Category Archives: law

How to Standardize Operations so Your Firm is Prepared for Anything

Law firms around the country have had to deal with many unexpected disruptions over the past few months: Fires in California, hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other states, and various other catastrophic events that have thrown people and their businesses into disarray.

When disaster strikes, the logistics of getting work done becomes more complicated. Every system gets stressed and even simple tasks can become challenging.

Of course, keeping everyone safe is paramount. However, it’s also critical to get your firm back up and running as soon as possible. Not only do your clients rely on you, but you and your employees need the business.

That is why it’s crucial to have solid systems in place before any such disasters strike. In fact, a good predictor for how a firm will continue to operate under stress is how organized it was to begin with. Firms that have standardized processes and built-in redundancies in place will be more capable to handle stress and sudden changes in resource availability such as those created by natural disasters.

Here are the three most important steps:

Essential data must be electronic and versioned.
Lack of access to documents and case files is fatal for lawyers. That’s why it’s imperative for firms to have solid systems in place that allow team members easy access to such materials while having solid versioning. In other words, central copies must be rapidly updated so that everyone is always looking at the correct version of the document.

Having an external hard drive, a remote server, and a cloud-based system together provides very good redundancy.  Examples of such cloud-based platforms are Rocket Matter, Google Drive and Dropbox. It is also important to discourage team members from using local copies or to rely on emailed copies for the latest version of any document. Once a natural disaster hits, these redundancies and versioning safeguards will protect against the challenges of system and work interruptions. Of course, it’s also critical that the document management system has regular back-ups in several different locations.

Task management is critical.
It is important for team leaders to know what people on their team are doing at any given time (when it comes to work, of course!)  This is good practice generally but becomes crucial during natural disasters when it becomes harder to maintain the right amount of oversight. Having regular check-ins in place, whether by phone or email, is essential. Online task management tools such as Evernote, Google Tasks and Rocket Matter can help you achieve this.  If no system is in place when disaster strikes, you’ll add more chaos and uncertainty to what’s already a chaotic, uncertain time.

Calendar management is key.
While each team member should absolutely have their own deadline management systems, teams need to always be aware of each other’s deadlines. Cloud-based calendars, case management platforms, and milestone software are all good ways to do this. There are a variety of available options such as Rocket Matter, Google Calendar, Microsoft Office 365, and Outlook. (Rocket Matter actually also syncs with the latter three options.) During natural disasters people unexpectedly go offline and they may not be able to let others know they are unavailable. Providing information regarding what has to happen by when allows other people to pitch in if this happens. It is also a good idea to ask team members to add their personal or soft deadlines before a natural disaster to further help overall situational awareness.

Maria-Vittoria Carminati
Carminati is a trial attorney and litigator, women’s advocate, and founder of Carminati Law PLLC, a distributed law firm. Her practice consists of commercial and business litigation, family law, and mediation. She is licensed in NY, TX, DC and CO. Carminati speaks and writes about gender bias, micro-aggressions and advocacy for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  Her firm leverages technology to maximize productivity and decrease costs while delivering high-quality legal counseling and representation.

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Anatomy of a Perfect Business Email (Infographic)

Good business communication usually falls by the wayside when it comes to composing email messages. In addition to being grammatically correct, there are essential components to an effective business email that will ensure your recipient reads, understands, and follows through with your message.  We’ve laid out the anatomy of a perfect business email for you in this handy infographic.

Click to enlarge and share if you love!

Anatomy of a Perfect Business Email

Anatomy of a Perfect Business Email

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Ep 18: How to Make Yourself Available to Your Clients

On this week’s episode of the 10 Minute Law Firm Podcast, Larry Port is joined by Evan W. Walker, a successful personal injury attorney based out of of San Diego, California. Since communication with clients can make or break your practice, Evan talks about the technologies he uses to keep himself accessible. He also talks about strategies to make sure that your clients don’t take over your personal life. This week’s episode is a must for all attorneys!

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Marketing Tips from Successful Lawyers: Part Two

marketing tips

A few months ago, we ran a piece in which lawyers shared the marketing tips that worked best for their firms. However, we were so inundated with responses that we decided to run a second article on the subject.

Here, even more lawyers share the tips that worked best for them:

​”Everything a business owner does is ‘marketing’…from the website, to the firm’s or the attorney’s outgoing voicemail message, to social media efforts, to how the office looks. Also, it is not enough to just do good work—lots of attorneys do good work—but you need to also consider how each interaction with a prospect or client makes that person feel. You want them to want to interact with you, and you want them to tell their peers about those interactions. Will they be raving about you at a dinner party they attend? Or will they stay quiet when they are asked if they know any good attorneys?” —Wayne Pollock, who argues client’s cases in the Court of Public Opinion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“For years I have relied on referrals only and did very little to market myself or my firm. Recently, we have put a lot of energy into marketing ourselves and our firm. The best advice I have (albeit novice advice) is to define your niche and market to that niche. As Seth Godin, tells his audience time and again, ‘Find people who believe what you believe’ and share your story with them.” —Matt Slocum, an auto accident attorney in Scranton, Pennsylvania

“Treat every person you encounter with dignity and respect. Everyone you meet is a potential client or a potential source of business. Then, once you have made those people your clients, exceed their expectations.” —Gary Shapiro, a personal injury lawyer in New Jersey

 “I have found that the best referrals come from other attorney colleagues with whom I have a long-standing personal relationship.  People seem to trust referrals for attorneys when them come from other attorneys.  My attorney colleagues know when they refer a potential client to me that I will handle their case with competence and compassion.”   —Darlene S. Wanger, a family law attorney and mediator in Los Angeles.

“Educate yourself about search engine optimization.  Even if your internet marketing budget is 100% devoted to Adwords (or similar products), you need to know about developments so you can monitor your spending and its effectiveness.” —Donald E. Petersen, a consumer rights lawyer in Orlando.

“Earning positive reviews is the best tip I have for marketing a law firm. Nothing is more credible than the approval of actual clients.”   —Matt Eason, a partner in a Sacramento, California law firm specializing in personal injury, workers’ compensation, and employment law

“Develop relationships within your community and don’t over-extend yourself. We’re located in a smaller geographic region, but some of our best cases, and the vast majority of our referrals, come from past clients and other attorneys within the community. When people recognize that your passion extends to them beyond the financial relationship and you are truly looking out for their well-being, they will reciprocate. We pay the highest referral fees to other attorneys allowable by the state bar and have paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to other attorneys for these referrals.”  —Brian O’Neill, a personal injury lawyer in San Luis Obispo, California 

“Figure out what works for you and explore that avenue more. When I started my own firm, I tried a lot of different marketing techniques from various legal websites to print ads to Google ads.  I kept track of where each of my cases were coming from and then got rid of the things that were not successful and expanded on the areas that were bringing in new business.” —Amanda Waechter PC, a Criminal Defense attorney in Plainfield, IL

“Know that the internet is a great equalizer.  A new, inexperienced firm can make itself look comparable to an experienced, highly successful firm.  So, make your page just as professional as your competitors—even when you are just starting out—and you may be able to obtain cases that would otherwise go to a bigger, more established firm.” —Thomas J. Simeone, a Personal Injury lawyer in Washington D.C.

“Make sure that your web presence truly conveys to potential clients who you are and what you can do for them. It has to distinguish you from the competition. This means having a modern, up-to-date website with helpful advice, legal updates and blog posts, example case results describing how you have helped previous clients, and dozens of reviews, photos, and videos of yourself. Many people are very worried about picking up the phone and speaking with an attorney. It is a stressful experience, and people are even more worried about hiring the wrong lawyer. If you show people who you are and how you may be able to help them on your website, it makes it easier for them to pick up the phone and call you. Additionally, generating all of that content will dramatically increase your site’s ranking in search engine results. There are a lot of lawyers, and the market is very competitive. It is not enough to say that you are experienced or aggressive or any other adjective. You have to show people what that means through pictures, videos, blog posts, client reviews, endorsements from other attorneys, and case studies.”  —Zak Goldstein, a criminal defense lawyer practicing in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

“Get familiar with your state bar’s ethics rules on attorney advertising and be sure to follow them carefully. For example, states such as New York and Pennsylvania restrict the circumstances in which you can claim to be a specialist in a certain area of law. In California, attorneys are barred from creating direct mail and email advertisements that mimic legal pleadings or other legal documents, unless the recipients are existing and former clients, family members, or other lawyers.” —Ron Leshnower, a lawyer in New York who offers fair housing compliance services for real estate professionals

“Rising tides lift all boats. We market everyone—not just the senior attorneys with the name on the door. Everyone plays an important role and needs to be recognized and promoted for the firm to do well. Each lawyer has unique and different talents and gifts that contribute to the team. You are a lawyer 24/7/365. There is never a moment when you aren’t a representative of the firm and the profession when you do what we do. We carry ourselves professionally at all times because anyone and everyone is a potential client or referral source. Doing a good job for clients is probably the best of all marketing tools.” —Aubrey Connatser, who practices family law in Texas



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Legal Freedom Fighter Series: Roberta Kaplan

Freedom Fighters

We’ve seen it repeatedly throughout our history: When people’s rights are threatened, it’s the lawyers who step up to to the plate. Some are true Freedom Fighters, and they deserve special recognition. That’s why each month, we will feature lawyers who are really making a difference.

Today, we are proud to feature Roberta Kaplan.

Roberta KaplanRoberta Kaplan, the founding partner at Kaplan & Company, LLP,  is best known for successfully arguing before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of her client Edith Windsor in United States v. Windsor (2013). In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the U.S. Constitution by barring legally married same-sex couples from enjoying the wide-ranging benefits of marriage conferred under federal law. Two years later, the Windsor case led directly to the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down all remaining state and federal laws against same-sex marriage across the United States.

In other words, Roberta Kaplan’s work as a lawyer led to one the most significant civil rights victories in the history of our nation.

A legendary litigator with decades of experience in both commercial and civil rights litigation, Roberta is an expert in cutting-edge areas of law. She is the author of Then Comes Marriage, which discusses the United States v. Windsor case, and has received numerous honors and recognitions for her groundbreaking legal work. In addition to receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Law Journal, Roberta has also been selected by The National Law Journal as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” in the United States, as “Litigator of the Year” by The American Lawyer, as “Lawyer of the Year” by Above the Law, and as the “Most Innovative Lawyer of The Year” by The Financial Times.

Here’s the interview:

What inspired you to become a lawyer in the first place?
When I was very young, my mother wrote a series of letters to her younger brother, who was then serving in the Peace Corps in India. Her descriptions of me focused on my loquaciousness. As she wrote when I was three: “Robbie is a real doll. You have to converse with her to appreciate it… If she lets you get a word in, that is.” My maternal grandmother agreed.  As she wrote in one letter at the time:  “Robbie is bright as a whip. I asked her to please stop talking for fifteen minutes.” Apparently, in response to my grandmother I said: “I really can’t Grandma, I’m a big talker.” Since I had heard as a kid that lawyers actually got paid to talk, I decided to become a lawyer.

What compelled you to take the Windsor case pro bono?
By the time she contacted me, Edie Windsor had actually been turned away by a number of LGBT rights groups. But because she was not willing to accept the indignity of paying a large estate tax bill solely for being gay, Edie asked a mutual friend to reach out to me to ask if I would agree to meet with her.

The fact that Edie was the perfect plaintiff was obvious to me from the moment we met. She was passionate and devoted to her late spouse, Thea Spyer. She was brilliant and articulate. She was beautiful. But even though I believed she was the ideal person to tell the story of why DOMA was so fundamentally unfair, we actually pushed her very hard at the beginning to make sure that she knew what she was getting herself into. (At the time, she had a serious heart condition and was in her eighties.) We discussed the risks she might encounter and asked whether she really wanted to subject herself to criticism—some from within the LGBT movement and most from outside the community. But Edie never hesitated. To her, fighting for equality was a tribute to Thea and to their love for each other, as well as to the entire LGBT community.

One of the first things that Edie ever told me was that she only had a few more years left to live. That was more than eight years ago, in 2009. And she wasn’t kidding. After her spouse Thea Spyer passed away, Edie had suffered from a series of heart attacks, which were diagnosed as “broken heart syndrome.” Indeed, Edie asked me and other lawyers on our team to carry her nitroglycerine tablets for her when we attended events—just in case. But the truth is I never really thought that Edie would ever die. There are certain people on this planet—and Edie was surely one of them—who seem to have an inner light that is stronger and shines brighter than the rest of us. And although Edie passed away on September 12, 2017,  it’s impossible, even now, to imagine that light ever dimming.

What was it like to argue a case before the Supreme Court? And what was it like finding out you had won?
While I obviously prepared rigorously for the argument, practicing by engaging in countless formal and informal moot courts, I was still extremely nervous in the days leading up to my Supreme Court argument.  I remember doing a lot of pacing, repeating out loud my answers to a theoretical list of questions that might be posed by the Justices so that those responses would somehow be ingrained in the frontal cortex of my brain.  But ironically, when I finally walked into the courtroom that morning, I felt incredibly calm and focused.  I remember sitting in my seat impatiently waiting for my turn to stand up before the Justices and speak on behalf of Edie and the entire LGBT community.

We found out that we had won with Edie while sitting at the dining table of our New York City apartment, constantly refreshing scotusblog on our laptops, along with 95% of the LGBT people across the country.  My wife, Rachel, immediately exclaimed “Everything will be different for [our son] now.” I was overwhelmed, but I kept my tears in check to go into my home office and actually read Justice Kennedy’s words.  As soon as I saw that he kept repeating the word “dignity” in his opinion, I knew that our victory was far broader than simply an invalidation of DOMA.  That night, we all went to Stonewall, where we were greeted by throngs of people helping us celebrate.  That Friday, Edie and I together addressed New York’s LGBT synagogue for Pride Shabbat, and on Saturday night, we threw a huge dance party in honor of Edie and Thea who had loved to dance.  Not a bad way to end the case!

In 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in all 50 states. Please explain what that day was like for you, especially knowing your work greatly helped lead to that decision.
That day, I was in San Francisco addressing the national convention of librarians since my book had just come out.  I woke up very early in my hotel room to log onto scotusblog.  While I knew that victory was pretty much inevitable in Obergefell given the Court’s reasoning in Windsor, it was incredibly moving to see Windsor serving as precedent for marriage equality in all 50 states. The first thing I did was call my wife and then I called Edie.  When I got to the convention later that morning, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was there and I remember us doing a lot of “high fives” and hugging.  We both knew that even if there had been any remaining uncertainty as to whether the Windsor decision had stood for the equal dignity of gay people, Obergefell made that point explicit.

From an equal rights perceptive, where do we stand today compared to previous years and decades? And what are our next legal hurdles?
I am proud to say that there has been dramatic, even revolutionary, improvement during the past decade in the lives and status of LGBT Americans. That, of course, is a very good thing, although we obviously need to keep fighting in areas such as employment, the military, and public accomodation, particularly in light of the current administration.

But sadly, the same cannot be said about the progress made by women during the same period. A recent article in the New York Times entitled “Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s” concludes that: “in business, as in politics, women who aspire to power evoke far more resistance, both overt and subtle, than they expected would be the case by now.”

In the world of litigation, the same is true.  The conclusions of a recent report by the New York State Bar Association entitled, “If Not Now, When” are astonishing.  Women represent just 25.2% of the attorneys appearing in court in commercial and criminal cases and only 24.9% of lead counsel roles.  The low percentage of women having a speaking role in court was found at every level and in every type of court–upstate and downstate, federal and state, trial and appellate, criminal and civil.

What is most disheartening (not to mention exhausting) is the fact that it seems like we have been having this same exact conversation about “women’s issues” for so long. Sometimes, I feel like the character played by Bill Murray in a surreal, feminist version of the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day. None other than Hillary Clinton served as inaugural chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession back in 1988, the year I graduated from college. Under Clinton’s leadership, the Commission published a groundbreaking report documenting the lack of advancement opportunities for women lawyers. In the past thirty years, although there have been repeated efforts to improve opportunities for women lawyers, the progress has been abysmal. As the New York Bar Association study observed: “Unfortunately, the gender gap in the courtroom has persisted even decades after women comprised half of law school graduates.”  In other words, the battle for women’s equality is still far from over.

You’ve had so many successes besides Windsor. Which one stands out the most for you?
I don’t think it would be a particular case, but rather my career choice in the past few months. On November 9, 2016, the morning after the election, I called a young woman whom I had mentored while she was a student at Yale Law School to check in on her. She and I both cried while we watched Hillary Clinton give her concession speech. So, after the heartbreaking presidential election results of 2016, I decided, probably for the first time in my life, to stop talking. I guess it was my version of a “mid life crisis.” Some people get a fancy new car or join a rock band. But since I already have a convertible and my son tells me that I have a terrible singing voice, instead of buying a car or an electric guitar, I have decided to spend my time living by example. So I’ve created a new kind of law firm that pays more than lip service to the idea of equality in the legal profession.

At Kaplan & Company, we are living, breathing proof that women can run and lead an elite litigation law firm and achieve extraordinary results for our clients. That young woman and former Yale law student who I cried with on November 9th is now one of our firm’s first group of associates. Clients are best served by lawyering that benefits from the perspective of everyone, regardless of how they look, love, or pray. In fact, on our very first night in our new New York City offices, we ordered way too much Chinese food and sat around a table discussing our cases. We heard from first year associates all the way to our junior partner on different ways to approach each case. Everyone spoke, and everyone was heard.

If you could give one piece of advice to other lawyers across the country, what would you say?
Always be guided by one thing and one thing only—the best interests of your client. As we frequently said during Windsor, “It is all about Edie, stupid.” I think that same principle applies to every single case I have ever worked on.  It’s all about the client. Always.  Our job as lawyers is to help them achieve their goals and tell their stories.

If attorneys want to get involved in social justice, how can they get started?
There are so many opportunities to get involved in social justice, especially now. Progressive groups are always putting out calls for lawyers to help with immigration rights, criminal justice reform, and other social justice issues. Every lawyer should see it as their grave, moral responsibility right now to engage in this work to protect our democracy and our Constitution.


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Productivity Tips for Lawyers Who Want to Get Home for Dinner

productivity tips for lawyers


I am the mother of four children and a solo practitioner out on my own for the second time in my career. As I set out to rebuild a practice from scratch while still making sure I have time and energy for my family, I remind myself daily that the key is to work smart, not just hard.

I’ve come up with a list of basic productivity tips to keep in mind. Implementing them will significantly improve your focus, the quality of your work, and your ability to balance work and life while decreasing mental exhaustion and avoiding feeling overwhelmed. These tips worked for me. I hope they help you, too.

Here’s what I suggest:

Organize a master to-do list.
One important way to stay productive is to minimize the time it takes to switch from one task to another. This most often happens when someone doesn’t know or doesn’t remember the next thing they’re supposed to do that day. In order to avoid that, sometime between Friday around 4 PM and Sunday night, review and/or create a list of all the tasks that need to be completed the coming week.  Once you have your initial list, take ten minutes each day to supplement or revise it. While some may prefer the old-fashioned pen and paper approach to generating a to-do list, online solutions can be very helpful. Good choices for task list management include ToDoIst  or the Google task function.

Schedule your day.
I mean actually schedule your day, just like you did in school. Preferably, block out 90-minute segments throughout the day—studies show that the brain stops functioning at peak performance when tasked for longer than that. You can also give yourself 10-15 minute breaks after each segment. If an activity is going to take less than ninety minutes, schedule several tasks back to back within that time period. The activities should come from you to-do list.

Scheduling your day has several big advantages: First, you avoid wasting time between activities thinking about what comes next. Second, you give yourself the time and mental space to really focus on the task at hand. After all, this is what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Third, you can visualize which tasks you will finish today and which ones will have to wait tomorrow.

One last note regarding email: Schedule time to check your email and don’t check it before or after that. An effective schedule for checking email looks something like this: Thirty minutes first thing in the morning (before you create your task list for the day), fifteen minutes before lunch, thirty minutes half-way through the afternoon, and fifteen minutes before the end your day.

Turn off all notifications.
Between phones, tablets, and computers, we are constantly reminded that someone or something is demanding our attention. Unfortunately, we are conditioned to give near-immediate responses to everything and to feel guilty if we don’t. However, the reality is this: Very few things demand immediate responses. In fact, if someone wants your attention and wants it now, chances are they will call. If not, nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait 90 minutes. Notifications have the terrible effect of intruding on your train of thought. While you may not realize it, every time your brain registers an extraneous piece of information, it takes a while for all of your attention to focus back on the task at hand. It is also exhausting. Your brain is registering information while your attention is supposedly in a different place. This creates an intellectual tug-o-war. Turning off all notifications eliminates one source of such distractions.

Categorize email responses.
If an email is going to take less than two minutes to respond to, respond to it immediately during your the time you scheduled to answer email.  If it is going to take longer than two minutes, decide whether it is going to take more or less than ten minutes. Anything over ten minutes needs to be flagged and added to your to-do list because it is an actual project. If an email will take between five and ten minutes, either answer it during this email period or the next one. This basic step of inbox management is critical to remaining productive because it avoids getting sucked into the rabbit hole of email writing. Email services have “flagging” mechanisms such as labels, stars, and flags. The method is not as important as the outcome. The key is to stratify how much time and attention any one thing needs and give yourself the mental energy to address each item as it needs to be addressed, without worrying you are letting things fall between the cracks.

Maria-Vittoria Carminati
Carminati is a trial attorney and litigator, women’s advocate, and founder of Carminati Law PLLC, a distributed law firm. Her practice consists of commercial and business litigation, family law, and mediation. She is licensed in NY, TX, DC and CO. Carminati speaks and writes about gender bias, micro-aggressions and advocacy for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  Her firm leverages technology to maximize productivity and decrease costs while delivering high-quality legal counseling and representation.

The post Productivity Tips for Lawyers Who Want to Get Home for Dinner appeared first on Rocket Matter.

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Ep 17: How to Make the Most of Attending Legal Conferences

On this week’s episode of the 10 Minute Law Firm Podcast, we interview Nefra MacDonald, the Business Development and Strategic Partnership Coordinator at Rocket Matter. Nefra dishes on how to find the best legal conferences to attend and how to make the most out of them. Also, she’ll offer tips on budgeting for conferences to ensure that you get the best bang for your buck. With so many local and national conferences coming up in the next few months, you’ll definitely want to check out this week’s episode.



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Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis Law

cannabis law

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s no secret that the legalization of cannabis is becoming more and more prevalent in the United States. As the industry grows, so does the need for lawyers who practice cannabis law. We spoke with Christopher J. Davis, the executive director of the National Cannabis Bar Association (NCBA) to learn more about this exploding field. Here’s what he had to say:

Why did you get involved with cannabis law and the NCBA?
For me, practicing in cannabis became unavoidable. I got to the point where I had so many people approaching me for advice about how to become a legal operator in the industry, it just didn’t make sense for me to continue to turn them away. Around the same time, I became aware of the National Cannabis Bar Association, and I began to do some volunteer work for them as a way to become more involved in the industry. Now I’m the executive director, and  I couldn’t be happier with where I have ended up.

What steps should lawyers considering practicing cannabis law take to make sure they don’t break any ethics rules within their states?
Each state has different ethics rules governing how attorneys can service the cannabis industry. A lawyer that is considering serving this industry should consult their own state’s ethical rules and consult with an ethics attorney about the correct way to engage in this practice.

The unethical practice of law is always grounds for censure or, in some cases, disbarment. The federal prohibition on cannabis creates an environment where business advice for a cannabis entity could certainly be considered furthering a criminal conspiracy, which can get you in trouble on multiple levels.

On the other hand, offering strictly legal advice on how to comply with a state’s regulatory regime is generally less controversial. From what I have seen, as long as you are offering purely legal advice on how a client can comply with the regulatory requirements of a given state, state bars are less likely to engage in disciplinary action.

The most dangerous thing is a lack of knowledge of the risks involved in this industry. We should know the risks to our own professional lives, and we should certainly be able to convey the legal risks to our clients of engaging in this industry. That being said, as the social perception of cannabis evolves, I think that we will continue to see more receptivity to ancillary services providers (tax, accounting, law, etc.) serving this industry.

Where do we stand in terms of cannabis legalization on both state and federal levels?
At this point, “most” states (more than half) have already recognized the medical benefits of cannabis in one form or another. Most people in the industry believe its just a matter of time before the federal prohibition falls away. Some will tell you its two years off. However, some have been saying it has been two years off since the first medical laws were passed in California in 1996. Others say it is closer to four or five with the current administration.

Sessions has quite a bit to deal with, including a real drug crisis in the opioid epidemic. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment remains in effect to block federal dollars from being used to prosecute state-legal enterprises. And the tax dollars in places like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have become integral parts of those state budgets, adding a layer of political difficulty to a federal crackdown.

So, while the specter of of federal enforcement remains, most in the industry believe that cannabis will continue to be low on their priority list.

What are the various practice areas in relation to cannabis law?
This question actually sheds light on a common misconception. When I have conversations with people outside of the cannabis industry, they have the perception that “weed lawyers” exist. They don’t.

Instead, there are the areas of law that exist in any other business. There are corporate lawyers that deal with formation and structuring your business. There are real estate lawyers, tax lawyers, securities lawyers, and intellectual property lawyers. We have every type of lawyer that you would find in any other industry.

We just happen to practice in one of the most highly regulated industries in the country. We deal with extra sets of regulation from the cities, counties, and states in which our clients operate. We do everything that a normal lawyer would do for your normal business – but we have to lay these extra sets of regulation on top of our normal practice.

The main difference I see between lawyers that serve the cannabis industry and those that don’t is a willingness to be more agile in their practice and to tackle some of the most difficult legal problems that exist today. The group of lawyers that I know that serve cannabis clients are incredibly collaborative problem solvers that take pride in shaping this industry, and we are always open to welcoming new great minds into our ranks.

When it comes to choosing clients, are there important considerations when it comes to cannabis law?
Absolutely. Clients can get you into trouble, as we all know. If a client isn’t up front with you about their business practices or compliance, you can quickly find yourself in an ethical conundrum. I think here, more than most other industries, lawyers should be careful about who they choose to represent. For me, trust is always the biggest consideration.

If a lawyer is interested in getting involved with cannabis law, what’s your advice?
Learn. A lot. As I mentioned earlier, this is just like any other practice, but with multiple additional layers of regulation. You need to know your underlying concentration, and then you can begin to parse out the other levels of cannabis-specific regulation. But you have to always be willing to learn more, adapt, and adjust.

The dispensaries are often cash only. Does that mean that lawyers serving this industry will likely be paid in cash, too?
Yes, lawyers will often be paid in cash. Any individual, lawyer or not, that receives more than $10,000 in cash must submit a Form 8300. When bank transfers are made, amounts in excess of $10,000 are flagged by suspicious activity reports. When these are made outside of the banking system, they still must be tracked. However,  the same mechanism does not exist, so the recipient must instead file a Form 8300. Failure to file these forms can get you in a lot of trouble, especially when your client goes to file their taxes and their documents don’t match up with the forms you might have forgotten to file.

As cannabis becomes more legal, some people are worried that it’ll become a slippery slope and that harder, more harmful drugs will become legal next. What do you say about that?
That’s a lazy argument. Much more harmful drugs are already legal in our society. We don’t lump these together because the argument is more nuanced than that.

Withdrawal from alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opiates can cause death. Alcohol is this country’s favorite recreational drug, and benzodiazepines (xanax, valium) and opiates (oxycodone, morphine) are legal with a prescription. If we are on a slippery slope, cannabis did not put us there.

But more importantly, cannabis has incredibly positive effects for many people. Ask the parents of the child who no longer has seizures because they are able to take a non-psychoactive tincture derived from cannabis. Ask the veteran that has finally found a way to ween their dependence on opiates while dealing with sever phantom pain or PTSD. Ask the cancer patient that has found relief from the nausea caused by their chemotherapy.

There is a real discussion here about the relative costs and benefits of legalizing cannabis. Ways that we are trying to eliminate the black market by pushing cannabis into a transparent marketplace with consumer protections and age restrictions equivalent to any other highly regulated industry. I would invite our “slippery slope” friends to join this conversation.

The post Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis Law appeared first on Rocket Matter.

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[Webinar Wrap-Up] Essential Tips for Avoiding Missed Deadlines (and Malpractice Suits!)

In case you missed it (or if you want to see it again!), here are the slides and video from our recent webinar with LawToolBox co-founder Carol Lynn Grow: Essential Tips for Avoiding Missed Deadlines (and Malpractice Suits!)

In this webinar, Nefra Macdonald and Carol Lynn discussed the biggest reason why attorneys miss deadlines, offered tips to change bad habits, and showed how technology like Rocket Matter and LawToolBox can help simplify the process. Did you also know that by using technology to schedule your deadlines, you can get up to the maximum discount on malpractice insurance? To learn all of this, and more, access the slides and watch the recording here:

Essential Tips for Avoiding Missed Deadlines (and Malpractice Suits!) from Rocket Matter on Vimeo.

Originally recorded on October 4, 2017


Carol Lynn Grow is co-owner and VP of sales at LawToolBox, an all-in-one cloud-based court rules calendaring provider and docketing system that was founded in the late 90s. Carol has been in legal technology for more than 20 years and has managed global procurement teams for IBM. She’s also an avid supporter of women in technology.

Nefra MacDonald
is the Business Development and Strategic Partnership Coordinator at Rocket Matter. After working in various capacities at law firms, corporations, and non-profit organizations, she decided to use her experience to help address the pain points that practicing lawyers feel every day. She currently co-chairs Rocket Matter’s Product Advisory Committee, which serves as a source of targeted feedback for the company’s product improvement strategy.

The post [Webinar Wrap-Up] Essential Tips for Avoiding Missed Deadlines (and Malpractice Suits!) appeared first on Rocket Matter.

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San Diego Lawyer Killed in Las Vegas Mass Shooting

San Diego lawyer killed in Las Vegas shooting

Our hearts go out to all the victims of the Las Vegas shooting and their families. Each and every loss is an unspeakable tragedy. We wish the hundreds of people injured a very speedy recovery.

Jennifer IrvineOf the 59 people confirmed dead, we know that at least one was a lawyer: Jennifer T. Irvine, 42, who practiced criminal defense and family law in San Diego. Irvine was also a graduate of the University of San Diego and California Western School of Law.

According to her website, Irvine opened her own firm because she loved working directly with her clients and having a “hands-on” approach to each case. “Jennifer has a genuine passion for assisting clients during what can be an extremely difficult and overwhelming time in their lives,” the site explains. “Jennifer puts her clients’ interests first. She works to find creative settlements; however, she is also a tenacious litigator who strives to achieve the best outcome for her clients.”

Irvine was also very adventurous, hoping to skydive and learn indoor rock climbing this year.

However, what’s most telling is what people say about her. For instance, one of Irvine’s friends for almost ten years told ABC10News that she “literally one of the kindest, sweetest people I’ve ever met. She was always so generous and loving, anybody that came across her path was not a stranger; they were always a friend.” Others on Facebook described her as “selfless,” “full of life,” and a “shining light.” One wrote, “The world has lost an angel.”

There are no words except that our thoughts are with Irvine’s loved ones. We at Rocket Matter are deeply sorry for your great loss.

The post San Diego Lawyer Killed in Las Vegas Mass Shooting appeared first on Rocket Matter.

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