Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Not a Zero Sum Game

Originally published by Zena Applebaum.

 
Earlier this month, we were
debating how to approach a client problem. There were two differing points of view, both had merit and either
could be right. Either would get us to the finish line, solve the problem,
score the run – insert your analogy of choice. But each position also had its
drawbacks.  Someone wisely said to me
“its not a zero sum game”  I realize it
is not dissimilar to the recent white paper published by TR Canada put out to
the market about Building
vs Buying a KM Solution
. Which, was one of the first thought leadership
pieces for TR Legal Canada that I have been involved in since I started working
here, having left the law firm.  As it
happens, I also had a conversation today with a new employee – a customer solutions
success consultant who has come to TR after working in consulting, start up and
technology environments. He mentioned to me that he notices the legal industry
is changing, and it is all very exciting. As I reflect on all three of these
interactions I realize that all too often we look for dichotomy to measure
success. What’s happening in the market is exciting, and there is lots of
change but we also know there is a great deal of resistance as well.  Just last week, we learned that The Old Boys Network Is As Strong As Ever —
Study Finds Male Clients Prefer Male Attorneys
, so any strides we may have made in the arena
of diversity are tempered and every step forward can feel like two steps
backwards. It is not a zero sum game.  We
know law firms are inefficient, and while some firms have adopted and use AFAs,
the hourly rate still prevails though of course every buyer of legal services
would like to see a lesser hourly rate. We know firms are closing their
libraries as a result of expensive lease rates in downtown buildings and a
perception that everything is online now. But firms do need legal research
resources and a people need a quiet and collaborative space to read and
connect. Shutting libraries negates that opportunity.   As
people, we are wired as Billy Joel suggests to go to extremes. We see progress
only in the face of disruption or complete change.  We don’t like to be in the middle where
somethings are working but others are not – we want it all, and we want it all
to be efficient, properly priced and still market savvy and smart. 
 
As I write this, and
notwithstanding my wish
for 2018
, I can’t help but wonder if this changing legal market thing does
not need to be a zero sum game. We are waiting for the moment we can say the
legal market how now changed.  But like
the Big Bang, I am not sure that moment will ever come in a way any of us will
see or recognize. Neither Lexpert nor American Lawyer is going to print a
headline that reads: The Evolution is Complete – Law firms run like businesses
as of X Date, X Year. We won’t see an effective end to the partnership model,
or the complete death of hourly billing, any more than we will see robot AI
enabled lawyers doing all the commodity work while business and legally trained
lawyers are doing the bespoke transactional and bet-the-company litigation work
on an annualized flat fee basis.  No, I
think the change that is upon this industry is more grey – it’s happening in
fits and starts, it’s suited to  some practices
and not others, it jives with the way some lawyers work but not others.   And
ultimately, I think that’s ok because it’s not an industry but a profession
that needs to change. The legal profession is a profession that is deeply rooted in public service but
has become something much different over the course of the last century or so.
I think it may also take that long for us to really see its next iteration.
I am not
suggesting that we should stop trying to make it better – I certainly won’t –
but I also think we need to be patient. We need to see what is working,
celebrate those achievements and use those small scale wins as fuel for the
next fire.  Maybe the answer is take out
the “but”, replacing it with an “and” so that we don’t look at things in a zero
sum way.  We need to think about the
hourly rate and some alternatives, partnership models and other kinds of firms
– the same can be true of diversity, legal research tools, efficiency plays and
any of the ways in which the legal industry must change. This makes it very
difficult to provide service to an industry that is changing – to help firms
weather the change while also maintaining the practices that are not
changing.  You have to be innovative,
while also being traditional and the one size fits all model really doesn’t
work. In this non zero sum game, we all have to be more creative with the way
we approach our markets and our clients, regardless of which side of the legal
services delivery fence we make our gardens.

 
Change is hard, change is slow
but it is happening and that is no zero by any calculation. 


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Proving You Are Ready to Go from the Exam Room to the Courtroom

Originally published by lawschool academicsupport.

As you review your fall semester exams and set goals for the spring semester, ask yourself: Does my exam look like the work of someone who should be given a license to practice law? When you graduate, you are likely…

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Should You Accept Customer Payments in Bitcoin?

Originally published by Drew York.

After not meeting his 2017 sales goals, Ollie B. Celling knows he might get fired from Duncey’s Caps, Inc. if he doesn’t get his numbers up in 2018.  Celling begins marketing Duncey’s through his personal Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.  Soon he thinks he’s hit a home run: a customer from Japan wants to buy 5,000 ballcaps for whatever Major League Baseball team Yu Darvish signs with for the 2018 season.  There’s one catch – the customer wants to pay with a new cryptocurrency.  Duncey’s contracts require payment in U.S. dollars.  Celling goes to Jim Duncey, the owner of Duncey’s, and tells him that Duncey’s should change their contracts to start accepting cryptocurrency because “it’s the wave of the future.”  Should Duncey agree?

What are Cryptocurrencies?

A cryptocurrency is a virtual currency that uses cryptography to secure and verify transactions.  Banks use similar technology when engaging in digital transactions (such as crediting and debiting accounts for their customers) but with legal tender (such as U.S. dollars) and through a central bank.  The payment network for cryptocurrencies is completely decentralized (like peer-to-peer networks for file sharing), so transactions are confirmed by “miners” who solve the cryptographic puzzle based on the private key submitted by the sender of the currency.

Are cryptocurrencies widely accepted in commercial transactions?

Yes and no.  Some cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are widely accepted.  In one of the more famous examples, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, recently announced the Mavericks would allow fans to purchase tickets with Bitcoin starting in the 2018-19 season.

What are the benefits of accepting cryptocurrencies?

Cryptocurrency payments are beneficial because they usually come with lower transaction fees than banks or credit card companies charge merchants.  Cryptocurrency also provides chargeback fraud protection because once the payment is approved and final, it cannot be reversed.  Finally, unlike standard bank accounts that have hold periods before funds become available, cryptocurrency payments are immediately available.

What are the risks of accepting cryptocurrencies?

There are several risks to accepting cryptocurrencies.  The most significant to a business is volatility.  The cash value for Bitcoin fluctuates tremendously on a daily basis.  While there are merchant service companies that will immediately exchange Bitcoin for current cash value, those services are most valuable for companies that require payment at the time the customer places the order.  Otherwise, companies that require payment at a later date are subject to price volatility risk between the date the parties contracted and the date of payment.

Another current risk is cybersecurity.  Cryptocurrencies, like other electronic data, are not completely secure from cybercriminals.  And because they are not legal tender, they are generally not insured or backed by any government.  Coinbase has added insurance coverage for losses up to $250,000, which is the same level that conventional banks insure your bank account from losses.

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor

It’s likely that your business will get pressure to accept cryptocurrency as it continues to become more mainstream.  Before doing so, your business should sit down with legal counsel and information technology experts to ensure that your business has as much protection as possible from the risks associated with cryptocurrencies.

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IRS Updates Withholding Tables for 2018

Originally published by Thompson & Knight LLP.

Posted by Neely Munnerlyn

Neely Munnerlyn

The Internal Revenue Service recently released Notice 1036, which updates the income tax withholding tables for 2018 to reflect changes made by the tax reform legislation enacted last month. The updated tables reflect the increased standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions and adjusted tax rates included in the new tax law. Employers should begin using the new withholding tables as soon as possible but no later than February 15, 2018. The IRS also published a list of Frequently Asked Questions to provide additional guidance to employers. Click here for Notice 1036 and here for the list of Frequently Asked Questions. Please contact the above author or the Thompson & Knight attorney with whom you regularly work if you would like to discuss the new tables.

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Is it true that the judge has to tell me the basis of the ruling after trial?

Originally published by Zack McKamie.

Is it true that the judge has to tell me the basis of the ruling after trial?

By Brad LaMorgese

Yes it’s true.

After a trial, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure allow either party to request what is called findings of fact and conclusions of law. The judge has to then specify in writing the facts that the judge found to be true and the conclusions of law that the judge made to arrive at the decision.  The facts must be based on the evidence presented to the judge at trial.

The timing of a request for findings is crucial, as it has to be done within 20 days from when the judge signed the judgment, and in some cases in family law, the findings must be requested sooner than that. So it is critical to consult a lawyer is soon is a ruling comes down; whether the ruling was just made by the judge orally or in writing.

The great thing about obtaining specific findings and conclusions from the judge is it will be the basis of support for the ruling if it goes to appeal. On appeal, the justices of the Court of Appeals would look at the evidence found by the judge and compare it to the record and look at the legal conclusions made by the judge to determine whether the judge made the correct decision.

A failure to timely request findings means that any possible reason to support the judgment is deemed in its favor even if that was not really the basis of the judge’s decision. So a failure to require findings is not necessarily fatal to an appeal, but it is helpful to timely request findings of fact and conclusions of law when considering an appeal because then the trial judge will have to be specific on what facts the judge found, and what legal conclusions the judge made.  And that could make an appeal a lot easier.

Related Article

The post Is it true that the judge has to tell me the basis of the ruling after trial? appeared first on ONDA Family Law.

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Hands-On Legal Tech Training Set to Launch February 1st

Originally published by HarrisCounty LawLibrary.

 

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Beginning February 1, the Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute will offer Hands-On Legal Tech Training every Thursday at 2 p.m. in our new Legal Tech Lab. Each session will focus on practical tech skills needed for legal work. Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop or use a Law Library training laptop in order to get the full benefit of experiential learning.

The Texas Bar Foundation awarded a generous grant to the Harris County Law Library to expand its Legal Tech Institute. The funding has provided computers and software for those in attendance to use during Legal Tech Institute training sessions, including the Hands-on Legal Tech Training Program, a new opportunity for applied, practical learning. Designed for attorneys, self-represented litigants, and members of the public, the LTI Hands-On Legal Tech Training program will help attendees understand and become more proficient at using legal tech, thereby improving their access to the court system and their ability to accomplish legal tasks.

 

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In fall 2016, Harris County Law Library launched the Legal Tech Institute, an ongoing series of free learning opportunities focused on using technology for more efficient legal work. Since October of that year, a new learning session has been offered each month with content designed for a diverse audience of legal tech beginners and experts. Microsoft Word for Lawyers, Excel Essentials, and Finding & Formatting Legal Forms are just a few of the courses that LTI has presented so far. Representatives from Westlaw and Lexis have rounded out the schedule with regular Vendor Visits. LTI continues to grow with an ever-expanding menu of learning opportunities both in person and online. Earn CLE credit and improve your tech proficiency by visiting the LTI webpage where on-demand recordings of previous events are available.

We hope to see you at the February Hands-on Legal Tech training session on MS Word and the Law. For details and to register for this event, visit the registration page by clicking here or on the image above.

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Baylor Law to offer executive LL.M. in litigation management

Originally published by Eric Quitugua.

Baylor Law School will offer an executive LL.M. in litigation management beginning in the fall 2018.

The niche degree, open only to attorneys with at least three years of law practice, will focus on controlling rising litigation costs. Led by attorneys and judges, the online and in-person courses will include fundamentals of 21st century litigation management and strategy, proving and attacking damages, managing complex arbitration and ADR issues, data analytics and cybersecurity, managing e-discovery, regulatory issues, and practical strategies for successfully navigating through trial.

“Litigation is a fact of life for businesses in America,” David Dial, a partner in Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial, said in a press release. “Successfully and efficiently managing litigation involves teamwork between the client and the attorneys. This cannot happen unless one truly understands the process and has the tools necessary for managing litigation. I believe the Baylor Executive LL.M. in Litigation Management will provide that understanding and equip its participants with the necessary tools.”

Attorneys in the program can expect to spend about 10 hours weekly over 14 months working on the degree through interactive online learning. Attorneys will then gather three times in Waco at the law school for intense, two-week residential learning experiences, working with experts to synthesize and master material.

“Graduates of the program will leave with an agile sense of both the business and the strategy of litigation,” Professor Liz Fraley, co-creator of the degree, said in a press release. “We’re addressing a key issue both for clients and for attorneys: how to manage complex and expensive litigation in a way that is both cost effective and goal oriented.”

Professor Jim Wren, the creative drive behind the executive LL.M., said the students will learn from national leaders in the field.

“We have been talking almost every day to people from around the nation who are the cream of the crop and who are already doing litigation management well,” he said in a press release. “We’re going out there and finding the people doing various aspects in the very best way and we’re bringing them in. It’s going to be a melting pot of the best of practices out there.”

Baylor Law is now accepting applications for the inaugural class. To apply or to find more information, go to llm.baylor.edu or email Ed Nelson at ed_nelson@baylor.edu.

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