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Tips for Newly Minted, Courtroom Bound Lawyers

by Mark Scruggs

Mark Scruggs As graduation approaches, and the Bar Exam looms, we begin anticipating an influx of newly minted lawyers, many of them courtroom bound. As a former practicing litigation attorney, I would like to offer my top tips for newly minted lawyers, especially those who aspire to courthouse and courtroom practice.

Tip #1 – Find a mentor. If you want to handle personal injury cases, find a good personal injury lawyer in your community who is willing to show you the ropes. If you want to practice bankruptcy law, find a good bankruptcy lawyer to mentor you. You can learn by your mistakes, and you will. But it’s not the best way, especially if it’s at the expense of your client. If you need help finding a mentor and you’re in Wake County, check out Campbell Law Connections Mentor Program. A joint effort of the Wake County Bar Association and Campbell Law School, the program pairs a select number of newly minted lawyers with an experienced practitioner in a formal mentoring program.

Tip #2 – Get to know the courthouse personnel. The clerk of court, assistant clerks, bailiffs and other courthouse personnel are an invaluable resource for you as you learn to navigate the specialized world of courthouse/courtroom practice. No one knows more about the inner workings of the courthouse and the predilections of your judges than the clerks and bailiffs. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be so impressed with your new status as a lawyer that you refuse to access the years of experience that courthouse personnel have to offer you. 

Tip #3 – get to court early. You will be stressed enough during the first year or so. Don’t add to the stress by being late for court. Get to court early enough to get comfortable with your surroundings before you have to perform. The court, your client, opposing counsel and courtroom staff will be impressed by your professionalism before you ever open your mouth.

Tip #4 – Prepare a memorandum of law or short brief. A wise lawyer once told me: “if it’s important enough to take before the court, it’s important enough to prepare a memorandum of law.” There may be exceptions, but I submit this should be your rule. It’s a mark of professionalism and will not go unnoticed. If nothing else, it will provide you with a roadmap for your argument.

Tip #5 – Guard your integrity with your life. Advocacy is one thing; misdirection, obfuscation, misleading is quite another. From the very first moment of your career, develop a reputation of scrupulous honesty. The court and opposing counsel will never give you a second chance if you once are caught being untruthful.

Tip #6 – Dress conservatively. Save you sartorial expression for other occasions. Your goal is to be just another suit until you earn the gravitas to be different. I wear bow ties, but as a new lawyer I would not wear a bow tie to court for a year or two or three. Some lawyers can carry it off, but probably not you – at least for a while.

I am sure there are others, but these are my top tips for newly minted, courtroom bound lawyers. If you heed my advice, you will more easily survive the first years of your practice, and you will establish yourself as a professional in every sense of the word.

 Mark Scruggs is a claims attorney with Lawyers Mutual specializing in litigation, workers compensation and family law matters. You can reach Mark at 800.662.8843 or at mscruggs@lawyersmutualnc.com

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Essential Qualities of A Great Leader

by Jay Reeves

Essential Qualities of A Great LeaderThe holiday formerly known as Washington’s Birthday has morphed into Presidents’ Day, celebrated on the third Monday of February.

And it continues to evolve into a more generic recognition of the role of leadership in government and society.

That’s a good thing. The qualities of leadership are not confined to any individual. Even one named Washington.

Great leaders come in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders. They are never perfect. Sometimes they are far from it, with remarkable strengths alongside glaring weaknesses.

In fact, one characteristic of strong leaders is the ability to acknowledge their shortcomings and work consciously to fill in the gaps.

5 Qualities of Great Presidents

Michael Siegel, author of The President as Leader, says stellar leaders share the following qualities:

  • Vision. They see shining cities where others see only hills. “Ronald Reagan embraced a vision of a smaller, less regulated government with lower taxes and less social welfare spending,” Siegel writes. “As a New Democrat, Bill Clinton was very serious about balancing the federal budget and reaching out to the business community, but at the same time not abandoning the needs of poor people.”
  • Follow-through. They know how to get things done. They stick to their guns. They win friends and influence people.
  • Focus. They are not scattered. They don’t try to do too much at once. They zoom in like a laser beam on a few major goals at a time.
  • Inspiration. They motivate others to join the mission. They bring out the best in their followers. They impart the sense that government service is a noble challenge and a public trust.

N.C. Leadership Academy Class of 2014

Each year, the N.C. Bar Association selects a group of outstanding young lawyers to participate in its Leadership Academy.

Here are the 17 attorneys selected for the Class of 2014:

  • Christopher Anglin, Anglin Law Firm, Raleigh
  • Todd Billmire, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, Charlotte
  • Daniel Bowes, N.C. Justice Center & Legal Aid of N.C., Durham
  • Zeke Bridges, Campbell Law School, Raleigh
  • Karen Chapman, Poyner Spruill LLP, Charlotte
  • Mark Cummings, Gray & Johnson LLP, Greensboro
  • Milind Dongre, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Winston-Salem
  • Amber Duncan, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Charlotte
  • Sonny Haynes, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, Winston-Salem
  • William Oden, Ward and Smith PA, Wilmington
  • Mital Patel, Triangle Business Law, Raleigh
  • Erin Reis, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Greensboro
  • Deanna Thorne, Pulley Watson King & Lischer, PA, Raleigh
  • Justin Truesdale, Smith Anderson Blount Dorsett Mitchell & Jernigan, Raleigh
  • Hannah Vaughan, Elon University School of Law, Greensboro
  • Melissa Walker, Lewis & Roberts PLLC, Cary
  • Jon Ward, Pinto Coates Kyre & Bowers PLLC, Greensboro

The Leadership Academy was started in 2011 under the direction of then-President Gene Pridgen. Partners include the NCBA’s Young Lawyer Initiatives Task Force and the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro.

Congratulations to the Super 17. With leaders like them in the pipeline, our profession is in good hands.

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com, phone 919-619-2441.

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12 Books NC Lawyers Are Reading

by Jay Reeves

12 Books NC Lawyers Are ReadingNorth Carolina is filled with great lawyers – and many are reading great books.

That’s one thing we discovered at our recent CLE seminars.

Lawyers Mutual just wrapped up its 2013-14 CLE tour. Starting in November, the company travelled across the state presenting live programs from Asheville to Wrightsville Beach.

One portion of the three-hour program was “Literature and the Law.” This segment opened by asking audience members what books they were currently reading. The answers were varied, although a few titles tended to pop up frequently.

Book Suggestions from Buncombe to New Bern

  1. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, by Le Ly Hayslip. This 1989 memoir tells the story of a young girl’s childhood during the Vietnam War, her escape to America and her return to her homeland years later.
  2. Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin. The author was the long-time lawyer for the Tonight Show host, known to viewers as “Bombastic Bushkin.” This bio offers a peek behind that famous curtain.
  3. Witch Fire by James Rollins. The author is a former veterinarian who writes thriller novels with a touch of fantasy. Other popular works include The Devil’s Colony and Black Order.
  4. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This prize-winning novel, set in the 1500s, chronicles the court of King Henry VIII, with key roles played by lawyer/royal minister Thomas Cromwell and Sir Thomas More.
  5. Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassen. The protagonist Andrew Yancy — formerly with the Miami Police and presently suspended from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office – has a human arm in his freezer. Who it belongs to and how it got there remains to be determined.
  6. Hornet’s Nest by Patricia Cornwell. Judy Hammer, chief of police in Charlotte, her deputy Virginia West, and police reporter Andy Brazil are the principal trio in this police procedural by the famed crime novelist.
  7. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This book details how and why President Abraham Lincoln chose as members of his first cabinet some of his most bitter political opponents. It was recommended as a must-read by at least one attendee at every single seminar.
  8. American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Joan Biskupic. In this first detailed portrait of the outspoken jurist, a veteran Washington journalist paints a picture of a complicated, colorful and transformative man in black.
  9. Jack Reacher by  Lee Child. You may know him onscreen as Tom Cruise. But the fictional hero of this action-adventure series is a former major in the United States Army Military Police who travels the country righting wrongs and engaging in spectacular deeds of derring-do.
  10. The Paris Vendetta by Steve Berry. This author writes Dan Brown-type thrillers involving historical figures, lost treasure and dangerous escapades.
  11. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The only novel by this American writer and poet (originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in 1963) is a semi-autobiographical account of a woman’s descent into mental illness. Plath committed suicide not long after its publication.
  12. Post Captain by Patrick O’Brian. This is the second in the “Master and Commander” series of British naval stories set in the early 1800s, recounting the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and ship surgeon Stephen Maturin. 

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com, phone 919-619-2441.

 

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Good Grammar is Good For Business

by Jay Reeves

Good Grammar is Good for BusinessSo how did you celebrate National Grammar Day?

I spent mine scouring the web for dangling participles, split infinitives and the misuse of “it’s” and “its.”

Good grammar is not sexy. But it can separate a super lawyer from a slothful one. And it can bring you more business.

A national real estate company recently conducted a survey of residential property listings. It found that many ads contained misspellings and botched grammar. More importantly, it found that 50 percent of potential buyers said these errors mattered “a lot” as they made their purchasing decisions.

Words matter. Using them the right way makes a difference. Especially in our profession, where precise – and concise – communication is key.

5 Common Grammar Goofs

  • "Your and You’re." These two words might look alike, but their functions are completely different. “You’re” is a contraction for “you are.” “Your” is a possessive pronoun.
  • “There” and “Their.” This pair is commonly confused. They needn’t be. “Their” is a possessive pronoun. “There” can have different meanings (to indicate a direction, a place, or even a subject), and therein lies the problem. Use this simple test: if you are referring to something that belongs to two or more people, “their” or “theirs” is the way to go.
  • “I” and “me.” Trouble arises when a first-person pronoun appears as the last in a series of objects in a prepositional phrase. “I” might look correct in such circumstances. Example: “Send a copy of the transcript to Joe Smith, Jane Doe and I.” Wrong. The objective – not subjective – form is proper. “Send it to Joe, Jane and me.”
  • Affect” and “Effect.” Here is the best way to keep this pesky pair in their proper places. Remember that “affect” is a verb that connotes action, while “effect” is a noun that signifies a consequence. Thus: “My screeching voice affects you negatively.” Or: “My screeching voice has a negative effect on you.”
  •  “A lot” is two words. “Alot” is not a word. If you want to indicate a large quantity of something, say “a lot.”

Take This Simple Test

  1. The shirt _____ her blue eyes. (a) compliments (b) complements
  2. Which of these sentences is grammatically correct? (a)  “Are you happy with the idea of my teaching you grammar?” (b) “Are you happy with the idea of me teaching you grammar?”
  3. Mr. Tate is very ill and needs to _____ down before we leave for the auditorium. (a) lie (b) lay (c) laid
  4. I know that using the right coffee maker can greatly _____ the taste. (a) affect (b) effect
  5. The band played ___________ hit song as the encore of the show. (a) it’s (b) its (c) their
  6. The argument swayed the judge, bailiff, jury members and ____. (a) I (b) me (c) we

 

Answers: (1) b (2) a (3) a (4) a (5) b (6) b

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com, phone 919-619-2441.

Sources:

http://www.copyblogger.com/5-common-mistakes-that-make-you-look-dum

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Hey Baby, Let The Good Times Roll

by Jay Reeves

Hey Baby, let the good times rollEverybody let’s have some fun.
You only live but once and when you’re dead you’re done.

Everybody needs a break now and then.

Especially lawyers, who spend too much time doing things that leave us with slumped shoulders, sore spirits and sagging self-esteem.

So come on baby let the good times roll.

And while you’re at it, why not let them really roll?

How about doing something different on your next vacation or long weekend? Veer off the beaten path. Take a plunge into the unknown.

Roll Outside Your Comfort Zone

Here are a few suggestions for some offbeat – and awesome – outings. Most are quite affordable. Some are free.

And while it’s always a good idea to make plans as far in advance as possible, many of the following destinations can be booked at the last minute.

So, as they say in the Southern Wilds: “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

  • Outer Banks driving tour. Sure, you may have lived here your whole life here and know all about the Outer Banks. But have you experienced their simple beauty and elegance on a leisurely automotive trek? The Outer Banks Driving Tour is a 130 mile cruise through pristine beaches and endless estuaries. Car surf through Bodie Island, Roanoke Island, Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island. Learn more here.
  • This is yurt’s lucky day. Perhaps you agree with Architectural Digest that the humble yurt is “an architectural wonder, with round fluid lines and natural light, an ancient Asian design that speaks of adventure and romance.” Or you might consider a yurt little more than a tent on steroids. Either way, there’s no denying that North Carolina has become a yurt mecca, with developers constructing high-dollar units on mountainsides and other locales offering breathtaking views. 

“Looking out through the many large windows, one feels as if they are in a tree house, high up in the branches,” describes one ad. “The natural surroundings provide the perfect backdrop to the glamping experience. With light fir floors, air conditioners, a fireplace, and dimmable halogen lighting, our yurts are perfect for a romantic getaway. A ceramic tiled wall, with shoji, screens the kitchen and dressing areas from the living/sleeping area. Learn more here.

  • The Beaufort Underwater Bike Race. No bike? No problem. Organizers will be happy to loan you a bike for the big day. This annual Fourth of July race begins at the starboard side of the Indra mid-afternoon. There is a Bike Decorating Bonanza at the dive shop prior to departure. Prizes are awarded for Best Dressed Bike and Rider. Swimming, pushing, pedaling or dragging are all allowed – as long as no motor is involved. It’s all in fun – and for a great cause: Children’s Mile of Hope (supports cancer research). Learn more here.
  • Gnome home. Here’s a day trip for all gnome-fanciers. Billing itself as a “paradise and gnome biome nestled in the rolling hills of Amish farmland in southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,” Gnome Countryside is a place for camping, hiking, and learn more about the folkloric, bearded little people.
  • Wave the checkered flag. Like big engines and fast cars? Check out the “Backing Up Classics” auto museum next to Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 18,000-square-foot facility is home to 50 classic cars, muscle cars and even a Camaro owned by Roy Orbison. Learn more here.
  • Handicrafts and more. Folk art and local crafts provide a link to yesterday’s good times. The historic Shelton House, home to the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts, has vast collections of pottery, woodcarving, basketry, metalwork, weaving, quilting, marquetry and other fine crafts. Some items date back to the mid-1700s. Visit the website here.

Two For the Road

  • You in an igloo. At Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland, you can live in an igloo among the Inuit and wildlife of Igloo Village. Dog sledding, frozen fjords, deserted villages and sleeping in an ice cave are just a few of the things you can do at this cold weather destination.
  • La La Land. For a truly bizarre excursion, take off for Landers, California and visit the time-travel machine Integratron. The creator was an aeronautical engineer who once worked with Howard Hughes and went on to become a leader in the UFO movement. Some claim to have made actual contact with extra-terrestrials at the Integraton. Others ascribe spiritual and physical healing powers to the site.

And some even believe the Integratron can whisk you back and forth in time – which might come in handy if you’ve missed a deadline and need a do-ever.

I don’t care if you’re young or old,
Come on baby, let the good times roll.

Sources:

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com or phone 919-619-2441.

 

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Auto-Reply Can Mean Auto-Trouble

by Jay Reeves

Auto-Reply Can Mean Auto-TroubleYou’re headed off for a well-deserved vacation. All your cases are covered. All loose ends are tied up.

You start to turn off your computer – but before you do, you remember to leave an out-of-office auto-reply email message.

Smart move, right? Maybe not.

Cyber-security experts urge caution when using email auto-reply. They say it gives hackers and scammers too much personal information – and it might even open doors for them to sneak in while you’re gone.

Why Hackers Love Auto-Reply

Consider the following sample email auto-reply message:

Thank you for your contacting me. Please be advised that I will be out of the office from March 3 through March 7, attending a cyber-security conference in Concord. I will not be checking my email during this time. If this is an urgent matter, feel free to contact my assistant, Joe Wrighthand, directly at 919-354-6438 or jwrighthand@goodlaw.com.

Just by reading your auto-reply, bad guys will acquire a lot of personal information about you and your whereabouts. For instance, they now know:

  • You are not in the office.
  • You are not even in town – you are in Concord.
  • You will be gone through March 7.
  • Your assistant is Joe Wrighthand.
  • Your assistant has at least some authority to conduct business in your absence.
  • Your assistant has a direct phone line and a separate email address.

Imagine the nefarious ways a naughty person might use this information.

The most important information spammers receive from an auto-reply is proof of an active and functioning email account. Once they have this in hand, you become a target for future spam and phishing schemes. Your email address might be shared or sold on the black market.

“The best practice is to avoid using the out-of-office auto-reply at all,” advises Andy O’Donnell at Net Security. “Skip the auto-reply, call your important customers and family and let them know how to reach you. If you feel you must use an auto-reply, be extremely vague in your language. State that you will be unavailable, which will provide uncertainty as to whether you are out of town or just in a long (local) meeting. Remove your signature block and avoid providing any personally identifying information.”

Ways to Avoid Trouble

There are two principal dangers in auto-reply messaging: (1) you have no control over who sees the message, and (2) you have no control over what they do with its contents.

Here are some ways to side-step the danger:

  1.  Come up with an office policy. Make sure everyone is on the same page. “Prepare and implement a security policy or user agreement, so users know the company policies with regard to protecting information,” says Professional Liability Matters. “The policy should note what information can be divulged in an out-of-office notification.”
  2.  Report suspicious behavior. Alert everyone in the office to potential holes in the system.
  3. Don’t drop names unnecessarily. A thief who knows not only your name but also the name of your trusted assistant – and perhaps the name of the city, hotel and conference you are attending – can cause mischief.
  4. Less is more. Be vague in your out-of-office message. Very vague. Leave the details for direct communications.
  5. Use different messages. “If possible, utilize one message for internal responses and another for e-mails from out-of-office contacts,” advises one expert.
  6. Block potential spam. Ask your IT manager to configure your account so it either blocks messages from Internet addresses or does not reply to them.
  7. Reply only to trusted sources. Configure your account so that it only sends an auto-reply to specified clients, members of a user group or those who are on your contact list.
  8. Remove your email signature from the auto-response. This seemingly harmless detail is packed with information that can be used by scammers.

And finally, make sure those who are in the office know how to reach you if red flags pop up while you are away. This assures immediate, direct action to deal with problems before they explode.

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com, phone 919-619-2441.

Sources:

 

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Saying Thanks Can Boost Your Practice

by Jay Reeves

Thank youTwo little words – Thank You – can make a big difference in your law practice.

Just ask Vinny Gambini. In the cinematic classic “My Cousin Vinny,” the defense lawyer played by Joe Pesci gave a rambling, ludicrous and incoherent opening statement. The judge ordered the entire statement struck from the record, with the exception of two words.

Thank you.

Now comes scientific research that shows saying “thank you” not only makes people feel good – it can get them to act the way we want them to.

According to the Harvard Gazette: “Receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and other people, too.”

Solo Practice University Thanks You

Susan Cartier Liebel, the founder of Solo Practice University, began a recent blogpost this way:

“Thank you for reading this post. Thank you for reading this blog on a regular basis. Your continued readership is highly valued. Thank you for taking the time to share your terrific thoughts and experiences in the comments and thank you for sharing this post and blog with others if you feel it provides benefit.”

She had me at Thank you.

“Getting an unexpected sincere ‘thank you’ is like a B-12 shot in the arm,” she goes on to say. “The adrenalin starts pumping. The smile begins. It makes your day. You find you want to pay it forward. Thank you is powerful. It’s free. The benefits are priceless.”

Gratitude in the Law Office

When it comes to client relations, we often expect to receive what we do not freely give.

We want our clients to be thankful. We want them to be overflowing with gratitude for our awesome efforts. We want them to say thank you for getting me out of jail or freeing me from a miserable marriage or winning me lots of money.

But have we set a good precedent?

Did we tell our client on day one that we were happy to see them? Did we express our appreciation for the chance to be of service? Did we tell them thanks for choosing us over the million other available attorneys?

And what about our employees? Do we regularly thank them for their hard work? Do we make sure they know they are valued members of the team?

Law firms that say thank you have higher retention rates and a happier workforce. They also make more money.

“[A]s a solo practitioner you may not have ‘employees’ in the traditional sense but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many people who have helped and continue to help you grow your practice,” according to Liebel. “It may be a former employer, a past/current mentor, a professor, your spouse, a parent, a client who gave you a referral. Or the satisfied client who has become your greatest evangelist.

“Most of you will send out holiday cards to keep your name in front of your clients.  But do you send a thank you card for being a client? Yes, you collect a fee and they receive services and there is that quid pro quo. But genuinely thanking clients for the privilege of serving them is a very human thing to do. You’re dealing with people. Do it from an honest place and you will potentially receive the added benefit of getting more business.”

Do you have trouble expressing gratitude?

Here’s a WikiHow web page that offers tips on how to do it effectively. And here’s a page with ideas on how to do it in fun, creative ways (example: Is there no limit to your awesomeness?).

Or you can use the tried-and-true method by saying two words.

Thank you.

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com, phone 919-619-2441.

Sources:

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Help For Struggling Lawyers in North Carolina

by Jay Reeves

Help For Struggling Lawyers in North CarolinaThis was one headline that was impossible to ignore: “Lawyers are Killing Themselves.”

The article – from CNN online – documented the shocking rise in lawyer suicides across the nation.

“Lawyers ranked fourth when the proportion of suicides in that profession is compared to suicides in all other occupations in the study population,” according to the report, which surveyed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on all 50 state bar associations. “They come right behind dentists, pharmacists and physicians. Lawyers are also prone to depression, which the American Psychological Association, among others, identified as the most likely trigger for suicide. Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.”

The focus of the CNN article was the tragic story of a prominent Kentucky lawyer who killed himself last year. Friends and family were stunned. At first, his wife – overwhelmed by sadness, guilt and shame – told people his death was accidental.

But now she is speaking the truth. She says going public has helped her cope with her loss. And she hopes it helps others as well.

Depression in the Profession 

Kentucky has had 15 known lawyer suicides since 2010.

“There are a lot of high stress professions,” Yvette Hourigan, who runs the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program, told CNN. “Being a physician has stress. However, when the surgeon goes into the surgical suite to perform his surgery, they don’t send another physician in to try to kill the patient. They’re all on the same team trying to do one job. In the legal profession, adversity is the nature of our game.”

The CNN piece was posted on LinkedIn, which prompted comments like this one, from a lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama:

“My best friend and former law partner killed himself. And the strange thing was the we spent several hours on the day of his suicide talking about future projects, and he feigned an interest in several projects, but then left the office and shot himself outside the office in his car. I was totally shocked and did not see it coming. How are we supposed to notice the signs of suicide when a person doesn't talk about it, and doesn't even talk about being depressed?”

Professional stress starts early – even in law school, with up to 40 percent of law students suffering from depression by the time they graduate, according to one study.

“You’re supposed to be a problem solver, you’re supposed to be a superman or superwoman,
 says Dan Lukasik, who founded Lawyers With Depression when he started slipping into severe depression. “You’re not supposed to have problems.”

The problems tend to worsen in tough economic times, when firms stop hiring and start laying off.

Help for North Carolina Lawyers

Lawyers in North Carolina are lucky. We have two established, proven resources to help in times of crisis.

BarCARES (Confidential Attorney Resource and Enrichment Services) is a confidential, short-term intervention program that provides free assistance to lawyers and their immediate family members. BarCARES even reaches out to students and faculty at our state’s law schools.

BarCARES offers help for:

  • Personal issues: crisis intervention, depression/anxiety, substance abuse (drug or alcohol) and financial concerns;
  • Family issues: marriage/relationships, children/adolescents, parenting/family conflict;
  • Work issues: professional stressors, case-related stress and conflict resolution;
  • Student coaching on stress/time management, etc.

BarCARES is supported by BarCARES of NC, Inc., the N.C. Bar Association, the N.C. Bar Foundation Endowment, Lawyers Insurance Agency and local bar groups and law schools.

For more information, call 1-800-640-0735 or click here.

North Carolina Lawyer Assistance Program

This service of the N.C. State Bar provides confidential assistance to North Carolina lawyers, judges and law students struggling with issues of alcoholism, drug addiction or mental health disorders.

The Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) uses two committees of trained volunteer peer counselors – PALS and FRIENDS – for assessments, referrals, interventions, advocacy and support services.

Help is available for a range of health and personal issues, including alcohol/drug abuse, stress/burnout, depression, anxiety and compulsivity disorders of all kinds.

Although LAP is authorized by the State Bar, it operates under rules that assure strict confidentiality. For more information, call 1-800-640-0735 or click here.

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com, phone 919-619-2441.

Sources:

 

 

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Listicles and Your Law Practice

by Jay Reeves

Listicles and Your Law PracticeIt’s called list journalism – and it’s getting slammed all over the place.

And I’m a number one offender.

List journalism is just what the name suggests – writing a story using bullet points or numerical lists to convey content.

“10 Ways to Prevent Hair Loss.” “100 Best Lawyers of All-Time.” “7 Degrees of Separation From Honey Boo-Boo.”

Critics complain that list journalism is lazy. They say it’s the verbal equivalent of junk food. They argue that some stories are too simply complex to be broken down into neat little lists.

They have even come up with a new word – listicle - to describe this phenomenon.

Listicles and the Law

Why all the hate?

Personally, I enjoy listicles. I think they work well for blogs and other formats that thrive on brevity and summary. I like them even better when they come with pretty pictures.

In fact, I would go so far as to argue that listicles can make you a better lawyer – by helping you express complicated ideas in digestible, bite-sized nuggets. Here’s how:

  • We organize the world in round numbers. “We say it takes 30 minutes to get to work and ask where we see ourselves in five years,” according to Fast Company. “Rain Man knows when 246 toothpicks fall on the floor, but most of us would hazard a guess of couple hundred (and a clean 250 came in the box). High school students are much more likely to retake the SATs when their scores fall just below a double-zero ending. Baseball players hitting .300 – the threshold for a fine season – often remove themselves from a final at-bat to avoid dropping to .299.”
  • Our brains are wired for Top 10 rankings. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, we are suckers for the “Top 10 effect.” We tend to rank things in groups of 10. Items that come in at number 11 or below seem vastly inferior even if they are actually not. “Our own experiences sort of led to this impression that if it’s not in the top 10, then it’s in the next category,” says one expert. “[N]umbers generally are considered to be equidistant, but subjectively they’re not.”
  • The Internet runs on lists. A Google search ranking is nothing more than a list of popular web sites. When we talk of “optimizing” our search ranking, we simply mean moving higher up that list.
  • Take this simple test. Run a Google search of the number 76. Then search for the number 75. You will get vastly more hits for the latter. Numbers ending in five and zero yield more results. That’s just another illustration of the value in packaging information in familiar numbers.
  • Moderation in all things. Don’t overdo it. Sometimes a topic demands more explanation that a summary list can provide.

10 Ways To Invite a Malpractice Claim

Finally, no self-respecting blogpost on lists would be complete without … well, a list.

So here’s a good one from Mark Bassingthwaighte, the risk manager at Attorneys Liability Protection Society, on 10 ways to commit malpractice:

  1. Fail to document the scope of your engagement.
  2. Fail to keep your client informed.
  3. Fail to do today what can be put off until tomorrow.
  4. Fail to do your homework.
  5. Fail to confirm that a file is now closed.
  6. Fail to maintain some minimal level of attorney oversight of client property.
  7. Fail to supervise staff.
  8. Fail to plan for the unexpected.
  9. Fail to properly manage billing and collections.
  10. Fail to successfully manage the client relationship.

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com, phone 919-619-2441.

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The Future of Law In the Form of a Question?

by Jay Reeves

The Future of Law In the Form of  QuestionA Jeopardy champion is making waves because of the tactics he used to win big bucks. 

Instead of playing the usual way – by starting with the lowest dollar clue in each category and methodically working his way up to the highest – Arthur Chu jumped all over the quiz board.

He based his game plan on statistical outcomes and probability theory. Sometimes he buzzed in but made no attempt to answer – simply to pre-empt his opponents. In Final Jeopardy he used a mathematical calculation to guarantee that he would finish at least in a tie, draining the segment of all drama.

In so doing, Chu drew the ire of Jeopardy lovers. They called him cold and calculating. They said he had all the personality of an iPad.

Even Alex Trebek was irritated.

But Chu – who works by day as an insurance compliance officer – shrugged off the criticism, pocketed his winnings and whistled merrily to the bank.

Computing is Not Counseling

It might be tempting to use Chu’s strategy in your law practice. After all, technology seems to be taking over the profession. And techies say we ain’t seen nothing yet. New tools that are on the way will blow our minds.

But what proved successful on Jeopardy might not work quite as well in your practice.

Clients want an attorney, not an algorithm. They want a counselor, not a calculator.

Unlike on Jeopardy, the lawyers who succeed in the new economy won’t be Chu-like. Just the opposite, say some experts. The legal winners of the future will be those who embrace technology while holding tightly to some essential human traits. Among them:

  • Enthusiasm. “The amount of information in front of us is practically infinite,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks. “So is that amount of data that can be collected with new tools. The people who seem to do best possess a voracious explanatory drive, an almost obsessive need to follow their curiosity. Maybe they started with obsessive gaming sessions, or marathon all-night study sessions, but they are driven to perform extended bouts of concentration, diving into and trying to make sense of these bottomless information oceans.”
  • Strategic thinking. Computers can crank numbers forever. But they lack the distinctly human ability to pause, step aside, pour a cup of tea and ask, Are we having fun yet?
  • .Delayed gratification. When it comes to memorizing, storing and regurgitating data, we are no match for a Mac. But when it comes to having a dream and beginning the long journey of making that dream come true, humans rule.
  • The ability to build a better mousetrap. Our age rewards what Brooks calls procedural architects. “The giant Internet celebrities didn’t so much come up with ideas, they came up with systems in which other people could express ideas: Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia.”
  • The power to motivate and manage people. Can you imagine a computer delivering the “Freedom!” speech in Braveheart?
  • Creativity. “Any child can say, I’m a dog and pretend to be a dog,” writes Brooks. “Computers struggle to come up with the essence of ‘I’ and the essence of ‘dog,’ and they really struggle with coming up with what parts of ‘I-ness’ and ‘dog-ness’ should be usefully blended if you want to pretend to be a dog. This is an important skill because creativity can be described as the ability to grasp the essence of one thing, and then the essence of some very different thing, and smash them together to create some entirely new thing.

So don’t worry. The way to win against PDAs, smartphones and apps is simply to be what you already are. Human.

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com, phone 919-619-2441.

  • ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/Business/villain-hero-jeopardy-contestants-game-theory-strategy-irks/story?id=22350281

 

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2014 dividend announcement

Lawyers Mutual is pleased to announce a dividend in the amount of $1,280,00 for policyholders.

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