Category: General Management

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)”.

Windows Security Patches Released

Microsoft Released a security patch on Thursday, May 1st, which fixed all Windows versions of Internet Explorer, including for Windows XP!

XP has been out of support, but with a heavy installed base — estimated at 30% of the world’s computers by some — Microsoft made an exception to its policy by updating the operating system.  At a lot of law firms, there was a visible sigh of relief.  Kudos to Microsoft for doing the right thing.

Personally, I took the opportunity to change my default browser to Chrome, and I don’t regret it.  There are a few software packages I have which are not compatible.  For example, Copernic Desktop Search.  But I only use that for searches internal to my system, so I don’t really care.

In case you’re curious, data from NetMarketShare.com indicates that Windows 7 powers 49.27% of the world’s computers, while Windows 8.0 and 8.1 combined account for only 12.24%.   MAC versions 10.6 through 10.8 combined holds 3.25% of market share.   That number surprises me, as I’m seeing strong growth in the legal industry.

Computer Security Issues – Windows XP, Adobe Flash, Internet Explorer

When Homeland Security issues a warning about new risks of using your computer, you should stop and pay attention.  When mighty Microsoft tells you to temporarily stop using one of their programs due to a security issue, you should stop and pay attention once you’ve recovered from fainting.

Yes folks, our computing environment has just gotten a whole lot riskier, especially when exploring the internet.

First, let me advise you that the issues have not yet been resolved, despite reports issued based on misinformation and misunderstanding.  That’s because we’re dealing with multiple issues, on multiple software platforms.

The issue dealing with Adobe Flash Player was resolved (hopefully) by a security update from Adobe on Monday, April 28.  That problem involved a Flash bug that was attacking computer visitors of a Syrian government web site.  Although that bug was significant, it is not at all related to the major boo-boo in Internet Explorer.  And it’s doubtful it would have impacted too many of you in the legal environment.

The “big” Microsoft bug, which Microsoft is currently scrambling to address with a patch, affects versions 6 to 11 of Internet Explorer.  It potentially gives data thieves the same access to a network computer as a legitimate user.  Microsoft has acknowledged that there have been “limited, targeted attacks that attempt to exploit a vulnerability.”  Excuse me?  It can’t be so limited if Homeland Security is involved, along with every major media outlet.

The security flaw in Internet Explorer comes into play if you click on a bad link.  Not the type which gives you an innocent “404, Not Found” but rather the kind which takes you to a fake web site, where malicious code can be injected into your computer.  Some of these sites are so realistically designed, you have no clue they’re fake and “bad”.

This is the first major security flaw discovered since Windows XP support was discontinued.  That means that when the security patch is issued, both Internet Explorer and Windows 8.0+ will be updated.  Windows XP will remain vulnerable.

What should you do?

  1. Stop using Internet Explorer for now.  Use one of the competitors like Google Chrome or Firefox.
  2. Don’t click on links found on web sites which go outside that site.  Rather, use your “favorites” to get to the other site, or look up the other site and go there directly.  It’s estimated that as much as 40% of legitimate web sites may unknowingly have malicious code on their site.  One example would be replacing a legitimate link with one which misdirects you to a “bad” web site.
  3. Make sure you’re installing all security updates which arrive at your computer.
  4. Be sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software is kept up to date, and is running continuously in the background.
  5. Make sure your firewall is up to date.
  6. If you’re still using Windows XP, make a permanent change to your internet browser choice.  Also, whichever browser you choose, you may want to have your security software checking each site before it actually allows you to land on it.  It will slow your travels, but keep you much safer.

Keep in mind that you will have to get off of Windows XP in short order.  Hey, I don’t like it one bit either!  But keep in mind that law firms must take due diligence in safeguarding client confidentiality.  Knowingly using software which will never receive additional security updates is much like putting your most confidential client documents in a trash bag, and throwing it off the Empire State Building.  It’s not a question as to whether those papers will be scattered on impact, but rather how far they’ll be scattered!

Security Issues on iPhone 5s

Attorneys who use the iPhone 5s should refrain from enabling Touch ID.  There have already been two patches in response to two security flaws.  But tech experts feel that the Touch ID feature is still a risk for phones carrying confidential client information.  Michael Pham of Winstead Attorneys has some insights in a post on the WinTech blog.  He suggests that employers implement strict written policies and  procedures that require employees to keep their mobile devices current with the latest  software updates concerning security, and that they notify the company the  minute a phone goes missing.  Wise advice.  I also recommend that remote swipe be enabled before any client information is synched to the phone.

It’s important for firms to take proactive steps to protect confidential client data.  Failure to take reasonable precautions could spell malpractice.

How One Keystroke Can Undo Your Deal — Confidentiality:

What does a teenager have in common with confidentiality?  Absolutely nothing.  Today’s youth live out their lives on social media without a thought of consequences from sharing every thought and action.  Following is a guest blog by Wayne, PA employment lawyer Robin Bond.  Read about how a college-age daughter’s Facebook post cost her father $80,000. These are your
employees and clients, folks.  Make sure they understand the meaning of the term “confidential.”

*************************

When a company and an employee sign off on a deal or settlement agreement, “confidentiality” about the terms of that agreement is often a key condition for payment. That means “keeping quiet” — and keeping your social media fingers, and those of your children, off the keys!

In Gulliver Schools, Inc. v. Snay, Patrick Snay’s lawyers negotiated a settlement of his age discrimination and retaliation claims; however, confidentiality was a key term for payment of $80,000.  Snay told his college-age daughter that the case “was settled” and that he was “happy with the result.” Snay’s daughter did what many of her age would do: she immediately went to her Facebook page and posted the following message: “Mama and Papa Snay won their case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

Snay’s daughter — a Gulliver alum — had approximately 1200 Facebook friends, and many of these were current or former Gulliver students as well – the exact population Gulliver did not want to know about the settlement. The school withheld the payment to Snay and the Court sided with the school, on the basis that the daughter’s social media posting violated her father’s duty of confidentiality under the settlement agreement.

Disaster Planning, Prevention and Recovery — Free Seminar

I am pleased to let you know that the Greater Philadelphia Professional Counsel will be presenting a seminar on Disaster Planning on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.  Registration and free breakfast begins at 7:45 – 8:30 am.  The seminar will run from 8:30 am to 10:00 am.  There is no charge for the seminar, but pre-registration is required.

It will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fort Washington, PA.  I will be one of the panel members.  Additional information and registration can be found at info@gppcouncil.org.

I hope to see you there!

Coaching for PA Lawyers to Improve Marketing and Other Skills

My first major step onto the coaching soapbox came in the form of an article entitled “Coaching to Improve Skills,”  which appeared in the December 3, 2007 issue of The Pennsylvania Bar News.  I wrote it because I was sick and tired of hearing attorneys say that if an attorney did not instinctively know how to market, they would never learn.  It’s just wrong.

Most attorneys are not instinctively good at marketing.  However, marketing is very much a learned skill.  Any attorney is capable of learning how to become an effective rainmaker, or at least a strong contributor to a firm’s efforts.

The fact is that Baby Boomer attorneys grew up in a rapidly expanding marketplace.   Individuals and companies were happy to find an attorney who did decent work, and had a nice “bedside” manner.  That’s about all that was required to grow one’s practice through word of mouth.  There was plenty of room for new attorneys to try one methodology or another, and make mistakes along the way to honing one’s skills in asking for legal work, and referrals to new clients.  Those who chose not to do so were able to make partner by serving the needs of other partners’ clients.  Those “worker bees” chose not to develop skills outside their comfort level, because they didn’t need to do so in order to succeed.  That doesn’t mean that they weren’t capable of doing so.  Maybe they would have needed some assistance to get there, but if motivated, they could have.

When the marketplace leveled off, development of marketing skills started to become a determinant of who would make partner, and who would not.  Firms would invest enormous resources in helping attorneys develop professional skills.  But when the same attorneys did not “naturally” develop marketing skills by a certain point in their career, they were cut loose, on the assumption that they were a lost cause.  Such a shame.  Many who were cast aside went on to develop the skills out of necessity, in order to survive on their own.  Some did better than others, but most managed to survive in the profession.

Now that we’re in a highly-competitive, contracting marketplace, there is even less room for experimentation and trial and error in client development.  Smart firms are realizing that training in this area is as necessary as any other area.  And let’s keep in mind that real learning by lawyers is acquired by “doing” and not by “studying” about it.  That means one must know what to do, how to do it, and then practice and perfect the skills.

For many attorneys, coaching can provide the difference between success and failure.  And that doesn’t apply just to development of rainmaking skills.  Coaches work directly with attorneys to help them create a personal action plan.  They help attorneys identify what is holding them back, and develop strategies to overcome the roadblocks.

I have searched for coaches I can recommend for many years.  Most that I have met over the years do not meet my expectations.  It’s not about the credentials; it’s about the person and their methodology.  I have a few I can recommend to PA Bar Members.  Some focus just in marketing.  Others in more general areas contributing to success.  However, I was recently so impressed by one in particular, I will mention her here.

We became acquainted through LinkedIn.  After some e-conversation, we met in person.  Obviously I was impressed.  So let me recommend you take a look at the credentials of Dena Lefkowitz.  If you decide to call, tell her Ellen sent you.  I don’t get any referral,  just satisfaction knowing attorneys are getting the additional skill training they need to be successful.

 

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