Law Office Software of the Month — NoteScraps

Attorney Software -- NoteScraps

[NOTE: This article that began as a simple software review turned into quite the saga. I've left the entire piecemeal story here for entertainment value, but the bottom line is that this software is now available for FREE (at least for now). Ignore the part that says the software is $20, and read to the end to see how to get if for FREE.]

I can't believe that I first reviewed the program about two years ago, but as I just found myself using it, I decided it deserved an updated review for the benefit of anyone who may not have seen the prior review. When I first published the article, I received a number of emails, mostly from former Tornado Notes users such as myself, thanking me for helping them to find a new, old favorite, as it were.

Right now, are there any sticky notes attached to your computer monitor(s)? Any notes scribbled on legal pads on your desk? If so, you might be a perfect candidate for a simple program called NoteScraps.

Many years ago (geez, I think it might have been in the days of DOS), I used and loved a program called Tornado Notes. The program was like using electronic sticky notes, but with the ability to search them instantly. It was the perfect program for catching information that I might put on a sticky note or, worse, just try to remember. What made Tornado Notes perfect was that it required no effort. Hit the hot-key combination, and up pops a blank note ready for input. Then, when I needed to recall that information, another hot-key combination would pull up all my notes. I would start typing the information I was looking for, and all the notes that did not contain that information would disappear, leaving only the note I was looking for.

Tornado Notes was “upgraded” to a new program that contained far more features, and that was its downfall. The beauty of the program was its total simplicity.

I found a replacement for the old familiar program that I loved so much, called NoteScraps. Continue reading

How Content Marketing and SEO Overlap

Content marketing has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. This often prompts the tired old claim that SEO is dead of course. It isn’t, but it has had to adapt and evolve to suit the modern web just as other disciplines – such as web design – have had to. Now, good SEO is not just about link building, keywords and technical SEO, it’s about social, content and building relationships too.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: xen.com.au

Here is an interesting and informative article by an Aussie, about the interplay between content marketing and SEO. But the author, like most, fails to emphasize the niche factor.

In my law firm marketing book, I use the example of a random set of characters, such as jqa8t9q03u5134. If you create a site containing the keyword jqa8t9q03u5134, and someone searches for jqa8t9q03u5134, I guarantee your site will come up on the first page of Google for the keyword. Most likely, it will be the only site returned.

So what is the point of this story? Continue reading

Flat Fee Arrangements Promote a Winning Practice

The Practice of Law - Fee AgreementsFlat fee arrangements are amazingly liberating.

Most of my fellow litigators won't take a case on a flat fee, either because they are concerned that they will grossly underestimate the time the case is going to take and end up with an effective hourly rate of $25, or simply because they think they'll make more on a straight hourly basis.

I acknolwedge that some cases just do not lend themselves to a flat fee because of the unknown factors, but when you have a case with a reasonably predictable time factor, a flat fee is a fantastic way to go, not because it earns you more (although it can), but because it allows you to do more.

This may be counterintuitive to some, and probably blaphemous to attorneys that are only in it for the money, but I'm in it to win and a flat fee gives me greater freedom to do what I need to do to win.

Say you have a case that is crying out for a demurrer. On a straight hourly arrangement, your discussion with the client goes something like this:

You:  “I really think we should bring a demurrer. The third cause of action for breach of contract fails to allege performance, and here they really can't honestly allege performance, so I think that will get rid of that cause of action.”

Client:  “So if you bring this motion the case is over?”

You:  “No, it will just get rid of that one cause of action if we prevail.”

Client:  “How much will the motion cost?”

You:  “With the motion, the reply and going to court, I can probably do it all in ten hours, so $4,500.”

Client: “So I pay you $4,500 and the motion may not work and even if it does it doesn't end the action it just gets rid of one cause of action?”

And what the client is thinking is: “Damn attorneys, he's just trying to run up the bill.”

With a flat fee, all those conversations are eliminated. If I think a demurrer is needed, I bring it. If I think more discovery is needed, I propound it.

And this isn't pure altruism. Yes, I do this to win, but being free to do everything I want to do on a case may allow me to prevail on the action much more quickly, making the flat fee a winning bet for me financially.

A few tips for flat fees: Continue reading

Don’t Be That Attorney — Misstating Record on Appeal

Misstated RecordAs reported elsewhere, we received a very satisfying verdict of more than $1.5 million resulting from a defamatory email sent by a defendant, concerning our client. The defendant did not go silently into the good night, and appealed the verdict, claiming that there was insufficient evidence to support an award of that size.

That's all fine and good, but in appealing the verdict, the defense attorney completely misstated the record. On an appeal based on insufficient evidence, the appellant is required to set forth all the evidence that would tend to support that verdict. Indeed, if the appellant fails to do so, the Court of Appeal can deem the issue waived.

I devoted a full two-thirds of my responsive brief on appeal just setting the record straight by pointing out all the misstatements made by defense counsel. Continue reading

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

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.