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Who are you, Nicole Black (aka @nikiblack), and what do you do?

Checkmark Some of you may wonder just that--who is Nicole Black? However, more likely than not, most of you probably don't care. I realize that--and answering that question really isn't my goal here, so please excuse what appears to be extreme navel gazing.

The primary purpose of this post is to clarify who I am, what I do and why.

I am 39 years old, have been married for 11 years and have 2 children. I have lived in Rochester, NY for most of my adult life.

I graduated from Albany Law School in 1995 and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1996.

I interned in the Monroe County Public Defender's Office appeals bureau from 1995-1996. During that time, I accomplished one of the most significant wins of my legal career: I was successful in overturning a murder conviction in the matter of People v. Sierra, 231 A.D.2d 907, 647 N.Y.S.2d 891 (4th Dep't 1996).

Shortly after I argued that appeal, I was hired as an Assistant Public Defender and worked there for nearly 4 years, handling over 3000 criminal cases during that time frame. I conducted countless hearings and trials, including a number of jury trials.

In 1999 I left the Public Defender's Office and was hired as an associate at Trevett, Cristo, Salzer & Andolina. I continued to handle criminal defense matters. I handled  assigned counsel matters, my own retained criminal defense matters and worked with some of the partners at the firm--widely held to be some of the best criminal defense attorneys in town--on their cases. I also handled all types of civil litigation matters, ranging from personal injury litigation (plaintiff and defense), commercial litigation and built up my own employment discrimination book of practice.

In 2002 my first child was born. Later that year, I was told that I was on partnership track and would likely make partner the following year. My internal reaction to the knowledge--dread--caused me to take a deep look inward. I realized that I wasn't happy.  I knew that I wasn't where I wanted to be in life and if I stayed on that track, I'd most likely be stuck for good.

I loved the firm and the people in it. That's not what was making me unhappy. I wasn't sure what was, but I knew that I felt like a part of me was dying--and I needed a change.

So, I took a self imposed hiatus from the law in 2003 and had my second child. I returned to the law in 2005, opening up shop as a contract attorney and started my first blog--this blog.

From there, things fell into place for me. As I blogged, business found me. Lawyers hired me to do work for  them, and at the same time, writing and speaking opportunities were offered to me.

I began to write a weekly column for the Daily Record and was offered the opportunity to co-author the West Thomson treatise Criminal Law in New York.

And, in early 2007, Ed Fiandach approached me to do work for his office, a well-recognized DWI defense firm. After I'd handled a few projects for him, he asked if I would consider becoming of counsel with the firm and handle appeals (including appellate arguments) and memos to the court for their office.

I happily agreed, with the understanding that I could continue my writing and blogging. I wanted to be able to continue to express myself without reservation.

Ed agreed and also advised me that if I ever wanted to make court appearances, including hearings and trials, that option was available to me as well.  I declined, since I knew that if I did so, I would lose the flexibility for which I had worked so hard.

I continue to handle projects for the firm. The demand for my assistance with projects varies to this day, depending on any number of factors: the economy, demand within the office, the number of appeals filed by the DA's office, and my own schedule. Just last month I declined a few projects due to a number of writing deadlines that I was facing.

While criminal defense has always been one of my primary passions, I've  found another since re-entering the legal field in 2005: a fascination with the intersection of law and technology.

I regularly write, blog and speak about this topic. Earlier this year, I founded lawtechTalk, which is the vehicle through which I seek to empower and encourage lawyers to accept change and technological advancement by bringing them the most up-to-date information through personal consultations, speaking engagements, and online presentations.

I continue to speak regularly about the intersection of law and technology and am in the process of writing a book about social media for lawyers, which I am fortunate to be co-authoring with Carolyn Elefant. (Update: the book is now published, "Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier" and my newest book "Cloud Computing for Lawyers" will be published by the ABA in the spring of 2011).

I find the balance between my various endeavors to be perfect. I no longer experience a sense of dread when I think about where my professional career is leading me. I feel passion every day for the issues that occupy my thoughts as a result of my chosen career path.

As I re-read the previous paragraph, I realize just how lucky I am. Each day is an adventure--and one that I welcome. You can't get much better than that now, can you?

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