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Same-Sex Marriage Legal In 50 States & How To Open Dialogue About It At Your Firm

States must recognize unions of same-sex couples, the Supreme Court ruled today.

In a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, it was Justice Anthony Kennedy who was considered the pivotal swing vote in the case. In the end, he wrote the majority opinion (via NPR).

The four justices—Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito—who voted against the ruling each wrote dissenting opinions.

Keep in mind, before today’s landmark ruling, gay marriage was already legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia by legislative or voter action; or by federal courts that overturned state’ bans (see a chart on

Summarizing our legal process, the courts explained:

“Well into the 20th century, many States condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an illness. Later in the century, cultural and political developments allowed same-sex couples to lead more open and public lives. Extensive public and private dialogue followed, along with shifts in public attitudes. Questions about the legal treatment of gays and lesbians soon reached the courts, where they could be discussed in the formal discourse of the law.”

In polls, support for same-sex marriage is at an all time high.

Interestingly, about three-quarters (73%) of those who say they personally know a lot of gays and lesbians favor same-sex marriage; whereas a majority (59%) of those who know no gays or lesbians oppose same-sex marriage, according to Pew Research Center.

One of the leading factors in determining support for same-sex marriage (outside religious beliefs) is political alignment. According to the same polls, 65% of Democrats and an identical percentage of independents favor gay marriage. However, only about one third (34%) of Republicans favor it, reports Pew.

Therefore, depending on where your law firm is located, and the political composition of your employees, this might become a point of contention or at least conversation.

Maintaining a positive and supportive culture within your firm is just as important as being prepared for the transition of your workplace and human resources policies given this ruling.

Control workplace gossip and negative opinion, if there is any. While Justice Roberts has the right to speak out in dissent, it’ll likely breed resentment and hostility inside your firm.

Need help? Take C4CM’s audio course “Managing the Most Difficult People at Work: 15 Cornerstones for Handling Constructive Confrontations” to gain tips and tricks for knowing what to say on a potentially divisive subject.

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What Law Firms Can Learn From A Career In Software Development About Retaining Employees

According to one attorney-turned-developer’s calculations, after 43 year of employment, at age 65, the software developer will have saved $2,102,010 by investing in a fourth of his take home pay minus student loans.

What’s the figure for an attorney? Almost a million dollars less than the software developer ($1,268,404).

So how did William Ha, former civil litigator, come to this conclusion?

First, an attorney starts his career later and with higher student debt—a lot higher. As a result, the take-home pay that an attorney is able to invest over the next 40 years is both lower and delayed.

Of course, Ha acknowledges that each job has an “X Factor” that accounts for non-monetary yields. For example:

“The lawyer can make partner at a rather large, making a base pay of say $1,000,000 a year, and the software developer can take a company public as an earlier employee if not CEO, cashing in on his own millions,” writes Ha.

There are a variety of unknowns that affect this calculation, but Ha believes that the software engineer still wins out. A software engineer gets paid a pretty penny for any side work she completes (and a lawyer is not allowed to offer the same services).

In addition, law firms cannot go public based on ABA Professional Rules. Furthermore, to maintain the professional independence of a lawyer, no lawyer or law firm can share legal fees with a non-lawyer, explains Ha in “Economics of Software Development v. The Practice of Law – A Rough Look at the Professions”.

So, whereas law firm behemoth, Baker and McKenzie, brings in $2.54 billion in revenue in 2014, with over 11,500 employees (roughly $173,000 per employee—if they can shares these legal fees), Facebook for the same year, brings in 12.466 billion with 6,337 employees, creating $1,700,000 per employee.

In software development, it certainly pays to work for “the man.” For lawyers, it pays to be partner.

Ha moved to Los Angeles after leaving civil litigation and worked for an iOS app developer (via ATL).

“There, I saw young people my age and younger 1) making a good salary, 2) having fun at work, 3) leaving on the dot at 5pm, and 4) not having to deal with a brutal job market. This was the first exposure to software development (aside from my preconceived notions). Is this real life? I wanted to be part of this somehow…”

He converted.

As a law firm manager, does that mean you should quit (and encourage young associates to quit) to join the ranks of Facebook employees?

No, not necessarily. What Ha points out is that so much of what makes a career “worthwhile” is (1) passion and interest in the field; and (2) lifestyle.

To retain your law firm associates, it’s important to remind them why they decided to become lawyers in the first place. Perhaps it was passion for the law. If so, allow your young associates to take on pro-bono cases that they’re passionate about.

If your young associates are keen on making partner, enroll them in business development courses. Encourage them to network at professional events or join legal associations. Host dinners for your community businesses and mentor your young associates in the art of wining and dining potential new clients.

Finally, if your associates are starting to burn out—much like Ha—provide more flexible hours or a more comfortable workplace. There are a variety of innovative workplace practices that your firm can implement that don’t cost a dime, but improve the morale and the retention rates of employees (read about some suggestions here).

When interviewing potential new associates, hiring partners asks hard questions about why these law school grads what to join the firm. But, it’s equally valuable to investigate why young talent is leaving.

A growing number of firms have created non-partnership/career associate tracks to address client’ demands for value. These associates work fewer hours, and are paid lower salaries than partner-track lawyers. So how then does the firm incentivize these lawyers?

Balancing compensation in a firm that embraces multiple associate tracks is tricky. Keeping non-partner and partner tier associates happy and committed to the firm requires a compensation plan that fairly reflects the efforts, hours and status of each.

Learn more about attracting, retaining and compensating career associates with an eye towards loyalty, fairness, and firm profitability in C4CM’s webinar “Re-inventing Associate Compensation: Pay Structures that Incentivize, Reward & Retain Non-Partner Track Attorneys” on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern.

You will learn how to:

  • Use creativity, rather than conformity as a criteria for non-salary rewards
  • Utilize proven methods leading firms are using to create firm-building bonus structures for these associates
  • Build associate loyalty and reduce turnover
  • Increase associate awareness of firm business when they are not tasked as rainmakers
  • Evaluate career associate performance in addition to hours

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Why Two NY Fugitives Are On The Loose & How To Avoid The Blame Game Through Mentorship At Your Law Firm

All eyes in New York State are furtively glancing behind them, after two murders escaped an upstate prison.

And while authorities are conducting a thorough and widespread manhunt for Richard Matt and David Sweat, there appears to be just one good lead—the woman who allegedly helped the two fugitives escape (read more at CNN).

Joyce Mitchell, a prison employee, sits (rather ironically) in jail, accused of assisting two felons to flee; but the real question should be, how could one employee be a weak enough chink in the chain for two prisoners to break free?

It’s unclear at this point who and how many will be held accountable. What is clear, however, is that authorities have yet to locate the escapees after ten long days. Where did all go wrong—with the felons, prison employee, prison authorities, or just the authorities?

At law firms, partners are always complaining about the level of effort and sense of accountability of their young associates. Google a few phrases like “What Drives Partners Nuts,” or “4 Ways Associates Screw Up” and you’ll find myriad articles, old and new, addressing the subject.

Yes, there are also articles about “how partners screw up,” or “how secretaries screw up,” but those columns always address one faction of people, as opposed to targeting team failures.

At a law firm, people work as a team. If the hierarchy works correctly, a strict power structure and job description divvies out roles and responsibilities, as well as names the people in charge to enforce them.

No single person should be in a position to bring down the practice.

This is why associate reporting schemes are devised and mentorship programs enacted.

So, let’s say, for example, your majoir complain as a partner is that “associates don’t fret the details.

“Asked to look at an issue, associates don’t read all of the cases, so we get blind-sided by a horrifying case that our opponent cites in an opposition brief. Or associates don’t read the whole case, so we cite a snippet from footnote 3 that sounds good, and our opponent notes that the actual holding of the case is that we should lose. Or associates don’t read the whole deposition transcript, or contract, or whatever,” writes Mark Herrmann for Above The Law blog.

How can you fix it?

First, explain to associates what you expect. Even if it seems belittling, for young associates, it’s important to outline your expectations. When you ask them to write a draft, explain that you expect it to be flawless (or, don’t call it a draft at all).

When you ask an associate to look at an issue, tell them to also prepare a summary of every case that they cite. Better yet, tell them the law firm name partners will expect a short verbal summary of every case cited in the brief. You will probably stop getting blind-sided by case details an associate didn’t bother to read.

Think associates, “blow stuff off”? Create incentives for them to get work done. A reward system or bonus system that is linked to deadlines may increase productivity.

Think this is babying your associates? Well, the habits you instill in your first-years from day one will stick with them for their entire tenure at your firm. The amount of time and mentorship you invest now is exactly what you get back later.

Learn more about establishing formal mentorship programs on the Center For Competitive Management’s audio course, “Mentoring More Than a Handshake: Integrating Legal Mentoring With Law Practice Management,” Thursday, July 9, 2015 at 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern.

In this audio conference, expert faculty will give you real-life advice on how to improve the structure of your existing mentoring program, including:

  • Methods to manage mentor expectations/requirements for mentee’s professional development (take associates to meet clients, attend bar association meetings, etc.)
  • How to develop a culture of mentorship where the firm recognizes and rewards mentors
  • Why a first day introduction is not enough
  • How to establish better mentor-mentee pairs
  • Ways to build mentoring into the lawyer professional development process
  • Best practices for setting and adhering to mutually appropriate, time-commitments for mentoring
  • Best practices for facilitating open communication between mentor and mentee
  • How to assess your program, get “honest” feedback from associates

Because enough with the blame game. We all make mistakes. Create a law firm culture that is equally invested in law firm success and tangible results, from the ground up.

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Boston Library Loses President (And $750k In Art!), Teaches Law Firms Lessons On Record Retention

City of Boston officials are having a tough year.

First, after defending her decision to shut down the Boston area’s mass transit due to historic snowfall, Beverly Scott resigned as the head of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in February. Now, after two valuable pieces of art mysteriously disappeared, Amy Ryan resigned as Boston Public Library president.

Ryan said in a telephone interview, according to the Boston Globe, “I teamed up with the staff and the public and we accomplished a lot of great things.”

“I love Boston, and I love the Boston Public Library.”

The controversy continues to unfold as various e-mails and evidence come forward stating other valuable artifacts and documents, including pages of sheet music and coins from a time capsule, have been stolen from the Boston Public Library of late, reports the Boston Globe.

The key pieces of art in question, two prints—an Albrecht Dürer engraving titled “Adam and Eve,” valued at $600,000, and an etching by Rembrandt, “Self-Portrait With Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre,” valued at up to $30,000—were reported as missing from the library’s Copley Square branch in April.

It’s not the first time the Boston Public Library has seen some of its precious materials destroyed.

In August 1998, a 100-year old water main broke in the night and ruined 50,000 reference books, 300,000 documents, and 3 million microfiches. Among the items destroyed were a collection of U.S. patents dating to 1872, court decisions, topographical maps, and several rare books, including an irreplaceable Census Catalog 1790-1972, an out-of-print, hand-annotated book that lists all Census Bureau publications for 200 years (via

However, even today, the Boston Public Library has no complete inventory or catalog of its holdings, which means public officials are still unaware of the total loss of the library in recent decades.

The Dewey Decimal System may be long outdated in library systems, but recordkeeping still proves crucial.

Consistent management of documents and data reduces litigation exposure and regulatory criticism (or public scandal!).

Conquering the challenges you encounter in managing, retaining, and disposing information on the road to legal compliance is more complicated than ever.

In fact, as the number of laws and risks related to governing records management continues to increase, it becomes even more paramount that organizations and their counsel follow best practices.

Do you know how long to keep records, how they should be stored, and who should have access to various files? If not, take The Center For Competitive Management’s information-packed webinar Thursday, June 18, 2015, at 2:00 to 3:15PM EST, titled:

Save It, Shred It, Delete It? Corporate Counsel’s Guide to Record Retention“.

It will help you navigate the complex universe of document retention rules and practicalities, including:

  • Mandatory record-retention requirements under federal and state laws
  • Keys to drafting records retention policies and protocols
  • Types of records that can and cannot be stored electronically
  • How to avoid paperless pitfalls that can increase litigation exposure or violate the law
  • Best practices for storage, retrieval and collection of ESI

You will finally be able to answer the following questions:

  • What Are Your Records Retention Requirements Under Law? 
  • How Do Law Firms Draft and Audi Electronic Records Retention Programs ?
  • How Do Law Firms Strive for Optimal Preparedness for Litigation and eDiscovery?

Electronic records may not fall victim to Boston-area snow, wind, and floods, but they still find ways to inexplicably disappear. But, your job doesn’t have to go, too. Learn best practices for record retention today.

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Law Firm Dress Code: Study Shows Formal Clothing Increases Creativity

Law firms tread a fine line between the traditional and the innovative.

You want to be a pioneer in law and policy, but have a predicable, steady-hand in practice.

However, amid talk of flexible schedules and alternative workplace management, long gone is the image of the three-piece suited lawyer behind a mahogany desk in offices with nautical décor. These days, a lawyer is only as good as his or her computer screen or case management software.

Founding partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan says he’s convinced that “sartorial freedom helps nurture legal genius” (via the careerist):

“What we [litigators] do is an exercise in creativity. You have a set of facts and the law–and you have to be creative with the two. Dressing casually improves our creativity.”

Urquhart believes that casual dressing helps break down barriers, so that young associates are “more likely to speak up” and “not be so intimidated by the trappings of power.”

“The only dress code we have is that you to have something between your feet and the carpet—and that’s because our insurance company requires it!”

But, before your firm succumbs completely to avant-garde open-plan workspaces or flip-flop Friday, consider a new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, titled “The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing.

In it, scientists found that when people felt more formally dressed as compared to their surrounding peers, they tended to think more creatively. In fact, one might glean from this article that traditional attire led to more innovative work, not alternative dress codes.

Offices around the world have been touting “casual Fridays” in an attempt to appeal to a younger generation. It has been assumed by employers and academics alike that the more comfortable the employee, the more productive they will be.

But, in a series of controlled experiments, scientists have now found that it is formal dress—as opposed to more casual attire—that makes people more likely to think of themselves as competent and rational.

In addition, people who felt more formally dressed than the people around them were more likely to think abstractly, “by that we mean, basically, holistic or big-picture thinking—so not focusing on the details but seeing bigger ideas, seeing how things connect from a more high-level perspective,” explained Michael Slepian, first author on the paper.

For example, in the experiment (via CNN):

“Slepian asked college students to come to the lab with two sets of clothing: an outfit they’d wear to a job interview, and an outfit they’d wear to class. (These were college students, so even the formal clothing they brought wasn’t too fancy—more like business casual, Slepian said—while the casual outfits tended toward shorts and flip-flops.) Some of the students were told to change into their interview clothes, and others were told to change into their casual ones. Both groups then answered two questionnaires, the first one asking them to rate how formally dressed they felt in comparison to the other students. The second was meant to determine their cognitive-processing style, asking them whether a given item fit within a particular category. For example, abstract thinkers—again, these are people who are more focused on the broader, bigger picture—would be more likely to answer that, sure, a camel could belong under the ‘vehicle’ category; concrete thinkers, on the other hand, would disagree, sticking to a stricter definition of the category.”

In law firm management, the ability to have big-picture thinking is crucial to firm leaders and case managers.

It’s not just that formally dressed employees are more creative, they also command more respect by their counterparts. Not only do you have more faith in yourself, others take note of your serious attire and have more confidence in you, as well.

In this particular experiment, a viable alternative explanation is that the novelty of dressing up—if it’s not something you are used to—contributes to these cognitive consequences of clothing. Even still, this argument stays in favor of Fancy Friday, rather than a casual one, for law firm environments.

So, for those more junior associates, it seems to ring true that you must dress for the job you want (and probably also the job you already have).

Law firms looking to get creative should focus on compensation, not clothing. Get some tips from C4CM’s webinar on Wednesday, June 24, 2015: “Re-inventing Associate Compensation: Pay Structures that Incentivize, Reward & Retain Non-Partner Track Attorneys.

During this interactive session, expert faculty will examine key factors in attracting, retaining and compensating career associates with an eye towards loyalty, fairness, and firm profitability. Plus, they’ll delve into examples of bonus programs for these non-traditional associates, and how to figure in merit, productivity and creativity into their compensation. You will also learn how to:

  • Use creativity, rather than conformity as a criteria for non-salary rewards
  • Utilize proven methods leading firms are using to create firm-building bonus structures for these associates
  • Build associate loyalty and reduce turnover
  • Increase associate awareness of firm business when they are not tasked as rainmakers
  • Evaluate career associate performance in addition to hours

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New Supreme Court Ruling On Free Speech & Social Media: What Your Law Firm Should Know

Among the myriad possibilities that the Internet age brought to Americans—such as online shopping and instant GPS location—came an equal number of threats to our sanity and security—like cyber attacks and online bullying.

Courts are still reviewing the legal status of the digital businesses that may or may not add value to society, like Airbnb and Uber, or conflict with First Amendment Rights. But yesterday, in an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court made strides to rule on free speech and social media.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor or a Pennsylvania man who posted violent messages on Facebook and was convicted under a federal statute. The man, Anthony Elonis, testified that some of his violent posts on Facebook were partly inspired by rap star Eminem and posted as a therapeutic response to cope with depression.

Elonis’ lawyer emphasized, “The First Amendment’s basic command is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds it offensive or disagreeable,” according to CNN.

The Supreme Court agreed with Elonis. The Court decided that intent must be firmly established before a person can be criminally prosecuted for words they post online, whether or not the average person may perceive these words as threatening.

“Wrongdoing must be conscious to be criminal,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote for the seven-member majority.

“Our holding makes clear that negligence is not sufficient to support a conviction,” continued Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.

Although the Court decided that the legal standard to convict Elonis was too low, they did not tackle the larger constitutional issue at hand: what is the proper standard?

“There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you,” Elonis wrote in one post, according to the New York Times.

“Enough elementary schools in a ten mile radius to initiate the most heinous school shooting ever imagined,” he wrote in another.

At what point can online messages constitute a real, tangible, and prosecutable threat?

Has the Internet become a field of free-reign when it comes to expression? How can lawyers establish intent based purely on statements expressed via social media?

At the same time, had the Supreme Court upheld Elonis’ previous conviction (for which he was jailed 44 months), suddenly Americans would be held accountable to a criminal degree for every statement they make online—even when the posts are simply meant to vent, not threaten.

Justice Thomas, however, would have upheld Mr. Elonis’s conviction. In a minority opinion (via NYT), he said:

“This failure to decide [by the majority] throws everyone from appellate judges to everyday Facebook users into a state of uncertainty.”

That it does.

In today’s Facebook world, lawyers have an obligation to perform research on social media sites during investigations. And, knowing where the line is drawn is crucial to keeping out of ethical trouble.

Even when it’s not the primary source of prosecution, like in Elonis’ case, social media profiles are a potential treasure trove of information in litigation.

But using social networking can ensnare attorneys in ethical traps in two different ways: (1) when accessing information in someone else’s profile, and (2) when an attorney’s own profile information might be used against them.

So, how can you effectively use social networks to gather information to gain a legal edge while ethically keeping out of trouble, particularly in light of this SCOTUS ruling?

Take the Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s comprehensive webinar, “Using Social Media in Legal Investigations: Traversing the Ethical Minefield,” which explores key strategies to improve your legal investigation on social media while keeping yourself safe from legal and ethical pitfalls.

This webinar, along with other online training resources, can be found online here.

The Supreme Court may not want to address the larger ethical issue at hand with social media and free speech, but your law firm can.

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The Beatles: A Business Model For Managing Difficult People at Work To Increase Productivity

“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people,” said Steve Jobs.

Law firms are a team. Law firm success is a team effort. But–occassionally–there is a weak link: the annoying coworker. Your law firm’s ability to keep those negative tendencies of coworkers in check can become your firm’s competitive edge.

In a recent OfficeTeam survey, workers were asked, “In your opinion, which of the following is the most annoying workplace break room behavior?” Workers overwhelmingly stated, “making a mess for others to clean up.” In fact, that was 44 percent of respondents’ major complaint about colleagues’ behavior.

Neck-in-neck for second and third place come “stealing a coworker’s food” and “leaving expired/spoiled food in the refrigerator.”

But the break room is not the only source of people’s workplace pet peeves.

LinkedIn asked over 17,000 professionals “what’s your pet peeve,” and the survey found that break room faux pas, like leaving expired produce in the fridge, ranked only third.

It was the Negative Nelly’s of the world that came in second, and—drum-roll please—“people not taking ownership for their actions” came in first place among coworker pet peeves.

Interestingly, in fourth and fifth place were “starting meetings late or going long,” and “people who don’t respond to emails.” So while you may be annoyed by the constant build up of work-related emails in your inbox, you can find comfort in knowing that your counterparts are equally annoyed that you haven’t yet addressed them.

Certain employees require more “managing” than others. You know the type…the bully, gossip, whiner, slacker. And although they run the gamut from whiners and bullies to pot-stirrers and pessimists, all these irritating folks can be considered “Difficult Employees.”

Unfortunately, one of the most challenging parts of being a leader is dealing with these challenging employees. Yet tolerating these “thorns in your side” is definitely not the best solution. Because even just one difficult employee adds frustration and stress, and it can spread like wildfire attacking productivity and morale.

The biggest mistake your law firm can is not having a written, consistent policy or set of procedures for how to deal with difficult employees.

For example, create a checklist for how your prefer managers to address—first verbal, and then written warnings—difficult employees.  Make a template with objective, not emotional language for your law firm managers to use when written warnings are required.

Circulate these policies to your employees so that both sides understand the consequences for bad attitudes and behaviors in the office.

Also, don’t forget to be an advocate for your employees. Negative Nelly’s (the ones annoying your fellow coworkers) may have personal issues that are affecting their day-to-day work habits. It’s called presenteeism. Employees show up to work in body, but not spirit. It’s important to get at the root of the issue and care for, not criticize, these employees.

Presenteeism—which is defined as the practice of coming to work despite illness, injury or other distress, often resulting in reduced productivity—has been estimated to cost over $150 billion dollars per year, according to an HBR study. And a study by Statistics Canada alleges that lost productivity from presenteeism may be 7.5 times greater than productivity loss from absenteeism.

What can your firm do? Discover powerful tools for dealing with difficult employees and managing conflict by utilizing the 15 cornerstones for handling constructive confrontations in The Center For Competitive Management’s webinar: “Managing the Most Difficult People at Work: 15 Cornerstones for Handling Constructive Confrontations,” online Friday, June 5, 2015 from 11:00AM to 12:15PM EST.

Loaded with practical solutions for managing challenging situations, this power-packed webinar delivers specific strategies for nipping conflict in the bud so you can get your team thinking positively and working toward results, including how to:

  • Handle the tough conversations that employees hate and managers fear
  • Trust that the employee also wants harmony and honest feedback
  • Be alert to rewards that an employee might receive for unacceptable behavior
  • Protect the self-esteem of employees regardless of how you personally feel about them
  • Confidently address employees with an “attitude” problem
  • Handle employees who lose their cool without taking their reactions personally
  • Make honesty non-threatening regardless of the nature of the problem
  • Give critical feedback without bruising egos and causing defensiveness
  • Know what to do with difficult employees when nothing works

This content-rich webinar is loaded with practical tips for providing responsible feedback. If you’ve already tried ignoring the problem with no success, or you’re determined to sharpen your communication skills before you tackle the next tough situation, this webinar is for you.

After all, we only all “get by with a little help from our friends” (and coworkers!).

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