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September 2014 Archives

Holler: Chat With Ginsburg, Bar Grading Mistake, Police Brutality

Wait, wait, wait? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did an interview? We know -- she's done (estimating here) 57 of 'em this summer alone. But this one is really good.

Also, what happens when a cop is convicted of beating an innocent person for no reason? A mulligan.

Finally, what is your worst nightmare when taking the bar? Failing. But a grading error comes close.

Welcome to this week's edition of "Holler," where we give a shout-out to our favorite posts in the blawgosphere.

How Do Solos and Small Firms Find Low-Cost CLEs?

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but in California, we're required to take 25 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) every three years. It seems like a long time, right? And yet, invariably, you approach two and a half years only to realize you've done none of the required hours.

This isn't a problem for everyone. Lawyers at BigLaw firms get free CLEs, usually at lunch, so they're getting hours on the regular. But solos and small firms don't have that luxury. What's a person to do about CLEs? Where do you find them? Sure, you could go to a $300 conference -- or not. How can you get CLE credits cheaply?

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up a 'Virtual' Law Office

Even though you're one of those people who works from home in the cloud and so on, there are times when you'll probably have to meet with clients or others, and for a variety of reasons, you probably don't want to meet them at your house.

Enter the "virtual office," which allows you to rent more or less an office and conference room for a few hours so that you can meet with people. It's a neat idea: You don't have to shell out for an office rental, but you have a professional meeting space when you need it.

If you're going this route, however, don't make the following mistakes:

Master P Sells His Soul in Personal Injury Firm's Commercial

When Master P said (repeatedly), "Make 'em say uh!," we doubt he was thinking of opposing counsel and insurance companies. Yet, more than a decade after he coined the catchphrase, the No Limit Records founder, multi-platinum rapper, and savvy businessman is backing the most unlikely of ventures: a personal injury firm in Kentucky.

This is, to quote Lloyd Banks, "uglier than the Master P sneaker."

Attorney General Eric Holder Resigns: What's Next?

Conservatives finally got their wish: Attorney General Eric Holder is stepping aside, though it remains to be seen whether they will have any input on his successor.

Earlier today, President Barack Obama and Holder made a joint announcement about the resignation, with Obama saying that Holder did a "superb job" and confirming that Holder would leave once his successor was lined up. In his prepared speech, Holder thanked the president, the vice president, and his family, and celebrated the administration's achievements in pushing for LGBT equality and reform of the criminal justice system, among others.

But even before the announcement was made official, speculation began on where Holder was headed, as well as who was headed for his position as attorney general.

5 Unlikely Places for Lawyers to Network

Cocktail parties, business lunches -- they're all fine places to network. But as the late Yogi Berra once said: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." It can be maddening to join a Facebook group or a bar association committee where everyone is trying to network.

In much the same way as inspiration can strike in the bathtub, you may find yourself in a situation where you can network or drum up some business -- as in these five places to network that you might not have considered:

5 Things Every Lawyer Should Do During Client Intake

You've finally got clients coming in the door! Clients are coming! After hanging your shingle, advertising, handling your aunt's cat's estate plan and living will, and redesigning your firm stationary for the 65th time, you finally have a few client intakes lined up.

What steps should you take to protect the client's interests, as well as your own? Here are five things you should be doing to ensure that you end up with conflict-free, sane, paying clients:

Does Your Firm Need a Marketing Manager?

Marketing: It's what more of my friends, who run their own shops, have the most trouble with (besides troublesome clients).

Some choose to go it alone, relying on their own know-how and cheap online service providers to handle their own marketing strategy. Others hand it off to an intern, a clerk, or a recent graduate, while the biggest of the big firms are hiring full-time staff members.

What's your best move? Let's take a look.

Holler: Blawgging in Praise of the Criminal Defense Attorney

What's new and notable in the legal blawgosphere? Lately, it seems many websites are singing the praises of criminal defense lawyers.

Yes, life is tough for the criminal defense attorney. You're constantly asked why you represent guilty people, and if you're a public defender, people don't think you're a real lawyer (as in, "Should I get a public defender or a real lawyer?").

Cheer up, though: You're doing the work the Constitution calls for -- and at least it's not document review. Here are a few blogs and websites you may want to check out:

Ow! Tips for Reducing or Preventing Wrist Injuries

Being chained to the word processor all day means that you're going to develop aches and pains in your various joints. Wrists are especially at risk for repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) because they're at the junction of muscles and bones we flex a lot. 

Is there any way you can mitigate this problem -- especially in your precious wrists, those things that help you type the URLs to your favorite cat videos? Yes, there is: follow this advice to help save your wrists.

Lawyer Suspended for Celeb Photoshop Pics in Best Disciplinary Ruling Ever

This opinion (via The Recorder) was promising by page 2, when the court noted that "Respondent denied the allegations contained in the NDC and then wrote a 16-page soliloquy with little to no rational connection to the charges at hand." By the time the opinion got through a Natalie Portman comparison and a Barack Obama mention, it was even better than that dude who slept with more than a half-dozen of his divorce clients.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the tale of Svitlana Sangary, a lawyer who, according to the California State Bar's allegations, photoshopped herself into pictures with celebrities to post on her website, withheld a client's file, and refused to participate in the disciplinary hearings, citing her First Amendment right to remain silent.

No, that is not a typo.

Obama Reshaped the Courts, but There Are Still Many Vacancies

One of the lead stories in The New York Times over the weekend outlined how President Barack Obama has reshaped the federal judiciary, with Democratic appointees outnumbering Republican picks in nine out of 13 federal appeals courts. The shift was even more pronounced after the Senate abolished the filibuster for judicial nominations (other than for the Supreme Court).

But that's not a huge surprise, is it? If someone is in office long enough, he'll fill the seats.

What might surprise you, however, is the number of vacancies remaining: five dozen, between the district courts and appeals courts.

Survey: Half of All Lawyers Want Us to Dress More Formally

Wardrobe tips are a funny thing: Often times, when you tell someone how to dress, you tick them off.

But there's no denying that the wardrobe, at least around law offices and the courts, has gotten a bit less formal over the last decade or two. With that in mind, Robert Half Legal, a staffing agency, asked 350 lawyers who work with "the largest law firms and companies in the United States and Canada" whether we should all step our game up.

Or more specifically: "In general, would you prefer legal professionals dress more formally or casually in the office?"

Lessons From Robin Thicke: Deposition Don'ts

You know, you'd think that lawyers would have learned by now: Don't ask a question unless you're sure of the answer. Then again, a silly answer might be just what you were hoping for.

Robin Thicke, the vanguard of our proud nation's rich cultural traditions, preemptively sued the estate of Marvin Gaye to ward off claims that Thicke plagiarized elements of Gaye's 1977 "Got to Give It Up" in Thicke's hit song "Blurred Lines."

The Hollywood Reporter reported Monday on what Thicke had to say about the alleged infringement at a deposition. Here are a few lessons for lawyers:

Should Lawyers Ever Represent Relatives?

As a lawyer, should you ever represent family members?

"Hey, listen, you're a lawyer, right? See, I have this issue with my landlord ..." Or it's an issue with a boss. Or a co-worker. Or a neighbor. Or the police ...

It's bad enough when these questions come from complete strangers at cocktail parties, but at least you can walk away because you'll never see those people again. It's a different story when the innocuous request for just a little help comes from a family member. Before you start representing Aunt Sally, take these considerations to heart:

5 Ways Lawyers Can Stop Procrastinating: Now, Later, or Whenever

I was going to blog about procrastination for National Fight Procrastination Day on September 6, but I just didn't feel like it. But at least I'm getting to it now!

All of us in the law community suffer from procrastination, some more than others. Appellate attorneys may have it worst of all: Their deadlines are a month down the road, so why start now? You've got plenty of time! And then suddenly you don't. So in honor of National Fight Procrastination Day -- which already happened -- here are some tips for getting your work done sooner, rather than later:

Do You Want a Lawyer on Your Jury? Pros and Cons to Consider

Time to select the jury. A hundred people from around town file into the courtroom, upset that they have to be there at all, even more upset that they had to wait so long, and all of them claiming to have a prepaid vacation.

And just your luck: There's a lawyer in the pool. Do you really want a lawyer on your jury? Here are some pros and cons to consider:

5 Things You Might Not Want to Buy off Cheap MicroJob Websites

Yesterday, we looked at five things that you might want to buy on a cheap microjob website, like Fiverr. Examples included a logo, business cards, voiceover talent for your website content, and maybe, just maybe, an animated video that explains basic legal concepts, such as the consequences of a first DUI.

The reason why we recommended those is simple: The investment cost is so small, that even if you don't like what is produced, and if the seller can't or won't fix it, you can always drop another $5 and get a second take from someone else. Worst case scenario: You lose a latte.

But there are some services on these sites that you really should not purchase. These include:

5 Things You Might Want to Buy off Cheap MicroJob Websites

You're just starting out, and there's so much to do: logo design, business cards, a website, website content, social media ... and clients. You'll of course need clients. But to get the clients, you have to do a bit of preparation, a bit of marketing, and a bit of branding. And for those of you who are cash-strapped, there is a solution: microjob websites.

Now, you're not going to get a Monet for $5 to $10, but sites like Fiverr, and its less popular competitors Gigbucks and Fourerr, are all sites where you can get "microjobs" done for a nominal fee.

What are some things you could have handled for $5? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Fall Cleaning: What to Do With Old Client Files?

Fall is here, and it's time to start preparing for winter. (Or, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, fall is here, it's always been here, and it's time to start preparing for more fall.) As you look around the office, what do you see? Client files. Boxes of them, piled up in a closet somewhere, some from clients that you haven't seen for years. What do you do with these (hopefully not moldy) old boxes? Can you scan the file? Can you destroy the file? Do you have to contact the client first?

Every state is different, of course, and every state that has adopted the ABA Model Rules is in the same pickle; the ABA Rules don't say anything about how long you have to keep the file, only that you have to keep it "to avoid foreseeable prejudice" and provide it to the client on demand.

Below, we offer two examples of state rules; of course, your state's mileage may vary.

L.A. Deputy City Atty. Faces Child Porn Charges, Still Licensed

Deputy City Attorney Christopher Richard Garcia, 57, was charged with possession, distribution, and other child pornography-related charges on Thursday, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Though he allegedly transmitted some of the material last April, and though his home was raided in November, he is still receiving a paycheck and is licensed to practice law. Plus, the California bar's website still states that he has no history of disciplinary actions.

That may change soon, but should it have changed sooner?

Holler: Much Ado About Discovery

With the Labor Day holiday behind us, it's been a happening week for discovery, both electronic and regular, fraudulent and non-fraudulent.

Here are some of the discovery-related stories that caught our eye in the legal blogosphere last week:

Can Being a Notary Pay Off for Your Practice?

Everyone needs a notary public at some point in their lives. Notaries serve the important function of making sure people who sign documents are really who they claim to be. And it just so happens that many legal documents also need to be notarized. So you could be a one-stop shop, right?

Well, there are good and bad reasons to become a notary, so you may want to take the following thoughts into account. (Note: much of this information comes from California, but its notary laws aren't terribly different from other states'.)

RIP Westlaw Classic: Old Blue Retires Aug. 31, 2015

Have you embraced WestlawNext, in all its modern, orange-laced glory yet? First introduced on February 8, 2010, the far less complicated, far more modern version of Westlaw will become the one and only version for users on August 31, 2015.

That's T-minus one year for all of you holdouts. But don't worry: Thomson Reuters will walk you through the migration process with online, in-person, or telephone support.

Here's what legal practitioners need to know:

5 Ways to Deal With Your Post-Vacation Email Inbox

It's the week after Labor Day. Summer vacation is officially over; it's time to go back to work, desperately trying to concentrate while thinking about all the fun you had at Disneyland, snorkeling, or watching that "Simpsons" marathon.

Your return is, of course, accompanied by a mountain of email that you've been ignoring while you were busy petting dolphins in Hawaii. How can you sift through 1,000 messages in a human amount of time?

Here are five suggestions:

6 Ways to Blow Your Closing With an Improper Argument

There are many ways to mess up a closing statement in a criminal case with an improper argument, and as you might imagine, we've seen plenty of 'em in our coverage of appellate decisions in state and federal appeals courts. Arguments on race, sexual orientation, emotion, or improper credibility arguments all surface repeatedly, though they are easily avoided.

Will they cost you a conviction? Maybe, maybe not. In each of these cases, the defendant was tasked with showing prejudice after the fact -- a task that is easier said than done.

Still, you can avoid having your conviction reviewed on appeal and you increase the chances of a fair trial if you avoid these six improper arguments:

52 Ways to Reduce Overhead in Your Law Office

One of the biggest shockers of working in a real law firm during and after law school was the amount of money wasted on overhead. Examples include leased copy machines (for small firms, that's a waste), complicated IT setups (virtual machines as a means of backing up and sharing data? One word: cloud storage), and dead trees (printing, copying everything).

Let's cut the fat, shall we? I've got 52 ideas, some good, some redundant, some "penny wise and pound foolish," for doing exactly that.

(Sidebar: Why 52? The number is in honor of one of my favorite Kansas City Royals, Bruce Chen, who was designated for assignment on Friday after a handful of years of faithful service, a lot of great jokes, and a few autographs for yours truly during Spring Training.)