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2017 What's Hot and What's Not in the Legal Profession

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Friday, December 1, 2017

 

THE 29TH ANNUAL TRENDS REPORT

2017 What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession

By  | Nov.27.17 | Daily DispatchLaw Firm ManagementLegal MarketingProfessional DevelopmentTrendsWhat's Hot and What's Not

Each year, Bob Denney’s big fourth quarter report on What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession keeps us on top of the most important business trends. Here’s an early look at the 2017 report before it is released later this week.

This is our 29th annual report on what’s going on in the legal profession. As in all the previous reports, it is based on information my colleagues and I continually gather from many sources — law firms, legal networks, other providers of legal services, legal departments, surveys and the press.

As always, this is not an attempt to report on every development, many of which are generally recognized, but only on those we believe should be noted because, in our opinion, they are having or will have an impact on the profession.

PRACTICE AREAS/INDUSTRY GROUPS

(Note: Four years ago we first reported that a few firms were restructuring their practice into industry groups containing multiple practice areas. This trend has continued.)

RED HOT

  • Health Care, regardless of what has happened to the Affordable Care Act.
  • Immigration, regardless of what policies the Trump administration pursues.
  • Cybersecurity. Will continue to be the No. 1 issue for both in-house counsel and consumers.

HOT

  • Financial Services. The economy will continue to strengthen. This will fuel almost every area of financial services including IPOs and mergers & acquisitions.
  • Food & Beverage due to continued increases in labeling, ingredient and testing requirements.
  • Bitcoins for those firms that have or develop the expertise.
  • Elder Law. Increasing in scope, as we have been reporting.
  • Sports. Particularly contracts.
  • Real Estate & Construction, both residential and commercial, in most parts of the country.

GETTING HOT

  • Other Sports, including eSports and gaming.

COOL

  • Commercial Litigation. The number of cases, and therefore the profitability, in most large and midsize firms continues to decrease although there are exceptions. However, as we reported in our Midyear Update, there are reports that litigation funding is regaining strength
  • Labor & Employment, separate from immigration.

NO READING YET

  • Environmental except in California, New York, Washington and Oregon, which are increasing their regulatory activity.
  • Tax.

HOT GEOGRAPHIC MARKETS

  • Dallas. One of the most notable signs was Winston & Strawn’s opening there early this year.
  • Louisville. As discussed in Of Counsel’s June issue.

MARKETING & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

(Note: As we said in our Midyear Update, there are so many strategies and activities, old and new, proven and unproven, and so much written about them that, except for the items below, we feel it is redundant to discuss or list them here.)

  • Website design and development. The DOJ is expected to start enforcing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, at least at Level A, early in 2018. Unless they also comply, law firms are not immune to these suits as well as to a loss of reputation and declining SEO performance on their websites, according to Content Pilot CEO Deborah McMurray.
  • Artificial intelligence. Just beginning to be involved in marketing, as well as providing legal services.
  • Sales professionals. The most aggressive personal injury firms are supplementing their advertising and promotion programs by hiring sales professionals. Other than personal injury firms, some firms are hiring non-lawyers to uncover and develop new business leads. It took literally several decades for the accounting profession to achieve worthwhile results from this strategy. Even with all the hue and cry for more change in the legal profession, we believe it will still not be even mildly successful.
  • Formal sales coaching training. Has been productive in some firms where supported and funded by firm management.

OTHER TRENDS & ISSUES

  • Another record number of mergers. This is due, in part, to some cross-border mergers but most continue to be acquisitions of small firms and smaller mid-size firms by larger firms.      
  • Stagnant demand for legal services. This will continue.
  • Total number of lawyers in U.S. firms also remains flat. However, some midsize firms such as Spencer Fane have steadily grown due to first-year hiring and selective lateral entries.
  • First-year hiring will increase, according to Robert Half, in what it describes as “high-growth areas — Litigation, Commercial Law and Real Estate.” Frankly, except for real estate, we question this as far as firms go, but not necessarily in corporate legal departments.
  • Small offices. Some firms are closing them to reduce costs and to (hopefully) increase efficiency. However …
  • Virtual offices and working from home continue to increase. A major reason is that millennials prefer this and larger firms are developing systems and policies to accommodate them — as well as reduce space costs.
  • Gender bias lawsuits continue, according to the 2017 Law360 Glass Ceiling Report, because, while women comprise over 50 percent of current law school graduates, their share of equity partnerships remains around 20 percent and has not increased in recent years. However, note that each year there are women who are elected managing partners, succeeding men, in some mid- to larger size firms.
  • Alternate legal service providers (ALSPs) continue to increase in number as well as in the breadth of services they offer. However, note that there are still a substantial number of smaller in-house legal departments that need specialty services but do not yet use ALSPs.
  • In-house client teams. They continue to increase in both number and size in larger clients.
  • Legal incubators. A small but steady increase in the number of these programs continues to provide recent law school graduates with the training and infrastructure they need to launch solo practices.
  • Pressure on general counsels continues to increase as they are called upon to not only control costs but also provide business counsel as part of a company’s or organization’s management team.
  • More with less. Even the largest in-house legal departments continue to face pressure to reduce costs.
  • Blockchain being tested in other uses, not just in relation to bitcoin. This is part of the movement in certain states such as Arizona and Nevada to enact legislation or issue guidance regarding new technologies and digital currencies. As it becomes more widely used, this industry should expect more regulatory efforts.
  • Non-legal subsidiaries. As we reported in June, 15 years ago there were several hundred firms that were owned and managed them in a variety of industries. Although less noted until now, estimates are that many of them have continued. If properly integrated into the structure of the firm and well managed, they can enable firms to counter revenue and profit challenges as well as provide expanded service to clients.
  • Multidisciplinary practices (MDPs). As Susan Duncan discusses in her October post, some of the larger firms have gone beyond the subsidiary structure and have hired non-lawyers, i.e., consultants and other professionals, and integrated them into the practice or industry group structure as part of teams to serve their clients.
  • Other service delivery approaches involving technology, process improvement and knowledge management continue to be developed.
  • Non-lawyers managing firms. A Chicago firm recently announced it would hire a business executive to handle the firm’s operations, apparently at a level above that of chief operating officer. As much as law firms could benefit from effective business management, does this indicate a trend toward non-lawyer MPs and CEOs? Very, very doubtful. Several years ago a large Philadelphia firm brought in a Big 4 partner to be CEO. After two or three years he left the firm and the firm again elected one of its partners CEO.
  • Transition and succession plans. Not only solos but a gradually increasing number of partners in firms are addressing these issues in mid-practice, so to speak, rather than waiting until age, health or other issues force them to.
  • Contract and “flex-time” lawyers. The steady decline in the amount of billable work that began with the recession had already resulted in some of the larger firms replacing full-time associates — and even partners — with part-time lawyers who work only on projects as needed. Several of these firms have now formalized this structure and created flex-time lawyer platforms. There are now also several stand-alone flex-lawyer businesses such as Axiom and Caravel as well as virtual firms such as Taylor English and FisherBroyles.
  • Fee sharing. The District of Columbia is the only U.S. jurisdiction to allow fee sharing with non-lawyers. Otherwise, fees are not federally mandated but are set state by state. For the past four years, we have reported on the small but growing momentum to change these rules and allow non-lawyer ownership of U.S. law firms. Now, with PwC’s forming a separate entity called ILC Legal, the Big 4 will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of new rules and pose a big threat to the law firm business. As Craig Brown stated in a recent post, “ILC” really stands for “I like your clients.”
  • Less need for lawyers. Simultaneous with the gradual trend toward fee-sharing with non-lawyers is the continued growth of technology-powered services that do not require lawyers to deliver them. While lawyers are needed at various stages to help build these services, they are increasingly less needed in many areas to delivery them.
  • Chief Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC). This growing group is made up of people within law departments who, among other things, develop and keep the metrics on cases won and lost, fees billed and even diversity to provide information to the GCs so they can determine who they want to assign to a specific case or deal.
  • Artificial intelligence continues to grow in its impact on not only planning and business decisions but also on the practice of law.
  • Cyber-attacks and theft continue to rise around the world and law firms are becoming prime targets. A principal reason why cybersecurity is a “red hot” practice area.
  • Law firm networks. As more of them are formed, they offer clients an alternative to efficient and targeted legal services without having to research large firms.
  • Alternate fee arrangements. Despite the predictions of the last several years, they have not replaced the billable hour except in two extremes: 1) Major litigation where clients want to drive down the fees, and 2) in many “basic” matters such as uncontested divorce where a fixed fee is more appropriate and accepted. 

A Note of Thanks

As stated earlier, this is our 29th annual “What’s Hot and What’s Not” report. Like all the previous reports, it could not have been developed without the contributions of my colleagues, most of whose comments, by agreement, are not attributed to them. I am most appreciative of their input.

I will continue to publish periodic Legal Communiques as I see the need for them. However, this is the final “What’s Hot” report. As Kenny Rogers sings in “The Gambler”:

“You got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.
Never count your money
When you’re sitting at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealing’s done.”

 

Bob Denney has provided management, leadership, strategic planning and business development services to corporations, professional firms and non-profit organizations throughout the United States and parts of Canada. A respected speaker and author, his articles have appeared in many legal publications. His firm publishes the highly regarded reports on What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession.

Tags:  Law Firm Management  Legal Marketing  Legal Profession Trends 

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Law Firm's Guide to a Low-Risk Holiday Party

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Wednesday, November 29, 2017

THE REALITY OF 2017

Law Firm’s Guide to a Low-Risk Holiday Party

By  | Nov.28.17 | Daily DispatchLaw Firm CultureLaw Firm ManagementProfessionalism

I know, I know — another cautionary tale about law firm holiday parties. We all know the drill: Have fun, but not too much. Keep in mind the party — whether it includes staff, spouses or clients — is a professional work event. What happens reflects on not only the individual but the firm itself.

You have no doubt heard the same old warnings as each holiday season approaches. And as you should; everyone attending a firm’s party should keep those in mind. But what about those hosting the party? Is there is a separate set of guidelines for partners and firm management to make the night a professional — and social — success?

If you’ve attended more than a couple of years’ worth of parties, you know it as a source of lucid folklore. Everyone remembers the year Jim did this, or Jenna did that, or what Jim and Jenna did together. Blowing off steam after a rugged journey to reach economic and business goals at year’s end is implicitly expected to generate juicy gossip or myths of scandal and embarrassment. Anything less is seen as boring, an unwelcome post-party verdict.

But this year is a little different.

Welcome to the most dangerous party in your firm’s history.

The Reality of 2017

As you are well aware, not much is the same in the practice of law today, and those changes are manifestly affecting the outdated template of the holiday party. For example, it has been found that 21 to 36 percent of practicing lawyers are active problem drinkers. Another growing segment medicates their stress or exhaustion with opiates, sedatives and stimulants, often problematically mixed with alcohol. Welcome to an open bar party at the end of the year!

Further, the issue of sexual harassment has dominated daily news feeds in recent months, across all industries. Past deeds are uncovered while current misbehavior is subject to new and severe in-house scrutiny. DUIs are no longer acceptable to the firm or the licensing and disciplinary boards. The firm’s legal liability for its holiday party can extend to physical harm, harassment, discrimination, workers’ compensation and a host of other legal theories to come.

According to studies, more than 10 percent of attendees at holiday parties act out in some manner that compromises their professional standing. They do so under the watchful eye of countless phones and cameras, waiting to be tomorrow’s Instagram post. And mind-altering substances are not always the culprit — many lawyers have strong personalities that become enhanced in the environment of the annual bash.

As defenses fall with each drink, lawyers might act out on their yearlong peer or subordinate crush. They may drink too much just to relax, even if they are not typically problematic drinkers (often a more destructive scenario than with the seasoned drinker). Others may decide to vent their frustration or anger about the firm, often when impaired and exhausted, or even attempt to drive home while legally incapacitated.

But on a Positive Note …

Although it might seem as if holiday parties are littered with landmines, the reality is they serve a positive and necessary purpose. In fact, because firm culture often is more impersonal and businesslike these days, hosting such events is critical to boosting spirits.

The end of the year is a milestone and a reckoning, good or bad. Lawyers, professionals and staff have been in the trenches together for a year attempting to reach personal and professional goals. The holiday party is essentially “shore leave,” an opportunity to bond, celebrate, find inspiration, build camaraderie, blow off steam, laugh, enjoy one another outside of the office, and give a nod to the holiday season. It is both a recognition of the sacrifices and achievements of the past year as well as a pep talk for the upcoming year.

In other words, a holiday party can and should be a wonderful experience filled with relatively sober and relaxed conversations, a toast or speech from firm leadership, and perhaps a fun activity. (I was at a firm where each year the associates made a video for the partners, which premiered at the party.) Attendees may even experience some gratitude for their bond with the firm.

Every firm is different, and some decidedly have more of a “family” culture, but this party should serve as a positive experience for all, no matter what the nature of your firm.

Predictable Problems: Mitigating the Risks

Taking a few discrete actions, including the below, can minimize predictable problems.

1. Send invitations and emails outlining the firm’s expectations:

  • What to wear
  • The importance of respectful physical and verbal behavior
  • The notion that the party is an extension of the workplace
  • A heads-up on the enhanced scrutiny of workplace behavior and a gentle warning to behave accordingly

2. Limit opportunities to become intoxicated:

  • Provide a certain number of tickets for alcohol for attendees.
  • Make the length of the party shorter rather than longer.
  • Don’t permit shots.
  • Offer good food and non-alcoholic alternatives (and include low-alcohol punch).
  • Give a relatively early “last call.”
  • Designate a member or two of management (not HR) to be sober observers to monitor potential problems.

3. Provide Uber or another ride-share service for every attendee to and from the party. It is impossible to identify every person who may be impaired, so the money will be worth it. My recommendation is that Uber be paid for even when the attendees go to an after-party or meet at a bar. These post-party gatherings are common and it’s often when the attendee has that one drink too many. This policy also protects attendees who choose to have a “pre-party,” a not uncommon tradition for nervous associates who may be socializing with senior partners for the first time.

Final Words

At the end of the day, a party is still a party, with all the fun and risks attendant to a gathering with alcohol, music, food, and scores of different personalities and skills. As host, your firm can certainly put some boundaries and practical tools in place to avoid potential damage to guests and to the firm itself. Neglecting to do so in December 2017 would be a serious error.

Make this year’s party memorable for all the right reasons, even if there are fewer war stories to add to the firm’s history.

 
 

Link Christin is Executive Director of the Legal Professionals Program at Caron Treatment Centers, and works extensively with impaired lawyers through the treatment and recovery process. A former lawyer and firm partner, he also educates and provides training to law firms about these issues. He is a licensed and board-certified alcohol and drug addiction counselor.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

Tags:  Holiday  Law Practice Management 

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How to Wish Clients Happy Holidays

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ask Daliah: 5 ways to wish clients happy holidays (without the clutter of cards)

  •  
      

 
Daliah

Daliah Saper

Dear Daliah: What is your opinion on mailing out greeting cards to clients for the holidays?

Dear readers: Every year, toward the end of November and beginning of December, my desk starts to pile up with greeting cards. The majority of them are part of a mass mailing with either a stamped signature or sometimes no signature at all. I look at them for 5 seconds, set them aside, only to look at them again for 5 more seconds right before I throw them out.

Every year I wonder why firms think it is a good idea to invest hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on these cards. Firms, especially smaller firms, should allocate their holiday marketing dollars more effectively.

This year, instead of sending out greeting cards to clients, consider one of these five alternatives:

  1. E-cards. Instead of spending your firm’s hard-earned money on physical cards, send electronic greeting cards. Most e-blast programs allow you to quickly and efficiently personalize each email and track which clients actually open your greeting card. Additionally, an electronic greeting gives you more room to discuss your firm and highlight important and interesting news about your year.

  2. Gifts to charity. Since e-cards cost a fraction of what regular cards do, use the funds allocated for physical cards to donate to a charity that resonates with your law firm. In your holiday news blast, let the recipient know you are donating the dollars you would otherwise have spent on greeting cards.

  3. Physical gifts with social impact. Sometimes you have to give an actual gift along with a card. In those cases, rather than a fruit basket or a flower arrangement, give a gift with impact. For example, Packed with Purpose partners with socially conscious companies to create unique gifts that help give back to the community and people in need. You can choose from a variety of curated gift sets or create custom gift boxes to send your clients.

  4. Gifts your clients sell. Or if your practice is like mine and you represent a variety of businesses, use this holiday season as an opportunity to promote your clients. Give gifts sold by your clients or work with them to create holiday promotions that you can share. In my latest news blast, I promoted my client Birchbox, and included a discount code they gave me specifically for my network. Your clients will appreciate the gift of increased exposure and your network will appreciate the gift of a good discount.

  5. Holiday parties. In addition to sending a holiday greeting or meaningful gift, consider throwing a holiday party. Holiday parties allow you to communicate with your clients in a more relaxed setting. Plus, everyone benefits from the opportunity to make new friends and just have a good time. I usually photograph and video my holiday parties and include links to view the holiday party album in a follow-up email. You can view some of those videos here.


Daliah Saper, founder of Saper Law Offices, is answering reader questions about building a 21st-century law firm. She can be reached at AskDaliah@ABAJournal.com.

Daliah Saper opened Saper Law Offices, an intellectual property, digital media, entertainment and business law firm based in Chicago, in 2005. Saper is regularly interviewed on national TV, radio and in several publications, including Fox News, CNN, CNBC, ABC News, 20/20, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. She is an adjunct professor of entertainment law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Tags:  Holiday  Law Practice Management 

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Disaster Planning: Are You Ready?

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

 

Disaster Planning:  Are You Ready?

We are all vulnerable to disasters whether they be floods, tornadoes, ice storms, or other emergencies. The question is:  how prepared are you?

Would your practice survive an ice storm that shuts things down for two weeks? What would happen if all the computers in your office were stolen? Or, what would occur if you had a heart attack tonight? Having your practice prepared for a sudden emergency or disaster is a must do for all solo, small, and large firms. A Disaster Recovery Plan can assist your firm in reducing or eliminating some of the dangers associated with a disaster, creating a better response to the emergency, recovering faster from the event, and it minimizes financial losses and service interruption.

To be successful, a plan will need to be strategically developed with foresight and planning offering the appropriate level of detail for your firm structure. Additionally, a plan will only be successful if it is supported by senior management and offers appropriate budget and resource allocations. Disaster plans should always be in writing and discussed and shared with all staff members of the firm. And, because this is a Disaster Plan, one copy should be kept off-site in case your electronic and hard copy files are inaccessible during the emergency event.

A Disaster Plan must, at a minimum, cover proper back-ups and recovery of files, create and keep updated an emergency contact list, and maintain adequate and proper insurance coverage through all emergencies and disasters.

If you’d like to learn more about Disaster Planning attend my session at the Plaza Lights CLE held December 7 & 8 at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Plaza (Presentation on Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery on December 7 at 2:50 pm:  register at ksbar.org/cle) or at the Slam Dunk CLE Conference held January 29 & 30 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manhattan (Presentation on Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery on January 30 at 8:30 am:  register at ksbar.org/cle).

Tags:  Disaster Planning  Law Practice Management 

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Have You Considered Adding Video Conferencing to Your Practice?

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Thursday, November 9, 2017

Have You Considered Adding Video Conferencing to Your Practice?

According to a study conducted by the Legal Resource Technology Center of the American Bar Association, only about 20% of lawyers were using video conferencing in 2016. And, of those 20%, only about 4% were using video conferencing regularly. But, when compared to other businesses, that is far below average. Why? The study didn't reach that far, but there are several reasons why attorneys may not be using video conferencing. They may be skiddish about the technology, unsure about the security features, and unclear about how to make client confidentiality work in the context of both technology and security. But, other businesses are using these tools regularly because video conferencing can reduce travel and other related costs by as much as 30%.

Video conferencing comes with many benefits, particularly in a rural state such as Kansas where traveling to meet with clients can be costly and transportation can be an issue for many clients. Setting up video conferencing in one’s office can allow an attorney to meet with more clients in one day than would be possible by travel alone. And, it can allow the attorney to cover a wider catchment area as well, thereby potentially meeting needs in underserved areas.

The most important question to ask when considering video conferencing is what am I wanting this service to do for me? This question will allow you to sort through potential products and services out there in the realm of video conferencing to find the one that works best for you.

·         Do you want to collaborate on documents with clients, share screens, and chat with clients and participants while on the conference?

·         Will you use one room in the office for video conferencing that will remain set up with all of the necessary tools or will you be carrying your laptop around to do video conferencing on-the-go?

·         Are you looking for a cloud-based service and, if so, what questions do you need to ask to know what happens after the call(s) – where is the data stored and what type of security is used?[i]

Additionally, the attorney will want to consider the cost of the product. There are some free products out there, but not many. A few, such as Zoom, will allow you to use the product for free up to 40 minutes and up to 50 participants, but if you want to add the additional features, support, and functionality, then you must pay for the service. And, this is true across the board. In order to have access to increased functionality and features, the attorney will need to pay for the service and the product.[ii]

When selecting a product, be sure to pick a tool that is easy to use. You will need to be competent on this tool so by picking one that is easy to master you will better ensure your ability to reach the level of competence. Also, your clients will need to use this product and if there is an excessive amount of downloading and technological sophistication needed to use it then you may have upset clients and decreased satisfaction with your services.

Support is an important feature to think about when considering video conferencing. Paying for a product will increase the accessibility to support and this will allow the attorney to focus on being the attorney on the call and not the tech expert. Thus, if the client has trouble logging in, or there is a problem with the platform, then there is someone else to call other than the attorney having to try to troubleshoot all of the tech issues along with the legal ones.[iii]

Some accessories may be necessary to make your video conferencing services flow. You will need a computer, security software, and the video-conferencing service. Zoom, Google Hangout, Skype for Business, WebX, and Go-to-Meeting are just a few of the services on the market today. You will want to explore the products available to find the right fit for your practice. Additionally, when setting up video conferencing in your practice you will want to make sure you have a high-quality webcam and headphones. Even if you are the only one in the room, or in the building, you may want to use headphones. Oftentimes, when speaking directly toward the computer it can leave a muffled echo that does not sound professional. You will want to test your sound quality prior to the first video conference with a client.[iv]

When considering any type of technology every attorney must consider the implications to client confidentiality. Given the range of ethical issues raised by using technology in a law practice, we must always try to identify appropriate security measures to keep client information safe and protected. Here are a few questions to ask regarding technology and data security at your firm:

·         Are your physical, organizational and technological security measures adequate?

·         Are you using firewalls and intrusion detection software appropriately?

·         Are you using anti-malware software appropriately?

·         Are there firm policies in place regarding technology use?

·         Are firm lawyers and staff given adequate technology training?

·         Do you have measures in place to ensure data integrity?

·         Is your data backed-up?

·         Are your passwords, other access restrictions and authentication protocols sufficient?

·         Do you use encryption, where appropriate?

·         When discarding equipment, do you take appropriate measures to guard against unauthorized disclosure of client information?

·         Is there an incident response plan in place at your firm?[v]

Once a choice is made regarding a type of security, a video-conferencing product, and the place and type of storage for client information, all of this information should be listed in the client engagement letter providing notice to clients about how and where their information will be kept and secured by the firm.

Video conferencing can open your practice to new areas, new clients, and new possibilities. While there are many things to consider before jumping in to video conferencing, it can be an exciting opportunity to grow your practice. Before starting, you will want to remember to arrive at your conference early, every time, because software glitches happen, and you want to be prepared. If you are early to the conference, then you have a chance to troubleshoot problems and glitches. And, remember if you are on the screen, or in the room, then people can see you. You are always visible during a video conference, so be prepared to watch your mannerisms and facial expressions and be “on” for the entire call. [vi]

If you have any questions related to video conferencing, contact Sara Rust-Martin, KBA Law Practice Management Attorney, 785-861-8821, or srustmartin@ksbar.org



[i] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).

[ii] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).

[iii] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).

[iv] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).

[v] Legal Ethics in a Digital World, The Canadian Bar Ass’n (2014).

[vi] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).

Tags:  cybersecurity  data protection  legal technology  Video Conferencing 

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The Skill of Being a Successful Lawyer: Relationship Building

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Monday, November 6, 2017

 

The Skill of Being a Successful Lawyer:  Relationship Building

In law school, students are taught legal knowledge, how to write as a lawyer, and even how to think like one, but future lawyers are not often in classes on the most important skill of being a successful lawyer:  relationship building.

To be a successful lawyer you will need relationships – all kinds of them. You need people to help you build your ideas, develop solutions to your problems, and offer key introductions to the “right” people when necessary. Professionally necessary people establish our network. We come to rely on them for all sorts of things inside and outside of the office. And, successful lawyers have a strong, diverse network.

Who makes up your network?

Don’t make the mistake of limiting your network to only lawyers or to people who are too similar to you. “When you interact only with people who are in similar positions, have similar views and share similar experiences, the result is an echo chamber – your network echoes back the same information and ideas to you. And, if everyone in your network has the same contacts that you have, you limit your opportunities to learn, grow, and develop new business.

The echo chamber effect is intensified on social media. Your news feed in Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms is likely to contain content from mostly those within your close circle of family, friends, and colleagues, many of whom have the same interests, concerns and views that you have, and is less likely to contain many people with differing points of view or perspectives.”[i]

What have you done to build or cultivate your network this week?

Be mindful of the limiting practices outlined above when building your network, whether online or off. “Instead of joining groups or speaking only to people who are like you, seek out people who have had different experiences and have different perspectives than you do. Look for new ideas and resources outside of your circle to avoid recirculating the same old information. Follow people from different industries and with different points of view on social media. Actively cultivate relationships with people with whom you disagree.”[ii]

Building business is, ultimately, all about relationships and trust, and these take time to develop, so the earlier in your career that you begin, the more successful you will be.

 



[i] Leading Through Relationships. Allison C. Shields. Law Practice (Nov/Dec. 2017).

[ii] Id.

Tags:  Relationship Building  Successful Lawyering 

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Save-the-Date for ABA TECHSHOW 2018

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Wednesday, November 1, 2017
  • SAVE THE DATE

    Save the date for ABA TECHSHOW 2018!

    March 7-10, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

    • Hotel Information- 2018

      Hyatt Regency Chicago
      151 E Upper Wacker Drive
      Chicago, Illinois 60601

    • Industry-Leading Faculty

      TECHSHOW is your chance to hear - and meet - the industry's top technology experts. Don't miss your chance to hear and explore the new and best technology has to offer your law practice! 

    • Mark Your Calendar Today!

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    •  
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Tags:  ABA TECHSHOW 2018 

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FREE WEBINAR: Distraction Management for Busy Lawyers

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Friday, October 27, 2017

Distraction Management for Busy Lawyers [Webinar]

Posted: 26 Oct 2017 01:21 PM PDT

Our next edition of Webinars for Busy Lawyers will show you how to reclaim your time and money from distractions and optimize your ability to focus – in 30 minutes or less.

How many times are you distracted from your work on a typical day? You’ll lose almost 25 minutes on average returning to your original task each time. If you’re still billing by the hour, it’s a quick calculation to turn that loss into dollars.

On November 15th at 12pm (eastern)
Reid Trautz will present
Distraction Management for Busy Lawyers

Recent studies have shown that if you don’t regularly use your ability to focus and concentrate, your abilities will be greatly reduced. In today’s digital world, email and other device distractions often prevent us from concentrating time and mental energy on larger projects such as trial preparation or brief writing.

Loss of focus means time lost trying to get the job done. That means more time in the office but less money to show for it! The key is to reverse this trend by practicing your focus and concentration.

Join us for a fast-paced webinar filled with tips, tools, and strategies to reduce your distractions and increase your productivity.

Our Webinars for Busy Lawyers are always FREE but spots are limited so register now!

About the Expert

Reid Trautz is the Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Practice and Professionalism Center, where he provides ethics guidance and management advisory services to lawyers to help improve their businesses and the delivery of legal services to their clients. He is a nationally recognized advisor, author and presenter on practice issues, including business process improvement, law practice technology, and legal ethics. He is co-author of The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice, published by the ABA, and is a frequent contributor to legal publications nationwide. Reid is an elected Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, and was named to the Fastcase 50 list of global legal innovators in 2012.

Tags:  Law Practice Management 

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Using the Cloud Securely

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, October 24, 2017

 

Using The Cloud Securely

 

"The Cloud" can mean different things to different people, but usually means using a service provider on the Internet to store and manage your computing systems and/or data for you. An advantage of the Cloud is that you can easily access and synchronize your data form multiple devices anywhere in the world, and you can also share your information with anyone you want. We call these services "The Cloud" because you often do not know where your data is physically stored. Examples of Cloud computing include creating documents on Google Docs, sharing files via Dropbox, setting up your own server on Amazon Cloud, storing customer data in Salesforce, or archiving your music or pictures in Apple's iCloud. These online services can make you far more productive, but they also come with unique risks. In this newsletter, we cover how you can securely make the most of the Cloud.

Read the full Monthly Security Awareness Newsletter for Everyone by clicking this link:  https://securingthehuman.sans.org/newsletters/ouch/issues/OUCH-201611_en.pdf

If the link is inactive on your screen, simply cut and paste it into your browser to read the full Newsletter.

 

 

Tags:  Cloud Security  data protection 

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Eye for Errors: Test your skills at editorial triage

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, October 17, 2017

 

Eye for Errors:  Test your skills at editorial triage

 

Every editor must engage in triage: sorting the most urgently needed edits from minor ones that, although desirable, aren’t absolutely necessary. If instead you treat all edits as if they were equally serious—covering the page in red ink—the writer may feel hopelessly inundated and just reject them all.

If you approach editing sensibly, the extensiveness of your edits to someone else’s work will also depend on your seniority (will your marks be taken as orders?), your skill (do you really know what you’re doing?), and your judgment about how amenable your colleagues will be to your changes (are they secure enough to understand that editing is an act of friendship?).

For now, let’s assume that you’re a junior person in the office. Your colleagues have middling writing skills, but they don’t understand the finer points of style. In short, you’re in a very typical situation here. You’ve been asked to review three briefs before they get filed tomorrow, and your seniors want you to be sure that there aren’t any typos or similar gaffes. Assume that they’re addicted to prior to (for before) and pursuant to (for under), and they won’t take kindly to your editing for mere questions of style.

Give these briefs a minimalist edit—confining yourself to outright errors. In each sentence that follows, find one or more glaring errors and one or more venial errors. The glaring errors (wrong word, poor grammar, misspelling, etc.) must be fixed: They would be regarded as blunders by any informed reader. The venial errors (a finer point of punctuation or word choice) might slide: They won’t tarnish the firm’s image too much because they’re so common. Purely discretionary matters of improvable style (passive voice, wordiness, legalese, etc.) are off-limits here.

Follow the link here to TAKE THE EDITOR"S QUIZ and read the rest of the article. Good luck!

 

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/error_editor_quiz_garner/?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly_email

 

 

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Successful Law Firms Provide Both Proper Environment and Tech Tools

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, October 17, 2017

THE NEW NORMAL

Successful law firms provide both proper environment and tech tools

Posted Oct 17, 2017 8:30 AM CDT
By Randi Mayes

Randi Mayes

Randi Mayes

The noble legal profession is notorious for its inability to move away from long-standing traditions. While many firms of all sizes experiment with new technologies, methodologies and business practices, the vast legal landscape can hardly be distinguished from itself two or more decades ago. 


To see how little has changed, we need only look at the proclamation that “the billable hour is dead”—which has been echoing for many years. We hear the celebratory whoops of success now and then, but we more frequently see the data indicating little has changed.

In this era of the rise of the machine, one is left to wonder how the traditional law firm model will fare for lawyers and staff alike. A modern law firm intent on thriving will likely undergo changes large and small; and a firm that has a high probability of success has thrived in a culture of change that pushed them through the past two decades.

Before we can paint a picture of the 21st-century law firm’s technology landscape, we must focus on the drivers of success: culture, people and processes. Without the right environment in which to leverage technology, success will be accidental and nonrepeatable.

CULTURE SHIFT

The term innovation sits in stark contrast to notions of tradition, hierarchy, repetition and perfection, all of which are part of the DNA of a law firm. A cultural shift is necessary to create the right environment in which entrepreneurship and innovation can be fostered.

A culture of innovation will drive creative approaches to service delivery that will drive business growth. Innovative firms have a deep focus on the client experience, empathetically embracing the client’s needs.

An innovative culture has no regard for rank or privilege, and it cares nothing for the concept of hierarchy so deeply rooted in traditional law firms. Rather, it creates opportunities where every voice is heard, where the freedom to fail is intrinsic, where department and practice silos are nonexistent, and where the strategic and business goals of the firm are understood, valued and moved forward by every employee. All with a single focus on better service to the client.

Knowledge-sharing isn’t a discreet discipline; it is part of the lifeblood of the firm.

THE HUMAN ELEMENT

Scouting, hiring and nurturing exceptional legal talent have long been goals of successful firms. The modern firm has the same desire for exceptional talent as it builds a professional staff who will direct and manage the firm’s business and support the practitioners. Savvy, agile, team-focused individuals who thrive in a culture of innovation and share the firm’s strategic vision and business direction will contribute to success.

The complexities and rapid rate of change of our technologies allow us to view human capital with a fresh eye—focusing less on traditional measures of education and experience (though those are important components), but with a stronger focus on mindset—aka attitude—and general flexibility, critically important attributes of engaged employees.

A collegial, collaborative culture requires collegial, collaborative people for sustainability and adaptability. By creating an environment that telegraphs strong support of personal and professional goals while placing value on family and leisure time, a firm will build a reputation that will attract the right people.

Nurturing all employees of a firm through ongoing education and support of peer networks will underscore the importance placed on the critical human element. The smart firm clears the path for its employees to connect with other smart people via professional associations and industry conferences.

As we increasingly see a world of phone-facing consumption of information, the value of real-life peer connections cannot be overstated. And the wider the network, the more learning opportunities exist. Peer connections across industries and across the globe are priceless.

THE ‘PRO’ IN PROCESS

With the right culture and people supporting it, a modern firm will examine its approach to process improvement. Many successful firms dedicate teams to continual examination and refinement of processes using Six Sigma, Agile or Lean disciplines. Absent this level of formality, a firm’s commitment to ensuring the most efficient, client-focused outcomes will drive success.

With the right culture of collaboration and inclusivity, continual improvement of processes occurs organically. Process improvement is aided by technology, and we’ll see the hot spots as we explore our tech landscape.

SHUT DOWN THE GARBAGE-MASHERS!

There is a scene in the original Star Wars where our soon-to-be heroes find themselves at the bottom of a garbage chute. When the compactor begins compressing their space, they struggle to stay on top of the heap. That scene can be reminiscent of how we’ve often dealt with technology, trying to separate the value from the junk and staying on top of it lest it crush us.

Technology should be used to solve a problem or make a process more efficient. And it should be utilized within intelligent processes by savvy people.

There is no perfect inventory of apps and gadgets that will ensure a firm’s success. Good technology is only part of the makeup of a good law firm.

Our modern law firm exploits the technology that supports the processes that aid the people who thrive in a culture of innovation, inclusion and knowledge-sharing. The obsolete garbage-mashers were shut down long ago.


Randi Mayes retired this year as executive director of the International Legal Technology Association, a position she had held since 1997. Law firm technologists Sheryl Dale, Gerry Heidenreich, Lyle McIntosh, Beth Patterson, David Roden and Barry Wheeler, who serve on ILTA’s program planning teams assisted in this article’s preparation.

 
 

Tags:  ABA Legal Rebels  Legal Technology 

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Law Practice Today: The Leadership Issue

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Monday, October 16, 2017

The Leadership Issue.
Get advice and analysis on the business of practicing law in this issue of Law Practice Today.

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The Leadership Issue

Law Practice Today, October 2017

Editor-in-Chief: Andrea Malone
Associate Editors: Amy Drushal
Issue Editor: Anna Rappaport

 

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Features

 

Leadership: Do We Have It
All Wrong?

By Susan Letterman White

Are law firms selecting leaders for all the wrong reasons?

Building A Culture of Rainmakers

By David King Keller

Ten tips for creating a rainmaking culture at your firm.

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By Francine Friedman Griesing

Being the boss is different than being a best friend.

By David R. Pierce

Planning, patience, persistence, and understanding human nature helps leadership transitions succeed.

By Anna Rappaport

Effective leaders create other leaders to support them.

By Mary Juetten

Valuable insight to approaching legal technology decisions for your firm as a partner.

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By Ronda Muir

Leaders with high Emotional Intelligence get better results. So why aren’t more firms embracing EI?

By Lainey Feingold

Get better results for your clients--and your practice--with less stress and less cost.

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When it comes to legal technology, sometimes 1+1 equals more than two.

Technology

 

AI is a Lawyer's Technician, Not a Replacement

By Thomas Suh

Don't fear the advance of artificial intelligence tools--learn how they can work for you and your clients.

What to Read

 

Five Traits of Champion Managers

By Andrew Elowitt & Marcia Watson Wasserman

Timeless tips on effective management from a veteran practitioner.

Finance

 

How to Finance Your New
Law Practice

By Alexander Y. Benikov

Don't assume a bank is your best option for financing a start-up practice.

Management

 

Looking Beyond the Hiring Process

By Cynthia Thomas

Tips on avoiding bad hires, and retaining good ones.

Women Rainmakers

 

Rainmaking Is All About Relationships: Julie Theall Earp

By Afi Johnson-Parris

Advice on how to build connections that lead to new business.

 

ABA TECHSHOW 2018

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Tags:  Law Practice Today  Leadership 

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Free Webinar: 2017 Year-End Accounting Checklists & Tips

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Thursday, October 12, 2017

 

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2017 Year-End
Accounting Checklist & Tips

 

 


The end of the year can be a hectic time for many business owners. Sorting through the entire year's financials, preparing the documents you'll need to file your tax returns, there are a lot of accounting tasks that need to be completed before you can take some time off to enjoy the holidays with your family.

While it's important to review and understand your law firm's financials throughout the year, building in additional time now to get a grasp on your accounting will save you (and your accountant) major headaches down the road.

In Year-End Accounting Checklist & Tips, we’ll show you the step-by-step actions you need to take to close out your 2017 books. This includes reconciliations, reviewing trust balances, tasks for your accountant, and much more.

Learning Objectives:

• Understand law firm accounting
• Identify common accounting challenges law firms face
• Know your Year-End Legal Accounting Checklist
• See how legal-specific technology can help

Join Us:

Wednesday, October 18th
2:00pm - 2:30pm ET
Free Registration

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tags:  Accounting  Law Practice Management 

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Cybersecurity Alert: All 3 Billion Yahoo! Accounts Breached

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Thursday, October 5, 2017

Cybersecurity Alert: All 3 Billion Yahoo! Accounts Breached

If you have email affiliated with a Yahoo! Account, be sure to check it if you haven’t already.

Yahoo started sending out notifications on Tuesday that a September 2016 breach was greater than originally thought.
Today, Yahoo account holders should follow these steps from PC World and CNet. Users should also evaluate their options and consider migrating to a different email platform. CNet shows users how to import  data from Yahoo to a Gmail account or users can follow these tips from UpTime JurisPage to set up a custom email address.

Tags:  cybersecurity 

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A Virtual Private Network (VPN) Can Help Ensure Your Client Data Remains Safe

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) Can Help Ensure Your Client Data Remains Safe

Posted:02 Oct 2017 11:23 AM PDT

Guest post by Lawyerist.com

Modern lawyers don’t just work in an office—they work from everywhere: their home, a client’s office, a coffee shop, and a co-working space are all places a lawyer might find themselves throughout the work day. In all of those instances, it is likely that you would be using someone else’s wifi network. But public wifi is a security nightmare.

Armed with easily obtainable and inexpensive equipment, hackers can intercept public wifi traffic, which means if you are communicating with a client or working on a client file, all that data could be exposed. And just because the wifi network you’re using is password protected doesn’t make it a non-public network. Everyone else working on that coffee shop network used the same password to get on the same network you are using.

If you don’t take care to protect client data, it can lead to serious ethical violations.The ABA and the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct have made clear that they expect you to keep third parties from accessing client data. It used to be that encrypting your communications was clunky and difficult, but, thankfully, protecting your firm’s data and communications is no longer a technical nightmare. Encryption over wifi networks can often be solved with the simple installation of an app.

To avoid potential client data breaches while working out of an airport or your favorite coffee shop, install a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN creates an encrypted private network, or tunnel, within a public network. It runs your data through its encrypted servers, so anyone spying on your electronic communications will see nothing but gibberish. It foils hackers and doesn’t really change anything for you as an end-user. You hop on a public wifi network and wait a few moments for your VPN to automatically connect, and then you are all set.

There are a wide number of VPN services to choose from. Some are free if you only need a small amount of data encrypted each month. Others may cost you around $10-13/month for unlimited encryption.

You should always make sure your computer itself is secure, and you should always secure your client communications. A VPN lets you do that in a cheap, efficient, and automated way, and attorneys should be using one.

Tags:  data protection  VPN 

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