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The New York Legal News Round Up

Latest_news It's the weekly round up of New York law-related headlines--a day late since I've been unbelievably busy trying to recover from the "invasion of the stomach bug."  Somehow I dodged the bullet, but everyone else in my household succumbed.  I've spent the last few days trying to catch up and completely spaced about the round up yesterday.  I do apologize.

And now, without further ado, the round up:

Promote Your Practice Through Social Media


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


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.

The New York Legal Blog Round Up

Blawgs The weekend is over and the work week has now begun.  You know what that means--it's time for the weekly round up of posts of New York law-related posts from my fellow New York law bloggers.

And, without further ado:

New York Attorney Malpractice Blog:

New York Civil Law:

New York Criminal Defense:

New York Federal Criminal Practice:

New York Law Blog:

New York Legal Update:

New York Public Personnel Law:

Rochester Family Lawyer:

Simple Justice:

Wait a Second!:

Define That Term #300

Dictionary_2 Last weeks term was golden rule argument, which is defined as:

During a jury trial, an attempt to persuade the jurors to put themselves in the place of the victim or the injured person and deliver the verdict that they would wish to receive if they were in that person's position. For example, if the plaintiff in a personal injury case has suffered severe scarring, the plaintiff's lawyer might ask the jury to come back with the verdict they themselves would want to receive had they been disfigured in such a manner. As a rule, judges frown upon this type of argument, because jurors are supposed to consider the facts of a case in an objective manner.

David Gottlieb got it right!

Today's term is:

dedimus potestatum.

As always, no dictionaries, please.

The Curious Phenomenon of the e-Will


Erandisi_2_2_2 A new client was recently referred to me by a colleague. The client had gone online and prepared her own Will, and my colleague was concerned that it might not be valid. I reviewed the client’s draft Will, and although it was awkwardly written and contained provisions that probably did not need to be included, it was, on its face, a valid New York Will.

I contacted the client to let her know that her online Will was fine, but that I would prefer to prepare a new one using my own format. (Due to various circumstances, there would have been no cost to the client). The client declined. She wanted to use the Will that she had created online, and wanted to come in to my office merely to have my paralegal and me serve as witnesses.

My husband (also an attorney who does a great deal of estate planning) and I visited with a close family friend earlier in the year. The friend was a successful, middle-aged woman who had recently come out of early retirement. She took obvious pleasure in telling us, repeatedly, that she had prepared her Will on the Internet and had thereby “escaped” the use of an attorney.

I just upgraded my personal financial software to a 2008 version. In addition to the updated bookkeeping software, I now have the company’s Will-drafting software installed on my computer. From a few minutes’ investigation, it looks like a Will created using the software would be adequate for some, but not all, of my clients.

These incidents bother me and I wonder if other attorneys have noticed a similar trend. I am sure that in many cases, a generic online document will serve a client well, and for fees that are much lower than the ones charged by attorneys.

I am more concerned about the few cases where an online document provider may completely miss the mark on a client’s estate plan. Revocable Living Trusts that are created but never funded come to mind immediately.

One website has a disclaimer stating that a client needs a lawyer if he or she will leave an estate worth more than $2 million, because then federal estate tax might be due. But in New York, the estate tax exemption is only $1 million – a $2 million estate might owe $100,000 to the State!

In addition, I frequently prepare additional documents as part of a client’s estate plan: Health Care Proxies, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, Standby Guardian and Successor Custodian designations, and Health Care Proxies for the client’s minor children. What if the software does not prompt the client to create these documents?


Now many of these pitfalls could occur where a “real live” attorney prepared the client’s estate plan as well. However, when an individual attorney is involved, the client has recourse to the Attorney Grievance Committee, among other remedies. What is the client’s recourse if the “e-attorney” is wrong? Does this constitute the unlicensed practice of law? And what should the bar’s response be? Should I witness the first client’s online Will or persuade her to use one that I have drafted? I would appreciate comments from practitioners in all fields. 

-Authored by Elizabeth Randisi, a Rochester, New York attorney associated with the law firm WeinsteinMurphy.  Her practice focuses on Trusts and Estates and elder law.

The New York Legal News Round Up

Latest_news It's time for the round up of New York law-related headlines from the past week:

Criminalizing the Victims


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Criminalizing the Victims."

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


Criminalizing the Victims

The Appellate Division, Fourth Department on Oct. 10 declared that the City of Rochester’s youth curfew was unenforceable in Anonymous v. City of Rochester, 2008 N.Y. Slip Op.

At issue in the case was the legality of the youth curfew, which became effective Sept. 2006. The ordinance made it unlawful for those younger than 17 to be in a public place Sundays through Thursdays from 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., and between midnight and 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

A minor accused of violating curfew could immediately be taken into custody and a conviction of the
ordinance constituted a “violation,” as defined in the Penal Law and was punishable by a sentence of up to 15 days in jail.

The “findings and purpose” of the youth curfew are found in section 45-1 of the ordinance, which provides that:

A. A significant number of minors are victims of crime and are suspects in crimes committed during the nighttime hours, hours during which minors should generally be off the streets
and getting the sleep necessary for their overall health and quality of life. Many of these victimizations and criminal acts have occurred on the streets at night and have involved violent crimes, including the murders of teens and preteens.

B. While parents have the primary responsibility to provide for the safety and welfare of minors, the City also has a substantial interest in the safety and welfare of minors. Moreover, the City has an interest in preventing crime by minors, promoting parental supervision through the establishment of reasonable standards, and in providing for the well-being of the general public.

C. A curfew will help reduce youth victimization and crime and will advance the public safety, health and general welfare of the citizens of the City.

The court balanced the government’s interests in enacting the statute with the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and concluded the ordinance was inconsistent with state law as it applied to minors
younger than 16 and imposed unconstitutional restrictions on both the parents and minors affected by the curfew.

In reaching its decision, the court noted that the city failed to establish that the imposition of the curfew actually achieved the stated objectives behind its implementation:

The Mayor and the Chief of Police expressed their opinions and beliefs concerning the particular vulnerability of juveniles during nighttime hours, but those opinions and beliefs are insufficient to demonstrate a substantial relationship between the ordinance and its goals. …[T]he information concerning the results of the implementation of juvenile curfews in other municipalities is equivocal at best and does not establish the necessary relationship between the ordinance and the goals of reducing juvenile crime and victimization.

I find it particularly ironic that one of the primary goals of the youth curfew was to reduce the victimiza-
tion of our city’s youth since, for some, it may have had the exact opposite effect.

During the four years that I was a Monroe County assistant public defender, I was entrenched in the lives
of a certain segment of the city’s population. Many of the people I represented were involved in the criminal justice system as a result of horrible drug addictions. And, many of these people, most of whom were barely able to take care of themselves, had children.

I can only imagine the state of the home lives of their children. Physical and sexual abuse is commonplace in such households, as the addicts perpetuate the cycles of abuse to which they were
subjected as children.

When your caregiver is addicted to drugs, the streets may seem a far safer alternative than being trapped in a small apartment with an addict, subject to their unpredictable, erratic and abusive behavior. 

Where the objectives of a youth curfew are unproven and unrealized, it is unforgivable to jail children for taking to the streets as a form of escape and self-preservation.  Criminalizing attempts to avoid victimization simply is not the answer.

The New York Legal Blog Round Up

Blawgs It's time for the weekly round up of interesting posts from my fellow New York law bloggers:

Coverage Counsel

New York Civil Law:

New York Criminal Defense:

New York Federal Criminal Practice:

New York Law Blog:

New York Public Personnel Law:

Simple Justice:

Define That Term #299

Dictionary_2 Last week's term was habeas corpus ad subjiciendum which is defined as:

Latin for "You have the body." A prisoner files a petition for writ of habeas corpus in order to challenge the authority of the prison or jail warden to continue to hold him. If the judge orders a hearing after reading the writ, the prisoner gets to argue that his confinement is illegal. These writs are frequently filed by convicted prisoners who challenge their conviction on the grounds that the trial attorney failed to prepare the defense and was incompetent. Prisoners sentenced to death also file habeas petitions challenging the constitutionality of the state death penalty law. Habeas writs are different from and do not replace appeals, which are arguments for reversal of a conviction based on claims that the judge conducted the trial improperly. Often, convicted prisoners file both.

Edward Wiest got it right!

This week's term is:

golden rule argument.

As always, educated guesses are welcome!