Gregory Alan Isakov is playing in my office now and at Headliners with Josh Ritter this evening.
Located in Louisville, Kentucky, Ben Carter Law provides representation to consumers who are facing foreclosure, who have been defrauded by businesses, injured by defective products, or harmed by the negligence of others.
Gregory Alan Isakov is playing in my office now and at Headliners with Josh Ritter this evening.
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.
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.)
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:
Kentucky failed all of these tests.
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.
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.
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.)
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:
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!
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.
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:
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
We're going through a bit of a Queen phase here at Ben Carter Law. And by "we" I mean "me."
If I know two things about America, it's these two things:
Really starting to wonder when young people are going to begin to organize around the many injustices of student debt.
Your Friday morning commute just got better. Episode Four of "Let's Start a Law Firm"—the podcast I'm doing with Annie O'Connell—dropped just in time. It's called "Finding and Choosing Clients" and it's a good one. (Let's be honest, they're all good ones.)
Please share with law students and friends dreaming of or actually in the process of starting their own firms.
Ben Carter is known around Kentucky as a passionate, effective advocate for consumers. He represents consumers that have been abused by unfair and deceptive acts and practices and people who have been harmed by the negligence of others: patients harmed by reckless doctors, clients whose attorneys have neglected their cases, passengers, drivers, bicyclers, and pedestrians harmed or killed by careless drivers.
Ben Carter Law PLLC | 312 South Fourth Street, Sixth Floor, Louisville, KY 40202, USA