Why this Lawyer Loves His Apple Watch — Top 9 Favorite Benefits

seiko message watch

I seem to have this need to date myself, but I will confess that my love affair with smart watches actually started back in the 1990s, with my Seiko Message Watch. It was basically a pager, but it could show text messages from my office and family, along with stock prices, sports scores, and weather forecasts – all right on my wrist. The thing that made it far more functional to me than a standard pager was the subtlety factor. Looking at a belt pager for a message was a pretty blatant act, but with a watch, I was never out of contact with my office or family, even during a trial, because a quick glance at a watch is socially acceptable (and fully expected during a trial since you must be ever aware of the clock). When Seiko cancelled the service, I was crestfallen.

Now, some 20 years later, technology has finally returned me to this former glory.

Apple-WatchFor those of you unfamiliar with the very nature of an Apple Watch (which was me until I got one), it is primarily an adjunct to your iPhone. At least that's the way is started, but with the introduction of the Apple Watch 3, the watch is now far more standalone, even allowing phone calls without the assistance of your iPhone. But even if you use the Watch only as an adjunct to your iPhone, it is well worth the purchase price.

In my opinion, the single most important feature of the Apple Watch is its location (i.e., sitting right there on your wrist). Almost everything I do on the Watch could be done with my iPhone, but I can do it without pulling out my phone (or even necessarily knowing where it is).

An example just presented itself while I was typing that prior paragraph. I have set up a news service to send me important news updates. My Watch just tapped my wrist to let me know there was in incoming message. Without even pausing from my typing, I looked at my wrist and saw that there are big doings in Washington. Interesting, but not worth stopping what I’m doing in order to pull out my iPhone, hit the button, wait for it to recognize my fingerprint, and then try to figure out which app caused my iPhone to ding. I just saved myself 8 seconds.

It’s dozens of little incidents such as that that add up to some significant time and annoyance savings throughout the day.

“But you should wait and check your phone only once or twice a day, and in that way you would not be having to pull out your phone multiple times,” say the naysaying efficiency experts. To that I respond that earlier today I saw (on my wrist) a call coming in from my wife, who was in a bit of a panic because her (friggin’ new) car had just broken down on the freeway. While she was dealing with calling AAA, she needed me to help deal with a couple of emergencies the break down had created. Would you naysayers have preferred that I left my wife stressed and stranded on the freeway in the name of “only check your phone twice a day” efficiency? Well, would you?! If your answer is no (as it better be), then I am back to pulling out my phone (or finding it on my desk) multiple times a day to see if that is the sort of call that is coming in.

Apple is kind of famous for creating a product, and then letting the public find a use for it. There were many critics when the iPad was released, stating it was just an “over-sized iPhone”, but history has shown the utility of that little gadget.

So it is with the Apple Watch. I read many articles questioning why you would need a smart watch when you can accomplish the same tasks simply by pulling out your smart phone. The simple answer is that I don't want to always be pulling out and/or holding my iPhone. While wearing the Apple Watch, I can confidently leave my iPhone in my briefcase or pocket (or now, with version 3, at home!), without fear of missing a time sensitive call or text.

So therein are the most important features for lawyers – communication, convenience and time saving. If you are looking for an article on how the Apple Watch prepares jury instructions or offers complete case management on your wrist, I can’t offer you that (yet). But here are the top 9 reasons this lawyer loves his Apple Watch, all of which make my days a little more pleasant and efficient:

1. Being able to make and answer phone calls without pulling out my iPhone (or even knowing where it is).

Totally Dick Tracy. My Watch vibrates and/or rings, and displays the name of the person calling. I can dismiss or answer the call right on my wrist. Whether this is something you will use is of course dependent on your circumstances, especially since it is a speaker phone sort of interaction. I hope we don’t devolve into a society where everyone on the elevator is having a public two-way conversation with their wrists.

But where I really appreciate this feature is when I want my hands free. I’m kind of a monosyllabic guy, so for me most personal phone calls are listening experiences. If I’m doing something around the house, I can take a call and keep on doing what I’m doing. With a cell phone, I either have to stick a Bluetooth thingy in my ear or hold the phone with one hand if I’m moving around (I can’t stand wired earbuds).

Making calls is equally impressive. While working at my computer, I got a hankering to go to a Lazy Dog restaurant that night, so I searched for the closest one and looked up the number. Without taking my eyes from the screen, I just lifted my wrist and said, “Hey Siri, call 7147319700”, and a few seconds later I was talking to the hostess on my wrist (a tiiiiiny little hostess). I then realized that for a known business, looking up the number is a wasted step. Now I know to just say, “Hey Siri, call the closest Lazy Dog,” and it shows up on my Watch, ready to dial.

No one on the other end of a call has ever noticed or complained about my wrist calls, but the volume from the Watch is pretty low, so you can only take calls in quiet locations.

2. Being able to receive and respond to text messages.

Responding to texts is soooo much faster with the Watch than with the iPhone. “But how can you type a message on that little screen?”, you may ask. The answer is, you don’t.

When you receive a text, you can respond with one of several canned responses (yes, no, thanks, I’ll call you back, kiss my ass, etc.) or, and here’s the fun part, you can respond verbally, and then elect to either send that response as text or a voice response. In situations where I can't verbally dictate a response, and none of the canned responses really work, I can write a response with my finger, and the Watch translates it to text. A very cool option.

It doesn’t rate a “top 9″, but I also like being able to see emails as they come in. Technically, I could read the email and dictate a response, but it’s a little too kludgy for me. I don’t even like responding to emails on my iPhone. But just seeing the subject line appear on your Watch can give you added warning of any crucial emails that require attention. Don’t worry; you won’t see every dang spam email that comes to your inbox. You can set your Watch to only show emails from the people you have deemed to be important.

3. Being able to find my iPhone.

Come on, be honest, how often do you have to look around for your cell phone? If never, then you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. With the Watch, you push an icon on the screen and your iPhone begins to ding. I use that feature A LOT.

4. The ability to control podcasts, music or audiobooks.

I absorb many podcasts and audiobooks. In this case, I do stick a Bluetooth thingy in my ear so that I can listen to whatever I want while shopping, working around the house, or jogging (like that’s gonna happen). The Watch has a “now playing” screen that controls whatever you are listing to. You can pause, skip and adjust the volume.

Again, this screen controls WHATEVER is playing, but you can also access specific audio apps through the Watch. If I’m listening to Pandora, I can switch between stations — even create a new station — and give Stairway to Heaven a thumbs up, all on my Watch.

For all I know it may have just been a setting I never switched on,  but with version 4.0 of the Watch iOS, the controls became far more impressive and functional. Now, no matter what I am listening to on my iPhone, it appears on my watch face (assuming you have added that to your watch face). I can then tap the item, and the display switches to whatever app is playing that media (Pandora, Amazon Music, Netflix, etc.) Once there, that becomes the default view, so every time I flip my wrist to look at my watch, I am presented with the controls for whatever I am listening to.

In my pre-Watch days (those very dark days), if I was, say, listening to a podcast and my wife started talking to me, I'd have to hold up a finger to indicate she needed to hold that thought, pull out my iPhone, press the button, log onto the phone, navigate to the podcast app, hit the pause button, and say, “OK, now we can talk.” By about the fourth time that happen in a day, my wife would start saying, “Oh never mind!” Now I just flick my wrist, touch the screen to pause the podcast, and join the conversation. The Watch may well have saved my marriage.

Speaking of podcasts, I use an app called Overcast as my podcast player, and it is fully functional on the Watch. The advantage of Overcast is that it has what it calls “effects” that you can apply to any podcast, including the abilities to speed up the playback (while still maintaining a perfectly normal sounding voice) and to eliminate long pauses. However, I think this effects may be taking a toll. After using Overcast for a couple of years now, I feel like everyone I talk to is talking waaaay tooooo slooooow.

If you're interested, at the end of this article I explain the setup I use that allows me to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, sports or whatever, anytime I find myself killing time; even while waiting in court.

5. So much information on my watch face.

I touched on this already. For each of your apps, you can decide which ones will display information on your Watch (assuming the app has been made Watch compatible, which is more and more the case). So, in addition to texts and phone calls, I can see updates to sport scores, weather, Amazon package deliveries, or whatever.

I especially like the Watch's integration with the Maps app. I use my iPhone as a navigation unit in my car (which has a nav unit, but it doesn't do real-time traffic). When I enter a location, the iPhone automatically makes my Watch a part of the process. When it comes time to make a turn, the Watch taps my wrist and makes a turn signal sound, with the sound differing depending on whether it is a left or right turn. This tactile (also called Haptic) feedback has kept me from missing many a turn.

6. Instant access to Siri.

With the Apple Watch, Siri is ready at your beck and call, and with Apple Watch 3, she talks back.

Billy BobBilly Bob Thorton comes on TV, and I notice he’s really aged. I lift my Watch and say, “Hey Siri, how old is Billy Bob Thorton?” She responds that he’s only about six months older than me, and I get really depressed. I couldn’t have gotten depressed nearly that fast if I had to pull out my iPhone.

Siri is also great for reminders and appointments. I sometimes prefer location reminders over reminders based on time. Siri knows where I live and work, so if I remember a task while I'm getting ready in the morning, I just lift my wrist and say, “remind me when I get to work that I need to call Joe Dokes” and it will do just that.

Siri works far better on Apple Watch 3 than it ever did on the iPhone (or on prior versions of the Watch). With my iPhone, when I am setting a reminder for example, there is a pause while I wait for Siri to respond, and a pause while I wait for Siri to process the request. With the Watch, it is instantaneous. For some reason it is also much quicker and certain to respond to the “Hey Siri” prompt. Also, you can now add a Siri button to the watch face.

7. Being able to pay for purchases.

This really happened to me; like something out of a commercial. I have Apple Pay set up on my iPhone and Watch. I thought the Watch feature was just for convenience, allowing me to pay for a purchase without taking out my iPhone, but still dependent on having the iPhone nearby.

I was checking out at a store, and realized I’d left my iPhone in the car. I gave my Watch a try anyway, and it worked just fine. You need to set up Apple Pay in the Apple Watch app, but once done, service will continue to work even when your iPhone is absent. A unique token that acts as your card number is stored on Apple Watch, allowing you use Apple Pay with just your Watch. Just hold your watch near the terminal, and Apple Pay automatically appears. You can then scroll to whichever card you want to use.

The Passbook feature is also available on the Watch, so anything you have stored in it, such as electronic tickets, Starbucks cards, boarding passes, gift cards, and anything else that is scannable, should work with just your Watch.

8. The health benefits.

Here is one example where the iPhone cannot do what the Watch does. With its ability to monitor my heart rate, it can go far beyond all the fitness apps that rely only on the accelerometer of the iPhone, which can only track steps in order to offer a very rough estimate of activity.

I use the MyFitnessPal app to track my caloric intake and exercise. It pulls activity information from the Watch and uses it to calculate the calories I burn. The calories I’ve burned show up in the calculation, so I know if I’m entitled to an extra lettuce wrap.

9. Adjusting my thermostats.

This little feature has more than paid for the Watch.

I have ecobee thermostats in my home, which permit me to communicate with them from anywhere in the world. From my Watch, I can set different temperatures upstairs and downstairs, or turn off the heating/cooling altogether. Again, like most everything on this list, I can also do this from my iPhone, but perhaps because of the gadget factor or just the increased convenience, I find myself using this feature far more often with my Watch, and thereby saving money on utilities. More than once, I’ve pulled out of the garage, realized that I was the last one to leave, and with a flip of my wrist I can turn up the temp to minimize the AC. Ecobee thermostats actually have sensors that will eventually figure out that no one is home, and raise the temp, but the Watch makes the process instantaneous. When I head home, I use my Watch to turn the temp back down, so it’s cool when I arrive.

You can control any number of smart home features with your Watch, such as lights and even shades.

Things you can do with your Watch without your iPhone.

Although you need your iPhone nearby to do many things with Apple Watch, there are things you can do when you don’t have your iPhone with you or when it’s turned off:

  • Play music from a synced playlist on Apple Watch
  • Use the watch, alarms, timers, and the stopwatch
  • Track your activity with the Activity app
  • Track workouts using the Workout app
  • Display photos from synced photo albums in the Photos app

Apple Watch uses Bluetooth® wireless technology to connect to its paired iPhone and uses the iPhone for many wireless functions. Apple Watch can’t configure Wi-Fi networks on its own, but it can connect to Wi-Fi networks you’ve set up or connected to using the paired iPhone.

If your Apple Watch is in range of a Wi-Fi network that iPhone has connected to before, you can still do the following (even if iPhone is turned off):

  • Use Siri
  • Send and receive Digital Touch messages
  • Send and receive messages using iMessage
  • Make and receive phone calls (if you have Wi-Fi calling enabled and you’re within range of a Wi-Fi network that your iPhone has connected to before).

One final note about the Watch. I received mine as a gift from my wife, who, bless her little penny-pinching heart, bought the basic Apple Watch Sport. Every model of the Watch is by necessity a little nerdy looking, since it is a tiny computer monitor on your wrist. Any style, such as it is, comes from the watch band. The bands sold by Apple are ridiculously priced, but thankfully the aftermarket has stepped up. The photo shows the band I purchased for about $20, which is far more stylish than the original sport band, and far easier to put on and take off with its magnetic clasp. It's the most comfortable watch band I've ever owned, because it is infinitely adjustable, as opposed to being a set size or limited to a given number of holes. No more feeling like my watch is slipping off my wrist or is too tight.


The Information Junkie's Secret Setup

As I promised, here is the setup I use to enable me to use my otherwise wasted time to listen to podcasts, audiobooks and sportscasts.

It involves an iPhone, Apple Watch, and a Bluetooth earbud. Nothing revolutionary there, but with the Apple Watch and a particular earbud, it all becomes very incognito and much more efficient.

As stated, when I'm walking, running, shopping, or waiting in line, I use that time to absorb information. I find any kind of wired connection to my cell phone to be annoying, so I just wanted a small Bluetooth earbud I could stick in my ear. After testing a number of different models, I came across one called the Tronfy, which fits the bill perfectly, and is actually better than anything I had envisioned.

The Tronfy earbud paired flawlessly with my iPhone, and I really like that it uses verbal prompts. It tells you when it powers on, when it links, and when it powers off; no need to look at lights or remember what “beep bop boop” means. An unexpected surprise was the “VoiceDial” feature. I've had this on other Bluetooth headsets, but this one activates Siri. The entire face of the earbud is a button. Press the button once, and it pauses whatever I am listening to. Hold down the button for a second or two, and it switches to VoiceDial mode (and tells you that it has done so). Yes, you can then ask Siri to make a call, but you can also use any of Siri's features. Thus, without the iPhone ever leaving my back pocket, I can send text messages, have my text messages read to me, check the weather, etc. I'm sure most Bluetooth headsets now have this ability, but somehow it is cooler that I can do it all with just this little thing in my ear.

Again it's probably standard technology and I just missed the memo, but this works amazingly with my car's Bluetooth. If I'm listening to a podcast on my cell phone with the earbud, and start my car, the podcast switches to the car's Bluetooth. When I arrive at where I'm going and leave the car, the podcast starts playing in my ear again. I don't recall such a seamless hand-off experience with other Bluetooth headsets I've used.

It comes with ear hooks, and an assortment of sizes of the rubber part that goes in your ear, including one that that is twice as long as the others to really hold on. I must have the perfect sized ear canal or something because the pre-installed one fits me. I don't use the hook and the earbud stays put with no problem.

The Tronfy is small and most people don't notice I'm wearing it. The Apple Watch then completes the incognito equation because I can control whatever I'm listening to without ever looking at my iPhone. If you want to listen in both ears, it comes with a strap that connects to an even smaller earbud in your other ear.

OK, now I'm really going to let my nerd flag fly. Because I belong to Kindle Unlimited, I have about 800,000 books that I want to read, and they are all available to me for free (well, for the price of the subscription). The Kindle Fire models have a text-to-speech feature that can be used to “read” most ebooks. Trouble is, the text-to-speech feature works only on Kindles. Even though you can read an ebook on your iPhone or computer, you can't use the text-to-speech feature on those devices.

So that I could listen to Kindle ebooks while going about my life, I bought the smallest Kindle available, which is the Kindle HD 6 (about $69). I toss the Kindle 6 in my back pocket, fire up my Tronfy, and I'm good to go.

That however presented its own problem. If I use the same Tronfy for my Kindle and iPhone, then when I turn on the Tronfy, intending to listen to something on my Kindle, the Tronfy links to the iPhone. I was having to set my iPhone to airplane mode temporarily while I linked to my Kindle. Too much of a hassle.

The solution was to buy another Tronfy, and pair it only with the Kindle. I just carry two of the small earbuds, and pull out the one I need, depending on what I am listening to. I know; pretty nerdy. But I wear an Apple Watch, so what did you expect?

Law Office Software of the Month — BatteryBar Pro (and it’s FREE!)

image of batterybar proHere is a great little laptop battery utility I have been testing. I found it so essential, that it's now on all my laptops.

Windows offers an icon that can show you the percentage of charge left in your laptop battery. I feel like it will also give an estimate of the time remaining on your battery, but in preparing this article I couldn't get that information to display.

In any event, BatteryBar Pro displays in your taskbar at the bottom of your screen, and provides far more information than does the Windows battery icon.

To start, it shows the remaining charge in your laptop battery, and if your computer is plugged in, shows the time remaining until it reaches a full charge. I would have never thought I needed this latter feature, but when I'm headed out to a few hours of writing at an ocean side coffee shop (for some reason the roar of the ocean and the hubbub of the coffee shop is the perfect backdrop for writing), it's nice to see how much longer I have until the battery is fully charged. BatterBar gives the specific time the battery will be fully charged. If only a few minutes are left, I may have a cup of coffee and wait for a full charge. (I often have a coffee before heading out for coffee. It's a sickness, I know.) That's far better that seeing only that the battery is 97% charged, with no indication how long the remaining 3% will take.

An awareness of battery life is a good thing. I don't like worrying about the availability of an AC outlet. At one particular Barnes & Noble I frequent, getting a seat near an AC outlet in the café is about as likely as spotting a Yeti in the romance aisle (they prefer to hang out near the magazines). I have an ultrabook that will get me through an entire depo without charging, but I also have a beautiful 17-inch HP laptop that I prefer to use for writing, but it's charge only lasts about 3.5 hours. The intended task and the battery life dictates which one I take.

Based on my experience, BatteryBar offers a much more accurate reading than the Windows utility. It maintains historical information on how long it takes your battery to charge and discharge, which apparently enables it to be far more accurate.

BatteryBar also displays the capacity of your battery in milliwatt-hours (mWh). This can be useful if you have multiple batteries with no obvious indication of their relative sizes.

But the final feature is what I find really killer. It is able to determine what it calls the “battery wear” of your battery. You have probably experienced the reality that your laptop just doesn't go as long as it used to. That's because rechargeable batteries only last so long, and soon they can no longer hold a full charge (or at least don't hold a charge as long). BatteryBar shows how much of your battery's storage power has been lost. For example, in the picture, you can see that the battery has a stated size of 86,580 mWh, but 31.7% of that has been lost. This information let's you know it might be time to get a new battery (or to start taking two).

BatteryBar Pro offers a free version that is really all you need, but if you are a power user (get it?), there is an upgraded version that contains additional features, including customizable icons, low battery warnings and easy access to the Windows power schemes. This upgrade supposedly costs $8 for a lifetime license, but there appears to be a perpetual 50% off offer. Go here (not an affiliate link) to download BatteryBar Pro for free, to see if you like it as much as I do.

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

You’re Not Alone — Everyone Gets Some Crazies

Crazy CallersI genuinely thought I was part of some long-term punking. I get so many calls from people wanting to hire me who use the same lines to try to get me to take the case.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard, “I have a slam-dunk case that is going to make some attorney wealthy, but I need an attorney who can understand this case and won't be intimidated by the other side.”

There's one guy out there — I have no idea how I ended up on his distribution list — who sends me weekly flyers like you might get from a real estate agent trying to sell you a business, but they are all for HIS own personal cases.  They are on impressive pre-printed forms, and the client just fills in the blanks.  They look something like this: Continue reading

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.


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

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