Discussions about Alternative Business Structures (ABS) in law firms often produce a lot of spirited debates, especially when the proposals about this idea are discussed by American Bar Association entities. Generally ABS refers to various different ideas about non-lawyer ownership or management of law firms. Last year when the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services published an issues paper and solicited comments on ABS, various state bar associations and other lawyer organizations reacted strongly and filed comments opposing ABS. Those with an interest can read the Issue paper and comments on the Commission’s website. For example, the ABA Family Law Section comment was “On behalf of the Section of Family Law, we pose the following question: WHAT PART OF “NO!” DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND? We remain unalterably opposed to these repeated, previously failed efforts to foist ABS upon our profession or our ethics.”
It is easy to understand the concerns from the legal profession. The practice of law cannot ethically be just about profit-and-loss decision making. So there are concerns that a non-lawyer administrator might tell a lawyer to not do any more work on an matter with a critical hearing date approaching because the client’s retainer had been exhausted or tell a lawyer to unethically do more work on a matter where a solution was found relatively quickly with limited expense. But the negative reaction to ABS proposals is often so strong that one wonders if those responding have completely considered the potential benefits.
Our Digital Edge podcast this month is “Will Alternative Business Structures in U.K. Law Firms Cross the Pond?” It is instructive to listen to the story of a major U.K. law firm that has become an ABS, both how they undertook this path and why the lawyers are pleased that they did so. David Beech is the CEO of the professional services firm Knights in the U.K. David has led the business, originally a law firm, since 2011. His vision for Knights is to become the leading regional professional services business in the U.K. He was an outstanding podcast guest and this is a very worthwhile podcast.
If you are one of those lawyers who thinks this is a terrible idea, then that is all the more reason to listen to this podcast. You might learn something. Maybe you will learn of some benefits and changes your firm can incorporate without becoming an ABS. After all, it is not like the proponents of these changes want to allow for this to destroy the legal profession.
Smart use of technology is more important in law firms today than ever before, particularly as the majority of states have added a comment to their Rules of Professional Conduct that lawyers need to appreciate “the risks and benefits of relevant technology” as they serve their clients. ABA TECHSHOW 2017 will be held March 15-18, 2017 at the Chicago Hilton and you won’t find a better place to learn about the risks and benefits of today’s law firm technology.
Oklahoma Bar Association members can receive a substantial discount on ABA TECHSHOW registration by using Event Promoter code EP1716 when they register and everyone should save by registering by the Early Bird Deadline of January 30, 2017. Other bars are also Event Promoters as you can see here.
ABA TECHSHOW is unique because no other conference has a combination of so many CLE credit-granting presentations, such a huge vendor floor of law office technology services & products and a diverse group of attendees and faculties that include some of the top legal technologists in North America.
As you make your decision on whether to attend ABA TECHSHOW, I encourage you to spend a moment looking at the schedule of presentations on the TECHSHOW website. I’m sure you will find many interesting offerings and some presentations on topics you’ve never even considered. Not only will you be able to attend many of these CLE sessions, but you will receive the ABA TECHSHOW flash drive with the written materials for all of these sessions. You will also receive PDF copies of the presenter’s PowerPoints. I refer back to my ABA TECHSHOW flash drive many times each year.
Register now for ABA TECHSHOW 2017. I hope to see you there and I hope to see a lot of my fellow Oklahoma lawyers there this year.
5 Trends in the Future of Law Practices is a topic I will be addressing in a webinar on Thursday Jan 26, 2017 at 10:30 AM CST and you can can attend for free. it will be a quick 15-20 minute presentation with no MCLE credit and is sponsored by Affinity Consulting. Affinity has planned an interesting series of 5 in 15 minutes programs for this year and they have asked me to lead them off. Here is their promotional language:
“Throughout 2017, Affinity Consulting will host the best and brightest thought leaders in our industry to share their top 5 tips and trends that will affect your law firm. These short webinars will deliver immediate information in a quick 15 – 20 minute format.
“We begin our year-long Thought Leadership Series with Jim Calloway. Jim is the Director of Management Assistance Program at Oklahoma Bar Association, a Practice Management Advisor and past Chair of ABA TECHSHOW. His 5-in-15 topic for January is 5 Trends in the Future of Law Practices. Hear what trend Jim sees coming this year that may affect your firm.
“Join us all year to learn from our Thought Leaders in this thought-provoking and insightful webinar series.” Register here.
This week we learned of a new Gmail phishing attack that is sophisticated, ingenious and is going to compromise a lot of Gmail accounts. Read the Forbes story This Gmail Phishing Attack Is Fooling Even Savvy Users and then share either this blog post or that story with those you know who might be using GMail. (This would be great for your law firm to share via social media.)
As I noted, this one is very impressive. When they compromise a GMail account they instantly raid the account and then set up new phishing attacks coming from the compromised user’s account to people he/she has in their Contacts or Inbox. Since they have access to everything in your Gmail, they include a relevant subject line from an actual sent email to them as the subject line on the phishing email. Devilishly clever. Someone you have corresponded with gets an email from you with a subject line of a recent email discussion between you. The recipient understandably is more likely to click on the attachment and then enter the requested information.
You can read in Forbes about the clever trick they use to make the login appear legitimate by loading “a full web page worth of code into the browser’s address bar.”
I get these phishing emails all the time. Just yesterday members of an American Bar Association group I am a part of received an email with a “contract” from the ABA. The attachment appeared to be a normal PDF attachment, but luckily, as you can see below, the email was not that persuasive. ABA staff followed up quickly with a warning.
This story is appearing in the media. But I wanted to make sure you learned the main lesson from this. This one was too good. You can no longer be certain you won’t fall for one of these scams.
This is the strongest case you will find for using 2 factor authentication. If you have it set up on Gmail, this exploit accomplishes nothing because the bad guys don’t have your phone or fingerprint. And when you next regularly change your password, they will no longer have your password either. If you don’t have 2 factor authentication enabled, then they have access to your entire Google account, including Gmail (with perhaps receipts from your online shopping,) Google Wallet, documents you have stored in Google Drive, Google Calendar entries, photos in Google Photos and your YouTube account. What risk this entails to you depends on how you much you use Gmail or Google services.
I’ll end by reposting the link to my column Client Confidentiality, Personal Privacy and Digital Security.
Data security and keeping confidential information confidential is an area of concern for everyone who uses computers and the Internet.
The number of online threats continue to multiply and the average computer user has to be aware of some basic precautions. For my column Client Confidentiality, Personal Privacy and Digital Security, I tried to cover a number of areas that are important for basic digital information security.
Everyone can take these security steps. Admittedly some of these require some setup and a few will require changes that make your daily computer tasks take a moment or two longer than is required now. But privacy and confidentiality are important for us all and even more critical for lawyers with confidential client information to protect.
All of these steps are easily accomplished by an average office computer user. No advanced information technology skills are required.
If you have read a bit on end user computer security, you may not find a lot of new information here. But if you made a New Year’s resolution to pay more attention to protecting your private and confidential information this year, then this column is a great starting place.
What is the meaning of law practice management today?
In the Jan./Feb 2017 issue of Law Practice Magazine, I try to briefly provide a framework of the basics in my column, the Four Corners of Law Practice Management. Can you guess my four corners? Well, most members of the ABA Law Practice Division can. The Division undertook a study to determine how to define law practice management and these four core areas emerged.
I think I will force the rest of you to click over to our fine digital magazine and discover the four corners.
I will note that one of the corners is marketing and this issue is the Marketing issue of Law Practice Magazine. Marketing is a topic of great interest to many lawyers today. So this entire issue is worth a read. I’ll single out three of the many fine pieces. The Lawyer’s Internet Marketing Tool Kit by Jason Marsh is a great outline of a number of tools. If you feel behind the curve on online marketing, you wouldn’t want to miss this one. How an Introvert Can Build a Thriving Practice by Anne E. Collier is a great treatment of a subject rarely discussed. Everyone can feel like an introvert at times. This is a well-written piece with a lot of great ideas.
Here’s a special shout out for my friend, Tom Mighell, on his column, Blogging for Lawyers, Part 1; Choosing the Right Platform. I think a lot of lawyers should be giving blogging another thought. There is a lot of content online now, but lawyers can still demonstrate their expertise by publishing short essays online. That is what lawyer blog posts should be −short essays, often including links to source material. A blog can give you a tool that makes it easy to create your content, then you can push the content out via social media, email, links to it from the firm website or email newsletters. But, hopefully, others will note your good content and share with their group.
Tom’s article also demonstrates the challenge of writing for print publications today. He notes Medium as a potential platform. I love the way stories are visually displayed on Medium and had thought about giving it a try myself. But a few days ago, Medium announced major layoffs with office closings and the messages about restructuring were less than clear. It may yet turn into a better venue for smaller firms and solos to post, but at this point it is best to wait and see.
It was on January 2, 2005 that I launched Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips. So this week the blog is 12 years old. Happy Blogiversary to me and to my loyal readers, some of whom have been with me for all of the 12 years.
One of the reasons I wanted to mention this landmark is that I plan to have a renewed focus on the blog this year, starting with a face lift from the current old tired look, coming soon. I’ve found myself sharing a lot more on Twitter the last several years because it is quicker. I don’t intend to stop that and all of my reader should follow me, @jimcalloway, on Twitter. But tweeting shouldn’t take the place of blogging.
I greatly appreciate all of you who have read this blog and supported me over the years. I’m sorry sometimes that I made the original decision not to allow comments, but I don’t have any more time to sort through comment spam now than I did 12 years ago. I do greatly appreciate that readers do let me know through their emails when I have gotten something right and when I have gotten something wrong.
I’m going to aim for regular longer blog posts like Echos of Police, Privacy and Alexa. And I’ll continue linking to my podcast episodes and my columns in Law Practice Magazine and the Oklahoma Bar Journal. There are a lot of great law blogs and so I am encouraged people still read my posts and share them. I certainly don’t lack for topics to write about as there are many new and interesting developments in the practice of law and law office technology. I’m also spending more time with Access to Justice issues and you will be seeing more content about the lawyer’s role in improving Access to Justice.
So thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to pay attention. And if you want to give me a gift, share a link to my blog with someone you know and tell them why they should subscribe or read. (By the way, I know all the cool kids use a feed reader, but I have a large number of readers who subscribed by email with the easy link at the blog site.)