Friday, December 23, 2016

Gearing Up for the Holiday Weekend

We've really hit the final stretch, less than eight days left in the year. It seems that everyone is trying to get their last few things in before 2017 hits. So in the midst of all that chaos, it's also a good time to take a moment, maybe even a quiet one, and just relax. With only eight days left in the year, there are only so many things you can get done in the time remaining. Rather than stress about all of them, take some time, plan out your final few days, and gear up for a great 2017...

Or you can join the hordes of shoppers descending on malls and stores for one last bit of shopping...

Either way, make sure you enjoy these last few days!

Monday, December 12, 2016

What is your Why? Your Reason for Being?

As the year winds down, many year end lists are popping up with advice and other strategies to make your 2017 better than your 2016. One of the more interesting concepts to cross my path this week was the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which translates to your reason for being. This came up during a recent meditation session and then also on the radio where they discussed being able to center yourself on your Ikigai and then letting things grow from there.

Finding your reason for being often takes a deep inquiry into your inner self to find what is the real reason you get out of bed in the morning? Is that an easy question to answer for most people? Probably not. But the quest to get to that answer is a useful exercise to get control over the hectic nature of life around the holidays in December.

There are plenty of resources online to help you with this journey:

Whichever method you choose, take some time out this holiday season to get a little peace and quiet and explore your Ikigai...

Friday, December 9, 2016

Year End Planning: Bouncing Back from a Setback

The Harvard Business Review has an article out today from Neal J. Roese on "5 Steps to Help Yourself Recover from a Setback" that focuses on counterfactual thinking and how it can be applied to help you rebound from a business or other setback.

Mr. Roese explores a different way of thinking, leading yourself through five questions about your recent setback that you can use to stimulate counterfactual thinking, which will hopefully "ease the pain of the setback and position you to do better next time."

The five steps, which Mr. Roese explains in more depth in the article, are
  1. Imagine a better outcome, Part 1
  2. Imagine a better outcome, Part 2
  3. Imagine a different path leading to the same outcome
  4. Imagine the same path leading to a different outcome
  5. Imagine a worse outcome
Using these steps allows you to avoid bias and self-blame when looking at your setback. They also allow you to look at what Mr. Roese explains is "an enlarged, nuanced picture of the failure" to allow you to see what the true causes were of the setback. In using these steps, you are given a way to plan for future occurrences and use this experience to improve your future performance.

As many of the businesses I represent prepare for year end reviews and 2017 planning, examining the setbacks they encountered throughout the year can be one of the most useful ways to grow your business and prepare for the future. Utilizing these five steps, businesses can use counterfactual thinking to add more depth to their review of 2016 and planning for the future.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Bullet Journal: A New Notebook for Productivity

In a seemingly never-ending quest to find more ways to be productive, I stumbled upon the Bullet Journal as a way to organize your life and keep track of all kinds of minutiae as they arise. Rather than attempt to explain the system, it's easiest if you watch the intro video from the creator of the journal:

It's probably most helpful to watch it a few times to get a feel for what is going on and how to do a Bullet Journal (I know it took me about 3 watchings before I really got the hang of it). And once you've seen that video as a foundation for the system, you can find all kinds of websites with videos and hacks that you can use to adapt the journal to your personal style.

When I view the other videos, I'm immediately struck at how much more artistic, creative and beautiful the journals are by others. Mine so far has been pretty basic and boring (Note: Mine is full of privileged information and other non-public info, so there's no real way for me to share meaningful photos of it here).

It seems a rite of passage that whoever blogs about the bullet journal has to describe their tools and hardware, so for me:

I apologize for my lack of creativity, but then again, I'm new at this and maybe a year from now my set up will be completely different...

Monday, November 28, 2016

Here Comes 2017... Wait, Where Did 2016 Go?

The final mad dash to the end of the year is upon us, with one set of holidays remaining and the year 2017 staring us down a mere 34 days from now. Once Thanksgiving has come and gone, most of my clients gear up for this final dash in two ways: (1) wind down the year 2016 and (2) prepare for the year 2017.

As you are preparing to wind down for the year, take some time and look back and see how far we’ve come and all that you’ve accomplished in the past 11 months. It seems like just yesterday that the calendar was turning to 2016 and a whole year lay before you. How did you spend that time? Did you get married? Did you have a child? Did you start a business? Did you reconnect with an old friend?

Coming off of the Thanksgiving holiday also helps us look back and see what we are thankful for over the past 11 months. Have you spent more time volunteering? Maybe you helped out the community in some other way? There can be many ways that you impacted the world in 2016.

Before spending too much time looking back, now is also the time to look forward to 2017. Do you have plans to open up a business? Get married? Are you having a child? Are you planning a big vacation? Having a big birthday? All of these, and many more, possibilities lie in front of you in 2017 and the best way to get the year off on the right foot is to start that planning now. Even if it’s something as far off as next Thanksgiving, it’s never too early to start your planning. 2017 will be here before you know it!

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...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Reading: Love is the Killer App (Tim Sanders)

I've been working my way through some of the backlog of books in my ever growing queue in the corner of my office and Love is the Killer App came to the top this week. It's an older book (2002) with some interestingly dated networking advice and references. At the same time, the principles and suggestions can still be applied to today's business environment.

Sanders focuses on the idea of a "love business" and defines it as
the act of intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles with your bizpartners.
The intangibles we possess are our knowledge, network and compassion, which serve as the cornerstones to his approach. An important part of the message to bring forward to today revolves around the importance of building your personal brand and creating an experience for those you interact with. Sanders was ahead of the curve on this point as after the book was published, the media inundated us with stories of how Steve Jobs led Apple had focused on the importance of creating a brand experience as it grew its retail business.

In order to become the "lovecat" that Sanders describes, there are three steps

  • Increase your knowledge
  • Expand your network
  • Share your compassion

There's obviously a lot more in the book (that I wouldn't want to give away for free on a blog), and for $.01 plus shipping, it's definitely worth a read during these warm summer months.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Microsoft Purchases LinkedIn

It's hard to go more than a couple sites deep on the internet in the last week without hitting some story about Microsoft buying LinkedIn. (If you need another one to read, try this one).

As with any acquisition of a company, there are a host of issues to be hammered out. In the case of a company this large, it's going to be a lot of public speculation, my favorite being the price of "26.2" and whether it is some sort of ode to a marathon that someone recently ran. 

I'm waiting to see how that conspiracy theory shakes out... 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Latest Round of the Net Neutrality Fight

This week brought the latest decision in the ongoing fight over "net neutrality" when the D.C. Circuit's Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC has the authority to treat internet service providers as "utilities" akin to telephone companies. This allows the FCC to regulate the ISP's as they currently do with telephone providers. One of the biggest issues is the FCC's ability to stop the ISP's from blocking or slowing down access to certain websites or content and from creating "fast lanes" to certain internet websites.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said
After a decade of debate and legal battles, today's ruling affirms the Commission's ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections - both on fixed and mobile networks - that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future.
Unfortunately, this fight is far from over as AT&T announced they would be seeking review of this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will choose to hear the case.

As this debate goes on, the net neutrality debate continues to center around whether our internet access is a "luxury" or a utility (like our phone system) and how it should be treated going forward.

Monday, June 6, 2016

I Want to Hire a "Super Lawyer"

This morning's consultation was an interesting (and eye opening) referendum on those lists of lawyers who are supposedly the best (but really just purchased their listing so they could have the magazine in their waiting room). I'm not even the only one discussing this one today, Attorney At Work also had a column on the attorney side of spending money on the lists.

While the Attorney at Work piece focused on the attorney side of signing up and paying to be on these lists, I had the pleasure of sitting across from a nice young lady who had paid more than $15,000 to a "Super Lawyer" to represent her. It seemed like money well spent because he had a nice office, had a nice secretary (who the client spoke to almost exclusively because the attorney was never available) and she got monthly bills that she paid because she assumed her case was moving forward.

The case was moving forward, but without much being done by her attorney. In fact, the case had been sent out for arbitration, a fact that the client didn't know until she received a notice about it. When she called to talk to her attorney, he was once again unavailable to talk to her. So the client decided to swing by the attorney's office to schedule a time to prepare for the arbitration. When she arrived at the office, her attorney was not there and the secretary was not at her usual desk.

After more calls and emails, she found out that her "Super Lawyer" has been suspended from the practice of law, his "secretary" is really a virtual receptionist and her file is nowhere to be found. The client was aghast that on the website, the lawyer is still listed and there is no indication of his true situation.

While I am a firm believer in technology and using its advantages and various assets to effectively and efficiently manage a law practice, the plight of this client really demonstrated the dark side that still exists.

So that brought her to my office, where I'm not a "Super Lawyer", but I am an active member of the bar who can help her with her arbitration. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Changes to Payday Loans are (Possibly) Coming...

On Thursday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed new rules that would change access to payday loans and restrict some of the processes used by payday lenders. Some of these changes would include requiring lenders to consider a borrower's ability to repay the loan by checking their income, financial obligations and borrowing history. In addition, the proposals would limit the ways the lenders can seek repayment and the number of loans that can be made in succession to a borrower.

One of the problems that the CFPB can't address is the interest rate on the loans, which is controlled by the individual states and many of the payday loans can have interest rates of nearly 400%. This is one of the most appalling provisions in many payday loans that many people don't consider or realize. In addition to the abominable interest rate, many loans require the borrower to pay a fee of 15% of the amount they borrow. All of these fees add up very quickly for someone who just needs a short infusion of cash.

The proposed rules would also require the lenders to give the borrower written notice before utilizing collection practices for loan repayment.

All of these changes will be fought aggressively by the lobbyists and other interested parties who make significant profits on these payday loans to individuals who are often the most vulnerable to these lenders. The CFPB can't affect the state-based interest rates, but is at least aiming to restrict access where it can.

A copy of the CFPB's highlights in .pdf format can be found here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Online Shareholder Meetings

Yesterday, the New York Times had an article on Intel's annual shareholder meeting, which was held virtually this year. Steven Davidoff Solomon's position is that these online meetings, while technologically feasible these days, are a bad idea because they remove the ability for the company to "bond" with their shareholders.

The list of companies cited by Mr. Solomon included Intel, GoPro, SeaWorld Entertainment, PayPal, Fitbit and Yelp, who have all held virtual meetings. The advantages to the virtual meetings tend to be cost-related as the companies do not have to pay for location expenses like travel, food and other overhead related expenses. Also, the virtual meeting method allows for shareholders who can not physically attend the meeting to be included.

Using the virtual meeting, companies can also control the actions of shareholders, including protests, questions and proposals that would often arise in person at the annual meetings. By having these items submitted in advance of the meeting, the board of directors is able to plan a response in advance and have it vetted by legal counsel and other interested parties before addressing the shareholders.

While the virtual meeting may be on the rise, the article also points to the in-person shareholder meetings of Berkshire Hathaway and Disney as examples of annual meetings that are "fun" for the shareholders, which demonstrates the importance of the personal interaction with shareholders.

Comparing the companies in the article to the companies that I represents, it seems that many of my clients use the virtual meeting as well, simply because they are smaller companies with fewer shareholders and they are often spread across the country (and sometimes the world). The company's budget is better served by utilizing the virtual meeting method to get their business done. Many of the companies have shareholders who are friends and family, given the opportunity to invest as the business got off the ground, and that familiarity allows for personal interaction, even when done virtually for the annual meeting.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Have a Wonderful Holiday Weekend

It's the Friday before a long weekend and the bulk of the week's drama has long since resolved itself, so please enjoy your weekend whatever your plans hold for you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

... and We're Down to One Jurisdiction

After more than three months, the various courts on my multi-state litigation have finally narrowed down the jurisdictional issue and decided that New York will no longer be joining us in the case. The state never really had a connection to the case, other than the barrage of petitions that were filed in the hopes that the case would somehow get moved out of New Jersey and across the river.

With that particular jurisdictional battle nailed down, I found another waiting on my doorstep this morning, this time throwing in a third state to a curveball. This time, there is an original state that issued an order (Pennsylvania), and now one party is in New Jersey and the other party is in North Carolina. So it's on to sort out a three-state trifecta.

Is there a four-state a litigation awaiting me in the fall? Outside of a class action, I wonder what is the limit on the amount of states to get involved in a litigation...

Friday, May 20, 2016

Great Office Spaces and Your Own Office Design

Although I don’t have a lot of input on either space, I’ve seen a bunch of articles this week on the importance of office design and its impact on your productivity. The last one I read this week from the HarvardBusiness Review talked about the seven factors of Great Office Design:
  • Location
  • Enclosure
  • Exposure
  • Technology
  • Temporality
  • Perspective
  • Size

The article also highlights the offices of Adobe and Yodle and how their offices are designed. It seems like the world wanted to discuss office spaces this week as I also had conversations about office spaces and their designs with some friends and clients as well.

Some of my friends lamented the amount of rent they pay for a traditional “lawyer” office that seems to be stuck in the 1980’s. While many of their clients work in innovative and advanced work spaces, their walls are covered with old books filled with statutes that have long since been changed. If you are filming an old lawyer show, it would be a great set, but for today’s legal world, they seem out of place.

The other end of the spectrum was a meeting at a client’s office, which has many of the amenities that demonstrate that the company is really on the cusp of greatness. You arrive at the building, your security pass is waiting for you, there is a “Welcome” message in the lobby directing you to the floor and room for your meeting, the receptionist greets you when you get off the elevator and directs you to the meeting while offering you a snack and a beverage.

Seeing both ends of the spectrum within hours of each other was a real eye opener…

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Criminal Defense Attorney for a Day

It’s always interesting to step into someone else’s case, if even for a morning, and see how different things can be. This morning I hopped in and helped a friend who needed coverage on a couple of criminal cases. While I’ve sat through arraignments of my clients before for minor offenses, these were more serious matters and I had to spend some time last night making sure I remembered some of my training.

In general, the atmosphere seemed even more relaxed than many of the civil appearances I make and the judge really plowed through the calendar in an efficient manner. While the cases I covered went by quickly and without incident, it was interesting to watch some of the advocacy by other attorneys on behalf of their allegedly wrongfully arrested clients.

As with civil cases, each attorney had a different demeanor and approach, from the calm and confident to the wild and passionate who seem to be putting on a show for some unidentified media reporter.

So it was a far more interesting morning than I originally had planned, but with all of their specialized rules and procedures, I think I’ll leave the more substantive legal work to the criminal defense attorneys.