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Ways to Record, Bill and Save Those Minutes at Work

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Monday, September 18, 2017

Ways to record, bill and save those minutes at work

Attorney Daliah Saper has been answering readers’ questions online about building a 21st-century law firm. This augmented version of her column looks at time—timekeeping and time-saving.

Dear Daliah: Any tips for tracking time better?

Dear Readers: We have all faced the black-hole time warp. You worked 10 hours, but your billable hours only record 4½. Where did all the time go? You were so busy that you had a granola bar for lunch at 4 p.m. just to soak up all the coffee from the morning client marathon.

Keeping track of all your time often fails because you’re distracted by the hundred different things coming at you or because you can’t re-create your day at the end when you finally have time to breathe.

Here are three ways to capture your time effectively.

THE AUTOMATIC WAY

Stay ahead of the game, and use practice management software that integrates your billing and has customizable workflows all in one. Not being able to consistently reconstruct time can bankrupt a practice.

I asked my friend Alvaro Arauz at 3a Law Management, a legal practice consulting firm in Atlanta, for some technology recommendations. He says cloud-based software you can access from anywhere with an internet connection, such as Clio, MyCase or Rocket Matter, is used by many firms. These platforms can automate standard billable tasks, such as basic discovery, emails, text messages to clients, court hearing confirmations or cover letters.

The 0.2 and 0.1 hours can add up in a day but can be easily lost. With the proper services, predefined tasks convert into time slips with a click of a mouse without having to remember if everything was billed in the scope of the assignment. Keep in mind, the time slips can always be adjusted in the prebill phase.

The two things any firm of any size can streamline, Arauz says, are phones and accounting. Not managing either effectively also can make or break your practice.

Part of the accounting headache is the chore of reminding and following up with clients about payments. Then there’s the actual collection of payments; in some firms, it’s a bookkeeper’s part-time job.

New options are available to the modern lawyer, and PaySimple is exactly what it says—a simple software program that lets you schedule payments and accept e-checks and credit cards while it automates your billing process. Even the established merchant services LawPay and QuickBooks allow you to send a link to clients via email for them to pay their invoices or retainers.

Arauz says to take it all a step further by using practice management software that syncs with LawPay and QuickBooks. If the structure of your website allows it, which most do these days, there also are payment portals that can be added for either potential clients scheduling a consult online or existing clients who received an automatic emailed invoice.

The second thing to delegate are the phones. There are a variety of live answering services that range from $99 to $800 per month—services such as Ruby Receptionists, My Receptionist and PATLive. They give your clients the impression that your practice has a front desk ambassador. Just remember the old adage that you get what you pay for, and try to stay in the $200 to $500 range.

Ruby Receptionists is a quality and tested company. Script how you want your phones answered—when they get transferred immediately, i.e., when a judge calls; when to email your staff—and monitor it all with monthly reporting logs.

If you have a high-volume practice or a large number of weekly potential intakes (personal injury, bankruptcy, med-mal), Legal Intake Professionals will handle your entire intake process. Equally customizable on how to prioritize calls, it adds the extra level of capturing details that most answering services do not provide.

Once the intakes come in, a paralegal or an attorney contacts the potential client to engage them formally. However, the monthly price is slightly higher than most services but still less than the salary and payroll liabilities of an intake specialist plus a receptionist.

For the ultra-high-volume intake firms, there are plug-ins for your website or case management software that will email intake forms to potential clients and then enter them into your internal system automatically. Capturing the case information and data entry is the bottleneck of the intake process. Delegate it to the potential client and technology, Arauz says, all from an iPad on a couch in your waiting room.

THE REACTIVE WAY

If work and life keep you busy, use mobile apps to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Before technology, lawyers had their hands tied behind their backs. Dialing into a server or a desktop on the weekends to enter time made it an insurmountable task. In a week slammed with juggling phone calls from clients, court appearances, interruptive status requests from partners, researching case law, drafting discovery and filing motions, even the most efficient billing workflow was at best a four-step process:

  1. At the end of the day or, worse, at the end of the week, try to recall what happened.
  2. Write the time down on a Post-it/notepad/back of your hand.
  3. Manually enter data into a billing system.
  4. Approve the slips for accuracy and consistency.

Today, Arauz recommends using apps such as Zapier, Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to help convert your reactive life into a proactive billing system.

Zapier integrates with things that keep your thoughts and work in order—Dropbox, Wunderlist, QuickBooks, RingCentral, Excel, Clio, Basecamp. Zapier can automate your lawyer life, track the work you perform, and keep it all together in one app that communicates with all the others to make sure nothing gets lost.

Similarly, you can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to dictate your time entries when you don’t have time to write it all down. The technology and accuracy of capturing what you are saying has improved dramatically over the years, as has the convenience of being able to email or send your dictation via text. I often dictate on long road trips or when I’m walking to the courthouse.

Don’t forget the apps that complement your desktop or cloud practice management software. Most of them can dial phone numbers or email directly from the app, which in turn captures the time as billable behind the scenes.

THE PROACTIVE WAY

Interruptions distract from efficiency and, ultimately, from capturing all your time. Build blocks of time into your schedule, so that you aren’t pulled in five directions at once and only accounting for 2½ of them.

If “shiny objects,” such as flashing voicemails, text pings or unread email counts are disruptive, create a calendar for concentration. Try a schedule as follows and adjust as necessary:

  • Priority emails, 8 to 8:30 a.m.
  • Priority phone calls, 8:30 to 9 a.m.
  • Client work, 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Emails and calls, 11 a.m. to noon.
  • Priority items, 1 to 2 p.m.
  • Client work, 2 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Email responses, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
  • Calls on the way home, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

While it won’t eliminate all the distractions, keeping close to this regimen can help you maximize your productivity and the chances of capturing all the time as you go.

PRODUCTIVITY TALK

Speaking of productivity, Arauz has advice on tackling other nonlawyering tasks.

He says, “There is a finite amount of time and energy in a day that cannot be re-created. If you overcompensate in one area, then another area suffers. So how do you juggle it all while maintaining sanity? The key to growth is delegation, either to a person or to technology.

“When you start your practice, delegate to technology. As you grow and can swallow the payroll pill, integrate staff and attorneys until law firm nirvana happens when your employees utilize technology to get even more done faster.”

Infamous culprits of wasted time include scheduling and confirming appointments, Arauz says. When things really get busy, every moment counts. Waiting on a consultation to not show up or a lunch meeting that you forgot to mark on the calendar takes up valuable time that could be better spent.

Setmore is free, online appointment-scheduling software on steroids, especially if you upgrade to the $25-per-month premium package. Aside from potential clients or clients booking meeting times intuitively by web, Setmore can be configured to send text and/or email reminders the day before the appointment, which minimizes the no-call no-shows that can inevitably happen in any practice. And it’s very customizable.

(You can retain that possessive control of your calendar, so that your work and life don’t double-book.)

Mixmax is another quick trick that takes all the effort and emails out of trying to find a time to collaborate with others, be it by phone, video or in person. If you average 300 emails per day that require your attention, you certainly don’t have to add another 30 emailed dialogues of “Can you meet at 2 p.m.?” “No, I can’t. What about tomorrow at 10 a.m.?” And on. And on.

Send time slots that the emailed recipient can select once they have confirmed with their own calendar, and then it gets added to your calendar.

Add meeting agendas or previews to the scheduling team, use templates for scheduling automatic emails and branding, so that it looks like it’s coming right from your firm’s inbox.

It’s good to use the technology at the beginning. But keep it integrated in your processes as you grow with staff, so that they have the tools to help the firm succeed.

Remember, as I like to keep in mind: Time is money. So, start accounting for it all.

 

Tags:  ABA  Ask Daliah  Billing  Law Practice Management  law practice management software 

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KBA Information Session: What Families and Businesses Need to Know about DACA Rescission

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Friday, September 8, 2017

 

The Kansas Bar Association presents an information session on the rescission of The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 2:00pm. KBA Vice President, Mira Mdivani will moderate a panel of attorneys and experts on immigration law through a webinar.

 

This program is for our members, the public, the business community, and the media. Please feel free to forward this information on to those in your community who may be interested or may benefit from this information.

 

The link for attendee registration is: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5107779453039296515

 

Questions?

 

Contact:

Sara Rust-Martin, Law Practice Management Attorney

Email: srustmartin@ksbar.org

Direct: (785) 861-8821

Main: (785) 234-5696

 

Meg Wickham, Director of Member and Communication Services
Email:
mwickham@ksbar.org
Direct: (785) 861-8817

Main: (785) 234-5696

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  DACA Rescission  Information Session Webinar 

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Supreme Court of Texas Clears Way for Assistance from Out-of-state Lawyers

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Thursday, August 31, 2017

 

Supreme Court of Texas Clears Way for Assistance from Out-of-state Lawyers

The Supreme Court of Texas entered an order to allow any attorney not licensed to practice in Texas, but licensed and in good standing in any other jurisdiction of the United States, to provide legal assistance to individuals and entities affected by Hurricane Harvey.  This should help in the effort to recruit volunteer attorneys to address the need for legal services by the mounting number of flood victims.  Lawyers may volunteer through programs supported by the State Bar of Texas and the Houston Bar Association.  The Louisiana State Bar Association is currently monitoring the need for any mobilization of volunteers in that state and encourages Louisiana attorneys to support efforts in Texas.  For a summary of information on national mobilization of legal relief efforts, visit the ABA Hurricane Harvey Relief resource page.  

Tags:  Legal Assistance 

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ABA Tech Show 2018: Save the Dates

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Thursday, August 31, 2017

 

ABA TECHSHOW 2018! PLAN TODAY TO ATTEND!

 

One of the best legal conferences in the country each year is the ABA Techshow! This conference brings lawyers, innovators, law practice management advisors, tech creators, and others in the industry together to discuss, brainstorm, and share ideas and information about how to build the practice of law. It is a great experience and, if you have the chance to go, I would highly suggest it!

 Connect with over 2,000 leading technology purchasers and influencers at the best conference for bringing lawyers & technology together, and the trusted ABA source of information on legal tech products and services!

The KBA will be releasing the Conference Code which will allow you to save money on your registration fee as a KBA member. That will be released to you as soon as it is available to us! So, stay tuned!

If you want to learn more about last year's conference, check out photos and videos by following the hashtag #ABATECHSHOW2017

And, for this year, go ahead and mark your calendars for the dates:  March 7-10, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago

This is a new venue for us, so it will be fun!

Hope to see you there! Stay tuned for more details....

Tags:  Law Practice Management Software  Legal Technology 

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Increasing Happiness at a Small Firm

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, August 29, 2017

INCREASING HAPPINESS AT A SMALL FIRM by Christine Bilbry at PRI (Florida Bar Association)

Large companies and law firms are usually well equipped with established systems to reward high performing employees and to assist an employee experiencing a personal crisis. But what is a small firm to do if the budget does not support ski slope retreats or comprehensive employee assistance programs? How can you make your employees feel valued when you have limited time and resources?

To move your employees from their current states to a place of engagement and positivity requires some effort on your part. Don’t assume that your employees know that you appreciate them. Employees need to be acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done. The most basic and immediate thing you can do right now (and I mean as soon as you finish reading this article) is to decide what behavior you want to see more of from your employees, walk out of your office and up to the employee who has most recently displayed that desired behavior, and tell them that you noticed them doing “x” and that you just wanted to take a moment to thank them for what they did. It can be anything. “I really appreciate your help with that project yesterday.” “Hey, thanks for unjamming the copier for everyone.” Keep a few $5 and $10 Starbucks gift cards in your desk for those occasions when an employee has gone above and beyond. To reinforce the good behavior, give positive feedback as soon as possible.

Why would you want to do this and what’s in it for you? Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work states, “We found that managers of companies, if they just increased their praise and recognition of one employee, once a day, for 21 business days in a row, what we find is that six months later those teams, as opposed to a control group, had a 31% higher level of productivity.” It should be noted that his research focused on recognition of an individual’s work. Being part of a team is great, but when a boss says, “Good job everyone,” it carries a lot less weight than acknowledging the specific actions of an individual employee.

There are many low and no-cost ways to increase employee engagement at your firm. If possible, implement a flexible work schedule for your staff. Respect your employees’ personal lives, which means no work calls or emails after hours. Encourage healthy lifestyles by providing nutritious snacks in the break room and consider having outdoor walking meetings to give people a break from the office while still being productive and enjoying some fresh air and sunlight. Everyone loves food. Throw a pizza party or have a barbecue in your parking lot on a Friday afternoon. Making your office a positive place to be benefits everyone. 1001 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson Ph.D. is a good resource to start you thinking about how to increase happiness at your own firm.

If there is generally low morale in your office, you may need to consider that you are setting the tone that has now spread to your staff. In the forward to the book, The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon, Ken Blanchard shares an exercise he does at his seminars. He asks attendees to get up and “greet other people as if they are unimportant.” He then asks them to “continue to greet people, but this time, to do it as if the people they are greeting are long-lost friends they’re glad to see.” He describes how the volume and energy dramatically shift in the room during this activity and then he tells the attendees, “Every morning you have a choice. Are you going to be a positive thinker or a negative thinker?” This also applies to how you treat your employees. “You can catch people doing things right, or you can catch them doing things wrong. Guess which of those two activities energizes people more?”

Creating a happiness initiative at your office benefits you and everyone around you. It can alleviate stress and have a positive effect on mental health and resilience. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to employee happiness and engagement. Find what feels authentic to you because praise and recognition must be sincere to be effective. Even small changes and gestures from the boss can have dramatic results.

Tags:  Leadership  Solo and Small  Wellness 

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H*ll No, I Won't Go! Exploring The Complexities of the Retirement Decision

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Sunday, August 27, 2017
Updated: Friday, August 25, 2017

H*LL No, I Won't Go!
 
by Ellen Freedman
 The Pennsylvania Lawyer                  

March/April 2017

The problem of lawyers who won't quit isn't a new one. In fact, it's one of the first I encountered when I entered the legal industry. What is new is the that this problem's consequences are more difficult to deal with in today's marketplace. 

My first law firm had three of its prime offices reserved for attorneys who rarely made appearances. The offices sat mostly dark, cluttered with old files and papers reminiscent of a busy practice and plenty of personal momentos accumulated over a noteworthy career. The supporting staff had long since been reassigned or retired. When year-end profits were distributed, checks were cut to these attorneys whose names I recognized from letterhead, but whom I had never or rarely met. 

I started my management career in the corporate environment. I had never encountered this situation there and it made no sense to me. People who didn’t work weren’t still collecting paychecks. They didn’t have offices. They didn’t get a piece of the profits.

 

Back then, when an attorney became a law-firm owner, there was an expectation that it was a bestowment for life, ending only upon the voluntary withdrawal of the owner or the owner’s death or permanent disability. It was rare for someone to withdraw voluntarily.

 

Let’s face it: Lawyers are about being lawyers. For most, their entire identities are based first and foremost on being lawyers. That’s why, even with the best of intentions to step aside at some certain age, lawyers find themselves emotionally unable to pull the trigger when the time arrives. Because, upon retirement, there is no longer an answer to the existential question of “Who am I?”

 

Hobbies cannot fill the void. Many lawyers think that their hobbies will see them through. But if the hobbies are just pleasurable time-fillers, it becomes apparent that they’re just not enough. Plus, some hobbies are predicated on certain levels of continued health, and one may not be able to participate fully or at all when retirement arrives.

 

Activity that provides both meaning and purpose is required to create a satisfactory alternative to one’s former career — not just activity to fill the day and pass the time, but activity that provides a new sense of identity in doing something that is both of significance in the universe and that imparts a sense of personal satisfac- tion. For some, there must be a monetary reward to achieve satisfaction. For others, there must be a distinct lack of reward other than knowing one is giving back and doing important work. The bottom line is that it has to be activity that one can feel passionate about and take pride in, and one that creates a sense of worth and accomplishment.

 

It’s not surprising that for the majority of lawyers, planning for this “next step” is not something that takes priority in their busy lives. Only a rare few have a calling that they look forward to answering in some next phase of their life. Yes, some aspire to write, teach, volunteer, create a foundation, become entrepreneurs or travel the far reaches of the world. They’re the lucky

few. For most, a lot of questioning and soul searching is required in order to identify the next step, let alone lay the groundwork to make the transition possible. And as a result, although there may be an occasional creative thought, it disappears quickly, like the morning mist under the glare of sunlight.

 

For a time, growing firms began proactively protecting themselves by incorporating such safeguards as mandatory retirement or de-equitization ages. Partnership agreements were amended to spell out clearly any options for continued employment at the firm past a certain age, as well as for voluntary withdrawal. These changes ensured that there was continued room at the top for younger lawyers to move up in status and earnings. They ensured that the next generation would have a reason to stay, thus ensuring the succession and perpetuation of the firm.


While these changes worked overall to deal with the challenge of lawyers who refused to retire despite being long past their prime, they sometimes became cases of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

 

Advancements in medicine and nutrition mean that a lot of lawyers are still capable of making positive contributions much later in life than anticipated when these agreements were amended. Seventy-five has become the new 65. Not for all law- yers, certainly, but for many. Some would say for most. We are seeing now that a lot of lawyers with many more good years to contribute are being forced out of their

firms too soon. Many struggle to re-position themselves elsewhere, where they can continue to practice and contribute.

 

While the implementation of mandatory retirement ages has been successful in creating room for succession, it has done nothing to assist departing lawyers with finding their new purpose. It has created a lot of angst for many. It has cast too many adrift.

 

I’m not a big fan of mandatory retirement. That’s because I’m the one who often gets the calls from the aged attorneys who are stunned by how lost they are. Yes, their fate was not a secret. Yes, there was plenty of advance notice. But when the time arrives, they find that the hobbies and small opportunities within the industry, which they thought would sustain them, are simply not enough. There is not sufficient purpose and meaning. All of a sudden their identity and self-worth collapse in an unsatisfying mess.Another less-common reason for refusal to retire is one of economics. Notice I didn’t use the word “simple” when referring to economics, because there’s nothing simple about it. For some, their significant retirement savings vanished during lengthy recessions. The flip side to living longer and maintaining vitality longer is that one’s desire to maintain an active lifestyle extends one’s need to earn a living, as well as to build a sufficient retirement nest egg. As my 93- year-old mother frequently says, “I have learned how to continue on while outliving all my friends and siblings. I will never learn how to outlive my savings.”

 

     With increasing frequency, lawyers share with me that they cannot afford to retire due to personal financial circumstances. In some instances, one or more ex-spouses may have claimed a share of   retirement savings in property settlements. In addition, we have seen an increase in what I lovingly call “do-overs.” Formation of new family units later in life creates a need for significant financial means to pay for second rounds of college, grad school, weddings, and so forth at a later age than previously experienced.

 

Within law firms there is now a dichotomy between what may be good business practice for the firm itself and what may be desirable or necessary for individual members. Because of the inherent conflict of interest for so many owners, firms often lack the ability to make necessary changes in the absence of a clear consensus.

 

Let’s look at a midsize urban firm that never anticipated these issues or modified its member agreement. An octogenarian partner is still occupying an office and making use of a part-time staff member. He is a current member of the bar, but his role is exclusively social.

 

On an objective basis, he has not produced revenue for the firm in many years. He continues to earn a disproportionate share of firm profits. No doubt he feels that this is his right for all of the sweat equity he invested in building the firm. In reality, he has probably long since been repaid in full.

 

The firm’s only mechanism to change this situation is to call for a vote to eject him. It will require a unanimous vote of all but the partner in question. Let’s be completely candid. If you were called upon to cast a vote, how good would you be at distancing your emotions from what was good for the firm? I suspect that you would be having a conversation with yourself: “What if I am next? What does this say about our gratitude and loyalty? If it were me, I would feel horribly betrayed and humiliated!” The more collegial the firm, the more difficult it will be for each owner to cast his or her vote dispassionately in favor of the health and viability of the firm.

 

So while the economic reality and well- being of the firm call for one decision, the likelihood is that just calling the vote will be a damaging and destructive — probably divisive — exercise for the firm. The managing partner in this firm, to his credit, did not call for a vote. But when he turned to me for other suggestions, my only one was that he try to cut a deal with the elder partner to retire voluntarily.

 

Deep down, I know that it is not a question of money that keeps the partner at the firm. Emotionally, he is just not capable of letting go of his identity. Unless the firm can replace his current role with one that provides sufficient purpose and meaning, no negotiation will be successful.

 

Yet another manifestation of the same problem presented itself to me recently. A retired attorney who was more than 90 years old sought my advice on starting a solo practice. His reasons were not related to any financial need. I spent a good deal of time exploring what was motivating this attorney to want to start a practice from scratch at his age. It took a while for him to get to his real motivation: He needed to do something that would earn him a greater amount of respect from his children upon his passing. Retiring from a long- standing career with reasonable economic comfort wasn’t enough. He needed to be engaged actively in what he considered important work. He needed to rebuild his identity. His biggest concern was that he achieve this goal without losing anyof his nest egg. So we dealt with the economics, given his desire to work limited hours, that would allow him to achieve his goal.

 

        I remember when firms reluctantly came to the realization that they were not responsible to look after the post-retirement financial well-being of their members.


That’s when firms starting putting in retirement savings plans, purchasing buy-sell insurance policies and making members aware that they were responsible for their own financial well-being upon retirement.

 

That’s all well and good but, in my opinion, the most important component in this process has been and is still being ignored. Who will help these aging attorneys build  a vision for the next stage of their life?

How will they identify what will create sufficient meaning, purpose and passion to help them maintain a strong, albeit changed, identity?

 

My observation is that this kind of examination isn’t on the radar screen of most attorneys. Nor is law-firm management thinking about assisting attorneys in this area. I regret that I am so often in the position of informing law firms and individual lawyers that there is yet one more difficult task that they must undertake.


 

         All you young attorneys out there, take note. You will also need to cross this bridge someday.

 

So what should be done? I don’t claim to have all of the answers. I hope that bar association senior lawyers sections give this some thought. Initial thoughts I have involve seeking counsel from life coaches or psychologists. It’s never too late or early to begin to address this eventual challenge. Spend quiet time alone and with family, friends and colleagues, trying to uncover where your passions lie. I’m convinced that there has to be passion on your part about whatever the next step involves.

 

At the firm level, management can encourage proactive thought and provide forums for discussion. Perhaps they can bring in a speaker or two who can talk about transitions and discovering how to navigate one’s individual path to a next phase that is meaningful and rewarding. Perhaps develop a recommended-reading list.

 

Every firm should think about what alternatives it can offer for attorneys approaching retirement and openly discuss the possibilities. If a lawyer is interested in developing a new path, then hammer out the details to make it a viable alternative. All or nothing should not be the only possibilities for a senior lawyer’s career.

 

I encourage bar members and firms wrestling with these issues to begin these discussions. As so many of us enjoy longer lives, let’s work to maximize our enjoyment and sense of satisfaction to the very end.

•      •      •      •      •

 

 

Tags:  Retirement 

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Safeguard Your Data

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Safeguard Your Data

Posted: 18 Aug 2017 05:23 AM PDT

Safeguarding your business and personal data has never been more difficult or more important. How do you safeguard sensitive/confidential data? The manner of protection often depends on what kind of data you are safeguarding and how important or sensitive it is to you, your organization, or your customers.

Here are some tips on how to protect your data at work and at home.

Password-Protect Your Access
Always use a strong password or pass-phrase to protect access to your data.

Identify Where the Data Is Stored
Have specific places within your network or computer where you store sensitive/confidential data. Those network shares, hard drives, servers, or system folders can then have specific protection methods used to keep them more secure.

Encrypt Stored Sensitive/Confidential Data
Whenever possible, encrypt stored sensitive/confidential data, whether it is being permanently or temporarily stored. This can help prevent unintended disclosure even if your system has been compromised.

 

Thank you to Florida Bar Association’s PRI for today’s Security Awareness Tip!

Tags:  cybersecurity  data protection 

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ABA House of Delegates takes action: Urges changes affecting undocumented immigrants, among other policy decisions

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 

ABA House urges changes affecting undocumented immigrants, among other policy decisions

 
 

NEW YORK, Aug. 15, 2017 --The American Bar Association House of Delegates, which determines association-wide policy, adopted policies over two days that urges Congress to add courthouses to the “sensitive locations” list for immigration enforcement and licensing groups to admit to the bar undocumented law school graduates under certain circumstances.

 

The action by the House — made up of 601 delegates from state, local and other bar associations and legal groups from across the country — met in New York on Aug. 14-15 at the close of the ABA Annual Meeting, which began Aug. 10.

Resolution 108, proposed by the ABA Law Student Division and embraced by the ABA Young Lawyers Division, recommends that state courts with authority to regulate admission to the bar admit undocumented law school graduates if they are “seeking legal status.” The resolution passed by voice vote with modest opposition.

Resolution 10C urges Congress to amend Section 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to expand and codify Department of Homeland Security guidelines regarding immigration enforcement. It would specifically add courthouses to the government’s “sensitive locations” list.

Under current U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy, a handful of locations, such as schools, healthcare facilities, places of worship and religious ceremonies, and public demonstrations, are off-limits to agents. Proponents of the resolution cited examples across the country where individuals avoided courthouses because of fears that ICE had been notified of their pending presence and their undocumented status. They argued that without designating courthouses as “sensitive locations,” the effect would be to chill participation of undocumented victims and defendants from the justice process as well as to deter other witnesses from testifying.

In one case cited, a domestic violence victim refused to testify when she learned that ICE agents were present and looking for her, and the defendant walked free.

In Resolution 10B, the House reaffirmed the ABA’s opposition of a half century to mandatory minimum sentences because it limits a judge’s flexibility to consider circumstances and has a disparate impact on African Americans, whom proponents say are more likely to be charged with offenses with sentences in this category.

The House considered resolutions in these areas over its two-day meeting:

·        Juvenile justice: The House approved several resolutions related to the juvenile justice system. Drawing from the ABA Criminal Justice Standards, Resolution 112A seeks to address the predicament faced by juveniles caught in child welfare and criminal justice systems at the same time. Resolution 112C urges governments to adopt policies that favor release on recognizance, advocating that pre-trial detention should not be occur solely on the ability to pay; and Resolution 112E would prohibit the use of solitary confinement for those under 18 years old.

·        Gun violence: Following the lead of several states, the House approved Resolution 118 that urges governments to allow courts to issue gun violence restraining orders, including ex parte orders. Proponents called the resolution a “modest, common-sense reform” that would help families and others prevent suicides and other acts of violence through temporary restraining orders. Opponents raised First and Fourth Amendment issues as well as the one-sided nature of an ex parte proceeding. The resolution passed on a voice vote with modest opposition.

·        Records expungement: Two different resolutions would affect those exonerated from a charge as well as those found guilty of minor offenses. Resolution 112F urges governments to allow individuals to petition to expunge all criminal records pertaining to charges of arrests that did not end in a conviction. Resolution 112G urges that convictions for minor violations for certain crimes related to homelessness be eligible to be expunged.

·        Federal courts: In passing Resolution 104, the House reaffirmed its opposition to restructuring the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, one of 13 in the federal appellate system. Legislation has been proposed in Congress to split up the circuit, but there is strong opposition in the legal community. Speakers said the large majority of the 29 appellate judges on the court also oppose the split, as have bar groups in the western states and others.

·        Gideon issues: Resolution 106 urges Congress to give the U.S. Department of Justice more powers to ensure compliance with the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright,which gave defendants in most criminal cases the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Proponents said the promise of Gideon has been broken as many defendants are provided counsel who prove ineffective. Resolution 115 supports the appointment of counsel at federal government expense to represent all indigent persons in immigration removal proceedings.

All resolutions and their disposition can be found on the ABA site. Only proposals adopted by the House constitute association policy.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

 

Tags:  ABA; policy 

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Credentials or outcomes: What’s the fairest way to assess lawyer performance?

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Monday, August 14, 2017

 

Credentials or outcomes: What’s the fairest way to assess lawyer performance?

Posted Jul 13, 2017 8:00 AM CDT
By Paul Lippe, Gregory Richter and Paul Williams

 

When we meet with law firm managing partners and senior partners, we often ask them how well they understand their metrics.

Do you understand your firm’s profits per partner?
Yes.

Do you understand how many hours you and other partners have billed and what billing rates are? 
Yes.

Do you happen to remember your LSAT score and law school GPA? 
Why yes, as a matter of fact.

Do you know what the bonus calculation is for the general counsels of your five largest clients?
No.

Every communication or interaction between a modern enterprise and its law firms reflects how the client measures performance, which is expressed in financial statements, and the goals and bonus plans for the CEO and the general counsel. In most companies, the board and human resources play a large role in assessing performance, and GCs are looking for ways to be more in sync with them. To not understand the general counsel’s metrics and bonus calculation is to operate with blinders. 

In our first and second articles about performance, we discussed how metrics could help lawyers improve their performance and professional satisfaction. In today’s world, where most lawyerly conversations touch on areas for improvement like diversity, design thinking, innovation, artificial intelligence or project management, the amazing thing is that we have no agreed-upon way of assessing how these initiatives actually impact performance. 

The heart of the problem is that the law school Langdellian method doesn’t distinguish much between what judges do and what lawyers do, treating both as practicing legal reasoning, and it understands lawyers to be at the center of things, not needing to seek feedback. So while there are lots of good reasons to resist outcomes-oriented metrics for judges, few of those make sense for lawyers. Yet most lawyers want to be assessed on “lawyer-out” criteria:

 

    • Credentials.

    • Legal reasoning.

    • Thoroughness and effort.

    • Ethical intent.

As one friend recently joked: “If you judged lawyers the way they judge themselves, then every action by every lawyer who went to an elite law school would be exactly the same level of quality, since they define the quality of their action on the quality of their credentials.”

To understand the implications of getting to a place where you can better measure performance, look at what’s happened in the world of advertising. Ninety percent of all growth in ad spending in the last decade has gone to Google and Facebook, because they can demonstrate the performance of ad spending in a way traditional media never could.

Clients measure the impact of any action on:

    • Revenues, now or in the future.

    • Expenses, now or in the future.

    • Balance sheet, i.e., assets minus liabilities (including risk, correctly priced).

    • The multiple—the value investors ascribe to earnings, which is usually an amalgam of growth rate and intangible factors such as reputation, predictability, etc.

So the opportunity is for lawyers to embrace modern methods of measuring performance to show how what we do translates into value for the client. 

We think this is so important we’ll call it the Lippe-MLA Legal Performance Model.

Once we shift the lens from lawyer out to client in, it becomes pretty easy to better understand and improve performance.

What do lawyers do to contribute to revenue, now or in the future?

    • Put contracts in place that define and manage revenue.

    • Help create intellectual property rights that protect market position and improve margins.

    • Help acquire assets that are the source of future revenues.

    • Manage regulations or enforcement that impact market access.

    • Support business relationships that are viewed positively by customers, thereby improving the client's Net Promoter Score.
 
What do lawyers do to reduce expenses, now or in the future:
    • Help prevent problems or rule violations that ultimately get expressed as expenses. 

    • Reduce direct legal expenses.

    • Help other parts of business, such as procurement, be more commercially effective.

    • Avoid creating friction or unnecessary problems that impede efforts at transformation or other strategic changes.

    • Avoid litigation, correctly predict the outcome of litigation, or manage litigation to a better outcome.

What do lawyers do to improve the balance sheet?

    • The balance sheet is the reflection of historical financial performance. By definition, matters of risk—such as the potential risk that a customer won’t pay, or that a derivative will go into default—should be priced into the balance sheet. If risks are priced properly, then everyone in the organization will be on the same page in terms of understanding and taking appropriate risks. 

    • The balance sheet should be the place for truth-telling, so legal should help create a culture where problems are recognized and addressed, not suppressed to metastasize into bigger problems.

What do lawyers do to improve the multiple?

The value investors ascribe to future earnings is an amalgam of their assessment of corporate competence and market opportunity. While there’s not a ton that lawyers can do about market opportunity, all the higher order things lawyers hope to do—improve reputation, be seen as ethical, avoid one-time losses or enforcement problems, improve governance and compliance, anticipate and manage cyber risk—should be reflected in the multiple. 

When we see companies like Volkswagen, Wells Fargo or Uber struggle with huge performance, ethical and reputational issues, those problems get expressed as a reduction in their multiple, and it usually takes several years of consistent performance to get past those problems. Often, lawyers’ response to reputational problems is to add tons of proceduralism, but there is scant evidence that such proceduralism actually reduces investor uncertainty. 

Once we start to measure performance more rigorously, we see what we can do better, and we see how some of the things we’re already doing matter more or less than we think. 

    Diversity can help improve the multiple because it enhances corporate reputation and avoids reputational problems, and it should improve revenue by enhancing market access.

    Innovation helps reduce friction and find new market opportunities.

    Ethical reputation and consistency of earnings will improve the multiple.

    Design Thinking can get rid of superfluous friction that makes clients think we’re still living in a Dickens novel.

Given the need to realign lawyers to the way clients measure performance, we can probably suggest five laws for legal metrics:

    1. LegaI metrics must be outcomes-based, aligned with institutional metrics.

    2. LegaI metrics must be process-specific, i.e., sales-related metrics should be completely different from litigation-related metrics.

    3. It’s better to imperfectly measure important things than perfectly measure unimportant things.

    4. Metrics work much better when considered in conjunction with possible innovations like design thinking

    5. Lawyers who say they’re not good at metrics are just being lazy—they are more than capable of measuring those things they care about.

Like most professions, law makes aggressive claims for its distinctness from the world in which it operates. But perhaps the path forward is more about embracing the metrics culture of the broader world.
Paul Lippe, the former CEO of Legal OnRamp, is a member of Elevate Services’ Advisory Board. Gregory Richter is vice president and global head of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s In-House Practice Group and Solutions Practice Group. Paul Williams is a Major, Lindsey & Africa partner and a member of the CEO & Board Practice of Allegis Partners, MLA’s sister organization focused on executive search.
 

Tags:  Business Law  Law Practice Management 

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NYT Article Reveals Study Results About Gender Equity in Legal Profession

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, August 8, 2017

 

This New York Times article is worth a read. It covers a study in NY where judges were asked to track the gender of those speaking in court over a four month period. The results show that in some sectors of the legal profession, women have not increased their presence in the courtroom in decades. In other sectors, there is more gender equity. The article explores some of the reasons why those differences might be occurring. 

To access the article, follow this link:

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/08/opinion/female-lawyers-women-judges.html?emc=edit_th_20170808&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49206133

 

 

Tags:  Women; Gender Equity in Law 

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