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February 2014 Archives

Cyberbullying Epidemic: What Can Lawyers Do to Help?

FindLaw released a survey yesterday: 1 in 12 parents report that their child has been cyberbullied. And a Thomson Reuters whitepaper on cyberbullying trends, released this month as well, reports that only 2 in 5 kids that are cyberbullied will mention it to their parents.

Think about that for a second: sixty percent don't speak up, which makes that 1-in-12 number a drastic understatement of the problem. Of course, we're lawyers. We like to fix things. And we really like to make life hell for those who deserve it.

What can we do?

Your Law Firm Website is (Probably) Designed to Fail

We can sum up our thought-provoking white paper, "Why Most Law Firm Websites are Designed to Fail," in two words: conversion optimization.

You can build a website for your firm. You can plaster it with great content, pretty pictures, and a bountiful blog section that would put our legal professionals blogs to shame. (Impossible!) You can build the most content-rich, informative site on the Internet, but it will fail if you don't optimize for conversion. What's conversion? For attorneys, it's clients.

So, bottom line: What good are one million visitors if only four of them sign up as clients?

Do Attorneys General Have the Right to Decline to Defend Laws?

This is a question that has been bugging us since Perry and Windsor: if officials don't agree with a law, do they have the right to refuse to defend it? It seems like a silly question. After all, state attorneys general and other officials typically swear to uphold and defend the laws and constitutions of their respective governments.

But, we've seen state after state drop their defense of same sex marriage bans. Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gave his stamp of approval to any other state officials who wish to back down from the fight. Meanwhile, other state officials, such as North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, have publicly stated that despite their personal feelings, they are required to fight to uphold their states' laws.

What's the right answer, or better yet, is there a right answer?

Learn From Frank Underwood: 5 Legal Lessons From 'House of Cards'

Oh hello there.

Sorry if that seemed informal, we're trying out more of that fourth-wall breaking that seems to work so well for Frank Underwood on Netflix's political thriller "House of Cards."

But there's more than just gravitas and Southern drawl to be gleaned from Netflix's ruthless pragmatist. Check out these five legal lessons we learned from watching "House of Cards'" Frank Underwood:

(Sidebar:**Season 1 spoilers may follow, but it's been about a year since Season 1 released, so deal with it.**)

By now you probably have a LinkedIn profile, which may or may not be getting a little dusty. If so, it's time to refresh your profile as LinkedIn can be a valuable tool for networking, promoting yourself, and hiring staff.

So, with a renewed commitment to LinkedIn, you may want to take it one step further and start a LinkedIn Group. You will get all the benefits of having a LinkedIn profile page -- but you will also interact more with colleagues in the same industry, establish your reputation as an expert in the field, and open yourself up to gaining more connections.

This is a win-win situation, so here's what you need to know to get started.

The Trial Penalty is a Myth ... Or is It?

Everything you know is a lie.

Remember criminal procedure? Remember the lesson, and the trope, that there is a "penalty," in terms of sentences received, for defendants who take trials instead of pleas.

If a recent study is to be believed, it's apparently an urban legend. Maybe.

5 Ways to Find Your Law Firm's Social Media Tone

From blogs to tweets, Facebook posts to Pinterest pins, it's no wonder certain law firms' social media strategies can come off as a little, shall we say, schizophrenic.

When working across multiple social media platforms, striking a consistent tone is essential to attracting a loyal audience. Here are five ways to help identify your social media voice.

Social Media Use by BigLaw Firms Sucks; 3 Ways to Be Better

Good2BSocial and Above the Law did a survey last year of the 50 biggest U.S. law firms, measuring their social media use. The predicable findings were that BigLaw moves slowly, and isn't particularly socially adept, reports CMS Wire.

What were some of the issues? Social media use is "inconsistent at best and often evidences only a token effort." Only 34 percent have established a firm or practice group blog. Twitter and Facebook accounts are glorified press release listings. Most firms' social media use is antisocial, with no engagement with the public. And finally, only one firm had an internal social network (though 40 percent had some social functions on their intranets). Internal social networks are great for project management and collaboration.

How can your small firm be better than BigLaw? Here are three ways:

Judge's Illegal Disposition of Cases Leads to Docket Seizure

How does an award-winning judge, who is ironically the elected head of the American Judges Association (an organization that promotes best practices on the bench), lose total control of his docket?

No big deal. He just, allegedly, ignored the law, handed out illegal sentences, hid or sealed case files, and tweaked court transcripts.

Now, Novi District Judge Brian MacKenzie has been bench-slapped to extent rarely seen, with the Circuit Court seizing control of his docket, ordering him to provide records of all delayed or suspended sentences since 2004, and more. We're not sure what's worse: this neutered and publicly-reprimanded judge, or the one who was chased off the bench and had his case referred to the Department of Justice.

What Is Reputation Management?

In our profession, reputation can make or break a practice. That's why it's paramount to being a competent and successful legal practitioner to manage your reputation.

Here are some basic principles of reputation management that every lawyer should know.

The Lasik (B)Logs: Returning to Work After Surgery

The back story, in case you missed the last two posts in this exciting trilogy: I let someone shoot me in the eyeballs with lasers. It worked out fabulously (so far). Because many lawyers need functioning eyes and/or confidence, I figured I'd share the experience with you. We've already talked about the decision and the incisions. Today, we talk about the most important part: returning to work.

Lasers. Eyeballs. Pain pills. Blurry images of Bad Boys I and II. The first few days after surgery were pretty unpleasant, but the following Monday, I returned to work. The return also wasn't particularly pleasant, as my job puts me in front of a computer monitor for eight hours per day. Fortunately, with a bit of planning, the pain and the disruption to my work was minimal.

The LASIK (B)Logs: PRK Operation and Recovery

Six months ago, I voluntarily let someone shoot me in the eyeballs with lasers. Because laser vision correction is something that many lawyers may consider, I figured it was worth sharing my experiences in a three-part series: the decision, the surgery and recovery, and coping with limited vision when returning to work. Today's topic is surgery and recovery. Tomorrow, we'll talk about the worst part: returning to work.

What do you need to do before going under the laser? Besides taking a few days off of work, not much, actually. The night before my operation, there was only one piece of prep: wipe my eyelids with antibacterial wipes. The morning of the surgery consisted of waiting, paperwork, an anti-anxiety pill, and more waiting.

Beware: The Crypto Locker Computer Virus Strikes Again

The Crypto Locker virus strikes again -- this time targeting the computers of a law firm in North Carolina.

Using a deceptive email, the Crypto Locker virus locked the firm out of all their computer files and demanded a ransom to release the documents, Charlotte's WSOC 9-TV reports.

As if jury and arrest warrant scams weren't enough, law firms need to be aware of the Crypto Locker virus and what can be done to protect your files.

The LASIK (B)Logs: The Decision and Pre-Op Jitters

Six months ago, I went under the knife. Or laser, to be more exact. Because laser vision correction is something that many lawyers may consider, I figured it was worth sharing my experiences in a three-part series: the decision, the surgery and recovery, and coping with limited vision when returning to work. Today's post, and tomorrow's, were written at the time of the surgery and edited today.

Why in the hell would someone voluntarily submit to having their corneas removed, lasers shot in their eyes, then having their corneas slapped back on? That doesn't even begin to address the weeks of recovery.

For me, I have slightly misaligned eyes. One bugs out, more so when I'm looking through thick lenses. And my lenses were thick. Last year, I tried contact lenses. Though we couldn't find lenses that fit my extremely-farsighted eyes, the experiment was worthwhile for one reason: my eyes barely float when using contacts.

In short, vanity. But hey, if Justice Sonia Sotomayor can get her teeth done in the name of confidence, I don't feel too sinful for having lasers shot in my eyes.

As technology makes it feasible to work from just about anywhere, at anytime, the issue of telecommuting is getting more and more press. Last year, Marissa Mayer made headlines by requiring telecommuters to come in to the office, and this week Parade reported that a recent study "found that working from home enhances feelings of physical and mental fatigue in those who are having a hard time balancing their personal and professional lives."

Maybe Mayer was on to something . . . or maybe we just need to live by certain principles if we want to telecommute.

Legal Valentine: 5 Reasons to Love Justice Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not only the most senior member of the U.S. Supreme Court, she's arguably its most groundbreaking.

Fellow Justice Elena Kagan told The New York Times on Monday that her own path to the nation's highest court -- which followed being Dean of Harvard Law and the first female Solicitor General -- was made possible due to Justice Ginsberg.

In the spirit of this trailblazing woman and the upcoming Valentines holiday, we present five reasons to love Justice Ginsberg:

Valentine's Day. Quite possibly one of the most controversial holidays out there. Frankly, we're surprised that Papa Costanza didn't create the Festivus version of Valentine's Day with the crankiness and consumerism that surrounds this day. But, it's coming and there's nothing you can do about. What you can do, is decide if you will celebrate Valentine's Day in the office, and if so, how you should do it.

To Celebrate, or not to Celebrate

Valentine's Day can be a tricky holiday to celebrate in a work environment because, you know, there's that whole sexual harassment thing you want to avoid, according to Forbes. So, should you even go there? Is it worth the risk?

How to Keep Your Firm Running During the Olympics

It was 2010. It was the World Cup, and I couldn't have cared less. Football? It's played with an oblong brown ball by large men who do their best to permanently disable each other, not by skinny speedsters passing a soccer ball back-and-forth with their feet, but never actually scoring.

Pigskin. America. [Expletive] yeah!

Anyway, while I may not have been the biggest soccer fan in the world, many of my coworkers were. Spare computer monitors were streaming World Cup matches throughout the office. Until the senior partner noticed and yelled at everyone, including me, for our "lack of professionalism" by watching soccer at work. (I'm still bitter. I was working on an Excel spreadsheet.)

Needless to say, that wasn't the best way to handle it. With the Winter Olympics in Sochi offically opening today, here are a few tips for handling your firm's sports fans, sans the unwarranted freak outs:

Double Trouble: Prosecutors Charged the Wrong Twin

My brothers are identical twins, so this is a question that has come up often in my family: if one of them were to commit a crime, how could the police tell the difference between the two?

Apparently, they can't. Twin brothers Anh and Duc Tong were arrested for the murder of a San Jose State University student late last month. Yesterday, prosecutors dropped the charges against Duc, and properly filed murder charges against Anh.

They have the right twin now -- they hope. Here's a tip: the evil twin is always the one with the moustache.

3 Ways to Find an Expert Witness

Litigators are nothing without a good expert in their pocket.

You can hang all the billboards you want, make indescribably amazing Super Bowl commercials or really bad ads, and line up dozens of clients in neck braces in your lobby, but without an expert to testify that her neck really is hurting from whiplash, your case is probably hopeless.

It's not just personal injury attorneys that need experts either. Criminal law, patent and IP disputes, and pretty much all litigation can come down to a battle of the experts.

Retainers: 4 Considerations for Covering Your Rear

What's in a retainer? Your rights and responsibilities. Your client's rights and responsibilities. Fee structures. Billing details for expenses. Malpractice insurance details or disclaimers. Limits on service. A termination plan. And, of course, state-mandated legal argle-bargle.

We don't care about your client -- that's your job. We care about you. And contracts are usually interpreted against the drafter, especially when one party is a lawyer. What do you need to include to cover your rear?

7 Thoughts After Watching That Amazing Super Bowl Law Commercial

Wow. Just wow.

Yes folks, as my fellow writer Gabriella noted yesterday, I am the bad law advertisement guy. If someone creates a nonsensical, racist, or otherwise terrible ad, I will be there to mock them. Or to congratulate them, if their "XOXO, [Shameless Attorney]" letters get them on Piers Morgan. Or perhaps give you tips on how to market your firm while avoiding these pitfalls.

But nothing, not a single law advertisement, could have prepared me for the majesty of Jamie Casino's Super Bowl Halftime commercial, which was shown in Georgia, then went viral on the Internet.

Mistakes Attorneys Make in Naming Their Practices

Naming your practice can be a puzzling process for many new attorneys seeking to start their own firms. There are ethical concerns, not to mention business interests, to be mindful of before selecting a moniker for your practice.

In order to pick the right one, avoid these five naming mistakes:

Attorney, Desperate for Attention, Begs to Talk Bieber (And Wins)

No publicity is bad publicity, right?

What about getting publicity for being desperate to get publicity?

We've all heard about Justin Bieber's recent troubles in Miami. A local attorney, who also serves as the beach commissioner, was so excited about the case, that he sent out emails, offering himself up for an interview, three separate times, for a case that he pretty much isn't involved in.

To make it even more disturbing, he apparently thought he was Bieber's attorney. He wasn't.

My fellow writer, Mr. Peacock, is known around these parts as the resident bad lawyer commercial expert. Inspired by his ceaseless ability to find truly offensive lawyer commercials, I found one ad that I would be remiss to share, thanks to Above the Law. And with this post Mr. Peacock, a tip of the hat to you.

But we can't just endlessly make fun of people, can we? Well, we probably could, but in the spirit of trying to help my compatriots in law, I thought I'd give aspiring TV-ad-having lawyers a few pointers. If you, or a lawyer you know, is thinking about creating a television ad spot, please make sure you read this first.