Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Most Perfect, Complete, Awesome iPad Accessory!

OK, it may have nothing to do with lawyering, but I believe I have found the greatest ever iPad gadget (at least the guys will think so).  The satellite office is now complete.  Click here to for more of its greatness.

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Security Warning For Lawyers On Facebook

At his Law Practice Tips Blog Jim Calloway is reporting yet another way that Facebook can invade your computer world and put you into a troublesome spot.  As reported by Jim "a December update to Facebook provided for automatic synchronization will all photos on your smart phone or iPad with Facebook. And as with all things Facebook, a click in the wrong place can opt you in to the service."

This means that if you have photos on your device that should be private, they could end up being broadcast to your entire Facebook world.  For television reality stars this automatic feature can be a real time saver.  For those of us with a greater need for privacy it could mean real problems.

Please click here for Jim's article.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Visual Thinking App

Old friends will recall that I am a big proponent of visual thinking.  My preferred technique to fully exploit that power of visual thinking is mind mapping.  Another, less technical technique that I use is the good old sticky note.  I create a board.  Then I put a different colored sticky note on the board for each issue in the case.  Then below the stick for each issue I outline the relevant facts for the issue.  The physical act of placing the stickies, the the visual cues of of the different colors, and the ability to move the stickies around the board all allow for improved organization and recall.

Along these lines I have just come across a new visual thinking app.  Stickyboard 2 is a giant whiteboard with a never ending stack of sticky notes.  Available for the iPad, Stickyboard features the following:
  • Stickyboard 2 sports an elegant and intuitive interface. Double-tap to add a note. Select and drag notes around with your finger.
  • You have a large, zoomable board to capture all your ideas. Zoom by pinching, and pan with 2 fingers.
  • It's easy to rearrange ideas, capture their relationships, and discover important patterns.
  • Use four standard colors (yellow, blue, pink, and green), plus 2 special ones (lavender and sunrise).
  • Draw free-form with the marker tool. Write, outline, and sketch around your notes.
  • Email boards as PDF files or just text to easily share with colleagues or archive changes.
  • Stickyboard 2 is infinitely flexible. Use your favorite real-world sticky-note and whiteboarding techniques.
This is a great little app.  Take a look at what it can do:

And check this out, right now IT IS FREE IN THE APP STORE.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Are You Still Buying Printed Letterhead?

When I was a young lawyer I was always impressed when I received a piece of engraved stationery from another lawyer.  I ran my finger across the ink on the page.  I studied the font and the layout.  I read the addresses and attorney names.  That fancy letterhead made a positive impression.

I also read articles (most published by printing companies I think?) that espoused the value of professional letterhead.  You have to have it!  Your credibility depends on it.  You are a lawyer for God's sake, get some fancy letterhead!  I wanted (dare I say "needed"?) that fancy, engraved letterhead.  So I contacted some printers to get my own fancy letterhead.  Guess what?  That stuff is expensive!  I couldn't afford it.  I bought some letterhead, just not the top of the line, engraved stuff.
I now pronounce that lawyers don't need engraved stationery.   Here is how I can make that statement:

After a few years of practice I began to gain some self-confidence as a lawyer.  Letterhead took on a different role in my life. I still enjoyed studying the letterhead of other lawyers, and I still appreciated the quality of fancy letterhead.  However, I also began to appreciate that the quality of the letterhead was not necessarily in equilibrium with the quality of the lawyer sending the letter.  I worked with some great lawyers that had cheap letterhead, and I worked with some bad lawyers that had exquisite letterhead.  I reached the conclusion that I was a good lawyer that did not need to prove it through my letterhead, especially when it was just going to get stuck in a file to collect dust.  I also began to appreciate that technology gave me choices to traditional printed stationery.

When HP brought the first laser printers to the market I got one.  Then I spent a couple of hours creating my own letterhead.  The layout matched anything I had seen.  The fonts were the same as the fancy letterhead I had seen.  The end product just wasn't weaved paper with engraved printing.  It looked good, it was affordable, and it was convenient.  I liked it, and now everything we print -- including our letter -- goes out on the same bright white paper from printers in our office.  To comply with the California Rules of Court everything is on recycled stock (Yes, there is a rule that requires that. Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 1.22).  In our office there is no switching of paper trays and paper stock.  In fact, because of the improvement in printer technology, we don even use the more expensive laser printers anymore.  Instead, we use much more economical ink jet printers.  Guess what?  No one complains, and no one questions our competency because of our letterhead.

Just as significant is how the internet has changed the sending and receiving of letters. I do still receive and write and send letters via snail mail.  However, with the advent of email, and chat, and text messaging, the ceremony of letter writing has been diminished.  When I receive a letter I spend very little time touching and studying the paper it is printed on  -- that is if I even open the envelope.  Instead, a staffer usually opens the envelope, then the letter is scanned and put into my electronic inbox to be read.  I don't even see the paper product anymore...  How I send letters is also different.  The majority of the time these days, when I write I letter I usually convert it to pdf, and then email it to the recipient as an attachment.  Paper quality, engraved printing, paper color, all of that has become irrelevant. I still send out good looking letterhead, I just don't pay for it.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Marilyn Stowe's Family Law & Divorce Blog

Marilyn Stowe is a family law lawyer of high regard in London.  She also has a great lawyer blog!  The layout is great, the graphics are energetic, and the content is updated frequently.  It is a charming mix of gossip, law, Marilyn's biographical information  It ranks high on Google, and surely generates an inordinate amount of publicity for Marilyn's practice.

Click here to take a look at a well done marketing tool for Marilyn's practice.

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Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Referrals

New business does not magically appear.  You have to go out and get it.  I wish I had a new business wizard like my little friend to the right who would zap an endless stream of new cases to my office.  Apparently my little imaginary friend is working for someone else, because I cannot find him in my office.  That means I have to have other resources to utilize. The referral is my best source of new business.  How we lawyers get referrals is subject to debate.

Usually when I strike up a conversation with a fellow lawyer, as part of my customary greeting I ask how business is?  I would guesstimate that 99% of the time the response I get is along the lines of:  Business is wonderful.  Have more work than I can handle.  Wish people would quite calling...

This leads me to conclude that I am, apparently, the only family law lawyer that is always looking for new clients.  Am I busy?  Yes I am.  Am I too busy to become complacent with respect to generating new business?  Never!  I suspect people are telling me how great their practices are because they believe that to do otherwise would suggest that they are failing?  Nonsense.  We all have highs and lows in our practice volume.  My personal mantra is that I would rather be too busy than not busy enough.  When people ask me how my business is going, I usually respond by saying that "it's going good, but I can always use some more referrals.  If you need to send your overflow to someone please keep me in mind."

Do I get looks of indignation when I say that?  No.  Do people question my ability?  I think not.  Almost always I get an acknowledgment of my request, and an offer to keep me in mind.  You know what else happens?  With amazing frequency the phone rings with a referral from the colleague that I had that conversation with.

How else will people know to send business my way unless I ask them to?  There is no shame in asking for referrals.  Everyone wants them.  Every lawyer needs them.  New business is how we survive.  It is good business to ask for referrals.  Pretending that you don't need them can dry up your referral stream, and that is not a drought you want to experience.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Should You Give Out Your Cell Phone Number?

I read lots of articles on marketing.  Many of those articles are specifically directed at lawyer marketing.  Many are interviews with lawyers deemed credible as rainmakers.  The topic of cell phones comes up frequently.  The prevailing attitude  is that lawyers should give their cell phone numbers out to their clients (being fully aware that they then become 24/7 service providers).

Is this approach right for family law lawyers?  It is a tough question to answer.  Certainly our clients are engaged in a horribly emotional and nerve wracking experience when going through divorce.  Questions are constantly popping in and out of their heads.  Reassurance is required.  Sometimes they just need someone to talk to.

At the same time, we lawyers need balance.  To stay fresh and sharp I feel it is essential that there is a daily separation from work.  Our minds, bodies, and souls need some me time.  We need to flush the emotion and the stress of family law away, so that we can come back to work stronger and better.  We need to spend time with our families, and our families deserve us with them.

Can that separation occur if we are handing out our cell phone numbers to our clients?  Perhaps.  I recently took an informal survey of my colleagues in the local family law bar.  To my surprise the majority of the most successful, highly regarded, family law lawyers in my poll said they never give their cell phone numbers to their clients.  They don't even discuss the topic with their clients.

I, not being as successful as those marquee lawyers, have a different policy.  If a client asks for my cell phone number, I will share it.  But it is also with the caveat that it is only to be used in emergencies.  I remind them that the courthouses close at 4, 3, 2 (depending on which court), and that there is very little that I can do to solve emergency problems when the court is closed.  I also let them know that I have a family that deserves my attention as well, and that when I am with them, I deliver and they expect my undivided attention.  I also remind them of my policy to return all messages left by 4 p.m. on the same day, Monday through Friday.  Finally I give them the old doctor's office message:  if it is a true medical or safety emergency, they should call 911.

For the most part this policy works well.  Maybe once every couple of months a client goes beyond the rules.  I deal with the pressing issue, but first I remind them that they have called me on my cell phone, and I ask them to hang up and call my office so that we can discuss the issue further.  Alternatively, I let the call go to voice mail.  I retrieve the message, and then I call the client back from my office phone -- reminding them during the return call that they mistakenly dialed my cell phone, and that their calls will likely be returned faster if they call my office number.

I think the policy I employ is reasonable for me and the client.  If it is unacceptable to the client, then that tells me the client is going to be a problem and maybe we shouldn't be working together.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Good Referrals and Bad Referrals

Of course referrals are the linchpin of any successful family law practice. I am always studying the practice of referral generation.  I have read the words of marketing experts claiming that there is no such thing as a bad referral.  I disagree.  There are plenty of referrals that are a complete waste of time.  I call them the Un-Referrals.

Let me give you an example.  I receive maybe one call a month from people who were given my name by a particular family law firm in a neighboring town.  When the callers make contact with us they are always sure to remind us that they were referred by one of the particular partners in the firm, whom they mention by name.

Out of respect for those attorneys, we have been giving these callers special attention.  Alas, and almost inevitably we have come to learn that the caller has no money, cannot afford us, and is really looking for a pro bono lawyer.  What has actually happened is those other lawyers have received the same call, learned the caller cannot afford them, and then politely gotten off the phone with them by suggesting that they call me.

What does such an un-referral accomplish?  Nothing!  It is a complete waste of time for the first attorney and for me.  In fact a lot of the callers get down right mad at us, because they were led to believe by the other lawyer that we would be a perfect fit, and that we would take their case. What is so frustrating is that those other lawyers know that I am no more likely to offer representation than they were; still they make the un-referral at my expense.  A complete lack of respect.

I am now at the point that when we receive a call mentioning the name of any of the un-referrers, the presumption is that it will be a waste of time.  It is forwarded straight to a non-lawyer staffer who offers a consultation at a fee, and who explains my hourly rate and retainer requirement.  That usually leads to a hang-up at the other end of the phone line.  If the caller is still looking for guidance we suggest that he or she call the lawyer referral service run by our county bar association.  The un-referrer could have done the same thing, but instead they took the easy way out and dumped the caller on us.

By the way, there is another consequence of the un-referral.  As a thank you for wasting my time, we no longer send good referrals to that firm!

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Security Check For Your Wireless Router

Do you have a wireless router in your office?  It is a wonderful tool.  However, recent research has uncovered a simple feature in most wireless routers that can allow a security breach of your network.  Andy Greenberg at writes about the problem associated with the UPnP protocal that is built in to most (if not all) wireless routers.

The protocol, abbreviated UPnP, lets computers, printers, and other devices make themselves easily discoverable to a network router. But new research by the security firm Rapid7 shows that it could also let hackers easily discover and exploit those routers, too...

“We never expected this much UPnP to be exposed on the Internet,” says H.D. Moore, Rapid7′s chief security officer. “The scope of the exposure just blew us away."

Moore says that network administrators and home users shouldn’t wait for a fix. His company has released a scanning tool to find vulnerable UPnP devices, and suggests users disable UPnP on both any endpoint devices that use the protocol on their internal network as well as their Internet router. The final pages of Rapid7′s whitepaper includes three spreadsheets of products that are vulnerable to various types of the UPnP attack.

Please click here for the original article.

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Solo nets Supreme Court win!

I know this has nothing to do with technology, but I think it is pretty cool. Andrew Simpson is a sole practitioner in the U.S. Virgin Is...