what's hot and not in law practice

On a regular basis, Bob Denney puts himself and his judgment out there and predicts what will be the coming year’s hot—and cold—law practice areas.

He recently did so again, and I encourage you to read his prognostications.

In the meantime, here are a few he mentioned that made me pause and wonder how lawyers and law firms are responding to these new pushes and pulls. As Bob says:

Social media. Continues to be far more effective for building individual lawyer reputations than for firms.

Competition. It’s no longer just from other law firms. It’s now coming from two other directions: Non-legal business entities like LegalZoom and, for large firms, more and more from the clients themselves who are using their legal departments as well as alternate service providers.

Cybersecurity. While many firms have developed plans for reacting to a cyberattack, many more have still not developed or implemented cybersecurity plans to prevent such attacks. One overlooked factor is what actually constitutes a breach. Some firms regard any unsanctioned access of a firm system as a breach, while others do not regard it as a breach until something — data, files or money — has been taken.

Scamblogging. A category of online writing by debt-burdened law school graduates who are convinced their law schools misled them about their opportunities for employment.

What’s growing in your law practice? If it’s a niche or topic that surprises you, please write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

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The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass will be the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass will be the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

Today, another in a series of posts describing legal seminars at the upcoming State Bar Convention. (All the detail is here. And the complete Convention brochure is here.)

What follows are questions I asked seminar chairs, followed by their responses.

Today, I share the responses of those presenting on the morning of Thursday, June 16.

Click on the seminar title to read more detail as published in the Convention brochure.

Thursday, June 16, 8:45 a.m. – noon

T-23: ADR Talks

Chair: Steven P. Kramer

 

T-23 Steven P. Kramer

Steven P. Kramer

Who should attend this seminar?

Any practitioner involved in resolving disputes. Lawyers seeking pointers on planning, participating in and maximizing the benefits of mediation will be informed, entertained and come away with new insights. Practitioners who participate in mediation and arbitration will also learn about recent cases and legislative developments.

What is the one main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

Lawyers and clients can derive great benefit from devoting careful attention to planning and preparing themselves for mediation. During mediation, there are effective approaches, tools, practices and strategies lawyers can and should employ that will make mediations more productive, meaningful and successful for their clients.

How is this seminar timely? (That is: Why do attorneys need to learn more about this topic right now? What’s going on now in the world or in law practice that makes this topic important?)

Mediation is becoming an increasingly prominent method of reaching resolution in the contexts of litigation, family law, employment and commercial disputes. Settlement conferences, rather than a step in the litigation process, can be a practitioner’s best opportunity to reach a desired result. Skillful mediation techniques and strategies are becoming a vital part of a lawyer’s arsenal.

What is the most common misconception about this issue? In other words, what do lawyers think they know, but don’t?

Misconception: The skills lawyers use to “control” the litigation process, such as the ability to take over and dominate a courtroom, serves their clients well in mediation.

Reality: This approach is often counter-productive. Mediation is not about the advocate, but about the parties. An advocate’s most important role in mediation is that of counselor and advisor. The more deeply both sides become invested in the process, the better the chance that the process will lead them to an agreement they both can accept. Attempts to intimidate, cut down or dominate the other side often cause opponents to communicate less freely, shut down or withdraw.

T-24:  Preparing for Cyber Armageddon:  Practical Tools for Law Firm Data Security, Privacy and Cyber Liability

Chair: Pat Fowler

 

T-24 Pat Fowler

Patrick Fowler

Who should attend this seminar?

This seminar should be useful to any lawyer whose practice involves using computers, mobile devices, the Internet and any form of digital technology, either in their professional capacity or in their personal life.  In other words, basically everyone.  Our speakers will include experts in cybersecurity, information technology, data breach response and cyber liability insurance.

What is the one main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

Cybersecurity (including steps to reduce the risk of a breach, and a plan for quickly and effectively responding once it happens) is not something that you should put off until next month. It’s like failing to brush your teeth—ignore it long enough and bad things will happen.

How is this seminar timely? (That is: Why do attorneys need to learn more about this topic right now? What’s going on now in the world or in law practice that makes this topic important?)

Lawyers and law firms are being targeted by hackers more frequently because they are perceived as relatively easy targets. Cyber attacks on law firms can result in hackers accessing and releasing confidential and privileged client communications and records, or perhaps a ransomware attack that can lead to the total loss of all of the data on the lawyer’s computer. A data breach can result in devastating damage to a small business’ brand and reputation and can lead to the failure of that organization.

What is the most common misconception about this issue? In other words, what do lawyers think they know, but don’t?

A common misperception is that “my firm is too small for a hacker to bother with, so I don’t need to worry about it.” In fact, hackers target small businesses like small law firms because they know they don’t devote sufficient attention and resources to cyber security, and often provide the hackers with access credentials that the law firms uses to access client servers, like for electronic billing or for data rooms.

Thursday, June 16, 10:30 a.m. – noon

T-26: Supreme Advocate: Arizona Solicitors General Speak Frankly About Appeals, Politics, Mistakes and Triumphs

Co-chairs: Christina Cabanillas, Kelly Y. Schwab

Who should attend this seminar?

Anyone who wishes to know more about the roles and duties of the Arizona Solicitor General and U.S. Solicitor General, how they form legal positions and interact with the legislative and judicial branches, and how they approach litigating high-profile, hotly-debated, or other cases before Arizona and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court.  In other words, what the heck do they do?

What is the one main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

How invisible but essential a Solicitor General’s Office can be, both in Arizona, other states, and federally.

How is this seminar timely? (That is: Why do attorneys need to learn more about this topic right now? What’s going on now in the world or in law practice that makes this topic important?)

We can barely count how many cases dealing with controversial or cutting-edge subjects seem to come up in Arizona.  Understanding how the Arizona Solicitor General’s Office develops and forms legal positions and how it chooses what cases to appeal or what laws it should (or should not) defend against particular challenges is very topical.

What is the most common misconception about this issue? In other words, what do lawyers think they know, but don’t?

Some may think that the Solicitor General’s Office chooses to advocate legal positions based on the political affiliation of the Attorney General or executive branch head (governor or president).  The panelists can address this issue at the seminar.

T-28: Arizona’s Water Glass: Half Full or Half Empty? An In-Depth Discussion of CAP’s Colorado River Supply

Chair: Bill Ralls

 

T-28 Bill Ralls

Bill Ralls

Who should attend this seminar?

All business, real property, environmental, administrative and regulatory attorneys and members of the State Bar of Arizona whose clients depend upon the availability of water to sustain future development in Arizona.

What is the main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

There will be a future reduction in the water delivered to Arizona from the Colorado River, probably as early as 2018, With Colorado River water shortages on the horizon and limited groundwater, our interactive panel will analyze the priorities of water use under the Law of the Colorado River and state water policies to achieve sustainable development in Arizona.

How is this seminar timely?

State, federal and regional water officials are now developing water plans to meet the reductions in water supplies, and it is timely for all water stakeholders in Arizona to be involved in the development of water priorities and policies. Also this includes involvement of attorneys in state regulation of groundwater by the Arizona Department of Water Resources, particularly proposed changes in water regulation in rural areas to protect diminishing groundwater.

What is going on now in the world of law practice that makes this topic important?

Important active litigation in Arizona courts challenging state water regulators, including the federal Bureau of Land Management challenge to the ADWR for the approval of groundwater withdrawals which may impact the San Pedro River, one of the last free flowing rivers of Arizona, and the court challenge of the Residential Utility Consumers Office to the Arizona Corporation Commission rate ruling to recognize water improvements in rates between formal rate cases for customers of privately owned water companies.

What is the most common misconception about this issue?

The view that the common law of water determines water rights in Arizona. Since the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. California in 1963, which recognized the federal statutory allocation of Colorado River water, and continuing with the historic 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management, which established state administrative management of groundwater in Arizona, increasingly the state and federal regulators determine water rights.

A record-number of legal seminars are on offer at the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

A record-number of legal seminars are on offer at the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

Cybersecurity and privacy were two of the primary topics at the 2016 TechShow.

Cybersecurity and privacy were two of the primary topics at the 2016 TechShow.

Great learning at conferences is one of the best things ever. But if you can’t be there, hearing the takeaways of smart folks may be the next best thing. In fact, because those correspondents have done the hard work of taking notes and synthesizing, it may be the ideal outcome.

That’s how I felt about this year’s ABA Techshow, which I was not able to attend. (I was in a different lawyer event just blocks away, but the closest I came to joining the techies was nearly crashing the Clio party. Next year.)

Although I missed the event, seven technology experts have boiled down for the rest of us their take on the biggest TechShow messages. You should bookmark and read their complete analyses here.

To synthesize even further their event coverage, here are a few insights from those smart people, whom you should follow (links take you to their Twitter worlds, which you should join):

  • ABA TechShow tips American Bar AssociationFrom Catherine Sanders Reach: “This year seemed to have had an unofficial theme: privacy and security.”
  • From Natalie Kelly: Uber Eats may be a fascinating analogue to assess how we deliver legal services.
  • From Heidi S. Alexander: Stop making unencrypted calls, and be sure you’re using the cloud securely.
  • From Reid F. Trautz: Our regulatory system is stifling innovation in the legal profession.
  • From Tom Lambotte: It’s scary out there, even for Macs.
  • From: Nora Regis: Better use of Excel, including pivot tables, can be your law-practice friend.

And in case you decide you need just a little more impetus to pay attention to technology, especially in regard to cybersecurity, enjoy this article about a hack of New York-based Cravath Swaine & Moore (originally reported by the Wall street Journal, but that’s behind a paywall, so the NYT wins.)

To access law firm data, hackers bypass the front door. Cravath Swaine & Moore cybersecurity

To access law firm data, hackers bypass the front door.

As the article opens:

“Federal authorities have warned for years that big law firms are ripe targets for computer hackers because they are information-rich repositories of corporate deals and other sensitive client information.”

“But big law firms, as a general rule, are loath to confirm whether they have been victims of data breaches, largely out of fear of alarming clients. Breaches and potential intrusions at large law firms often go unreported and generally come to light only anecdotally—often in news reports or discussions at legal conferences.”

Well, the anecdotes are growing more and more common. What are you doing to ensure your data is secure? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org with your tech-success story.

Yes, mindfulness is making a dent in the legal profession, among other simmering trends.

Yes, mindfulness is making a dent in the legal profession, among other simmering trends.

We all have our guilty pleasures, and I confess one of mine is legal predictions.

Based on the number of folks who share with me their thoughts on which firms will next merge or go belly up, I cannot be the only one.

But among the less painful predictions are those related to what will happen to legal practice areas: Which will grow—and which will shrink—in the coming year.

Among those accomplished at the prognostication task is Bob Denney. His posts with his previews are much anticipated—and shared.

So that’s what I do today. Here are his best estimates for practice area changes in 2016.

For those in too big a hurry to click, here are a few of his predicted areas of growth: cybersecurity, white-collar crime, mergers & acquisitions, and employment & labor. Keep reading here.

Do you agree? Are you seeing the same thing? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.orgmaybe there’s a story in it.

What’s Hot and What’s Not In The Legal Profession Hot_tamales

OK, I give in to the “hotness” analogy: What’s hot and what’s not In the legal profession?

And here are a few other fascinating bits from Bob Denney:

Social media. Except for Facebook, it continues to be hot. Firm websites and blogs are still among the most effective online means for reaching in-houHot and Not law practice areasse counsel and potential clients, but some marketing experts say they may be surpassed by …

Content syndicators and aggregators. Platforms like JDSupra, Mondaq and even LinkedIn enable a firm to push its content to other sites and services.

Advertising. Whether online, print, TV, radio, billboards or even bus exteriors, advertising continues to be the principal marketing strategy for personal injury lawyers as well as others.

Millennials. Hiring, training and retaining them, as staff as well as lawyers, will continue to be a challenge because many of them chafe against the traditional law firm culture. Yet they are the future of the legal profession.

Departures. Although lateral hiring continues to be a hot growth strategy for many firms, most is at the partner level because firms want the book of business laterals can bring with them. However, fueled to a great degree by the expansion of corporate legal departments, law firm associates and even partners without a large book of business are departing to join legal departments. Why? The workload and the compensation are generally more consistent, without the pressure to record high billable hours and originate business. Translation: The quality of life is better.

Mindfulness movement. There are now reportedly at least two dozen law schools that offer for-credit courses in this Zen-inspired blend of meditation, breathing exercises and focus techniques, which are supported by companies such as Google and General Mills. At least one law firm and the legal department of a major corporation retain a mindfulness coach.

Bar exam scores. The average score on the 2015 summer bar exams reached its lowest level since 1988. Some law school deans have said the test was unfair and that a software glitch made it harder to submit test results. The president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which created the multiple-choice section of the test, replied that law schools have been admitting students with lower qualifications who may encounter difficulty in taking the exam. And, of course, applications to law schools have been declining.

A cybersecurity panel discussion offered some tips and many warnings, Fennemore Craig, Phoenix, Ariz., May 14, 2015.

A cybersecurity panel discussion offered some tips and many warnings, Fennemore Craig, Phoenix, Ariz., May 14, 2015.

How concerned should we be about the sorry results that may befall us if we suffer a cybersecurity breach?

However bad you think things could be, they’re probably going to be worse.

That’s the challenging takeaway I got from a panel discussion on cyber due diligence. It was hosted at Fennemore Craig on May 14, and it included speakers from the firm, prosecutors’ offices, and security firm Kroll.

(The June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine contains some practical takeaways on cybersecurity preparedness. Read the complete article by attorney Paul Stoller.)

At the Fennemore event, FBI Special Agent Martin Hellmer urged attendees to consider whether their computers housing sensitive data must even “touch the Internet.” Instead, he said, “air-gapped” computers may fill your needs.

“Threats are very real and everywhere,” he said. “Chances are, if your computers are regularly on the Net, and even if you’re regularly patched, you’ve probably been hacked.”

Generations of FBI-watchers hearken back to their work tracking down bank-robbers. But Hellmer said times have changed.

“It’s a great time to be a criminal in the cyberworld. Why someone would walk into a bank today with a note and a gun, I don’t know. Instead, you could sit in the comfort of your own home and steal millions of dollars from someone on the other side of the world.”

Cybersecurity panel at Fennemore Craig, May 14, 2015, L to R: Jim Knapp, U.S. Attorney's Office; Jonathan Fairtlough, Kroll; Sarah Strunk, Fennemore Craig; Martin Hellmer, FBI; and Melvin Glapion, Kroll.

Cybersecurity panel at Fennemore Craig, May 14, 2015, L to R: Jim Knapp, U.S. Attorney’s Office; Jonathan Fairtlough, Kroll; Sarah Strunk, Fennemore Craig; Martin Hellmer, FBI; and Melvin Glapion, Kroll.

Jonathan Fairtlough of Kroll described the “common vulnerabilities and exploits”—“CVEs”—that are most often seen. They include ransomware, spearfish attacks, and “social engineering”—that is, calling customer service and claiming you “can’t find your password”; it works more often than companies like to admit.

Fairtlough added that last year’s large-scale data breaches involved ransom demands seeking bitcoin.

Kroll’s Melvin Glapion reitereated that “Every cyber problem is a human problem.” In fact, 80 percent of breaches include some form of insider (including vendors and consultants). Given that, companies must ask, “Who are we locking inside the gate?”

Another problem may arise via the BYOD movement—which urges companies to allow employees to bring their own device and to use those multiple devices to connect to company servers.

Glapion told the story of a director and screenwriter for Twilight series who refused to be on Sony Pictures’ computer system, opting instead to use their own device. That gap in security, plus a successful phishing expedition, was all that hackers needed to get access to daily updates of scenes during shooting, and even multiple versions of screenplays.

Fortunately, Glapion said, the hacking was done not by criminals with evil intent, but by fans who were obsessed with actor Robert Pattinson (and who hated his co-star Kristen Stewart).

“Those teen girls had the keys to the kingdom,” Glapion said. And your system may be just as exposed.

Also on the panel were Jim Knapp of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He—like Kroll representatives—urged companies that had been hacked to contact the authorities.

Knapp said, “You do NOT lose control of your case if you call the feds.” Because the company is a victim, the prosecutors will keep you apprised of every step.

The prosecutor also suggested all of us to use “stock false answers” to those multiple password questions we all face. That way, “correct” and accurate answers cannot be ferreted out by hackers examining your life via social media.

Thanks and congratulations to Fennemore Director Sarah Strunk for gathering together such a helpful panel.

Here are a few images of slides from the presentation:

Cyber security Fennemore 3 presentation slideCyber security Fennemore 4 presentation slide