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Charlotte Riots Remind Law Firm Managers To Quash Incivility In The Workplace

North Carolina is steeped with African American history. It’s the place where Harriet Jacobs, born in Edenton, NC, escaped life on a plantation and wrote one of the first narratives about slavery and the fight for freedom by slaves in the South.

Three hours west in Greensboro, NC, is the site where, in 1960, four university freshmen sat down at the “whites only” lunch counter and made a formidable stand against the laws of segregation.

Just one and half hours south is Charlotte, NC, where the Gantt Center preserves African-American art, history, and culture, including quilts from the Underground Railroad and textiles from West Africa (not to mention Harvey Gantt was Charlotte’s first African-American mayor).

But Charlotte, this very minute, can hardly remember the key role it played in the Civil Rights movement; not just in the Greensboro sit-in, but as recently as 2008, when the predominantly conservative Republican State of North Carolina voted Democrat, leading Barack Obama to the White House on a 0.32% margin of victory.

The struggle in North Carolina for African Americans is real. Black Americans in North Carolina face an unemployment rate nearly double than their white counterparts. In this majority rural, conservative area, black Americans remain a minority, economically and socially.

Today, in Charlotte, nobody has it right—not the police, for cherry-picking where and against whom they use deadly force; and not the people, for protesting violently when the U.S. Constitution allows for effective, peaceful alternatives.

A second night of police-protest rioting sent at least one civilian to critical condition and led the city of Charlotte to declare a state of emergency. Officers in riot gear used tear gas and flash grenades during a standoff with a violent crowd, who was protesting the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a father of seven, outside his condominium complex, reports the NY Post.

Meanwhile, demonstrators are still smashing windows and defacing storefronts in downtown Charlotte.

“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral,” spoke Martin Luther King Jr. during his Nobel Lecture on December 11, 1964.

It’s a shame we are only reminded once a year on January 16th of MLK’s wise words.

“I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

It is a state of emergency for us all when we’ve forgotten the legal outlets for free speech and protest for which our forefathers already fought. It’s these laws upon which this nation was built and remains unique in the world.

Big or small, there’s no excuse for skirting the law.

As law firm managers, it’s even more important to remember and enforce the legal outlets for dealing with uncivil behavior.

According to the Wall Street Journal, as much as 96 percent of employees have been treated rudely at the office, and 50 percent say it happens at least once a week.

What’ s more alarming, 26% of employees say they’ve quit a job because of “a lack of civility.” Beyond losing talent, disrespectful, rude and offensive behavior carries a high price; it wreaks havoc on employee relationships and morale, diminishes collaboration, and chips away at your bottom-line.

Take the Center for Competitive Management’s webinar “Incivility at Work: Essential Strategies for Squashing Rude Behavior and Creating a More Productive, Positive Workplace.

This information-packed webinar will help you master the three A’ s you need to combat and transform negative, disrespectful behavior and make your workplace a happier, more productive place. You will learn practical steps to:

  • Assess the problem;
  • Address the instigators; and
  • Ax out the behavior once, and for all.

If only police brutality (and communicating the value of peaceful assembly) could be handled so easily…

 

-WB

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Divorce, Democrats & Distraction: Strategies For Regaining Concentration In The Workplace

Angelina Jolie files for divorce from Brad Pitt. Hints emerge that George H.W. Bush will vote for Clinton. NFL versus the national anthem.

The news today is enough to make your head spin. With so much going on in the world—serious or not so much—it can be hard to pay attention to work.

Luckily, according to a recent study, your brain is smart enough to compensate for concentration-breaking events. It turns out, when you are busy with a task that requires sight (say, lengthy doc review on a computer screen?) your brain reduces hearing so that you can focus.

“The brain is really clever, and helps us to concentrate on what we need to do. At the same time, it screens out distractions that are extraneous to the task. But the brain can’t cope with too many tasks: only one sense at a time can perform at its peak,” Jerker Rönnberg of Linköping University, professor of psychology with a focus on disability research, said to Science Daily.

Rönnberg and colleagues have investigated what happens in the brain when people are given a visual task, such as a student taking an exam or a person driving a car. The researchers were also studying how a person’s concentration changes when background noise increases.

Although findings show a high cognitive load in the form of a visual task impairs the brain’s response to sound in both the cortex and also in the parts of the brain that deal with emotion, there are other ways you can hone your concentration skills. One that don’t need scientific confirmation via a catscan.

First, ignore your e-mail. E-mail is the quickest way to lose your momentum on a task.

Instead, create a schedule for checking e-mail, like once every hour. This will give you an occasional, much-needed break from completing your more important projects.

Second, craft a To-Do list.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks at hand, your concentration starts to decline. It feels like too much to do in too little time.

Creating a to-do list is one of those basic, but still valuable tools 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, and it will also make it easier to focus on tackling one task at a time. Your reward? Crossing it off your list.

To-Do lists are also one of the many ways a lawyer can use Excel.

Finally, take a break—a physical break—when you feel your concentration waning.

According to an old Japanese study, a 15-minute nature-walk can drop stress hormones by 16 percent, blood pressure by 2 percent, and heart rate by 4 percent, reports Montana Public Radio. And, a recent study from 2015 suggests that the same health benefits you receive from a $20,000 raise can be experienced simply by living in a neighborhood surrounded by trees.

So, get up from your desk and get a small amount of physical activity. Although your workplace may be surrounded by aluminum trees, i.e., skyrise buildings, you can still take a walk about town for your health.

Plus, a 15-minute break outside the office will do a world of good by letting you forget today’s insane worldwide news.

-WB

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Don’t Get Trumped: How To Protect Attorney-Client Privileges During an Audit When Investigators Hold All The Cards

No company is immune to investigation by regulating bodies—especially U.S. Presidential candidates.

Today, CNN confirmed that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office is investigating Donald Trump’s charitable foundation “to make sure it’s complying with the laws governing charities in New York.”

“We’ve inquired into it,” Schneiderman told CNN‘s Jake Tapper on “The Lead,” Tuesday.

“We’ve had correspondence with them. I didn’t make a big deal out of it or hold a press conference. But we have been looking into the Trump Foundation to make sure it’s complying with the laws governing charities in New York.”

This should come as no surprise after news sources reported that Trump has not contributed to his own foundation since 2008 and that has, instead, spent money from his charity on himself (via CNN).

The current investigation follows a recent fine, issued to the Trump Foundation by the IRS for $2,500, for making a $25,000 donation to a group supporting the campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013. Bondi’s office was considering opening an investigation into Trump University, although no formal investigation was ever opened, reports CNN.

Trump isn’t the only one in hot water these days. Another investigation has headlines boiling over. Wells Fargo’s unauthorized account creations and subsequent employee firings have quickly overwhelmed the news cycle.

And, Girard Gibbs Law Firm just announced they are investigating reports that Wells Fargo used customers’ private information to open as many as 1.5 million unwanted checking and savings accounts, and more than 500,000 credit cards without customers’ knowledge or consent, according to BusinessWire.

Although Wells Fargo announced a settlement with regulators last Thursday, this is likely not the first or last time the bank will face additional lawsuits on this matter, either from customers who were harmed or ex-employees who may have been forced to quit by the bank’s practices (via LA Times).

Like the Wells Fargo scandal, investigations into wrongdoing can come out of nowhere. All it takes is one disgruntled ex-employee or client—even political agenda—for a corporation to find itself in Wells Fargo’s (or Trump’s) position.

During such an event, a critical issue faced by in-house counsel is how to keep their communications privileged.

Courts require that corporations prove that communications and documents shared with in-house counsel are protected by the attorney-client privilege. If you’re unable to satisfy this burden, you could be required to produce confidential attorney-client communications in court.

If you’re unsure how to protect yourself and your firm, take The Center for Competitive Management’s webinar, “Protecting Attorney-Client Privileges During an Audit or Investigation.”

In it, counsel will learn best practices for guiding a company in protecting attorney-client privileges during an audit or investigation, and when negotiating a deal, such as:

  • Key legal issues surrounding the attorney-client privilege in investigations and audits
  • Who has the privilege
  • What privilege protects or how privilege can be lost
  • How privilege can be inadvertently waived
  • How to shield information
  • Advice on disclosure without waiving the company’s privileges
  • Complications that arise due to the dual nature of in-house counsels role
  • Privilege issues that arise from ‘non-attorney’ communications
  • How to segregate business and legal advice
  • Steps to take to maximize privilege protection
  • How foreign privilege laws affect privilege

Although the word “privilege” may, in theory, mean a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people; in practice, your “privilege” may be taken away if your firm doesn’t follow best practices.

So, don’t leave your company open to scrutiny by the courts. Investigate your own in-house policies for attorney-client privileged communication and consider:

  • Conducting a risk assessment of your organization’s devices, including computers, tablets, mobile phones, USB drives, cloud storage, etc.;
  • Updating your encryption software, firewalls, antivirus software and other security, like password protection policies and circulate these policies to teams;
  • Educating your employees and clients about what is, and is not, protected by attorney-client privilege or simply by adding a disclaimer to documents;
  • Reminding employees and clients that e-mail is not always the safest communication tool for confidential information
  • Developing strategies for managing private internal communications, such as adding the words, “attorney-client privilege” to all e-male subject lines; and
  • Conducting in-person training regularly to ensure these best practices.

-WB

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New Reports Show Compensation Is Key To Happiness For Cubs & In-House Counsel

Lawyers and bear lovers, come on down!

The latter, at least, is a phrase most people will remember from the iconic television game show The Price Is Right. Former host, Bob Barker, has fully embraced his second calling as an animal rights advocate.

Barker is providing $50,000 to a Manitoba couple to build the Canadian province’s first black bear cub rehabilitation center on their property, according to CBC News.

The couple, Judy and Roger Stearns, plan to take in orphaned cubs and care for the creatures until they reach a size and weight appropriate for re-release into the wild.

“My husband and I were going to be building the facility with our own funds,” said Judy Stearns on Wednesday (via CBC News).

“Now it can be that much larger and more complex, and we can help the bears even more. It’s fabulous.”

The center will be able to hold about 10 cubs in total. By caring for the cubs at the center, Judy and Roger Stearns, along with Barker’s financial assistance, will help spare them from being sent to a zoo or, worse yet, killed in an animal shelter.

“A life in captivity for bears is a life filled with suffering, so giving orphaned bear cubs a second chance at a life in the wild is a campaign worth supporting,” said Barker.

A life in captivity—not just for animals, but also attorneys—is what many in-house counsel fear these days, according to a recent survey.

Another Bob Barker—this one, a partner at the legal recruiting firm BarkerGilmrore—is looking to improve the lives of others. Instead of bears, he looks at barristers, conducting surveys that ask in-house counsel to compare themselves to firm lawyers by asking them to rate their pay relative to their “peers.”

According to Barker—the lawyer, not the animal-lover—respondents were free to interpret that word “peer” however they saw fit.

And, with that in mind, although salaries for in-house attorneys are on the rise, increasing by 4.2 percent across all industries, a surprising 44 percent of respondents considered their compensation, including cash bonuses and equity awards, “below or significantly below that of their peers,” reports Bloomberg Law.

In fact, roughly 40 percent said they were likely to consider a new position next year because of compensation issues, despite the fact that their career boasts a wage rate rising well above the 2015 national inflation rate of 0.1 percent.

Alas, corporate counsel can be such a bear. But, it doesn’t have to be.

The successful law firm manager knows how to:

  • Engage Employees
  • Promote Their Strengths
  • Motivate Them to Work Together
  • Maximizing Your Resources in Your Team
  • Handle Conflict in Your Team

This means, finding what inspires workers to be more productive, whether it’s a pro-bono pet project or flexible vacation policy.

A successful manager knows the personality traits of each employee and therefore how to promote their strengths. Spend more time investigating a person’s past to identify the specific skills—technical writing, diligent research, bi-lingual—that they can use in the future.

Finally, a productive law firm is one that promotes teamwork. Proper organization of case matters, standardization of documentation, an understanding of technology and other legal resources, and delegating tasks to the appropriate staff member are easier said than done. But, with proper strategies and training, your law associates don’t have to belong to that 40 percent seeking other employment.

Take the Center for Competitive Management’s webinar, “The Successful Manager’s Guide to Managing A Team.

Jam-packed with key strategies, practical tips, and techniques used by today’s top managers, this must-read guide explores:

  • Identifying Team Objectives
  • Teams Are Made of People
  • Managing Individuals
    • Engagement Strategies
    • Understanding Individual Needs
    • Different Personality Types
  • Managing the Team
  • Get To Know the Team
  • Maximizing Your Resources in Your Team
  • Improving Competencies within the Team
  • Identifying Growth Opportunities and Capacity Constraints in the Team
  • Handling Conflict in Your Team
  • Managing Difficult Employees

One of your most important roles as a manager is to make sure that your people have the support, tools, and resources they need to do their jobs. This essential guide outlines those six steps needed to equip your team for success.

Just one more thing… Bob Barker reminding you: Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered.

-WB

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How Robot Lawyers Are Defeating Traffic Tickets: Translating Millennial Beliefs & Bots Into Firm Profitability

An Internet bot, also known as web robot, or simply a bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks, called scripts, over the Internet, which are otherwise simple or structurally repetitive (enter paper shuffling sounds).

Sounds like something you’d want in a law office, doesn’t it?

It turns out, somebody else thought so, too. Joshua Browder, a Stanford student born in the United Kingdom, created a “bot attorney” to help hundreds of people dispute parking tickets in London and New York City.

In fact, Browder told Venture Beat that he had successfully challenged 160,000 of 250,000 British parking tickets as of June with his bot DoNotPay. The same parking-lot hero bot helped 9,000 New Yorkers.

Here’s how it works. You log on to donotpay.co.uk and chat with a bot (don’t forget, he’s just an automated robot) that asks questions like, “Was it hard to understand the signs?” or “Do you think the parking lot was too small.” If a parking lot is legally too small, it is unreasonable to ticket drivers.

“I think the people getting parking tickets are the most vulnerable in society,” said Browder.

“These people aren’t looking to break the law. I think they’re being exploited as a revenue source by the local government.”

And that’s how bots help busy drivers.

But that’s not the only area where the Victor Frankenstein of legal help hopes to affect change.

“I feel like there’s a gold mine of opportunities because so many services and information could be automated using AI [artificial intelligence], and bots are a perfect way to do that, and it’s disappointing at the moment that it’s mainly used for commerce transactions by ordering flowers and pizzas,” Bowder said to Venture Beat.

As a result, Browder is working on a bot to help people with HIV understand their legal rights, a bot to help collect compensation for people whose flights were delayed beyond four hours, and a bot that helps refugees apply for asylum (part of the Highland Capital summer startup accelerator program). For the latter, Bowder will use IBM’s Watson to translate from Arabic to English.

Bowder and his bots are a bone fide legal aids at this point; In August, Bowder unveiled a bot to help people apply for emergency housing. His pro bono actions will help combat homelessness in a way thousands of law school grads could not.

By consulting some real-life lawyers and analyzing FOIA-obtained documents, Bowder hopes to “figure out trends in why public housing applications are approved or denied,” according to Slate.

Although this latter venture may require less automation and more human attorneys to take full effect, it’s an amazing start to ending a real-world epidemic.

Outsourcing repetitive work to robot lawyers can no longer be seen as a trend to look out for; it’s a reality (law) practice faces today.

Did you first hear about “bots” from your Millennial colleagues? Millennials, the group of tech-toting, flip-flop wearing adults born after 1980, have been the subject of eye-rolling. They’ve been stereotyped as expecting rewards just for participating and believing that spending long hours at the office is overrated.

Yet, legal professionals say that depiction as applied to their younger colleagues is wrong. In fact, they may work differently, taking full advantage of technology, like bots, making them smart and productive.

Properly incentivizing and compensating this new generation of lawyers is essential for your firm’s profitability, retention and key to attracting like-minded clients.

Take C4CM’s webinar, “Compensating Millennial Associates: Customizing Compensation and Rewards for Increased Productivity and Firm Profitability,” and explore real-life methods for embracing the goals, expectations and ambitions of today’s millennial associates, and how to ‘meet in the middle’ when it comes to compensating this new generation.

During this power-packed session, our expert faculty will examine the most current factors affecting millennial associate compensation, including:

  • Specific non-monetary rewards that are certain to improve job satisfaction
  • Why tiered compensation works for millennials, and how to structure it properly
  • Details on the types of alternative compensation models firms are using and how these alternatives compensate millennial associates
  • Beyond compensation increases, what matters most to millennial associates
  • Types of goals and initiatives to set forth for millennial lawyers, and three crucial ways to reward achievements

Plus, in just 75 minutes, you will learn: 

  • Surprising attitudes millennial lawyers have about total compensation
  • Who millennial lawyers are, and how they differ from other generations in terms of pay
  • Common misconceptions and truths about millennials lawyers
  • Mentoring, evaluations, and feedback tips that emphasize professionalism and increase associate self sufficiency

The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM) provides you, today’s business professional, with the information you need to stay on top of your career. C4CM is dedicated to bringing you the information you need to succeed. Our many products include audio conferences, Training Resources, conferences, research papers and more.

-WB

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The Future of Technology In Law: Should Your Law Firm Build A Balcony For Drone Landings?

Is it time for luxury apartments to start offering balconies for drone landings? Some people think so.

Charles Bombardier, mechanical engineer, wrote an article for Wired Magazine touting just that. He opens his persuasive article with the question: “Make no mistake: Drones are coming, and they’re going to change a lot of things about how we shape our lives. So why shouldn’t we change how we shape our buildings to get ready for them?”

Drone Tower—that’s what we’d call it. As Americans mentally prepare for Amazon packages or their next grocery order delivered via drone to their doorstep, engineers are technically ready and already making plans to incorporate this technology in consumer life.

At one point, it seemed far-fetched that information could travel from a computer to portable music player or mobile phone through a USB port, let alone charge the device completely, but now USB ports are built into every new electric socket of your house.

So the idea of drone landing strip in your home may seem a bit futuristic now, but it’s hardly far out.

In fact, 65 percent of Americans already believe that within 50 years robots and computers will “definitely” or “probably” do much of the work currently done by humans, according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center.

With so many technology advances in the law industry of late, it’s easy to see why the majority of Americans consider lawyers replaceable.

Over the past decade, for example, court reporters and deposition stenographers have been replaced by real-time, digitally-recorded transcripts. And, first-year associates—once bogged down with mounds of paper Discovery—are, instead, being substituted for computer software.

Automated indexing and keyword searches in eDiscovery software make it possible to conduct hours of billable work in a matter of minutes. In a 2011 article in The New York Times titled, “Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software,” author John Markoff reported that Blackstone Discovery, out of Palo Alto, Calif., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000.

“From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out,” said Bill Herr to Markoff in The New York Times.

Herr, as a lawyer at a major chemical company, used to muster auditoriums of lawyers to read documents for weeks on end. Now?

“People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.”

Another Silicon Valley e-discovery company, Clearwell developed software that analyzes documents and identifies concepts, as opposed to simple keywords. In 2010, law firm DLA Piper used Clearwell software to search through a half-million documents under a court-imposed deadline of one week in just two days. Talk about streamlined (and mechanized) operations.

Are androids, not attorneys, powering the legal industry?

“The legal profession needs to do a better job as a whole of embracing and leveraging technology,” asserts Brian Powers, attorney and founder of legal tech startup PactSafe, to the Indiana Lawyer.

“The firms and lawyers who do both of those over then next 25 years are the ones that will be thriving. The rest will be extinct.” 

The future is here for legal technology. Although your law firm may not need a drone-landing balcony quite yet, it’s safe to say, we’re not that far off.

WB

Need help getting started incorporating legal tech in your practice? Take a look at The Center For Competitive Management’s offerings here.

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Silver-Linings Playbook? Olympic Upsets, Rio Controversy & Managing Politically-Charged Activities In The Workplace

They say, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. But for a few Olympic athletes knocked out in the first rounds of Rio competition, that’s easier said than done.

In tennis, tears were shed on both sides of the court—for Juan Martin del Potro, they were tears of joy at his surprising defeat of frontrunner Novak Djokovic, and for Djokovic, tears of disappointment after his dreams were dashed.

“No doubt it’s one of the toughest losses of my life, in my career,” Djokovic said after the match (via Rolling Stone). 

“It’s not the first or the last time I’m losing a tennis match but Olympic Games, yeah, it’s completely different.”

Djokovic can still snag an Olympic medal in men’s doubles with his partner Nenad Zimonjic, which remains the silver lining after such a clear upset for the gold medalist.

It is rare that the clear favorite goes out in the first round of competition, but the same thing happened in women’s tennis this year. Venus and Serena Williams lost in the first-round at Rio against Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova, who defeated the infamous sisters 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday (via Bleacher Report).

The three-time doubles gold medalists will go home without a victory for the first time in their Olympic careers. The good news? Now Venus can prepare for the U.S. Open, where she will enter at her highest ranking since 2011, without further distraction in politically-charged Rio.

In fact, the Rio Olympics has stirred nothing but controversy since it started. The first American gold metal in the games came from shooter Ginny Thrasher, who set an Olympic record of 208.0 in the 10-meter air rifle event, snagging victory in scandalous upset. Instead of cheers, Thrasher got jeers from gun control activists overshadowing the win with discussions about gun rights and associated political debates.

“I just tried to focus on the competition,” said Thrasher about the political distraction (via USA Today).

Nevertheless, the attention her sport gained via the controversy is clear. Air rifle events have never gained so many headlines. 

Outside Olympic rifle ranges and inside law firm boardrooms, what happens when political talk interrupts workflow or escalates to bad behavior?

As an employer trying to retain productivity, keep the peace, and avoid legal landmines can be more challenging than you may think. There are rules for what employers can and can’t do to manage political activity in the workplace, including:

  • How to manage political discussions and fundraising
  • How to address political discussions in the workplace under federal and state laws
  • How the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) applies
  • How the new SCOTUS ruling Heffernan vs. City of Paterson impacts employers
  • When an employee’s political discussion is protected by the First Amendment 

To learn how to avoid being the target of bad policies and possible lawsuits, take C4CM’s webinar, “Politics in the Workplace: How to Legally Manage Politically Charged Activity at Work,” on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM EasternBy the end of the information-packed session, you will know more about:

  • When discipline for political-related behavior is appropriate and legal
  • What defines political harassment in the workplace
  • What constitutes business harm from employee’s political speech
  • How to handle controversial or political social media posts by an employee
  • How to handle office sponsored political functions supported by management
  • Dress code do’s and don’ts as they apply to political speech

For now, no need to be upset by Olympic upsets—for each competitor, losing gold may lead to even better silver linings.

-WB

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