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Publish date:04-09-2017 14:14:00
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Retreat, Reframe, Reboot
(C)  Patrick Clark. Go Buy this lovely thing  here
A good friend of mine, who also syndicates this column in her magazine when I can be pressured to write, is fighting inflammatory breast cancer. 

Yuck.

She's doing it holistically. I've been doing my bit by making her homemade sourdough bread. It's such hit I think I might turn it into a business if I can ever get this law thing out of my system.

She's wondering what to do with the 60 odd years of show biz & family collections. When I visited her house, she was surrounded by dusty boxes that devoted nieces and nephews and children had brought in from their hiding places (and her house has a lot of them).

Starting in January, I've had my own weird health scare, involving eyesight and possible other complications. This got me thinking.

Just how do I let people know what I want done with my stuff? How do I cope with the possibility that I have an event that takes my sight, or and embolism that takes away my identity as a lawyer and rabble rouser?

Part of the answer comes in this brilliant post by Roberta Gately in the Sunday, April 9, Huffington Post.

She says this (which I plan to cross stitch and hang over my bed):

Moments to cherish are everywhere. The perfect rose in your garden may well not be the only perfect rose in your day. There are roses everywhere. Perhaps it's the older lady in line at the supermarket, bent and frail and fumbling for change and a smile, or maybe it's a soft breeze that ruffles your hair and reminds you that you are alive, or perhaps, a ray of sun that warms your cheek.
The beauty in our days is most notable in the subtle”the crack in the sidewalk that brings you back to your childhood games, the far-away friend who calls, the smile of a perfect stranger. If we can see the miracle in the ordinary, we can live a little better and leave a sweet foot-print in out wake.
 It's difficult to foster this attitude when dialogues with clients and friends go like this:
Me: "Hey sorry I'm not going to get to those program notes; I tore my retina and might and had a minor stroke, so I can't see very well. It should be better in six weeks."
Conference participant: "I need those next week and your the only one who can do them." 
Or, a friend: "Knowing about your problems doesn't help me with mine, you know."

What do I do? Life is too busy and full to just feel sorry for myself.

Retreat

I need to learn what my limitations are, how I got into this mess, and what I can do to improve my perspective. I learned this from a friend who lost 90% of his vision after a shingles attack. He looks very cool in his patch while he awaits cornea replacement, and he continues to actively practice law. But it took him a while to learn how to read with one eye, and to manage his energy so he could deal with the headaches (personal note: they are fierce).

Reframe

Is this a horrible blow? Is there something I can learn? How can I take this random experience and turn it into something good?

Reboot

Get back out there. Find the beauty in the day. Even the Bronte sisters found beauty in the gloomy moors around Hawarth Parsonage. There are days when I don't have a grey film over my left eye. There are things I can do with a film over my left eye, so I'm not completely useless. Now, how do I get out there, and move forward?

Today, I'll be a little more mindful of the stress that led to the attack. I'll look beyond the melting snowbanks in New Hampshire and watch the turkeys try to impress the females. I'll think of my garden and canning, and maybe draw it out with some new pencils my blind friend sent me. 

I'll figure out how to extend my legal expertise to people who want it.

Baseball has started; The Pirates might win something this year. There are also buds on the apple trees. I'll have apples in the fall, barring a late frost!

Life is too full of possibilities to feel sorry or uncreative for too long.

 

Archived Episodes
Publish Date: 07-29-2015 16:07:00
 
A couple of months ago, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) caused a bit of a ruckus when it declared that seismic events in Oklahoma and throughout the Midwest were related to the kind of deep injection wells associated with hydraulic fracturing.
Then the noise was drowned out by an actual cataclysm, the magnitude (M) 7.9 earthquake in Nepal.
The USGS, hasn't let the issue slide, and this month has released a pile of scholarly papers on the topic. Not one of them answers the question posed to me by Joanne Quinn-Smith, whose Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine wants to keep the good news going in Pittsburgh. "Good news" needs to include the lack of earthquakes in the region, I think.
Here's the question again:

"Are there man-made earthquakes in Butler County?"

You can find my previous efforts to answer this question here and here. The short answer is "No."

So you can stop reading here. Or you can find out what the USGS has to say by reading further.
Note upper right hand corner.
The red dot represents the Youngstown events 2011-2012
(USGS)
The underlying question Joanne really wants answered is: "Are my friends in Butler County nuts or high on something?" Well, for two years I was one of her Butler County friends, and if I'm an appropriate sample size, the answer is yes. I have been nuts or high on something for a number of years.
But not because I felt earthquakes, which I didn't. And not because fracking is causing earthquakes, which it isn't.
So let's look at some of the heavy hyperventilating that occurred over the induced earthquake phenomenon in Oklahoma:

1. Fracking is causing earthquakes!
Fracking doesn't cause earthquakes. It causes a lot of other things, but it doesn't cause earthquakes. Okay, I hear you muttering, "Hydraulic fracturing is an induced earthquake anyway, isn't it? Doesn't the technology force water and chemicals into rock precisely to break it up?" Yes, that's the whole idea behind fracking; but the fracking process doesn't last long enough or produce enough pressure to trigger the faults that cause felt earthquakes. Deep injection disposal of wastewater does.

Process water destined for injection
(Photo courtesy USGS)
2. But hey! All of that water going down deep injection wells is from fracking!
If you're talking about the seismic events in Youngstown, Ohio for about 18 months starting in 2011, you'd have an argument. The culprit there was a deep injection well used to dispose of wastewater from the Marcellus Shale fracking operations. Most of the damaging earthquakes, according to the USGS, occur near wells that are used to get rid of process water from oil and gas recovery operations. Most of these types of wells are in Oklahoma.

3. Then all injection wells are bad because they cause earthquakes!
Actually, only a few dozen wells have been singled out. According to the USGS, a number of factors collide to make an induced earthquake: There must be a fault nearby that is large enough to produce a felt earthquake. The fault will already be under stress, and there will be variations in fluid pressure large enough to cause slipping along the fault. As you may recall from previous posts, Oklahoma is riddled with these kind of deep sleeper faults. Western Pennsylvania isn't. Here's another important consideration: the Baaken Shale oil play in North Dakota (and other locations in Montana and eastern Utah) have not experienced the same level of shaking as Oklahoma, despite the historic boom in fracking.

There is no evidence of earthquakes caused by fracking in Butler County. Butler County, and Mercer County are awfully close to the Youngstown events, and my friends may have felt those. These events have subsided since the well operator changed the way it injected the fluids.

One more thing: The USGS has a very science-y and technical set of documents on its website, and all sorts of peer-reviewed journal articles which will help calm shaky feelings.


 

Publish Date: 04-26-2015 22:08:00
 
When I promised the amazing Joanne Quinn-Smith that I would look into the possibility of earthquakes in Butler County, PA, I had no idea that I would unleash powerful brainwaves into the Internet. Either that, or search algorithms are more powerful than I thought.

Why do I think this? For your consideration, I present the headline from Thursday's (4/23/15) Huffington Post.
Huffington Post, 4/23/2015

And this, from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on the same day:
USGS, 4/23/2015


Actually, I am glad the USGS published its findings because it saves me from listening to the entire workshop. I was slogging through it when the report was released. I've found I can read a lot faster than other people talk, and with more patience.

The gist of this announcement is: for the first time ever, the USGS is recommending that emergency planning agencies consider the potential hazard to population and infrastructure from "induced seismicity."

That night, man-made earthquakes even made the lead story on the Daily Show.

This post explores the possibility of man-made, or "induced" earthquakes.

WHAT?? Man-Made Earthquakes???

Man-made earthquakes aren't unheard of, so don't get too excited. Mining operations are common culprits. 

But how can we assume earthquakes are man-made, and not an "Act of God?"

Warning: Science ahead (yinz can skip this if you want)


Tectonic Plates - geology.com
Tectonic plates hold the answer (and a very generic one - go find a geologist if you want more detail). The earth's crust shifts along these plates; when it does, we get earthquakes and volcanoes. These plates are held in place by friction until the stress becomes strong enough to force the plates to shift and spring back. 

(Let me help you visualize this: You want to get your friend's attention, but you don't want to yell, because you're in a math test and you want the answer to a story problem. You snap your fingers. Your thumb presses against your finger. It slips after some pressure, creating a shockwave of sound, disrupting class, and your teacher flunks you both for cheating. Your thumb is one tectonic plate, and your finger is another. The shockwave is the sound of the snap.) 

Various weaknesses have formed in the earth's crust as a result of this stress; these are fault lines. The Rockies? A fault line. The volcanoes in Washington state? A fault line. The Appalachians? A very, very, very old fault line. I hope you get my (continental) drift.

The plate boundary closest to Pittsburgh is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean - action along this plate will frequently light up Iceland and mess up air travel in Europe. There's a volcano erupting in Chile right now thanks to movement in the famous "Ring of Fire" around the Pacific Plate. Movement between the Eurasian Plate (green) and the Indian Plate (red) is responsible for a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015.

Earthquake Hazard in U.S.
We expect, and plan for, earthquakes along and near tectonic plates. You can compare the location of high earthquake hazard (in red) in the U.S. with the location of the plate boundaries, if you want. The areas in the Western U.S. are red for a couple of reasons: (1) the Pacific Plate's eastern boundary snakes right up the West Coast, and (2) the population and transportation consequences could be devastating (and have been, historically).

Some locations in the middle of the country are faults resulting from mind-bogglingly old rifts (where tectonic plates tried to pull apart) that cause weaknesses in the earth's crust. Rifts make the surrounding crust more vulnerable to stress from plate movements, even when the boundaries appear far away. The likelihood of an earthquake occurring here is low, but the consequences/hazard is very high because of population and impacts to transportation.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog

Before I got all sciency, you were about to ask how we can assume earthquakes aren't an "Act of God."

Answer: Because plate tectonics tells us there shouldn't be earthquakes in Oklahoma or Ohio, we can take God out of the causal loop. 

For example, in November 2011, a 5.6 magnitude earthquake (along with aftershocks) occurred about 50 miles north of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, causing extensive property damage. Earthquakes had been on the rise in Oklahoma since 2009, and Oklahoma's Geologic Survey (OGS) was perplexed. The USGS took notice, too.

Here is what they saw:

OGS - 3/22/2015
That purple blob on the left represents the Magnitude 3+ earthquakes recorded in 2014. The green blob shows magnitude 4+.

Then they put it another way. the red blobs on the right represent earthquakes occurring so far in 2015. Green blobs are those recorded in 2014.

No matter which way they looked at it, these things called non-tectonic earthquakes started happening with alarming frequency:

During 2013, the OGS observed on average about  2, M3+ earthquakes each week on average, and this rate continued to increase during 2014. Currently, the OGS is reporting on average about 2, M3+ earthquakes each day.
So, how did OGS and the USGS conclude these quakes aren't natural? As you can see above, the earthquakes in Oklahoma were spread out over a wide area.

For comparison, here is the USGS Earthquake Report for Saturday, April 25 and Sunday April 26, 2015:

The blob in Asia represents aftershocks from Saturday's Nepal Earthquake.
Contribute here if you can help.
Notice how all but one of the earthquakes recorded on the right all occur on the tectonic boundaries? The pattern is generally linear.

The outlier is in Oklahoma.

When you have a seemingly random earthquake sequence, and you're trying to figure out if it will happen again, you have to figure out what caused it in the first place. So, that's what the agencies did. Almost 50 years ago, there was a string of unusual earthquakes in Colorado, near the Rocky Flats weapons arsenal. They were centered very near a deep (@3600') injection well. Experts concluded that the earthquakes were caused by the injection well: when use was discontinued, the earthquakes stopped.

Researchers at the USGS and the University of Oklahoma thought, "what if that is happening here?"

Marley's Ghost?

Okay. I need to be abundantly clear. Forgive me for harping on this, but I need to make this clear. As clear as Dickens had to be about Marley being dead. There is no story until you accept these truths:
  • There are no tectonic plates near Oklahoma. 
  • There are fault lines deep underground. 
  • But there is no reason for them to produce random earthquakes. 
  • These faults are very deep, very old, and mostly dead. 

Like Marley, however, they can be pressed into service if sufficiently provoked.

This is what happened in Oklahoma. According to one researcher, Dr. Elizabeth Cochran, 

... what we looked at for the Oklahoma sequence was where the earthquakes occurred relative to these disposal wells. And we also looked at whether there was any link between changes in seismicity and changes in production or change in the volume of fluids being disposed of. And so what we found was that the earthquakes were occurring within very close proximity to the depth of these wells, within about 500 meters. And that's basically to the resolution we can accurately estimate the location of those earthquakes.
The deep injection wells in Oklahoma were actually pressing down on these old fault lines:

... if you look in detail at the injection pressures, what happened was initially they could inject wastewater without any pressure. It would just basically go straight down the well, and they didn't have to put any pressure to make it go into the formation. But those pressures gradually rose over the 20 year period until essentially they'd have to keep increasing the pressure at which they'd force the water down in order to continue injecting the same volume of water.
And so we think that was showing that essentially this formation, which had been previously drilled and produced and now is being reinjected into, was essentially filling up, that it was a closed space where they were pumping a lot of water down into, and essentially it got to the point where the formation was full, and that caused increases in core pressure, which may have led to these events along the existing fault systems there. 
The entirety of her interview is available here.  The conclusion is that the Oklahoma earthquakes are the result of "injection/disposal of water associated with oil and gas production."

Yes, Virginia, there are man-made earthquakes. Next post, whether there can be earthquakes in Butler County.


(c) Tamar Cerafici, all rights reserved.  This blog may be reposted with all of the following information.
Legal Shoe's author is Tamar Cerafici.
Tamar is an internationally recognized leader and legal specialist in the often complex and challenging nuclear regulatory industry. As an environmental attorney she has been at the forefront of the industry in building regulatory and policy framework for a new generation of nuclear plants.She is a major contributor to the first Early Site Permit granted under 10 CFR part 52, successfully implementing alternative site analyses that has become the general standard.

She is also an internationally known expert on marketing techniques for lawyers and other billable-hour professionals, speaking around the world to delighted audiences everywhere.

Find this blog at http://legalshoe.blog spot.com

 

Publish Date: 04-19-2015 14:13:00
 
For two years, I lived in Western Pennsylvania. I still own real estate there, and hope to sell it one day. So I'm very interested when questions pop up about the quality of life in Pittsburgh and its surrounding towns and boroughs. I also maintain ties with the business community, and sometimes that community will ask me environmental law questions.

I got one last week.

The amazing Joanne Quinn-Smith, publisher of Positively Pittsburgh Live, wanted to know about the earthquakes in Butler. "Why earthquakes?" I asked. She replied, "People are feeling earthquakes in Butler because of the fracking. I want you to find out about that." That got me interested enough to wake up this blog and start writing again.

This blog post is an introduction - a full discussion of this issue is too long for a blog. For good measure, I majored in English for a reason, so I'm not a geologist or a seismologist. Both of those specialties require a better knowledge of math. I am an environmental lawyer, and I'm pretty good at reviewing environmental impacts of a project. I can make the connections between an activity like hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the environmental risks the activity poses. So, this series will review the risk of earthquakes related to fracking practices.

Let's get started with some background.

Earthquakes in Butler County?

Maybe. But probably not.

Pennsylvania has a historically low probability of earthquakes; they happen, but they're very, very rare. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the federal agency that monitors such things, shows a very low probability that an earthquake would occur around western Pennsylvania. By contrast, my home state of Utah has a very high probability of earthquakes. California's risk is - famously - very, very high.

You can find this map here.
If you asked a geologist about the probability of earthquakes in Butler County, she would reply "probably not," and then add a bunch of extra information about probabilistic risk assessment, and that there is a history of earthquakes in the region. But the reality is that the possibility of a naturally occurring earthquake in western Pennsylvania is so low that we get beige on the USGS hazards map for the state. BEIGE.

You can find this map here.
Most of the earthquakes that occur in Western Pennsylvania are only felt by the most sensitive of instruments. We humans, being less sensitive than the machines in Pitt's geology lab, rarely feel earthquakes that measure less than 3 on the Richter Scale. These are called "felt" earthquakes.

The probability of naturally occurring felt earthquakes is so low that you could say "there is no risk of an earthquake in Butler County" and still show up a your amateur geologists meeting with head held high.


Notice how I slipped that lawyerly qualification into that last paragraph? Naturally occurring earthquakes are very rare. According to the USGS, there is such a thing as "induced seismicity." Activities like coal mining, blasting, and well-drilling practices can trigger "sleeping" faults under really specific circumstances.

Part II of this post will consider man-made, or "induced" earthquakes.

In the meantime, leave a comment below if you're from western PA and have felt a tremor.





 

Publish Date: 03-07-2014 17:27:00
 
Readers of my sporadic posts on this page will remember that very little gets me off the snowshoe trails and back into the house more quickly than killer attorney advertising.

I collect the stuff like a lot of people collect dolls or clown paintings.

So it made a sunny day brighter when Above The Law posted this lawyer ad on its blog.

The attorney is a Pittsburgh practitioner, and I'm all about giving some love to the denizens of my late great adopted hometown.

Attorney Dan may just have to get a cube in my dream law firm along with Saul Goldman and .....

Then the dog came in, jostled the hot chocolate in search of his ball, Newton took over, and now I have to go clean hot chocolate off Richard Shell's great book, Springboard: Launching your Personal Search for Success.

When it dries off I might right a review on it. View blog

 

Publish Date: 02-19-2014 17:56:00
 
That's right, no one defines it but you.
Eddie the Eagle Flying into my Heart.
To support my case, I call Michael "Eddie" Edwards to the stand. For you young'uns, Eddie the Eagle Edwards was the lone member of the Great Britain Ski Jumping team in the 1988 Olympics. Google him or something.

He was the great hero of my last semester. Because he was, in the eyes of everyone on the International Olympic Committee, and the rest of the nabobs running the show in Calgary, the antithesis of a successful athlete. Nearly blind, out of shape, working class, only 20 months of training, and super, super popular with the spectators. I mean rock star popular. The athletes loved him. Everybody loved him, and he even appeared on the Tonight Show.

But IOC had decided he wasn't "serious." That he was making a mockery of The Games. Eddie on the other hand , was having a terrific time. Being a competitor in the Olympics was his gold medal.

When I started doing research for a recent seminar on success, he sprang readily to mind.

Why, because Eddie knew what his "success point." was. Make the Olympics. He was on the British Ski Racing team, and went all over Europe (camping in his car) to ski. He'd been denied the opportunity to ski on the British team by about .2 seconds on his qualifying run. So, he looked around for what nobody else was doing, and did it. No one was on the British Ski Jumping Team. There wasn't a British Ski Jumping Team.

Eddie said, "why shouldn't there be a British Ski Jumping Team?" and became the British Ski Jumping Team. So, he trained in Lake Placid, got back in his car, and went all over Europe to qualify. No sponsors, no nothing. He even slept and worked at a mental hospital in Finland. @) months after his decision to be the British Ski Jumping Team, he was marching in the opening ceremonies.

And then he jumped. On borrowed skis (from the Austrian Team), protected by a borrowed helmet (from the Italians). And those jumps transformed his life.

If you want to learn how to properly define success (in your own inimitable way) watch this video.

Don't forget to take notes.

Eddie still works as a plasterer, like his father,
his grandfather, and great-grandfather


 

Publish Date: 01-27-2014 16:54:00
 
Staring at a blank (computer-simulated) version of a white sheet of paper is no fun.

Apparently we have a place deep inside our amygdala that processes a blank writing space as too many choices. Then it freezes up. The way your frontal cortex checks out when you are looking at 25 different kinds of red spaghetti sauce.

I am not making this up. It's a real phenomenon. Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing (affiliate link), helps us understand the problem of limitless options. In a study at Columbia University Business School, Dr. Iyengar presented subjects with six varieties of jams to purchase. Another group was presented with twenty-four varieties. The twenty-four jam group was really into the idea of so many jams, and sampled a lot. They took nothing home, however.

On the other hand, the six-jam group was ten times more likely to buy something from the limited options, heading home with a nice grape jelly for their toast the next morning.

You can watch her explain the problem at TED a few years ago.

I'm having this choosing problem right now because I've been fielding questions from young associates about their year-end reviews, their "failure" to make partner after 7 years chained to a desk, and unhelpful advice from their "reviewers."

There are just too many words (most of them unprintable) I could use to describe my disdain for these reviews, or at least how they're conducted, so my brain is frozen. My amygdala has taken over, because my frontal cortex is on overload. I have no answers.

It's also winter and there's not enough light in the world. So, I'm leaving the advice to an actual partner in an actual law firm in a post from Above the Law last fall. Anonymous Partner suggested the following for associates:

[keep] track of your hours, and if you have access to that information, the collections on your time. Think ahead to the next quarter, and set a target for your billable hours (keeping in mind any vacation you hope to plan and then cancel, or holidays). But do not stop there. Keep track of your matters, such as whether or not you worked for any new partners that quarter, or worked with lawyers in another of your firm's offices. Also keep track of any business development opportunities that may have crossed your path, even if your current firm discourages business development by associates. Set a quarterly target for working on an article, or keeping track of old classmates. If you are unhappy at your firm, set a quarterly target for recruiter calls or interviews, so that months and months do not go by with misery as your faithful companion. Why quarterly and not monthly? Months are simply too short. And many an associate has gotten stuck in the Biglaw quicksand for years on end by adopting a wait till next year approach to their career happiness.
Done, and done. Get proactive. Plan your year the way a business plans theirs: quarter by quarter. Keep a record of what you've done, and make sure your partners, mentors, and anyone else who will listen knows about it. Try to corral your mentor at the end of each quarter for a review.

After all, it's your business. Own it. 

 

Publish Date: 01-15-2014 02:26:00
 
Matt Hill haunted the house where my mother spent her summers in central Idaho.

This is what Matt Hill had to look during the winter.
It was about 10 degrees (F) when I took this picture,
so don't get all sweet about how pretty it is.
He was a fixture of the Finnish population in the Long Valley, where he owned land, operated a dance hall, an illegal still, and a sauna. I'm told there are people buried on the property.

During the long Idaho winters, legend had it that Matt would close the dance hall, surround himself with the still's output, and sit in the southeastern corner of the house watching the snow come down. He wouldn't move from that corner until the roads became passable again.

Now, I will have to fact check this with my cousins. There are a great many more stories involving axes and a wife or two fleeing for her life. I did see the marks where he tried to break down a door with an axe and kill his wife.

Things get very Stephen King during the winter in Idaho. Especially when you have jugs of White Lightning to spare.

On the other hand, Matt seems to have had the bones of a good idea.

Survive until spring.

If you can do it in some kind of a haze, even better.

But, thanks to the wonders of modern science, infographics help us pinpoint and solve our unhappiness during the dark time.

As you gear up for yet another time of cold, failure, and everything else that makes it hard to process the first quarter of 2014, here is a quick set up of ways to be happy.

A big shout out to Jonathan Malkin, who posted this on his Google+ page (+Jonathan Malkin) via +Doctor Ivan Ferrero - Digital Psychologist, via the Huffington Post.

Print this out. Do one of these things EVERY DAY. Please note none of the options include spending the winter staring out a window with a a jug full of hooch.

Let me know how you do: here, on Twitter @TamarCerafici (#happinesshooch), or on the Tumblr @ BlueBook of Happiness.

 

Publish Date: 12-23-2013 18:24:00
 
"I should have objected to the hearing for being on Festivus."

So lamented my estimable colleague, who was calling today to report the outcome of a hearing he attended for our client.

That reminded me of a story reported by the L.A. Times 3 years ago.

An Orange County (CA) inmate had apparently scored some pretty fine meals courtesy of his religious affiliation: Festivism, whose chief religious holiday is, of course, Festivus.

The inmate got a judge to sign off on double portions of pre-packaged kosher meals before he started a year-long sentence in April 2010 -- citing religious reasons. When the judge asked what religion, the inmate's attorney blurted out "Festivus." The order included a requirement for "high protein no salami 3 times a day for Festivism."

(Another Festivus Miracle!)

So ends the great debate as to what one eats for the holiday, which was defined by Dan O'Keefe in a 1997 episode of Seinfeld. Mrs. Costanza served meatloaf and some kind of red sauce. However, the original O'Keefe holiday featured ham.

Here is just about the entire way to celebrate Festivus, dysfunction and all, illustrated courtesy Seinfeld:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F73sMmb6CS0

I think an Orange County Superior Court judge trumps even the inventor of the holiday. So, High Protein Meal No Salami it is. That's my menu for tonight when we air grievances and challenge each other to feats of strength (Festivus isn't over until one of the combatants is pinned).

For those of you who will be fretting about next year's business and practice goals, take a moment with your colleagues. Make a Festivus Pole together. A homemade pole on display at Florida's State Capital is shown at left, and I'm sure one could use the beer or soft drink of choice. A more formal version, which appears to have been purchased and the local hardware store, shares Wisconsin's rotunda with a tree, a nativity scene, and a menorah. So an observance is totally legit.

Festivus Pole, WI
Enjoy High Protein Meal No Salami. Air your grievances, challenge each other to feats of strength in the New Year, and start 2014 with a new outlook.

It might be just the thing your practice needs!






 

Publish Date: 12-19-2013 17:01:00
 
I have been writing. Yesterday, I set up a new Google+ page called The BlueBook of Happiness, and it will have the same kind of content and direction of the tumblr page of the same name. Go look for both! Now if only I could get over the mental hurdle of publishing the Facebook page.

The good folks at the Harvard Business Review are providing some good content, despite the productivity wasteland known as December. This morning's offering is no exception. Jeanne C. Meister serves up a good helping of holiday food for thought in "Make Sure Your Dream Company Can Find You," available here.

If you understand the tools companies are using to find good candidates, Meister says, you can manage your online and social media presence to bring those companies to you.

For example:

1. People Analytics. Smart new businesses are reinventing the recruitment process. Meister notes that these companies are "blending data from social media sites to create profiles of coders, programmers and software engineers so that companies hoping to hire can search for candidates that have the skills they desire."

(NOTE:   Clients have been doing this since before the Interweb started, using referrals and then search engines to find lawyers by typing in their problems.)

Meister notes that Rackspace used "people analytics" to find its newest employees: "This approach to recruitment is creating a new technical world order where job applicants are found and evaluated by their merits and contributions, rather than by how well they sell themselves in an interview."

I got recruited to teach LSAT courses for Kaplan through my Linked In profile. It can happen.

2. Got an app for that? Sodexo and other giants are using mobile technology to find their next generation of workers. This puts job descriptions and company information at candidate's fingertips. Given that some applicants do their research about 15 minutes before the interview, companies with mobile job boards are more likely to catch (and keep) the attention of good candidates.

3. MOOCs. I have never given MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) a thought as a recruiting tool. But companies are creating online courses to seek out likely new recruits. For instance, companies who want to capitalize on game technology are watching and recruiting from graduates of a MOOC called MakeGamesWith.us. Why? Graduates know how to build an iPhone game. Other companies are using MOOCs as recruiting and advertising, according to Meister.

Meister concludes with encouraging words, and an interesting proposition:

As companies move to actively seeking out prospective new hires, giving these targeted talent communities special access to webinars, announcements of new job openings, and email invitations to engage with the company, job seekers need to reciprocate.
We've all been warned about how our online behavior can negatively affect  job prospects, but now you also need to think about how to build your personal brand, publicize your skills, and connect with the companies you might want to work for.
The next time you're on your favorite social networking site, seek out employers you hope to work for one day. Build an online relationship with them now so they can find you later. Visit the company blog, like its Facebook page, join its Google+ page, watch its videos on YouTube, and follow the firm on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Vine. 
Make 2014 the year you become visible to your dream employer. After all, you may be just the person they're looking for. (Emphasis added.)

 

Publish Date: 12-16-2013 21:53:00
 
For those of you keeping track, I did not write for 3 days. I was busy playing in the snow. Get over it.

The Quotidian E-mail's subject line was "Immortal Beloved."

It was from my sister, who wanted to know if I survived the crushing blow to our universe of actors who will never die. One did yesterday, and I was sad that Peter O'Toole went the way of all flesh.

A long time ago, O'Toole starred in Lord Jim, which I watched in a high school class. Based on a Joseph Conrad novel, the movie focuses on the title character's journey to redemption. Sort of like The Magnificent Seven even with Eli Wallach playing the villain.
P.O'T. in Lord Jim

Of course, my sister and I thought the coolest thing ever was Peter O'Toole being the Roman General in Masada on the TV. We decided he would have to be one of the cast members of whatever book adaptation we were casting at the time. Hence the List of Immortals.

Of course anyone eulogizing P.O'T. would talk about Beckett and Lion in Winter and My Favorite Year and A Bunch of Sad Failures in the 70's because he was sick and alcoholic. Of course they talk about Lawrence of Arabia.

I didn't see Lawrence of Arabia until I graduated from law school. Actually, I didn't see it until after I had taken the bar in Utah. I knew I had failed it. I had no life. I had failed as an actor. I had failed looking for a job. I was living in my parents' basement.

Worst, I couldn't afford to ski.

These Boots.
But there was this gorgeous blue-eyed guy who's saying "This is a dismal office. We are not happy in it." And then, he found a way to be basically happy outside that office.

I watched that movie 5 times (in a movie theatre - big screen is the only way to see that thing) in the four weeks between taking the bar exam and finding out that I'd actually passed. I began asking myself simple questions: How did T.E. Lawrence do these things? What is most effective about P.O'T's reactions? How, and why, did a tall actor get to play a man who could be Woody Allen's lost twin? And how do I relish any part I've landed with that kind of unbridled enthusiasm?

Where can I get the boots he wore in the scene where he walks along the top of the train?

How? How? How? could I apply the lessons I was trying to learn while I escaped from the drudgery of a smoggy winter in Utah?

I've spent the last 25 years figuring that out, and I haven't succeeded yet. Along the way, I've learned how to apply the lessons of the month and that movie and P.O'T's career. Someday I may teach them to someone else.

But right now, I'll just apply the lesson taught in Robert Bolt's magnificent dialogue:

(Lawrence has just extinguished a burning match between his thumb and forefinger - a trick the character's famous for, and Potter tries to do it)

William Potter: Ooh! It damn well 'urts!
T.E. Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.
Officer: What's the trick then?
T.E. Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts. (emphasis added)


 

Publish Date: 12-13-2013 00:42:00
 
For those of you keeping track, I posted yesterday. I have a tumblr account, too, and I'm learning to use it. Yay tech! I write over at tumblr.com, under the nom de guerre The BlueBook of Happiness. I did that yesterday. Trust me, or click over and look.

With 2014 mere weeks away, it's time to seriously consider what kind of NYRs will make it onto my list. I posted Tuesday on NYRs one shouldn't make.

Here's ONE resolution I intend to make, and keep:

I resolve never to work for free.


But wait, whines the little lawyer voice inside my head, I'm in a service industry. I'm obligated to give people access to justice. Also insistent is the mentor voice, which says that I have to practice on people for nothing if I want to get them to pay for my services later on.

That is so stupid. But I get that idea from the medieval roots of my profession. From the monks who wandered England with their vows of poverty and the pockets in their hoods to catch the money "clients" might donate to the cause.

So, in 2014, I resolve to throw off the shackles of my medieval past and serve like the knights errant. Somebody is bound to cough up a manor or a new suit of armor, right? I'd settle for a nice meal or a plate of cookies. Really.

At some point, I'll have to work for free. Fortunately, always remarkable Jessica Hische has done all the dirty work for me (and for FREE) to help me make a clear, objective decision. You can find the HTML version here. And don't be cheap. Buy a letterpress copy of the flow chart, frame it, and refer to it often.

Don't work for free. Don't lend your time. You're worth it.


 

Publish Date: 12-10-2013 15:44:00
 
So, I'm on day two. I came close to ignoring my new resolve to write every day but realized I would be grumpy and sad if I didn't.

Thanks to some great encouragement from Jonathan Malkin, I'm going to keep going and possibly build some discipline. BTW, Jonathan posted a wonderful discussion of entrepreneurial depression here.

I've been suffering from something of an identity crisis. Today's post is evidence of that. I'm over fifty, but still feel like I just graduated from law school. In many ways, I wish I'd had me for a mentor those long years ago (wait, I did have me as a mentor those long years ago - his name was Keith Jergensen and he was my dad - probably why I didn't ask him for advice).

At any rate, since we're focusing on ways to increase our chances of keeping our New Year's Resolutions, I offer this brief discussion. Kudos to Ann Brenoff, who wrote the post. It's directed to the "over 50 crowd" but buried between the lines are some important insights about meeting objectives.

Never make resolutions you cannot keep. Objectives, goals, resolutions, whatever you call them must be amenable to accomplishment. Some you simply cannot keep because they might require a third party's decision to accomplish it (get a job) or are simply beyond your remarkable abilities (win a Nobel Prize in Literature).

Make resolutions that only require one person for success: you.



 

Publish Date: 12-09-2013 14:58:00
 
Be prepared for a series of brief, but still well-written posts. If you're operating off of Bryan Gardner's Garner on Language & Writing paradigm (affiliate link), these are more madman than carpenter or judge.

I have a number of reasons for this warning: 39 to be exact. That's 18 + 21.

I've just finished the remarkable book "18 Minutes Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done (affiliate link)," by Peter Bregman. It's part of my end of year study of the best and most recommended books of 2013.

Bergman recommends prioritizing the things that will bring you closer to your objectives for the year. One of my objectives for 2014 is to write more. I wanted to get the habit started before the new year.

Getting started on your new year's resolutions in the 21 days left in the year is a great way to make sure those resolutions get done in 2014. It takes 21 days to make a habit stick.

Want to lose weight? Start exercising now. Stop eating so much sugar. Drink 1 less soda each day. By January 1, you'll have the habit that will get you in shape by the end of the year.

Want to watch less TV? Stop watching 1 hour at night, and read a book or plan a vacation.

Want to get better grades or impress your client? Listen for one new thing.

Want to love your to do list? Pick one thing you absolutely WANT to get done; write it down. Do it. Every single day. If you find yourself writing the same thing dow every day, evaluate if this is a new habit and treat it as such.

The other advantage? I just spent the last week taking inventory of my objectives for 2014, and I'll continue to do that through December. As I hone those objectives to the 4 or 5 I really really want to do, I also explore why they are important to me. That gives me ownership of the objectives.

What happens if I own them? Research shows I'm about 100% more likely to get them accomplished when I do.

What are your objectives for 2014?

 

Publish Date: 10-18-2013 18:16:00
 
Last month, I climbed into my DeLorean and darkened the door of my alma mater for the first time since 1998, ready to "celebrate" the 25th anniversary of my release into the wild. I was actually eager and excited to see people I hadn't seen for more than a decade.

Fortunately, I had been prepared for low turnout by Carolyn Elefant's excellent post on her own 25th Reunion. Of the 130 or so graduating members of the class, around 15 showed up for the reunion. I'd say more than 50% of our class live and work on the Wasatch Front of Utah, yet the reunion committee was only successful in shaming 4 or 5 from the area to show up.

Thanks to the great work of Professor  James Backman I was able to learn how really entrepreneurial the my law class turned out to be. (NOTE to Law Schools: find one professor or support staffer to develop a series of online "yearbooks" for each class. Professor Backman's effort is irreplaceable.) According to Professor Backman's yearbook project, easily 30% of the Class of '88 had gone to work for start-ups, or created their own companies or firms -- right out of law school. Many of them are still at it; one has formed and sold two law firms and at least one company. Of the people who were in actual attendance, only 3 could boast a 25-year record in the same firm. The rest of us had started our own solo firms or gone into business with 2 or 3 other partners.

And there we stayed. I believe it's because Law As A Practice is inherently entrepreneurial. Young lawyers bring with them the tools to create a practice that will follow them wherever they go.

I feel bound to take up Ms. Elefant's banner: Why don't law schools prepare students for the inevitable?

Like it or not, the most successful lawyers -- those who still adore what they do 25 years on -- will be the entrepreneurs. Those that don't much care for the practice will go on and form businesses, and still be entrepreneurs. Isn't it a good idea for schools that depend on the bonhomie of their alumni to provide their students with entrepreneurial training during law school?

 

Publish Date: 09-15-2013 20:24:00
 
Okay. I know I promised to be more faithful in updating this blog. I love my work. I love that I'll be heading out to Utah to work with law students at my alma mater, the J. Reuben Clark Law School. I'll also be there to attend my 25th reunion, celebrating the fact that someone actually let me out of law school in the first place. I sort of made it a point to be as loud as possible while I was there; it assured my graduation simply because the dean and faculty wanted some peace and quiet.

As I'm preparing for the program, I came across another worthy and fun website: waitbutwhy.com. This week's post was enlightening. I'm part of the lost generation (neither baby boomer nor Gen Y) but the words rang true for me.

You can find it here.

It's a good retelling of the reasons young entrepreneurs and professionals are so frustrated right now. It's also a great explanation of why the sharp knives in my drawer were talking to me last winter. The gist is this: Where our parents and grandparents sought security in their careers, my stepchildren's generation seeks "fulfillment." Note, for example how the phrases have waned and waxed in popularity:



The phrase "secure career" started going out of fashion about the same time I started law school. But a fulfilling career has surged into the public consciousness:


While we're seeking fulfillment, we're bombarded with Facebook Friends who constantly brag about their fabulous careers and fancy offices and trips to Europe. This is discouraging.

The bloggers at Wait But Why have sage advice for those of us who have ditched security in favor of fulfilling:

1) Stay wildly ambitious.  The current world is bubbling with opportunity for an ambitious person to find flowery, fulfilling success.  The specific direction may be unclear, but it'll work itself out”just dive in somewhere.

2) Stop thinking that you're special.  The fact is, right now, you're not special.  You're another completely inexperienced young person who doesn't have all that much to offer yet.  You can become special by working really hard for a long time.

3) Ignore everyone else. Other people's grass seeming greener is no new concept, but in today's image crafting world, other people's grass looks like a glorious meadow. The truth is that everyone else is just as indecisive, self-doubting, and frustrated as you are, and if you just do your thing, you'll never have any reason to envy others.

For a change, I haven't anything to add. 

 

Publish Date: 08-07-2013 19:53:00
 
Over the weekend, I was at a memorial service for the amazing Mary Pam Kilgore, who died after a quiet but valiant battle with cancer. Before the folk singers let me hop into their rendition of Angel Band, I sat down with one of my Six Friends, Joanne Quinn Smith. Joanne is also the founder of Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine.

"So," Joanne said, "when are you going to wake up LegalShoe? Mary Pam always wrote Planners Pointers for me and now I need content."

Inside Menopausal Me was saying: "Not yet. I'm still trying to recover from whatever depression thing laid me out last summer. I'm moving. I have to pack. No one reads my stuff anyway."

The Outside Me, the Third Child Me, said out loud: "This week. I'll do it this week. Yay."

I've been retooling LegalShoe in my head for the last year. I've been retooling me for the last 3 months. It's time to wake up LegalShoe, whether anyone reads it or not.

With the goal of helping Joanne with her content problem, LegalShoe isn't just about legal issues. It's about the problems that face lawyers and other professionals who are uniquely entrepreneurial. Problems like planning a career, building clientele, and liking a chosen path. Back breakers like depression, debt, and uncertainty.

Nobody really seems to be talking about those. It gets lonely when you're the only person who feels this way. So here are some scary statistics that make me feel less isolated (courtesy the Dave Nee Foundation).


  • Depression among law students is 8-9% prior to matriculation, 27% after one semester, 34% after 2 semesters, and 40% after 3 years.
  • Stress among law students is 96%, compared to 70% in med students and 43% in graduate students.
  • Entering law school, law students have a psychological profile similar to that of the general public. After law school, 20-40% have a psychological dysfunction.
  • Psychological distress, dissatisfaction and substance abuse that begin in law school follow many graduates into practice.
  • Only half of lawyers are very satisfied or satisfied with their work.
  • Chronic stress can trigger the onset of clinical depression.
  • Lawyers are the most frequently depressed occupational group in the US.
  • Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.
  • Depression and anxiety is cited by 26% of all lawyers who seek counseling.
  • 15% of people with clinical depression commit suicide.
  • Lawyers rank 5th in incidence of suicide by occupation.
  • 19% of lawyers suffer from statistically significant elevated levels of depression, according to a survey conducted on lawyers in Washington.
  • Over 25% of North Carolina lawyers experience physical symptoms of extreme anxiety at least three times per month during the year.
  • 37% of North Carolina lawyers suffer from depression.
  • 11% of North Carolina lawyers suffer from suicide ideation.

Entrepreneurs aren't immune either. Aaron Schwartz suffered suicidal depression and ultimately hanged himself in the face of a federal investigation over downloading documents from the MIT JSTOR library. Ecomom's Jody Sherman, Diaspora's Ilya Zhitomirskiy  and more anonymous entrepreneurs have lost their fight with depression. Sadly, LegalShoe's research department couldn't find any hard statistics for entrepreneurs. Perhaps it's because "entrepreneur" isn't exactly a profession. Oh, and most entrepreneurs don't like to talk about it.

One entrepreneur is doing a noble work to get other entrepreneurs to talk about their depression. Check out Jonathan Malkin's interviews and articles here. They are fascinating, and super helpful.

Last summer, Ben Horowitz called entrepreneurship "The Struggle." You can read that post here. It's a familiar manifesto.

 

Publish Date: 07-31-2012 16:04:00
 
Farragut actually said: Damn the torpedoes!..Go ahead,  full speed
I'm invoking Admiral Farragut for a reason.


My syndicator, PositivelyPittsburgLiveMagazine.com, or PPLMagLive, reached 2.5 million page views during THIS YEAR. 


By reading this blog, you've contributed to that!


This syndication page routinely gets 62,000 views a month, with a 11.6 % monthly growth average.


This is a big deal for Joanne Quinn-Smith, who founded the online magazine five years ago. It's a portal for radio shows, tv channels, and just about everything you could want from the New Media. It wasn't even a domain name five years ago.


Her "damn the torpedoes" attitude has inspired literally millions. 


And Joanne has turned into the Goddess of New Media. Her course, Web 2.0 Gorilla Branding, and her Techno Granny talk shows are remarkable. Her patience as a mentor is unparalleled, since she is my mentor and hasn't kicked me to the curb yet. She's supported or helped dozens of entrepreneurs get on their feet -- including me.


Now, Joanne has a new project: to create the world's biggest hug!


Full disclosure: I am a sponsor of the Hug-A-Thon. For a good reason - who DOESN'T like a hug? See below for ways you can help.


Anyway, back to the topic at hand.


Joanne has been an entrepreneur and entertainer for as long as I've been alive. She's the only one who can do her story justice, but she's started and lost more businesses than my granddaughter has unicorns. And that's a lot.


She started PPLMagLive 5 years ago when her limousine business floated down the Ohio River during Hurricane Ivan. A grandmother starting a business about Web Technology on the Web is unusual now, but in 2007 it was unheard of. But she persisted. And she made it work. 


And now she wants to say "thanks" to her hometown.


 The first, annual Hug-a-Thon Pittsburgh„c Day brings local, regional, and national exposure and recognition for the City of Pittsburgh and to four, non-profit organizations”Cancer Caring Center, Sickle Cell Society, Inc., Pittsburgh Passion's Passion for Life Foundation, and Operation Troop Appreciation. A number of activities during 2012 will culminate in a major event on September 6, 2012. The places to get hugs are tentatively scheduled at the City County Building, Market Square, Katz Plaza, and underneath Macy's Clock from 2:30 to 5:00 PM.

You can "LIKE" the Hug-A-Thon on Facebook for the best information. 


But funding for a non-profit project like this doesn't come easy. A Hug-A-Thon needs huggers and funding for silly legal things like insurance and venues. If you can't actually spare a hug, sponsor the event and the charities it supports. If you have any ability to manage an Indie-Go-Go or Kickstarter campaign, contact the program or leave a comment on this blog. 


Big hugs to Joanne and her team at PPL and the Hug-A-Thon.

 

Publish Date: 06-15-2012 15:58:00
 

You want to pick a domain name. Someone told you it was important to have a Web site. Cool. welcome to the late 20th century!

But what domain? Foremost, you should always own your name and any variations. You should own your business name. You should have a tagline, and own that. You should own all of the suffixes:.co,.mobi,.com,.net, and so forth for all of your domain names.

"So what do I call it?" you ask. Don't just pick anything that's available or funny.
Here are five reasons why your domain name can be one of the most important business decisions you make:
  1. It tells potential customers you understand a problem they have.
  2. It tells potential customers that you, and only you, can solve their problems.
  3. It tells potential customers what kind of audience you help.
  4. It solidifies your brand in potential customers' heads.
  5. It's your virtual storefront.


You may have noticed something: the only part of that list that concerns you is the last item.

Now, before you even start, memorize these rules.
     


RULE 1



RULE II

Finally, imprint this in your marketing DNA:

THE ONE RULE TO RULE THEM ALL

Your domain name needs to instantly position you as someone who a) cares about your potential client's problems and b) can SOLVE them. 

If you're serious about a domain name, you need to see it as an extension of your marketing, and you need recognize that this will be your first introduction to your potential clientele.

Ask yourself: 
What's the primary objective for my domain name? 

Do you want new clients? Do you want to announce a new blog or build a tribe of attorneys who will recommend you? Do you want to get people excited about a new book?

For example, I want people to know about my upcoming book, DOMINATE: How Smart Lawyers Crush Their Competition. I want to reserve a domain and create a place where people can learn about the book.

Do I use the title, or do I use something that will inform about the book? How about DominateHow2CrushCompetition (title)? Or do I use YouCanCrushYourCompetition (goal of the book)? I have a friend whose website is icanmakeyourich. He's a marketer. That gets people's attention.

Then ask yourself:

What's my target population (T-POP)?

Let's assume you're an estate planning attorney.  Your T-POP is easy: people who want estate planning. 


  • But what age? 
  • Parents of young children? 
  • A couple where one or both travel for work? 
  • Sandwich generation caregivers? 
  • Retirees who have just now realized that they really need to do something?
  • Does your T-POP know what "estate planning" is?


Your domain name has to be memorable and appeal to the tribe you want. That will only work if you address your T-POP's needs and problems.

Choose a name that will speak to those needs and problems. For example, estate-planning-sucks.com might really appeal to GenX and millennials, because it's funny and it says how they feel about writing a will. But your potential boomer clients could be really offended by it. They may agree that it does, but the phrase has a different meaning for them. Always use the right language for the right T-POP.


It's like wearing a really nice suit to court as opposed to a t-shirt that says "They killed Kenny!" I saw this at the store the other day. Ouch - mainly because the picture was stretched across the guy's ample belly.



Say you want your domain name to convince new college graduates or new parents that they need estate planning. Numbers and letters will work because the domain name will look like a text message - wills4u or plnurfutr. That's how millennials communicate, and they'll remember the site and assume you speak their language.

Something like "myestateplanningattorney" works for aging boomers, and perhaps the sandwich generation because it's more formal and gives them the sense of ownership and belonging. I quibble with this one because it doesn't tell the client anything about your practice. Neither does the name of your firm or business. You want to reassure this T-POP that writing a will or setting up a trust does not mean they will die or lose their independence.

Remember it's about your T-POP and their needs and problems. Address issues that keep them awake about not having a will, or planning for their future, or leaving a legacy.

Why not do something with pieces of estate planning that your desired tribe will recognize? Wills are the most obvious thing, although "Trusts" will appeal to certain crowd too. "Avoiding probate" will appeal to caregivers. Words like "protect" and "future" and "generations" appeal to retirees.

It's important not to simply think of some clever names and throw them up to see what sticks. Go to the Google keyword tool and check out what people are looking for. See which proposed domain gets the most hits and go from there.

Remember your PO and T-POP and your domain will be your most valuable asset.

 

Publish Date: 06-13-2012 13:34:00
 
BoingBoing.net brings us this week's education in cloudfunding. I have long thought to review the legal and ethical mechanics of the thing ever since President Obama signed the cloudfunding provisions of the JOBS Act. He did this over strenuous objections from the SEC, which is new in and of itself. BoingBoinb beat me to it, and reality is stranger than any hypothetical I could have created to illustrate the possibilities of cloudfunding.

The entire story is posted here.

It sort of reminds of the Flying Circus sketch, "How to Confuse a Cat."

Long story short, FunnyJunk and The Oatmeal are sort of the Hatfields and McCoys of the create-and-repost world of the internet. The thing started when The Oatmeal claimed FunnyJunk stole its original comics, reposted, and monetized them. The Oatmeal produces original content that's actually pretty good.

In a gesture of bonhommie, the owner of FunnyJunk to some of the stolen material down. Nice.

If you're The Oatmeal, all done and settled, right? Wrong.

Enter Charles Carreon, the litigator who successfully litigated the sex.com case. For Internet geeks like me, this is the case that made website domains personal property. So, apparently, he knows a thing or two about shenanigans on the internet.

Carreon is no slouch. He sent a demand letter to TheOatmeal, requesting damages for defamation because TheOatmeal's post accused FunnyJunk of copyright violation, which can - under certain circumstances - be a criminal offense. Oh, and that TheOatmeal had defamed FunnyJunk. When a defendant defames a claimant by accusing them of a criminal act, that's Defamation Per Se. For such defamation, FunnyJunk required $20,000. If it was not paid, FunnyJunk and its incredibly successful internet lawyer would take TheOatmeal.com to federal court.

Matt Inman, TheOatmeal's founder, responded in kind, sort of, by proposing that any $20,000 paid in response to the letter should go to cancer research. Inman then started a fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo to get the $20,000 for cancer. Inman raised the $20,000 in 64 minutes. To date the campaign has raised $142,000.

Carreon has filed a complaint with the crowdfunding site, asserting that the campaign violates IndiGoGo's standards. IndiGoGo remains silent on the matter, but Carreon is confused, according to an MSNBC article:

"I really did not expect that he would marshal an army of people who would besiege my website and send me a string of obscene emails," [Carreon] says. ... "It's an education in the power of mob psychology and the Internet," Carreon told [the reporter].
Now I don't post this to mock FunnyJunk or it's attorney. They're doing that job very well themselves. The true lesson here is not the power of the Internet or mob psychology. 

Rather, lawyers should be aware of the power of crowdfunding and educate themselves - there is a powerful new game out there, and it's a frontier worth exploring.




 

Publish Date: 06-04-2012 14:02:00
 
I try really hard to make Legal Shoe's advice open to all types of entrepreneurs, but since law is my frame of reference, I find it pretty hard not to worry about the next generation of lawyerpreneurs. They are in for an uphill climb - that's the reality.

A propos of nothing, these thoughts occurred to me while I was writing a review of Private Lives, which for Pittsburgh area readers, is playing at the O'Reilly Theatre through June 24. It's a comedy about softening hard edges, attraction, domestic strife, and it struck me as a metaphor for my 50-year love affair with the law.

Don't forget that you can soften the hard edges of your legal career by remembering why the law seemed attractive to you in the first place.

But here is one reason. Lawrence Lessing's graduation speech and John Marshall Law School in Atlanta. It's your assigned reading for today.




Everyone is a little high after they finish any arduous graduate program. So it's easy to be filled with starry-eyed wonder that Lessing, a prominent Harvard Law professor, would encourage young graduates to hang up their own shingle without any business accumen or training. Practice for the people! Redefine what law means in the United States! Your children and your children's children will rise up and call you blessed.

There is ONE reason you should let this vision influence your thoughts about practicing law.

It softens the hard edges. Let me say that again:

IT SOFTENS THE HARD EDGES.

A law practice, or any entrepreneurial venture, has a lot of hard edges: clients don't pay on time if at all, it's touch to keep a consistent pipeline of clients coming through the door, and you may feel the incredible burden of losing more fights than you win.

But you also have an incredible chance to leave the lives of the people around you better, whether it's your family, your clients, or the people you meet while you're trying to hawk your wares.

So this Monday, two weeks into a jobless summer, or even two weeks into your dream job, take ownership of your decision to become a lawyer. Take ownership of your decision to be an entrepreneur. Get the help you need to make it happen. Or as Lessing says:

as you begin your career as a lawyer, as you begin to dig yourself out of the financial hole that you are in, as you enter a field too many think is just corrupt, don't think just about your families and the pride they can't hide today.

Leave it better, lawyers, than we lawyers who have educated you have given it to you. Leave it in a place that your mother and your daughter, your father and your son, can respect. Not corrupt, but true. Not just rich, but just.


Is there any other reason to be a lawyer?

 

Publish Date: 05-31-2012 20:15:00
 
Two years ago, I was enduring the unending humidity of a Maryland summer. When you are trapped in air conditioning and unemployed, you're likely to pick up anything.

Now I've practically memorized Scot Gerber's "Never Get A Real Job." It's a primer for starting and running an enterprise. GET THIS BOOK, if only to read the chapter called "Business Plans Suck."

A business plan is a waste of time.

Planning is essential. But The Business Plan has taken on a life of its own. Here are a few realities:

The Business Plan is mostly fiction.

None of the things you write in The Business Plan will happen when you say they will.

No one reads the darn thing. I haven't read my business plan since I put it together in 2010. Why? It sucked. It had numbers and graphs and testimonials, and the bank put it in my file and never looked at it again.

A startup plan is NOT a waste of time.

Here is the difference. Like the Constitution, your startup plan is a living document. You can allow yourself to experiment with a startup plan. A startup plan can help you identify your best business model. A startup plan can be anything you want. But it should have some clearly defined goals, milestones, and ideas. You might want to think about money, but don't do that until you have a clear idea of your product, your market, and your selling strategy.

Your startup plan is short, sweet, and can be accepted on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo without any fuss or changes.

Scott Gerber recommends 8 questions to ask, and I like them. They are not mine. They are Scott Gerber's. Get his book to help you figure out how to implement them into your startup plan. 

1. What is the service your business performs or the product it provides today? 
2. How does your business produce or provide the product or service right now? 
3. How will customers use your product or service as it exists right now? 
4. How will your business generate immediate revenue? 
5. Who are the primary clients your business will target immediately? 
6. How will you market your start-up to prospective clients with the resources you have at your direct disposal? 
7. How are you different than your competitors right now? 
8. What are the secondary and tertiary client bases you will target once you've attained success with your primary base?

See, Gerber, Scott (2010-11-02). Never Get a "Real" Job: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke (pp. 91-92). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition. 

I'm a Lawyer. I don't have anything to sell. So I don't need a plan.

Yes you do, so stop making excuses. You sell this thing called knowledge. You have a product, which is your advice, your skill, and your assistance. Figure it out. If you don't know what your product is, how are you going to attract clients? 

Any plan is better than none at all. You can illustrate your plan any way you'd like. Some people draw pictures of their plans. Others draw incredibly complicated "mind maps." I like mind maps, because I think chaotically. A mind map helps tremendously before you hone your offering to a few unique points. Brainstorm, get some friends over for wine and pizza, be as creative as you possibly can with your plan and your business model. 

Then refine it. 

What would you put in your business plan?



 

Publish Date: 05-29-2012 15:42:00
 
Have any of these things just happened to you?

1. I just graduated from law school and I have no job with anyone but me, a small law firm engagement, my dream job with a judge or BigLaw firm.

2.  I finished my first year of law school and still have most of my brain cells left. I have no job, a small firm engagement, or my dream clerkship with a judge or BigLaw firm (yay free baseball all summer!)

3.  I'm just starting law school in the fall and I have no idea why I signed up for this.

You can resolve each of these three situations with a simple acronym: PPM. In my environmental law world, it's parts per million, but do not get it confused. Rather, to make any business venture succeed, your PPM is:

PLAN

PEOPLE

MONEY

You must have each component of PPM in your practice. It's a really good idea to incorporate these during law school, too, just to get into the habit. Warning: this is a short introduction; I'll cover these in detail over the remaining week.

Plan

You will never get anywhere without a plan. Feel free to leave your disagreements in the Comments section. The fact is, you are always executing your plan or someone else's plan. If you're executing someone else's plan, it's likely you're an employee. If you're executing your own plan, you either a very smart employee, or you're working on developing your own practice. 

Your plan doesn't have to be long. It has to be good. It has to be clearly stated. It has to be workable. Don't fall into the trap that your plan needs to have graphs and projections, unless you're a visual thinking. Your plan is your roadmap, not a funding piece.

People

Without the right people in your practice, it will go nowhere. I can hear you saying to yourself "I have no employees; I'm a law student/associate/solo." Feh. You need the right people around you as soon as you start school. Build a network within your class and especially with upper classes. Learn how to gauge personalities. As an associate in a practice, you can network with other people in the firm and other young lawyers outside your firm. 

The people you choose to be with is a reflection of you and your practice. If you have the wrong people in your corner, your practice will be a confusing mess. 

Money

Money makes your plan function and pays your people. I hope you know that already. 

But you can bootstrap, seek investors, ethically seek sponsorships, and maybe even crowdsource to manage the bottom line. There are entire graduate programs devoted to raising capital, and I won't bore you with a crash course on fundraising (at least until Friday).

Today, just start with a plan.







 

Publish Date: 05-16-2012 14:40:00
 
I'm in Philadelphia. This week, Drexel and Penn graduated another crop of law students. They were bright-eyed and confident in their future careers, believing that they were going to really enjoy that summer clerkship at Walmart.

I didn't get invited to speak. Here is the speech I would have given.

Congratulations, all of you. You're justifiably proud of yourselves. Some of you graduated Summa Cum Laude. Others graduated Magna Cum Laude or even Cum Laude. Most of you, like me, graduated Thank You Lawd. All of you stand on the brink of the best of times and the worst of times.. You are facing a different world, and I'm going to show you 12 ways your future career is going to be different from mine. If you apply the ideas today, you will still be practicing law in 10 years. If not, the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse will ride you down. Here they are, without explanation or fluff.


  1. You will be competing with a global workforce.
  2. Your target demographic has changed A LOT.
  3. Self-help Clients will shop for services, not lawyers.
  4. Clients will want the lowest price, which means firms will "unbundle their professional offerings, and outsource as much as possible. Many already do. See The modern bankruptcy practice.
  5. Lawyers will have to learn how to commoditize some of their offerings. There clients will look for a package before they ask for a bespoke service.Lawyers will run to the Cloud for data sharing, collaboration, and the competition for attention there will be fierce.
  6. The most successful lawyers will have to be entrepreneurial, which means they'll be marketing their product not themselves. There is material for a week's worth of blogs in this statement.
  7. Guidance from professional disciplinary bodies will become increasingly confused as the ways that lawyers solicit clients proliferate quickly.
  8. Lawyers will be increasingly required to promote themselves and market their own practices, whether they're in a firm or not.
  9. The debacle at Dewey Leboeuf teaches us that the model for gigantic law firms is dead, and probably should never have existed in the first place. That is not to say that the model for a global law firm is dead. You just don't need to be Dewey Leboeuf to be one.
  10. Lawyers will stop selling their time and will sell their knowledge instead. The billable hour, like the gigantic law firm, is dead.
  11. The best lawyers will operate an enterprise that includes a sophisticated marketing plan promoting a unique product.
  12. The Lawyer who does something different will succeed. Don't follow the lemmings over the cliff.
These predictions are not meant to depress. What I want you to do with this is go forth. Be Creative. Change the World. Do it Differently. You can. You have to.

Thanks, and good luck!













 

Publish Date: 04-25-2012 16:51:00
 
Fiverr.com, or Fiverr to veteran users, seems to be the topic du jour these days.

I've been following an extensive discussion on the amazing Solosez discussion list about Fiverr over the last two weeks.

It was interesting enough for Carolyn Elefant to ask for tips about it in her marvelous blog, My Shingle.

I was attracted to both of these discussions: thanks to Joanne Quinn Smith, aka the technogranny, I have several brain cells called Fiverr, so I see it all over the place now.

If you've never heard of Fiverr, reserve a few brain cells for it. It's a terrific way to get professional help from all over the world, all for $5 per gig. You can go on Fiverr, too, and make a little money if your accounts payable are running behind.

Still need convincing, here are my TOP Five reasons, all based on social proof, why you should use Fiverr for your next project.

1. The wicked cool banner you see at the top of this blog.

I've had some terrific response to the new banner. It looks great. It cost me five dollars. I have two more in the works, and I sort of need to get them finished. They look great, too. My only contribution was to request a pair of red shoes. My designer, Nancy, came up with everything else. Wait until you see what she's done with The-Barefoot-Barrister, my new coaching site.

2. My buddy JG Francoeur, The Messy Manager, loves it.

Here's what JG says: "Got this video done by Fiverr - Best $5 ever spent... MESSY Manager - Grab Your FREE COPY!: http://t.co/0zIFQPQy via @youtube."

BTW, you should really take him up on his offer because it's a terrific book. 

3. The list of my Solosez colleagues who like Fiverr is as long as my arm.

Solo and small firm lawyerpreneurs (I think I may just have coined a new word!) have to be frugal. The Fivver projects ranged from Facebook makeovers, to web & business card design, to fancy craigslist ads. None of the reviews were negative. But you have to be careful - there are some reports of malware stored in images, and some so-called SEO experts may not be quite reputable - billable professionals would need to steer from - and report - any negative experiences. 

Fiverr rates its providers on timeliness and customer approval, so check around and READ THE RECOMMENDATIONS. Providers do get negative ratings for tardiness, bad customer reaction, and quality issues, so pay attention to that.

4. You'll probably be doing a mitzvah for somebody.

The woman who does my banners is from Greece. Do have any idea how far five hard Washingtons go in Greece? Or Turkey, or India, or Ukraine, or in the United States? Literally, you may be putting food on a family's table for a week. Or you may be buying beer for some hard-up college student. Who cares? Someone is putting themselves out there to make an income they wouldn't otherwise have. And, as Carolyn Elefant notes,  

  • if you're skilled enough to cut a video opening in 10 minutes and can churn out six in an hour, that's $30, which honestly, is more than document reviewers earn these days.

5. It's all about the Lincolns, baby.

It's five dollars. Seriously. That's cheaper than some Starbucks drinks. And if you need something done quickly, and reasonably well, you can do that with Fiverr. Nancy turned around drafts of my project in about 36 hours. A few comments later, and within a week I had my banner, and two other sizes for advertising on other blogs (see the small version at Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine).

For the price and turnaround time, you may not get stellar quality. But you'll get an idea of what the purveyor can do, and you can hire her or him for more expensive gigs.

Happy Birthday PPL!

Speaking of FIVES --- Happy Birthday PPL

Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine, The Technogrannyshow, and all of their related wonderfulness turn five years old today! In five years, its founder Joanne Quinn Smith, has grown her online web programs into an international empire of wonderful content and fun programs. 

You have to appreciate these impressive stats:

The Positively Pittsburgh Live site has had more than 1 million listeners.

Her sites have:
220,000  hits per month
62,000 unique page views per month
Viewer Growth: 11.6% per month

These stats don't take into account the evangelistic graduates of her many marketing training programs. I'm a recent grad of the Web 2,0 Gorilla Branding training, and the program is freaking amazing. 

Check out her Positive Pittsburghers site. It's a Fiverr banner.