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Is It a Good Idea to Record Client Communications?

Wouldn't it just be weird if Michael Cohen's recordings become President Trump's undoing?

Cosmicly weird because tape recordings are what brought down President Nixon. He refused to give up recordings of conversations with co-conspirators in the Watergate scandal, and the rest is history.

But Cohen's recordings are also lawyerly weird because -- besides Trump saying the attorney-client privilege is dead -- recording client communications is not always a bad idea.

With all that power to compute and show you delightful cat pictures and videos, you may not want to believe it, but your smartphone hinders your ability to think. At least according to the recent research published in the Harvard Business Review.

No, it's not the invisible microwaves or infrared, -blue, -green, or -fuchsia signals that pass through your skull. Your smartphone's very presence around you distracts you, and a distracted you is a you that's less able to think and solve problems. And, in case you couldn't remember because you're so close to your smartphone right now, as a lawyer, your job involves thinking and solving problems. According to the researchers, even with the sound, and the vibration, turned off, your smartphone hurts your ability to think.

Sadly, lawyers across the country can't just shout out in unison: 'Alexa! Make me a thousand dollars a week!' Well, while we can say the words, neither Alexa nor Siri are likely to comply.

However, one day, we could very well live in that world as legal technology doesn't show any signs of slowing down. An AI legal assistant could, in theory, perform intake, file setup, task management, legal research, and more. And as we approach that world, certain questions are going to come up, and likely to be chief among those questions is whether it is ever appropriate to charge a legal client for a virtual assistant's time, or work product.

How and When to Use Secondary Sources

A funny thing about legal research methodology is that traditionally you started with secondary, not primary, sources.

What's funnier today is that while technology has completely changed legal research, starting with secondary sources is still the go-to method.

Only now it's about how and when to do it with the new tools available to researchers. Here are some pointers from cutting-edge reference attorneys.

ABA Approves Privacy Law Certification

The American Bar Association narrowly approved a certification program for specialists in privacy law.

It was so close on a voice vote that it took a second call for the ABA House of Delegates to pass the resolution and approve a program. Before the vote, opponents complained about the program definition of privacy law and the potential that clients would be confused by it.

Barbara Howard, chair of the standing committee on specialization, told delegates that was not the issue. She said the program met the requirements for certification, and that ended the debate.

If you practice for long enough, say, more than a few days, the novelty wears off and you may need some enrichment while working. After all, sometimes you need something to listen to while zoning out and hammering out your pleading. Some folks want lyrics-free classical or jazz music, while others need the hubbub of a cafe, or that oh-so-awful, somniferous, monotone drone of talk radio.

For that last group, the world has changed thanks to podcasts. With the sheer volume of podcasts being created today (who would've thunk that people like talking, and others like listening), if you like talk radio and haven't gotten into podcasts, you're missing out.

Below, you'll find a list of five podcasts for lawyers that might help you stay up to date, or stay up late, or at very least, keep you entertained while commuting.

You Have a Virtual Practice and Didn't Even Know It

Every lawyer has a website, whether they know it or not.

From the State Bar to LinkedIn, your information is already on the internet for consumers to find. And when you use a web-enabled device to research, send information, download a document or file a pleading, you are effectively practicing law online.

You have a virtual law practice; you just didn't know it. It's really a matter of how much you use it.

Depending on where you'd like your legal career to go, writing for the public or professional audience can really help quite a bit. And depending on the exact audience you're writing to, you may even consider not publishing your content on your firm website, but rather through a site like Medium, or even LinkedIn.

If you're scratching your head as to why you'd not post your own (and undoubtedly amazing) content on your own website, below are a few reasons to consider.

Do I Really Need Books for Legal Research?

If you haven't noticed, unless you are in a Third-World library without internet access, nobody really does legal research using books anymore.

So do lawyers really need those old law books? And what about those skills that came with learning how to research with books? Is there a place for old school lawyering?

"Wait, wait," you may be saying. This is all happening too fast. One question at a time, please.

New Guidelines on When Judges Should Use Internet Research

Sometime after Al Gore invented the internet, judges started including internet sources in their decisions.

That was then. Now the American Bar Association has invented guidelines for how judges should use the internet for legal research.

And if you believe that Gore invented the internet or that the ABA can tell judges how to do their jobs, you may want to check out bridges for sale on Amazon. In the meantime, there are these new rules: