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January 2017 Archives

Lawyer Swept up in Protest Sues for Inauguration Arrests

Benjamin Christopher Carraway planned on spending a night while in Washington to attend Donald Trump's inauguration, but he didn't plan on spending the night in the local jail.

Carraway was arrested on Inauguration Day with about 230 other people who were demonstrating. Carraway, a Colorado criminal defense attorney, said he was among the protesters who did nothing to warrant the mass arrest.

In a class action complaint filed in federal district court, he said police herded the group around 12th and L Street, NW, and indiscriminately deployed chemical irritants, attacked the individuals with batons, and threw flash-bang grenades. Many in the crowd were legal representatives, members of the media, and medical personnel.

If you're scrambling to finish up your continuing legal education credits before a compliance deadline, or just want to make sure you're on top of the latest legal developments, here's one thing to keep in mind: you don't have to shell out a lot of cash, or trudge over to a conference center, in order to get CLE credits.

In fact, there are several high-quality CLE programs out there which will help you continue your legal education without having to leave your office -- or your couch. And because they're on-demand, you can complete them on your own schedule. Here are a few.

A witness's testimony may make you want to scoff, roll your eyes, or stick out your tongue, but try to keep the theatrics under control in court. That's the lesson from Florida this week, after a Palm Beach public defender was reprimanded for pretending to gag while a prosecutor questioned an informant in a murder trial.

The court didn't buy the attorney's argument that her fake gag was just "a confidential attorney/client nonverbal communication" meant to display her skepticism towards the testimony.

Tax Tips for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers

They say there are two things that are certain in life: death and taxes.

Between the two, most will say that taxes are preferable. Except perhaps those people who get audited. They might choose death.

In any case, whether you have filed your tax returns this year or not, there is always next year to consider. Here are some tax tips for solo and small firm lawyers to file away:

An attorney in Michigan is facing disbarment for filling his resume with a series of 'alternative facts' -- including that he competed for the U.S. field hockey team in the 1996 Olympics. Turns out, the lawyer, Ali Zaidi, wasn't on the roster for that or any other Olympic events.

Now Zaidi's gold-medal lie, along with a whole string of additional misrepresentations, has the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board recommending his ouster.

How to Be a More Approachable Attorney: 3 Tips

In "Being John Malcovich," people were able to enter his mind and experience different relationships through his eyes. It's a comedy, with some strange twists, but basically it ends happily ever after.

In being more approachable, attorneys may also find themselves happier in their client relationships. Here are some perspectives from different lawyers on achieving good client relationships:

5 Tips for New Trial Lawyers

It can be tough starting out as a trial lawyer. You may find yourself unsure of what comes next in a case. You might be confused by court procedures, or frustrated by clients. You could be up against seasoned litigators with decades of experience.

But you're not alone. With some prep -- alright, with a lot of prep -- and some good advice, you can become a skilled and successful trial attorney. Here are some tips from the FindLaw archives to help you out.

3 Tips for Handling Juror Questions

In a way, handling juror questions is like handling judges' questions.

The question may give you cause for concern, especially if the answer will hurt your client's case. Or it may give you hope because the answer will lead to a favorable result.

In any case, juror questions are important indicators in a trial and should be welcome. Questions show that jurors are engaged and want to know more about the case. It is also important to think about how to handle them.

Hold Your Own Against Opposing Counsel

I was David; opposing counsel was Goliath.

I was a solo practitioner working out of my house; their office lobby was bigger than my house.

The firm had so many lawyers they occupied three floors in a downtown high-rise. I was defending a mom-and-pop art dealer; the other side was suing for millions of dollars.

As you might guess, I was a little intimidated. But, as you may also have guessed from the David v. Goliath reference, there are some soft skills you can learn to equal the playing field even when you are fresh out of law school.

Getting divorced? Get a lawyer. That's not just good advice for laymen, it's good advice for attorneys too.

Take, for example, the case of Anthony Zappin. A New York appellate court recently upheld sanctions against Zappin after the New York attorney represented himself in his divorce proceedings. Zappin's self-representation ended up a "maelstrom of misconduct," the court found," involving "unprofessional, outrageous, and malicious" behavior. Just how outrageous was it? Let's take a look.

Imitation might be the highest form of flattery, but some legal blogs appear to have taken that imitation a bit too far -- by scraping content from prominent blogs and reposting it on their own.

Is this just part of doing business on the interwebs? Maybe. But these alleged fakes could also have real consequences.

Are Texas Personal Injury Ads Causing Harm to Patients?

Doctors v. Lawyers

No, it's not a lawsuit or an Alien v. Predator movie.

It's a real-life drama unfolding in Texas, where personal injury attorney ads have prompted doctors to fight back. With a survey showing lawyers advertise there more than most places in the country, doctors have mounted their own public relations campaign. Their slogan:

"Don't let a lawyer be a doctor."

Conducted on behalf of the Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, the survey found that more than eight in ten doctors believe the lawyer advertisements are leading patients to question their medications. Also, apparently one in three patients stop taking their medications and suffer the health consequences.

ABA Task Force Studies Due Process in College Sexual Misconduct Cases

The American Bar Association has formed a new task force to study due process rights in college sexual misconduct cases.

Andrew S. Boutros, co-chair of Seyfarth Shaw's White Collar, Internal Investigations and False Claims Act Team, will lead the task force. It will be comprised of 10 to 12 members, including lawyers, academics, government officials, victim advocacy representatives, and other constituents.

"The Criminal Justice Section is committed to fair and balanced procedural and substantive due process in the criminal justice system," said Matthew Redle, chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section in a press release. "Those same carefully calibrated rights and protections for both the victim and the accused are also critical in the college disciplinary system, where the stakes are exceptionally high on both sides and the collateral consequences of a finding of responsibility are abundantly severe."

Death of the Billable Hour Rumors Are Coming True

According to reports, the billable hour may go the way of the dinosaur.

Still adjusting to market downturns and evolving technologies, law firms need to make changes in their practices that also change the way they bill for services. If they don't adapt, reports say, they will not survive.

The 2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market says that the death of the billable hour has been "one of the most potentially significant, though rarely acknowledged, changes of the past decade."

"Although firms still technically bill a majority of their work on a billable hour basis, budget caps imposed by clients mean that as much as 80 percent to 90 percent of law firm work is now done effectively outside of the traditional billable hour model," according to Thomson Reuters, which prepared the report with The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Lawyer Seeks Immunity for Lying Clients. It Fails Badly

Pancy Lin, a partner at Lynberg & Watkins, stepped into harm's way when she arrived to defend Orange County social workers who had lied in a custody case to wrest custody from the plaintiff's mother. Based on their perjured testimony, the trial judge took custody of her children away from her.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, having read the social workers' argument that they were immune from liability in the civil rights action, was ready.

When it comes to assembling legal documents, does font matter?

Yes! Quite simply, fonts influence how your writing appears and is perceived. There's the elegant (and ink-efficient) Garamond, the matter-of-fact Lucida Sans Typewriter, the "I might as well have just written this in crayon" Comic Sans. Beyond that, some courts have a short list of acceptable fonts, from which practitioners can't deviate. So, if you're looking for the best fonts for your legal docs, here are some suggestions.

Workplace Tips for Setting Up Small Law Firms

Tips are like opinions: everybody has one.

That's not a great spin of the original phrase, but at least it's printable. What we're really talking about here is spinning some new ideas on setting up a small law firm. Because, seriously, aren't we a little tired of the same old song?

Here are some twists on the typical tips:

If you've ever sat down to a WordPress blog and started typing out your thoughts on tort reform, legal tech, or the trials of starting your own firm, you've probably wondered: At what point does my attorney blogging become advertising? Sure, you're not posting "10 Reasons to Hire Me Today -- Number 7 Will Shock You!" But you are, perhaps, subtly selling yourself, showing your personality, experience, insight. Does that mean your blog is subject to the same rules as, say, an actual commercial?

Not according to the State Bar of California. The bar association recently finalized a new ethics opinion that will allow lawyers to blog, outside their main law firm website, without having to worry about regulations on attorney advertising.

Prospective Clients Hang up When on Hold, Study Finds

'Thanks for calling. Please hold.'

Click.

That's what happens when you put a prospective client on hold for too long, according to a study by an audio-branding company. And lawyers are some of the worst call-holding offenders.

PH Media Group, which called 2,695 businesses across the country for the study, reports that law firms put their callers on hold for an average of 36.07 seconds--longer than the national average.

America has its first exclusively esports-focused law firm now. What's esports, you ask? "Electronic sports," or professional, competitive video gaming. And if competitive video gaming sounds strange, well, it may be. But esports is also a major industry, with organized tournaments and millions of fans across the globe -- and the potential to generate billions in revenue in the near future, according to some estimates.

Esports players, teams, and businesses now have a firm dedicated especially to them, following the founding of the Electronic Sports & Gaming Law by Seattle-based attorney Bryce Blum last week.

Video Surveillance Cameras in Lawsuits Everywhere

Big Brother and his ever-watchful video-surveillance camera have been around since at least 1984.

But in a new millennium where everybody with a cell phone has a video camera, surveillance has even transcended Big Brother. Not only may government be watching, but the kid walking down the street may be policing the neighborhood. So what's up with that, legally speaking?

In terms of usable evidence, it means that you never know who's going to catch you in the act. Or better yet, get a camera and be prepared to act.

Tips for Changing Practice Areas

If Robert Frost were a career counselor, he would tell you to take the road less traveled by.

It could turn out well, too, depending on your perspective. After all, a poet can sometimes be a prophet.

But if you are considering a change in practice areas, then Robert Half Legal might give you different advice. Here are some directions if you are deciding which way to go:

How to Build a Referral Network for Your Solo Practice

If you look at the typical mousetrap, the technology hasn't changed that much in the past 100 years: mouse gets cheese; mouse gets murdered.

There are some "humane" versions, the kinds that don't snap the critters' necks when they reach for the bait. Instead, the mice die slowly as they writhe hopelessly on a poison sticky pad or something.

So why does everybody say, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door?" Or, "Build it and they will come?"

Well, those aren't supposed to be questions. They are supposed to be truisms. The point remains: is there really a better way to build a better business network?

Considered these points from the business network of all networks: LinkedIn -- with some twists for the lawyer in all of us:

Your briefs should be, well, brief, Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit reminded lawyers in a recent opinion. In a case involving the right to a public audience in a voir dire proceeding, the judge devoted his final paragraph to criticizing the appellate lawyers for their verbosity, for which there was "no justification."

Just how bad was were the briefs in order to justify the public scolding? The parties' briefs, Judge Posner wrote, totaled 250 pages, in a straightforward case where less than 100 pages would have sufficed.

5 Tips Before You Make a Career Change

So you're standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down at the rocks below and imagining what your body will look like when they find you.

Of course, it's not gonna be that bad. There are risks to taking that leap of faith toward a new career, but you can do it. Here are some thoughts to consider before you take that bold step:

President Obama returned to the pages of the Harvard Law Review last week, publishing a commentary on criminal justice reform in the journal he once edited. The 56-page article surveys the work the Obama administration has taken to address inequities in the criminal justice system while also detailing what remains to be done.

It's a strong defense of the president's criminal justice legacy, as well as a roadmap for future reform. Here are some of the highlights.

We're a week into 2017 and you're already regretting that new gym membership. Your plans for a "Drynuary" (that's a booze-free January) probably won't survive the weekend. And those thoughts about making your life more hygge-full? Forget them. (Please, let's all forget hygge.)

Stop wasting your time on silly resolutions and unattainable life changes. Instead, let's use this time to focus on things that really matter: making your practice better. Here are seven resolutions we think solo practitioners should adopt for 2017.

Donald Trump will be inaugurated in just over two weeks and will begin to implement his promised policies. That includes potentially significant changes to the tax code. We know, every presidential candidate in your lifetime has pledged to reform the tax code, but those promises rarely bear fruit. But Trump, backed by a Republican-controlled House and Senate, might actually be able to get his tax plan passed.

Here's what could change and what it could mean for lawyers like you.

Should Lawyers Take Sabbaticals?

For a moment, just imagine asking your employer about taking a sabbatical from work.

The question is only difficult because you think that the answer will be "no" and that you will wonder, "what was I thinking?" Then you will be saying to yourself that you never should have read that blog article ...

Regardless, there are compelling reasons to take a sabbatical, even if asking your boss about it makes you uncomfortable.

Takeaway Tips From a Successful Client Meeting

If you're reading this piece about a first client meeting, you probably are a new lawyer or soon-to-be one. After all, an experienced lawyer would not likely read this because it would not be his or her first rodeo. But in the off-chance that you're a seasoned attorney looking for a few pointers or just killing time, let me at least entertain you.

This is a story about a memorable first client meeting, about twenty years ago. It's a good one, and there are probably some pointers here and there.

Whether you're a Boomer or a Gen Xer, a Millennial or a Korean War vet, if you're running a legal practice today, you're probably working with people from across three or four generations. That's because there are currently four distinct generations in the American workplace, with the youngest generation, Millennials born between the early 1980s and 2000s, now making up the largest chunk of the workforce.

Each generation brings with it unique characteristics and perspectives that can add value to your practice -- or catch you completely off guard. Thankfully, Sally Kane, an attorney and writer, recently surveyed how to manage, and hopefully to benefit from, these multigenerational differences in The Balance. Here's some of the best tips, broken down by generation.

Tips to Improve Work-Life Balance in the New Year

Balancing work-life can be like balancing a tire. When changing tires, a good mechanic will balance new tires before putting them back on an automobile. The task requires moving lead weights strategically around the circumference of each wheel until it rotates evenly. Balancing is important to ensure a smooth ride and a long life for the tire.

It's a good time for lawyers to make adjustments to balance their work and their lives as they begin a new year. This may require moving some burdens around to make life's journey smoother and the ride a little longer.