standin- app logo 1

It’s true that law practice may be more challenging than it’s ever been. And yet I marvel at the ingenuity some have brought to the profession, finding ways to automate the parts that should not require a graduate education to master.

So as we work on our October issue at Arizona Attorney Magazine, dedicated in large part to law office management, my radar is up for tools that take the arrggh out of an attorney’s day.

The smartest tools do not seek to do everything a lawyer does. Instead, they identify a single element of practice that could be improved. And that’s what a new app called “StandIn” appears to do.

How many of you have appeared in court or in chambers for another lawyer on her or his case? I recall doing that in California as a part of my solo practice. The money could be pretty good, and the work was flexible.

Plus, if you were lucky, a standard status conference might yield a few challenging questions from the judge—and who has graduated from law school and not yearned for a little of that? You had become familiar with the case file, so you could handle it, and it definitely got the blood pumping to: (1) interact with an inquiring judge while (2) not royally screwing up another lawyer’s case on what was supposed to be a 10-minute appearance.

But the cost of those great minutes as an oral advocate for your client was often an organizational headache. Getting hired for the appearance required significant back-and-forth with the attorney hiring you, especially if you didn’t yet know each other. It involved phone calls, faxing (remember that?), negotiating your fee, ensuing you knew which court to go to and what time. Plus, of course, getting photocopies of the case elements that were relevant to that day’s hearing. (And don’t get me started on finding a pay phone the day of when something went amiss. That used to be something lawyers had to do.)

Well, all of those concerns may not be eliminated for the lawyer doing appearances, but a recent essay pointed me to a solution to some of them. “StandIn” is called a replacement lawyer app, and it’s described well here by Cathy Reisenwitz. As she says, “StandIn lets lawyers who can’t make it to a court appearance find a stand-in for them. Lawyers log in and see who is available near the courthouse they need to be at. They can sort by experience, expertise, and availability.”

capterra logoLike other location-based apps you’re probably already familiar with, StandIn will also process payments and allow reviews of the hiring and hired attorney.

More about the product itself is on their website. It is based in Canada, but it’s moving into U.S. cities (and you can urge them to come to yours).

Even if you have no need of such an app, I recommend reading the essay anyway. And even though it’s not (yet) in Arizona, I commend the article to you. Why? Well, it’s well written, plus it probes these inventive people for their views of the future of the legal profession. Whether you’re doing appearances for others or writing wills or arguing zoning cases—or whatever—that future should interest you.

I also recommend following Cathy Reisenwitz and her firm Capterra (deets here). She covers many topics that might help your law practice, with just the right amount of snark to make law practice management less legally snoozeworthy. In fact, as we work on our October issue, I was pleased to see that one of our authors is a fan of an infographic that emerged from Capterra. That’s cool, as I am a fan too. You can see the graphic here.

And a final bit of pleasure for my blogging day: I was pleased to see that one of the StandIn founders came out of the Michigan State Reinvent Law initiative. I’ve written about it before, and I’m intrigued at the smart ideas that percolate up from entrepreneurial centers like this one. As I mentioned before, you really should follow their work; if you do that often enough, you’ll probably find other lawyers are following you.

Are drones the future? Or annoyances that should be grounded?

Are drones the future? Or annoyances that should be grounded?

“All politics is local,” famously remarked once-Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill. And that is certainly true in the increasingly rancorous debate over the use of drones. A subject that we might believe is all-FCC increasingly becomes a local battle.

An Arizona Republic story this week describes the growing resistance to unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS. As the story explains, the anti-drone gauntlet has been picked up vehemently in Paradise Valley, and more gingerly in Phoenix.

As I have mentioned before, I continue to be intrigued by the little whirly-gigs and the legal questions that swarm around them. (And we covered some of those topics in Arizona Attorney Magazine.)

Looking toward the horizon (which would be easier from a drone), I think that UAS are bound to become an even more central part of everyday life. Despite the best efforts of municipalities, drones’ multiple possible uses and relative low cost nearly guarantee their increased use. Is there anyone who wagers the FAA will ignore that economic impact when it develops new rules of engagement? I didn’t think so.

I’m developing a short list of lawyers who are adept in the legal world of drones. I look forward to connecting with them on coverage of what’s next, and how the regulation of drones may ascend—or settle back down to earth.

first-amendment-coalition-logo

How much do you know about the use of mobile devices in Arizona courtrooms? A free presentation to be offered in Tucson will answer many of your questions.

The event is sponsored by the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, and it will be held at the University of Arizona in Tucson on Friday, January 23. It will cover all the most recent changes to rules regarding cameras, mobile phones and more.

Click here for more information.

Panelists will include:

  • Cathie Batbie, news director at KVOA-TV (Channel 4-NBC), Tucson
  • Amelia Craig Cramer, chief deputy Pima County Attorney and former president of the State Bar of Arizona
  • Patrick McNamara, courts reporter, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson
  • Hon. Sally Simmons, presiding judge of the Pima County Superior Court and former president of the State Bar of Arizona
  • Hon. Scott Rash, Pima County Superior Court judge

“Moderating the discussion will be well-known Phoenix media law attorney Daniel C. Barr, partner in the firm of Perkins Coie LLP, and counsel to the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona.”

As the website indicates: Admission is free and the public is invited, but to have an accurate count for ordering a continental breakfast, RSVPs are requested to phoenixspj@cox.net.

This event will replicate a first successful one back in October that the organization sponsored in Phoenix. (I wrote about it here.) 

Note: To accommodate more people, organizers have moved the location of the cameras-in-courtrooms panel discussion. It’s now in the UA Education Building, 1430 E. Second St. Map and parking information is here. (And a map is below.)

Questions? Email phoenixspj@cox.net.

 

This Thursday, November 6, the group Women in eDiscovery meets in Phoenix. data computer board

This Thursday, November 6, the group Women in eDiscovery meets in Phoenix.

I pass on to you a recent announcement regarding eDiscovery. Please feel free to share with others who may have an interest.

The news comes from Lana Schell, co-founder and national Executive Director of Women in eDiscovery.

You can read more about the organization and its mission here. Here’s the announcement:

“The Phoenix Chapter of Women in eDiscovery (WiE) has officially been reactivated as a recognized chapter of WiE.

“The purpose of the chapter is to bring professional women in the legal industry together to provide educational sessions, professional development, networking and philanthropy. That includes attorneys, paralegals, litigation support, eDiscovery, IT, records management, consultants, etc.

Women in eDiscovery banner logo cropped“Encourage them to register on-line for free membership and to attend the meetings to learn about the organization.

“Our chapter email address phoenix@womeninediscovery.org is also activated. Please add this email address to your ‘safe sender’ list as this will be the address that you will receive future chapter email.

“If you haven’t registered, please go here and select ‘Register with WiE.’ You can select up to 3 chapters; make sure you select Phoenix and agree to the Non-Solicitation Statement.

“Once registered, you will be added to the membership list, ensuring receipt of meeting details and chapter information.”

The first official meeting is scheduled for:

  • Thursday, November 6 at 5:30 pm
  • Location:  Jennings, Strouss & Salmon – One East Washington Street – Suite 1900
  • Food will be provided by: Richo

Read more and RSVP here.

Do these old computer ads represent your current technology thinking? Time to adjust your vertical hold.

Do these old computer ads represent your current technology thinking? Time to adjust your vertical hold.

Technology can be nervous-making. And who likes to reveal they have some Very. Basic. Questions? Especially in front of a room full of lawyers?

That appears to be the thinking behind a State Bar educational event to be held on October 17. It is called Technology for Baby Boomers (Part 1): Everything You Wanted to Know about Technology, But Were Afraid to Ask.

Yes, it says Part 1. It is a series, “designed to answer questions attorneys who are not comfortable with technology might have. Bring your laptop or other device to participate in hands-on exercises during the presentation.”

complexity is the enemy says Sir Richard BransonThis first session will address the following topics:

  • Introduction to computers, the Internet and operating systems
  • Microsoft Office, alternative solutions and add-ons
  • Take care of your technology: DIY or outsource?
  • “The Cloud”

More detail and registration information are here.

The other sessions in the series follow in November and December. I’ll let you know the topics as soon as I know them.

Morris Institute for Justice LogoThis Friday provides an opportunity to hear from two legal experts who are also terrific presenters. It all happens on the afternoon of May 16, when Lynda Shely and Patricia Sallen speak on ethics issues and technology.

The three-hour presentation is titled “30 Ethics Tips Before Using Any Technology” and isoffered by the William E. Morris Institute for Justice on Friday, May 16, from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. It is co-sponsored by Lewis Roca Rothgerber

The event will also be live simulcast to Tucson.

Lynda Shely is an attorney at the Shely Firm PC, and Patricia Sallen is Director of Special Services and Ethics/Deputy General Counsel of the State Bar of Arizona.

The in-person presentation will be at:

Lewis Roca Rothgerber

201 East Washington Street, 3rd floor

Phoenix, AZ 85004

 

The live simulcast can be viewed at:

Lewis Roca Rothgerber

1 South Church Ave., Suite 700

Tucson, AZ 85701

 

As the Institute says, “The CLE fee is a $150 donation to the Institute (paid in advance or at the door), of which $50 may be tax deductible. The Institute qualifies for the ‘working poor tax credit.’”

RSVP by May 13 to Ellen Katz at eskatz@qwestoffice.net or 602-252-3432 ext. 2, or register online by making your $150 donation through the MIJ website (click “Donate to MIJ”).

your-code-it-sucks-thumb

So what if my code sucks. We’re not all coders now, are we? Are we?

Yesterday, I sat in on a State Bar CLE that asked the intriguing question, “The end of law firms?”

The answer (spoiler alert): They live still, but they’re on the emergency-room gurney.

The speaker was attorney Mark Lassiter, whom I’ve covered before. He has added to his already substantial presentation, so if you’ve seen one, you certainly haven’t seen them all. And he will be speaking at this June’s Bar Convention too, where he promises even more compelling new content on the topic.

Mark is certainly not the only person nationally announcing the decline of traditional law firms. But he’s doing his darnedest to be the Arizona guy most associated with the notion. And his takeaway is that though law firms are not dead, they’re certainly coughing up blood. And the solution, he suggests, lies in a combination of robust online systems and in-person collaborations that are project-specific.

Mark Lassiter speaks at the State Bar of Arizona, Feb. 11, 2014.

Mark Lassiter speaks at the State Bar of Arizona, Feb. 11, 2014.

As I listened to his assessment and his complex prescription for improvement, I was reminded of a class I took in ninth grade. (Bear with me.)

Back at LaGrange Junior High in 1977 (go ahead; do the math), I was slotted into a computer programming class—not for any special skill I demonstrated, but as part of a required curriculum. And that’s where I learned quite a bit—not about computer programming, at which I clearly sucked, but about the deep misunderstanding we may have about the speed of change in technology.

Assigned to learn BASIC and COBOL, I struggled to remember where and how to insert my left and right carats (just days after learning that there were left and right carats). As I sweated and erred, my teacher simply shook his head in disappointment. I always eventually completed my assigned programs, which ran and executed whatever the hell they were supposed to execute. But my code was littered with crappy detritus. An elegant coder, I was not.

My teacher took my failures as an opportunity to tell the whole class:

“In the future, computers are going to be much more widely used at jobs. And do you know who will get to use computers? The people who can program. You may think BASIC and COBOL are hard now. But if you don’t learn them, you will never be able to use a computer. And you will be left behind.”

I was too inexperienced to recognize a nebbish when I saw one (he was a tool with a tool), and so I took as gospel truth this hare-brained idea: That unless you understood the underlying technology implicitly, you would be unable to make use of it.

COBOL: Yeah, I don't get it either. So I went into law.

COBOL: Yeah, I don’t get it either. So I went into law.

Of course, that has never been true. How many of us could teach a class on telephony? But how many are able to use a telephone?

And so as I sat in the Bar’s CLE center, I mused on what drives lawyers, and on whether their reputation for stubbornness is deserved.

Remember, we’re told often that lawyers resist change. We’re lectured that attorneys are trying to cling to old unsustainable practices that will leave them forever in the dust.

Understand, Mark Lassiter does not say these things. But the tone hovering over national conversations about the legal profession’s future creates a straw man of a toddler-like attorney population, fingers in ears, refusing to learn new skills.

That national tone continues that if lawyers do not learn these new skills, they will never be able to flourish again. In fact, they may starve.

Welcome back to ninth grade, I think. Time to call b.s. on that.

The fact of the matter is that some folks—like Mark Lassiter—are eager to create and use complex online tools. They will profit; they will flourish.

Computer geniuses laugh when I say I struggled with BASIC. Who's laughing now? (Oh yeah. They are.)

Computer geniuses laugh when I say I struggled with BASIC. Well, who’s laughing now? (Oh yeah. They are.)

Meantime, most other attorneys—hell, most people—are not pioneers and early adopters. But that does not make them troglodytes.

So we have the pioneers who want to be involved in the construction of the actual tools and systems. But there are far more other lawyers who simply want to use those tools, but have no interest in fashioning them out of clay and iron themselves. They are not resisting; they are eager for the day (soon!) when these tools are commonly available, downloadable, and comprehensible to the lawyer focused on law rather than technology.

In an upcoming post, I will write about some of the content Mark shared in his helpful CLE. But in the meantime, let me add: The technology will get easier, omnipresent, and off-the-shelf usable. Those of us whose focus is torts (for instance) and not tech will be able to use it, run a practice and make a living. Many if not most of us will benefit and prosper.

Except my ninth-grade computer teacher. He can go pound salt.

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