Previous month:
December 2008
Next month:
February 2009

Come Learn With Me at Solo Practice University

Spu-faculty-125x125 I'm thrilled to announce that I've joined the faculty at Solo Practice University™, a web-based educational community that will help you learn about the one thing that most law schools fail to teach: the "practice of law."

At Solo Practice University™ I'll be teaching a course about web productivity and organization for lawyers.

The marriage of law and technology is a passion of mine and I've been fascinated by technology and computers for as long as I can remember.

My love affair with computers began in the early 1980s with the TRS-80. I learned how to use the BASIC programming language and from that point on I was hooked.

My freshman year in college, I took a computer programming class and for my final project created the game "Mastermind" using the Pascal programming language.I was really proud of that project.

In 1995, the fabulous World Wide Web was revealed to me. Things have never been the same since.

I began blogging in 2005 and currently publish 4 blogs.  I am a social media enthusiast and am addicted to discovering and exploring the latest Web 2.0 web applications. 

I find the intersection of law and technology to be particularly fascinating and am doing all that I can to facilitate the fusion of these two seemingly reluctant soul mates.

Therefore, I look forward to teaching my fellow legal professionals about Web 2.0 technologies and how emerging technologies can simplify the practice of law.

Another reason I'm so excited about my faculty position at Solo Practice University™ is that it perfectly complements a new business venture I'm in the process of launching--lawtechTalk.  lawtechTalk will consist of webinars about the use of emerging Web 2.0 applications in your law practice.

The practice of law and technology are both fascinating fields. I look forward to exploring them with you!

Technology (already) Invades the Courtroom


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Technology (already) invades the courtroom."

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


Technology (already) invades the courtroom

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The times they are a-Tech- nological advancements are affecting courtrooms across the country, much to the consternation of many in the legal profession who staunchly resist technological change.

Two recent events — a decision from Appellate Division, First Department and live reporting of a trial via Twitter — are further examples that technology is here, and it’s here to stay.

At the end of December, the First Department handed down its decision in People v. Wrotten, 2008 NY Slip Op 10226. At issue in Wrotten was whether the trial court erred in allowing the complainant to testify at trial via two-way, televised video.

The court held that the trial court improperly admitted the testimony since New York statutory law did not specifically provide for it, but also noted:

At the very least, even assuming that [the] defendant’s Sixth Amendment right of confrontation was not violated, she was denied a valuable component of that right. In our judgment, in the absence of express legislative authorization, depriving [the] defendant of a face-to-face meeting with her principal accuser — indeed, the person whose testimony was necessary for the prosecution to make out a prima facie case — tainted the fairness of the trial.

The majority and the dissent in Wrotten noted that for a variety of constitutional and procedural reasons, federal and state courts are split on the issue of allowing a witness’ court testimony via a live, two-way video feed.

While the law regarding live televised testimony remains unsettled, one thing is certain: It’s an issue that won’t go away.

Another technology trend that only will increase with the passage of time is live reporting of trials via micro-blogging services such as Twitter.

Twitter is a free, Web-based communications platform that allows users to share information with others with similar personal and pro- fessional interests. Users communicate using text-based posts (“tweets”) of up to 140 characters in length.

Twitter has more than 3.2 million accounts registered, and its user base is expanding quickly. Twitter can be used in a variety of unique ways, which are evolving constantly.

Courtrooms are not immune from the effects of the popular phenomenon, as reporters increasingly seek to use Twitter to report live in the midst of trials.

The most recent example occurred in a Colorado courtroom. Wichita Eagle reporter Ron Sylvester sought to post to his blog and Twitter throughout the trial. As he explained on his blog, What the Judge Ate for Breakfast, his intention to do so stemmed from historical tradition:

The notion of public courts predates our Constitution and even the Magna Carta. There are records of public trials following the Saxon invasion in England, where trials were held on the public square of villages. Our public squares now include Twitter.

Over the objections of both the prosecution and defense counsel, the trial judge allowed the use of cell phones and computers in the courtroom during the child abuse trial.

Last week, Sylvester chronicled the happenings of the trial. At one point, he posted on Twitter about an evidentiary issue:

-Getting ready for pretrial hearing of George Tiller, Day 2. 9:58 a.m. yesterday from txt

-Judge Owens has called the hearing to order. He is ruling on whether Kline has to turn over personal diary to Tiller’s attorneys. 10:28 a.m. yesterday from txt

-Kline gets to keep his diaries private. 10:32 a.m. yesterday from txt

-Owens ruled that ‘work product’ applies to prosecutors, such as notes on opinions and theories of a case. 10:32 a.m. yesterday from txt

Many found it fascinating to watch the trial unfold live, as it happened, rather than reading accounts of it after the fact. Technology made that possible.

Technology has invaded our lives, our homes, our offices, our courtrooms. Technological change has made a lot of things possible that once were unimaginable.

Technology is here to stay. There’s no looking back. Let’s accept that fact and move forward, shall we?

The New York Legal Blog Round Up

Blawgs It's a cold, cold Monday and time for the weekly round up of posts from my fellow New York law bloggers:

Coverage Counsel:

New York Criminal Defense Blog:

New York Federal Criminal Practice:

New York Public Personnel Law:

No-Fault Paradise:

Wait a Second!:

The New York Legal News Round Up

Latest_news It's a gray, slushy, icy day here in Rochester, and time for the weekly round up of legal news headlines from the past week:

Surviving and Thriving in the Midst of a Recession


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Surviving and Thriving in the Midst of a Recession."

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


Surviving and Thriving in the Midst of a Recession

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The times they are a-changin’ and lawyers aren’t immune from the global economic restructuring now underway.

Average citizens are worried about losing their jobs, keeping their businesses above water and making mortgage and car payments. Money is tight and people are  spending less.

Low on their list of priorities is shelling out money to lawyers for routine legal matters. Chances are, if a situation arises for which legal counsel may be warranted, they’ll no doubt attempt to handle it themselves.

I don’t think I need to tell you that’s not good news for the lawyers who prefer to continue doing business as usual.

With the large amount of law-related information available online, including an increasing number of Web sites offering free legal forms, potential clients no doubt will find it far easier to muddle through a legal matter than they did in the past.

With the click of a button, from the comfort of their own home, they can download wills, contractual agreements and more.

What’s a lawyer to do? How can we compete with the do-it-yourself mentality?

Those who are insistent upon continuing to practice law as it’s been done for the last 100 years won’t be able to compete. The recession has drastically changed the playing field and those who refuse to acclimate will see their law practice sink like a stone.

More innovative and adaptive lawyers will swim speedily toward the finish line.

Of course, the question remains: How does our profession adapt?

I’ve given that a lot of thought. I don’t have all the answers, but have come up with what I believe is a feasible idea that some lawyers —especially those who have been practicing for a few years —might want to try.

Innovative lawyers can create a niche practice by becoming, in essence, “general counsel” for the average citizen.

For a monthly fee, perhaps $200 or $300, you would be your client’s “go to” attorney. Clients would sign a contract that delineates the types of matters the “general counsel” agreement incorporates, such as one real estate closing per year, drafting one will or changing an existing will annually, and drafting other routine documents, such as a power of attorney, a living will, etc.

You, as the attorney, also agree to answer preliminary questions regarding more complex matters and either draft a separate retainer agreement for the matter, should you choose to handle it, or refer it to another attorney in the community.

In other words, the attorney also would serve as a con- duit to the legal community, For example, if you preferred not to handle criminal matters, your clients nevertheless would have someone to call when invoking the right to counsel. You could advise them not to speak to the police, then contact a criminal defense attorney on their behalf.

Such practice would provide a reliable client base and a predictable flow of income, which could be supplemented through handling other types of more complex legal matters under separate retainer agreements.

Another element to a successful general counsel practice would be the creation of a strong online presence using blogs and social media. Once accomplished, referrals from lawyers throughout the country undoubtedly would follow. You could handle those matters that interested you, and refer the others. Lawyers in your community would begin to appreciate the value of your practice and the referrals, perhaps in turn referring their clients to your “general counsel” practice. 

Granted, the idea is a diamond in the rough and such a practice must comply with applicable ethics rules, but I truly believe it has the potential to provide resourceful lawyers with a way to stay afloat in the volatile and changing legal landscape we now face.

Lawyers need to think outside of the box in order to survive and thrive in the upcoming year. Those who choose to do so will not regret it.

The New York Legal Blog Round Up

Blawgs It's the first Monday of 2009-and time for the weekly round up of interesting posts from my fellow New York law bloggers:

New York Attorney Malpractice Blog:

New York Civil Law:

New York Court Watcher:

New York Personal Injury Law Blog:

Simple Justice: