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Eliminate Outdated Legal Technology–As Easy As The ABCs

Technology is not only a pragmatic requirement of the practice of law; it is now an ethical one, too.

If your IT Department isn’t already the most integral and important part of your firm, it’s likely you’re already falling behind. Furthermore, if you use any of the following items on a day-to-day basis, your operations are as outdated, as well.

Eliminate some of these machines (and office mores) to get back on track.

“A” for Associates.

Associates are on the decline, and law firm employees on the rise.

Associate compensation models are changing as the legal marketplace becomes overpopulated with a generation of lawyers with very different workplace attitudes and expectations.

Firms are recognizing the growing obsolescence of the traditional lockstep model and are taking steps to rework it or replace it. Firms now have an opportunity to be much more creative in how their attorneys are paid and to use compensation as a way to drive long-term value. To create long-term value and retain good attorneys, a firm first needs to design a strong, coherent, and attractive strategy.

Rather than firing secretaries or de-equitizing partners, Greenberg Traurig law firm has created a new strategy for hiring associates in the form of a “residency program.” Firm managers view this program as a way to attract talented associates without having to endure the costly and risky hiring process. Also, it allows junior lawyers to sign on who may not have made the cut in the first place, reports Law21.

In addition, junior lawyers work case matters without billing their work at the high rates clients have come to expect. Sitting on conference calls and gaining on-the-job training, these “resident” attorneys gain the job experience needed to succeed in the future and sustain life in an over-saturated market today.

Greenberg is simultaneously creating a new non-shareholder-track position called the practice group attorney, similar to the positions at law firms Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton; and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

The age of the Associate is over.

“B” for Binders

Why are you till making copies, printing out transcripts, and creating binders? Sure, every once in awhile, there’s a need for a hard-copy backup binder. But, it’s time to go digital.

Papers can be scanned, digitally stored, text-recognized, and then made searchable to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your law firm.

Binders are out, and electronic case material software—MyCase, Amicus Attorney, AdvantageLaw, LegalFiles, and OneNote—is in.

“C” for Conference calls

How many people really benefit from conference calls? Already, it’s impossible for more than one person to speak, and—often—people accidentally speak over one another.

Is a conference call more efficient than a memo? Do five people really need to bill the client for the same call?

Conference calls can easily be replaced with a quick person-to-person conversation, memorandums circulated over email, lists distributing work product, or—for the advanced law firm—discussions over a wiki (Learn how to create one here).

Ditch the conference call and develop your social capital at in-person conferences instead.

“D” for Dictaphones

Della may have used a Dictaphone for Perry Mason, but outside the world of black and white television is the real world of iPhones and Macbooks.

Your smartphone, tablet, and computer is capable of recording and even transcribing audio. So why are you still using cassette tape recorders? The Dictaphone should die in a fiery death, the app Dragon Dictation, however, is worth its weight in Silicon.

“E” for E-mail

Experts agree, e-mail is outdated. A meeting-less morning, a conference-call free afternoon, or e-mail-less day goes a long way in productivity for the firm and project deliverables for your clients.

Reading and answering e-mail takes up approximately 28 percent of the average workweek for employees, reports a 2012 study by McKinsey & Company. Communicating and collaborating internally takes up 14 percent of the workweek, and searching and gathering information just 19 percent.

Have you ever e-mailed a colleague who shares a wall with you? If so, it’s time to reconsider your e-mail etiquette and e-mail frequency.

Electronic communication certainly has its advantages. But, its overuse has made e-mail under-perform in comparison to old-fashioned office visits.

“F” for Faxes

Ok, keep your fax machine. But only if it’s paid for or used as a paperweight, museum item, or reminder to what legal assistants had to go through to file motions in the past. Otherwise, stick to e-filings or eFaxing.

You know what’s not outdated? MS Office. Take one of The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s audio conferences on technology integration for law firms:

Excel Dashboards: Tips, Tricks & Techniques to Communicate & Summarize Complex Excel Data,” Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Do you know how to create beautiful graphs that really convey the message of where the company is and where it needs to go? This webinar will show you how to create useful Dashboards that turn business data into actionable information.

Excel Dashboards are a powerful tool to communicate and summarize complex Excel data. They are designed to draw your audience’s attention so the most important information jumps right out at them and they don’t have to scan the entire page for hours just to get a simple answer.

PowerPoint 2010: Top 10 Steps to Creating & Delivering Killer Presentations,” Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Are you looking for the quickest and most effective ways to create PowerPoint presentations that attract visual interest and communicate your important business information?

Creating professional, unique PowerPoint presentations is much easier than you think. In fact, in just 90 minutes, you will learn how to create beautifully-designed, visually appealing PowerPoint presentations in just 10 simple steps.

During this interactive webinar, you will learn how to take advantage of the many under-utilized formatting options in PowerPoint 2010 to create and customize visually stunning and effective presentations.

And many, many more!

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Stormtrooper Arrested For Costume Choice & Ways Your Firm Can Weather The Storm Of Writing & Enforcing Legal and Effective Dress Code Policies

The new Star Wars movie may haven broken records, but that doesn’t mean fans of the film can break the law in celebration. This week, Lynn, MA, police officers arrested a man dressed in a stormtrooper costume for loitering within 1,000 feet of an elementary school and causing a disturbance.

His crime? Over-enthusiasm for the film, apparently, as George Cross, 40, claims to have recently bought the outfit and was simply eager to share it with the little ones.

The force wasn’t strong enough with Cross, however, as police were quickly notified that “someone was dressed up in that outfit with a gun—a fake gun,” explained Lynn Police Lieutenant Rick Donnelly, reports the Boston Globe.

“Parents could not go into the school, and the principal delayed everything because she was concerned with the party outside,” Donnelly said to the Boston Globe.

“He had no reason to be there, didn’t know anyone at the school, and he was hanging out front. In today’s day and age, some of the kids were scared and a lot of parents were concerned. He caused quite a disturbance.”

A poor decision based on good intentions, most would say. But should the law really get involved in such trivial matters of dress?

Even in the office place, policy plays an important role. One of the fastest-growing areas of litigation today pertains to poorly written or vague dress code.

In fact, plaintiffs are using traditional discrimination concepts to push the envelope in making claims of lifestyle discrimination based upon sexual orientation, gender-identity, physical appearance, and other borderline privacy or personal issues.

Who draws the line between personal expression and inappropriate dress?

  • Can you require an employee to hide their tattoos?
  • Can you ban headwear if it’s part of someone’s personal expression?
  • Can you legally require an employee to take out their tongue ring during work hours?
  • Does a dress code mandating facial hair and other grooming policies invite a race discrimination claim?
  • What about dress codes related to safety rules?

Does your law firm know the answer to these simple questions? Does your law firm?

If not, you and your clients may be opening yourselves up to costly litigation.

Take C4CM’s audio course “Tutus, Turbans and Tattoos: Writing and Enforcing a Legal and Effective Dress Code Policy,” on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, from 2:00PM To 3:15PM EST.

This information-packed webinar explores the tools, techniques and knowledge you need to confidently handle dress code problems, and fashion a dress code policy that’s effective and defensible.

And, if you just don’t want to bother giving it a second thought like that stormtrooper in Lynn? Well, may the force be with you.

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Old New Year’s Resolutions? Why Senior Management Should Promote Work-Life Balance

According to a 2015 Gallup study, about 50 percent of the 7,200 adults surveyed left a job “to get away from their manager.”

On the other hand, half of those surveyed who fully agreed with the statement “I feel I can approach my manager with any type of question” are considered actively engaged in their work, reports Wall Street Journal, a strong indicator that manager openness may be tied to worker productivity, summarizes Forbes.

On average, almost a quarter of full-time employees plan to change jobs at year’s end. Can your firm afford this much employee turnover due to bad management?

“Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said offering frequent recognition, merit bonuses, training programs and clearly defined career paths are important ways to show workers what they mean to the company,” writes Chad Brooks, a BusinessNewsDaily contributor.

Career paths are often dictated, if not totally controlled, by an employee’s manager. So if communication is poor—so is, most likely, employee performance

In addition, of the 79 percent of employees who do not plan to leave their jobs at the end of the fiscal year, many cite work-life balance satisfaction—also a contributor to job unhappiness—as the source.

So if positive work-life balance, coupled with good management, leads employees to stay with their firm, isn’t it time your law firm reevaluate its promotion policies and perks?

Time and time again, companies, including law firms, have acknowledged the advantages of offering Flex scheduling.

This may mean working one day per week, or every two weeks, remotely.

“I work a four-day week which is incredibly valuable, and I’ve been really encouraged to see that some of my male colleagues have switched to working flexibly so that they can meet the demands of a young family,” says Lauma Skruzmane about her city law job to Yahoo News.

“For me, this also underlines the fact that balancing work and family is not to be branded a ‘women’s’ issue, but it is a challenge that all parents, or other careers, face.”

But parents aren’t the only demographic looking for flexible hours.

Working from home can be a relief for anyone. Perhaps your law office is experiencing temporary negativity in its corporate culture. Maybe the office has become of hub for gossip or distraction.

Whatever the reason, traditional workspaces may not be the most productive environment for all your associates. Allow them to take advantage of new media and technology, which often means anybody can be digitally anywhere at any time. Remind your management that good work doesn’t necessarily mean office work.

A healthy work-life balance also means adequate exercise.

Sign your firm up with a local gym. Give your employees incentive to work out at lunch or after dinner. Exercise will help improve efficiency and productivity among your staff by relaxing the brain and increase endorphins in the body. Exercise is one of those old New Year’s Resolutions–one that everybody tries and many people quit. Make it stick in 2016.

Finally, lead by example. Take coffee breaks. Make time for face-to-face visits with your employees. And, don’t miss your child’s first student bake-sale because you felt obligated to stay an extra hour at the office.

Let you employees take five every once in awhile or risk taking their two-weeks notice.

And finally, train your managers to understand that additional perks often lead to higher performance, as well as happiness, in their work force. In the end, senior staff should provide the model for team members to emulate and even admire.

New year, new laws, more headaches for employers.

Each year, the federal courts and state legislatures are busy altering the landscape of employment laws, and usually to the employer’s detriment. To avoid costly litigation, employers must stay abreast of annual changes impacting the workplace.

Figuring out how to adapt quickly to accommodate employee rights and manage employer responsibilities can be daunting. It’s even harder to comply with legal obligations you don’t even know you have.

Learn more in C4CM’s audio course here.

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The History Of Boilerplate Clauses & How To Draft Them Effectively

The RMS Titanic might be the most famous steamship in the world. In 1912, it was certainly the largest.

Roughly 200 years after the rise and fall of the steamship, lawyers still reference it everyday—but not in the way you may think.

Going back in time to the mid-1800s, steel plates were once bolted on the boilers of steamships that contained water. Water, heated by fire, generated steam. The steam was then pumped under pressure into engines; but, with such great pressure comes risk, and to keep the boiler from exploding, extra steel plates were needed on each boiler: a simple yet effective way to control the power of physics and oceanic transportation.

One hundred years later, when the steamship industry was on the decline, the newspaper industry repurposed these large steel plates from decommissioned steamships for their printing presses. Some of the plates contained textual information, such as the newspaper name or city, which would be stamped on each and every page of the newspaper.

The meaning of the term “boilerplate” was thus dichotomous, indicating both the strength and security steel plates provided steamships, as well as the repetitive text that was regularly and identically reprinted (read more at Gianelli & Associates).

In recent years, the word is used primarily by lawyers to mean the fine print at the end of contracts. “Boilerplate” most often represents terms and conditions that are fixed, powerful, and sturdy to match the boilers of its steamship days.

In New York, the boilerplate on the back of Yankees tickets are particularly famous for claiming, “The bearer of the ticket assumes all risk and danger incidental to the sport of baseball,” which disclaims all legal liability if a fan is injured at Yankee Stadium (read more in The New York Times).

This is known as the “assumption of risk” doctrine and even, at times, as the “baseball rule” to personal-injury lawyers who recognize how difficult baseball-stadium injuries are to litigate.

Today, however, the power of the boilerplate may be fading. Boilerplate clauses may not be as unyielding as once thought. In fact, they often lead to unintended consequences.

For example, a liquidated damages clause specifies a predetermined amount of money that must be paid as damages for failure to perform under a contract. While most business contracts contain a damages clause, they’re not always enforceable.

Business counsel can help mitigate challenges to enforceability through careful drafting of liquidated provisions. Attend C4CM’s CLE “Drafting and Negotiating Liquidated Damages Clauses in Business Contracts,” on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern.

During this information-packed webinar, our expert faculty will present real life examples and considerations for drafting and negotiating of liquidated damages provisions in commercial contracts. It will provide strategies for anticipating and overcoming enforcement hurdles with the clauses.

Researching the effectiveness of boilerplate clauses will be of titanic help to your firm, as well as your clients, in order to weather the obstacles ahead—icebergs and all.

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Getting Over The Post-Thanksgiving Hump: A Few Organizational Tips For Cold Weather

Thanksgiving wasn’t a day to give thanks for everyone this year. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin was forced to declare a state of emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties due to the winter storm and flooding. The Governor’s office reported that nearly 100,000 homes were still without power Sunday afternoon as a result of freezing rain, ice and sleet, according to USA Today.

Rains continued in Kansas and North Texas, as well, where waterways swelled and flood watches remained in effect, the AP reported. Seven people were swept away in high water in the Trinity River in Dallas Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, they were able to be rescued from the swift water.

But don’t let a dreary holiday engulf your weekly goals. Through a few easy steps, you can salvage a productive and welcoming start to what’s likely to continue to be a wet week.

1. Concentrate despite the cold

Although the autumn weather is finally be turning, your office heat may still be turned off.

If you find yourself losing concentration in a cold office, try using the countdown method. Look at the clock and plan to work ten more minutes, read ten more pages, or write ten more lines of a brief. Then, reward your effort with a warm cup of tea or coffee.

Whether it’s due to temperature issues or end-of-the-workweek procrastination, don’t lose your focus. Counting down a few more minutes will help you finish that less stretch of work before heading home. Or, finishing that last memo before going to lunch.

You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve in just a few more minutes. More often than not, having a distinct, short-term deadline to complete a task will bring back your fat-waning concentration.

2. Do the most important task first

It’s easy to waste your day working on little projects—filing papers or filling out timesheets, for example.

But, procrastinating with the more important case-related matters you left behind will only lead to a weekend spent at the office.

So, today, find your most important task at hand. Complete this item first.

If you funnel your concentration and effort into one, single work item, you’ll be more satisfied with your progress, and you’ll have set a more manageable tasks to complete before the end of the week.

3. Ignore your email

Obsessing about incoming e-mail is the quickest way to lose your work momentum.

So, maintain your concentration by ignoring new, incoming e-mails—at least for awhile.

Create a schedule for checking them (say, every hour). This will also give you an occasional, much-needed break from completing your more important projects.

4. Don’t forget your to-do list

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, your concentration starts to decline. There feels like just too much to do in so little time.

Creating a to-do list is one of those basic, old, but still valuable tasks for any professional. Create a to-do list for the day and for the week. If you can, assign dates to each task (you can modify them later).

Creating a to-do list will get you in the habit of writing things down.

After every phone call, e-mail, or in-person conversation, write down the project being discussed, along with the related-tasks.

This is one of the many reasons why Excel was created and can be used by lawyers.

At the end of the day, you’ll be grateful for the visual representation of all your work—especially once you see that none is urgent and hump day has finally transformed into the weekend.

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Law Firms, Watch Collectors & How To Know When ‘Time Is Money’

In the case of high-end watch collectors, time is literally money.

At a recent Christie’s auction, a Patek Philippe watch sold for more $50,000—quite an improvement over its 1950s retail price of $275, reports CBS News.

“I’ve seen artwork being traded for watches. I have seen somebody trade a very rare Patek Philippe for a down payment on an apartment,” said Benjamin Clymer, Founder and Editorial Director, Hodinkee.com.

In today’s digital age, you still can’t stop the clock. Apple shelled out $21 million in a “lump sum” to license a clock-face design from the Swiss Federal Railway service, reported French news agency AFP, citing a Swiss paper.

Swiss Federal Railway service (SBB) objected to the clock-face design in iOS 6 because it too closely resembled a trademarked design created in 1944 by SBB employee Hans Hilfiker. Today the design is used in train stations throughout Switzerland and licensed the pricey Swiss watch manufacturer, Mondaine.

Hilfiker’s design is timeless, and thus has been honored by both the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the London Design Museum. The Swiss consider it a national symbol of punctuality, but it’s also an example to lawyers of the power technology holds when protected by intellectual property.

It’s not just watches; there are myriad other reasons why technology converts time into money for your firm. Here are some lessonds, according to an Accellis Technology article, for law firms:

“When you’re efficient, you take on less risk – Simply put, the less time you spend on a contingency case, the less risk associated with taking it on. If you lose, you’re not sacrificing as much time or revenue. If you win, you’ll make the same amount of money, but since you spent less time on the case, your margins are higher. And, if you win or lose but don’t get paid, you’re out less money.

When you’re efficient, you can take on more cases – If you can generate a Will twice as fast as your competitor, you can do twice the amount of work, right? When your process for settling civil disputes speeds up, you can twice as many disputes.

When you’re efficient, you can spend more time on client-facing activities – Spend your new-found time meeting people, creating stronger relationships with your clients, and building value in your firm. Try to drive in new opportunities from your current client base (maybe they didn’t know you take on divorces). Did you know that once you have a client, each subsequent sale has a close ratio of over 70%? It’s easy money!”

To read the entire article, go here.

Sold on technology, but need to know where to start? Think about integrating the following products into your business systems:

The iPad.

Apps for the mobile phone and iPad have contributed some of the most significant improvements in efficiency and productivity within law firms in some time. Get with your IT Department to brainstorm how best to implement these gadgets into everyday legal activity.

For some of the best legal iPad apps, go here.

Near-field Communications (NFC) Technology.

From Google Wallet to Starbucks Mobile Payment App, NFC technology has myriad uses in law.

Read more about their applications here.

Social Media and Blogging.

Social media sites like LinkedIn or legal recruitment web-agencies, including lawcrossing.com, are cheap and easy ways to locate qualified candidates. It saves recruiters time and money by already compiling information about prospective employees.

Even if your firm is not looking to hire, it’s certainly still looking to recruit clients. At which point, social media—blog posts, tweets, or Facebook feeds—become crucial in advertising what services your firm offers, who its lawyers are, and why a client should hire you, as opposed to another firm.

In the time it took you to read this line, I sent a tweet and 500 people read it. Talk about a new value for time in money.

E-discovery software

By this time, most law firms already (from necessity) have some sort of electronic discovery software. However, when was it last updated?

The capabilities of software and technology changes rapidly everyday. If you haven’t updated your online systems for some time, it’s likely that there’s a more efficient way to organize and file e-discovery.

In sum, what have you learned about time, money, and technology? They’re inextricably linked.

So, consider putting together a “technology team” at your law firm—to keep apprised of developments in the field of legal gadgetry—one that will ensure your associates are not falling behind or sinking your bottom line. And if you’re feeling generous, make timeless timepieces part of your end-of-year bonuses: They appreciate (and your associates will appreciate them).

Regain control of your time and technology.

Take C4CM’s audio course, “Microsoft Outlook: Unlock E-Mail, Calendar and Time-Saving Secrets” on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern.

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Tom Brady & The Patriots Face More Controversy & Record Retention Lessons For HR

Even if you’re not from the Northeast—even if you’re not a football fan—by now you’ve heard of the New England Patriots. Whether it’s Tom Brady’s supermodel wife or its Deflategate controversy, the team certainly knows how to make the news. And last night’s game was no exception.

First, an inadvertent official whistle during a live play stopped what may been a 50-yard touchdown by the Patriots’ receiver Danny Amendola. In a close game against the Buffalo Bills, such an error could have been costly to the Patriots’ undefeated team.

Then, with seconds left on the clock, a questionable call ended the game abruptly—smashing any chance the Buffallo Bills had at a hail marry pass (or other play) to tie in the fourth quarter.

Final score? 20-13. The New England Patriots continue their winning record of 10-0 in the AFC Eastern Division.

As if Monday night’s football wasn’t enough, the Patriots headlined this morning for another reason.

The NFL’s appeal of a district court decision vacating the suspension of quarterback Tom Brady will be heard on March 3, it announced today. The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Monday scheduled oral arguments for well after Feb. 7, also know as Super Bowl 50.

The hearing date is over a year after the 2014 AFC Championship Game where the Patriots played the Indianapolis Colts with deflated footballs, reports USA Today. An independent investigation found two Patriots employees responsible for these rule-breaking activities and concluded that Brady was at least “generally aware” of the situation.

However, at least for now, the Deflategate controversy won’t keep the Patriots’ from another championship season.

But what if your company was forced into an independent investigation? What if your personnel records were audited this very minute, could they stand-up to a DOL probe, an EEOC investigation, or an ICE inspection?

As an HR professional one of your primary responsibilities is to maintain personnel records. But what began as putting important files in a folder has developed into a complex web of compliance. And each year, compliance gets more and more difficult, as you add in electronic documents and other formats.

There are the modified FMLA rules, the updated ADA regulations, the FLSA, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, all of which have separate rigid requirements for retention. And the federal push for I-9 compliance means employers must have their immigration forms meticulously maintained… but you don’t have to worry about that, right?

When it came to evidence on deflating footballs, Tom Brady also thought he was in the clear. But, technological advances (for Brady, the availability of cell phone records) and the threat of potential litigation (or the suspension from professional football) should impact the way your team does its record-keeping.

For Brady, it may be too late. But for law firm professionals, attend The Center For Competitive Management’s audio course, “Save it, Shred it, Delete it? Employee Record Retention for HR,” on Friday, December 11, 2015 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM EST.

For law firms or football teams, there’s a big difference between making headlines and being victims of them.

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