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The Future is Now

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "The Future is Now."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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The future is now

It's time for the legal profession to pull its collective head out of the sand when it comes to technology, the Internet and Web 2.0.

Technology is here to stay and ignoring it no longer is an option.

Law firms and lawyers who turn a blind eye to technology do so to their own detriment, and their failure to acclimate to rapid technological change is going to catch up with them in 2009.

Like it or not, technology has infiltrated nearly every aspect of life. All kinds of information, including the very latest news, is available online. Phone numbers, addresses and contact information for of every type of business is readily accessible on the Internet. Shopping can be accomplished quickly and securely with the click of a button. Music can be downloaded from iTunes. Movies and television shows can be instantaneously streamed through Netflix or Hulu.com directly to a high-definition television via a laptop.

Likewise, technology has infiltrated the legal profession and leveled the playing field in ways never before seen. Small offices now can compete on even footing with large law firms.

Entire offices can be operated remotely using reasonably priced Web-based tools and applications. Documents can be stored securely on remote servers. Law offices can use Web-based practice management and time and billing applications such as Rocket Matter in lieu of the complicated and expensive software traditionally used by the legal profession.

Virtual law offices now are a reality and the value of online real estate has increased exponentially in recent years. With just a little effort, and minimal expense, solo practitioners can create a strong online presence that competes with that of larger firms.

A well-written law blog and polished profiles and content at JDSupra, Avvo, LinkedIn, and Facebook can do wonders for a lawyer's search engine ranking. Online networking with lawyers and other professionals through Twitter and other online networks can lead to a steady stream of business.

By way of example, over the last six months I've received referrals from other lawyers across the country as a result of networking on Facebook and Twitter.

Potential clients from across New York State have contacted me through my blogs, Twitter and Avvo. I've also had former clients call me after locating me via Internet search engines.

I've been preaching about technological change for years now, as have many other cutting edge, influential lawyers from whom I've learned a great deal: Carolyn Elefant (www.myshingle.com), Susan Cartier Liebel (www.solopracticeuniversity.com), Grant Griffiths (www.homeofficewarrior.com) and Kevin O'Keefe (www.lexblog.com), to name just a few.

It seems the legal field is finally starting to sit up and take notice. Facebook has become mainstream. Law blogs are all the rage.

When I began blogging in 2005, no one knew what a blog was. Now law firms, big and small, are launching blogs at an unprecedented rate.

The legal profession is just beginning to acknowledge the power of technology and the Internet. That's a start, but reluctant acceptance simply is not good enough.

The legal profession must learn to embrace, not fear, the changing landscape. There is still a demand for legal services, and there always will be - technology has not changed that fact. Technology has altered the playing field and the rules of the game by changing the ways in which legal services are marketed, sold and purchased.

The change is not temporary, but permanent. Lawyers who accept and embrace that fact and position themselves for the future - rather than denying its reality - will prosper and profit in 2009 and beyond.

Will you be one of those lawyers?


The New York Legal Blog Round Up

It's time for the post-holiday round up of interesting posts from my fellow New York law bloggers:

Coverage Counsel:

New York Attorney Malpractice Blog:

New York Civil Law:

New York Public Personnel Law:

Rochester Family Lawyer:

Second Opinions:

Simple Justice:


The state of New York

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "The state of New York."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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The state of New York

“It couldn’t have happened anywhere but in little old New York.”
—O. HENRY 

The State of New York is not good, as is evidenced by a review of recent events.

For starters, we will lose an extraordinary woman from our upper ranks when New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye retires at the end of the month.

Her replacement has yet to be determined, but the list of seven candidates submitted to Gov. David A. Paterson caused him to become “outraged” due to its
lack of gender diversity.

Some have defended the list by asserting that only two women attorneys have acknowledged applying for the position: New York Court of Appeals Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick and Chief Administrative Judge of the New York City Civil Courts Fran A. Fischer.

As described in a letter written by the chairman of the State of New York Commission on Judicial Nomination to the governor, however, “the voluminous applications provided by each applicant …included extensive information concerning professional qualifications, writings, and background.”

In other words, the application process is arduous, requires a substantial amount of work on behalf of the applicant and only those who believe they have a remote chance of making the short list actually would be inclined to apply.

That only two women applied to fill the vacancy speaks volumes regarding the level of openness and acceptance of those in positions of power and influence within the legal field. That neither of the two highly qualified women judges made the list is all the more illuminating.

Also illuminating, on a completely different level, was this year’s salacious downfall of our former governor, Eliot Spitzer.

That sordid chapter in our state’s history finally drew to a close just as Wall Street, another seemingly indestructible New York giant, collapsed.

As Paterson recently conceded, our state now faces the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. A fifth of our state’s tax revenues came from Wall Street’s financial sector; as a result of its collapse, and the recession that followed, New York now faces a $15.4 billion budget deficit, the largest in its history.

In an effort to reduce the deficit, Paterson last week proposed a spending plan that will affect the vast majority of New Yorkers in one way or another.

The plan would eliminate STAR property tax rebates and increase tuition for the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems.

You also may have heard the collective groan of computer geeks —myself included —when we learned of the proposed tax on “digitally delivered entertainment services,” including music downloads from the increasingly popular and addictive iTunes.

Oenophiles, on the other hand, likely are torn between cursing newly-proposed taxes on wine and cheering a plan that would allow the sale of wine in grocery stores, a convenience available in many other states that New Yorkers have long coveted.

The public policy considerations behind the plan are perplexing, and are difficult to discern.

The governor’s spending plan paradoxically encourages gambling by reducing restrictions on gaming, while ending a sales tax exemption on movie theater tickets, discouraging New Yorkers from seeking out a more innocuous form of entertainment. It taxes sugary drinks, while exempting caffeine-laden drinks such as coffee and tea.

I suppose the lesson to be learned is that nothing is perfect. The proposal is contradictory and confusing, not unlike the recession that required such drastic measures.

Career prosecutors like Eliot Spitzer, who devote their lives to upholding the law, are only human, just like the rest of us.

And, finally, the alleged goals of diversity and equality are great in letterform, but until they are applied in actual practice, are worth no more than the paper on which they’re written.


The New York Legal Blog Round Up

Blawgs It's a cold, snowy Monday here in Rochester, and time for the weekly round up posts from my fellow New York blawgers:

New York Civil Law:

New York Public Personnel Law Blog:

No-Fault Paradise:

Rochester Family Lawyer:

Simple Justice:

TheCPLRblog:


Crime Time Sentencing Software

A few days ago, a downstate attorney clicked on the "Chat with me" badge to the left and attempted to ask me about the "Crime Time" sentencing program I'd posted about previously.

Unfortunately, I had just installed an add-on to Firefox that interfered with the Google chat module, and I wasn't able to respond in a timely fashion.

Fortunately, the NYSACDL just sent me the following email:

As many of you are aware, CrimeTime was a free sentencing software program created by the late George Dentes, former Tompkins County District Attorney. In 2006, the New York Prosecutors Training Institute (NYPTI) acquired the program. NYPTI updated and converted the calculator to a web-based application that is now available on the its website: http://crimetime.nypti.org/.

 On the NYPTI welcome page under the Disclaimers section you'll find a request for an email address to gain access to the system. The main search page has tabs to allow searches by PL, VTL or All Laws. Search terms must be either name or section number, e.g., assault (note that inconsistent use of dashes can impede searching by degree: assault 2nd versus assault-3rd) or 120.00. Name of crime is linked to text of statute; Select the Crime Button will lead you through the sentencing analysis. You must disable your web browser's popup blocker to view the final result. 

 There is a help guide for more assistance, http://crimetime.nypti.org/Help/CrimeTime_Help_10-31-08.pdf .

Also, a 2005 version is still posted on the Tompkins County web page, http://www.tompkins-co.org/distatto/CrimeTime.html
 
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Hopefully the lawyer who tried to chat with me sees this.  And, if not, it should be helpful to some other readers out there.


The New York Legal News Round Up

Latest_news It's the middle of the week and time for the weekly round up of law-related legal news headlines:


The Legal Profession and the Recession

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "The Legal Profession and the Recession."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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The Legal Profession and the Recession

“It isn’t so much that hard times are coming; the change observed is mostly soft times going. ” —GROUCHO MARX

What was once a fearful prediction is now a disturbing fact: Our country is in the middle of a large-scale recession.

By the end of November, the unemployment rate reached 6.7 percent, the highest rate since 1992. At the end of the first week of December, unemployment claims increased to 573,000, a level not seen since 1982.

Layoffs are occurring throughout the country, and some experts predict that the recession will continue through 2009 and will be the worst economic slump in the post-war era.

Unfortunately, the legal profession has not been immune from the effects of the ailing economy.

In recent months, an increasing number of large law firms have laid off attorneys, including McKee Nelson LLP (17 attorneys); Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (40); Brown Rudnick (20); Mayer Brown (33); Proskauer Rose (35) and Seyfarth Shaw-(30).

Mid-sized law firms are beginning to follow suit and have laid off significant portions of their associates. More firms most certainly will follow.

I also suspect that a number of large firms will fail as a result of investing firm profits into risky business ventures. The recent arrest of Marc Dreier, founding and managing partner of Dreier LLP, likely is the tip of the iceberg.

Dreier’s arrest was based on allegations of defrauding more than $380 million from various hedge funds and investors. In a related civil case, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claims Dreier stole $38 million from a client escrow account.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s discovered such action, at least in part, was a last ditch effort to replace firm profits lost due to questionable investments in securities that lost value as a result of the collapse of the real estate market, and subsequent stock market declines.

As more firms suffer losses due to the recession and bad investments, more attorney layoffs will occur. In the next year, the legal market will be saturated with a large number of younger attorneys, many from Gen Y, and a good number of Gen Xers as well.

These younger lawyers entering the legal job market either right out of law school or as a result of being laid off, will be perfectly positioned to enter the new global job market —they’re innovative, flexible, independent and technologically astute.

The recession, coupled with rapidly changing technologies, is leveling the playing field. Business is being conducted across a global economy in ways never before imagined. Technology and the Internet are altering drastically the ways in which business is conducted.

The legal profession is not exempt from such trends, and younger lawyers undoubtedly will find creative ways to take advantage of, and profit from, the changing legal landscape.

Accepting change can be difficult, especially in a profession such as our own, which is steeped in tradition and extraordinarily fond of precedent.

Resistance to inevitable change is futile, however, and counterproductive. Economic and sociological forces beyond the legal profession’s control are altering the very tenets upon which it is based.

We cannot stop change, but we can learn from the generation that is poised to take advantage of the technologically-based world in which the legal field now operates.

Exciting changes are on the horizon for our profession. I, for one, can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.