Category: General Management

Data Breach Prevention

Glaring headlines in the March 29, 2016 The American Lawyer detailed that 48 of our nation’s top law firms were specifically targeted by a Russian hacker seeking to trade on M&A information. Most of the firms found out they were a target only because their name was included in the article. On March 22, 2016 the FBI issued an alert warning law firms of criminals seeking access to their networks.

What should you do? First, realize that some of the largest firms have experienced breaches. And they have huge IT staff, and lots of money to throw at the problem. Don’t throw up your arms in disdain and say you have no chance by comparison. For firms of all sizes I recommend . . . READ MORE

Data Breach Prevention

It’s really not a question of IF your firm will experience a data breach at some point, but rather WHEN your firm will experience the breach. Don’t assume that your firm has no desirability as a target because of your size, or even your practice areas. Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting law firms of all sizes for private information about clients, which often enables them to more effectively target the client directly.  READ MORE

How much is your engagement agreement worth?

In case you missed the recent issue of the Pennsylvania Bar Association‘s eNewsletter, I want to call something new and exciting to your attention.

The PBA Insurance Program, offered through USI Affinity, recently announced a risk management policy enhancement for CNA policyholders in Pennsylvania.

A policyholder using an engagement letter in connection with legal services that are subject of a malpractice claim will have the deductible applying to that claim reduced by 50 percent – up to $25,000.

What’s interesting, is that a key provision for this enhancement to apply is that the engagement letter include a statement regarding client file retention.  I have been recommending this be included in engagement letters for many years.  Those who have attended my Records Management seminar can attest.  I even provide sample language to attendees and PBA members.

CNA authored an article entitled Better With a Letter: Why Attorneys Should Use Engagement Letters; An Introduction to Engagement Letters.   Of course, PBA members can get my resource on engagement letters by sending an email request directly or through the PBA website.

Kudos to CNA for putting a value on this best practice!

Why You Need a Real Lawyer -3

Beware!!  Before you replace a lawyer with an internet-based “legal service” provider, consider that the results can be disastrous. What they do is provide quick forms for legal needs.  They advertise their availability on television.  They provide forms for business formation, wills, divorce, Powers of Attorney, estate plans, and more.

No doubt you’ve heard or read that Bar Associations in most states have sued most of these providers for something called the Unauthorized Practice of Law.   Unless you are a lawyer or employed in the legal field, you probably felt they were the underdog. You may have rooted for them to win.  And indeed, they are very careful in interpreting the UPL statute in each state to ensure they do not cross the line. They cannot legally provide any advice. They can only provide a form.  So they survive all challenges.  At least so far.

Their advertising portrays them as the hero trying to save the average person’s hard-earned dollars from seemingly greedy lawyers.  And frankly, Ed the entrepreneur is eating it up big time.  Use of these internet-based services is growing.

The problem is that Ed the entrepreneur doesn’t know when the matter requires greater finesse than these forms can provide.  And when an undesirable outcome finally shows up — often years later — it often can’t be fixed, or costs far more to fix than would have been spent originally to do it right.

Here’s the problem.  There’s no way to know in advance if the solution is inadequate, unless an actual lawyer is involved.  Later, when a lawyer must correct, or attempt to correct, the situation, he or she is bound by confidentiality and cannot reveal to the public the consequences of using such services.  So unfortunately Ed the entrepreneur shares all the success stories with friends and relatives, and enhances the reputation of these services.  Rarely does Ed the entrepreneur hear of the horror stories from others.  And those who ultimately must use a real lawyer to fix problems after the fact rarely talk about it.

So I have challenged lawyers to share some of those stories with me, without any client-identifiable information.  I will in turn publish the information.  Share it with friends, relatives and colleagues who are tempted to meet their legal needs “on the cheap” with an online service provider.

All the stories will be posted under the same title “Why You Need a Real Lawyer” so if you don’t want to subscribe, just return to the blog on occasion and look for that title in the Table of Contents.

Story #3:

Child is taking care of ill parent. Parent wants to change will to give caretaker child a larger share of the estate than the other siblings. (The other parent is already deceased). Caretaker hires “notario publico” to draft new will. This non-lawyer charges almost the same rate that local lawyers would have charged. When the ill parent passes, the caretaker child submits the new will for probate. Siblings challenge the new will, and present the old will. Child caretaker isn’t clear with [real lawyer] handling the will challenge on her behalf, that the new will was prepared by someone not licensed to practice law. [Real lawyer] makes best effort, but can’t overcome the problems with the flawed new will. Siblings win.

Why You Need a Real Lawyer -2

Before you replace a lawyer with an internet-based “legal service” provider, think carefully. What they do is provide quick forms for legal needs.  They advertise their availability on television.  They provide forms for business formation, wills, Powers of Attorney, estate plans, and more.  Beware!!  The results can be disastrous.

No doubt you’ve heard or read that Bar Associations in most states have sued most of these providers for something called the Unauthorized Practice of Law.   Unless you are a lawyer or employed in the legal field, you probably felt they were the underdog. You may have rooted for them to win.  And indeed, they are very careful in interpreting the UPL statute in each state to ensure they do not cross the line. They cannot legally provide any advice. They can only provide a form.  So they survive all challenges.  At least so far.

Their advertising portrays them as the hero trying to save the average person’s hard-earned dollars from seemingly greedy lawyers.  And frankly, Joe the plumber is eating it up big time.  Use of these internet-based services is growing.

The problem is that Joe the plumber doesn’t know when the matter requires greater finesse than these forms can provide.  And when an undesirable outcome finally shows up — often years later — it often can’t be fixed, or costs far more to fix than would have been spent originally to do it right.

Here’s the problem.  There’s no way to know in advance if the solution is inadequate, unless an actual lawyer is involved.  Later, when a lawyer must correct, or attempt to correct, the situation, he or she is bound by confidentiality and cannot reveal to the public the consequences of using such services.  So unfortunately John Q Public shares all the success stories with friends and relatives, and enhances the reputation of these services.  Rarely does Joe the plumber hear of the horror stories from others.  And those who ultimately must use a real lawyer to fix problems after the fact rarely talk about it.

So I have challenged lawyers to share some of those stories with me, without any client-identifiable information.  I will in turn publish the information.  Share it with friends, relatives and colleagues who are tempted to meet their legal needs “on the cheap” with an online service provider.

All the stories will be posted under the same title “Why You Need a Real Lawyer” so if you don’t want to subscribe, just return to the blog on occasion and look for that title in the Table of Contents.

Story #2:

Client pays $100 to a legal forms website to develop simple, uncontested, no custody, no asset, divorce documents. Client pays another $200 to file them. The Prothonotary bounces them for formalities. Client goes home, spends more money (another $50) to redo the documents on a different website. This time the Prothonotary accepts the documents, but the Judge bounces them for problems. Client comes to [real lawyer]. I have to move to start over, and charge them the same fee we always charge to clean up the mess! At least the Judge immediately signed the proposed order to start over with filing new documents that actual conform to the rules, and let the client use the filing fee they already paid.

Why You Need a Real Lawyer

There are a number of internet-based “legal service” providers, who provide quick forms for legal needs.  They advertise on television quite a bit.  They provide forms for incorporation, wills and estate plans, and more.  Beware!!  The results can be disastrous.

No doubt you’ve heard or read that Bar Associations in most states have sued most of these providers for the Unauthorized Practice of Law.   Unless you are a lawyer or employed in the legal field, you probably felt they were the underdog. You may have rooted for them to win.  And indeed, they are very careful in interpreting the UPL statute in each state to ensure they do not cross the line.  So they survive all challenges.  At least so far.

Their advertising portrays them as the hero trying to save John Q Public’s hard-earned dollars from greedy lawyers.  And frankly, John is eating it up big time.  Use of these internet-based services is growing.

The problem is that John Q Public doesn’t know when the matter requires greater finesse than these forms can provide.  And when an undesirable outcome finally shows up — often years later — it often can’t be fixed, or costs far more to fix than would have been spent originally to do it right.

Here’s the problem.  There’s no way to know in advance if the solution is inadequate, unless an actual lawyer is involved.  Later, when a lawyer must correct, or attempt to correct, the situation, he or she is bound by confidentiality and cannot reveal to the public the consequences of using such services.  So unfortunately John Q Public shares all the success stories with friends and relatives, and enhances the reputation of these services.  Rarely does John Q Public hear of the horror stories from others.  And those who ultimately must use a real lawyer to fix problems after the fact rarely talk about it.

So I have challenged lawyers to share some of those stories with me, without any client-identifiable information.  I will in turn publish the information.  Share it with friends, relatives and colleagues who are tempted to meet their legal needs “on the cheap” with an online service provider.

All the stories will be posted under the same title “Why You Need a Real Lawyer” so if you don’t want to subscribe, just return to the blog on occasion and look for that title in the Table of Contents.

Story #1:

Client owns a small business as a sole proprietor.  Client’s accountant tells client to incorporate to save money.  Accountant goes to a website to fill out forms and incorporates the client, proclaiming success.  Client is involved with government contracting.  Client tells contract officer he is incorporated.   Contract officer gives client forms to fill out and have certified for compliance with government contracting rules.  Client is in shock when contract officer asks pointed questions about all the other forms the client should have already submitted to various agencies – and why the client’s lawyer (accountant, actually) did not do those things!  Contract officer gives client a month to clean up the mess before they take steps to cancel the contract.  So client comes to [attorney] to — eight months after incorporating — file the notices and fill out the forms that are now nine months late.  Finally, client can certify to contracting officer that the right steps are done, and the government will now renew the contract.

Ebola Guidance

It seems that everyone is in an Ebola panic.  We’re all secretly worried a pandemic will mark the beginning of the end of life as we know it.  Personally, I think that most of us has just viewed one too many movies or TV shows about post-epidemic walking dead and other such horrors.  But I don’t mean to diminish the worries which keep many people up at night.

With one travel-related case of Ebola in the U.S., and two resulting confirmed transmissions, the reality of how small our world is — and how vulnerable we are within it — is striking fear in the most stalwart of managers.  Is there something you should be doing for your own safety?  Is there something which you are obligated to do at the office?

Duane Morris has issued  an Alert on the topic entitled “Guidance for Employers Regarding Ebola.” It provides one of the first analyses of possible risks and responsibilities for employers.  Their guidance examines risks and responsibilities under ADA, OSHA, NLRA, FMLA, and Title VII.

Remember, according to the CDC,  the Ebola virus can be spread in several ways to others. Specifically, Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, objects that have been contaminated with the virus and infected animals. The CDC states that Ebola is not spread through the air or by water or, in general, by food.  So let’s not panic.  Being well informed, and prepared, is always the best option.

Why Family-Owned Businesses Fail

Business litigation attorney Edward T. Kang — Managing Member of  Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt LLC in Philadelphia — recently appeared as a guest columnist in the September 2014 monthly edition of Philadelphia Business Journal.  His article, “The three big reasons family businesses fail . . . and how to avoid them” is right on target.

Four of my uncles worked in my grandfather’s healthy business, which he built from scratch.  My grandfather had a fur cleaning, alteration and storage business, and also created custom fur coats.  He raised a family of seven through the depression with that business, and managed to save for retirement as well.  Although the Philadelphia neighborhood which housed his 7-story refrigerated warehouse changed for the worse over the years, the building was unique and maintained a healthy market value to the end.

When my grandfather retired and left the business to the next generation, his lack of planning and know-how caused him to make all of the mistakes Kang writes about in his article. Departure of two unhappy sons over a relatively short number of years left the remaining two in an uneasy arrangement. Ultimately, those errors were magnified when the following generation took the reins, and sadly, the business closed.  Lots of hard feelings all around.

Kang points out that a family-owned business failure is inevitable because

  1.  Family feuds are inevitable when owners have equal status
  2. Emotions get out of control. When the owners are family, there is no “just business,” it’s always personal.
  3. Owners are ill-equipped to deal with complex business issues.

True, true and true.  Kang offers three simple steps to take to avoid these issues.  I won’t spoil the ending for you.  His writing is too enjoyable for me to deprive you of an opportunity to read it on your own.

Does this have anything to do with law firms — aside from the care and feeding of its business clients?  You betcha!  A lot of the small firms I work with are family-owned.  They struggle with the same issues.  These issues become more pronounced when the next generation wants to have their “turn” at running the firm.  Transition isn’t always peaceful or well executed.  Many times the younger generation leaves, with bad feelings all around.  If there are multiple family members running the firm, especially if of (fairly) equal status, there will frequently be impediments to growth and change, strong disagreements, and damaged relationships. And the issues become even more complex when a non-family member is added to the mix.

My take-away, based on personal observation, and many years of hands-on work with firms, is that a family-owned firm must take extra steps to avoid the landmines inherent in the working environment.

 

The Latest Fraudulent Bank Check Scam

You are probably wondering why the scam artists keep coming up with new ways to try to rip you off.  It’s because they are well paid to do it by uninformed people who take their bait, including attorneys throughout the U.S.  Here’s the latest:

Sir/Ma

We are a Chinese Company based in the Hong Kong involved in the production and exportation of semi Finished steel products such as, Low alloy vessels, Carbon plates, Ship Building plates and Plates for boiler/Vessel to Canada and USA.

We are looking to expand our business network in these countries but presently we are having problems receiving payment for already supplied goods because most payment comes in our Customer’s local Canadian Cheques/Drafts. And it takes too long to clear the payments in the Hong Kong.

We are looking to hire the services of any individual/ legal Company that resides in the Country  as a payment receiving agent for our customers .

You will be required to receive the payments from our customers in your Country in the form of Cashers Checks , bank draft  and cash delivery , you will in turn send the payment to us. You are entitled to 15% Commission of every payment you receive.

You will be receiving at least 4-5 payments monthly. If you are interested in being our Payment receiving agent, please get back to us
with the following information.

Full Names:
Full Contact Address:
Age: (25yrs and Above)
Tel #:
Fax #:
Occupation:

Apply immediately to the Human Resource manager via email:

Sharon Kadiri
Owen Machinery., LTD.,

6/F,Trade Service Center  ,388 Kwun Road

Kowloon, Hong Kong

These scam artists are so good, they create web sites for their phony companies, and may even have a “live” telephone which is answered by a no-gooder.  Beware anything that asks you to accept certified cashier’s checks, and then wire money out of the country.  Your “cut” is usually too good to be true, because it isn’t true at all!

Records Management for Personal Stuff

Another great post by Patti Spencer, Esquire details which personal records you should keep permanently.  If you tend to hoard more than you should, maybe this will enable you to throw some things away without worry.  Read “What To Keep and What to Throw Away (Part Two of Two)”.

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