or next) contract attorney? How can you be sure that he or she is actually an independent contractor and not an employee? The IRS has compiled a list that can help.

Misclassifying your worker as an independent contractor can lead to some dire consequences. In one case, a law firm had to pay $160,000 when it failed to prove that its so-called "contract" attorneys were truly independent contractors, according to the Oregon State Bar.

So, while hiring a contract attorney may seem like a good idea in these penny-pinching times, you'll want to be careful in how you treat and classify them:

Women get a bad rap. Whether it's "Mean Girls" or catfights, there's this awful notion floating around that women don't help women (and we know there's a special place in hell for those ladies). But what about the women who help each other out? Why don't we ever hear about them?

We're going to take this time to roar about ways women attorneys can help other women attorneys in the ok, we get it, discriminating legal industry. Hint: it's not by sending out these kinds of memos.

Non-Engagement Letter: When Do You Reject a Client in Writing?

Yesterday, we discussed the disengagement letter, and other tips for ending representation. What about situations where you don't want to take the case at all? Do you need to do anything to cover your butt, such as a non-engagement letter?

Unfortunately, this is a gray area, and a matter upon which many lawyers will disagree. Some argue that because the letters take time, and aren't billable, that they are a waste. Others see the words "malpractice lawsuit" and their bowels loosen. The correct response is probably somewhere in between.

Cutting a Client: 4 Tips to Help With Ending Representation

Sometimes, it just doesn't work out. Maybe your client is insisting on taking an unethical route in pressing or defending against a claim. Or perhaps, she simply hasn't paid you.

Unfortunately, ending representation isn't as easy as walking out, or saying, "I quit." There are, obviously, quite a few ethical considerations involved. Plus, if litigation has already commenced, you'll likely have to get permission from the court to withdraw from the case. And, of course, there's the matter of not getting into a legal or fee dispute with your client.

Here are a few tips for easing the transition:

Lawyer Hoping for Second Chance After Affair with Client's Wife

Robert Caulley, an aeronautical engineer, spent the last fourteen years in prison. He's getting his second chance now, and his former attorney, James D. Owen is seeking the same, after sleeping with his client's wife, before, during, and after the trial.

True Crime Report tells Caulley's side of the story: he arrived at his parents' house, where a burglary was in progress. Inside, he found his parents bludgeoned to death. Three years later, he became the focus of the investigation, and after a twelve-hour interrogation, where he was allegedly denied an attorney, he finally gave a coerced confession.

He hired noted attorney James D. Owen to defend him, and his wife Celeste, spent countless hours alongside the attorney, both to help with her husband's defense, and to carry on an affair.

Preparing to Interview Candidates: A Checklist

Are you and your firm prepared to interview the next candidate for that open associate, paralegal, or intern position?

Sure, the pressure is on for the candidate to be on his or her best behavior and to impress you, but it's a two-way street -- you and your firm have to impress them in return, as well. Otherwise, what's going to compel the very best candidate to pick you? Why would they want to accept an offer?

Here's a checklist on some things that can be help you when it comes to interviewing your firm's next candidate:

At FindLaw we've done a fine job of talking about branding, whether we address how to attract the right clients, developing a practice niche or nurturing your online presence. But, until now, we've never talked about building a cohesive brand image -- from a design stand point.

We know, you're thinking "design?" Who has time to think about design? You should make time -- and it doesn't need to be a lot of time -- to develop a consistent brand image. We're not talking glitz and glam, all you really need is consistency.

Here are three simple things to focus on for developing a brand image, and how those three things translate to a consistent brand for your firm.

D.A. Criticizes Verdict on Talk Radio, Then Judge Calls in

The police cruiser's camera caught the entire incident on tape. A handcuffed suspect was beaten, repeatedly, by an officer while three other officers stood nearby. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro thought it was a slam-dunk verdict. Except it wasn't, and Judge Ben Willard let the defendant off the hook.

Last Friday, Cannizzaro was discussing the high-profile case on the radio with the two hosts of a WBOK-AM radio program. For ten minutes, Cannizzaro and the two hosts criticized the not guilty of malfeasance verdict.

And then the judge called in, reports the Advocate.

The ABA Journal recently reported that a new online lawyer referral service "recently received $690,000 in angel investor funding." But that's not what grabbed our attention ... it was the company's name, Lawdingo.

Lawdingo? What's a Lawdingo? It sounds like a character out of a Dr. Seuss book, but we assure you, it's not.