Today I share news from the State Bar of Arizona about a new spoofing scam that is afoot.

If that sentence sounds funky to you, it’s because it’s simply a new and different way to “exploit the attorney/client relationship and defraud consumers of their money.”

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorYou can read all the information here.

And if your outlook was not fraught enough, turn to this helpful piece on additional cybersecurity tech tips to avoid getting “the willies.” The risks include ransomware, pfishing, and even the threat your own employees may represent.

Finally, here is my previous coverage of a panel discussion last summer that managed to cause quite a few willies. Live and learn.

scam alert roadsign sign

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In the September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we cover facial hair on witnesses. It's not just for hipsters, y'know.

In the September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we cover facial hair on witnesses. It’s not just for hipsters, y’know.

Short and sweet, just as a Change of Venue Friday should be.

As we were putting together our September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, it occurred to me that our cover story could be a great candidate for a Vine video.

Don’t know Vine? Well, as Monsieur Wikipedia puts it so well:

“Vine is a short-form video sharing service where users can share six-second-long looping video clips. The service was founded in June 2012, and microblogging website Twitter acquired it in October 2012, just before its official launch. Users’ videos are published through Vine’s social network and can be shared on other services such as Facebook and Twitter. Vine’s app can also be used to browse through videos posted by other users, along with groups of videos by theme, and trending, or popular, videos.”

Anyhoo, our cover story examines the views people have about facial hair on witnesses. Who knew there was detailed research on the topic?

Along with sharing that research, we share great photos that could be illustrate the authors’ points. How else can a legal magazine find a way to feature Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, David Beckham, and Adolph Hitler—all in the same story?

Vine logo v2Anyway, you can watch the Vine here. (C’mon, it’s 6 seconds! Click already!)

And yes, I’ll use a tripod next time.

The best way to view Vines is on your phone through the app. And once you’re there, feel free to follow me. Who knows what we’ll post next.

Have a great—and video-worthy—weekend.

infographic - How seaworthy is the information that drives your law firm?

How seaworthy is the information that drives your law firm?

What could be easier—especially on the Friday before a holiday week—than to enjoy a little infographic regarding law practice?

OK, I probably had you until “ … regarding law practice,” but it’s still light lifting for Change of Venue Friday.

The visual art comes our way from U.K. firm InsightBee, which examines the information sources available to law firms. What they have discovered, alas, is that many of those firms and attorneys say that they lack vital information that would better guide their practice decisions.

At the top of this post is just a piece of the graphic. You can see the whole infographic here.

An InsightBee staffer (worker bee?) tells me that 86 percent of U.K. law firms report that they worry they are out of touch with their clients’ needs. And only four percent of law firm partners strongly believe they have the right tools to achieve their business development priorities.

Yes, I know it’s the U.K., not the U.S., but those are still compelling numbers.

In your firm, do you feel you have up-to-date information on what your clients’ needs are? And do you have processes in place to determine those (shifting) needs?

Well, now that I’ve annoyed you with unanswerable questions, I wish you a wonderful—and client-free—weekend!

AzAt magazine turned to beads 1

Arizona Attorney Magazine provides value coming and going! Here we are living the bead life.

“Remind me to tell you about the great, new upcycling project that involves Arizona Attorney Magazine.”

And so began a dialogue with a driven attorney who decided to get off the bench and offer some legal advice to people who needed it. The work Lora Sanders does is certainly admirable; I’ll get to that.

But I must admit that I was intrigued by her mention of the magazine and upcycling in the same sentence.

I wrote about Lora in my October Editor’s Letter in Arizona Attorney Magazine (see image below). There, I described how she meets in a coffee shop—Songbird Coffee & Tea House in downtown Phoenix—to answer what questions she can and refer those she can’t.

AzAt October 2013 Editor's Letter

In a minute, I will share with you my Q&A with Lora. I hope it inspires a few other attorneys to get a coffee and offer some advice.

But first, let me explain the magazine upcycling.

In a labor-intensive process, Sanders said that the magazine pages are removed (after being read first, she assured me!) and rolled tightly into jewelry beads. They then could be fashioned into bracelets and sold to assist parents who must set life and job aside to accompany children during long hospitalizations.

I’ve never been so pleased to hear that people had ripped up the magazine. Arizona Attorney—that’s how we roll.

Cafe O Law Lora Sanders 1 Niba delCastillo

Lora Sanders, right, consults at Songbird Coffee & Tea, Phoenix (photo by Niba delCastillo).

Here, finally, is my conversation with attorney Lora Sanders:

Me: What is the general timeline of Café O’Law? When was your first “seating,” and how many have you had?

Lora: I began Café O’Law several years ago, in 2010, and we would meet irregularly, every few months, often at a friend’s former restaurant. I was trying to develop an appropriate format (speakers? breakout sessions? networking?), but also spending the summers in Sweden, so it was an evolving project. The name came from my meeting clients and potential clients all over the Valley at coffee shops, usually because it was more convenient than meeting at my office, or they required a meeting time outside of conventional business hours. So there I was with my cafe au lait at Café O’Law.

Summer 2013, I was gradually preparing to resume a more active family law practice, as my husband was finishing his book. I was already meeting people at the Songbird, so I asked Jonathan & Erin [Carroll, the owners] whether I could plan a regular meeting there. I decided to make it a casual one-on-one question & answer meeting, just like any other brief consultation. We have met perhaps a dozen times, but just resumed at the Songbird in June 2013.

On a broader, more personal note, all four of my grandparents were immigrants and I often think how astonished and amazed they would be (especially my grandmothers) to see the life I lead and to know that I graduated from law school. My father, who would have been 100 this year (he died at age 94), put himself through college, graduate school, and law school (eventually amassing more than 300 college credits) as the child of non-English-speaking immigrants—the real American success story. I am always mindful that, no matter how many complaints we have about our country, its government, or bad people, this is an amazing nation and it is still the land of opportunity.

Me: When are your next few seatings scheduled?

Lora: We always meet on the first Mondays of each month, from 4-7 pm at the Songbird. So, Monday, October 7, November 4 and December 2.

Cafe O Law and Songbird logosMe: How many people do you estimate you’ve served?

Lora: I have met with, exchanged emails and Facebook messages with dozens of people, just this summer.

Me: Have other lawyers been involved?

Lora: Yes, I have had several attorneys, some of whom are friends, or have introduced themselves to me, meet with me, and chat or meet with some people who have questions more specific to their practice. I would rather not mention anyone, without naming all, but I am happy for any attorney to join me; I am always glad to know more attorneys for referral of potential clients and questions.

Me: And those paper beads! Do you craft them yourself? What do you do with the beads, how are they sold, and what organizations benefit?

Lora: My friend, Julie Vu, and I were discussing volunteer projects last spring. She told me that her young daughter wanted to get involved in volunteering, but was too young for most of the projects that could be found at handsonphoenix.org and volunteermatch.org. I told her about In2books.com, which I participate in every school year. You are paired as a mentor with an elementary-school reader, the child selects the books and you read them together and exchange emails through the teacher. E-volunteering at its best! Julie has young twins, one of whom had a lengthy hospitalization after birth. She told me about spending many long, lonely hours at the hospital, and that she would like to raise money to help those parents who are similarly situated and provide them with some company and things to do.

So I came up with the Arizona Attorney paper beads project, to be crafted into bracelets. To date, I have crafted the beads. We are just getting under way and Julie and I will host some bead-making/bracelet parties and we will work on how they will be sold, funds raised, etc.

Me: What made you decide to launch Café O’Law? Why do you enjoy doing this?

Lora: My original inspiration was an attorney in the San Fernando Valley, CA, named Kim Pearman, who operated a hot dog stand called “Law Dogs” for 25 years, selling Plaintiff Dogs, Police Dogs, etc. I lived in L.A. in the 1970s and 1980s, and everyone knew about Mr. Pearman, who would dispense free legal advice with a hot dog. (Here is an article on Pearman from a 1984 People magazine.)

Cafe O Law Lora Sanders headshot

Lora Sanders

He was out there every week, without benefit of email or smart phones. He even took on the pro bono representation of certain clients. I thought that what this man did was absolutely heroic.

As an attorney, it is easy to forget how difficult it is for people who have not been to law school to negotiate their way through the endless stream of forms, statutes, procedures, regulations, applications, leases, contracts that are a regular part of our lives. On one difficult case I was working on, after spending two hours on the phone trying to get some guidance from public officials, one very nice woman said to me, “I’m sorry; I can’t help you. You will have to hire an attorney.”

I am happiest when I can put someone’s mind at ease, and offer them that small bit of reassurance, or send them to a resource that can take care of a problem. 

Me: What benefit do you think questioners get from the conversations?

AzAt magazine turned to beads 3

Arizona Attorney Magazine, transformed into beads.

Lora: It is a very casual and comfortable way to ask questions in a non-threatening environment, without the cost and uncertainty of seeking out and hiring a lawyer. The true benefit is that an individual does not have to determine what type of lawyer or professional can guide them, or worry whether it is worth the investment of their time and money to ask for advice or guidance. I believe that the most common legal mistake made by people, that I see, is waiting too long to ask for advice. I understand completely that people do not want to spend money unnecessarily, but it always hurts me when potential clients come to me in a panic with a disaster that has been forming for a period of years, or tell me that they are due in court next week or next month, and they have never even consulted with an attorney.

Me: If other lawyers are interested in doing this kind of thing, what advice would you give them?

Lora: Utilize social media and let your clients, former clients and friends know that you are willing to offer this service or something like it. Volunteer your time and energy to any kind of volunteer project that interests you, not just as an attorney. Be grateful. As an attorney, in spite of hardship or hard work, remember that you occupy a position of great privilege, so use your talents and gifts where you can, for good, not just for profit. Finally, take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously.

Me: Could other lawyers participate with you, or start their own Café O’Law, or both?

Lora: Yes, and yes! I am happy to hear from any attorneys who would like to attend a Café O’Law meeting, or start their own. I do not have a designated website and I do not anticipate getting involved in any large scheduling or organizing project; however, I am always open to suggestions. I have lived in Arizona since 1987, and I love the downtown Phoenix energy and long-awaited, growing sense of community. If any attorneys have ideas for a similar event or variation in their neighborhoods, they should contact me. If they would like to host Café O’Law sessions at the Songbird, but on a different date or time, that would probably work as well.

Cafe O'Law signup sheet (coffee not included with consultation!).

Cafe O’Law signup sheet (coffee not included with consultation!).

Breaking Bad actor Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman

If even Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman (played by actor Bob Odenkirk) said no to a client’s case, take a pass.

A benefit of reading and writing all the time is that you pretty regularly come across content that’s terrific and that you wouldn’t ever have imagineered yourself. Today, I’m pleased to pass on a comical and insightful piece that deconstructs the words of a potential client’s previous lawyer. Well done!

If you’ve ever listened in disbelief as a potential client explains what a previous attorney said, this post is bound to resonate with you.

Let me know what you think. Here is the Unwashed Advocate (whose hilarious “About” page is here), who opens:

“I often get calls from potential clients who’ve previously contacted other lawyers. Invariably, the following is said during these conversations. … I’d like to help … by translating what the other lawyer said. Here goes.”

Prepare to chuckle in recognition as he “translates the lawyerese.”

Keep reading here.

Attorney-Client shake handsHow many lawyers find fulfillment in their work?

I don’t have statistics, but based on many conversations with attorneys over the years, the number who would trumpet themselves “fulfilled” has declined over time.

A bad economy has a lot to do with that, I’m sure. But finances cannot account for all of the disappointment we hear about. After all, most people (really) are not in it just for the financial return. Something deeper must be afoot.

Insight into what may be missing appeared in a great recent post at Above the Law. In it, lawyer Brian Tannebaum examines a few ways to strengthen the lawyer–client relationship. And in so doing, he points us toward a few elements that may be lacking in many a law practice. The absence of those ingredients is not a mere annoyance. Instead, it could be a serious impediment to fulfillment and satisfaction.

Brian Tannebaum

Brian Tannebaum

Interestingly, Tannebaum suggests that the elements that could make lawyers happier may be exactly the same elements that could make clients happier.

Imagine that—there’s a connection.

“Meaning” may be too complex a concept to reduce to a blog post, but I think Tannebaum’s done a great job at it.

Here’s how he opens his post:

“Lawyers like to say, ‘I’m a lawyer, not a psychiatrist.’”

“If you’re dealing with people’s problems, you’re a lawyer and a psychiatrist. While clients understand you are the person hired to try and resolve their legal issues, the not-so subtle secret of a successful practice is a slew of clients that believe their lawyer actually gives a crap about how their legal issues are affecting their personal life.”

Read the whole post here.

And what do you think? Have you found changes that improve your clients’ experience have also improved your outlook? Are you considering any law practice changes to make your own work more satisfying?

Technology-wise, one of the questions lawyers most often ask is related to cloud security. That is: Is my data—including client material—safe in cloud-based applications and cloud-based storage?

This past year, one company has almost single-handedly made it more difficult to offer a resounding “Yes” in response. That firm is, of course, Dropbox.

Too often recently, we have seen stories that almost all could carry the same headline: “Dropbox Confirms Security Glitch.” In an upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, lawyer Brian Chase examines the challenges of the cloud. And in so doing, he points us to a few good articles on Dropbox’s missteps. Read about them here, here and here. The most recent occurred just last month, in late July.

This past weekend, I came across an article that indicates Dropbox is edging toward a security solution, this time in the form of a “two-step verification.”

Will Dropbox meet its security challenges and renew users’ faith?

If you want to gauge public response to this latest Dropbox effort, just read the comments beneath the story. Here are a few:

“So wait, we should use a more time-consuming authentication system while THEY failed to secure their databases, resulting in all of their users now enjoying a dramatic increase of spam entering their mailboxes every day? I’m so sick of these companies forcing us into such overkill systems while whenever there’s a security breach, it’s always on their end.”

“What use is this? It only adds security to the part I already had control of—I use impossible to guess passwords with a password manager. The gaping security hole I worry about with Dropbox is that any Dropbox employee or hacker getting into Dropbox has access to my documents. Why don’t they implement two-step verification INTERNALLY for their own staff, and client-side encryption of data so hackers can’t get anything useful anyway? Oh never mind SpiderOak already does this and that is why I use them instead of DropBox.”

One commenter was more generous in his assessment, and pointed out an important part of the exchange process—it’s free! So quit your moanin’:

“No online system is flawless, none is unhackable, you’d rather they not give you the tools to protect your property? It’s YOUR data, YOU are getting a SERVICE for FREE, they owe you nothing. I say good on em, and thanks for the extra level of security, because I care about my data. And anyway, they’re not forcing anything, it’s entirely optional.

I have some agreement with the last commenter’s words. However, when it comes to lawyers or any businessperson, the benefit of free evaporates quickly when sensitive material is hacked. I’m sure lawyers would rather pay a fair price and get security, rather than revel in a cost savings while coders in their parents’ basement wreak havoc on a system most thought was safe.

It’s likely that Dropbox will weather this storm, and that the storm will be replaced with some other torrent that will overtake another company.

But in the meantime: What do you think? Is some use of the cloud inevitable? And will the risks ever decrease to an extent sufficient that you are comfortable with sensitive information floating up there?