Why You Should Be Using Evernote

I’ve said it before here. After deciding not to write about a program like Evernote because I assume everyone is using it, I run across an attorney who says, “Evernote, what is that?”

If you use a computer and any smartphone or tablet, then Evernote should be at the heart of your organizational life. I have tried every sort of planner and to-do software, but Evernote beats them all due to the automatic sync between all your devices. Your notes, thoughts, documents, images, whatever will always be with you.

And it’s free.

If you go to YouTube, you’ll find hundreds of tutorial videos for Evernote that will show you how to tap its full potential. Here are two to get you started, the first being a basic tutorial that will show you the functionality of Evernote, followed by one specific to the emailing feature.

Stop Attaching Documents to Your Complaint

Businessmen climbing upThe planets must be aligned or misaligned as the case may be, because I've been flooded with callers who are dissatisfied with their current attorneys, and want to fire them to hire me.

I get a lot of these calls, and reviewing the cases to decide if I want them gives me great insight into the manner in which other attorneys handle cases (and the terrible ways that some organize their case files). I have just reviewed my fourth complaint of the day, and encountered one of my pet peeves. I had to take a moment to vent.

All of the complaints were guilty of the offense, but one particular complaint, with attachments, is 125 pages long. The attorney has seriously over-pleaded the case, and that is a topic for another day, but he has also attached 12 exhibits.

It’s actually not proper to attach some exhibits to complaints, and it is often a really bad idea to do so. In the case I was reviewing, the attorney had attached the contract, and I would venture to say that most attorneys would do the same.

Think before you attach! Even in a breach of contract action, you don’t have to attach the contract (at least not here in California). The problem with doing so is that anything you attach to a complaint becomes an allegation. The defendant is then free to cite to any provision in that contract to support a demurrer or other motion. Continue reading

How Does Google Work?

In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I discuss all the factors Google looks at to determine which search results will appear on page one.

I came across this very good video that discusses the issues as well, and provides a basic summary of how Google works. The video covers only the basics, but I really like the example used to explain incoming links, which also covers the importance of proper anchor text. I also appreciate that the author never tries to sell anything.

As set forth in How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline, backlinks are important, and they are something you should strive for, but as I show, you can land on page one with no backlinks.

Enjoy!

Five Reasons Attorneys Fall for SEO Scams

In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I provide the following anecdote:

There is a classic Peanuts comic, where Linus is going door to door trying to sell wadded up pieces of paper as cat toys. His sales presentation is good, but he never makes a sale. He asks the cat owners to picture the hours of fun their cats will have playing with the wadded up piece of paper. Nonetheless, he can’t get past the fact that he’s selling wadded up pieces of paper. He loses the sale every time, because the prospective customers realize and explain that they can wad up their own pieces of paper.

I don’t know why that comic stuck with me, but I see it played out over and over in real life, especially on the Internet. To this day, solo practitioners who can’t afford it are spending thousands of dollars to have people build websites for them. To fulfill my continuing education requirements, I was at a law firm marketing seminar recently where someone claimed that incoming links are essential to successful search engine optimization (SEO). He claimed that you should have 30,000 incoming links to your site, and as luck would have it, he just happened to offer a link-building service for the “limited time, have to buy it now or the offer is lost for ever” price of $1,950 per month. He normally required a one year commitment, but attorneys signing up on the spot only had to commit to six months. Attorneys were lined up to pay $1,950 per month — a total commitment of almost $12,000 — for incoming links to a single website! The website fiverr.com offers 50,000 incoming links for just $5, and they are just as worthless as what this person was offering.

These sorts of absurd SEO claims and pricing are far too commonplace. By accident or design, many so-called SEO experts mystify the process so that you won’t realize it’s just wadded up pieces of paper, and you can wad your own paper, thank you very much.

I came across an interesting article by Jared Jorde entitled 5 Reasons Attorneys are Easy Marks for SEO Scams on a blog called LawLytics. Jorde has apparently witnessed the same sort of nonsense I reported, and provides a detailed look at the reasons behind the phenomenon. The article is worth a read to make sure you don’t fall prey to one of the scams yourself.

In Big Fat Pipeline, I explain how to create your own websites for just $6 per month, and I use that as a point of reference when someone is offering to create websites for me. I have no objection to farming out that work, and although I have no experience with LawLytics, I’d bet their websites are fancier than my own meager efforts. You went to law school to practice law, not to create websites. So by all means allow the pros to create your sites if your budget permits, but just keep in mind that it isn't magic, and you can wad your own paper.

Attorney App of the Week – Car Finder Reminder

Car Finder Reminder App

I drove out to Riverside Superior Court today for an ex parte application set for 9:30 a.m.  In Southern California, as I’m sure in many other metropolitan areas, you just never know how long it will take to get somewhere due to the vagaries of freeway congestion. Drives times are always stated in ranges, as in:

“Joe, how long will it take me to get to Riverside Superior Court from here?”

“Oh, about one to two and a half hours.”

I leave crazy early for all my distant court appointments, anticipating that I will likely arrive up to an hour and half early, but with a big buffer in case traffic is bad. The buffer has saved me more than once. For each court, I have an established reward system, to make it less onerous to go to these distant courts. In the case of Riverside, it’s a little coffee shop right across the street with really good muffins. I settle in and have a muffin and some coffee while taking another look at the file before the hearing.

Ex parte hearings are usually at 8:30, and I arrive there so early that I have zero problem finding a parking space right in front of the court. But this one was at 9:30, and that one hour difference in my arrival time resulted in me not being able to find a parking space within blocks of the courthouse. I drove all over the place and finally found a spot in a residential neighborhood a few blocks away. I could see the top of the courthouse in the distance, so walking there was no problem, but how was I going go find my car afterwards?

No problem; I have Car Finder Reminder. There are a number of apps that remember where you parked, but I like this free one because it’s all done with just two taps on the screen. Open the program, tap “park” and it drops a pin on a map. When you want to find your car, it shows you where it is parked and will even provide directions to get you there. If you park at a meter, you can enter the time on the meter and it will let you know when the meter is about to expire. Continue reading

Best Client Call of the Week

Brain stressed

Technically this was an email and not a call, but close enough. It is only Wednesday, so I suppose I could receive a call that would top this one, but I’m pretty confident this will be the winner.

In the email the potential client was seeking representation on a breach of contract matter. The email mentioned that the contract was only two pages, so I responded that if the client wanted to email me the contract, I’d take a quick look at it at no charge, to determine if it was something with which I could assist the client.

A few minutes later, the contract arrived. The client was in South Africa, and the contract was entered into and was to be performed there. There was no connection to California whatsoever. I politely responded that I would not be able to represent the client in South Africa (can I appear pro hac vice there?), and could not provide any thoughts on the dispute because I would be practicing law without a license in South Africa, and would have no idea what the law is there.

I then asked, “out of curiosity, why did you contact an attorney in California about a matter in South Africa?”

“Because at this time of night, I didn't think I would be able to find any attorneys still working here,” he responded.

[UPDATE]  I was right, no calls came in to beat the one described above, but one came close. It happens at least half a dozen times a week that someone will call me, we talk for awhile, and when I try to provide them with some information such as a telephone number for another attorney, they say, “wait a second, let me grab something to write with.” Then I get to sit there and listen to them open drawer after drawer, ask their significant other if they know where there are any pens, and express frustration that they are having so much trouble finding a pen because, remember, it was just last week, after going to Home Town Buffet, that we went to Staples to look at backpacks for little Michael, and while there we purchased those Pilot pens we like so much.

I just can't picture making a call to any business without a pen in hand to write down whatever they tell me, but apparently I am in the minority because it happens so often.

But this call was a new one. When the time came for the caller to write down the information I was providing, he said, “hold on a second, I need to turn the lights on.” He apparently called and talked to me in the dark. I do have a pretty sexy voice.

Don’t be That Attorney – If You Must Rant, At Least be Right

Angry man ranting and insulting rocketsI’m at the drive through teller at my bank yesterday, to cash a small check. I sign the back of the check and send it up the tube with my driver’s license and ATM card, a process I have followed dozens of times. But this teller is clueless. He asks if I have an account there, then asks for more identifying information, then he asks for the name of my business (even though the check is made out to me and has nothing to do with the business).

I remain calm, even when he comes back and says he cannot cash the check because they can’t find my account. I calmly ask, “You can’t get my account number from the ATM card?” He politely responds, “We can, but you only sent your license and a credit card.” I look down, and realize I had sent the wrong card. He had not been clueless at all, and was actually being quite accommodating trying to find my account information with what I had provided.

So what is the point of this quaint story? Imagine if when he had told me that he could not cash the check, that I had torn into him, calling him an incompetent idiot for being unable to look up my account information from my ATM card like every teller before him had been able to do? Then my diatribe would have all fallen back on me, and I would have been the idiot; a lesson I have learned from other times that I did not hold my tongue.

Realize that as an attorney, you can be wrong, no matter how convinced you are of your position, and that a rant seldom serves any purpose and can come back to bite you. Bringing us to today’s attorney not to emulate.

As reported by ABA Journal, Above the Law, CBS NewsPatentlyO, and even a blog about whiskey, a patent attorney apparently had had enough of patent examiners denying his applications. I don’t do patent law, but in my never to be humble opinion his client's “Telescoping Tripod Sprinkler Cart” was not eligible for a patent. Examiner Alexander Valvis agreed with me and rejected the application. The patent attorney responded by FILING the following rant:

REMARKS: Are you drunk? No, seriously … are you drinking scotch and whiskey with a side of crack cocaine while you “examine” patent applications? (Heavy emphasis on the quotes.) Do you just mail merge rejection letters from your home? Is that what taxpayers are getting in exchange for your services? Have you even read the patent application? I'm curious. Because you either haven't read the patent application or are … (I don't want to say the “R” word) “Special.” Continue reading

Should You be Suing for Civil Extortion?

Extortion
A few days ago I reported on the case of Miguel Mendoza v. Reed K. Hamzeh, which found that an attorney’s demand letter amounted to extortion since it threatened criminal prosecution if money was not paid. The threatened party turned around and sued for civil extortion, and defeated the anti-SLAPP motion brought by the attorney who sent the letter.

Writing about that case got me thinking (contrary to the belief that no thinking goes into my writing). I have over the years seen a number of letters from attorneys threatening criminal prosecution. Should I have been advising the clients who received these demand letters to sue for civil extortion?

Thankfully my research was streamlined by a reader who graciously pointed me to Fuhrman v. California Satellite Systems (1986) 179 Cal.App.3d 408, 426-428. That case, and others I found, held that a civil action for extortion does in fact exist, but that like most torts requires a showing of damages. More specifically in the case of civil extortion, the extortion money must have been paid in order for there to be damages. Thus, based on my limited research, in the case of a garden-variety demand letter from an attorney that steps over the line and threatens criminal prosecution, there would not be a viable action for civil extortion.

That does not necessarily get the attorney off the hook. Continue reading

You’ve gotta fight, for your right . . . to wear wigs.

Solicitors fight for right to wear wigsFollowing the British tradition, Hong Kong’s lawyers are divided between solicitors, who work directly with clients, and barristers, who represent those clients in court and wear wigs and robes while doing so. The former are typically considered to be of a lower stature, but solicitors have long been expanding their professional reach into areas traditionally considered barristers’ turf, including courtroom work.

And they want the wigs to prove it, The Wall Street Journal explains in a front-page story Tuesday. You might think in modern Hong Kong the desire would be to do away with the tradition of wigs and robes, but the solicitors actually sued for the right to don that attire. The WSJ video can be found here.

Something to Consider When Advising Your Clients About Litigation or Appeal

Are you presenting a meritless defense?
Too many attorneys defend cases that have no defense.

Over the years I have been sorely disappointed to learn that many attorneys don’t see a problem with that, and have no clue that it is not permitted. In California, for example, the Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit accepting employment by a client if the objective of such employment is “to present a claim or defense in litigation that is not warranted under existing law, unless it can be supported by a good faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of such existing law.” Some cases are not black and white, and that is why ours is an advocacy system, but some are entirely clear and not open to debate. If someone borrows money and does not pay it back pursuant to the terms of the agreement, so long as there is no issue of contract interpretation or other issue, there is no defense. A defendant in that case should not be able to find any attorney to represent him.

But let’s set aside the ethical considerations for a moment, and look at this from a different angle. I would hope that any attorney, whatever the motivation for taking the case, would want to do a good job for the client. Always consider whether a defense could actually put the defendant in a worse position, and advise the client of that possibility. Here are two cases from my practice that illustrate what I am talking about.

The case of the defaming doctor.

In the first case, we brought an action against a doctor who had defamed our client. When the doctor’s contract at a hospital was not renewed, she decided our client was to blame. She took to the Internet and posted false comments about his job performance, in some cases assuming the false identity of a nurse and in others a patient. When we presented irrefutable proof that she had published the anonymous comments, she admitted what she had done. If ever there was a case that should have settled, this was one, but her insurer picked up coverage and for unknown reasons decided to fight the case right through trial, despite our very reasonable settlement demand.

The result was disastrous for the doctor. Continue reading