Corporate Transparency Act: Further Clarification

As with any new sweeping federal regulatory scheme, there are kinks to work out and questions which need clarification. This has certainly been true for the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”). The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) of the U.S. Department of Treasury has continued to issue new FAQ’s in response to multiple inquiries.   Read More +

High Value vs Low Value

I have a friend who is deeply involved in the world of what is commonly known as “awards travel”. This is the term that is given to a set of behaviors that involves strategically opening, using, and closing multiple credit cards (“churning”) that give users award or travel points in exchange for using the card. Devotees of awards travel tweak the way they use their cards to maximize the value received from their “spend” in the form of travel points.   Read More +

Local Counsel in NC Federal Court: Additional Obligations

In North Carolina’s federal courts, local counsel are personally on the hook not only to appear in person at significant proceedings but also for Rule 11 compliance—the latter requiring either direct compliance (in the Middle and Western Districts) or indirect compliance (by ensuring that lead counsel complies with Rule 11, in the Eastern District). You cannot avoid that consequence by getting the client to agree you are not responsible for substantive matters—even though that’s still a good idea. The responsibility arises from your obligation to the court, as an officer of the court, rather than from your obligation to the client.   Read More +

Listen Up

In the hope that I might improve myself and help another lawyer suffering from my same affliction, I want to confess a character defect. I am not a good listener. For as long as I can remember, I have been a poor listener. I don’t think that I’m an inconsiderate or unkind person. I want to be a good listener, but it’s really hard. I have so many things I want to tell people. I have solutions to their problems. I have nuggets of wisdom to impart to them. I need to save them from their misguided beliefs. And I am passionate about certain things and want them to feel that same sense of passion.   Read More +

To Do or Not To Do

A cogent argument could be made that I am not the *perfect* person to write an article on productivity, to-do lists, and generally getting things done. I am not proud to say, I have spent (wasted?) hours and hours of my life reading and rereading books, articles and columns on productivity trying to find the absolute perfect system that will transform me into a productivity god. As those who work closely with me know, this is, ahem, an ongoing effort.   Read More +

Mommy, how do you make a . . . Bar Grievance? 

I have four children, and they ask the most frustrating questions sometimes.  A recent selection provides a glimpse into the depraved curiosity of their little minds: “Pa, can you kill someone for stealing a scooter?”  “Mommy, why aren’t you as smart as Aunt Tracy?” &l… Read More +

Leaning Into Change: Career Pivots to Meet Your Evolving Strengths and Interests

I have never been a big celebrator of my own birthdays. It is just another day of the year—another trip around the sun. I suppose that when I turned 16, it seemed like a big deal. I was able to drive. It gave me a new sense of freedom. Since then, I have not given much attention to turning a certain age. That changed this past year when I turned 60. There was something different about 60. I don’t think I can describe myself as middle-aged anymore. I might even qualify for free or discounted coffee at some restaurants. I can legitimately wear a shirt that says, “Old Guys Rule.”   Read More +

Steps for Effective Hiring

Hire slow, fire fast. If you read any of the voluminous advice published on hiring, this old bromide is very likely to be the first thing you come across. It’s pretty good advice, if a bit limited. Hiring a person for a law firm is like buying a house: it’s expensive and long-reaching decision that deeply affects your (work) life, and one that is too often made with a process that is ill-defined, rushed and lacking clear markers for success. Read More +

Do I Belong Here?

Do I belong here is a simple question that passes through the minds of job candidates as they pursue employment options. The question resurfaces during the interview process and again during onboarding. Job candidates are assessing what they read, hear, and experience during the job search, hiring, and onboarding processes. Attracting a diverse team requires a culture and brand that demonstrates you created an environment that fosters a sense of belonging. Individuals are searching your website to identify your mission, vision, and values for indications that they will easily fit with your team. Organizations are typically clear on their mission. They may need to publicize it more boldly to connect with individuals that share a passion for that mission.   Read More +

The Chicken Fax

We all have moments in our practice that we would rather forget. What follows is mine. I was an eager young associate who wanted to impress my client and the partners in the firm. We were handling a tax case that had something to do with inventory tax and the valuation of baby chicks. I had researched the IRS Tax Code, regulations, tax treaties, and IRS rulings and was confident that the IRS agent’s position was untenable. I wanted to display my legal prowess to my client, so I prepared a letter to the client explaining our superior position and the IRS agent’s incompetence.   Read More +

Managing Velcro and Teflon

When your firm gets to a certain size there is a moment where your job goes from getting stuff done to getting stuff done through other people. Depending on your personality and skill set, this is either pretty good or pretty bad news.  In order to grow your firm to this size, you likely already had to serve as chief marketer, head of legal, director of operations, talent acquisition coordinator, and visionary. Even if many of those roles are now inhabited by other folks on your org chart, you probably had to master those competencies to get where you are. As well as one more: manager. Read More +

Legal Aid of NC Innovation Lab

When Scheree Gilchrist was hired as chief innovation officer for the new Legal Aid of North Carolina Innovation Lab in 2023, she was given a mission. “The goal is to engage in transformative innovation that improves the delivery of legal services, expands access to justice, and addresses inequity in the delivery of legal services in rural areas,” explained Gilchrist. “In North Carolina, we have about 2 million people eligible for legal aid services. There are 8,000 eligible North Carolinians for every one legal aid attorney. We also have about 400,000 people in need contacting our helpline annually. We know that we don’t have the staff and funding resources to meet the demand under the one-to-one direct representation model,” said Gilchrist. “But even if we can’t assign an attorney, we want to ensure that if people in need contact Legal Aid of North Carolina, they will quickly and easily receive some form of help which could range from simply resources and referrals to brief advice or representation in court.   Read More +

 A Tribute To Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves has left the building. There will likely be no encores from Jay—at least for North Carolina lawyers. He has followed his personal legend and moved to South Carolina to write the baseball novel that has been stirring in him for years. The good citizens of Newberry will be lucky to have Jay. But we at Lawyers Mutual, as well as Jay’s followers, will sorely miss him. He has been an inspiration to so many of us over the years.   Read More +

What Do the South Carolina Murdaugh Murders Have to Do with Your Trust Account?

On November 28, 2023, Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to 27 years in South Carolina state prison for the confessed crimes of stealing millions of dollars over the course of a decade from clients, friends, and family. Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son in March, a crime in which he maintains his innocence. Kathy Pope, a consultant with 30-years of experience in helping law firms manage their trust accounts, provides insight into how Murdaugh’s law firm could have prevented these crimes, and offers tips for ethically managing your trust account.   Read More +

To Buy Or Not To Buy?

One of the early jobs I had in my career, I worked for a lawyer who was a terribly smart business owner and as good as anybody I’ve ever known at seeing trends and skating to where the puck is headed. I learned a lot from him, some of it not entirely pleasant to learn, that I’ve carried forward in the years since. One of the relatively few things I saw him get wrong on the business end of his practice was his insistence on never having the firm own real estate. I imagine he looked at the big law firms in the downtown high rises and noted that they rented real their estate and applied the same logic for his firm. For whatever reason, he was dead set against owning real estate.   Read More +

My Farewell Missive and Some Parting Advice

After more than 200 columns for this newsletter over the past 30 years, this will be My Last Monthly Missive on law, life, legal malpractice and baseball. That announcement will cause no tremors on Wall Street, nor will it stir excitement among the masses. In fact, it is unlikely to be of much interest to any sentient being on the planet except the dog, who is interested in everything I do and enraptured by everything I say because I am the Bringer of Treats and Opener of the Back Door.    Read More +

Using Mindfulness to Retrain Our Wandering Minds

We spend an enormous amount of time thinking about something other than what we are doing in the present moment. It is called mind-wandering and can be detrimental to our happiness and well-being.  A 2010 study by Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, discovered that the average person’s mind wanders 47% of the time (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1192439). The study also found that, when people think about something other than what they are doing in the present moment, they tend to be less happy. Other studies have shown that mind-wandering and a lack of focus on a task can also lead to mistakes.   Read More +

On Gardens and Law Firms

My college roommate, Jeff, married into an old New England family that has a beautiful cabin on a lake up in Maine. When I used to live in Boston, and occasionally still if I am just the right amount of shameless, I was able to wrangle myself an invitation to stay there for a night or two.  It’s a gorgeous place up on Belgrade Lakes region – if you think On Golden Pond, you’re not too far off. If you’re younger than 50, replace On Golden Pond with, I don’t know… I am over 50. Just picture a cabin on a lake, preferably not from a horror movie.   Read More +

The Magic Pill of Exercise

What if I told you that there was a pill that you can take that will immediately boost your mood, lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of diabetes and cancer, improve your focus and memory, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduce inflammation in your body, delay brain aging and neurodegenerative disease, and reduce negative symptoms of stress? You should also know that this pill would, if taken correctly, have little or no side effects. Would you take it? I’m guessing most would. Well, it is available. It’s just not available in pill form. But it is available in the form of physical exercise and movement. Read More +