All Posts (6)

  • Electronic Filing

    Lawyers must beware of agreeing to accept service by email. The things that can go wrong include:

    1. Most email systems spam files with multiple attachments, or large attachments from first time senders. 

    2. Email is often picked up from multiple locations other than the office including cell phones, home computers, or laptops while on a case. It is very easy to forget an email was sent if it is picked up from a location away from one's desk, secretary, and calendar

    3. Do you really have a completely electronic office, and is your staff truly proficient in the updating, categorizing, and finding electronic files? If not, you have set yourself up for a massive printing and tabbing exercise if you accept service by email.

    4. Email opens you up for fights, misunderstandings, and instant access 24 hours a day. Do you really want that? I have been repeatedly emailed in a harassing manner at a funeral by a lawyer who knew I didn't want the instantaneous cc's because I was at a funeral. During the delivery of my youngest son I received at least ten emails from a lawyer I did not know well.

    The dignity and importance of legal filings as well as due process under the law are inconsistent concepts with email service. 

    If email service is going to be used on a case, a portal such as Case Anywhere should be used. Subscription costs are $135.00 a quarter, per case. These services are useful for class actions, but too expensive for general civil litigation. Portals like Case Anywhere and the Federal Court's system send you an email saying you have been served. You will know an email from the portal means you were served. Moreover, the document will exist on the portal opposed to an email server which might send the document to a spam folder and be deleted in a week or two if you do not know to rescue it.

    Karl Gerber, admitted in California, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington D.C. 

    Reachable on the Web

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  • The American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Services was created last year by then ABA President William C. Hubbard to explore ways to meet the legal needs of the underserved. The Commission does its work by holding public hearings on an issue, creating discussions and conversations among different stakeholders, issuing Issues Papers, soliciting comments on these papers, and depending on the issue  —  proposing new rules or policy approaches sometimes approved by the ABA’s House of Delegates where they become “official”. Some policies will be adopted by State Bar Associations which govern the conduct of lawyers and which regulate the legal profession and the legal services industry. As discussed below I believe that the ideas discussed within the Issue Papers will have an immediate impact on the ability of some “legal start-ups” to raise investment funds for their companies.

    Issue Paper on Unregulated LSP Entities and “Legal Start-Ups”.

    An Issues Paper was released  by the Commission on the Future of Legal Services on March 31 which solicits comments from the public and the profession on an approach to impose a regulatory regime on “non-regulated legal service providers entities” such as independent legal technician and document preparers serving the public directly, on-line automated legal document preparation service companies, legal software publication companies, and other “non-lawyer” entities that provide legal solutions to consumer. Many “legal start-ups” fall within the scope of the Issues Paper. The Issues Paper can be viewed here.  The deadline for submitting comments is April 28, 2016.

    The way the paper is written it could include in its concept of an “unregulated LSP entity,” legal software application providers (“legal software publishing companies”)  that provide legal solutions directly to the consumer as an alternative to the services that could be purchased from a lawyer. Examples might include: automated document assembly companies, legal expert systems developers, intelligent calculators, legal decision tools, intelligent data bases, consumer- centric legal analysis tools, and automated legal advice applications.  New rules could apply to many legal software publishing entities from larger companies such as http://www.nolo.com;http://www.avvo.com; and http://www.rocketlawyer.com to smaller publishers and providers such ashttp://www.neotalogic.comhttp://www.shakelaw.com,  http://www.completecase.com; andhttp://www.lawgeex.com.  Our market research indicates there are hundreds of these new entrants to the legal service marketplace offering legal software applications that enable consumers to do legal tasks themselves.

    There are also important developments within the courtsgovernment agencies, and the national legal services program designed to provide software powered legal solutions for use directly by consumers.

    All of these entities provide “software only solutions” – not services, so as a category I consider them to be “software publishers”.  [ Disclosure: I am the CEO of SmartLegalForms, Inc., which is a legal software publisher ].

    Services vs. Legal Software Applications

    My colleague, Marc Lauritsen, has written extensively and in-depth about how regulating legal software publishers would be unwise, and probably unconstitutional as a prior restraint under the First Amendment of the Constitution. His analysis of the wisdom and the right of the state regulation of legal software publishers and software developers can be found in these law review articles:  Liberty, Justice, and Legal Automata, 88 Chi-Kent L. Rev. 917 (2013)  and Are We Free to Code the Law? – August 2013 Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery . Other commentators have cautioned about extending the regulation of legal services beyond the legal profession itself.

    The Role of Private Capital in Legal Service Innovation

    One bright spot in the move towards innovation in the delivery of legal services has been the interest by private investment and the venture capital community in legal start-ups.  See:
    http://www.lawsitesblog.com/2016/04/number-legal-startups-nearly-triples-two-years.html. Legal software application development is a capital intensive process. Very few solos and small law firm have access to capital that can be dedicated to creating new applications that translate into low cost solutions for the under-served.  It is for this reason that most innovation in the delivery of legal solutions to consumers has been outside of law firms and within private companies or the public sector. (except within Big Law firms where internal capital resources are available). Capital is the fuel of innovation.

    Regulation is a Barrier to Innovation: Bye Bye Legal Start-Ups

    I predict that if the ideas proposed in the Issues Paper are translated into policies and regulations the impact will be to dry up sources of investment capital for legal start-ups. The regulatory constraints that are being discussed to protect the consumer, would make it impossible for one category of legal service provider – legal software companies that serve the public directly – to operate a sustainable business. These requirements include among others:

    • registration by the legal software publishing company in every state that the company serves in;
    • waiver of “as-is” liability in Terms and Conditions Statements;
    • enabling consumers to sue the publishing company in the state where the consumer lives;
    • prohibitive insurance coverage to cover potential claims;
    • requirements that legal software companies disclose whether a lawyer is involved in the production of the software product, the name of the lawyer, and the jurisdiction where the lawyer is licensed to practice;

    If I were a venture capitalist thinking about investing in a legal software publisher that intends to serve the public directly, I would be hesitant to invest now because these ideas are being floated by the Commission  and could become a reality in the not to distant future.

    “Legal Start-Ups” – Speak Out

    If the authors of the Commission’s Issue Paper did not intend that “unregulated LSP entities” should include legal software publishers, I suggest that they make this clarification now. If they authors intended  that”unregulated LSP entities” include legal software publishers and legal application develolpers then this is alarming.

    If you are a legal software publisher that serves the public directly with a legal solution, I suggest that you make your views known by commenting on their Issues Paper directly.

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  • Teaching Social Media Skills to Lawyers

    As a lawyer and entrepreneur who lives in a relatively small town on the east coast, the use of social media to network and communicate with other professionals and the public has been a critical part of my daily practice. I can say for certain that without the interacts that I have on my blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a number of other platforms, I would not have been able to build my career to the level it is now. 
     
    I began teaching social media skills to law students and lawyers a couple years ago for this reason. I know it will be an important part of their practice both for professional networking and client development regardless of where they practice. The prominence of social media for marketing and professional development will only continue to increase for lawyers. 
     
    Surprisingly, I have a couple of students in each class I teach who will argue with me that the law firm they will work for will not need to use social media or that they are too afraid to engage online using Twitter or Facebook for fear of sharing too much. I've even had a few "test" me by asking questions on my professional accounts to see how I would handle their inquiries online. It was a great opportunity to teach them in real-time about blocking and other security features of the applications. 
     
     
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  • Law Industry: Getting on the Web

    The advent of social media and websites has drastically changed the way that industries and consumers operate. Law students, lawyers, and law firms can boost their professional image and effectiveness by carefully crafting and maintaining their websites and social media profiles. 

    As a lawyer your web presence is vital to your political career. In the past you may have turned to bill boards, television ads, and newspaper ads to attract new buyers. While this is a tried and true tactic, you can boost your effectiveness with an online presence. 

    According to the YouTube video, So...How to Market Your Law Firm, the majority (76%) of your potential clients search for law firms and lawyers online. Smart phones, tablets, and computers make it easier than ever for individuals that need a lawyer to look through Twitter, Facebook, or a search engine to find the right lawyer for them.  Remember the internet is an interactive environment that allows lawyers, law students, and law firms to interact. Don't neglect your online presence. 

    As valuable as internet marketing can be for you and your law firm, you should carefully cultivate and control your social media presence. An unthinking lawyer or law firm can make social media mistakes that can turn your internet and social media endeavors into a fiasco. Here are some tips to ensure that you don't drive away clients with your social media accounts and internet presence:

    • Don't break confidentiality. Client-lawyer confidentiality is vital to your company because it could potentially lead to lawsuits and a bad reputation. It can be easy for an inexperienced tweeter to let information slip. 
    • Interact with your followers. Don't talk at them; talk to them. Ask and answer questions. These are people you want to represent. Try to build a rapport.
    • Provide quality knowledge. Yes, you are trying to drive in clientele to your website, but you need to go beyond. Potential clients will be more apt to remember and trust you if you offer free advice on your twitter feed or blog. 
    • Be fresh. Whether you are dealing with social media, your firms website,or a personal blog, you should regularly post new content. Fresh content will make your website and Twitter page seem current, dependable, and knowledgeable. Google ranks sites based on in part on whether or not they are current. If you want to get on the first page of the search engine, you should regularly update your site. 

    As law students who are preparing for a law career, you should try to remember that your social media and internet use will leave a footprint that your future colleagues and clients will see. The law is a competitive business, you shouldn't let youthful internet indiscretions put a damper on your professional career. Start carefully monitoring your internet presence now. Watch what you say and post.

    Law students, lawyers, and law firms can boost their professional image and effectiveness by carefully crafting and maintaining their social media profiles. You might be able to get by with old school web tactics, but it might not be enough. By utilizing web tactics, the professional career of law firms and lawyers can flourish. Creating the right social media presence can be tricky, but once you have you won't regret it. 

    Social Media Picture: Attribution

    Lawyer Ad Picture: Attribution

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  • A Presentation from Robert Ambrogi that is worth reading.
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  • The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates in 2013, acting on the recommendations of the ABA 20/20 Commission, voted to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent in technology. Specifically, the ABA voted to amend the comment to Model Rule 1.1, governing lawyer competence, to say that, in addition to keeping abreast of changes in the law and its practice, a lawyer should keep abreast of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”
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