Archives for category: Lawyer commentaries

I was sitting in front of my TV and came across a show put out by Est8planning LLLC, a local estate planning law firm.  The infomercial (as I see it) was at least a half-hour long, and involved the owner, Scott Makuakane, talking to his associate, Dean Park, about estate planning.

Both Makuakane and Park are attorneys, yet the show had them sitting at a desk in front of the inevitable oh-so-lawyerly-law-books talking about trusts, probate, and intestate succession.  They talked to each other, pretending as though they weren’t clear on the law or what the other guy was going to say.  I suppose they did that to educate the viewer, assuming the viewer wanted to watch Mr. Park reading off legalese papers held in his hand.

This got me thinking about lawyer advertising – what works, and what doesn’t work.  I have trouble believing there was someone out there, other than me, watching this show.

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Quite a few IP issues are getting attention in the news.

One of them is Amazon Kindle, an e-book reader with a Terms of Use agreement exercising the typical boilerplate collection of digital rights management language. Most of the time everyone seems to sign onto DRMs without too much question, when it comes to music and video, but since Kindle is about books, the application of DRM seems a lot less appropriate. Diveintomark has an entertaining blog post with references to Stallman’s Right to Read.

I’m not sure I’d view the default all-your-rights-are-terminated if you-fail-to-follow-this-agreement language as a harbinger of destroying one’s ability to learn, but I do see e-books being utilized in the classroom as a replacement for our current method of dragging heavy books around in carry-on suitcases. And it is worth asking ourselves if we would like to preserve our ability to move books around like property items, being able to sell and exchange them like old CDs.

You also have yet another patent holding company suing technology companies, this time over visual voicemail. Most lawyers who don’t do IP are probably familiar with patent holding companies in the form of RIM v. NTP, over some of the technology used in Research In Motion’s Blackberry smartphone. Patent trolling seems to be an increasing problem, although apparently there isn’t any problem as long as you don’t make any money off any ideas you have. The goal is to terrorize money out of users who might be somewhat close to the language of the patent rather than to promote new and creative uses of patent. Which goes against the whole point of patents. The lesson to be learned, it seems, is to not invent anything that you’re going to sell – which isn’t a very positive thing to think.

Had my first formal CLE course in the form of a mandatory Hawaii Professional Responsibility class. I actually found it quite interesting, setting up some unusual hypothetical scenarios which I am starting to feel are very likely situations for me encounter as a solo practitioner. Subsequently, things feel very different when you are facing very real problems; you actually pay attention to all the boring materials.

Right now I’m still trying to prepare my engagement letter and fees, and I’m finding that I’m already getting requests that could be very much in the vein of an attorney-client privilege. For example, when relatives ask if you can write a will for them and ask innocent sounding questions that could easily get blown into ‘hey, you are my attorney’ expectations… And what are you suppose to tell them? Come into my office, it seems.

Relatives also frequently pose other additional problem. Forgetting the issue of fees (how are you going to charge a relative? Do you not have to eat?), conflicts of interest seems like a bigger problem. Write wills for an aunt and her kids? Bam! The problems are just screaming right there – can you imagine having the aunt’s children be your clients, when you owe them substantial duties as their counsel, and have the aunt tell you to write her own children out of the will?

But never mind THAT small conflict. I’m still filling out my malpractice insurance quote forms, and they are not enjoyable to fill out. Nor am I particularly pleased with the 30 minutes time limit at the Hawaii Supreme Court Law Library for access to Westlaw. That’s hardly the best way to conduct legal research. But more about that some other day.

One of the interesting things mentioned today was the importance of backing up your client’s files and protecting the files from being stolen if the files are on a laptop. Besides the rather interesting side note about how off-site online backups are really highly approved, it seems there is also a high demand for people who do forensic work.

Overall, I would have to say I really enjoyed the class, even though it looked like it was boring just about everyone else. It provided some practical pointers that I would definitely have to look into and address. For example, figuring out just what calendaring, case management, and documentation software I’d like to use.

Once in a while I come across one of these news articles about a convict who is very likely to be innocent, and was probably convicted based on bad and/or falsified evidence. Our criminal justice system purports to be troubled when innocent people are put in prison, but practically speaking it’s very hard to prove you are innocent, especially if the system appears to work to convict you as oppose to determining your guilt.

There is something deeply satisfying about being able to write my Hawaii attorney number on court documents. Which is kinda paradoxical – it’s as though I’m celebrating my serial number from being rolled off the law school industrial machine. Not much individuality there…

And, ok, this is only a small claims court case. But it’s still a case!

A comment from the previous post:
“Do lawyers usually do that? it would be pretty cheap to capitalize on a misfortune like that.”

Lawyers do engage in activities such as, well, chasing ambulances. Lawyers need business, and this is how it happens. It is very annoying, and most people would be pleased to hear there might be applicable rules of professional conduct which limit how lawyers can market themselves. For example, going to a funeral service and handing out business cards can get you in trouble.

How, you ask? If you attended a relative or a friend’s funeral service, and you knew the grieving parties, and give the grieving parties your business card with an offer to help with anything (doesn’t even have to be, in your mind, about the law!), that could be considered soliciting. And the things that makes this very difficult is the rules differ based on jurisdiction.

For example, in some states (such as Florida, if my recollection serves me right), you must wait a certain period of time before contacting people with injuries and label any mailings you send with the words “advertisement”.

So while the ambulance was moving rather slowly, I can’t say I would really want to be passing out business cards in the midst of a police investigation!