Legal Practice

Promote Your Practice Through Social Media

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Promote Your Practice Through Social Media."

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

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Promote Your Practice Through Social Media

Online identities are becoming increasingly important in the Web 2.0 world in which we live, along with the need to understand how to use social media to promote a law practice and manage online identities.

The Internet no longer is a quaint phenomenon, but rather an integral part of our daily lives, and the lives of our clients. People turn to the Internet for information, advice and social connections.

Career counselors were among the first to recognize the importance of responsibly utilizing social media and social networking to further one’s career. They continue to be at the forefront of the movement.

The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services, for example, recently hosted a program for alumni that focused on social networking and managing online identities. At that presentation, I served as moderator for a technologically astute panel of knowledgeable local professionals: Juli Klie, president of Veritor LLC and co-founder of Digital Rochester; Greg Taylor, the managing partner of Excelsior Search Partners, a recruiting firm;
and Steven Tylock, author of “The LinkedIn Personal Trainer.”

A number of the panelists said they believed a LinkedIn presence is the cornerstone of a professional online identity. Others, myself included, recommended the use of other types of online social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs. All participants agreed each platform has unique benefits, depending on a user’s goal —obtain a job, promote a business or network with other professionals.

The legal profession slowly, but surely, is beginning to realize the importance of an effective online presence. When I began my first legal blog, “Sui Generis,” in 2005, only one other Rochester-based law blog existed. Since that time, a number of Rochester lawyers now blog. Two local law firms entered the blogging scene within the last year. Attorney Alexander Korotkin publishes the “Rochester Family Lawyer,"which discusses recent state family law decisions and provides practical advice for clients and lawyers alike.

The newly established law firm Easton, Thompson Kasperek LLC recently joined the blogosphere as well. Its “New York Criminal Defense” blog provides insightful commentary and analysis regarding New York appellate criminal law decisions from some of the most experienced criminal defense attorneys in Rochester.

Another lawyer, Elizabeth Randisi, who is associated with the Rochester law firm WeinsteinMurphy, posts regularly at “Sui Generis”  regarding trusts and estates and elder law issues.

Local lawyer Gregory Bell, an editor at Thomson Reuters, blogs about law and technology at “Practicing Law in the 21st Century” and also about blogs and another passion of his, the local Rochester jazz scene, at “Jazz@Rochester."

Blogs are not the only way to create an online presence, but maintaining an online identity, in one form or another, should be the crux of any law practice’s marketing plan. People no longer reach for the Yellow Pages when they need an attorney. Instead, they ask friends for advice and seek information on the Internet. If your firm does not have an online presence that is easily located, without a doubt you are losing potential clients left and right.

Promoting a law practice online is a no-brainer. It’s easy to create and manage an online presence using any one of the many free or low cost online platforms I’ve discussed. I assure you, the minimal monetary and time investment will be well worth the effort in the end.


Practicing Law in the 21st Century

Drlogo11 This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Practicing Law in the 21st Century."  The article is set forth in full below and a pdf of the article can be found here.

My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Practicing Law in the 21st Century

Rapid technological advancements have changed the way the world functions; the practice of law has not been exempt from this change. The landscape of the legal field has been dramatically altered by the advent of high-speed Internet, email, data phones, and remote office capabilities.  Law firms are now grappling with issues of e-Discovery and e-filing is becoming commonplace.

These issues have been at the forefront of my mind in recent weeks, as I prepare for a CLE that I’ll be participating in at the MCBA on May 15, 2008, from 9 am-noon: “Practicing Law in The 21st Century — Practice Management and Substantive Law Resources on the Internet.” The goal of this CLE is to make technology more accessible and useful to lawyers in their practices.

Technology has made the practice of law simpler for some, while other attorneys find themselves struggling to keep up with the changes or, alternatively, ignoring technology in the futile hope that it will simply disappear.

The fact remains, however, that technology is here to stay. In order to succeed in a rapidly evolving marketplace, lawyers must embrace change and learn to use technology to their advantage.

Computers and the Internet can be used to improve all aspects of a law practice. The Internet and data phones allow lawyers to obtain information anywhere, anytime. Office servers can be accessed remotely on data phones or home computers, thus allow- ing lawyers timesaving flexibility. A lawyer in the middle of trial can now step into the hallway and conduct legal research via a data phone.

Vast amounts of information relevant to the practice of law can be obtained online. In addition to the traditional Web-based legal research companies such as Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, there are now low-cost Web-based research alternatives available.

And, if you know where to look, large amounts of information can be accessed online at no cost, including case law, both federal (1997-present) and New York (from 1995 to the present). New York and federal rules and regulations are also available, as are New York State Attorney General opinions and the 2007 Codes of New York State.

Online resources can keep attorneys current and on top of changes in their specific areas of practice as well. Online news articles and legal blogs are great tools in this regard.

There is also a vast assortment of cutting-edge resources avail- able on the Internet to assist attorneys in managing their productivity and their law practices. There are low cost Web-based practice management systems that can replace traditional software. Free Web-based email, calendaring systems, word-processing, and phone and fax sys- tems can replace traditional and costly alternatives.

Networking opportunities abound online. Between listservs, professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and social networking sites such as Facebook, lawyers have more opportunities than ever to interact with and learn from lawyers across the country.

Of course, technological change has made certain aspects of legal practice more difficult and confusing. The most evident example of this is the ever-prevalent issue of E-discovery. Since the amendment of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in December 2006, businesses and their lawyers have struggled to respond to e-Discovery requests and to alter their business practices in order to preserve e-data and thus avoid sanctions under the new rules.

Fortunately, there are a number of free and useful resources on the Internet, which can assist attorneys in complying with the new rules. In addition, there are companies that now assist businesses with the e- Discovery process, such as DocuLegal.

There is no question that technology has transformed the legal profession and will continue to do so in the future. Rather than keeping your head in the sand, why not embrace technological changes and learn to use them to your advantage? The short-term investment will be minimal and the long-term pay off will be huge — not a bad trade-off, all things considered.


Beyond These Four Walls

Drlogo11 I'm posting from sunny, albeit not exactly balmy, Florida.  The New York legal news round up and blog round up will follow later on this week.  In the meantime, enjoy this week's Legal Currents column, which is published in The Daily Record, is entitled "Beyond these four walls."  The article is set forth in full below and a pdf of the article can be found here.

My past Legal Currents articles can be accessed here.

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Beyond these four walls

“Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over.”

   — LOCUTUS OF BORG/JEAN-LUCPICARD, “STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, “THE     BEST OF EPISODE(1990).

Businesses exist to make money and, as we all know, time is money.

The more efficient and productive a business is, the more profitable it is.

The business of law is no different. In the absence of prof- its, a law practice will fail. Therefore, it is surprising that law offices tend to be extra- ordinarily inefficient, in large part because the lawyers run- ning them stubbornly resist change.

In general, legal employers have been steadfastly reluc- tant to change the way business “has always been done.” Technological advancements are shunned rather than embraced, as lawyers cling to the traditional workplace structure.

The end result of this staunch resistance to technological change is a lower profit margin. The failure to adapt to rapidly changing technology costs law practices money. Likewise, overhead decreases when legal employers are willing to take advantage of the time- and money-saving benefits offered by new technology.

One simple way for law offices to save money is to offer lawyers the option to work from home or virtual offices. This makes economic sense since it allows firms to reduce costs by decreasing the square footage of office space rented. A telecommuting lawyer is able to make better use of time that otherwise might be wasted during a commute to work, thus increasing productivity. Readily available advances in technology make such alternative work arrangements possi-ble, and profitable.

More often than not, attorneys communicate with other lawyers in their workplace over the telephone or via e-mail or other internal written communication. Each of these methods can be used just as easily to contact lawyers operating remotely. Likewise, if electronic copies are made of every important document, lawyers operating remotely can access them whenever necessary.

Some employers resist this practice based on the mistaken belief that time spent scanning documents could be better spent elsewhere. This assumption could not be further from the truth.

Fiandach & Fiandach, the law office with which I am of counsel, keeps electronic copies of nearly every document that comes into the office, which saves time and money.

When speaking with clients on the telephone, our extremely adept legal assistants have all information regarding a client’s case readily available at their fingertips. There’s no need to waste time tracking down a client’s file, which could be in a filing cabinet, with an attorney in court or with another legal assistant. Instead, every document is available right on the computer screen and questions are answered easily and quickly.

With a touch of a button, an electronic copy can be faxed instantly, e-mailed or sent to a copy machine — another huge time saver. If the paper copy of a document is misplaced, there is a backup electronic copy available — yet another time saver.

The practice also benefits lawyers like myself, who work remotely. With my iPhone, no matter where I am, I have instant access to the office. I can send and receive e-mails on my iPhone or laptop. I can receive faxes from the office directly in my e-mail using eFax (an online service) and can instantaneously view them on my iPhone.

No matter where I am, I can use my iPhone or laptop to perform legal research on Westlaw and send the results directly to co-workers, whether they’re in the office, on the road or on trial.

When technology is used intelligently and creatively, there are no losers — only winners. Think outside the box. Recreate your concept of a law office and take advantage of increasingly affordable technology.

“Face time” is an overrated, archaic concept, which results in unnecessary expenses. Law practices that embrace technology are able to save time and provide greater job flexibility, resulting in increased profits and happier, more pro- ductive employees.

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Food for thought:  the iPhone and its application to the law office, via Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUS blog:


New NY Blog of Interest

CheckmarkI recently discovered a relatively new New York blog based on an interesting concept--summarizing all New York CLEs in one place.  It's called, not surprisingly,  New York CLE.  You can browse CLEs by region, topic or date. 

And, CLE providers can submit their upcoming CLEs by following this link.  It appears that there is no cost to list your CLE and that a fee is charged only if people register for the CLE using the web site. 

It's an unusual and creative idea.  I've added to my sidebar under New York Law Blogs for the time being.  I'm interested in watching the blog to see how it develops over time.


Some Useful New York Online Legal Resources

CheckmarkThe Indignant Indigent blog includes links to a few websites that may be of interest to New York legal practitioners that I wanted to highlight.

  • First, the Second Department now has appellate briefs for appeals calendared between January 2004 and approximately 6 months prior to the present date available online.  The briefs can be accessed here.
  • Next, there is a very thorough outline of Crawford issues here, prepared by Jeffrey Fisher.
  • Finally, the Center for Appellate Litigation provides a New York State Court of Appeals update here.  This update summarizes significant criminal cases pending before the Court.

New York Criminal Law Resources and Court Information

I discovered a number of interesting New York resources today the the New York State Unified Court System's web site.

First, the New York Criminal Jury Instructions are available here. Be advised, however, that for some reason accessing that link can cause your system to slow down dramatically.  You may want to close out any programs currently not in use.

The Domestic Violence Bench Manual is available here and the (annotated) Search Warrant Manual for judges can be found here.

A somewhat skewed directory of the addresses of all courts, including town, village and justice courts, located in New York state can be found here.  Similar information can be found here

And, a directory, again somewhat skewed, of all New York State judges, including phone numbers, can be found here.  An alphabetical directory of judges can also be found here.

A map of the New York State court system that illustrates which counties make up each judicial department can be found here.


New York State Unified Court System Style Manual Available Online

The New York Official Reports Style Manual, always a useful reference, is available online should you ever find that you need it and can't locate the hard copy.  It can be found here.

The Style Manual is intended for use by those drafting judicial opinions, but can certainly be helpful to anyone drafting a legal document.  As explained in the Style Manual:

This Manual supplements general citation and style authorities, providing more detail on New York materials and a more specific focus on judicial opinions. General authorities should be consulted on matters not covered by this Manual. These authorities include:

  • The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Colum L Rev Assn et al. eds, 17th ed 2000)
  • Association of Legal Writing Directors & Darby Dickerson, ALWD Citation Manual (Aspen L & Bus 2000)
  • The Chicago Manual of Style (14th ed 1993)
  • Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1993)
  • Lebovits, Advanced Judicial Opinion Writing (7th ed)
  • Wydick, Plain English for Lawyers (4th ed)

Also available online is the is the Cornell Legal Information Institute's Introduction to Basic Legal Citation, written by Peter Martin, which discusses the differences between the Bluebook and ALWD citation styles.

So many helpful legal resources available online for free.  Will wonders never cease?


Practice Tips for Fourth Department Practitioners

I attended a CLE yesterday at which the presiding justice of the Appellate Division Fourth Department, Hon. Eugene Pigott, spoke and I learned a few things that might be of interest to Rochester and Fourth Department practitioners.

First, the Fourth Department will be instituting a Civil Appeals Settlement Program as of May 1, 2006.  The new  Rule 1010.1 et. seq. can be found here.

As explained in the Notice to the Bar:

The purpose of CASP is to identify appeals that may be amenable to settlement or to a limitation of issues to be presented on appeal. For each appeal covered by CASP, the appellant will be required to file a precalendarstatement at the time that the notice of appeal is filed. The failure to file a precalendar statement may result in the dismissal of an appeal.

Selected appeals will be subject to precalendar conferences before Judicial Hearing Officers selected by the Court. In addition, CASP includes a mechanism whereby a party to a particular appeal may request a precalendar conference.

Additionally, the following may be of interest to those who practice in Rochester, NY.  The presiding Justice of the Commercial Division in Monroe County, Hon. Kenneth R. Fisher, has signed a General and Standing Order regarding the new Commercial Division Rules that I'd previously posted about here.   His Order modifies Rule 17, Rule 19, Rule 19-a and Rule 22 of the new Commercial Division Rules by making them inapplicable in the 7th Judicial District.


How to Avoid Legal Malpractice

The ABA recently published an article for solo practitioners and small firms regarding advice for avoiding legal malpractice claims (hat tip: NY Attorney Malpractice Blog).

According to the article, small firms and solo practitioners are most likely to face a malpractice claim:

Solos and small-firm attorneys find themselves particularly vulnerable to charges of malpractice. According to the American Bar Association, most malpractice suits are filed against lawyers in firms with one to five attorneys. Without the information technology departments, big administrative budgets and large numbers of support personnel that large law firms have at their disposal, solos and small firms must be creative and proactive when it comes to anticipating and preventing malpractice suits.

The article then outlines tips for avoiding malpractice claims and provides advice in the event that you are sued. 

All in all, a good read.  Take a few minutes and read it--you won't regret it.