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on an array of different topics. Choose from the categories above or just view the most recent articles here.
New Course: The Business of Law
Lawline CEO David Schnurman Featured on Mashable
The 2011 First Chair Awards
E-Discovery in the Cloud with TotalDiscovery.com
Crafting Your Speech for a Speaking Engagement
Tales from Fabulous Finds
Are Unlicensed Document Reviewers Violating DC Ethics Rules?
Thinking about Outsourcing? 5 “Other” Questions to Ask the LPO
Lawline.com Faculty Member Launches E-Discovery Blog
Law Firms Cannot Afford to Ignore Outsourcing’s Lure to Clients
Lawline.com Faculty Member Recognized in Top 40 List
Continuing Education and the Future of Web-based Courses
Computer Forensics Interview
Super Lawyers Desire their "Super" Status be Known
How to Get a Reporter's Attention Without Losing your Shirt
Democratization of Assets Makes Fastcase the Wave of the Future
New Technology Landscape: Create Your Work-Life Balance
The Five Themes of Success
Lawline.com Faculty Member in the News
Do Lawyers Have Bounce?
Cross-Examination with Harvey Weitz
Legal Education Spotlight: Rwanda
What You Need to Know About Mortgages with Dave Muti
Hiring for E-Discovery Projects: Inside Tips from the experts at Jones Dykstra
4 Months Gone: Evaluate Your Efforts
Importance of Social Networking Sites in Recruiting
MICLE's Bridge-the-Gap Weekend
Public Relations for Lawyers: It's All About Perception
5 Steps to Starting Your Own Practice
Friday Five: Lawyers as Presidents
Friday Five: Hiring Secretaries, Assistants and Paralegals
Continuing Legal Education from the Clients' Point of View
Does Hourly Billing Make Sense?
Law Firm Work Schedule Flexibility?
Law Firm Layoffs: What's a Lawyer to Do?
30 Second Pitch Method to Legal Business Development
Friday Five: Marketing in the New Year
The "Truth" as it Relates to the Practice of Law
Holiday Driving Tips from a Traffic Violation Expert
Friday Five: Big Week in Legal News
Law Firm Attrition - How to Overcome a Growing Dilemma
Lawyer Hunting Season
Posted: May 12th, 2011
By: Anna Gaysynsky
Category: Career Corner
In this law practice management course, Faculty member Richard Roth, shares really helpful tips on how attorneys can make money from their law practices. The course has been recieving great ratings, so check it out!
Watch a clip here: The Business of Law, and then click over to Lawline.com for the full course: http://www.lawline.com/cle/course-details.php?i=1463
Posted: May 11th, 2011
By: Anna Gaysynsky
Category: Career Corner
Posted: April 13th, 2011
By: First Chair
Category: Career Corner
Know an Outstanding In-house Counsel? Nominate them for a First Chair Award!
First Chair is now accepting nominations for the 2011 First Chair Awards at www.firstchairawards.com/nominate.
Here are the nomination rules:
1. Any attorney may submit a First Chair Award nomination.
2. In-house counsel may nominate themselves.
3. Nominees must, at the time of the nomination, be serving in the capacity of in-house counsel.
Posted: February 10th, 2011
By: Michael Rutledge
Category: Career Corner, Technology Corner, The News Beat
One of the most exciting products from a technology standpoint at the LegalTech Show was the unveiling of Business Intelligence Associates' TotalDiscovery.com. This software as a service provides a multistep process to register custodians, collect data, and process a review set of documents. Their technology uses a state of the art "DiscoveryBOT™" that is capable of searching and completing discovery tasks completely on its own. IT and legal departments can prescribe different areas of collection, but DiscoveryBOT™ is capable of completing investigations totally on its own.
While this sounds like science fiction, DiscoveryBOT™ is actually a tool that has been around for some time now. It is used in 40 countries and has thousands of custodians. The real launch announced at the LegalTech Show was their mobile app TotalDiscovery.com. Once downloaded, this app allows remote access and control of DiscoveryBOT™. After being downloaded and directed by the custodian, DiscoveryBOT™ goes to work compiling the requested data. Forensically sound copies of the identified data are then stored in a personalized collection cloud and, once complete, DiscoveryBOT™ disappears from your device. This app provides, in addition to a very neat technical framework, a ton of freedom for those who need quick and thorough e-discovery solutions. Be a part of the technical preview at TotalDiscovery.com.
Posted: January 19th, 2011
By: Paramjit L. Mahli
Category: Career Corner
So now that you’ve got the speech lined up, how are you going to make it: interesting, informative, and, of course, educational? Before diving into the nuts and bolts of putting the presentation together, assess what your long- and short-term objectives are. Is it to build your database? Increase prospects? Network with attendees? Grow your profile with that target group? In all honesty, you probably won’t achieve all your objectives, but it’s a good idea to know them for evaluating purposes.
Consider the following when putting your presentation together:
- Use words that paint pictures. Engage the audience with descriptive words that will help them understand ideas and concepts quickly and easily.
- Be a storyteller. Illustrate ideas with examples and stories to reach the audience on a personal level and make the presentation more interesting and meaningful.
- If you’ve got an interest in literature, philosophy and history, use quotes. Using quotes helps set up the scene when you’re explaining something to an audience, and it can add a deeper level of understanding for the audience.
- Be inclusive. Include the audience by talking about “us” rather than “you people.” Many times, audiences prefer and appreciate speakers who talk with them, not at them.
- Use everyday colloquialisms. Speeches are worthless unless crafted to reach the specific audience, so make sure to use familiar expressions that the audience identifies with easily. This helps break down some of the legal jargon and allows you to further connect with the audience.
A little slang goes a long way. Don’t feel pressured to deliver a “formal” speech. Throw in some of your own slang to humanize yourself, but do be mindful that it’s appropriate for the group and it doesn’t offend anyone.
About SCG Legal PR Network
SCG Legal PR Network is a global network that connects lawyers as expert sources with reporters and features a 24/7-accessible database of legal experts from a variety of areas. Its team is comprised of former award-winning journalists whose experience spans over three continents and 30-plus years of experience in the field of journalism and public relations. The network was started by a former journalist, Paramjit Mahli, who has worked within news outlets like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Financial Post, CNN, CNNfn and The Journal of Commerce. For more information about the SCG Legal PR Network, please call 212-661-9137 or visit SCG Legal PR Network’s Web site at http://www.scglegalprnetwork.com.
Posted: February 3rd, 2010
By: Meredith Ganzman
Category: Career Corner, CLE Programming, SHOWCASE CORNER, Videos
There are many times when lawyers who deal with estate planning and taxes will need to use an appraiser for different types of personal property. Lee Drexler, president of Esquire Appraisals, Inc. of New York City and Westchester, is an experienced appraiser of fine arts, furniture and jewelry and has seen many unique pieces throughout her career. We spoke with Lee recently and asked if she could share with us some of the more interesting things that she has seen over the years.
One such story that she shares in the video below is of a woman who wanted her to appraise her engagement ring. It appears the woman had take the ring in to be reset earlier and had never been fully satisfied with the look and feel of the ring afterwards. Well, as you might suspect, it didn’t take Ms. Drexler long to discover that in fact the ring she was given back was fake. Both the diamond and the gold that it was set in were no longer real. An awful fact to find out so many years later, but as Lee says, she is brought in to reveal an ugly truth a lot of times.
Lee Drexler recently filmed a presentation with James Cohen on the legal aspects of appraisals for CLE credit on Lawline.com. The program covers the issue from both sides, the attorney and the appraiser. Lee has also written a book called Fabulous Finds, where she shares stories like this about finding valuable pieces that nobody even knew existed.
To contact Lee Drexler, call 212-889-2580. Please enjoy the short video below, and look for the CLE lecture soon.
Posted: July 30th, 2009
By: Julia Hardinger
Category: Career Corner, Law Firms, Lawline.com
Hardinger & Tanenholz has recently fielded questions from several contract attorney candidates who are not admitted to the DC Bar regarding their eligibility to perform document review work in DC. Specifically, there seems to be genuine confusion about whether it is necessary to be admitted to the DC Bar, or whether admission to another state is sufficient.
The answer is, in general, contract attorneys performing document review must be admitted to the DC Bar.
The unauthorized practice of law is governed by District of Columbia Court of Appeals (“COA”) Rule 49, and we encourage all attorneys seeking to work in the District to read it. In 2005, the COA’s Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law (“UPL”) issued an opinion stating that Rule 49 does, in fact, apply to contract lawyers working within the District (see http://tiny.cc/OP_16_05). The Opinion held that, in general, all contract attorneys performing document review must be admitted to the DC Bar.
Specifically, the Committee opined that even if a contract lawyer is performing work that is similar to or overlapping with work performed by paralegals, such as first level document review, the attorney is engaging in the practice of law “if the person is being held out, and billed out, as a lawyer . . .” (16-05 at 5).
So, what to do if you are a contact attorney not admitted to the DC Bar, but you want to work in DC? Opinion 16-05 urges all contract attorneys who are engaging in the practice of law to seek admission. It warns, “Failure [to apply for admission] may jeopardize the lawyer’s ability to continue to practice law in the District on a contract or other basis. Failure to do so also places the lawyer in jeopardy of discipline in jurisdictions where the lawyer is admitted . . .” (16-05 at 7).
If you are not admitted to the D.C. bar, there is nothing keeping you from working as a paralegal or law clerk, even if you are admitted to practice law in another jurisdiction. Simply make your bar status very clear to anyone with whom you have professional contact, especially your employment agency and the legal service provider who will be supervising your work. You must never hold yourself out as an attorney in DC if you are not a member of the DC Bar, even if you are fully-licensed in another jurisdiction. (See Rule 49). Remind your employer that you should not be held-out or billed out as an attorney.
Finally, we encourage all contract attorneys to read the ethical rules and relevant UPL Committee decisions (http://tiny.cc/UPLWebsite) and take full responsibility for their own professional conduct. Attorneys should not risk their bar standing by relying on the representations of employment agencies and law firms that may or may not be fully aware of the applicable ethical rules.
This blog was written by Julia Hardinger, co-founder of Hardinger & Tanenholz LLP, a unique Discovery Counsel law firm that specializes in all aspects of discovery, including the end-to-end management of large-scale document reviews. This blog is the personal opinion of the author and not intended as legal advice.
Posted: July 20th, 2009
By: David Tanenholz, Esq
Category: Career Corner
David Tanenholz is the co-founder of Hardinger & Tanenholz LLP, a unique Discovery Counsel law firm that specializes in all aspects of discovery, including the end-to-end management of large-scale document reviews. http://www.hardingerlaw.com/
There is no doubt that Legal Process Outsourcing (“LPO”) companies have become a major force in the document review services market. A recent article from the Washington Business Journal cited an ABA Journal finding that there are currently about 100 LPO companies operating in India alone, and projects the industry to approach 4 Billion in revenue by 2015. Thus, it is not surprising that there has been much written about the most effective ways to evaluate and/or utilize these companies. Typically, commentators have focused on issues relating to security, privacy, confidentiality, privilege, as well as the logistics of performing litigation document reviews in a foreign country. We present here 5 less obvious questions that companies should consider before taking the LPO plunge.
How much money am I really saving?
By most accounts, the number one benefit of hiring an LPO to review your documents is to save money. Estimates vary widely, and the LPO’s themselves have not been shy about promoting the magnitude of their cost savings. A quick Internet search reveals the following cost saving estimates from various sources: “30%-70%,” “roughly 50%,” and “60% - 90%.”
Where are they getting these numbers?
One answer may be that they are simply comparing the hourly billable rate of their local document reviewers to more expensive US counterparts. But to whom, exactly, are they comparing their reviewers? Its easy to calculate a 90% cost savings if you are comparing a $300/hr AMLAW 100 associate to a $30/hr reviewer in India. But is that the proper comparison? Fewer and fewer US reviews are being performed by the expensive big-firm associates. It is much more common— and a much fairer comparison— for reviews to be performed by some type of lower-cost staff or contract attorney. Even in big cities like NY and DC, contract attorneys can be hired from staffing agencies in the $50/hr range, slightly more if special languages or technical skills are needed. These same attorneys can often be hired directly in the $35/hr range, and (sadly) at even lower rates during this current recession. Craigslist postings even reveal offers for US contract attorneys for as low as $20/hr. Most foreign LPOs offer their reviewers in the $30 range. US paralegals can often be obtained from staffing agencies in the $25/hr range. Thus, the analysis of “how much cheaper?” depends greatly on the who you selection as the standard for comparison..
In addition to the question of “to whom” should LPO reviewers be compared, you should also raise questions about the “what” the LPO is claiming to be cheaper than. In comparing costs between potential US attorney reviews and potential LPO reviews, you must always compare apples to apples. Many LPOs are only willing or able to perform basic, first-pass review for potential relevancy or potential privilege. Often, the “potentially relevant” set then needs to be sent to domestic attorneys for final relevancy calls, issues coding, confidentiality review, or final privilege review. The costs of these extra levels of review must be factored in when comparing the LPO review to a comparable review by licensed US attorneys who may be performing those “second-level” tasks during their initial review. Because work sent back to the US for higher level review tends to be performed by associates rather than contract attorneys, even a small amount of documents being re-reviewed greatly increase the total cost of the LPO review.
Finally, when dealing with the issues of cost, clients should always demand transparency from their vendors and counsel. It is reasonable to ask how much of the reviewer rate is being allocated between salary, overhead, and profit. A December 2008 article from Asia Legal Business News noted that the annual salary for an Indian LPO attorney starts around $6,000 per year. That roughly translates into $3/hr. So, your comfort of being charged a lower review rate for an LPO reviewer might quickly dissipate if you realize that 80-90% your fee is comprising overhead and vendor profit. Once you are aware of an LPO’s markup (or domestic vendor/law firm’s), you are better able to negotiate the best price for those services.
Thus, when evaluating the “cost savings” claims by LPOs, you should always ask them to clarify to whom and what they are comparing their costs, and also insist that any assumptions or benchmarks they are using are transparent and appropriate.
How does discovery work in the host country?
One of the primary benefits promoted by LPOs is that their attorneys are well-educated and well-trained, and might even provide superior performance to US lawyers and paralegals. For example, in a March 2009 article of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, outsourcing consultant Stephen Seckler noted that India has “a large pool of highly educated law school graduates who have studied common law and have a strong command of the English language.” Similarly, KPO Consultants comments on its website that “Attorneys in India are familiar with the law doctrines (sic) as Indian legal system is similar to the legal systems of the UK, US, and also Indian legal training is conducted solely in English.”
Having been to India and met with and trained LPO document review attorneys, it is undoubtedly true that they are well-educated, intelligent, and focused. What is unclear from the above-cited quotes is how well to they understand the US discovery process. Simply saying that they are familiar with “common-law” or “similar” legal systems is insufficient. Having a Common Law system just means that the rule of law is based on judicial interpretation of case law, rather than solely on legislative or executive action. While this is useful background in working on US cases, it does not provide any insight into whether foreign attorneys have any legal training or experience with the US system of voluntary discovery and large-scale litigation document reviews. So, before you merely accept the fact that LPO reviewers are “attorneys” and familiar with the US legal system, delve further into precisely the type of discovery and document reviews that occur in their home country. You may find that with respect to the important roles of relevancy, privilege, confidentiality, etc., you are starting at square one.
What are the licensing requirement in the host country?
In the US, licensed attorneys must (1) graduate from a law school accredited by the ABA, (2) pass a bar examination in the state in which they wish to practice, and (3) remain in good standing. If the LPOs are touting their reviewers as “attorneys,” you should find out what are the requirements needed to achieve that status in the host country. Is there a governing body, like the ABA, that accredits schools? Do standardized tests need to be passed to qualify as an attorney?
Moreover, many LPOs like to promote the fact that they only hire the best and brightest local attorneys. SDD Global’s website provides a typical claim: ”Work is done by top law graduates and experienced lawyers and/or former law professors from some of the best legal outsourcing companies, law firms and law schools in India.”
When claims like these are made, its best to ask them to explain the basis for their characterizations. What do they mean when they use terms like “top graduates” and “top tier schools” ? Is there some type of published ranking system? What separates the top schools or students from the lower ranked ones? Are there ongoing CLE requirement like many those of US jurisdictions?
If having foreign reviewers be “attorneys” is an important factor in your decision process, you should learn exactly what that term means for those reviewers.
How are the outsourced attorneys to be trained for your case?
Even when LPO reviewers have a solid legal background and outstanding English proficiency, there is still the issue of who is going to teach them the language of your company, case, or industry? There obviously needs to be some transfer of information from the client to the LPO. Before signing on, you should obtain a clear understanding of how the LPO plans on learning that information and instilling it in their reviewers. Is the client responsible for providing that training? Is outside litigation counsel going to do it? Is the LPO itself capable of providing that training? Do they have experience in drafting manuals and other reference aids? These are all issues that should be discussed in detail before a decision on using an LPO can properly be made.
Who is responsible for the supervision of the outsourced attorneys?
Similarly, who is responsible for supervising the document review? In August 2008, the ABA rendered Formal Opinion 09-451 that said the outsourcing trend was “salutary,” but that outsourcing attorneys have the burden of ensuring that “tasks are delegated to individuals who are competent to perform them, and then to oversee the execution of the project adequately and appropriately.” How are these duties to be discharged?
Are you performing the supervision? Is your litigation counsel? Is it permissible to “outsource” the supervision of the review to the LPO? For whomever is providing the supervision, what systems are being put in place to accomplish it competently? Will the outsourcing attorney have somebody on-site to manage the reviewer? How will information be exchanged between the review team and the litigation team/client? Should domestic attorneys be engaged specially to oversee the project? Addressing these types of issues will help ensure not only that the outsourcing attorney’s ethical obligations are met, but also that your case is being litigated efficiently and properly.
Engaging an LPO is a huge proposition, entailing potentially huge risks and rewards. Be sure to ask the right questions so that you can make a fully-informed, responsible decision as to how to staff your review project.
Posted: February 18th, 2009
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Lawline.com, Lawyer Profiles
At Lawline.com, we could not be more proud to have such an elite group of lawyers on our faculty. We strive to produce the highest quality Continuing Legal Education courses on the web, and it is our faculty members that make that happen. And when one of them launches a new venture, we are quick to check it out.
The new blog is designed as an educational resource about e-discovery best practices, featuring insightful content authored by both Fernando Pinguelo and law students from across the country. In it, they combine practical experiences and theoretical knowledge to create an e-discovery blog that identifies cases that expose e-discovery mishaps at the employee level, exposes the specific conduct that caused a problem for a company, and offers suggestions on how to learn from these mistakes and prevent similar mishaps from occurring in the future.
If you are interested in the many facets of e-discovery and want to learn more, this is a great resource to check out.
Posted: December 2nd, 2008
By: Julia Hardinger, Esq. and David Tanenholz, Esq.
Category: Career Corner
In today’s turbulent economy, corporate litigation clients are expecting the highest-quality legal services while demanding creative cost cutting solutions. In-house counsel and finance departments are closely examining legal budgets and slashing unnecessary costs and questioning going through all expenditures with a fine tooth comb. An area that is continually stunning in house counsel is the shocking cost of large-scale discovery and the review and processing of electronically stored information (“ESI”).
An entirely new industry is exploding in response to the need for more cost effective solutions. Business professionals armed with sophisticated technology are creating a perception in the marketplace that clients can either choose between expensive and old-fashioned methods employed by law firms, or outsource the work to companies using efficient and low-cost alternatives.
So, how are these consultants prying work out from underneath us? They are capitalizing on two hefty shortcomings in traditional law firm operations:
1. First, that as unapologetic luddites, we are embarrassingly slow to embrace new technology.
2. Second, our time-honored and cherished hierarchy of junior associates, of counsel and partners is no longer always the best way to staff large document review cases. As a result, these shrewd legal consultants, technology specialists, staffing agencies and legal process outsourcing companies are all grabbing the attention of our clients with unsupportable claims that they possess the secret key to dramatically reducing litigation costs by as much as 90%.
What gives? Why are there hundreds of new companies convincing our clients that they can do a better job in litigation than we can?
First, there is no question that the legal industry has failed to maintain pace with the technological advances enjoyed by the rest of the corporate world. We are constantly adjusting and reacting to the developments made by our clients rather than anticipating them. We greatly undervalue our information technology departments and routinely shun any suggestion that technological savvy is an occupational necessity. But as a profession that bills our time hourly, we must understand and exploit every tool that could possibly reduce the time we spend doing our jobs. In other words, we can’t just know what to do; we have to know the best way to do it.
Second, the explosion of ESI has amplified one aspect of litigation in particular; the review and analysis of massive volumes of information, most of which is only marginally relevant to the issues in the underlying litigation. Contrary to what the outsourcing industry wants us to believe, this drudge work is nothing new to the legal industry. For years, junior associates have been paying their dues sorting through dusty cardboard file boxes in warehouses. What’s changed is the sheer volume of information that needs to be evaluated, and the speed at which the courts expect us to produce it. Most large law firms have failed to adjust to this change by restructuring staffing models appropriately. Instead of meeting our client needs with an assortment of attorney capabilities at a wide range of hourly billing rates, we have insisted on charging standard associate fees. Our stubbornness makes us vulnerable to charges of over-billing and susceptible to lower-priced competitors.
Finally, it is worth noting that the brainy consultants making these claims slyly dismiss ultimate responsibility and accountability for any work with which they assist. What they don’t advertise is that they are completely unqualified, not to mention professionally prohibited, from delivering final sign-off (i.e. completing) any document review or discovery project. Therefore, the prices they quote are never the actual cost, just a portion of the total cost.
As lawyers, it is high time for us to wake up and adjust our professional training and firm organizational structure to meet the needs of our clients. Change is never easy but better that it comes from within the law firms rather than forced upon us as profession. Clients should not have to choose between competent representation and reasonable costs. We need to face this issue not just so we can keep our clients, but because it is our professional and ethical obligation to do so.
(Hardinger & Tanenholz LLP is a Discovery Counsel law firm based in Washington, DC. More information about their unique practice can be found at www.hardingerlaw.com).
Posted: September 25th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, CLE Programming, Lawline.com
We love it when our faculty members get publicity, especially if it’s for something good. This week, Fernando M. Pinguelo, an attorney at the firm Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, as well as a faculty member at Lawline.com, has been named to New Jersey’s Top 40 Lawyers Under 40.
The list of “40 under 40” profiles lawyers who have achieved a great deal in the early part of their careers and show a huge potential for continued success in the legal field. The lawyers that are featured have demonstrated unique talents in their field and leadership within the legal community. These legal professionals have achievements in the industry and public service that distinguish them among their peers.
Posted: August 19th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, CLE Programming
Though Mr. West focuses his piece primarily on getting professional certification or advanced degrees to move forward professionally, much of what he says can apply to mandatory continuing education as well. Not only are online courses more convenient for those of us working full time, but the cost of these programs are much cheaper than live courses, both on and off-site.
Posted: July 24th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Lawyer Profiles, Technology Corner
Q&A with Keith Jones, Computer Forensic Expert Witness and Senior Partner of Jones Dykstra & Associates (www.jonesdykstra.com)
Topic: How can lawyers successfully select and work with a computer forensic expert witness?
Q: How can lawyers find a qualified computer forensic expert witness?
Keith Jones: Legal professionals can employ many different methods for finding an expert witness in the field of computer forensics. Many people claim to be computer forensic experts, but they do not have enough knowledge or experience to provide iron-clad testimony, should the need arise.
Asking for referrals from a trusted source is usually the best way to find a quality person. Realize that you are hiring an individual expert, so even though the company you’re hiring has a great reputation, be sure you know the credentials and background of the specific person who will work on your case.
Once you have a few candidates, do your own research on those potential experts – verify their resume and background. Remember that opposing counsel will be doing their homework on this, in an effort to possibly discredit your witness.
In addition to having impeccable credentials as an expert witness, the computer forensic specialist should also have excellent communication skills. If the case goes to trial, he or she will need to effectively explain complicated technical subjects to judges and juries that may have had no prior technical training.
Q: What kinds of credentials and certifications should a lawyer look for in a qualified computer forensic expert?
Keith Jones: Legal professionals should inquire about whether the individual (not company) that they are considering as an expert has at least one or more the following non-product-oriented certifications:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE) Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)
- Certified International Information Systems Forensics Investigator (CIFI)
Also, lawyers should be aware of the following forensic software packages, which are often used to properly collect and preserve electronic evidence.
- EnCase® by Guidance Software.
- The Forensic Toolkit® (FTK)
- X-Ways Forensics
Note that training certifications on the above products do not automatically qualify someone as a computer forensics expert. They only mean that the person has gone through the training course and passed the exam that was created by the vendor. The expert’s previous testimony record and other “in the field” computer forensics experience are often more valid points for evaluation.
Q. What should a lawyer be vigilant about when working with a computer forensic witness?
Keith Jones: The most damaging thing to a lawyer/expert witness relationship is the possibility of miscommunication. The attorney and the expert need to be on the same page when it comes to which pieces of information are important, and which are less so. The legal professional needs to challenge the expert as much as possible and ask bold questions to pull out the salient points and expose vulnerabilities. This leads to fewer gaping holes that opposing counsel can exploit to discredit your client and your witness.
Also, remember that many criminal investigations result from low-profile administrative or civil disputes. Therefore, all electronic evidence must be handled with the utmost care and attention, in case the data becomes relevant on a much more serious level. The legal professional would be strongly advised to keep copies of evidence inventory and chain of custody documentation. Failure to handle evidence properly can be a damaging or fatal blow to your client’s future case down the line, if not during the matter at hand.
Q: At the outset of working on a case, what should the attorney provide to the computer forensics expert in terms of information, direction and guidance?
Keith Jones: It’s a fine line. Usually when an expert starts a case, he or she doesn’t want to know too much to reduce any question of bias. If the attorney is bringing a case to trial, he or she already believes his side of the story. If somebody is accused of stealing something, then the attorney already believes that the crime did occur. The expert cannot allow him/herself to be convinced of any such conclusion prior to examining the evidence, so the lawyer must be careful not to attempt to persuade the expert prior to the investigation.
Computer forensic experts need to examine electronic evidence in an unbiased manner. The lawyer needs to give them just the most essential information, so they don’t get biased, but so they can ask pertinent and probing questions. If the lawyer gives the expert too much information, that can work against you. As an expert, though you want to know the whole story, you have to decide what you absolutely need to know, and what you don’t really need to know.
Q. You've served as a computer forensic witness on many high-profile cases, including US v. Duronio. How did you effectively communicate highly technical information to the jury?
Keith Jones: The Duronio case was very complicated in terms of explaining computer logs and showing how data got from point A to point B. I had to walk the jury step by step to show how the defendant placed a “logic bomb” of malicious computer code inside the computers of his employer (Paine Webber). I had to explain the basics of how a computer functions to show how I figured out that the digital bomb was placed on the company’s IT system by Mr. Duronio. A computer forensic witness often needs to explain very simple things like that, even though they may seem obvious.
In this case, I had to go a lot further and prove that what I was saying was true, even when the defense was calling it untrue. Experts need to be able to break down the information to a digestible form that can be understood by the jury. Also, they must be prepared to back up their statements, even when questions come from an unexpected or contradictory direction.
Q: What are the primary keys to a successful attorney/expert witness relationship?
Keith Jones: First, the lawyer and the expert witness need to acknowledge that they come from completely different backgrounds. The attorney shouldn’t assume that the expert is going to know anything about law, and the expert shouldn’t expect attorney would know anything about computers. The terminologies and subject matter for both fields are vastly different.
Both need to thoroughly understand what the project entails. The attorney has to realize that people can’t see electronic data – it’s not a tangible object, it’s abstract. Therefore, the attorney and witness need to work together to make it “real” for the audience – the judge and jury.
Q: In your experience, what are the most dangerous pitfalls for attorneys when working with an expert witness - what mistakes are made most often?
Keith Jones: The biggest mistake I’ve seen attorneys make is when they hire computer forensic experts who are not the “cream of the crop.” If the self-proclaimed expert has no college degrees, and just a bunch of certifications from software vendors, that’s pretty hard to defend against when attacked by opposing counsel. I’ve seen people’s backgrounds explode on them and the attorney who hired them, and I’ve seen “experts” make up their own methodology to do computer forensics without basing it on any proven expertise or approach.
Unfortunately, there’s no universally agreed-upon certification that distinguishes a quality expert from a charlatan. This is why exclusively using experts who come recommended by credible sources is such an important priority for the lawyer to consider.
Q: In collaboration with attorneys, what ways have you found to effectively communicate and display technical information to judges and juries?
Keith Jones: Any type of visual presentation is good. However, I’ve seen other experts put up tables and graphs images blown up on poster board and that puts even me to sleep. Ideally, you want a movie that’s very visual; at minimum, use PowerPoint or something that moves a little bit. Granted, you can’t do this in every single scenario - it depends on the level of your case. When I have the ability to use PowerPoint to get our point across, it makes my job a lot easier and my testimony is more easily understood and absorbed.
Q. What concrete steps can an attorney take to maximize chances of success in selecting and working with a computer forensic expert witness?
Keith Jones: The #1 thing is that the attorney should get along with and like working with the expert. See if there’s a personality conflict before you hire the expert. You want the chemistry between you to work when you’re on the stand, so you’re not at cross-purposes during the trial.
Secondly, let the buyer beware when working with large computer forensic firms. A lot of major consulting companies will do a “bait and switch” – the people that present their credentials to you in the selling phase aren’t necessarily the individuals that will be your assigned experts. Be sure to ask and investigate who would actually work on your account, so there are no surprises later in the game.
Lastly, verify people’s backgrounds. You would be shocked to know what some so-called professionals will fabricate to get the job. As legal professionals, you are used to doing your homework, so a decision about hiring an expert witness should be subject to the same kind of scrutiny and due diligence that you bring to your substantive legal work.
Posted: July 18th, 2008
By: Frank Furbacher
Category: Career Corner, The News Beat
James Quirk reported Tuesday in The Bergen Record that attorneys may soon be allowed to advertise their “Super Lawyer” status. Those attorneys who were honored with the prestigious title have challenged the advertising ban. Retired Appellate Division Judge Robert Fall issued a recommendation for the state after researching the issue. His recommendation, to ease the advertising ban and make the ranking methodology transparent to the public, will be important in the court’s review of its previous ruling.
The ban, known as Opinion 39, was issued by the court to prevent attorneys from misleading clients with unreasonable expectations. Attorney advertising laws in New Jersey are very strict compared to their New York neighbors.
Fall states in his report, “It is evident that the Twenty-First Century consumer is more sophisticated than ever and actively seeks information prior to making purchase choices, including the selection of legal representation.”
Posted: July 1st, 2008
By: Paramjit Mahli
Category: Career Corner, Opinion Corner
When it comes to legal public relations, attorneys often confuse editorial with advertising, and assume that media relations is only an effective tool for high-profile litigation cases. This lack of understanding of the role of public relations in law firm marketing has resulted in small law firms missing out on dozens of opportunities for rainmaking and building their book of business. The truth of the matter is that public relations is fundamental to increasing visibility and building credibility in your target market and therefore is at the heart of every good marketing plan.
Some common reasons attorneys cite for not incorporating public relations are not having enough time, a lack of understanding of its role, or the dearth of resources to make public relations part of their business development plans. Coupled with stereotypes of the press, such as reporters’ interest lying with big law firm news or their only wanting the drama and not the facts, and the cynicism reporters have towards attorneys, it’s no surprise that media relations is frequently relegated to the bottom of business development activities, particularly if the firm has already achieved some “visibility” that did not result in new clients.
Paramjit L. Mahli of The Sun Communication Group is a former journalist who has worked with international news organizations including CNN Business News, and now helps small to mid-sized law firms increase their visibility, build their reputation and helps them grow their business by using public relations. To get the entire report FREE “ How To Get A Reporter’s Attention Without Losing Your Shirt!” Sign up at http://www.suncommunicationsgroup.com/subscribe.html
Posted: June 18th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, SHOWCASE CORNER
“What we try to do here is use new technology to make legal research easier and faster,” explains CEO Ed Walters. Eight and a half years after its inception, the company is pushing forward faster than ever. They currently have 300,000 subscribers, most of which come from Bar Association memberships who offer it free for their members. For example, if you are a member of the Virginia State Bar, you have access to all of Fastcase’s services for free.
The theory, an easily searchable database of case law, with results displayed exactly the way you need them, is catching on at firms who have been hesitant to change. They allow each user to customize their search results through a number of different ways, including showing those cases that are cited the most first. This makes sorting through cases faster and more efficient, saving lawyers time and money.
There is no new system to learn, no extensive training required, and the future is very bright. They are introducing a new interactive timeline display, as a much more appealing way to view search results. This viewer display cases in a search along a timeline, charting the cases relevance as compared to similar results. This makes finding the right cases easier than ever before.
In addition, Fastcase plans to launch a new service later this year. State statutes, which have previously been difficult to find and maneuver on the web, will now be part of the Fastcase database. Statutes from all 50 states will be searchable, and easily viewed on the website. This is a great addition to Fastcase’s extensive information center, which includes the largest free law library in the world, located at plol.org. “We are democratizing the assets of the law,” Ed says as he explains why people have found Fastcase to be so helpful. It is clear that there is a new face in the legal research industry that will be here to stay.
Posted: June 10th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Opinion Corner, Technology Corner
As a lawyer, you are never far away from your work. Essentially, to serve your clients best, you have to be available most of the time. It is a job and an industry that requires long hours and a lot of extra effort. And now, with new technology that makes working from home and on the road easier and more convenient than ever, that trend is only increasing.
Many people thought that with the onset of new technologies like cell phones, PDA’s, and virtual machines would limit work hours because it gives people more freedom. The result, however, was the opposite. All of the sudden, when you leave the office you are not leaving work behind. Hours got longer because the boundaries between work life and home life disappeared.
There have been many recent news stories about the excessive use of blackberries and mobile web devices to check email and catch up on work into the late hours of the night. It causes increased stress at home and limits time with family and friends when you used to be more available. This leads to unhappy spouses, limited time with children, and less free time during vacation or off days.
It is important to remember that technology is meant to help make our lives easier. Set limits on yourself when you are away from the office. Start out by trying to designate hours without any mobile devices. Focus your attention on family and non-work activities so you can get back into more of a balance between work and home. Though work is important, and the satisfaction of your clients is vital, you cannot let that take over your life. Technology is a great thing, just don’t let it control you.
Posted: June 6th, 2008
By: Frank Furbacher
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner, Entrepreneurship
Frank Furbacher Jr. is currently a senior at Manhattanville College. He is the President of the Student Government Association and a member of the varsity baseball team. Frank is an entrepreneur himself, and an aspiring law school student. You can contact Frank at Frank@lawline.com with any questions or comments.
Posted: June 5th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Lawline.com, Lawyer Profiles, The News Beat
Earlier this week, Melvyn Weiss, Plaintiff’s Attorney with the firm Milberg LLP, was sentenced to 30 months in jail for pleading guilty to participating in a conspiracy whereby plaintiffs were paid a kickback in lucrative class action settlements. His attorney, Ben Brafman, is a well respected criminal lawyer in New York, and a Lawline.com faculty member.
We caught up with Mr. Brafman earlier today and asked him about the sentence. He mentioned that the 30 months was below the maximum sought by the government of 33 months, but more than what he had been hoping for. He said that he understood why the court had imposed such a sentence, with Mr. Weiss’s age and years of respectable work helping to keep the sentence below the maximum that the government had been seeking.
Posted: June 2nd, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner, SHOWCASE CORNER
As lawyers, we are constantly seeking to improve ourselves professionally by learning how to serve our clients more effectively. Sometimes it can be a struggle to reach new clients, work through existing cases, and keep up with all of our professional relationships at once. Bounce takes you through stories of failure and success to show you that life is supposed to be made up of ups and downs. It is the low points that make you appreciate the high points, and the high points that keep you pushing forward through the low points.
True business confidence is developed through a number of different experiences, all of which lead you to where you are today, and where you will be in the years to come. Failure is no fun, we all know that. But it happens every day. Do not fear it or run from it, use it to drive you to success.
Posted: May 27th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, CLE Programming, SHOWCASE CORNER
Recently, we were lucky enough to have Harvey visit us to talk about his career. He discussed with us the experience of trying cases in New York City today as compared to cases in the past. “Trials, essentially, are a search for the truth,” he says with a smile on his face, “Always has been, always will be.” He speaks with fond memories of some of his first trials and the things that he has learned along the way.
Today, he spends much of his time teaching the next generation of lawyers. “I don’t so much feel that I owe the field of law anything,” he responds when asked why he teaches, “but I enjoy passing on the knowledge that you can only get through experience.” Mr. Weitz feels that these law students and young attorneys deserve to know enough to get them where they want to be.
Posted: May 20th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, CLE Programming, Opinion Corner, The News Beat
It is not enough to talk about the state of legal education in the United States. As a company that is based on the philosophy that learning is a never-ending process, and informative, easy to get continuing education, we also see the need for education across the globe. In this day in age, where entire cultures, societies, and economies intersect to form a world without boundaries, it is important for education to expand to keep up with growth.
I came across this article on the first Law Development Center which opened in Rwanda earlier this month. The National Institute of Legal Practice and Development is a strong step in the right direction for a country rebuilding itself from the ground up. The institute will be the foundation of legal development and education in the country. It will offer a nine-month course in law and it will award a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice and Continuing Legal Education.
Posted: May 15th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner, Lawyer Profiles, SHOWCASE CORNER
How many of us could benefit from knowing a lot more about mortgages than we currently do? It seems like the credit crisis and the problems in the housing market have made us all more aware of how little we know, or think we know, about mortgages. Well there is good news; Dave Muti is here to help.
Dave Muti is a former real estate attorney, with 17 years of experience in the real estate industry. He is currently a mortgage planner, and has a new book out called Mortgages: What You Need to Know, Strategies to Take Control of Your Financial Future. He wrote the book as a culmination of everything he has seen and learned over nearly the past two decades, to better inform people of the options that are out there, and to help people avoid the most common mistakes that will land you in deep financial trouble.
Top 3 Mistakes People Make:
1. Buying a house beyond their means. Too many people follow the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. They want the biggest and the best that they can afford. But the truth is, people think that they can afford a lot more than they’ve got. They don’t plan for the future and they wind up living in a house that they can’t pay for.
3. Getting a 30-year fixed rate mortgage because it’s the most common. Everyone pitches a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. However, it is not the right mortgage type for the majority of people buying a home. It is up to people to do the homework, ask themselves the seven key questions and learn what type of mortgage is really right for them.
This book is a good reference for people of all walks of life. It is a detailed introduction for someone in just starting out in real estate. It is a good refresher, with clearer explanations, for those already involved in real estate. And it is an excellent resource for the average person who has a mortgage, or is looking to get a mortgage as well as the financial advisor looking to learn a few more pointers.
Posted: May 13th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Opinion Corner, SHOWCASE CORNER
The need for consulting services in these areas is growing, and the importance of companies like Jones Dykstra & Associates has never been clearer. Law firms need to be aware of the options that are out there, and be more equipped to choose a company when they have this type of computer project on their hands. Brian and Keith offer three important pieces of advice when selecting a company to help with E-discovery or Computer Forensics.
3. Once you hire a company, bring them in up front. Too many times, a law firm will budget and plan an E-discovery project on their own, without consulting the E-discovery firm. This can lead to gross strategic errors that cannot be changed at a later point. Bringing in the consultant up front can save a lot of unnecessary time and money.
More and more, law firms are finding the need to hire outside services to provide computer help. And as competition has grown, so has the need for information. Lawyers and law firms need to know what is out there and spend the time and the money to get the jobs done right.
Posted: May 5th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner, Opinion Corner
Happy Cinco De Mayo to everyone! It’s Monday and that means it’s time to get back to the office. May 5th means that we have made it a third of the way through another year. So far, this year has been one marked by overall economic troubles and rather interesting presidential primaries. It can be difficult at times to escape the day to day grind and take a step back to look at things on a larger scale. But now that we are in the fifth month of the year, I believe it is time to take a day or two to analyze how the year is going for you in a business sense.
Each and every one of us starts the new year with plans for new business development and continued marketing and client relations strategies. But having those plans is just the beginning, now it is time to see whether or not we are keeping up with those plans, and whether or not they are helping us achieve our goals. Maybe you have been so busy trying to keep up that you have forgotten all about some of the new projects you wanted to implement. Or maybe the tough economic conditions have caused you to alter the way you are handling business development practices up until this point. Though everyone’s situation is going to vary, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you think a little bit deeper about your performance to date.
1. How is your online presence compared to where it was at the end of 2007? This is an important one because online marketing is not only effective, but almost always cheaper and easier to implement than other marketing strategies. Are you blogging? Have you upgraded your website? How are you showing up in Google and other search engines?
2. How many new contacts have you made? These can be any type of contacts you may have since last year. Maybe you went to a few networking events, or maybe you have gotten a few referrals from previous contacts. It’s a numbers game and it is important, especially in today’s economy, to get out a meet people. Develop relationships and see where they lead, because they can eventually lead to new business.
3. Are you spending money in the right places? If you have started any new marketing campaigns this year, it may be time to look back and see what kind of return you are getting on them. Since times may be slow, it is important not to spend too much money on something that does not seem to be working. Take a long look at the numbers and see if you can’t cut some unnecessary costs or at least redistribute your money to those initiatives that have been working a little better.
Posted: April 22nd, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Law Firms, Opinion Corner, Technology Corner
Lawyers are notoriously slow adapting to change. Changes in the way we do business, in the way we hire new employees, in the way we reach out to the public, are never headed up by the legal community. It is a profession marked by long standing traditions and a very specific set of values and standards. But now, as new technologies continue to open up doors for all businesses every single day, it is important that even lawyers and law firms try to keep up.
I recently read this blog, which addressed the issue of banning certain websites in large law firms. Citing a survey, it was argued that banning social networking sites can hurt recruiting efforts for new hires because today’s young professionals have grown up with these online communities.
I would take this a step further and say that smaller law firms can use social networking sites and blogs to help their recruiting effort against large firms. The big law firms have always had an advantage when it comes to recruiting the best talent out of law school for the simple fact that they can pay more. But recruiting talent is as important as ever, so why not look for new ways to do it? Treat your potential employees as if they are potential clients. Actively go after their “business”.
Speaking directly to law students and young lawyers via blogs, online communities, and other web formats allows employers to tap into a whole new world, one that is inhabited almost entirely by the next generation of workers. Already many other businesses are starting to see the potential in taking advantage of these new online communication platforms, and it is time for the law to take notice.
Instead of banning such websites, use them to their fullest extent.
Don’t hide from the future, embrace it. The next generation of lawyers are out there looking for a place to work. Go and find them.
Posted: March 17th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, CLE Programming, Law School, The News Beat
In New York, as in many other states, newly admitted attorneys who need to satisfy their CLE credits must do so in person. So Online CLE providers like Lawline.com are not able to provide this “Transitional” Continuing Legal Education. Luckily, there are some great programs out there designed specifically for these new attorneys. One such program is the Bridge the Gap Weekend, presented by New York Law School and the Marino Institute of CLE.
This April 5th and 6th, newly admitted attorneys can fulfill all of their initial CLE credit requirements in one weekend. The program, which takes place at New York Law School, offers a very cost effective and simple way to complete all of these transitional credits. The courses that will be included in the weekend will focus primarily on basic skills, knowledge, and techniques needed to be a successful practitioner.
The Bridge-the-Gap Weekend Program for April will meet from 9:00 am - 6:00 pm at New York Law School, 47 Worth Street, Building A300, New York City. Tickets to the event are limited and are sure to sell fast, so register today. You can do so by visiting www.micle.net.
Posted: March 3rd, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner, Marketing Tips
We all know how important it is for lawyers to get their names out to the public as much as possible. Perceptions, after all, are everything. More and more, public relations is the number one avenue taken by attorneys looking to do more business development. There is a certain credibility firms can gain when quoted in the press or featured at events. And for many attorneys, the idea of public relations is still a relative mystery. This is partly due to their legal backgrounds, and also partly due to the fact that PR itself is a drastically evolving field.
That is where a public relations firm or coach can come in handy. Just as your clients leave the legal stuff up to you, you can leave your public relations up to the professionals. There are many firms out there designed to work especially with lawyers and law firms to help them increase their media presence. One such company in the New York area is The Sun Communication Group, who works primarily with small to mid-size law firms.
Boutique firms such as The Sun Communication Group can help lawyers do everything from getting published, speaking at conferences, and other activities that publicize lawyers in newer and fresher ways. One of the major benefits of working with a specialized PR company is that they already have all the right contacts and necessary information. You can rely on them to get the job done rather than hire and train someone yourself, wasting a lot of your time and resources.
The general old-school way of thinking for lawyers is that you can sit back and wait for the business to come to you no longer holds true. With more options out there today, it is vital for attorneys, especially those at smaller firms, to go out and approach potential clients in a number of different ways. Public relations and the legal industry are slowly growing together and firms like The Sun Communications Group are paving the way for attorneys to grow their business through visibility and reputation.
Posted: February 20th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner, Entrepreneurship, Lawyer Profiles, SHOWCASE CORNER, Videos
Daniel Gershburg started his own law practice straight out of law school. To many people around him, this was a crazy decision, one that they did not understand. He had been a solid student with strong experience, and was on path to work for a large firm and earn a nice wage. But Daniel was looking for something different, and he felt strongly about doing his own thing. He recently shared with us his five step process to starting your own practice.
1. Get Mentors. Learn as much as you possibly can from as many people as you can meet. This will help you create personal and professional networks as well as increase and expand your knowledge of many legal issues.
2. Find Office Space. You will need to look as professional as possible, so it is important to have space where you can meet with clients. Virtual and home offices will not cut it if you truly want your practice to grow.
3. Get in Touch with Every Single Association Available to Help You. There are so many people out there to help you get started, the trick is just knowing where to look. Bar associations and business development organizations are a great place to start.
4. Good Client Relationships. Too many large firms are run like corporations, with little or no focus on client support. Adapt a customer service philosophy toward dealing with clients. Be there for them whenever they need you and you will get many more referrals.
5. Strong Web Presence. Your website is a great tool for marketing, referral generation, and client management. Use it wisely and it will save you money in addition to getting your name out there.
Daniel Gershburg is also a Lawline.com faculty member. Please look for his upcoming course entitled, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: The Initial Meeting, which is coming soon. For a brief video interview with Daniel, click play below:
Posted: February 15th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Friday Five, Lawline.com, Opinion Corner
On the Friday leading into Presidents’ Day Weekend, it only seems fitting to think about the oval office. Who’s been there, who’s going to be there next year, and what you are going to be doing on Monday instead of coming into work. And, as lawyers, it is important to note that of the 43 leaders this nation has had to date, 25 of them have been lawyers. This is a staggering number, one that does not go unnoticed. There are many reasons that a lawyer would make a good president, but only five that made our list below. Enjoy!
TOP 5 REASONS LAWYERS MAKE GOOD PRESIDENTS
1. Good Negotiators. Negotiation plays a key role in many aspects of a President’s responsibilities. You have to be able to negotiate with lawmakers to pass certain bills, as well as deal with other world leaders to work out deals and international laws. Negotiation is a give and take where both sides end up happy with the result, and lawyers have a lot of experience in this type of interaction.
2. Confident Speakers. Lawyers have to be able to convey their thoughts clearly in front of a group of people. They have to sound knowledgeable and accurate at all times. This is important in a President because a good speaker can have a calming effect on the country. In addition, the speeches that a President makes can have a lasting effect on the nation’s policies and affairs so it is vital to send the right message at all times.
3. Knowledge of the Law. This one is pretty obvious, as lawyers of course you will have a strong knowledge of the law, especially the area you practice. When a President has a knowledge of the law it adds to his ability to govern. Key areas such as constitutional law, international laws, and business and corporate law will play a huge role in policy decisions of any president. And we have seen what happens when a president takes action with no regard for the law whatsoever.
4. Problem Solving. Lawyers have the ability to see a problem from a number of different angles. As a trial attorney, it is key to learn all the facts of a case and choose the best course of action in order to win a case. As president, it is important to gather all the necessary information about every decision that needs to be made and choose based on the greater good of the people. Presidents need to be able to see all the possible solutions and outcomes, and then choose the best option.
5. Bullsh*t Ability. Let’s face it, the President will get into a tough spot from time to time. They all have. Most of the time it cannot be avoided, especially because of the constant media bombardment. It is important for a President to think and act on the fly in order to keep the nation’s confidence and support through the tougher times.
In the end, who’s to say what really makes a good president. Law has definitely proved to be a good launching point for a Presidential Nominee. 25 men have made it from the law office to the oval office, and we may see yet another one do it this year.
Posted: February 8th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner, Friday Five, Lawline.com, Opinion Corner
As an Online CLE provider, Lawline.com deals a lot with legal assistants and paralegals who are interested in our Continuing Legal Education programs. That got us to thinking, what makes a good paralegal or personal assistant? Attorneys, like any employer, should know the fundamental skills and talents they are looking for when they decide to hire. A bad hire, whether it is a personal assistant, secretary, or paralegal, can cost you unnecessary time, money, and stress. This week’s Friday Five is our guide to a successful hire.
TOP FIVE THINGS ATTORNEYS SHOULD LOOK FOR WHEN HIRING HELP
1. Communication Skills. This is crucial. The ability to communicate in person, on the phone, and through email is as important as any other skill. To limit wasted time and effort on your part, you need to be able to rely on your assistants to communicate with clients and other personnel as if it was you the whole time. The more they can do and say on their own, the less time you will have to spend clearing up mistakes or dealing with insignificant tasks.
2. Professionalism. These people that you hire will be interacting with your clients on a daily basis. In a way, they represent you and your practice just as much as you do. You need to make sure that they appear professional and well-mannered at all times in order to give the people they see the right impression. That all starts with how they dress and act on the initial interview, so pay attention.
3. Career Goals and Aspirations. This does not necessarily mean that they are using the job as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, but a good employee should be able to tell you about their goals. If they have a clear vision of what they desire in a job and future positions, you know that they are confident and determined workers. They will be more likely to put in the extra effort to get things done.
4. Proven Analytical Skills. This is obviously very important in the legal profession. Employees need to be detail oriented and willing to do some in depth research. Even the smallest mistakes can be costly if you are working on a case, so make sure whoever you hire understands that. This can be hard to identify in the interview process, but experience with some type of research is always a good thing to look for.
5. Experience/Interest in your Practice Area. Experience in the legal profession is definitely preferred for the simple fact that is cuts down costly training. The less you have to coach and train someone, the more you can get done. Even better is if someone has experience in your particular practice area, because they will be familiar with certain types of cases, forms, procedures, etc.
In the end, it is not easy to say what makes a person a good employee. A lot of employers use trial and error techniques, basically hoping that they get the type of worker they need. Hopefully the tips above will give you a basic starting point to build off of. But just like anything else, you learn from experience, and the more people you hire, the clearer it will be exactly what you are looking for.
Posted: January 29th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner
In a lawyer's world, it is hard to find the time to satisfy all of your clients' needs, manage professional contacts and relationships, and continue to try to gain new clients. That is one of the main reasons that Continuing Legal Education requirements have been met with moans and groans from attorneys across the country. Lawyers feel that imposing such rules is foolish, and a waste of time that could be spent working on more important matters.
But let's take a look at the issue from the clients' point of view. As a client, you should want the best possible attorney to represent you in any situation. The word, representation, in its nature, carries such a strong meaning. Your attorney is acting on your behalf in all legal matters that you may encounter.
Some people may measure a lawyer's ability and expertise in different ways, but some of the most useful information when considering a lawyer to represent you is the depth of their knowledge. This comes from a number of sources that include their primary and secondary education, their experience in a given field, the success that they have had in the past, and the amount of continuing education they do. That last part, Continuing Legal Education, may seem trivial. But without it, it is hard to ensure that a lawyer is keeping up to date on new laws and changing practice areas.
With that in mind, it makes sense that Continuing Legal Education should be mandatory. That offers the average civilian a broader range of qualified lawyers to choose from who will represent them to the best of their abilities. And from an administrative point of view, the Continuing Legal Education made available to lawyers needs to be of the highest educational value and quality. Lawyers need to get the most up to date information on a variety of subjects easily and completely in order to get the maximum benefit intended through the MCLE rules and regulations.
In the end, I think everyone, even the lawyers, can agree that a high standard needs to be set in the legal profession. With that in mind, Continuing Legal Education should be held to that standard, and should provide lawyers the opportunity to continue to learn and excel in their field throughout their careers.
Posted: January 28th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Law Firms, Opinion Corner
I recently read an opinion piece in the New York Law Journal about the practice of hourly billing. I have always contended that there are major flaws in industries that bill clients by the hour as opposed to flat fee billing. And this article, written by Steven G. Nachimson, discusses some of the major issues that need to be looked at when considering a change from this billing method.
First off, the major flaw of this system is that “it promotes inefficiency”. In a system where the longer something takes, the more you get paid, there is no motivation to “finish” anything. In essence, fees are not truly based on results or skill of the person. Sure, someone who has more experience and is more successful will get more clients and therefore get the pay that they deserve, but an inefficient person can make more money by taking more time to complete certain tasks.
Law is just one example of where this “problem” exists. A therapist, for example, has no motivation to get a client to stop coming back for more therapy. In my opinion, a therapist should charge a flat fee, payable the day that therapy is no longer needed. I think we would see a lot less people in therapy for long periods of time that way.
And in the law, it is the same problem. The issue comes down to the motivation of the professional to get a job done. A flat fee system may not work either but I think the process needs a second look. In the article, Mr. Nachimson suggested that fixed fees make it easier for clients to see the value in legal representation, which is extremely important. This is an issue that should be considered by many in the legal community.
Posted: January 24th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Law Firms, The News Beat
An interesting article in the New York Times today caught my eye. The article was about the business world changing and adapting to a better work life balance. It mentioned many industries that have improved employee working conditions by opening up time and mandatory hour restrictions. And one industry that really has not taken part in this universal work schedule flexibility movement until now, is the law.
An excerpt from the article reprinted below:
“Over the last few years and, most strikingly, the last few months, law firms have been forced to rethink longstanding ways of doing business, if they are to remain fully competitive…lawyers are overworked, depressed and leaving… Less obvious, but potentially more dramatic, are the signs that their firms are finally becoming serious about slowing the stampede for the door. So far the change — which includes taking fresh looks at the billable hour, schedules and partnership tracks — is mostly at the smaller firms. But even some of the larger, more hidebound employers are taking notice.”
This trend continues to grow among larger law firms and many lawyers are beginning to take notice. It is an interesting issue that will certainly be the topic of some conversation in the near future. To read the full article, click here.
Posted: January 16th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Law Firms, Law School, Opinion Corner, The News Beat
There is no reason to think that finding a job with a major law firm is any harder than it used to be. That is if you don’t count the fact that large law firms everywhere are laying off people at a faster rate than ever and there are more law school graduates looking for jobs in 2008 than any of the five previous years. Of course this is a problem.
With the recent credit crisis and financial problems, many larger firms dealing with corporate and finance practices have been experiencing slowdowns. This means that some lawyers are finding themselves out of a job, and job seekers are coming up short. Check out this article published by the Wall Street Journal this past weekend. So what is a lawyer to do when he or she can’t find work in the legal field?
Use your knowledge of the legal world to do something related. Work on your own or join a company designed to help lawyers and law firms, such as a consulting firm or a marketing agency. There are many businesses out there designed to sell to, or help out law firms. You can bring an expertise to the table that these companies may lack, and may pay big bucks to get.
Of course you can always gather a group of lawyers, all struggling with the current job market situation, and open up your own practice. You may have to work hard and start small, but who knows what type of opportunities could come of it. All of those large law firms had to start somewhere.
Whatever you do, make sure it is something that you want to be successful at. And don’t get downon yourself, because the market will turn around. Your old job may be waiting for you when the firms start hiring again, that is if you still want it.
Posted: January 14th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner, Law Firms, Lawyer Profiles, Marketing Tips, Opinion Corner
Arthur Levin is the Founder of AGL Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in law firm consulting, business development training for lawyers, and helping companies sell products and services to law firms. Arthur has been involved with the business development side of law firm marketing for years and he has developed several key tips that he offers to every lawyer or law firm that he works with.
Lawline.com spoke to Mr. Levin recently to find out what kind of tips he would be willing to share with us. The most important thing he said was that a Lawyer needs to really understand what he or she does for the clients. Representation, as he says, is such a strong word because you are actually speaking and acting for another person. As a lawyer, you have to be willing to sell your services and your own persona to gain a client’s, or even potential clients, trust.
Below is a clip from the interview in which Arthur speaks about a 30-second pitch that any lawyer should develop to help convey your own personal value to the client.
Posted: January 4th, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Business Development Skills, Career Corner, Entrepreneurship, Friday Five, Lawline.com, Marketing Tips, Technology Corner
Happy New Year! We move boldly into a new year with new possibilities. As lawyers and businessmen alike, it is important to use the new year to develop new strategies of growth and success. 2008 marks the year that new internet technologies and increased market awareness should lead to many new and effective ways of marketing. Technologies that once seemed too difficult to master or too futuristic to be effective are now intuitive and efficient. To kick off the new year of the Lawline.com Friday Five, here is a list of new technologies that you can use to help jump start a year of business development. Enjoy!
TOP 5 TECHNOLOGIES TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IN 2008
1. Email. Today the traditional uses of email as a means of communication have become so commonplace that it has become vital to the day to day activities of many individuals. More and more, email is becoming a marketing tool favored by many to communicate with current and potential clients/customers. Surveys, promotions, newsletters, and other email mechanisms can be automated to provide customers with information easily and efficiently.
2. Blogging. Everywhere you look, people are blogging. It is important to see that blogging has emerged out of a way for a few web users to write down their opinions on certain topics, and into a way that companies and clients alike discuss the most important aspects of any industry. Blogging can be used to let people know what is going on behind closed doors, and to encourage an interactivity between businesses and their customers. It takes the companies goals and values and helps match them up with their customers.
3. Video. Online video has become mainstream. Videos can be used in a number of ways as a marketing tool. Websites like YouTube, Google Video, and the like make it easy to upload and host videos anywhere. Videos can be used to share offerings, discuss values, showcase talents or highlight expertise.
4. Social Networking. Networking sites are everywhere. For every tiny niche or industry, there is a social network of people online ready to share their ideas and experiences. Along with that, there are social bookmarking sites that allow users to share things they find on the internet. It is important to take advantage of the communication channels there. Companies can take an active role in discussions, listen to what people are saying, and mold the way they approach new clients based on that information. It is a great way to create a brand name that appeals to the masses.
5. Podcasting. News, opinions, lectures, and ideas are all being shared in the form of podcasts across the internet. It’s just another form of online media that allows internet users to really listen to things they are interested in. Just like online video, this can be a great way to showcase talents and experience on a given subject. For lawyers, you can feature yourself on a podcast that reveals your knowledge of a certain practice area to potential clients on many online forums.
It does not matter what you use it for, only that online media and marketing technologies are for everyone. Treat your practice like a business, and take advantage of everything available to grow that business. We wish everyone the greatest success in 2008.
Posted: January 2nd, 2008
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, CLE Programming, Lawline.com, Lawyer Profiles, Opinion Corner, SHOWCASE CORNER, Videos
Should lawyers be constrained by the truth? That is a question that carries with it a lot of moral and professional issues. It is also a question that can be answered in many different ways depending on the given situation, or the person responding. That is why it makes the perfect subject for a Continuing Legal Education seminar.
Lawline.com recently filmed a new CLE program featuring Joel Cohen, Michael Ross, and James Bernard. The three attorneys discuss different ways that the “truth” affects the way the law is practiced. They give a good overview of different situations in which the truth can help or hurt a case, and what the ethics codes say on the subject. Drawing from real world experience as well as a firm grasp of professional responsibility rules, the conversation covers many ethical questions from every angle.
This program is filmed as a roundtable discussion between the three attorneys. Every time a new question is posed, each attorney offers their opinion of the matter. This makes for a very interesting video that fulfills one hour of the mandatory ethics CLE requirements. Please enjoy a short excerpt from the lecture below, and keep an eye out for the full course on Lawline.com.
Posted: December 20th, 2007
By: Matthew Weiss, Esq.
Category: Career Corner, Lawyer Profiles, Opinion Corner, SHOWCASE CORNER
With the Holiday Season upon us, more and more Americans will take to the road for family visits and vacations. This article will address various safety tips that will help you get to your destination safely and avoid being pulled over by a police officer.
Traffic: You invariable will be caught up in a traffic jam. Take a deep breath and relax. Consider this part of the “cost” of travel. Getting aggravated doesn’t help and can only lead to an accident.
Focus: Concentrate on your driving. Do not text message, check emails or engage in any other distracting behavior. Your IQ and response time diminishes dramatically the more you multi-task.
Drive in a group: When driving on a highway, stay within a grouping of other cars. It is easy for a police officer to isolate a sole vehicle than one within a group.
Remain attentive: Keep scanning the road ahead for areas where another vehicle can cut in front of you or where police could hide. Also, do not forget to check your rear view mirror for tailgating motorists. Keep a constant look out for traffic signs or markings which apply to you.
Vehicle condition: A vehicle with, for instance, a broken head light presents a danger to you and other motorists (and also is an open invitation for police attention). Make sure you care is in proper working order before embarking on a trip.
Police Stop: If you are stopped, be courteous. Abrasive behavior is a sure way to “earn” a traffic ticket. Also, do not volunteer too much information. When the officer asks you “Do you know why I stopped you?” simply state “No” or “No, but I am sorry to have troubled you”.
Armed with this information, you should be able to make it to any destination without many problems.
Matthew Weiss, Esq. is the senior member of Weiss & Associates, P.C. His New York traffic ticket law firm defends 1,000s of motorists from any type of New York traffic ticket, speeding ticket or truck ticket issued in New York. Visit "New York Traffic Lawyer" for more information about Mr. Weiss.
Posted: December 14th, 2007
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Friday Five, Law Firms, Lawline.com, Opinion Corner, The News Beat
It’s the end of a crazy week. Why do I say it was crazy? So many things happened in and around the legal community this week that it is hard to even keep up. If you are like me, you have had your eyes glued to TV screens or newspaper articles for the past few days. Sometimes it can be difficult to try to comprehend it all at once. That is why this Friday I have decided to sum it all up in Lawline.com’s Friday Five. Enjoy!
TOP FIVE STORIES LEGAL STORIES IN THE NEWS THIS WEEK
1) The Mitchell Report. Congressman George Mitchell finally completed his two year investigation into steroid use in Major League Baseball yesterday. In my opinion, the report was very thorough but offered limited insight into the underlying issue. Sure some big players were named, but now what? What does it all mean? The one good thing that came from it is a detailed suggestion of future steroid testing that should be applied to all the major sports in the years to come.
2) New Jersey Outlaws Capital Punishment. New Jersey voted to pass a bill that would eliminate the death penalty in the state. That makes it the first state in over forty years to outlaw capital punishment. The bill is awaiting signing by the governor, but he has already stated that he is in favor of it.
3) Law Firm Layoffs. As if we needed another reminder of how bad the economy is doing right now, some major law firms have announced cutbacks and layoffs for the first time in years. That is an event that is almost unheard of the legal community, especially among the more prominent firms. And this is all happening just when there are more graduates coming out of law school than ever before.
4) Criminal Sentencing Guidelines Erased. Federal courts ruled earlier this week against sentencing guidelines for criminal convictions. Prior to this there were mandatory sentences for certain major crimes such as crack trafficking. Now, judges will have more flexibility in handing down sentences in these types of cases. The next step is to see whether or not the ruling is retroactive.
5) Depressed Attorneys. Dan Lukasik, an attorney in Buffalo, NY, started a website and a support group for depressed attorneys. This brought to light the fact that lawyers are among the most miserable people, according to some studies. This website, and other movements like it across the country are opening up the lines of communication and help attorneys get the help they’ve needed but were previously afraid to look for.
And that wraps up an exciting week in the news surround legal issues. I hope you will take the time to further investigate these stories, as some of them will have lasting affects for the foreseeable future. Catch you again soon.
Posted: November 6th, 2007
By: Dan Mandelbaum
Category: Career Corner, Law Firms
Here is a staggering figure for you to think about: 75% of new associates switch firms within their first five years (NALP). This is not an exaggeration and it is not something to take lightly. While job-turnover these days is the highest it has ever been, it seems to be particularly high in the field of Law; it is no surprise that it is the young associates who contribute most to this astounding number.
So why the high turnover rate? For starters, it has nothing to do with the field or the firm, but rather, the generation of these young associates. The career mentality between the Baby Boomers and Generation X and Y differs tremendously. Whereas the idea of staying with one company to establish longevity and build up a pension was once an appealing goal, these days, young professionals want to go “wherever the money is.” Generation X and Y’ers are optimistic and confident in themselves; approaching them with assurances of “job security” and “promising career paths” won’t exactly pique their interest as much as “higher paychecks” will. In law firms, these young associates see the managing partners making the big bucks, yet those firm managers are also twice their age. On the other side, they see young entrepreneurs their age, starting online companies and making millions. It is important to remember that Gen X and Y’ers grew up in a fast paced environment where everything from clothes to concert tickets to better-paying jobs is just a click away.
So how do you keep them? Well, it’s easier said than done, but some firms are coming up with innovative ideas to give these young associates a better sense of job loyalty. Helping the associate pay off his/her student loans certainly sounds like an avant-garde idea, yet some firms see this as a great way to establish trust and a family mentality, thereby keeping the attorney at the firm. Some firms are even sending their young associates on priority projects (such as business overseas or top clients) to give them a sense of value to the firm. Other firms are beginning to ask more and more for the associates’ opinions and feedback on firm matters. While these young attorneys do not have much experience in the courtroom or in arbitrations, they have more than enough of a background in technology and internet matters, making their opinions on technological issues very important.
These days, everyone wants to be where the money is. The choice to join firm “Stay Grow & Prosper L.L.C.” or join firm “Money & Now P.C.” isn’t really a choice at all. While money will always be a deciding factor in choosing to leave a job, a firm can establish a sense of trust and empowerment with its young attorneys, to ward off “Money & Now P.C.” the next time they come calling.
Posted: September 14th, 2007
By: Zach Heller
Category: Career Corner, Law Firms
For big law firms, recruiting new associates has been a by-the-book process for years. It's simple -- go find the best students at the best schools and offer them huge salary packages to start immediately. And it works. But recently, some areas of the law are calling for more specialized expertise and training than you can expect a law school student to have.
The answer -- look for the best and brightest lawyers in the field that are already practicing at smaller firms in the area. According to an article in this week's edition of Crain's, elite law firms are luring second and third year associates away from smaller firms more than ever before. The reason is that they can save time and money training these lawyers, who are ready to jump into their own cases immediately after arriving. Therefore, instead of recruiting recent graduates and training them to a certain areas of expertise, these larger firms are simply stealing lawyers who are already experts in fields such as Real Estate, Securities, etc.
This has the potential to cause problems for smaller firms who are trying to stay ahead of the competition and continue to grow. Losing attorneys to higher salaries and better compensation packages means more time spent recruiting new lawyers. The repercussions are obvious in the loss of time spent with clients.
Although there is no sure fire way to protect your lawyers from being "snatched up", there are some things you can do to try and sweeten the deal. Of course, salaries will be lower at smaller firms, but other things can help keep lawyers in place. Such things as a more welcoming work environment complete with office luxuries, performance bonuses, and career building opportunities can add some incentive to remain at the smaller firm. In the end, it is obvious that larger firms may win this tug-of-war game over attorneys, but smaller firms can still find ways to succeed.