You think health insurance reform is hard? Try covering it in print.

You think health insurance reform is hard? Try covering it in print.

I decided I’d better mention our Arizona Attorney cover story before the facts (and law) change again.

Of course, I’m talking about our coverage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—which was a pretty brave move on our part, considering the shifting sands of politics.

Given the early deadlines demanded of article writers in print publications, I suppose I could offer an evolving list of changes that our article was unable to address. But I won’t do that today. Instead, I will simply acknowledge a big one:

Yes, we understand that healthcare.gov has had problems. We’re aware that our article doesn’t mention it. We’re not blind and deaf (though if I were uninsured and having vision or hearing problems, Obamacare might do me better than the previous system. Just sayin’.)

So I urge you to read our great explanatory article alongside a daily newspaper, or maybe Twitter, so you can fold in all of the newest tweaks and developments to the Act.

And given the trouble the Act’s website has had, I also acknowledge how humorous our article’s caveat now appears:

“PPACA is a controversial, complicated and multifaceted collection of laws. This article, limited to PPACA’s shared responsibility of employers (‘Play or Pay’) and employees and individuals (‘Individual Mandate’), was prepared in September and October 2013. It is possible that some details or entire concepts in this article may have changed by the time of publication. Read this article simultaneously with the latest version of http://www.healthcare.gov.”

Done chuckling? Click here to start reading.

Obamacare article in AzAt Dec 2013

Law for Veterans website screen shotLast Friday, as folks were clearing out of work and looking forward to a holiday weekend, staffers at the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education were putting the final touches on a new website—one dedicated to aiding veterans and their families.

LawforVeterans.org is a creation of the Arizona Supreme Court, in cooperation with the AZFLS&E and the Military Legal Assistance Committee of the State Bar of Arizona.

The site aims to be a “one-stop clearinghouse for access to legal and other important veteran benefit information,” providing legal information, articles, resources and forms.

The Court explains that the site features 10 specialty subject areas “ranging from identity theft to employment law. There are sections with helpful Q&A topics as well as a place to ask legal questions, find a lawyer, or locate other resources veterans might need.”

The site “will be the public face of a broader support network.” The Court announced that more than 270 volunteer legal professionals will “respond to questions and help match veterans with the resources they need.”

Hon. Rebecca White Berch

Hon. Rebecca White Berch

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch says, “Veterans Day 2013 marks the initial public launch of the site, but we realize the site itself is a platform upon which we will build and add content, based on the needs and input of veterans and service providers that stand ready to assist them.”

Polsinelli attorney Kris Carlson is cheered by the website’s creation. He is a former Green Beret and co-chair of the Military/Veterans Group of the American Health Lawyers Association Behavioral Task Force. He views the site as a great resource.

“‘Law for Veterans’ is absolutely fantastic,” Carlson says. “This resource was badly needed.  Transitioning from the military into civilian life can be difficult. Behaviors that kept the service member alive during time of war are not easily forgotten, and some can leave veterans at a disadvantage when re-integrating into civilian life.”

Carlson continues, “The site’s comprehensive approach can provide assistance to Arizona’s men and women veterans in many critical areas as they struggle to leave the war behind them.”

Many veterans struggle with reintegration into civilian life, which can be difficult. As a result, some may become involved in the criminal justice system; claims denials; insurance problems; family law issues; or physical, mental or substance abuse challenges.

Kris Carlson, Polsinelli

Kris Carlson, Polsinelli

AZFLS&E CEO Kevin Ruegg says, “The Foundation is thrilled to have the Supreme Court entrust us with this project and very grateful for the partnership with the Bar’s Military Legal Assistance Committee. We hope to accomplish two things: furthering our mission of promoting access to justice for all Arizonans, and assuring our veterans know that we understand that our justice system would not be here without their fight for this country’s freedoms.”

Staffers at the Foundation who led the rollout effort included Public Legal Information Manager Kim Bernhart and CTO Al Flores, along with Lara Slifko and Dan Hall. Bernhart points to this effort as another in a successful line of sites launched by the Foundation, including Law for Seniors and Law for Kids.

Brigadier General Gregg Maxon (ret.) is a special adviser to the Administrative Office of the Courts, where he assists jurisdictions in their efforts to create veterans courts. The Supreme Court said he was “a key advocate in the planning and development” of the new website.

Among the data he gathered:

  • 2.4 million men and women served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • 1.44 million are now eligible for V.A. health care.
  • 774,000 have obtained V.A. health care.
  • Of those receiving treatment, 52 percent are diagnosed with mental disorders such as PTSD, depression and substance abuse.

“A unified treatment and rehabilitation approach brings better results,” says General Maxon. “Through partnerships with the Department of Veterans Affairs and local, state or national non-profits and community-based organizations, we can honor our veterans with the resources they deserve.”

Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales adds, “Courts and the legal community are recognizing that we can better serve certain populations by tailoring website content and court services to meet their needs. Our veterans deserve this help. We don’t want them hurting, alone or in trouble with nowhere to turn.”

The Court encourages businesses, government agencies, chambers of commerce, associations, and non-profits to add a link to www.LawForVeterans.org.

law-schoolAmidst a week that is filled with law school events, I was pleased to read a blog post that explores the “top websites for law students.”

Whether your law school days are current, recent or receding into the mists of time, let me know what you think of these choices.

The post itself appears on The Student Appeal, who describe themselves thusly:

“The Student Appeal is an online law journal that publishes legal articles and editorials discussing law and policy issues, law school, and different legal careers available to JDs. We welcome submissions from all members of the legal community, American and international.”

For more information, see their Submission page.

I’ve noted the site before. If you—law students or lawyers—are seeking a great outlet for your own writing, you should consider The Student Appeal.

I am in Denver this week (my first time here; can you believe it?), where I’m attending a great communications conference. While here, I am pleased to be leading a panel on how to manage the avalanche of content that seems to overwhelm us (rest assured, our actual title is much nicer than that).

Whenever I travel for work, I try to find great ideas to steal learn from. And that’s what takes me to an award-winning blog site: Solo in Colo

I invite you to look it over. The website, created by the Colorado Bar Association (“Colo”) aims to give voice to the wealth of solo-lawyer knowledge and experience. (The Colorado and Denver Bars are also hosting this week’s national conference, so they’re talented and generous!)

I am used to my own avalanche of content that I must create, curate, rewrite and post. But even given the horrorshow that is my daily calendar, I am in awe of this site. It includes a breadth and depth of value that continues to amaze long after they launched it.

What do you think? Should the State Bar of Arizona take on such a task? Do Arizona’s lawyers—particularly its solos—have any wisdom to impart? (That’s a trick question. They do.)

In what I am sure is no coincidence, the Denver conference includes as a speaker Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, of the great website Attorney at Work. She will speak on (Re)Building Your Blog:

“Using the real-life example of Attorney at Work, Partner/Catalyst Merrilyn Astin Tarlton shows how to create and manage a multi-author blog. She will discuss building readership, creating interaction, creating presence, content development, daily blog management and more. Plan to take good notes so you can head home with a plan to launch or spruce up your own bar blog.”

Any site whose slogan is “One Really Good Idea Every Day” and that manages multiple contributors is worth stealing learning from. Here’s to great ideas!

I return from the Mile-High City Friday evening, laden down with a treasure trove of “borrowed” ideas (and a smile that comes from cooler weather). But I’d like to hear your take on SoloInColo and Attorney at Work, and what you think of getting more voices “out there.”

Here is some news from the Arizona Supreme Court:

Last year, the Arizona Supreme Court approved new mandatory probate forms, Fee Guidelines for lawyers and fiduciaries, and minimum training requirements for lawyers handling probate matters, investigators, and non-licensed fiduciaries.

To support these new rules and assist the public with implementation, a new web page has been developed serve as a “one-stop shop” for probate information, particularly as it relates to guardianship and conservatorship cases, and is geared toward non-licensed fiduciaries who likely will need the most assistance. The new website can be found here.

More detail about the new initiative is on the State Bar of Arizona website.

 

If comments are “advertisements,” should we just go back to chatting?

Not to be overly dramatic, but the conversation may be the heart of social media, its very lifeblood.

Anyone who has ever launched a Facebook page, blog, Twitter handle or Pinterest board knows that what they really seek is engagement, a dynamic involvement by readers and other posters.

To social media, the comment is a nutritional daily requirement.

But what if that comment were both sustenance and a poison pill that could undermine your entire site?

Lawyers who have created their own websites or Facebook pages should be interested in the evolution of the following important question: Are comments “advertisements”?

A ruling by an advertising standards board—in Australia—ruled that the two are essentially equivalent, at least on Facebook pages of companies that sell products.

Here is how a recent article on the topic opened:

“A ruling that Facebook is an advertising medium—and not just a way to communicate—will force companies to vet comments posted by the public to ensure they are not sexist, racist or factually inaccurate.

“In a move that could change the nature of the social networking site forever, companies could be fined or publicly shamed for the comments that appear on their Facebook ‘brand’ pages.

“Last month the advertising industry watchdog issued a judgment in which it said comments made by ‘’fans’’ of a vodka brand’s Facebook page were ads and must therefore comply with industry self-regulatory codes, and therefore consumer protection laws.”

Read the whole thing here.

A few factors suggest to me that lawyers need not be too concerned about this quite yet.

First, there’s been no such ruling stateside, so this may be an outlier.

Second, the reasoning underlying this ruling applies to products. There may be such a thing as legal products, but a law firm Facebook page is more along the lines of communicating its services, a different thing entirely.

Third, we already know that posts and comments may cause legal problems, and so we look out for that.

Finally, most firms get substantially fewer comments from readers than, say, Target or (ha!) Chick-fil-A. The process of reviewing recent posts for appropriateness likely doesn’t take very long.

But all of us who enjoy that give-and-take with readers should be aware that comments may take on even more legal significance in the future. Keep those comments coming—at least as long as they’re not advertisements.

What’s on your website?

If current research—and my own informal surfing around—are any indication—the answer may be: Not much that folks care about.

Portion of image results for search of “lawyer website”: Draws you right in, doesn’t it?

Or, if you don’t have a legal website, let me put it another way: What do you look for in a lawyer’s web presence when, for instance, you’re looking for someone because you have a case to refer?

Are you looking for 10-year-old writing samples from when the lawyer externed for a judge?

Surveys say …. Blecch.

How about 70 photos of gavels, or courthouse steps, or maybe the scales of justice?

Well, OK, but all things in moderation. I saw one law firm site that ran ALL of those on EVERY page and sub-page.

We get it! You went to law school!

There are a lot of terrific sites out there, but many others are cluttered with who knows what.

Here, from people more expert than me (Larry Bodine and Gyi Tsakalakis), are a few elements that consumers and even lawyers seem to respond to: lawyer bios and Q&As.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget how to choose a good picture of yourself. It matters; it really matters.

What are some stellar lawyer websites you’ve seen? Share the URLs and I may do a future story on one or more.

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