Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't copy clients on emails: law practice notes

From the Lawyerist, some real practical practice advice. 
As a general rule, you should not CC your clients on emails.

First, because it gives every other recipient a chance to communicate directly with your client. In fact, it looks like an invitation to do so. 

I can see where this might be a temptation, as an attorney, to show your client what you've been working on, or to make sure the client feels "included" in the conversation But there are other ways to do this - like 4 way meetings, or mediation, without sacrificing your client's personal information. Also, it's best to leave some discussions to be done outside the client's hearing, whether in person, on the phone, or via email. 

Lawyer argues case as Thomas Jefferson, loses anyway.

Despite his brave but bumbling efforts to defend himself while in costume, Dennis Hawver was disbarred by the Kansas Supreme Court for “inexplicable incompetence” during a 2005 capital murder trial.

Article (with video) here (via the Lawyerist). 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why did so many people fail the bar exam this time?

This article (via taxprof blog) suggests that lower LSAT scores for entering classes is the reason why the bar exam is tougher to pass:

From the article:

Are America’s law graduates really getting dumber? The people who put together the bar exam seem to think so.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, a nonprofit that prepares one of the state-specific multiple-choice sections in which scores dropped dramatically, sent a curt message to law school deans in October. “The results are correct,” wrote Erica Moeser, the group’s president, in an Oct. 23 memo. “The group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013.”

This is sort of a egg-then-chicken analysis, for what it's worth. Or it could be that state-level Law Examiners are making their scoring system tougher?  As a side note, Michigan has yet to release it analysis of passers by school, etc., which they call the "results before appeals." I will post them once the BLE releases them, or go here for updates.

Also, the LSAT is supposed to indicate how a test taker will perform in their first year of law school, not whether that taker will the pass the bar. Law school is designed to weed out students, a job which it does very well (my entering class had more than double the number of people I graduated with).

(Sorry! I know that image has very little to do with the bar exam. I just love Mr. Darcy, and I needed a laugh. Thanks for reading!)

Studying law ruins reading for pleasure. It's a fact.

OK, maybe not a fact. But I know it took me a few years after law school to begin reading for pleasure again. Why? Because after all the case books and exams, reading fiction seemed pointless. No fictional character needs to have a problem solved by the the book's reader (except maybe in a choose-your-own-adventure novel).

And the ABA anecdotally backs up my anecdote:

In the November issue of the ABA Journal, Black’s Law Dictionary editor-in-chief Bryan Garner writes about an encounter with a law firm partner who approached him with a problem: Ever since law school, she’s found herself scouring whatever she’s reading for the most relevant, skimming “for the main point—as if for a holding. But in literature, it’s not there.”

Article here (via ABA journal). 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Children with disabilities and Social Security: How do you qualify?

Q: Does the federal government provide benefits to children with disabilities?
A: Yes. The parents or legal guardians of the child must apply to Social Security in order to get these benefits.

Below age 18, the child qualifies -- or doesn't qualify -- based on the income level of the parents. If the income level is below a designated limit, the disability of the child is then looked at to be sure that the child is disabled.

Depending on the income level of the parents involved, and the level of disability of the child, a child may begin receiving a benefit before the qualification process is complete. (In other words, the benefit gets paid during the process, and even if the child is ultimately not qualified, that benefit will not need to be paid back).

After age 18, the child can qualify based on his own income levels (so the parent's income level is no longer looked at). 

Q: How do I start the process? 
A: Go to  the Social Security website to read their brochures on disability benefits for children. Also see this page, which describes the process in better detail. It's best if, after reading the information, you call the SSA to schedule an appointment. This reduces the time you will need to wait in line at the SSA offices. Bring any needed documentation with you to the scheduled interview.

At the interview, the parents' income levels will be checked, and a brief series of questions will be asked. At that point, the SSA interviewer will determine if more needs to be done to qualify the child or not. The SSA will eventually send a letter to the parents to tell them the result of the interview, although the parents will likely also be told at the interview whether the child qualifies. 

Q: Are there other state-specific benefits that may be available? A: Yes. In Michigan, the state provides a benefit - the Family Support Subsidy -- to families with children who have a qualifying disability, are enrolled in a Michigan school district, and whose income is below a certain level. The child must re-qualify for the benefit each year. This is administered through a local agency, such as DA Blodgett.

Michigan July Bar exam results - list of certified passers

The Board of Law Examiners has posted the list of certified passers for the July 2014 Michigan Bar Exam.

List here.

This is results before appeals.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's unethical for prosecutors to lend letterhead to bill collectors, says ABA opinion

District attorneys should not contract out their letterhead to private debt collection companies, who then use that official letterhead to scare consumers into paying debts.

ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 469 (PDF) explains that this practice violates ABA Model Rules against lawyer conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation and aiding or assisting others in the unauthorized practice of law.

Article here (via aba journal). 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ways to surf the web anonymously to protect your clients

Why should you care about your information on the internet, you ask?

When you use the internet, all your traffic originates from your IP address. A quick internet search will map your IP address to your city, and it is becoming increasingly easier to map that IP address to something as narrow as a street location. However, Tor masks your IP location, which means that you will not accidentally reveal your location if, say, you’ve traveled to meet with a client.

 Article here (via the lawyerist).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ways to cut your taxes by year-end

Here are key areas to focus on before year-end.
  • Adjusted gross income
  • Investment gains and losses
  • Charitable giving
  • Alternative minimum tax
  • Medical costs
  • Health insurance
  • Tax-free gifts for education or other purposes
  • Tax-preparation costs
Article here (via taxprof blog).

Woman sues nail salon, claims pedicure caused leg amputation

A woman has sued a Portland, Oregon, nail salon, contending that a pedicure resulted in the amputation of her right leg.

Madhu Kumar alleges in her complaint that a Nails Trap pedicurist tried to shave calluses off her feet in 2012, resulting in the negligent laceration of “the media distal tip of (Kumar’s) right hallux,” otherwise known as the big toe, the Oregonian reports.

Profuse bleeding and gangrene to her toe resulted, eventually resulting in the amputation of her toe and leg, Kumar alleges.

Article here (via aba journal). 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Michigan July 2014 Bar Exam results posted

Results for the Michigan July 2014 Bar Exam have been posted - by seat number.
Takers will be notified later of scores, and names of passers will be posted
at this link.

Best of luck to all takers!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Elder law attorney accused of stealing from clients and estates pleads guilty, forfeits $3M

A New Jersey attorney known for her elder law expertise has pleaded guilty to money laundering.concerning a scheme that allegedly stripped senior clients and some of their estates of millions of dollars.

Barbara Lieberman, 62, also agreed to give up her law license, some $3 million in frozen assets and a BMW in her Monday plea in the Atlantic County Superior Court case, New Jersey Lawyer (sub. req.) and the Philadelphia Inquirer report.

Article here.