Protect Your Writings by Maria Crimi SpethDo you or someone you know have a book idea kicking around—or perhaps even an unpublished manuscript in your desk drawer?

No surprise to you, I’m sure, but there are laws that affect your book, article, and other creative output. This coming Saturday, April 30, attorney Maria Crimi Speth offers a presentation on what you need to know.

She will be one of five speakers to offer advice to authors. The topics also include marketing, personal and family stories, editing tips, and self-publishing.

Speth is an intellectual property attorney at Jaburg Wilk and the author of Protect Your Writings: A Legal Guide for Authors. At the event, “Attendees will learn about the laws relating to writing books, articles, blogs and how to avoid making common, costly legal mistakes.”

Host: Scottsdale Society of Women Writers

When: Saturday, April 30, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Where: Scottsdale Civic Center Library

Details and registration are here.

Maria Crimi Speth attorney Jaburg Wilk

Maria Crimi Speth

And here is more detail about Maria:

“Speth practices in the areas of intellectual property, internet law, and commercial litigation, representing clients throughout the United States. She focuses her practice on assisting businesses in protecting their trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, information technology, and other intellectual property through preventative measures to avoid disputes and through litigation when disputes arise. She has been practicing law for 28 years and has handled cases in state and federal courts around the country. Maria is the author of Protect Your Writings: A Legal Guide for Authors and Apple v. Samsung, The Balance Between Patent Rights and the Free Market.  She has numerous published articles and dozens of published court cases.”

social media heart love

… but maybe it’s just me.

How do lawyers and social media go together? You’d think pretty well, but the mashup recipe is more complicated than that.

A recent survey explored lawyers’ views of that media so social, and there may be a few surprising findings. You can read the story related to the survey here.

(And what’s up with the lack of questions about blogging, which is probably the primary digital game-changer? In its defense, this survey appears to focus on social-media channels or tools, rather than content-generators like blogs. Maybe the next survey …?)

Here is one of the findings:

“Strategy. There’s a 12 percent gap between the two age groups when it comes to using social media as part of their marketing strategy—69 percent of over-30 lawyers say it’s in their strategy, compared to 57 percent of younger lawyers.”

Besides that, we see attorneys are also comfortable with Linkedin, which on the social media spectrum is a warm blanket and fuzzy slippers. (Not to be judgy or anything.)

Findings from a 2016 social media survey of lawyers (via Attorney at Work).

Findings from a 2016 social media survey of lawyers (via Attorney at Work).

And all of that definitely resonates with my own experience.

I have presented before to attorneys and law students on the topic of social media. I went in assuming young folks would yawn, knowing all this stuff. And I thought older attorneys would scoff or otherwise cast aspersions on the topic.

What I discovered, though—especially in relation to blogging—was quite the opposite.

Many of the younger people I spoke with spurned blogging, while the older folks had detailed questions to enhance their blogs’ reach.

I previously wrote about one such interaction here, and that has led me to adjust my thinking on the challenges faced by a younger generation of lawyers.

What I mean is, they have been bludgeoned for years with news stories making them fear that a single digital misstep can damn them for eternity to unemployment. As we know from other research, people who have slogged their way through economic downturns are understandably cautious about upsetting their financial apple-cart. And so we hear from large numbers of young legal professionals declining to blog or do much else online that is perceived as public.

Long term, I believe that’s an unfortunate result. For as we know, career strategy is just another term for differentiation—and blogging done well can differentiate you.

Do you hope to be a thought leader? Get out of your foxhole.

What do you find interesting in the survey results? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Findings from a 2016 social media survey of lawyers (via Attorney at Work).

Findings from a 2016 social media survey of lawyers (via Attorney at Work).

Civil discovery rule changes described by @swlaw attorney

“No (More) Fishing” may be one way to describe changes to federal discovery rules.

­­As you likely know, important changes were recently made to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including changes in the discovery realm, captured in Rule 26.

In late January, Snell & Wilmer partner Mitch Klein wrote about the amendments, particularly in regard to environmental and natural resource litigation.

He is some of what he said in his well-written blog post:

“Previously, parties were entitled to conduct discovery regarding anything that might be ‘reasonably calculated’ to lead to relevant and admissible evidence. In practice, this led to some parties deposing witnesses and subpoenaing documents with only a tenuous relationship to the real issues of the case. This kind of behavior caused significant costs and delays in litigation.”

Snell & Wilmer partner Mitch Klein

Snell & Wilmer partner Mitch Klein

“In environmental and national resource litigation, abusive discovery conduct typically results from parties without any real evidence looking for some (fishing expeditions), deep-pocketed parties trying to overwhelm their adversaries under a pile of documents and/or multiple and lengthy depositions, or parties who have no real idea what they were doing and are trying to figure it out along the way.”

“The new rule now requires an analysis of ‘proportionality.’ Rather than seeking everything but the kitchen sink, a party conducting discovery has an obligation to show why the discovery is reasonable under the facts and circumstances of the case.”

You should read the whole thing here.

Of course, I’ve been around long enough to know there’s more than one way to look at rule changes. And when I see phrases like “abusive discovery,” “fishing expeditions,” and “everything but the kitchen sink,” I would guess at least a few lawyers would want to characterize things differently.

So today I wonder:

  1. Should we cover this topic in Arizona Attorney Magazine? and
  2. How would you describe the discovery rule changes? As Mitch did, or otherwise?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Pile of documents stack up high waiting to be managed

Needles and haystacks are often a metaphor for civil discovery.

pass the torch succession planning for lawyers

“Effective January 1, 2016, Arizona lawyers must have a succession plan. Yes, that’s must.”

And so opens a helpful blog post written by Arizona ethics expert Patricia Sallen. Yes, you should read the rest, here. And then set up your own succession plan. And don’t forget to follow her blog for valuable tips and updates.

Meanwhile, bookmark and read another article by Pat on recent law-practice rule changes, which we published in the January issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

pass the torch lawyer succession planning wrestling pdO0XZE

Succession planning for lawyers requires careful thought, and it’s all in the hand-off.

Pardon me if legal communications and marketing are both on my mind. But last week was a great panel of corporate counsel courtesy of the Legal Marketing Association. And that was followed by the Publicity Summit, an annual event hosted by the Society of Professional Journalists where marketers (even from law firms) can meet one-on-one with reporters in various beats.

In both situations, it often boiled down to devising a way to tell your story in compelling and concise ways.

That used to have different names, but the newest version of it is called “content marketing,” in which companies offer their mission, strategies, and abilities in a narrative form—an article or a story.

Despite the broader adoption of such a communications strategy, I was surprised when I read an article by Julia Schur that claims law firms are “the surprising new adopter of content marketing.”

She writes,

“Law firms have money—lots of it. And as [one] experiment suggests, an increasing number of them are investing that money into content marketing instead of traditional advertising.”

I’ll concede that the experiment came from a communications firm, which may have an incentive to explain such trends in a particular way. But that doesn’t mean John Corey, president and co-founder of Greentarget, is wrong.

I too have noticed an increasing number of firms including blogs on their websites. Well done, these blogs accomplish a few goals:

  • They distinguish the attorney from others in the market on specific practice areas.
  • They illustrate a timely proclivity to keep up with the news and trends.
  • They personalize an attorney who might otherwise simply be represented by a drab bio; and
  • They provide powerful SEO ammunition, as the pages are updated on a regular basis.

law firm content strategy

Have you or others in your firm begun to blog, on Linkedin or elsewhere? Or are you finding other ways to reveal your strong abilities that distinguish you in the marketplace?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

blog

This post is not aimed at lawyers whose practice is sailing along exactly as they would hope it would. Who have ample work, quality work, with clients who pay on time or early, and who never, ever argue about a bill. Who find creative pursuits within and among their legal work. Who have found particularly effective ways to differentiate themselves in a field of talented competitors. Whose hair is always just so.

Those folks will benefit not a whit from a recent blog post (not mine) that touting blogging as one of the top three Internet marketing activities.

And why (once again) does blogging matter? Because the definition of business strategy can be summed up in that one word that starts with “D”—differentiation. And blogging may be uniquely suited to convey an attorney’s talents, approach, and world view.

Um, yes, your world view matters to potential clients. Not your take on politics (better left to yourself). But the way you align yourself amidst challenging and thorny legal issues. The way you think through things, convey your position, and remain focused on the client at all times (the most important thing, of course).

Websites can do some of that lifting, but that’s where clients typically find the milquetoast puffery that reminds the world you are “full-service” (whatever that is), or that you were in an Order that had to do with the Coif (I go to Supercuts myself). That kind of stuff? It’s the opposite of differentiation.

So read this helpful post that describes blogging and two other online activities you should consider.

And if you’re still on the cyberspace fence, read this piece to hear how referral networks—via blogging—may be helpful to you.

US Department of Labor logoIt was only back on April 1 that a major dialogue was raised in Arizona about the negative results that flow from employee misclassification. That’s when Dr. David Weil of the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division spoke to audiences in downtown Phoenix and elsewhere.

Dr. Weil spoke about the combination of carrots and sticks that would be brought to bear to face the challenge.

This week, we got to see a little of the stick as we read a press release. It opens:

“A nearly five-year federal investigation of illegal business practices by 16 defendants in Utah and Arizona has yielded $700,000 in back wages, damages, penalties and other guarantees for more than 1,000 construction industry workers in the Southwest, the U.S. Department of Labor announced today.”

“Consent judgments put an end to an effort by the defendants—operating collectively as CSG Workforce Partners, Universal Contracting, LLC and Arizona Tract/Arizona CLA—to claim that their workers were not employees. The defendants required the construction workers to become ‘member/owners’ of limited liability companies, stripping them of federal and state protections that come with employee status. These construction workers were building houses in Utah and Arizona as employees one day and then the next day were performing the same work on the same job sites for the same companies but without the protection of federal and state wage and safety laws. The companies, in turn, avoided paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll taxes.”

You can read the entire release here. All of the targeted Arizona firms are listed at the bottom, as is the case name and caption number.

Adding to the value of the news to Arizona lawyers and others is a blog post by Labor Secretary Tom Perez himself. In it, he describes the legal action being taken in Utah and Arizona. And he gives valuable insight into the way this nefarious business gets done:

“The state of Utah was a helpful partner in the Wage and Hour Division’s investigation of these defendants, providing information from the state’s Worker Classification Coordinated Enforcement Council, an entity created by the state legislature to combat misclassification. The state ultimately outlawed the defendants’ business model by requiring workers compensation and unemployment insurance for members of LLCs. In response, the companies packed up, headed to Arizona, and set up shop under a new name, but with the same scheme.”

Perez concludes:

“The Utah and Arizona judgments send a strong, clear message: employers can’t hide behind deceptive legal partnerships to cut corners and save money on the backs of their employees. It’s our hope that this and other enforcement actions will serve as a credible deterrent that influences behavior throughout the economy. Especially in the fissured workplace, we will continue to be vigilant about protecting workers, taxpayers and law-abiding employers.”

If you represent clients in related industries, is this a wake-up call? Is misclassification as big a problem as it’s made out to be? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

P.S. Arizona has another close link to the Secretary: Four high-school kids from the Grand Canyon State just won an ABA award for best Magna Carta video. Among the luminaries they met in Washington DC in mid-April was Labor Secretary Perez. Here they all are:

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez meets with Arizona high school students who won first place in the ABA's 2015 Magna Carta video competition, April 2015.

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez meets with Arizona high school students who won first place in the ABA’s 2015 Magna Carta video competition, April 2015. (Full story in the June 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine)

 

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