Have you registered for the 2018 Bar Convention?

It’s June and the clock is ticking.  It’s almost convention time again for the State Bar of Arizona!  Maybe you are wondering “why should I go to the Bar convention?”  After all, it’s June, it’s hot (at least it is in Central and Southern Arizona – no gloating from you Northern Arizona lawyers!), and maybe you are thinking that three days at the beach might be better.

You couldn’t be more wrong.  There is no other event for lawyers in Arizona that pulls together as many lawyers, from as many areas of practice for three days of quality CLE and fun.  Yes, it is fun!

So, here is our short list of reasons you should attend the 2018 State Bar Convention (at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass — not the casino, the luxury hotel less than a mile past the casino).

  1.  Over 50 seminars to choose from on an amazing array of topics.  You can hone your knowledge in your current area, or learn about a new area of law.
  2. We’ll be showing a movie!  Have you seen Marshall?  It’s the movie about Thurgood Marshall’s early days in practice – before he became Justice Marshall.  Not only that, but we have one of the film’s writers coming to join in the discussion after the film.
  3. Do you wonder whether Lawyers Got Talent?  Come to the Thursday night party and see for yourself the other talents your colleagues have . . . there’ll be music, comedy and more.
  4. Puppies!!!  Need I say more?
  5. Network with lawyers from around the state.  You can never do enough networking these days and this is the perfect venue.
  6. Since we mentioned the heat, should we also mention that it’s cool and comfortable at the Sheraton.  Enjoy the inside – they have an amazing lobby – or the outside at the pool – after your sessions each day.
  7. Someone you know is probably a presenter.  Remember those 50+ seminars?  Most of them feature local speakers.  And the ones that don’t feature national speakers you’ll want to hear!
  8. It’s the 25th anniversary of the Ethics Game Show.  How can you miss that?
  9. Vendors – we have a great exhibit hall with all kinds of services and products you should know about.
  10. There’s free WiFi, there’s free coffee, and you can get a free head shot (isn’t it time to update?)  Learn about techniques to keep you happy and healthy in your practice and help to balance your life.

We know, we said a short list, but truly, it’s hard to keep it short.  We could go on and on.  If these reasons don’t convince you, well then come anyway.  You can get a year’s worth of CLE in one place, in three days, and have a bit of a staycation while you do.

 

It’s vacation (or vacation-planning) time again!

Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us, so it’s time to start thinking about vacation, if you haven’t already done so.  (As an aside, if you are wondering what vacations have to do with practice management, please see prior posts on lawyer wellness and think about how much you really need a break!!)

A few thoughts before turning to apps or sites that may help you have a better vacation:

First, you need to do some planning and preparation in your practice so that you’ll be able to turn off your cell phone (at least most of the time), stop continuously checking your email (maybe check it once a day?), and worrying about your clients, their cases and your practice.  Do you need to arrange court coverage?  Do you need to request continuances (if possible without harming your client) or deadline extensions?  Are you sufficiently organized to the point that you know what will be coming up on your return?  Do you have a sufficiently informative “out of office” message on your voicemail and email?  Do you have a contingency for emergencies if those are likely in your practice area?  Doing some advance planning will undoubtedly help you avoid a crisis or mess when you get home (yes, it may require some additional time, but you’ll be glad you did it).

Now that you’ve attended to your practice and made the appropriate plans, how about making some vacation plans?

One of our favorite (non-legal) technology blogs recently focused on travel/vacation apps.  Here are some of the sites they recommend when travel is on the agenda:

  • Expedia or Kayak for finding airfare, hotels, and last-minute “cheap” rates
  • Momondo’s Trip Finder or Skyscanner to search for lower prices in a variety of destinations – best used if your dates and locations are flexible
  • Airbnb (no explanation needed, right?) or BedandBreakfast.com (for reservations in more “traditional” B&B’s)
  • Hotels.com or Booking.com

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Tripadvisor.com for hotel reviews, ratings and remarkably illuminating photos taken by travelers (the ones of hotel rooms are usually so much more realistic than the promotional photos taken by the hotels).  You can also find restaurants, with ratings and comments.  We’ve gotten recommendations here that have led to truly amazing meals
  • Weather.com – really.  Check the weather; you don’t want to pack for sun when you’ll get rain; heat when you’ll get chilled; you get the drift
  • iExit is a great app if you are on a road trip because it gives you information about the amenities in coming exits.  It’s free in the App Store or Google Play and is worth its weight in gold, particularly if you are travelling with children
  • Gasbuddy.com (also has a free app) has gas prices and locations.  The only downside is that it is populated by information provided by other drivers, so if no one has been on your particular route in a while, it may not have the most current information.  (We also use it to find cheaper gas around home – you’d be surprised at the variation in prices locally!)
  • Do we even need to mention Google Maps, or Waze?

And one more, if you are going to the house(s) that Mickey built (aka Disneyland or DisneyWorld) be sure to download the respective apps and be sure to buy the Fastpass/free photo option (we get no kickbacks from them).  Nothing like getting on the shorter line, a little advance notice about which rides are closed, how long wait times are, and where all of the amenities are located to make the trip better.  And having Disney photographers pose you or your group in front of their most memorable locations will assure that no one’s head is cut off in the photo.

Bon voyage.

Passwords and security – yes, again . . .

We all know that we can’t use “password” or “12345” as our passwords.  Well, we have all heard that, but do we really KNOW it?  Have we abandoned using real names, real places and other easily hacked passwords?

It seems that every day brings news of a new data breach.  Millions of users account information, passwords, personal data, are revealed in every data breach.  But are we taking the time and effort to implement some of the simplest measures to try to avoid falling victim to those occurrences? For many of us, otherwise smart and diligent people, the answer is “no” or “not as much as we should.”

So, on this (hopefully lovely) Friday morning, please take a minute to consider your passwords and their security.  Have you heard the “passwords are like underwear, change them often and keep them private” truism?  We just heard it during a presentation yesterday and maybe that’s why this topic is on our minds.  The current wisdom is to have a long, complicated password, upwards of 20 characters, using capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and characters.  Perhaps you have created the perfect password that ticks off all of these boxes.  But another part of conventional wisdom is to have different passwords for each site and app you use.

How to remember all of them?  Are you writing them down and sticky-noting them on your desk or computer screen?  Are you continually resetting your password via the “forgot your password?” function?  One easy solution is to use a password manager.  These services are inexpensive and store all of your individual and unique passwords for you.  You then need to remember only one password – the one that gets you into your password vault – the password manager does the rest.

Another alternative is to create a “master password” that you then customize for each site or app.  Since we know that full names or real words are not the way to go, try using the first, or first and second, letters of a phrase that you will remember.  Use upper and lower case letters, then add on some numbers and a couple of special characters that you will reliably remember and you’ve got the beginning of your password system.  Does this seem too complicated?  If it does, please see the paragraph above about password managers.  Or perhaps you have a photographic memory and can remember dozens of passwords and none of this is necessary?

Whichever way you go, please stop using your children’s names, birth dates, pet names, etc. as part of your password.  Take a few minutes as the week winds down to revise your passwords if you need to, or explore the password managers out there (try LastPass, Dashlane or 1Password to start).

Happy Friday and happy passwording.

Don’t let technology run your life.

There’s been a lot of press lately on technology addiction.   Just one internet search on “technology addiction” brought up hundreds of articles and blogs on technology addiction.  Oh no, it can’t be that our (beloved, essential, “can’t live without them,” “turn the car around, I forgot my cell phone”) devices are the new problem!?!  Yes, it’s a struggle, and it’s real, and not new; this discussion has been going on for quite some time.

Way back in 2012, a Knowledge by Wharton report  gave us the disturbing news that a vast number of professionals checked email after work; more than half have taken a device (that’s work-related, not for personal use) with them on vacation and have sent emails while dining with family or friends.  Imagine how much more prevalent that behavior must be now six years later.  (And that’s not even talking about the people who have to tweet, or post on Facebook, every detail of their day-to-day lives . . . what they had for breakfast, where they eating, what movie they are seeing . . . don’t get us started!)

So, in this new day and time when being available 24/7, 365 days a year has become for some the norm how do we find balance?  How do we not stress out or burn out?  How do we find balance between our professional and personal lives?  Can we discipline ourselves to unplug during whatever we designate as personal “off-duty” time and enjoy  our friends and family, our pets, our non-working lives.

How about giving this a try?  First, take a deep breath.  A really good, deep breath.  Close your eyes if you feel inclined to do so (but not while driving or operating heavy equipment, please!)

Now, try being full present in the moment; you don’t have to do it for hours at a time to start.  Just dip your toe in the mindfulness pool.  Listen to the sounds around you; enjoy the rain.

When you leave your office today, discipline yourself not to check your email this evening.  Watch the Olympics. Not much for TV?  It’s Valentine’s Day – go to dinner with your significant other, or a friend.  Have dinner, have a good conversation about something that does not include work, clients or the law.  Not up for hearts and flowers? Go to the gym and really focus on how you are feeling as you work out.  You’ll be tempted to take just one look at your email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. . . . resist the urge.  It’ll be there in the morning.

Everyone deserves a little down time.  Yes, what we do as lawyers is important and has impact on clients’ lives.  But every professional needs a little time away – your doctor isn’t on call 24/7; first responders get time off – they aren’t available for life-saving duties 24/7, 365.  Enjoy the life your labors have afforded you.  All of the work will still be there, but you’ll be refreshed when you tackle it again.

 

Networking with peers (aka other lawyers) – some tips and observations

Networking takes time, effort, force of personality and endurance.  For lawyers who are shy or quiet by nature, it can be painful and exhausting.  Even for those of us who consider ourselves extroverted networking takes a deliberate effort.

A recent event for an affinity bar association presented a great networking opportunity for the lawyers in attendance, both new and more experienced.  In all, it was a gathering of a diverse group of lawyers in all age groups and a variety of practice areas.  A great atmosphere for building a wide circle of acquaintance, for meeting, exchanging cards and giving one’s “elevator speech.”  But what happened?

A number of newer lawyers attended with a colleague they already knew.  Is that automatically a deterrent to networking?  No, not if you don’t cling to each other like a drowning person clings to a life-preserver.  Sometimes having a networking buddy can give you  a little confidence boost and make it easier to engage in a conversation with someone unknown to you.  But being surrounded by a group of colleagues you already know can make it difficult to meet new people; who wants to be the one person who intrudes on a group of people who clearly already know each other?

Some long-time members settled in to catch up with people they hadn’t seen in a while. This included more than one more experienced lawyer who had recently made a transition in their practice and should have been talking to as many people as possible about their new career direction.  You can’t get referrals from your peers if they don’t know what you do, right?  While it was undoubtedly pleasant to see old friends, they missed a great networking opportunity.

While this was going on, a conversation with a long-time practitioner who has turned to mentoring new lawyers crystallized some basic thoughts on effectively networking.  Nope, not going to talk about the “elevator speech.”  But here are some practical tips – by no means an exhaustive list – about networking at a lawyer-only event.  (Networking at an event where there are prospective or potential clients requires a post all its own because of the ethical considerations and the ban on direct solicitation).

  1. Always, always, always have business cards on hand.  Give them out liberally to other lawyers.  If for some reason you don’t have business cards with you, ask the lawyer you are talking to for theirs.  Don’t be hesitant, that’s why lawyers have business cards.
  2. When you get another lawyer’s business card, don’t just drop it into your pocket, purse or briefcase.  Take a minute after the conversation to make a very brief notation on the card so that the next time you look at it you will remember the owner and a small detail about your conversation.  Why is that important?
  3. Follow-up on the contact if it’s one that will or may be useful to you in the future.  Send a quick email, or (I know, it’s shockingly archaic) a short hand-written note; you can now refer to that small detail (see #2) and remind your new acquaintance about yourself, your practice area, etc.  And if you didn’t have business cards with you at the event, you can enclose one with the note.  Rather than the “so nice to meet you,” your note/email, etc. can say “so nice to meet you and hear about your new arbitration practice,” or “so nice to meet you, I our conversation about “x” (your kids, your new car, your vacation, etc.)
  4. Follow-up with an offer to have coffee, meet at a State Bar event, etc.  Or if your conversation was more substantive and about your practice or some future opportunity, offer a phone call to discuss that specific potential opportunity.
  5. If you are at an event at which there are both high-top tables and “standard” tables and chairs, do not plant yourself at a “standard” table.  You will limit the number of people with whom you may be able to interact, particularly if your table fills up with people inclined to sit for a while.
  6. Dress professionally if it’s a professional event.  Even at a happy hour, dressing professionally is important to your brand – the image you are presenting.  Depending on the event business casual may be appropriate, but when you are presenting yourself to your peers at a networking (not strictly social) event think about how you would like your colleagues to remember your encounter – not only the conversation but their general impression of you.  Always be building your brand.
  7. Lastly (at least for today) but certainly not least, remember you are there to meet new people and let them meet you.  But a networking conversation is not necessarily a long, in-depth conversation.  Be mindful of social cues – a conversation can last too long; don’t wait for people you meet to be squirming to get away before you notice that the conversation should be over.  Plan for a cordial exit from a conversation that has run its course.  A handshake (well, maybe after flu season), a “it’s been nice to meet you,” and an invitation for follow-up if that appears warranted is a great exit.  There are many others – use your judgment.

Need to discuss networking, building your practice or other practice management resources?  Call us, Practice 2.0, at 602-340-7332 and check out the resources we offer here.

Make a good file retention policy your first new practice of the new year

We are frequently asked “how long do I have to keep files?”  Or even more common, and sometimes more problematic, “I’m retiring and I have (a ton of) case files from old cases, they are closed, can I destroy them?”

How long you have to keep case files may depend on your practice area, and certainly on advice from your malpractice carrier, and so is the topic for another post.  Today we’ll explore the second question – what to do with old case files.

At the outset, please permit your loyal Practice 2.0 practice management advisors to remind you that we have sample fee agreements, with language relating to file management and eventual file destruction on our Practice 2.0 webpage.   You may find them here.  But now, to the maybe-good, maybe-bad news.

If you already have a file retention policy in your fee agreement or engagement letter, you have complied with any statutory duties to retain the files, and if your malpractice carrier is happy with that, you may feel free to follow it.  (We will discuss the requirement for retention of trust account records in another post – but it’s five years from the termination of the representation.)

More commonly, though, we get this question when a lawyer does not have file retention/destruction language in their fee agreement.  Now it’s time to close down their practice – for a variety of reasons from changing firms, to joining a government or non-profit agency, to retirement.  Faced with what is sometimes hundreds of closed files, the lawyer wonders whether they can shred, or otherwise destroy the files.

Sadly, the answer is that the lawyer cannot just destroy files.  Remember, files are the property of the client and in the vast majority of situations, they are entitled to the contents, including work product.  So in the absence of that language (i.e., we will retain your file for “x” amount of time after the termination of the matter and thereafter will destroy it), the lawyer is faced with the daunting prospect of making a good-faith effort to attempt to contact all of those clients to offer them the opportunity to pick up their file.  Imagine, if you will, attempting to contact clients dating back twenty, thirty or more years.

If the lawyer is unable to contact the client, after a good faith effort (generally, think diligently searching online, not necessarily retaining a private investigator to find them)that may take days or months, we believe that you are obligated to retain what is now presumptively abandoned property for the statutory period (generally three years) before you may destroy them.  For lawyers who used paper files, that may mean paying storage fees and ensuring the security of files for that period of time.  Not the kind of thing you want to think about either in a new job or while planning your retirement travels.

So, what’s the gist of this?  It’s never too late to include a file retention/destruction advisory in your fee agreement.  Look at ours on Practice 2.0 or call us at 602-340-7332 to talk about it; you can even come in to see us at the Bar offices to discuss it in person.

More new year, new practices for your practice to come  . . . .

 

ABA TECHSHOW 2018

Have you already committed to attending the 2018 ABA TECHSHOW? There’s still plenty of time.  Register today, you won’t be sorry (and use the code at the end of this post for a discount on the registration fee!!) ABA TECHSHOW will be in a new, bigger, location in 2018 – and your Practice 2.0 folks can’t control our happy anticipation.

As a reminder, for those of you who don’t remember our last 2017 post . . Each March – for at least the past 30 years – the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Division plans, coordinates and runs one of the most amazing technology conferences.  In addition to multiple (five – seven) tracks of sessions on all things law-related technology – from practice management to e-discovery to innovations to  . . . well, use your imagination – they also assemble an amazing exhibit/vendor hall where lawyers, legal administrators, or anyone involved with the practice or business of law can talk to vendors and try out a myriad of law-related technology products.  Think of being a kid in a candy store, but you aren’t a kid and the candy is every version of technology related to the legal profession you can imagine.  And it’s not bad for you; it’s not fattening, it won’t hurt your teeth, and it won’t have your dentist, nutritionist, mother telling you to step away.  Wait, and there’s such a variety of educational sessions it will be hard to choose just one per time slot!!

The 2018 TECHSHOW (yes, it’s absolutely necessary to capitalize all letters) will be March 7 – 10, 2018, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.  Each year attendance grows and the faculty, already stellar, becomes more so.

State Bar of Arizona members, or any readers of our blog, if you are going to TECHSHOW, use code EP1810 at checkout for a discount on your registration fee.  Register and see the details at http://www.techshow.com/. See you there!!

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