Friday, September 30, 2016

Podcast Listening: Note to Self's "Digging Into Facebook's File on You"

Working my way through my weekly backlog of podcasts and I finally got to one of my favorite's, WNYC's Note to Self. This week's podcast focuses on Facebook's algorithm and what Facebook really knows about us (maybe even more than we know about ourselves).

With all of the information that runs through Facebook, they are literally sitting on a gold mine of customer information and data about our habits and everyday life. As a business, this allows you to be extremely precise when marketing to a particular segment of Facebook users, including people who got married last week or people who bought a car in the last 90 days. This ability to hyper-target users is almost unheard of in the context of the true marketing power at our fingertips these days.

But with all that data comes the questions of what is being done with it, who's using it and how it can actually influence our lives. To analyze this all, ProPublica has created a Black Box Data Project as an extension to Google Chrome. This extension will allow you to see what data Facebook has about you and whether it really matches up to who you are.

With all of this data out there, it's really interesting to see what the data says about you and whether it's truly accurate...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Importance of Customer Service

For a variety of reasons, I have spent a good portion of my non-legal research time today on the phone with a variety of customer service departments. Each one handles things a little differently, which made a big difference in the way I reacted to the calls.

One of the departments fed me through an automated phone tree for an entire call. While it was the shortest of the three calls, it was also the one that left me the least confident that my issue had really been resolved. While it resulted in an automated voice giving me a confirmation number at the end of the call, I will have to watch the mail for a few days to see if it was truly resolved.

The second call seemed rather straightforward from my end, but somehow ended in a dead end. The customer service representative could not figure out exactly how to solve my problem, gave it her best guess, and then gave me another telephone number to call to hammer it out (which ended up being the wrong number).

The final call seemed to hit all the right notes. The customer service representative took down my number for a possible call back if we got disconnected, went through her system as best she could, and when she hit the wall on her end, put me on hold to speak to someone else. When she came back on the line, she re-directed me to a website that could hopefully solve my issue. Instead of just hanging up, she stayed on the phone until I had completed the process to ensure that it was all taken care of and showed up on her end as well. It wasn't the longest of the three calls, but it was definitely the most thorough and dedicated to ensure my issue was solved.

When approaching your clients, it is important to remember that your business exists to serve your clients and each interaction you have with them has to begin with that thought in mind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Estate Planning for Young Couples with Kids

It's back to school time, which means a whole new set of parents to meet at the various welcome functions that September brings. After the usual pleasantries about what class is your child in, the next question that arises is, what do you do for a living? 

The other night I was talking to another father (a financial planner of all things) when the topic of what we do for a living came up. He told me how he is a financial planner and manages assets for people with significant portfolios. We continued to talk and agreed on the importance of people like his clients having a well thought out estate plan.

The conversation turned a bit at this point when I asked him if he had an estate plan. His response, based on his advice to his own clients, surprised me. He didn't have an estate plan because he and his wife were a young married couple with two kids and didn't need to have one yet. Based on what we had just talked about, I was floored that he didn't think he needed an estate plan. 

Here is a young couple, they own a house together, they have other assets, they have children, and if they were to be hit and killed in a car accident on the way home, they would have no say in what happened to their children or their assets. The only thing standing in their way was a surprising and mistaken belief that they didn't need an estate plan yet.

As we wrapped up our event, the other father made sure to pull me aside before we left and get my card. He and his wife are very wisely coming in next week to get started on their estate plan.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Even Though It's Late August, You Still Need to Pay Your Child Support...

I was shocked when I arrived that the Court had such a short calendar today. As I was talking with the court officer, he told me that it's late summer and the Judge is trying to keep a shorter calendar for the last two weeks before Labor Day. A noble endeavor if I've ever heard one.

When I told him what case I was appearing on, his eyebrow raised and he gave me the look, which translates into "Oh, you're on THAT case." So I had a seat and waited for the inevitable fireworks to begin.

This was the third time we're before this Judge in the past two weeks because there is always something going on with the other side. Either the litigant doesn't show up, or the attorney doesn't show up, or the litigant shows up and is arrested in the court room. Each time it was something different - today the attorney didn't show again.

Despite his protestations about his attorney not being there (apparently, the attorney was on vacation and chose not to send someone to cover the appearance), the Judge decided to get some things done on the case, not the least of which was to address more than a year's worth of child support arrears. As an offering, the other party had a check for about 60% of one monthly payment, to which the Judge quickly inquired, "What about the other 15 months worth of payments?"

His attempts to argue fell on deaf ears as subpoenas have turned up a lot of money being spent on everything else in the world except his children - not the best strategy. So after some more fireworks, we were on our way into the warm August day (and a nice little award of counsel fees for me).

Friday, July 8, 2016

Alleviating the Need for a Payday Loan?

This week the New York Times had an article about new payday options for workers that are catching on. After helping people fight off predatory payday loan companies for the past five years, it's interesting to see these new options.

The article points out that the options include payroll cards, ATM's and other ways for people to get their income as soon as they have earned it. One of the downsides, like most things in life, is the fees that are associated with using these types of services. But when compared to bank overdrafts, the predatory payday loan companies and other ways to get money quickly.

However, the article points out that from the employer's perspective, instant payment may motivate the employees to work longer hours. Also, for an employer, giving raises is expensive but giving employees access to their earnings doesn't need to carry the same expense.

The article also quoted Ryan Falvey, the managing director of the Financial Solutions Lab at the Center for Financial Services Innovation:
As the economy has gotten faster and people's lives have become more tenuous, the speed at which people get paid starts to matter lot more. I don't think this is a flash-in-the-pan thing. A year or two in, these are products that have significant user engagement, and they're growing very quickly.
It will be interesting to see if these types of options start becoming more mainstream and available to more workers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Slow Summer? Good Time for a Backup...

As we approach the middle of summer, it seems like many are heading off on vacations now that school's out and the summer is in full swing. One of the best ways to have that piece of mind while on vacation? Be sure that everything is backed up before you leave.

The fine folks over at had a sponsored article today about the Drobo (their sponsor this month). Although a sponsored post, it serves as a good reminder of the importance of a good back up system and, in this case, a system that allows for expansion and can grow as you grow over time.

With that backup in place, head off on your vacation and enjoy your leisure time knowing your information is being safely backed up.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Traveling Tech: What to Take on Vacation

Earlier this week, the New York Times Personal Tech column had an article on the tech that Brian Chen would take on vacation with him. His criteria:

My personal packing starts with devices that are compact and lightweight. The price tag should not exceed $500, and if my smartphone can capably perform a task, I don't bother with something that does the same thing.

Some of his items came from or are reviewed on one of my favorite websites, The Wirecutter. Going on vacation with an iPad Mini, a Roku stick, and a GPS car mount seems like a bit of overkill, but that's just my personal style of travel. However, the Anker wall charger with 4 ports for charging would definitely come in handy for all the family tech devices that seem to overpopulate our travel bags these days.

I did like Mr. Chen's suggestion of a sous vide cooker, something that I had never considered to take on vacation with me. But, based on his review and the product he mentioned, it may have to find a place into the bag the next time the clan ventures out for a trip.

It feels like these days we are packing less clothing and more technology with each trip...