Tag Archive: Technology

Communication – The good, bad and ugly

Lawyers need to communicate.  The ones who face malpractice actions typically fail to communicate with their clients to learn what clients want, how they want to hear about it, and where the client’s business or personal needs may be headed. 

But I think lawyers – and most of the rest of society – have increasingly fallen into the trap of too much communication with their cell and smart phones. Cell phone use for many people seems to have become a natural extension of themselves – they inflict it on everybody around them. Just like drivers who hog the left lane while driving at half the speed limit and remaining oblivious to everyone else on the road, these cell phone users hog the physical space of those around them with the sound of their own voice, and are oblivious to how irritating it is.It’s not hard to create a list of pet peeves about these people.  

Here are some of mine: 

·        People determined to shout their conversations as loudly as possible, presumably to show off their wit or importance or intelligence (and of course doing the opposite).

·        People who board a plane and decide to place orders on their cell while sharing their private credit card information.

·        People who look for the proper signal area – with a constant "Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?" – but never seem to find it.

·        People who let their cell phone ring time after time, in a workshop or a concert or anywhere else where they can ignore the stares of those they annoy.

·        People sharing half of their life stories in an elevator or a crowded vehicle, completely unaware that others don’t care about all the “fascinating” details.

·        People who absolutely must interrupt their call with me to get another call rather than letting it go to voice mail.

My “favorites” are those who talk while in the stall of a public restroom. When I encounter one of them, I make as much bathroom noise as possible (flushing toilets or urinals multiple times, using the hand-dryers). Anything to let the individual on the other end of the phone know that the person is talking to them from a bathroom….

I’m sure you have your own special list of such people.  Share it and I’ll pass along the responses in a future post.  Maybe all of us together can generate enough “shaming” to change some behaviors.


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Big Brother Expands His Watch

The States are now using more creative ways to increase their revenue. If they can’t raise taxes, they increase the cost of parking tickets. What used to be a few dollars is now close to $100. What used to be $100 for a moving violation is now $468 for making a right turn on a red light where not permitted.

And, now!  Where a taxpayer is delinquent on taxes due and owing, financial institutions subject to a new California law must provide to the Franchise Tax Board (the State equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service) on a quarterly basis the name, record address, and other information for those people who maintain an account at the financial instiution.

The cost of this new initiative will be paid by banking consumers on opening new accounts. And/or banks may decline to open accounts for depositors who are on the delinquent tax debtor list.

How do you get on this list? Fail to pay a demand for payment for 30 days. Nothing is said about the right of the taxpayer to protest the validity of the State’s demand.

Technology is becoming a bill/tax collector … First, for deadbeat dads who have a job or who receive money from the government. Now for those who have money in a financial institution but don’t pay their taxes to the State. And, as we know from recent exposes, we are being tracked by the use of our Smartphones. And tracking us by the use of our credit cards at gas stations, ATM machines, seems to be commonplace.

There seems to be no plalce to hide.  What’s next?

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Facebook cashes in on our Profiles

Develop a complete profile; make sure your profile is not merely a resume but, rather, an expression of your persona. Be authentic. Remember, this is for your friends and people you want to befriend. This is the advice from every social media expert I’ve heard.

Yet, it now seems that this “rich” profile is the very substance of Facebook’s billions of dollars of ad revenue. They are mining our profiles and selling targeted advertising to companies for a very healthy profit. That’s our privacy they’re selling, without our overt consent and certainly without any share of the profit.

Usually, a commercial transaction is a two-way transaction. You buy a service or product from someone in exchange for money. The third party who makes the service or product is also compensated by a previous two-party transaction. In this case, Facebook and the marketer are in a two party relationship. But, the third party (we who are participants or members) is not involved – we are not compensated by Facebook for creating our profile for their use. Nor are we told that they will make lots of money by selling the very information of our personal lives that we place there.

How does that strike you?

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Virtual visitation

The issue of child visitation is a very hotly and bitterly contested issue among many parents who find themselves in a divorce court.  Using technology in this process, "virtual visitation," has only recently come to the fore. Below is a guest post from one of the leading Family Law attorneys in Southern California.


How many people have gone through a child custody battle themselves, or know someone who has gone through such a battle?  Every day, parents fight in the courtroom to be able to see their children, to spend time with them, to interact and share the lives of their children.  I just successfully finished a 4-day trial advocating for a father to insure his children were not moved out of state by their mother.

What about Abbie Dorn, a woman who was left paralyzed while giving birth to her triplets?  Abbie has been fighting to see her triplets and today in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Abbie Dorn was granted visitation.

Parents all over the country fight to see their children, but this past week, the New York Times published an article which advocated “virtual visitation” via Facebook.  This article was not about monitoring your children’s interactions to insure their safety and well-being, but rather it was about reading your children’s Facebook pages as a means of being involved in your children’s lives.

To me, this is no different than reading your child’s diary as a means of staying involved rather than fostering a communicative relationship.  “Virtual visitation” to me is absurd if intended to be the means of maintaining a relationship.  The world has turned impersonal with an advent of technology.  This should not be the case in a parent/child relationship.  Parents who seek success in their relationship with their children and in the courtroom need to be directly involved with their children and to interact with their children to create a strong parent-child bond.

Marlo Van Oorschot


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The Power of the Internet – and an apology

After my last post about customer service, Orbea, the manufacturer of the bike frame I was riding when I was involved in an accident, a company representative contacted me. His explanation for the less than appropriate company response was that it was sent from Spain, the company headquarters, and the sender had challenges with the English language.

Whether this is true, I cannot say. But, Mr. Paul Alexander of the U.S. Orbea arm said that I should visit a local Orbea retailer and I would receive a 15% – 20% discount on a new bike.  He said, "I look forward to getting you back on your bike and leave you a satisfied Orbea cyclist."

Thank you, Mr. Alexander. That should have been the first response from Orbea.  My wife asked for information about the company’s "crash program."  Even an expression of sympathy/concern and a statement that the company doesn’t have a crash program would have sufficed … and saved unfavorable ink in this blog. Commenting on Orbea’s warranty program was not the subject of my wife’s inquiry.

I’m glad to see that the company has recouped so gracefully. Some companies don’t do even that. Some time ago, you may remember that United Airlines committed a major gaff. By not treating their customers with due respect, a song was written about the company and it appeared in the social media. The company stock dropped 10% as a result!  That is still the subject of some discussion.

I’m glad that Orbea represented the cycling industry more professionally and with greater sensitivity on the rebound.

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Digitizing All Your Files


In today’s Managing Partners Roundtable, we talked about the costs of digitizing all files the firm maintains. One partner suggested that failure to do so might result in malpractice allegations. This is an interesting concept, one that I don’t believe has yet taken hold.

Cons: Expensive, time consuming, lawyers must be involved to determine which file matters can be "cleansed" and tossed, files must be taken apart to scan, decisions on what hard copy to toss now and what to save (and for how much longer)

Pros: Reduction in amount of real estate needed to store files, lower cost of occupancy resulting from a conversion, searchability by keyword rather than memory, one time investment.

Several years ago, a Chicago law firm began this process by scanning documents through a photocopy machine. Their contract provided for payment only when paper was copied and printed, not just scanned. Thus, this segment had limited cost. Disabled people were employed to do the work, thus enabling the firm to do well by doing good, and maintain its cost of labor at a lower cost than would have resulted with its own personnel. The entire process was conducted in the evening so the normal workflow of the firm was not disrupted. This firm was ahead of its time in this process.

In today’s meeting, I learned of a major firm that completed this project last year at a rather high cost. But, the investment was believed to be essential to an efficient future operation of the firm. And, of course, younger lawyers are so conversant with the electronic world that some seldom even touch paper anymore.

Technology has and will continue to have a major impact on the efficiency of the delivery of legal services and the costs to clients.

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Wireless network rules

<auer Brown writes about a new California Bar opinion that addresses wireless network use.

Quoting from their note, they say:

"Attorneys owe their clients a duty of confidentiality and competence. But when an attorney uses wireless Internet to communicate or access files, such as in an airport or other public location, is that communication over an unencrypted wireless network confidential? And is an attorney competent if he or she broadcasts client confidences, including employer confidences for in-house counsel, over an unencrypted network?

On January 20, 2011, the State Bar of California issued formal opinion no. 2010-179, addressing these questions. The opinion provides six factors that attorneys should consider when determining whether a particular technology is appropriate for their communication.

  • The level of security afforded by that technology, including whether reasonable precautions may be taken to increase that level of security by, for example, encrypting email.
  • The legal ramifications to a third party who intercepts, accesses or exceeds authorized use of the electronic information—that is, whether the form of communication is protected by law, like telephones and information stored on computers.
  • The degree of sensitivity of the information—the more sensitive the information, the more security is appropriate.
  • The possible impact on the client of an inadvertent disclosure of privileged or confidential information or work product—again, the more severe the consequences, the more security is appropriate.
  • The urgency of the situation—if a message absolutely must be delivered immediately, security is a secondary consideration.
  • The client’s instructions and circumstances, such as access by others to the client’s devices and communications—if, for example, a client has specified that email is not confidential enough, or that a particular kind of communication must be encrypted, the attorney must comply with those instructions."  See their note for more.

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Firm Manager by LexisNexis

LexisNexis will announce tomorrow the release of a new product called “Firm Manager.” I’ve seen the beta version of the product (and am on its Advisory Board). It looks like it will be a leading contender in the practice management arena. Lexis has put a lot of effort, and that means money, to help the small firm (1-9) think electronically as lawyers think in their real world. One of the exciting elements of this product is that the company will listen not only to its Advisory Board, but also to the lawyers who use the product, both in the soon to be expanded beta test and afterward. They are serious about listening to their customers. And while their pricing of the product is yet to be determined, I know the range .. all I can say is that it will be affordable.

Lexis has enabled me to make a special offer to those whom I believe will be interested in working with this product as part of the extended beta group. If you’re reading this blog and are either a coaching or consulting client of mine, or are on my electronic newsletter list, and want to have this very special offer (one not available elsewhere), contact me directly.

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LegalTech Show – New York

An interesting display of exhibits. A lot of energy and fervor. Almost too much to really spend time to discern what each exhibitor has to offer. E-Discovery is still here, but not so prominent. The third level is without exhibitors, something new in my experience. This suggests that either the economy is still bad for small technology firms or there has been so much consolidation that there are fewer companies in existence, each one a little larger, though, than they would otherwise have been.  And, of course, we know that LexisNexis and West Thomson-Reuters continue to gobble up good, small companies to add to their offerings. ALM, the organizer, and LexisNexis, the major sponsor, have done a great job in the presentation and organization of this event. Well worth attending if in the area.  Others coming will be TechShow (ABA in Chicago) and LegalTech West in Los Angleles, if you missed this one.

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Will the internet replace newspapers?

When you read the news, or when you thumb through a catalog, you are exposed to new ideas and suggestions you might not have thought about before. When you shop or read the news on the internet, you are focused on the one item or idea you started with. That is limiting.

Thus, there is a place for both.  For example, catalogs create need by suggesting items you weren’t thinking about; the Internet is better at fulfilling the need once it’s identified by allowing you to shop for lower prices and faster delivery.

Don’t throw away the baby with the bath water. Newspapers are important. The problem is that if too many people flee the use of the newspaper, they may not be able to pay their investigative reporters. Then, we’ll rely on citizen-reporters, a scary thought.

Likewise, use of the internet (social media, etc.) by law firms is only one tool in the marketing arsenal. It may reach more people; it may be less expensive (though I question this); and it may be faster to create. But, traditional methods of creating relationships and reaching your target market should not be abandoned.

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