Did you know? Child’s minority status does not toll statute of limitations under the Federal Tort Claims Act

by Mark Scruggs

The plaintiff in Arteaga v. United States of America, 711 F.3d 828 (2013) was the mother of a child who was injured at birth. The mother accused Erie Family Health Center, where the mother received prenatal care, of medical malpractice. Erie was a private health center that received grant money from the U.S. Public Health Service. As a result, Erie’s employees were deemed federal employees and thus the claim was governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit because the claim was not filed within the two-year statute of limitations for tort claims brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The court held the state statute that extended the statute of limitations for a suit on behalf of… Read More

Two Emails to Save Tons of Time

by Jay Reeves

I am a sucker for simplicity and shortcuts, so I wasted no time clicking on this headline: “How to Go From Working 60 Hours a Week to 40 By Sending Two Emails a Week!” Reduce my workweek by one-third? Simply by hitting the “send” button twice? Count me in. And here are the two magic e-missives, courtesy of Robbie Abed, business writer and author of Fire Me, I Beg You: Email #1: What you plan on getting done this week. Email #2: What you actually got done this week. The first thing you will notice is that both emails are meant for your boss or supervisor. This poses an obvious problem for solos and lawyers without managers: who gets the emails? The answer: send them to yourself. A trickier problem is how to actually con… Read More

The Difference Between Me, Myself and I

by Jay Reeves

There are a couple of ways to go when you get an email from a malpractice claims counsel that opens chillingly: “This concerns a matter of extreme urgency that is causing me great distress.” One, you can stop reading, delete the message, and pretend you never got it. Two, you can keep reading. I chose the second option. Partly I did so because I knew the sender. In fact he is a good friend. But mostly I kept reading because I am no longer in active practice, which means my days of causing anyone other than my spouse “great distress” are largely behind me. I figured whatever was bugging my buddy had nothing to do with me. Myself Is Reflexive, Like Looking In a Mirror Turns out I was right. My friend was in high dudgeon over the misus… Read More

How to Raise Your Happiness Baseline

by Jay Reeves

We tend to think of happiness as a commodity. We put a value on it. We try to maximize our odds of obtaining it. We attend seminars and read books (and blogposts) on how to get more of it. But maybe that approach – thinking of happiness as something that can be gained, lost or bartered for – is misguided. What if we are programmed at birth for a certain level of happiness? What if a large percentage of our capacity for happiness – say, half – is predetermined when we arrive on this mortal coil, and the other 50 percent depends on the choices we make after getting here? Seen this way, happiness is sort of like athletic ability. World Cup-caliber soccer skills are not something you can go out and buy at Wal-Mart. Genetics gives us a too… Read More

Are Spiteful Clients Good For Your Practice?

by Jay Reeves

We are told to avoid clients who are motivated by spite. They are bad news. Perhaps even dangerous. Even if things are fine and dandy at the beginning of their case, just wait: the minute things go south their wrath will be redirected our way. Better to represent clients with good old-fashioned motivations like greed or fear. But now comes new research that suggests a little spite might just be all right. A study from Tufts University showed that when spiteful players were included in a game-playing experiment, the rate of fair outcomes actually increased. It turns out that stingy, ill-willed subjects helped keep the game honest. They held fast, acting as a sort of buffer against those who were more pliable. This is not to say that spiteful people are neces… Read More

State Bar Changes Random Audit Rules

by Jay Reeves

If you have a Client Trust Account, you should know about recent changes to the State Bar audit rules. Previously, you could inoculate yourself against a Random Audit by preemptively having an accountant review your books and certify that they were in order. You will still be able to do that – but the procedure for getting an exemption has changed. Trust Accounting Rule 1.15 The State Bar launched its Random Audit program in 1985. From the start, the rules allowed lawyers whose books had been “pre-cleared” to obtain an audit exemption. Each year, the Bar gets around 35-40 exemption requests. These come from firms large and small. If an exemption is granted, the firm does not have to worry about being randomly audited for 15 months. “… Read More

What a Mega Law Firm Merger Could Mean For You

by Jay Reeves

Two of the largest law firms in the U.S. – Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders – have merged to create one of the largest in the world. Squire Patton Boggs will employ around1,600 lawyers at 45 offices in 21 countries. That’s more lawyers than in the entire bars of North Dakota, Guam or the Virgin Islands. The new mega-firm – which according to press releases will continue the extensive lobbying of Patton Boggs while expanding into corporate law, complex litigation, investigations, white collar defense, intellectual property, public policy, regulatory work, capital markets, labor and employment, restructuring and insolvency, real estate, sovereign representation, tax, and public and infrastructure finance – will rank among the top 25 … Read More

Law School & Networking: Getting to Know Others

by Jeanine Soufan

One thing law school has taught me and something that has certainly been reinforced during my time as a Summer Associate at Lawyers Mutual is the importance of networking. I'm the type of person that can talk to a stranger in a grocery store for several minutes over the baseball cap I'm wearing that day. Nevertheless, networking functions are still a bit anxiety-inducing to me. Lawyers Mutual has provided me with many networking opportunities. Vice President of Client Services, Camille Stell, encouraged me to take advantage of as many of these opportunities as I can, and I've done my best. Putting yourself out there is nerve-wracking, until you realize many people are feeling the same way. Here are some tips to get you by: 1) Be yourself— By introducing y… Read More

Ready, Set, Retirement?

by Pat Murphy

Are you looking forward to retirement?  If you are like me, the answer may be “yes” and “no”.  I can’t believe that I’m old enough to think about it, but the reality is setting in.  I don’t plan to retire for several more years, but time is going so fast these days I’m sure retirement will be here before I know it. In some ways I am not looking forward to retirement.  I will miss my co-workers and the stimulation that comes from interacting with people and having new experiences every day.  The rhythm of the work day makes me feel connected to the world. However, the idea of no longer being tied to a daily schedule is kind of exciting. As we move into retirement we will be able to try new… Read More

Looking at the Law Half A Century Ago

by Jay Reeves

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the future-themed 1964 New York World’s Fair, which included predictions from Isaac Asimov of what the world might look like in 2014. Many of Asimov’s forecasts – flat-screen televisions, microwaves, computers – have come true. Others – robot brains, moon colonies – not so much. What about lawyers and the law? What was happening in American jurisprudence 50 years ago? Quite a lot, it turns out. Here is a look back at some of the seismic law-related events of 1964: Jack Ruby convicted. In March 1964 – with the country still reeling from the assassination of President Kennedy – nightclub owner Jack Ruby was found guilty of killing assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruby was arrest… Read More

Can Suffering Make You A Better Lawyer?

by Jay Reeves

Find yourself suffering through another awful case? Count your blessings. Suffering seems to be all the rage. Doctors, deep thinkers and defense attorneys alike are touting its potential benefits. Even Oprah is on board. Suffering, they say, can sharpen our focus and strengthen our character. It can teach us patience and humility. It can open our minds to new possibilities. Of course this is not new thinking. Far from it. For centuries, mystics and religious leaders have urged us to accept our trials and tribulations with equanimity. Suffering, they say, is a first principle of life. But it seems recently a diverse chorus – from the liberal Huffington Post to conservative columnist David Brooks – has been singing the praises of hard times. R… Read More

"Whole Body" Public Speaking

by Mark Scruggs

Whether you are a “courtroom lawyer” or not, you should be able to speak in front of a group. People expect lawyers to be good at this. (Think Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.) With apologies to Whole Foods Market, public speaking should be a “whole body” experience. Here are my top tips for polishing your public speaking skills. Thanks to Linda Shields for teaching me some of these ideas, including this first one: Write and memorize your opening and closing. “Primacy” and “recency” are terms used in psychology to describe the phenomenon that results in the earliest and latest information in a given presentation being recalled best, with information in the middle being least remembered. If you want your prese… Read More

Honoring Fathers Present and Past

by Jay Reeves

How much do you know about Father’s Day? Take this quick quiz and find out (answers below): Which national celebration came first: (a) Father’s Day (b) Mother’s Day? The first reported Father’s Day service was held in: (a) a VFW hall (b) a church (c) a courtroom The formal push to commemorate Father’s Day began in: (a) Salisbury NC (b) Spokane WA (c) Spartanburg SC A date in June was selected because: (a) it fell a month after Mother’s Day (b) it was the birth date of the founder’s father (c) it came in the month when men traditionally made marriage proposals Like its maternal counterpart, Father’s Day was quickly embraced as an important, worthy holiday. (a) True (b) False Father’s Day was signed in… Read More

Become More Likeable With 19 Little Words

by Jay Reeves

The headline on this particular blogpost – “19 Words That Will Make People Like You More” – was irresistible. Who doesn’t want to be more popular? And to get there in less than two dozen words? Count me in. Here are the 19 allegedly magical incantations: Sir and ma’am You’re welcome. Here’s what’s happening. How can I help? I will find out. I believe in you. OK, fine. A harmless little post. It consumed only a few minutes of my life. But I must confess that I came away from it feeling somewhat less than enlightened (a sentiment I’m sure long-suffering readers of my own posts will identify with). It could have been penned by Miss Manners or any of a number of second-tier success writers. B… Read More

Indigent Representation and Risk Management

by Jay Reeves

A lawyer in Texas has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraudulent billing in court-appointed cases. The attorney – who pocketed $600,000 over the course of four years and sped up the payment process by forging judges’ signatures on vouchers – was charged with 46 felony counts before accepting a plea deal. Cases this egregious require no risk management commentary. Risk ipsa loquitor. But the story does offer a good opportunity to review some details of indigent representation in North Carolina. In August 2000, the General Assembly passed the Indigent Defense Services Act. This law created the Office of Indigent Defense Services and its 13-member governing commission. Responsibilities of the IDS include overseeing legal repre… Read More