Law Office Equipment Guide

In many ways, equipping a small law office has never been easier or less expensive. However, if you do it wrong, you can definitely end up spending a ton of money and inviting a bunch of hassle and disappointment into a job with plenty of hassle and frustration in it already. 

In this post, I've tried to compile the best equipment for law offices. It is difficult to discuss law office equipment without some tangential considerations to the software a law office will use to get its work done, but—as far as possible—I've tried to separate the two and limit this post to actual products with protons and neutrons rather than the 0s and 1s of software. (I am aware that protons, neutrons, and electrons also create the 0s and 1s.)

Here are the assumptions I've made in making these recommendations:

  1. You don't want a lot of paper in your office. 
  2. You don't have a ton of dough. 
  3. You want to be relatively mobile. 
  4. You don't like hassles and friction. 

That is to say, these are recommendations for solo and small firms and those lawyers in government or big firms with enough authority to demand a certain amount of autonomy in how they get their work done. 

Annie O'Connell and I discuss many of the nuances of these equipment decisions in episodes of our award-winning (not really) podcast, Let's Start a Law Firm. We also discuss some of the software that we use with this equipment. 

If you like this post, please share it with other lawyers. If you really like it, know that I get a small kickback on purchases you make on Amazon by following the links in the post. One of these days, those kickbacks will be large enough for me to take Annie out to dinner. 

Computer

Use what works for you. For me, the portability and continued speed of my mid-2011 Macbook Air is all I need. As a nerd, I would love an excuse to upgrade to the most recent iteration of the Air, but my current computer is, alas, perfect. 

Computer Backup

You must back up your data. You must have at least one on-site backup and one off-site backup of your data at all times. For Mac users, a Time Capsule is an easy on-site backup solution. For everyone, BackBlaze is a great, affordable solution to back up your data in the cloud. 

One compelling option for file-sharing and off-site backup is File Transporter. Like your own, private Dropbox. 

Desk

Again, this is one of those areas that is too personal to make a definitive recommendation. I have the luxury of renting an office that came with a desk I use for client meetings and enough room in the corner for my standing desk from Geek Desk. (Obviously, a standing desk is not strictly necessary to equip a law office.)

Regardless of what kind of desk and chair (if applicable) you use, make sure you're set up to do your work in ergonomically correct positions. Be kind to yourself. 

Keyboard

Speaking of ergonomics, I just recently purchased my first ergonomic keyboard: the Microsoft Sculpt. It is great and, after minor tweaks to the key commands, works well with my Mac. 

Monitor

Another "not strictly necessary" expense is the totally-worth-it expense of an external monitor. I have used both the Apple 27" external monitor and a much-more-affordable Dell 27" monitor. I can definitely notice a difference between the two and can get more application windows on my Apple monitor, but whether it's worth 3x the price is a personal decision.  

Printer

Here, you need to decide whether you need to print color. Personally, I do not. I have been solo for 18 months now and have not yet needed to print in color once. And, I think there are fewer things more annoying than when I accidentally print something in color when I just needed a grayscale version of it.

This is why I had my logo designed by Two State Champs to be black-and-white to avoid needing to print color (and avoid the expense and hassle of having to have letterhead and envelopes printed by an outside print shop). I use the Brother HL-5470DW

As frustrating as accidentally printing something in color is, I find accidentally printing a brief onto twenty envelopes (or, conversely, printing an envelope onto 8.5" x 11" paper) even more frustrating. I know: it is easy to pick which tray you want to print something from. You are smart and I'm not. Despite my 7 years of higher education, I make this mistake all the time. This is why I do not print envelopes at all. There is literally never anything but letter-sized paper in my printer so that I can't mistakenly print a 20-page case onto 20 envelopes.

To print envelopes, I use the Dymo LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo. I actually own two. At work, I use the two label spools to print envelope labels and, very occasionally, file folder labels. At home, he prints envelope labels and stamps. You haven't lived until you've owned a label printer.

Phone 

I use my iPhone as my office phone. To avoid giving my cell phone number to everyone (though I'm not sure it really matters), I use a Google Voice number as my primary business phone. I just have all calls to my Google Voice number ring directly to my cell phone. Google Voice gives you the flexibility to decide how to route calls to the number based on time of day, so if you do have an office phone or a receptionist or intake specialist, you can have the Google number ring one phone during business hours and a separate number after hours. 

I'm probably going to get brain cancer from the radiation at some point, but until then, I'll keep itemizing my business use of my iPhone and deducting that portion as a reasonable business expense. (That's not tax advice: it's just what I do.)

Postage Solutions

You're going to have to mail stuff. If your office doesn't provide a postage meter, you'll need one. Pitney Bowes does a good job with that, but I prefer (and use) the Dymo Stamps software at my home office. You'll need a scale to weigh your postage and then you can just print postage on your Dymo Twin Turbo.

Fax 

I don't use a fax machine. I use Hello Fax. A "Let's Start a Law Firm" listener recently pointed out that fax machines actually do have their benefits. They are more secure than an email with attachments because they are a point-to-point communication rather than a message that gets bounced around multiple servers. If you're going to get a fax machine, avoid an all-in-one printer-scanner-fax-coffee-maker-copier. Get the right tool for the right job. Not a compromised machine. 

Copier

Before I moved into my current office space, which I rent from another law firm that leases a big-ass copier, I didn't have a copier. In my opinion, you don't need one. Get a good scanner (see below), and if you need copies, print the scan. 

Scanner

Repeat after me: "I will only use Fujitsu Scansnap products." Do not buy any other scanner. Get the Fujitsu Scansnap iX500. Spend the dough. Thank me later. 

E-Legal Supply

There are some law-specific office supplies that are difficult-to-impossible to find locally or on Amazon. I buy, for example, all of my number and letter tab inserts for exhibits to briefs at E-Legal Supply. (For a list of the envelopes, paper, pens, notebooks, and other office-supply minutiae, you can check out the notes for Episode 3 of Let's Start a Law Firm.) 

Stapler

Confession: Sometimes I do work just so that I have an excuse to use my Prodigy PaperPro stapler. I recently purchased the big boy—the Prodigy PaperPro 1300 Stackmaster—for communal use at the office copier and I am now a demigod at my office. I am Prometheus, stealer of fire. (Aside: "Stackmaster" must be one of the greatest marketing terms of all time.

File Cabinets 

Since I purchased a Fujitsu Scansnap, I no longer need file cabinets. I don't use them, but if I did, I'd only buy Hon-brand file cabinets. 

Monoprice

Here's a #protip: if you need a cable for you TV, iPhone, DVD player, projector, monitor, internet, receiver, fill-in-the-blank, buy it from Monoprice.com. You are getting scammed basically everywhere else, especially at Best Buy. Sorry to be the bearer of that bad news. Don't feel too bad, though. I once purchased really crappy speakers for far too much money from some dudes in a white van. 

Amazon Prime

How are you going to get all this great stuff to your office? With the exception of Geek Desk, Monoprice, and E-Legal Supply: Amazon Prime.

Conclusion

That's pretty much it. The takeaway, I hope, is that it has never been easier or less expensive for a small practitioner to set up a mobile-capable, relatively paperless law office while still being able to produce a very professional finished product for clients and courts. 

Again, if this list has been useful, don't be shy about sharing it with others. Help them out. We nerds tend to think that everyone knows that Fujitsu Scansnaps are the only kind of scanners people should be using, but my IRL experience with non-nerds has proven to me that this is not the case.

Yet.

Get the tools and use them to hammer out justice for your clients and the world. 

For Mac-Using Attorneys, "Date Time Calc 2" is a Useful App

We've all been there: you get a scheduling order from the Court and it contains approximately 854 deadlines, each one different and each one scheduled based on a number of days from either a) the date of the order itself or b) the date of the trial the Court has scheduled.

I use "Date Time Calc 2" to quickly perform date math for my cases. Actually, I use Date Time Calc, version 1, but when I went to write this post, I learned that the developer had just released a new version of the application. So, I guess it's more accurate to say, "I will be using Date Time Calc 2 to perform date math.

Never ballpark or count days on a calendar LIKE AN ANIMAL again. Let this app take the guesswork out of legal deadlines. 

Never ballpark or count days on a calendar LIKE AN ANIMAL again. Let this app take the guesswork out of legal deadlines. 

This is useful not just for quickly crunching court deadlines, but also in writing letters to other attorneys: "It has been __ days since I last sent you a settlement offer, so I thought I would write again to see if your client had had enough time to consider the offer." "The discovery is now __ days overdue."

I'm not going to belabor this post with a long explanation of how the app works. It's obvious how the application works: you click the date on one calendar, give it a number of days to count forwards from or back from, and it tells you on the other calendar what the second date is. It does one thing well—date math—which is all I need it to do. 

(For cost-conscious attorneys, the original Date Time Calc app is $2.99 instead of $4.99 for the newer 2.0 version. It is still available for purchase. As mentioned above, I am using the original, but plan on updating for two reasons: 1) the new version will get updates and bug fixes more often and 2) I don't mind spending money (especially when it's just a few bucks) supporting developers that make applications that help me get my work done quicker and more gracefully.)

Kentucky Among the Worst States in which to Owe Someone Money

Photo credit to dreamsjung. Click photo to view his Flickr page. 

Photo credit to dreamsjung. Click photo to view his Flickr page. 

Last fall, the National Consumer Law Center released a report, "No Fresh Start: How States Let Debt Collectors to Push Families into Poverty" in which it surveyed the exemption laws in each state. Exemption laws are laws that describe the limits of what a creditor can take from a debtor in order to collect on a judgment.

How much of a worker's paycheck can a creditor garnish? Can it foreclose on a debtor's home? Can it seize the debtor's car? What about household goods? Can a creditor take those to collect a debt?

These questions are largely answered by state, not federal, law. And, if you're a debtor in Kentucky, the answers are not good. The NCLC gave grades to all fifty states based on the protections the state has in place to ensure that a creditor's collection efforts cannot push a hard-working family into destitution.  

Kentucky is one of four states to receive an "F". (Mississippi, Michigan, and Delaware were the other three.)

The NCLC graded the states on the following criteria: 

  • Preventing debt collectors from seizing so much of the debtor’s wages that the debtor is pushed below a living wage;
  • Allowing the debtor to keep a used car of at least average value; 
  • Preserving the family’s home—at least a median-value home;
  • Preventing seizure and sale of the debtor’s necessary household goods; and
  • Preserving at least $1200 in a bank account so that the debtor has minimal funds to pay such essential costs as rent, utilities, and commuting expenses.

Kentucky failed all of these tests. 

  • Kentucky workers can keep only 75% of their paychecks (or 30 times the federal minimum wage). Some states prevent garnishment of wages altogether. Others set the limit of what can be garnished at a much lower percent than 25% of a worker's check. 
  • Kentucky gets a "D" for protecting a debtor's car. Kentucky law protects cars up to $2,500 in value. Any more than that and a creditor can seize the car to collect on a judgment. Other states protect cars worth up to $20,000 (Kansas) while others set the limit much higher than the unreasonable $2,500 Kentucky law provides (many states protect cars worth up to $7,500 or $10,000). 
  • Kentucky homeowners who owe a creditor money have essentially no protection. Kentucky law protects the value of a home up to $5,000. NCLC rightfully gives this law an "F". Seven states protect homes from collection efforts regardless of value, while another 5 states protect homes up to the median value of a home ($211,312). 
  • Kentucky law protects $3,000 worth of a debtor's household goods. This earns us another "F". Eight states protect all necessary household goods and another nine protect at least $10,000 of household goods.
  • Finally, Kentucky law provides no protection from seizure of funds in a debtor's bank account. Other states set a limit of $1,200: below that amount, creditor's cannot go. Another "F" for Kentucky. 

The NCLC has drafted a Model Family Financial Protection Act that will protect the basic dignity and financial integrity of Kentucky's families, even those struggling to repay debts. I encourage my politically-minded friends and my friends that are legislators to take a close look at the NCLC's report and recommended legislation and work to do a better job protecting our families from debt collection efforts that push them into poverty and bankruptcy. 

At Ben Carter Law, I defend people from baseless collection efforts, prosecute debt collection abuses, and help people file for bankruptcy to get a clean financial slate. But, I wish Kentucky's laws did more automatically to help families protect the basic necessities of life from collection efforts and trust that the day is coming that the legislature will change the laws to benefit Kentucky's families, not creditors.  

"As a lawyer, you are at the very center of that possible change."

I've been meaning for a while to write about lawyering as the closest distance between words and change. Then, on a recent episode of Let's Start a Law Firm, I accidentally spoke what I had been intending to write. Being a lawyer is awesome and if you're one who happens to love words, it's even awesomer. 

This two minute clip pretty much says it all. 

To be a little (more) self-involved, here are my favorite moments:

"Bank accounts get smaller and they get bigger based on the words that we put on pages."

"I was an English major because I think writing is important and that it can change the world. As a lawyer, you are at the very center of that possible change."  

I feel very grateful to all of the teachers and friends in my life that helped me get okay at writing and at least appreciate that the serial comma matters. 

If you're a lawyer, you owe it to yourself and your clients to become and remain curious about words and writing. They are, often, all we've got and, miraculously, all we need to change the world. 

Strides App is Helping this Kentucky Attorney Get Better

In an upcoming episode of Let's Start a Law Firm about law firm goals and "getting better", and “resolutions” for 2014, I talked about an iPhone app that I’ve been using to track some of my goals for 2014. (As an aside, you should really listen to the episode because Annie and I talk about how New Year’s Resolutions can be dangerous and cause more harm than the good they may or may not do.)

The app I’m using (after trying and buying about half a dozen) is called Strides (iTunes page)(developer site).

Before talking about the application itself, I think it’s important to explain the kinds of goals I’ve set for myself as a person and for my practice. I don’t resolve to “be more loving” or “be more contemplative”. I try to set goals that are measurable and will encourage me to get better over time. 

Here are my goals for 2014:

  • Exercise 200 times
  • Work from home 100 times
  • Write 52 blog posts for Ben Carter Law 
  • Sit quietly for 10 minutes 153 times
  • Collect $120,000
  • Work 12 weekends
  • File 10 bankruptcies
  • Visit a Kentucky State Park 8 times
  • Post 20 podcasts

Here is the crux of these goals: they are designed to encourage me to make lasting changes in the things I do each day. But, they are gentle enough and flexible enough that I don’t have to do any one of them every single day. Even though I don’t have kids or a real job and I could schedule a workout on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week and a blog post each Monday morning and times for me to sit quietly on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday morning, that kind of structure has never been super-helpful to me. Inevitably, I miss one of those dates and I just start feeling bad. Feeling bad is not the point of trying to get better. The point is to get better.

I want my life to move in the direction of working out more often, writing more, filing more bankruptcies, and working from home more frequently. To do that, I'm encouraging myself into new patterns and new practices that will get me there. 

What I love about Strides app is that it allows me to set long-term goals and then track my progress towards that goal each day, week, or month. The best part about the app is that it tells me whether I’m ahead or behind of my long-term goal and allows me to adjust my behavior accordingly in the moment. If I’m behind, I haven’t failed. I just need to work to generate more bankruptcy work for myself, schedule a trip to a state park, or go work out.

Here’s what some of my goals look like right now. You can see from my “Home Work” goal that the 6 times I’ve worked from home so far puts me pretty far ahead of the 3.8 times that would put me on track to meet my goal. It also projects that on my current pace, I’ll work from home 156 times this year. GREAT!

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But, as you can see, I’ve only posted two blog posts to Ben Carter Law, which puts me on pace to post 48.7 in 2014—4 short of the 52 I want to post. (Knowing I’m off-pace is one of the reasons I’m writing this right now.)

If you want to get better at something, think about setting a long-term goal that you can work towards now and using Strides to give you good feedback on whether you are on track to meet your goal. That’s it. It is a really good app. 

The rest of this post is a little bit more “in the weeds” about how the app itself works and how it could be improved. So, if that’s not your thing, I understand. (But, it does contain a useful tip for users from the developer...)

After using Strides for a few days, I was having some issues with updating the totals each day. I got some really helpful feedback from the developer. Here’s the exchange.

Hey Kyle,

Thank you for Strides. I'm an attorney and was looking for an app to help me meet some of my personal and professional goals in 2014 and your app provides the flexibility to track goals like "work out 200 times" and "bill 120K" and "work from home 100 days" and "write 52 blog posts". I've looked for other apps, but I think yours is the closest to how I want to structure and track my goals. I really appreciate the feature that lets me know whether I'm ahead or behind of year-long goals. This allows me the opportunity to modify current behavior to reach long-term goals. Awesome.

I have two suggestions. Please allow me to "check off" (add +1) to a goal just by hitting the number total in the goal summary page. In other words, instead of navigating to the tracking page, make the total number inside the circle a button that adds one to the numerical value in the circle. I think that would be a good function in and of itself, but I also want this feature because I'm having a really hard time getting the "add to total" toggle button working correctly. Each night for the past five nights, I've gone in to update my totals and the button seems to perform differently (erratically). One night, the toggle will be to "on" and I'll add "1" and it will reset my total to "1" for the year. Another night, I'll toggle it to "off" and change the number from 4 to 5 and it will add 4 and 5 to give me 9. It's sort of maddening and the one downer to the app right now. It's especially frustrating because it's so close to being exactly what I'm looking for!

Anyway, I've never written a developer with a feature request before, but know enough to know that you probably get a lot of requests and just hope you'll put this one on the list in its appropriate priority.

Many thanks, bc

And then the developer wrote me back:

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the feedback! I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying Strides.

We're working on a bunch of fixes to the Add to Total function for the next update. Sorry about that! It worked perfectly for all the beta testers, but we've found lots of little bugs that slipped through the cracks, so we'll get those fixed soon.

In the meantime, I would recommend turning Add to Total OFF and entering the new total, rather than the addition (e.g. 9 instead of 5) since the math is easy for this particular tracker.

I'll also think through the +1 idea from the circle chart. I totally get the value there, so I think we'll be able to do that in an update. Either way, we'll get Add to Total working correctly for you. :)

Thanks again for reaching out, and have a great day!

Kyle Richey

website: puresignal.co 

twitter: @puresignalapps

So, that’s awesome. And, the tip that he gave about turning "Add to Total OFF" for the time being and entering a new total is working for me. 

After using it for a couple more weeks, I have a couple more suggestion for future revisions. First, I would like the option to “snooze” recently updated goals. The app allows users to decide how frequently they want to review progress toward their goals. On many of these, I have a daily review scheduled at 6 p.m. because they’re things that I may have done that day: work from home, work out, write a blog post. Others, I only review once every few weeks (bankruptcies) or once a month (visits to state parks).

I would like a feature that allows me to not have to get a notification to review “work out” or “sit for 10 minutes” at 6 p.m. if I’ve updated that goal’s total within the last 24 hours. If I’ve updated the total, it’s because I worked out or sat earlier that day. The notification is just a hassle at that point. The point of the notification is to remind future you that “these are things that you might want to consider doing” and if I’ve already done that thing recently, I don’t want to review it.

Related to reviewing goals, in the "menu" page (shown above), a right swipe gives the user the option to delete the goal. A left swipe in this view should take the user directly to the page on which they can update the goal's total, whether that's hours worked that day, calories consumed, or times the user sat quietly for ten minutes. 

These would be small usability improvements I’d like to see in an app that is really, really helping me a lot.

Kentucky Attorneys File Lawsuit Against Bridal Warehouse, Inc.

Bridal Warehouse Wedding Dress

Yesterday, Brian Cook, John Bahe, and I filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court against Bridal Warehouse, Inc. The lawsuit alleges that Bridal Warehouse has violated Kentucky's Consumer Protection Act by engaging in false, unfair, deceptive, and misleading acts and practices for many years. 

Specifically, the suit alleges that Bridal Warehouse has promised to "special order" new dresses from the manufacturer to thousands of brides. Rather than doing what they promised to do, the company would deliver to their customers a used dress from the floor of one of their other store locations. In other words, instead of delivering to their customers a new dress from the manufacturer, Bridal Warehouse would deliver dresses that had been used by other customers. Many customers were charged a premium for this "special order" from the manufacturer. 

Bridal Warehouse, Inc. has four store locations: 

  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Elizabethtown, Kentucky
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Evansville, Indiana

The lawsuit seeks class certification for the injured customers who are residents of Kentucky. Here is a copy of the Complaint we filed against Bridal Warehouse, Inc. 

If you placed a "special order" for a dress from Bridal Warehouse, Inc. in the last 15 years, you may be a member of the class of injured individuals. For more information about the suit or to ask us to review your case, fill out this form or contact us by calling 502-587-2002. 

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If you want, you can tell us a little more about your experience: when you purchased your dress, how much you paid, etc.

Budgeting for a Solo Law Firm: Or, How I Sleep at Night

I'm probably the last person you should be taking budgeting advice from. Turns out, majoring in English and going to law school didn't really do a lot to prepare me to run a business. (This is a bit of a misstatement. Truth is, majoring in English helped instill in me the values that I use every day to advocate for consumers against some of our country's most powerful industries. What I mean is that majoring in English and going to law school didn't really give me a whole lot of insight into the logistics and practicalities of starting and running a law firm.)

That being said, I want to share a spreadsheet with you that I've developed for my own practice and life that has helped me figure out exactly what I need to be making each month to survive as a business and person. Basically, it's a two-sheet workbook. The first is for determining my monthly business expenses and the second is my monthly personal expenses.   

I determine my monthly business expenses by totaling all the monthly expenses, totaling all the annual expenses, dividing my annual expenses by 12, and adding my monthly expenses and 1/12th of my annual business expenses together. 

Then, I carry that figure over to the second sheet of the workbook. The second sheet contains all of my personal monthly expenses. After totaling those expenses, I determine taxes by multiplying my personal monthly expenses by 1/3. (This is not a technically accurate measure of my tax liability. Technically, my tax liability will be on the net profits of my business, not the money I take to pay personal expenses. But, because at this point of my practice all net profits go to pay personal expenses, this is a "close enough" measure for me.)

Adding my monthly personal expenses and my tax liability gives me my "Personal Monthly Nut"—the amount of money I need to pay personal bills, my country, and my Commonwealth.  

I've carried over my "BCL Monthly Nut" from Sheet 1 of the workbook and add that to my "Personal Monthly Nut" to determine my "Great Big Monthly Nut"—the amount of money I need to make it all work. 

Finally, and this is what let's me sleep at night (or, keeps me up at night), I've calculated the amount of money I "Must Bill and Collect Each Day" to make my "Great Big Monthly Nut". I determined this amount by dividing 365 by 12 to get the average number of days a year and multiplying that number by 5/7 to allow myself two days each week of not billing anything. Ostensibly, that's to account for a weekend. This gives me 21.72 working days each month to work towards my "Great Big Monthly Nut". 

Knowing how much money I need to bill and collect  each day gives me one metric by which I can measure any given day. Sure, it's nice when a client calls and gives you good news. It's nice to talk with someone who says, "You're the only person who has called me back." Those are other metrics that I use to measure my day. But, if you're going to run a small business, you've got to be using the "Must Bill and Collect Each Day" metric, too. I can't pay rent with warm fuzzies and I can't pay court filing fees with good karma. 

You can view, download, and modify my budget to suit your purposes. I should say that mine is constantly changing as I grow, cut services, move offices, etc. The goal is not down-to-the-penny accuracy, but rather to give me a goal to work towards and to measure my performance against. 

Kentucky is one of a Handful of States that Require Paid Breaks for Employees

I read an article recently that explained that Kentucky was one of only eight states that had a statute that required that employers allow employees to take (and be paid for) at least two 10-minute breaks during an eight hour workday.  

I have to say, as a Kentuckian I have grown accustomed to seeing Kentucky appear at the bottom of lists we would like to be at the top of and the top of lists we'd like to be at the bottom of. So, discovering that we offer workers the basic protection and dignity of two ten-minute breaks during a day's work was heartening. The Department of Labor provides summaries of mandatory rest periods and lunches in Kentucky and across the nation. 

Of course, having the statutory right to a break and actually getting the break are two separate matters. In this lawyer's opinion, employers who do not provide workers with those breaks are violating Kentucky's wage and hour laws. These employers are opening themselves up to potential liability for money damages awarded to their employees for denying their employees these breaks.  

If you or someone you know is working for a business that does not provide its employees the breaks its workers are entitled to by statute, you should contact an attorney today

Heart-wrenching, infuriating, important article about NuvaRing

The January issue of Vanity Fair has a long, important article about the dangers of the birth control device, NuvaRing, manufactured by Merck. The article tells the story of two women—one killed and one permanently injured—by NuvaRing. But, my best friend's sister died last year from pulmonary embolisms caused by NuvaRing, so I do not need this article to humanize this regulatory and personal disaster.

The article provides very useful information for consumers and non-lawyers about the regulatory and legal framework in which harmful drugs are introduced to market and in which attorneys struggle to seek justice for those who have been injured or killed by those drugs. If you are interested in understanding from a very real-world situation what "agency capture" or "mass tort" litigation looks like, this article is a must-read.

For the rest of you, please, ask every woman you know whether she is using Nuvaring and share this article with her. 

While it is hard to find an exemplary pull quote from this long and excellent article, this quote demonstrates the extent to which drug companies will go to obscure science in search of ever-expanding profits. 

In September 2001, as the F.D.A. was considering the approval of the completed application, court documents submitted by the plaintiffs claim, Organon scientists had become concerned with “the burst release” and what they called “out-of-spec results” in “large-scale NuvaRing batches.” One member of the regulatory-affairs team e-mailed a colleague, “This is a very serious issue, in that FDA is very sensitive to the ‘burst release’ phenomenon and release in general. Going to FDA to change these specifications is absolutely the LAST thing we should consider, i.e., that’s the worse possible scenario.”

I am angry all over again. 

Follow-up to Survey of Kentucky Cyclists' Fears

Earlier this year, I asked Kentucky cyclists what their greatest fears were. In a totally unscientific tallying of the responses, here's my impression: The two most commonly cited fears were, unsurprisingly, getting hit by a moving car and getting doored. I can sympathize. I'm looking in the rear window of every single parked car I ride past  to see if there is a driver getting ready to exit the vehicle and throw me into traffic. 

I also asked what Kentucky cyclists fear that I had not considered. Boy, you all are creative bunch. Among the things you fear (and that I now have to consider) are:  

  • Handle bars torque while at top speed going downhill.
  • Vision impaired in both eyes due to cloud of gnats.
  • Having your butt crack peek out of your pants as you bend forward to reduce wind resistance.
  • Having a can thrown at you from a passing car window, looking down and then being smashed by a semi only to then have a bee sting you! 
  • Being lasso'd in the middle of fricken nowhere and thrown in the back of a truck of a psycho woman and carted off to some hole in the ground.
  • When in Kentucky... being bitten by dogs.
  • Unexpected rain.
  • River Road and people from the East end.
  • I can't say that every single thing on this list is actionable in a court of law, but if you or a bicyclist you know are injured by a driver's carelessness, please, get a lawyer. If it's me, great. If not, that's fine, too. But, you need to get a lawyer so that the driver compensates you for all of your injuries. This includes your medical bills, lost time at work, property damage, and your physical pain and emotional suffering. 

     

     

     

The Lawyer Lebowski

For many reasons, The Big Lebowski is one of my favorite movies of all time. After many viewings, I know the movie basically verbatim (because I'm a lawyer, I'm required to use Latin instead of just saying "word-for-word" or "by heart"). So, I suppose it's not surprising that I often find myself quoting the movie during everyday conversation. What is surprising, though, is just how often I find myself wanting to use quotes from The Big Lebowski in my work as a lawyer: from trying to settle cases, to talking with clients, to negotiating discovery disputes with opposing counsel, to brainstorming with co-counsel.

WalterSobchak.jpg

But, on further reflection, the movie is filled with high-drama characters, multiple conflicts, arguments about money, a stoner, a money-grubbing hussy, a pompous rich guy, a severed toe, a lot of caucasians, and some nihilists, so it seems natural that situations in my life as a lawyer would be amenable to Lebowski allusions.

Here is a list of those quotes from The Big Lebowski that I either a) have used or b) aspire to use in my advocacy before I retire. I will leave it to you, the reader, to guess which ones I've already used and encourage you to use them, as well. 

  • This aggression will not stand.
  • Where's the fucking money, shithead?!?
  • I'm throwing rocks tonight. 
  • We all know who is at fault here. What the fuck are you talking about?
  • We're talking about unchecked aggression.
  • I'm talking about drawing a line in the sand. 
  • They peed on your fucking rug.
  • Are you employed, sir? 
  • The Dude minds. This will not stand, man. This aggression will not stand.
  • I cannot solve your problems, sir. Only you can.
  • If you will it, it is no dream.
  • Over the line!
  • Mark it zero. 
  • Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules. 
  • Smokey, my friend, you're entering a world of pain.
  • Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?!?
  • You're not wrong. You're just an asshole. 
  • Just take it easy, man.
  • Calmer than you are.
  • Strong men also cry.
  • Life does not start and stop at your convenience you miserable piece of shit.
  • Those rich fucks.
  • Are you ready to be fucked, man?
  • Yeah, well, that's just like you're opinion, man. 
  • Nobody fucks with the Jesus. 
  • Her life is in your hands, Dude.
  • "We?" What the fuck "we"?
  • Why should we settle for a measly twenty grand when we can keep the whole million?  
  • The Dude: "This isn't a fucking game." Walter: "Oh, but it is."
  • Dude, are you fucking this up?
  • Nothing is fucked here, dude. 
  • They're a bunch of fucking amateurs.
  • The beauty of this plan is its simplicity. 
  • No, we can't do that, Dude. That fucks up the plan. 
  • Sooner or later you're just going to have to face the fact that you're a goddamn moron.
  • Well, I guess we can close the file on that one.
  • We've been frantically trying to reach you, Dude.
  • The goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain!
  • I've got information...Certain shit has come to light...
  • She's got to feed the monkey.
  • That had not occurred to us, Dude.
  • That's what you pay me for. 
  • My concern is—and I've got to check with my accountant—that this may bump me into a higher tax bracket.
  • By God, sir: I will not abide another toe.
  • They send us a toe and we're supposed to shit ourselves. 
  • That's just the stress talking, Dude.
  • If you don't calm down, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. 
  • This affects all of us—our basic freedoms!
  • Enjoyin' my coffee.
  • Where is the money, Lebowski? We want the money, Lebowski!
  • We are sympathizing with you. 
  • Okay, Dude. I can see you don't want to be cheered up here. 
  • Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes, the bear, why, he eats you.
  • There's just one thing, Dude. Do you have to use so many cuss words?
  • Okay, Dude, have it your way. 
  • I've got to tender my resignation or whatever.
  • If you would listen occasionally, you might learn something.
  • I'm telling you, I've got pretty definitive evidence.
  • This is a very complicated case, Maude. Lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous. Lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in Old Duder's head.
  • He's a good man. And thorough. 
  • Our fucking troubles are over, Dude.
  • We're hoping it won't be necessary to call the police. 
  • Son, this is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!
  • You see what happens, Larry?
  • I accept you apology. No, I just want to handle it by myself from now on. 
  • You know, Walter, you're right. There is an unspoken message here. It's, "fuck you! Leave me the fuck alone!"
  • You're not dealing with morons, here. 
  • There are a lot of facets to this. A lot of interested parties. 
  • I dig the way you do business, man. 
  • I know my rights, man. 
  • I want a fucking lawyer, man. 
  • I don't like your jerk off name. I don't like your jerk off face. I don't like your jerk off behavior. And, I don't like you, jerk off. Do I make myself clear?
  • This is a very complicated case, Maude. Lotta ins, lotta outs. Fortunately, I'm adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep my mind, you know, limber. 
  • Father's weakness is vanity. Hence, the slut. 
  • My thinking about this case had become very uptight!
  • Easy, man. Relax, man. No physical harm intended. 
  • Let me tell you something, I dig your work. Playing one side against the other, in bed with everyone. 
  • Maybe you and me could pool our resources. Share information. As a professional courtesy. 
  • As if we would ever dream of taking your bullshit money!
  • This is not a worthy fucking adversary. 
  • It's bush league, psycho-out stuff. It's laughable. Ha ha!
  • Without a hostage, there is no ransom. 
  • It's not fair!
  • Fair? Who's the fucking nihilist around here? 
  • Donny: "Are these guys going to hurt us?" Walter: "No, Donny, these men are cowards." 
  • We're ending this cheap. 
  • We'll fucks you up, man. We takes the money!
  • Take it easy, man! Take the four dollars!
  • Just because we're bereaved doesn't make us saps!
  • Fuck it, man. Let's go bowling. 
  • Strikes and gutters, ups and downs. 
  • The Dude abides. 
jesus_lebowski.jpg

Of course, LebowskiFest began in Louisville. If you want a bumpersticker with one of these quotes, chances are you can find it at their shop.

Has the whole world gone crazy?!? Am I the only one who gives a shit about the rules???

When Can Lawyers Start Using Reaction Gifs?

Question for my lawyer friends: Have .gifs become widespread enough that we can start including reaction .gifs in emails to insurance adjusters and opposing counsels? Or, do I have to wait a few more years for the technology to become more commonplace before this is appropriate?

I feel like including .gifs would help me advocate for my client and communicate more clearly with others. 

I feel like including .gifs would help me advocate for my client and communicate more clearly with others. 

How to Listen to and Tell People about Let's Start a Law Firm

For the last few months, I've been recording a podcast with my buddy, Annie O'Connell, about how to start a law firm. It's called "Let's Start a Law Firm" and it's been a lot of fun. One of the more consistent things that we hear from listeners is that they're not lawyers, but they're running small businesses and still find our thoughts on running a law firm useful in their own businesses. That's extremely gratifying to hear. 

If you are new to listening to podcasts, two thing: First, WELCOME! Second, you may want to consider getting a dedicated app on your iPhone or other mobile device to listen to podcasts. This class of apps is called "podcatchers" and you can buy them in the App Store. Ben uses Downcast. Instacast is very popular with the nerds, as well. Annie uses Stitcher and Ben is not judging her for that. 

You can subscribe to the podcast feed in iTunes  to get future episodes automatically. If you like the show, please rate the show in iTunes or leave a review. There's really nothing better you can do than rate and/or review the show on iTunes to help new people find this podcast. Of course, tweets and links on Facebook don't hurt, either. 

If you're not into iTunes, you can always listen online at Let's Start a Law Firm. You'll also find show notes for all our shows at Let's Start a Law Firm

Amazing Rhetoric from RFK

I can't believe we used to have politicians who spoke like this.  

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but the GNP—if we should judge America by that—counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead...and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage...it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

 

My Guide to Guides for Apple's New Operating System

If you're thinking about upgrading to Mavericks (or already have) you owe it to yourself to take a little time to learn about the under-the-hood features of Apple's newest (and free-est) operating system. As a solo attorney, I rely on Apple's products and software to get my work done every single day and divide my computing life to "before I bought a MacBook in 2004" and "after the switch". If you want to learn more about all that, listen to "Let's Start a Law Firm."

Non-nerds may not know that John Siracusa has been reviewing Mac operating systems for over a decade and his latest installment provides users not only an exhaustive review of the changes, but also places those changes in a historical context. This makes the review less of a operating system review and more a crash course in Apple's evolution.   

This post is really just to point non-nerds to Siracusa's review, but if you want more reading, here are two more useful links:  

Federico Viticci's Tips, Tricks, and Details 

Macworld's Installing Maverick's Guide

I'm talking about consumer law at UK's law school

I tried to write this announcement in a way that might have captured the attention of me-circa-2003... I'm really grateful to UK's career services team for helping me set this up.  

Ben Carter is going to be talking about consumer law and solo practice on Friday at noon in Room 213. 

He will be buying your time and attention with Pizza Hut pizza. 

The lunch is sponsored by the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA). Ben will be talking about the work he does as a consumer attorney: prosecuting auto fraud, defending collections actions, helping homeowners facing foreclosure, consumer class actions, prosecuting insurance bad faith, and on and on and on. 

You might want to go if any of the following things are true: 

  • You do not have a job. 
  • You do not have any prospects of having a job. 
  • You went to law school to do good. 
  • You are angry—so angry—at the banks, servicers, and Wall Street bigwigs that ran our economy into the ground. 
  • You went to law school to help people with heartbeats. 
  • You cheer for underdogs. 
  • You want to live your life as a friction to the machine
  • You want to open your own firm someday. 
  • You like pizza.

Ben is a solo practitioner at Ben Carter Law PLLC. Before starting his own firm, he worked for three very good trial attorneys in Louisville, the Legal Aid Society, the Public Defender's Office in the Republic of Palau, and for Judge Wingate of the Franklin Circuit Court. 

With Annie O'Connell, Ben hosts a podcast called Let's Start a Law Firm. It's about dog breeding. Just kidding. It's about starting a law firm. It's available for download in iTunes and show notes are at http://benarterlaw.com/letsstartalawfirm