Make Email More Secure with Two-Factor Authentication

This week’s Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers E-Journal Law Practice Management Section Featured Practice Tip comes from LOMAP. In this week’s tip, Scott recommends utilizing two-factor authentication to further secure your inboxes.

Read the Tip here.

Four Score: Keep Your Practice Moving

Most often, I only have one good idea for Attorney at Work at a time; this mid- to late summer, however, I’m quadrupling up.  (Fore!)  I’ve recently had posted to the Attorney at Work site four of my very best recommendations for solo and small firm attorneys.  Read me talking about (1) mobile websites, (2) case management software, (3) staying in touch and (4) reviewing your rates (see, four) . . . it’s all right here.
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Liner Notes
Aside from iTunes, where I house the Correia International Music Archive and Collection, Spotifyis my favorite place to listen to music, and my exclusive tune engine for the workday.  I love listening to full albums/catalogues from/of artists, because it’s a great way to discover deep tracks.  Pandora’s good for that, too; but, with ever-increasing advertisements, and listening limits, you’ve really got to pay to play to make Pandora worthwhile.  (I’m down with Grooveshark, as well; but, it’s less stable than Spotify . . . probably because it doesn’t look like the unclever Groove Shark (as opposed to the clever land shark — ‘candygram’) cares all that much for copyright law.  But, if I wanted to listen to Led Zeppelin, I’d ride the ‘shark’, yeah.)  Though, I digress,hard(ly).
One of my second favorite things about Spotify is that they have cool playlists and promotions.  But, their latest venture takes the cake.  The ‘Spotify Live Series’, inaugurated with a focus on the Dave Matthews Band(let me tell you, when I was college, you couldn’t walk 5 feet without hearing DMB pumping from some high window; ‘Crash’ was the soundtrack of my early 20s), is one of the best music-related ideas since ‘The Voice’, which is currently changing the landscape of reality television = the only television left anymore.  (Then there were the dudes who lived below me freshmen year, who would alternate between DJ Kool’s ‘Let Me Clear My Throat’ and Stealers Wheel’s ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ for hours on end.  Literally.  I still hate those guys.)
Here’s how it works: Take the original album track listing, and replace the studio versions with live versions drawn from various concerts and tours.  It’s not a traditional live album, because each song is drawn from a different show or tour; and, while most live albums are compilations (of just the hits), this is, instead, a reimagining of the studio album, B-sides and those deep tracks included.  For someone who appreciates listening to albums straight through, this is beyond fantastic.  It’s like listening to the original record in a completely different way.  In layman’s terms, this is (insert swear word adjective ending in -ing here) amazing.

The series currently includes live collections/versions of ‘Remember Two Things’ (strangely, mostly a live album in its original format; but, I won’t dwell on such trivialities),’Under the Table and Dreaming’, ‘Crash’ ‘Before These Crowded Streets’, and some other, later-dated albums I couldn’t care less about.  All of your favorite tracks are here, including: ‘Drive In, Drive Out’ (the best DMB song of all-time — don’t challenge me on this, please), ‘Jimi Thing’ and ‘Stay’, among many, many others.

This is a lot like HD TV . . . You’ve got to see HD to understand why no self-respecting man can live without it; and, you’ve sort of got to listen to the Spotify Live Series to experience its full glory, and to practically be jumping out of your sharkseat, as I have been for quite some time now.
Since this is a fantastic idea, I would like to suggest further artists to treat in this manner, as follows:
Okay, everybody.  Do you hear me, Spotify!?!?  Everybody!!!!!  (Everybody.)
(Was this entire post an excuse to talk about college and music?  Why, yes.  Yes it was.)

Fee Simple, Part 2: Priced to Sell

As we discussed in the previous installment of this short series: most attorneys settle when it comes to their rates.  By and large, lawyers will determine a pricing model based on what ‘they’ve heard to be good’, without putting much more thought into it than that.  Then, they’ll sit on that fee structure, perhaps even as long as for . . . ev . . . er.  There are, of course, better ways to set your fees, and to revise them, yes.  Now, it most nearly defeats the purpose (of setting competitive rates), when you’re settling on a fee structure, in large part, because it is not that far off from what other similarly situated attorneys are already doing.  Another, less mindful, way to set your fees is to endeavor to be ‘the undercutter’, where you set yourself up as the cheapest game in town, and endeavor to charge less than every other attorney in your practice area, in the area.  Of course, that’s a race to bottom with the next guy, or gal, who has the same idea; and, if your calling card is that you’re real cheap, well . . . you’re gonna to get the sort of clients who want real cheap lawyers–in other words: just the sort of clients you don’t want.  Rather than because you’re the ‘cheapest’ option around, you should want clients to select you because you’re the ‘best’ choice they know of, or have heard of, because your excellent reputation precedes you.  Another one of those, often unthunk, decisions (the third, if you’re scoring at home), is to settle upon an hourly rate just because it seems to be some sort of consensus (again, not necessarily a good thing), or because it’s ‘easy’/‘easier’ to track time and charge based on billable hours.  Some potential clients are wary of hourly rates because there is no cap in site; for those clients, flat fees, for example, are attractive, as being representative of something like a cost certain.
If, instead of relying on what you’ve heard, or what your best guess is as to where you should be headed, consider, based on market research, your experience, the time and effort involved in moving your matters, and other, relevant factors, whether an alternative fee arrangement might better serve your clients, and your business.  The desire, on the part of savvy lawyers, to offer clients uniquely effective rates, and to better attain a return in value for the work they do, has led to a (very slow, but . . .) steady increase in the number of attorneys who have moved away from the traditional billing hour rates in favor of alternative fee types, like flat fees and unbundled legal services.  Driving these changes, and most all changes, really, is money.  Lawyers wanting to get paid best must recognize consumer demand, and seek to meet it at discovered, tolerable price points.
Setting effective rates, then, is not some sort of white tower exercise.  As you’re trying to keep the lights on, your distinct interest is in creating pricing terms that are appealing to your potential clients.  And so, you must think of your pricing options as differentiation points between you and your competitors, rather than trying to slot yourself within some contrived numbers game.  Attractive pricing options and effective payment plans can, in fact, be the differentiation points for potential clients who are choosing between you and other lawyers.  Even if your ability to sell your services is a combination of your reputation and your fee structure, there are other attorneys in your area (geographic, sphere of influence) who are also well-regarded, and who do a good job, too–just like you.  The most meaningful contrast, in that instance (assuming you’re not both charging $150/hour), is likely to be price/pricing–such that, the uniqueness of your pricing scheme, and the cost control (to the extent that’s possible) and payment flexibility that you can offer potential clients, will probably make the biggest difference.  And, payment flexibility includes offered methods for accepting payment, which can include modern, convenient options, like taking credit card payments, using online payment services (like PayPal) and/or applying a tool like Square, for accepting payments where you’re mobile.  Though, taking credit card payments from clients requires special attention, especially in cases where retainers are being charged, for deposit into IOLTA accounts.  And, you must also be aware that most online payment services will charge a transaction fee, too, which becomes potentially problematic in the case of trust account deposits, too.  If you’re looking for a more comprehensive method for managing credit card payments, check out LawPay, which is a discounted affinity benefit program of the Massachusetts Bar Association, as well as for a number of other bar associations (and their members), throughout the United States.
*Ahem*  Of course, your ability to tweak your pricing is not boundless.  What you can do with respect to setting your fees will be limited by your practice area, statutory rules and ethics rules, including rules respecting contingent fee arrangements and for determination of reasonable fees.  Keep in mind, as well, that nonrefundable retainers are not allowed in Massachusetts, no matter how you try to phrase the arrangement.
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Liner Notes
It’s about time for some Strait Talk.
And, Who doesn’t love George Strait?  Raise your hand.  . . . Don’t you dare raise your hand!
I’m sorry, I just get a little emotionalwhen I’m talking about George Strait.  The guy’s a national treasure.  Sure, he’s not a prolific songwriter, and mostly other people write his stuff (in fact, he’s taken to covering Delbert McClinton of late (which I have no problem with), like so, and here; or, if you prefer the originals: like so, and there), but he is an iconic singer, country-labeled or otherwise, and represents, probably, the popular apogee of the Western Swing movement.  I mean, he’s had 59 #1 singles, which is just insane.  What more do you want from the man?  I guarantee you you’ve heard a George Strait song before, even if you didn’t know it.  And, I’ll tell you what . . . there’re worse ways to spend a Friday night than listening to some George Strait.  It’s a good thing I’m here, right?  Here’re some of my favorite George Strait songs, for your listening enjoyment:
‘Twang’, off of ‘Twang’
‘Blue Clear Sky’, off of ‘Blue Clear Sky’
‘Real Thing’, off of ‘The Road Less Traveled’
‘Here For a Good Time’, off of ‘Here For a Good Time’
‘Amarillo by Morning’, off of ‘Strait from the Heart’
‘You Know Me Better Than That’, off of ‘Chill Of an Early Fall’
‘Write This Down’, off of ‘Always Never the Same’
‘Honk If You Honky Tonk’, off of ‘Honkytonkville’
‘Ocean Front Property’, off of ‘Ocean Front Property’
‘Heartland’, off of ‘Pure Country’ (moviesoundtrack)
‘Give It Away’, off of ‘It Just Comes Natural’
That’s Strait butter, baby.  Better Straiten up and fly right.  Damn Strait.
(Okay, I’ll stop now.)

Fee Simple, Part 1: Revoke + Revise

Is fee setting simple?  No.  But, these days, I’m hearkening back to classes in Property Law, during this just post-bar exam period.  I probably knew at one point, but I can no longer recall, what the difference between a fee simple and a fee tail is.  (Well, really, I can; but, for purposes of advancing this discussion, let’s just pretend I can’t.)  But, I’m not even going to link out to definitions, because I really don’t care anymore.  That is the beauty of having passed the bar exam; I don’t have to worry about it.  I hope that all of you out there have who have just taken the bar will experience the same legally-sanctioned joy someday soon . . . unless you’re going to be a real estate attorney.  In that case, forget something like the Palsgraf case.  Nope, not up in here, either.

No, fee setting is not so easy; and, perhaps that’s why attorneys, often, only do it once.  And, while ‘set it and forget it’ is a great concept for a rotisserie ovento be sold over countless infomercial replays, it’s a business model that does not work quite so well for law firms.  Even though your rates may stay static, the value of what you did will not, based on a number of factors, including, but limited to: inflation; your increasing skill level; the increasing complexity of the matters you handle; material changes to your business/practice; and, etc.  And, since your rates should, ultimately, recapture for you the value of what you do (or, at least, come close to it), your rates must keep pace with changing valuations.  No attorney retires charging the same rates he did when he was starting out; and, there is a lot that can happen in between.  Many attorneys adopt rates and change fee structures in a haphazard manner, at random time intervals, based on a collection of unrelated triggers; and, this mirrors, in many cases, the way that they set those rates in the first place.  However, you can get a better handle on the value of your work, and how you can recapture that value through charged fees, if you review your rates on a regular basis, with an eye toward certain effective criteria.

So, review your fee structure every so often, within whatever time frame is most effective for you and your practice: quarterly, biannually, annually.  You should also review your fee structure when there has been a material change to your business: you take on a new partner; you add a practice area (review your rates across practice areas); you add a major new client account; etc.  When you review your fees, analyze your work in particular practice areas by figuring out what it ‘costs’ you to do the things that you do for your clients.  How much time does it take you to complete certain projects–drafting an easement, for example?  What are the associated and/or up-front costs for certain jobs?  Consider your practice outside of a vacuum, as well.  Who are your competitors in your geographic region, including any upstarts, new from the last time you checked?  What do your competitors charges for similar services?  Are your rates too far out of line with what has become the norm?

Newer attorneys, who lack a historical record, that might also inform this consideration, can make the most of this exercise by using it as an opportunity to access mentors (you’re not asking for others’ rates, you’re asking about how they set their rates, which is a different, more innocuous, question), to establish effective strategies for fee setting and to perform a market review.  Even those attorneys who utilize flat fees can effectively assign value to what they do, including by tracking their time.  Certainly, there are practice areas where you won’t be changing your fee structure at all, such as contingency-based practices, or in cases where statutory limits exist for fees, or often; but, for the most part, consistently applied rate examination, and fee structure addendums, applied where necessary, allow attorneys to corral change, and put it to work for them, rather than being worked over by it. 

Liner Notes

The return of ‘Liner Notes’ has been delightful, hasn’t it?  It’s exhilarating, in that I have no idea what I’m going to write about from week to week any longer.  . . . Good Lord, I need a hobby.  What the hell is wrong with me?

In any event, until I find a good one, I’m scouring the interwebs for musical gems to impart; and, I believe I’ve unearthed a good one today:

Regular readers of the LOMAP Blog will note well my affinity for Jay Farrar, lead singer of Son Volt, formerly of Uncle Tupelo, and on his own.  So, it’s likely no surprise that he’ll show up here–but, in stranger places, and with Ben Gibbard, lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie and of the Postal Service, among other things.  I think Gibbard’s got one of the most unique voices in popular music; and, Farrar is a lyricist in the class of Bob Dylan.  (Yes, I did just write that, that’s correct–though, their styles are different, and Farrar is a little more out of time.)  It turns out that, in 2009, Farrar and Gibbard teamed up to record a soundtrack to the documentary (Weird, right? Documentaries have soundtracks? Apparently.), ‘One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur’, which is about just what you think it is.  (I guess they’re both big Jack Kerouac fans.)  What’s the big (sur) deal?  Well, the album is dope, that’s what.

Don
’t believe me?  You can listen to the whole thing on Grooveshark (just search for the album title); my personal notation reads: the first half of the album is very strong, and the second half wanes some; but, I do like the whole thing.  Oh, and since it’s 2012 now, most of the tracks are also available on YouTube–that is, if you generally prefer fan videos, grainy cuts and/or live bootlegs.  ‘California Zephyr’ is the lead track, and the real standout here–in fact, it is literally outstanding.  ‘Low Life Kingdom’ is your standard Farrar tune that sounds like slow rollin’ waves of amber grain.  ‘These Roads Don’t Move’ is actually an uptempo skipper, calling into question whether the roads  do, in fact, move.  Or not.  ‘Final Horrors’ sounds like Jay exorcising his guitar.  ‘Williamine’ is probably the closest thing to a Son Volt/Death Cabmash-up that I could find on the album . . . and, I was looking.  Make it Willia-yours, won’t you?

Should you listen to this a lot, or download it, and then listen to it a lot?  That’s a Big Sur(e).

Use Twitter to Learn About Prospective Clients, Employers and Contacts

This week’s Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers E-Journal Law Practice Management Section Featured Practice Tip comes from LOMAP. This week’s Tip offers some suggestions for using Twitter to learn more about professional contacts.

Read the Tip here.

Tweet Me Right: A Primer for Developing Relationships and Clients through Twitter

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot for other entities.  (I know, I know.  This is sort of lame; but, hey, I’m only one man . . . I can only write so much.  However, I can promise that I will get up some more original-to-the-LOMAP Blog-content for the late Summer and into the Fall.  A major writing project has ended, and I am in the process of streamlining my obligations.  . . . Hey, that’s a good name for a boat, ‘Streamlining My Obligations’.  Now, I just need to buy a boat.)  I wrote for the American Bar Association’s ‘Law Practice Today’ ezine two months in a row, in fact.  (How come?  I’m just a special kind of cat, that’s how come.)  The second of my two articles was about using Twitter for professional and client development.  It seemed to generate a decent amount of traction; so, for those of you who missed it the first time, or there, here it is, here.  (Man, I’ve been writing a lot about Twitter lately.  Would anyone like to buy my account before I burn out?)
Thanks to Tom Shumate for recruiting me for this project.
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Liner Notes
Indeed, the rumoursare true.  Part of my renewed commitment to bring back original content to the LOMAP Blog is wrapped up in the triumphant return of ‘Liner Notes’, because I don’t just know law practice management.  I like Miley Cyrus, as well.  I even have a Hannah Montana t-shirt that my wife won’t let me wear outside the house.
This week’s entry comes from friend of the LOMAP program, Alan Klevan, who tells me he has been listening to a lot of ‘Spock’s Beard’ lately.  He asked me to listen to a song called ‘At the End of the Day’, which was okay . . . and 16 minutes long (not quite as long as Poco’s ‘Nobody’s Fool/El Tonto De Nadie, Regresa’, though).  These guys strike me as a poor man’s Genesis, complete with the drummer-becomes-lead singer-storyline.  Though, there is sort of a spirited Rush vibe here, as well; and, we know how some peoplefeel about Neil Peart, like Jack Black.  It will be a judgment call as to whether you like Spock’s Beard better than Spock’s beard; but, perhaps if Alan deigns to comment below, he can set me straight as to why Spock’s Beard is most awesome.  Admittedly, I’ve only listed to one song . . . while I was folding laundry.

Scanning the Horizon: Paperless Conversion Saves Law Firms

We’re still getting a ton of questions related to going paperless, here at LOMAP headquarters, which is why we keep writing on the topic, like we did here, back in the day, when this was still a two-man operation.  Our most recent such endeavor was a post I contributed to Westlaw Insider’s Small Law Firms Blog, which post can be read here.  I cover the essential effectiveness of reducing paper in the office setting, and relay some tools for going paperless . . . but, I won’t ruin it for you by saying anymore; I’ll let you click on the link to read the complete piece in its full flowering.

(Thanks to Betsy Munnell for hooking me up with the Westlaw folks.)

. . .
Liner Notes
It’s about time I bring ‘Liner Notes’ back.  I mean, it’s been forever.  I did drop a little Easter Egg in the Westlaw post; but, that’s just a link–not anything descriptive or substantial.
As I’ve mentioned before here, I think, I’m a big Hank Williams III (grandson of big Hank; son of a Bocephus) fan.  Although, I never link to any of his music, because it has, like, a million swears in it.  But, now comes Curb Records’ post-break up release of ‘Long Gone Daddy’, a 3 album without any curse words at all.  I never thought I’d see the day, honestly; even though, it’s not a real 3 album (there’s a complicated backstory, which I won’t get into, but which you can read about here); but, if you’re even mildly interested in getting  into Hank III without earmuffing the kidlets, this is your gateway album.  You can listen to the whole thing on Spotify for free.  If you’d like my thoughts related to the remainder of 3’s catalogue, you can read my other blog on . . . no, I’m just kidding.  I don’t have another blog.  One is enough.  Although, sometimes it feels like one is never enough.

Guest Post: Safety in Numbers: Why Diversification Matters

We’re pleased to have our very first guest post from a financial advisor on a money management topic, which has been offered to us by Rob Thorne, who is the owner of Thorne Financial Partners located in Bostonand Yarmouth Port on Cape Cod.  Thanks to Matt Fitzsimmons, incoming co-chair of the Boston Bar Association’s Solo & Small Firm Section, for introducing me to Rob.  For his initial guest post to the LOMAP Blog, Rob relays some thoughts on investment diversification, through which he hopes to encourage attorneys to save and invest thoughtfully and prudently.
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Think of investing as a venture into uncharted territory — you need to pack well in order to be successful.  Don’t rely on a single investment vehicle to pursue your investment goals.  Rather, build your portfolio with a selection of investments designed to work together.  This method, of dividing your investment dollars among different types of investments, is called diversification.  The theory is based on the concept that asset classes tend to react differently to market conditions.  With a diversified portfolio of investments, you may help reduce the risk that a loss in one asset class will drag down your entire portfolio.

 

Diversity Within and Among Asset Classes

 

To diversify your retirement plan portfolio, select a mix of investments that are not too similar, but that will adequately tend to the pursuit of your overall investment objectives.  First, try diversifying among different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and money market investment vehicles.  Second, consider diversifying within an asset class, such as stocks.  For example, if your primary objective is growth, you might choose to invest the majority of your money in ‘blue-chip’ stocks and small-capitalization stocks.  You may also have the option of diversifying your portfolio with foreign investments.  Foreign investments make up more than half of the world’s markets, so if you’re not investing overseas, you may be limiting your opportunities.  Since U.S. markets may not move in lockstep with some overseas markets, foreign investments may be a good way to diversify.  Foreign investing involves additional risks, however, including the risk of currency fluctuations, political upheavals, and higher taxation.  Investors should carefully consider their ability to take on such risks before investing overseas.

 

Sometimes More Is Too Much

 

Diversification is often described as ‘putting your eggs into different baskets’.  The combination of ‘baskets’ you choose depends on your goals, time frame, and risk tolerance.  Long-term investors may choose more stocks, while shorter-term investors may select a more conservative mix, weighted toward bond and money market investments.  No matter what combination you choose, make sure each fund plays a specific role in your overall objective.  In investing, more is not always better– strategic diversification is the key.

 

There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not ensure against market risk.
Stocks of small companies involve greater risk than securities of larger, more established companies, as they may have limited product lines, markets and/or financial resources and may be exposed to more erratic and abrupt market movements.
© 2010 Standard & Poor’s Financial Communications.  All rights reserved.

Searching Twitter

This week’s Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers E-Journal Law Practice Management Section Featured Practice Tip comes from LOMAP. In this week’s tip, Scott relays some basic and advanced options for searching Twitter.

Read the Tip here.

Night Time is the Right Time: Gaining Perspective from the Law School Experience

My latest contribution to Clio’s (award-winning) Small Firm Innovation group blog (on the May theme of ‘law school wish list’) has me suggesting a number of methods for changing the way law schools do business, while channeling the archetypal, wizened old night student.

You can read more, here.