March/April 2016

News from the Section

  1. Chair's Message
  2. Did You Know . . . Tech Tips?
    1. A Chilling Tale of a Ransomware Attack
  3. Did You Know ....Articles?
    1. Protecting Your Privacy and Identity
    2. Protecting Your Clients' Data
    3. Protecting Your Business
    4. Customer Service
    5. Keep Your Business Going
    6. Get More Done at Work
  4. State Bar News
    1. Two-Day State Bar Exam
    2. Public Comment
  5. The Bottom Line/eTBL
  6. Educational Opportunities
  7. Executive Committee News
  8. Future State Bar Annual Meetings
  9. Member Benefits

1. Chair's Message

LPMT Section Chair Kurt ObermeyerWelcome to the March/April issue of LPMT’s eNEWS. I once again want to thank our ENews coordinators for their tireless work in getting this information out. Without the efforts of Cynthia Mascio and Mike Fenger (Co-Chairs of The Bottom Line sub-committee) and Patty Miller (Executive Committee Secretary and Chair of ENews sub-committee), we would not be able to publish this worthwhile information for our members.

In this issue, we have some great articles that will be of valuable help to all attorneys.

Peter Brewer writes a chilling article on the very real issues with “Ransomware attacks” and gives us some perspective on what to do if found dealing with it.

Along those lines, Mari Frank gives us all tips about our need to Protect our Privacy and Identity. I sometimes think we all assume it won’t happen to us, but these two articles are worth opening our eyes.

We then change our thought from our data, to our clients in William Kammer’s article about how to protect your clients’ data.

We then change course with articles about how better to keep your practice thriving (Keith Lee’s “If your average you’re probably going out of business”) and quick tips for being more efficient everyday (“Power tips to get more work done in 2016”). In all, this issue is full of information that will stick with you- and help you and your firm be stronger. I really recommend saving articles that you feel work best for you and come back to them periodically to remind yourself of what works best for you.

As we continue through this year, we are continuing to strive to find articles and information that is more necessary and worth reading to all of our members. We will continually ask for your input and advice as we go forward so that each eNews publication is one that is valued and puts out the information most needed.  Also, thank you to all of you who have submitted articles, some of you multiple articles, to be published for our members’ benefit. 

As we have stated multiple times, The State Bar Sections are here to serve their members.  We try our best to present articles, information, and programs that we feel have value to you.  I hope that we can continue to present information in all facets that will allow our members to better manage or even enhance your law practice, as well as your daily life.

Again, as always, we want to hear from you!!  If you want to write an article, submit a tech tip, or have questions, please contact us!!!  Feel free to email me at kobermeyer@lms-legal.com. We are truly here to serve you.

Thank you,

Kurt Obermeyer
Law Practice Management and Technology Chair

2. Did You Know . . . Tech Tips?

(a) A Chilling Tale of a Ransomware Attack

By Peter Brewer

I had the recent pleasure of traveling to a foreign country to attend a summit of boutique law firms from around the world.  We were hosted by a local law firm of about thirty lawyers.  Over lunch one day the managing partner of that firm related to us a chilling tale of his firm’s experience with a ransomware attack.

Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to a computer system that it has infected, and demands that the user pay a ransom to the operators of the malware to remove the restriction.  Examples of some of the better-known variants are Crypto Wall and CryptoLocker.

There are many types of ransomware.  They range from the simplest, such as scareware, which consists of bogus antivirus or clean-up tools that announce that they have identified some virus on your system and require that you pay to have it removed.  Then there are lock-screen viruses that may prevent you from running your programs, or may just pepper you with alerts and pop-ups.

But the meanest forms will actually encrypt and lock your data, and demand that you pay a ransom for the key to restore your data.

This is what happened to our law firm host.  He was out of the office one day when he was contacted by a very alarmed staff person who informed him that their office had been hit.  He returned to the office to find that the entire operation had been brought to a standstill, with all their computer data having been locked and rendered unusable.

The ransomware attackers had sent a message requiring payment of a ransom in order to obtain a key to unlock the data.  His initial reaction was self-righteous indignation and a resolute refusal to pay the ransom, which would only be rewarding criminal behavior and encouraging the practice.

So, he contacted the best IT person available and requested emergency assistance.  He also contacted his country’s corollary to our F.B.I. and requested their assistance.

Of course they first tried restoring data from a backup.  Regrettably the backup data was quite current, and so had also been infected with the ransomware.

After these sources studied and evaluated the situation, their conclusion was, pay the ransom or never see your data again.

This was not very consoling advice.  First, how can one be certain that after paying the ransom the kidnapped data would be released?  How can one put trust and faith in the integrity of criminals?

Second, the ransom demand is usually for payment in bitcoin, an unregulated and untraceable currency that lacks a central repository or single administrator.  Bitcoin has been called the first “cryptocurrency”, or more charitably described as the first decentralized virtual currency.  Who among us over the age of 22 has any idea how to obtain bitcoin currency or conduct a transaction involving bitcoin?  You would likely be more successful asking a millennial how to wire money through Western Union.

Fortunately for our host the ransom demanded was modest, less than $1,000.00  U.S.  Per the advice of his IT consultants and his law enforcement he paid the ransom, and indeed did receive instructions how to release the data.

All in all, his firm was brought to its knees for two days.  They were able to trace the infection to an e-mail attachment that was imprudently opened by a too-trusting staff person.

This chilling lunch conversation was the perfect antidote to dessert.  It was easy to lose one’s appetite as I contemplated the possibility of the same thing happening to my own law firm, and the difficulty of preventing it.

Too many of us think that our first line of defense for data security is that we are too small and insignificant to attract the attention of hackers.  We think, “my office doesn’t represent foreign powers or multinational corporations, so why would the hackers bother wasting time with me?”  The truth is that lawyers and law firms are a rich target because we often have personal information and sensitive data, and we are a soft target because as an industry we are not very proactive security-wise.

This past year I hired a security consultant to do a security audit of our firm.  This included a study of what devices each employee was using, what cloud storage we were using, as well as efforts to hack into our system from outside.  I recommend this as a minimum precaution for small law firms.

So, what are the takeaways?  First, there are the obvious, often-published precautions.  Do not open e-mails from unknown sources, do not open e-mails with tantalizing subject lines about cell phones blowing up gas stations or the like.  But the most important is do not open unanticipated e-mail attachments.  Most of these really serious forms of ransomware come in .zip files as e-mail attachments.  Have a discussion with your workmates and staff about computer safety.  If there is an attachment that you have concerns about, phone the ostensible sender and inquire.  Consider opening it first on an i-Pad or some other device with a non-Windows operating system.

But another thought crossed my mind, one that I have not yet had a chance to explore with a knowledgeable I.T. person.  That is, wouldn’t it be prudent, and is it possible, to have a second data backup system that only backs up once-a-week, rather than every night.  By this means might you possibly become aware of an attack within the first days of the infection, but before your alternate backup system is written over?

POSTSCRIPT: Since writing this article the author was alerted to this recently published news article:  “Hackers Demand Ransom from Two More Southern California Hospitals” . . . “Hackers demanded a ransom from two more Southern California hospitals last week and federal authorities are investigating the case.  . . . Two sources familiar with the investigation said the hackers had demanded a ransom to unlock the hospital computer systems, similar to what happened last month at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. Hollywood Presbyterian said it paid $17,000 in bitcoin to hackers to regain access to the institution’s computers.”

About the Author: Peter N. Brewer has been a lawyer for over 35 years, and is also licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate as a real estate broker. Peter started his own firm in 1995. The firm has grown to six attorneys, practicing real estate and lending law. The firm serves the legal needs of homeowners, purchasers and sellers, real estate and mortgage brokers, agents, brokerages, title companies, investors, other real estate professionals and their clients. Peter and his firm also represent clients in debt collection, creditor representation in bankruptcy, breach of contract matters, and other litigation and transactional work.

Peter obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Santa Clara Law School in 1979 and is also licensed to practice law in all State and Federal Courts in Idaho and certain Federal Courts in Michigan and Iowa (and probably in other states he no longer recalls). He loves dogs, hates kids, and is generally considered to have an insufferable disposition.

Peter N. Brewer, Esq.
Law Offices of Peter N. Brewer
2501 Park Blvd, 2nd Flr.
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 327-2900 x 12
www.BrewerFirm.com
BayAreaRealEstateLawyers.com
Cartoon Picture of Peter N. Brewer, Esq

3. Did You Know....Articles?

(a) Protecting Your Privacy and Identity

Tips To Protect Your Privacy and Identity

By Mari Frank

Identity theft is still an epidemic and although you are not guaranteed that you won’t become a victim, here are some important things to do to protect yourself.

1.  Check your bank accounts and investment accounts at least once a week. Set up alerts from your financial institutions that are delivered to your email or text so you may see them on your smart phone and computer. If you don’t recognize a transfer, notify the institution IMMEDIATELY.

2.  Check your credit reports for free at www.annualcredit.report.comIf you want to get a monitoring service go to the Consumer Federation of America website www.IDTheftInfo.org  to look at which companies signed on to the Best Practices.

3.  Always encrypt sensitive data before sending by email or text. Teach your clients to do the same. Password protect very easily with Word and Adobe PDF.

4.  Get and use privacy screens on large phones, tablets, computers- that way no one can see what you are looking at or writing. You can see perfectly, but someone next to you will see a black screen.

5.   Use online banking with a 12 character password. Even if you use Last Pass or another password manager, don’t use it for your financial bank and investment firms.

6.  Pay bills directly from your online banking instead of giving your account number to every vendor. Your bank already has your account numbers. If an unscrupulous insider from your vendor uses your account it will be harder to trace than your own bank.

7.   Never use a debit card, especially online, only use a credit card, even with pay pal or other payment vendors. A debit card can be used online, by phone or fax without a pin.

8.  Avoid giving out identifying information in person, by phone, or online, unless you are sure it is needed. In the identity theft world, any details a criminal can use to target you are pieces of personal identifying information. This includes details like your banking information, credit card details, driver’s license and health card numbers, and your social security number. In most cases, the person or website requesting it does not need the information.

9.  Keep your documents off the computer. It’s often necessary to store personal files on the computer, especially when it comes to building spreadsheets for tax purposes. Encrypt all sensitive files on your computer, especially if it is backed up to the cloud. But, most information could just be deleted off your computer after it gets used. Just get a USB stick to store sensitive personal documents. You do not want to store personal information over the long term on your main computer as it essentially becomes a treasure chest for hackers.

10.  Shred any documents you don’t need. You should get into the habit of shredding your unneeded paperwork on a regular basis. A paper shredder by your desk is not a big investment. Shred your paperwork – previous statistics show that as much as 88% of stolen personal identifying information came from criminals rooting through trash.

11.  Limit public Wi-Fi use. Any public wireless network, such as at a hotel or restaurant, should be used with caution. As open networks are easier to hack into, it’s possible that a criminal could gain access to your computer, Smartphone, or tablet. As such, you should not ever use a public network for online banking and payments, or for any other accounts that involve your personal details. Plus, make sure you always delete the browsing history and cookies after using a guest computer or network.  Public Wi-Fi networks are honey pots for identity thieves and should be avoided whenever possible. At the very least, they should not be used for any online banking or other identifiable accounts. This also applies when staying at a hotel, where passwords remain the same and anyone could break into the connection to attack an unknowing guest. Further, as it’s easy to break into accounts over public connections, you might want to make a new e-mail account specifically for your travels.

12.  Invest in a safe and locking cabinets. It’s a good idea to purchase a safe for your personal items, whether they are documents or fine jewelry.  A simple, yet crack-proof and fire-resistant safe is best, and it does not run much more than $100 at entry level. You can use this to keep any sensitive items, such as your passport and your social security card. Your cabinets at work and at home should be locked when not in use.

13.  Clean your desktop and inbox periodically.  Many of us are guilty of letting e-mails pile up, and forgetting about old documents and images on our desktop. Most of the time this is just innocent laziness, but sometimes it creates a serious security risk. You never know when or how your computer will get compromised, so you should do all you can to keep it safe. Any super sensitive data that must last a while can get stored on a USB stick or alternate hard drive. As for sensitive messages in your inbox, you must also make sure to check your ‘Sent’ messages during your clean up.

14.  Track your Smartphone.  A Smartphone is always cracking able; do not let yourself be fooled. If someone steals it and gets into your phone, they might gain access to sensitive information. They could also contact your contacts requesting details, and you never know what could slip. But, you can lower the risk of this type of intrusion by using a tracking app and a delete button to trash your phone if it is stolen.

15.  Avoid any non-bank ATMs.  If you do need to get cash from your credit card, you should avoid doing so through any non-bank ATMs. These are too easy to access and modify for fraudulence. By going to a machine at an actual bank, you will stand a much lower chance of being exposed to identity theft.

16.  Use Security sleeves for your wallet.  Identity thieves love committing credit fraud against unsuspecting tourists. It takes forever for them to notice the issue, and any red flags from the card provider get blamed on the foreign transactions. Yet, local identity thieves could skim your credit card information by using electronic scanners. Tyvek sleeves block out the radio frequency transfer, making it almost impossible for fraudsters to target you this way.

17.  Download OpenDNS and use Phishtank.  OpenDNS works to boost your Internet speed by taking over the page detection and load process that your Internet service provider usually does. Further, the Phishtank function allows you to block out phishing websites. If a website is considered dangerous, a warning page will be presented to you. This is perfect for trying to prevent identity theft on social networks where you will often find yourself hopping off-site to view news stories from websites you’ve never visited.

18.  Use the Web of Trust to check an online retailer’s trustworthiness.  Some online stores are easy to trust (Amazon, Wal-Mart, etc.) while others are more of a coin flip. But, that should not stop you from finding the best deals and all the items that you want. You can use the Web of Trust (WoT) to determine whether an online store is trustworthy. This is perfect for Chrome users, as there is a downloadable plug-in that automatically shows the reputation rating for each website you visit.

19.  Make use of OnGuard Online.  The United States government offers a website that discusses how to best protect yourself and your children on the Internet. This is called OnGuard Online and it includes endless information on common scams, identity theft tricks, computer viruses, and much more. It is a great resource if you want to get a better idea on how to stay safe from identity theft; this is also a good source of information to provide your kids when they become regular Internet users.

20.  Get advice from BusinessIDTheft.org.   BusinessIDTheft.org is the best resource around. This website gives you access to endless information on how identity thieves attack businesses, how it can be prevented, and what can be done after an attack happens.

About the Author:
Mari Frank, Esq. CIPP is an attorney/mediator  and  an  advisor and  Chair of  the Privacy Committee of the Executive Committee Law Practice Management and Technology  Section of the State Bar of California.  She is the author of Safeguard Your Identity; The Identity Theft Survival Kit; and the Complete Idiots’ Guide to Recovering From Identity Theft. She is the radio host of Privacy Piracy 88.9 FM in Irvine and www.kuci.org/privacypiracy

(b) Protecting Your Clients' Data

Data, Data, Everywhere! What Are You Doing to Protect Your Clients' Data?

This article appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of San Diego Lawyer. It is reprinted with the permission of the San Diego County Bar Association.

By William Kammer

eDiscovery has challenged lawyers to develop new skills and procedures and to follow new rules requiring cooperation rather than belligerence. Despite lawyers' intensive efforts, the technologies that create data may outpace lawyers' development of the skills necessary to deal with that data.

Our initial challenges were to understand hard drives, thumb drives, servers, and e-mail systems. Then cloud services such as Gmail confronted us followed by social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedln. Now we are warned about the Internet of Things and the evidence that might be found there because of fitness trackers, thermostats, and automotive systems.

That would be challenging enough, but the data is now everywhere. Nothing will affect our discovery practices more than the effects of the proliferation of devices that contain electronically stored information (ESI.) Pew Research Center recently reported that 66% of American adults have at least two of these data storehouses: a computer, a mobile phone, a tablet. 36% have all three, and among millennials, the percentage with all three is 51%. The ESI on these various devices may be copies of data stored elsewhere, but some of that data is unique to a particular device. For instance, text messages and many photographs may only exist on a phone.

However the story doesn't end there. Much of this ESI is backed up to additional locations. Apple's iCloud and equivalent cloud storage locations offer to synchronize all of our ESI and maintain copies at an Internet location. We can also backup our mobile devices to a computer at home or work. At either location, our computer may also backup to a dedicated hard drive. Data, and relevant ESI, can be anywhere and everywhere.

The impact of these findings and developments on the duty to collect, preserve, and review relevant ESI is substantial. When we realize that a gigabyte of data amounts to about 50,000 pages, we must acknowledge the need to develop the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to manage economically this mass of data. To do less would be a failure of our duty to provide competent representation.

This proliferation doesn't only impact electronic discovery. It also raises cybersecurity issues for our clients' and our own information. What is the level of protection afforded to our mobile phones and tablets? How are we protecting the information on our laptops? We have probably heard of an incident that occurred last year in San Diego. A lawyer's laptop was stolen after he left it on the MTS trolley. Though reported the following day to the police, it had not been recovered by the time that his law firm informed its clients that their confidential and personally identifiable information might have been contained on the stolen laptop and may have been compromised. The firm offered its clients identity theft protection and credit monitoring and gave them instructions about further steps they should take to protect themselves.

This is not the advice we will ever want to give our clients or the expenses that we will want to incur. But what are we doing to protect the confidentiality of the information on these mobile devices? And what are we prepared to do if and when a laptop, phone or tablet is lost or stolen?

These situations and questions are not simply hypothetical. Cybersecurity discussions are frequent today. One report stated that 80% of the country's largest law firms had been hacked. Another reported that employee error was the leading cause of data breaches. Law firms are evaluating and purchasing cybersecurity insurance to cover some of these risks. Firms are also training their attorneys and employees in order to minimize risk and to protect confidential client and propriety information. In this new year, we should ask ourselves if we are taking all necessary and appropriate actions?

About the Author:
William Kammer (wkammer@swsslaw.com) is a partner with Solomon Ward Seidenwurm & Smith, LLP.

(c) Protecting Your Business

Ten Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses

Source: Federal Communications Commission; www.fcc.gov/general/cybersecurity-small-business

Broadband and information technology are powerful factors in small businesses reaching new markets and increasing productivity and efficiency.  However, businesses need a cybersecurity strategy to protect their own business, their customers, and their data from growing cybersecurity threats.

Here are ten key cybersecurity tips for businesses to protect themselves:

1. Train employees in security principles 
Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords, and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurity policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.

2. Protect information, computers and networks from cyber attacks 
Keep clean machines: having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Set antivirus software to run a scan after each update. Install other key software updates as soon as they are available.

3. Provide firewall security for your Internet connection
A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the operating system’s firewall is enabled or install free firewall software available online. If employees work from home, ensure that their home system(s) are protected by a firewall.

4. Create a mobile device action plan
Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network. Require users to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

5. Make backup copies of important business data and information
Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly and store the copies either offsite or in the cloud.

6. Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each employee
Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

7. Secure your Wi-Fi networks
If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted, and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

8. Employ best practices on payment cards
Work with banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations pursuant to agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and don’t use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

9. Limit employee access to data and information, limit authority to install software
Do not provide any one employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that they need for their jobs, and should not be able to install any software without permission.

10. Passwords and authentication
Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every three months. Consider implementing multi-factor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multi-factor authentication for your account.

The FCC's CyberSecurity Hub at http://www.fcc.gov/cyberforsmallbiz has more information, including links to free and low-cost security tools.

(d) Customer Service

The Customer Is Still King

By Michael Stoeckli, MLIS

“The Customer is King.” I’ve heard this many times. And I need to remind myself of this saying.

I work as the Information Services Manager for a large law firm (Information Service Manager is what we librarians have evolved into). Law firms are customer service orientated creatures and our customers depend us to keep them abreast of case developments and promptly answer their questions.

My law firm has lots of competitors, we are not immune from clients jumping ship. I have worked at a few firms in my career that imploded or dissolved from lack of revenue.

I need to remind myself that I am employed in the service business and that it is the customer who ultimately pays me.

I will try to follow the 10 below items better:

I will return calls, emails, and texts, promptly. My goal: as soon as I can. If I can’t talk, or can’t immediately answer, I need to touch base and let the person know I will get back to them shortly. I will change my, “I will return your message at my earliest convenience,” to, “I will get back to you as soon as I’m back in my office.”

I need to do tasks with a happy heart. My attitude is important and others can see it. I’m on the same team with my co-workers, striving for the same goal, to provide excellent customer service.

When asked, I need to take on additional tasks. It’s been said that “if you want something done, give it to a busy person.” When I’m busy, time seems to move faster, I feel productive, and others see me as productive.

More often, I should walk an item over to a person, such as an interoffice envelope, book, or document. It’s good customer service and I get to stretch my legs :)

I will try my best not to have projects hanging for the next day, so I will try to leave my desk and inbox clean and fresh for the next day’s tasks.

I will try to arrive to work a few minutes earlier. It is quieter in the early morning and I don’t need to feel so rushed. I can help early birds, thus providing a higher level of service.

I will put quality in my work. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. My dad taught me this. I will concentrate with the task at hand and give it my full attention and let the quality show in my work.

Where I can, I will keep the office tidy. Our customers come in and out of our offices and it may be the one paperclip that I pick up or small wrapper on the floor that takes away from an otherwise professional environment.

I will try to give more than is asked of me. Everyone likes value, and giving our customers and my co-workers more than is expected, helps to keep satisfied customers.

My attention to providing better customer service will rub off on some of my co-workers, raising our game, and this will help provide better customer service.

So there I have it. I need to remember that “The Customer is Still King.”

About the Author:
Michael Stoeckli is the Information Services Manager for Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo.   He earned his Bachelor’s in Philosophy at UCLA, Master’s in Library and Information Science at San Jose State, and attended Law School at Southwestern University.  He lives in Los Angeles with 8 former stray cats and dogs that now rule his house.  He can be reached at 562-653-3472.

(e) Keep Your Business Going

If You're Average, You’re Probably Going Out of Business

By Keith Lee

Source:  Above The Law (http://abovethelaw.com; posted February 4, 2016)

“Good enough” is dying.

“Good enough” was never really good enough of course, but plenty of people were able to get by with it. Lawyers included.

Good enough work meant that lawyers were able to make clients adjust to their demands and schedules. Good enough work meant that lawyers don’t have to worry about the presentation or delivery of their services. Good enough work meant that lawyers didn’t have to bother with competing on price.

Lawyers were able to get by with “good enough” much longer than other industries as the practice of law is an eminently local business. Law varies from state-to-state. Municipalities have their own ordinances. Judges impose their own local rules for their courtrooms.

Beyond that, lawyers, and the law, are largely opaque to most people. People don’t know how to choose lawyers. They might know they have a legal problem, but they don’t know how to find the appropriate legal solution.

As such, many lawyers have been able to coast by on good enough. As long as competition was local, and information on the law obscure, then there was not much impetus to improve beyond good enough.

The Fastest Lion And Slowest Gazelle
A few days ago, I wrote about how you better be running when you wake up every morning:

The 21st century is an era of hypercompetition. Any business that wants to compete must not only be doing well by their own standards, they have to be doing better than everyone else as well. A few points from Consultant’s Mind:

  • The average S&P 500 company only lives 18 years.
  • 90% of profits only go to the top 20% of companies.
  • 2015 was a record year for mergers and acquisitions.

What that should communicate to you is that many businesses are consolidating. The world is indeed becoming flat. The internet, computers, and deregulation have shifted competition from local to global. Businesses no longer compete with businesses down the block, they compete with Amazon and AliBaba.

While the legal industry generally lags behind the rest of the world, hypercompetition is coming for lawyers as well. U.S. law firms are consolidating at a record pace. Venture capital firms continue to invest into technology companies attempting to “disrupt” aspects of the legal industry. Businesses, consumers groups, and others continue to push for the deregulation of legal services.

John Trimble of Lewis Wagner, a former DRI Director, recently told me:

The leaders of LegalZoom and Avvo told us that their mission is to make access to justice possible for as many people as possible. They concede that they do not want the top one percent of the legal market, nor do they want the bottom fifteen percent of the hopelessly poor. However, they view the roughly eighty-five percent in between as fair game. Indeed, they cited a recent report by LawMediaLabs, Inc., that estimates that there is an untapped “latent legal market” worth annual fees of $45 Billion.

If you’re in a small firm, hell, if you’re in a firm of almost any kind or size, that should make you   scared as hell. Let me translate it for you if you can’t read between the lines:

Two companies with national reach and millions of dollars in backing just said they’re coming for your ass.

Second Place Is The First Loser

Sometime in the next 10 to 15 years, there is going to be a lot more competition for providing legal services. You won’t just compete with lawyers down the road, you’ll compete with companies and lawyers on the other side of the world. $45 billion is a big pie, and everyone wants to a take as big a bite of it as possible.

It won’t only be Legal Zoom and Avvo — other companies are going to join them. Remember that part about 90% of profits going to 20% of companies? Who is going to take the biggest bite:

  • Lawyers doing good enough work?
  • Lawyers delivering above average work?
  • Companies using technology to deliver legal services in a streamlined and efficient manner, while at a low cost?

It’s not going to be the first option when there is a wide array of choices offering cheaper and better services. The majority of the pie is going to go to the latter two options. And there is going to be little in the way of scraps for the “good enough” lawyers to pick over.
That’s not to say that lawyers are going to be cut out of the action. Lawyers providing above excellent service will still do well. These lawyers develop experience in their field, stay abreast of case law and statutes, and build strong connections with their clients and industry.
But what about when “good enough” lawyers are gone? When all that’s left are above average lawyers, and multi-national corporations attempting to consume the legal industry?

The spectrum of what constitutes “good enough” will change. Excellent legal service will no longer be enough. Clients will expect more. They’ll want excellent legal service and streamlined delivery and competitive pricing.

What Type Of Lawyer Are You?

We’re increasingly transitioning towards a winner-takes-all economy. There will be fewer players, but the competition more frenzied and intense.

  • That means above average lawyers, smart lawyers, need to stay abreast of changes in technology and the industry (not being cheerleaders for it).
  • Smart lawyers will look for new means of delivering legal services — client portals, secure apps, assisted self-service.
  • Smart lawyers will look for new means of communicating with clients — blogs, social media, video conferencing.
  • Smart lawyers will look for efficiencies and best practices for their offices — case management software, computer-assisted document assembly, ediscovery software platforms.

But I want to emphasize again that these things are all just tools.

Shiny new tools are all fine and well, but you also need the requisite knowledge of how to properly use and understand such tools. It’s one thing to say, use a saw to cut a tree limb, quite another thing to use a saw to amputate a human limb. The tool is the same, it’s the knowledge of how to use it that makes all the difference.

In the end, smart lawyers are still going to be the ones with the knowledge.

About the author:
Keith Lee practices law at Hamer Law Group, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama. He writes about professional development, the law, the universe, and everything at Associate’s Mind. He is also the author of The Marble and The Sculptor: From Law School To Law Practice (affiliate link), published by the ABA. You can reach him at keith.lee@hamerlawgroup.com or on Twitter at @associatesmind.

(f) Get More Done at Work

Power Tips to Get More Done at Work in 2016

Source:  The American Society of Administrative Professionals (www.asaporg.com/articles)

Want to become more productive at work in the year ahead? Changing just a few crucial habits will help. Take a look at these power-charged suggestions!

Use your commute. Listen to music, an audio book, or a podcast while driving to work. On a bus or train, read, write, or listen to something stimulating. When you feel upbeat during your commute, you’ll carry that feeling into the office.

Arrive early. If possible, show up a half hour to an hour before your organization’s start time, so you can work in peace, with no distractions from emails, phone calls, or fellow workers.

Prioritize. A daily to-do list is vital to success. Update it during the day, so you’re always feeling—and being—productive.

Tackle important projects first. Always start with the most difficult project you need to complete. How good will you feel having made an immediate dent in it?

Collaborate with coworkers. You’ll be amazed at how much more gets done and how much fun you can have when you work with others.

Take short breaks. A simple walk around the office can help you throw off a feeling of being “stuck.” You’ll return to work in a better frame of mind and ready to dig back in.

Stay positive. Try to feel good at work and about work. Hang with like-minded coworkers during breaks. Avoid gossip and gossipers. The more positive we are, the more productive we’ll be!

Don’t judge. Downbeat people may be dealing with issues you’re unaware of. Instead of criticizing them (if only in your head), give them the benefit of the doubt—and free yourself up to concentrate on work.

Welcome constructive criticism. When you receive a difficult piece of feedback, think about whether there might be some truth to it. If so, consider what immediate changes you can make to improve your performance.

Don’t rush. If you need a little extra time to complete an assignment, let the boss know. Better to take the time you need and get things done right rather than redo them.

Set long-term goals. Focus beyond daily tasks. A long-term mindset will help you accomplish bigger and better things year-round!

[To contact The American Society of Administrative Professionals:  1-888-960-ASAP; info@asaporg.com]

4. News from The State Bar

(a) Two-Day Bar Exam

The California Supreme Court has approved the change to a two-day bar exam effective July 2017.  The General Bar Examination, primarily administered to newly graduated law students will consist of five one-hour essay questions and one 90-minue performance test on the first day.  The performance test score will be worth twice the amount as an essay question score, which is consistent with the current grading policies established by the Committee of Bar Examiners.  The Multistate Bar Examination which consists of 200 multiple-choice questions will be given on the second day.  The written and multiple-choice portions will be weighted equally.

(b) Public Comment

The State Bar of California currently has the following items posted for public comment. Do check the Public Comment section on The State Bar’s website for new postings.

April 20 Deadline: Proposed Amendments to Admissions Rules re Open/Closed Meetings of the Committee of Bar Examiners

May 12 Deadline: Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0006 (Attorney Blogging)

May 16 Deadline: Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 13-0005 (Publicly Available Confidential Information) – Additional Public Comment Circulation

If you feel that the LPMT Executive Committee should submit comments on behalf of the LPMT Section members to a particular item out for public comment, please contact Amy Williams, Chair of the Rules Subcommittee at aawlaw@earthlink.net.

PLEASE NOTE: Publication for public comment is not, and shall not be, construed as a recommendation or approval by the Board of Trustees of the materials published.

5. The Bottom Line/eTBL

April Issue

Co-editor, Michael Fenger, has announced that the following articles are scheduled to appear in the April issue of The Bottom Line:

  • Avoiding Foreign Email Representation Scams, by Dennis Wm. Johnson
  • Team Building, by Tom Garberson
  • How to Deal with a Partner’s Disability, by Steven Driss
  • The Benefits of Health Savings Accounts in Providing Health Benefits to Firm Employees, by Steven Driss

Articles for publication are welcome.  Send them to mike.fenger@ceb.ucla.edu or to Section Coordinator, Kristina Robledo (Kristina.Robledo@calbar.ca.gov), to be reviewed by the editorial committee.  Obtain the Guidelines for submitting articles from the Section Coordinator.

Archived Articles: Archived issues of The Bottom Line can be found in the Members Only section of the LPMT website going back to October 2011. Prior to that date, you will find only a table of contents for past issues.  Some past issues may still be available. Contact Section Coordinator, Kristina Robledo (Kristina.Robledo@calbar.ca.gov).

6. Educational Opportunities

(a) California Solo and Small Firm Summit: "Strategic Solutions for Lawyering and Business Management"

The State Bar of California
California Solo & Small Firm Summit
Thursday-Saturday, June 16-18, 2016
 
Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa
900 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660

The California Solo and Small Firm Summit provides strategic solutions for the practice of law and the management of a practice. Designed for legal professionals who work in a solo or small firm practice, the Summit will feature power networking events, mentoring circles, legal education classes, business management courses, and showcase products and services unique to the solo or small firm practitioner. Its overall objective is to offer strategies and tools that promote a thriving law practice.

The California Solo and Small Firm Summit opens at noon on Thursday, June 16 with a plenary luncheon program. CSS education sessions are presented through Saturday noon. More information will be posted at California Solo and Small Firm Summit as it becomes available. Several LPMT Executive Committee members have submitted proposals to present legal education classes at the Summit. As soon as we know which proposals have been accepted, we will provide you with the class information.

 Twitterers! The hashtag for the Solo Summit is #SoloSummit

(b) Ethics Symposium

The 20th Annual Statewide Ethics Symposium will be held in San Francisco on April 9, 2016, 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., at the Downtown Campus of the University of San Francisco School of Law, 101 Howard Street, Room 150, San Francisco.   The Symposium is presented by The State Bar of California Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct.  Obtain five hours of MCLE Credit in Legal Ethics.  This program has been approved for legal malpractice legal specialization credit by the State Bar of California.  For more information, or to register for the Symposium, visit the symposium’s web page.

(c) Future Education Opportunities

The Education Committee has also submitted proposal seminars for presentation at the 2016 State Bar Annual Meeting.  The Annual Meeting is scheduled in San Diego from September 29, to October 2.  As soon as the programs are selected and scheduled, we will provide that information to you.  It’s not too early to reserve time on your calendar to attend the Annual Meeting, participate in the educational programs, and also enjoy the many attractions that San Diego has to offer. Twitter hashtag for the Annual Meeting -- #CalBarAM16.

The Education Committee is also developing several webinar series for presentation.  If there are any topics that interest you, let us know and we'll work on putting a program together for you.  If you would like to contribute to an MCLE self-study article or a webinar, please contact the Education Chair, Jeff Bennion, at jeff@jbennionlaw.com.

(d) CYLA 10-Minute Mentor

The California Young Lawyers Association has assembled a series of mentoring videos which are posted HERE. New videos are being added all the time.

Videos by LPMT Executive Committee members/advisors are set forth below.

The hashtag for the CYLA Mentoring Videos is, #10MinuteMentor, should you wish to retweet any of the videos.

(e) Online CLE

View the Online CLE catalog to find webinars and programs presented by the LPMT Section or which contain practice management topics. Also find articles from Section publications, including The Bottom Line, to obtain self-study MCLE credit.

Please provide your thoughts and suggestions to the Chair of the Education Committee, Jeff Bennion or LPMT@calbar.ca.gov. Let Jeff hear from you with suggested topics or a proposal to present a webinar or program.

7. Executive Committee News

(a) New Executive Committee Members

Five members were appointed to the LPMT Executive Committee and started their terms following the State Bar Annual Meeting. They are Araceli Almazan, attorney, Los Angeles; Jack Kenefick, public member, Laguna Hills; Cynthia Mascio, public member (paralegal), Cerritos; Christi McGowan, public member (paralegal), San Clemente; and George Seide, attorney, Calabasas. We will be introducing you to these new members in future issues of the eNews. In this issue, we spotlight attorney, Araceli Almazan, whose practice concentrates in representing employers in labor and employment law matters. Welcome, Araceli!

Araceli Almazan is an attorney with Ford & Harrison LLP. She concentrates her practice on the representation of employers in labor and employment law matters. Ms. Almazan represents companies in litigation involving claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and violations of federal and state employment law regulations.

Earlier in her career, Ms. Almazan was a judicial extern with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Central District of California and she was a law clerk with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office. Ms. Almazan also consulted a London based FTSE 100 International Service Company and she worked for the California State Senate and the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining Ford & Harrison LLP, Ms. Almazan worked as a healthcare litigation associate where she specialized in complex civil litigation cases involving healthcare reimbursement and insurance coverage issues.

Ms. Almazan is currently a Delegate with the Los Angeles County Bar Association and she was also appointed by the President of the American Bar Association to serve in the Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS). Ms. Almazan is one of ten ABA members from across the country who currently serves in this committee. Ms. Almazan is excited to join the Executive Committee of the Law Practice Management and Technology Section of the California State Bar. In her capacity as Executive Committee member she looks forward to helping further the objectives and the mission of this section.

Ms. Almazan earned a B.A. from UCLA in 2004, a J.D. from UC Davis in 2009, an M.P.A. with a concentration in Public Policy from Columbia University in 2010, and an M.P.A. with a concentration in Management from The London School of Economics and Political Science in 2010. In September 2014 Ms. Almazan completed a Global Executive Leadership Program through USC’s Marshall School of Business. 

(b) News from LPMT Section Members

Members, let us know what you are doing so we can include your activities and accomplishments in our next eNewsletter.  Let us hear from you (LPMT@calbar.ca.gov).                                                                                                                                           

(c) Opening, Growing and Managing a Law Office

Opening a Law OfficePurchase the State Bar’s two publications, The California Guide to Opening a Law Office and The California Guide to Growing and Managing a Law Office (official hash tag #GrowLaw) to assist you in running and growing your law practice. Your Executive Committee members are contributing authors.

8. Future State Bar Annual Meetings

2016: September 29-October 2, San Diego
2017: August 24-27, Anaheim
2018: September 13-16, San Diego
2019:   September 12-15, Monterey
2020:  September 10-13, San Diego

9. Benefits for Members

Make the most of your membership in the LPMT Section by using the following vendors who are offering discounts to LPMT Section members.

New benefit: 

  • Aptus Court Reporting

  • Time59
  • AB Unlimited
  • Lexology®
  • TechnoLawyer®
  • LawBiz®
  • ShareFile
  • JumpStart Genius®
  • CEB®
  • Inventus

For detailed information about vendor benefits, go to the Members Only Section under Special Offers and Discounts.

Contact Us

Law Practice Management and Technology Section
The State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
415-538-2520
FAX 415-538-2368
lpmt@calbar.ca.gov