Putting on ‘Airs and Graces’: The Power of Punctuation To Elevate Your Writing

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Each time I sit down to write a punctuation column, I find myself second-guessing the topic. Do readers really want to read about commas, or dashes, or apostrophes?  Shouldn’t I be able to think of something more stimulating to write about?

But I am always pleasantly surprised at the number of readers who contact me to thank me for these punctuation refreshers and to suggest additional punctuation-related topics. Recently, I received a couple of requests for a column covering the proper use of colons and semicolons, and I am happy to oblige.

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No New Clients In January and Other Tips for Avoiding Fee Disputes

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By Ken Raynor 

Learning from the mistakes of others is far better than learning from your own follies. The work of the Mecklenburg County Bar’s Fee Dispute Resolution Committee allows its members to see patterns of conduct which end up in disputes between attorneys and clients. Hopefully, the members use this experience to develop procedures and practices which will help avoid fee disputes. We thought it may be good to share with our associates some of the insights we have learned through our service as members of the Fee Dispute Committee. Read more

The Chair’s Comments

By Ginny Allen

Almost two months ago, I left my job as head of marketing and business development with a large North Carolina law firm to start my own company. Until recently, my interest within the law practice management and technology world had largely been technology, specifically marketing technologies.

Over the course of these last months, my eyes have been opened to the resilience, hard work, and investment of time it takes to get a business up and running.

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A Gift for Those Who Walk the Extra Mile: A FitBit Review

By Russell Rawlings
“He likes this more than any present I have ever given him.”
So says my wife of 28 years in regard to the Fitbit activity tracker that my staff gave me for Christmas last year. I didn’t know what to make of the Fitbit One when I opened the package because the only Fitbits I had ever seen were of the wristband variety. Fitbit One proved the perfect choice because I can clip it to my pants pocket and track my steps throughout the day.

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Clerk of Court John Connell Retires From Court of Appeals

By Russell Rawlings

John Connell just knew he had blown the interview. He was suffering from a cold, on medication, and unusually anxious.

“I felt I rushed it.”

That was nearly 30 years ago when he interviewed for the position of assistant clerk of court at the N.C. Court of Appeals. Not only did he get the job, but seven years later when the clerk’s position became open, he landed that job too.

The affable Connell retired Nov. 1, leaving behind a legacy of service and leadership that will permeate the Court of Appeals for years to come. Always quick with a smile and a self-effacing comeback, he covers his emotions well until the conversation turns to his co-workers.

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NCBA Member Seth Blum on Being an Actor and an Attorney

Photo by Yorgason Photography

Members in focus: Seth A. Blum
Duke University School of Law
Founding Partner of Kurtz & Blum, Raleigh

By Amber Nimocks

For Seth Blum, the works of William Shakespeare offer not just philosophical inspiration but also a means of self-expression, an opportunity for family bonding and a chance to enhance some of the skills he uses in the practice of law. Blum, a founding partner of Kurtz & Blum, is also an actor who frequently brings the Bard’s works to life on the local stage.

He said he doesn’t remember a moment when he decided to pursue involvement in theater, but that he has been acting for as long as he could talk.

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Tennis Lessons: WFU Prof’s Life A Study In Sportsmanship, Tenacity And The Law

By Russell Rawlings 

Professor Muriel Beth Hopkins of Wake Forest University currently serves as chair of the Constitution and Rules Committee of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), a role she never could have envisioned growing up in Petersburg, Va.

“In the town I grew up in there were no public tennis courts available for African-Americans,” said Hopkins. “We would have been arrested had we attempted to play on public tennis courts in the 1960s.”

So much has changed since then, and Hopkins was done more than simply witness it. She’s been a part of it.

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Still Atticus: An old hero persists despite a new portrayal

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the November 2015 edition of North Carolina Lawyer.

By Amber Nimocks  

 Since Harper Lee breathed Atticus Finch to life in 1960, no other fictional attorney has had such a hold on the American psyche.

The figure of an altruistic Southern lawyer standing up for what’s right in the face of a deeply unjust society in “To Kill A Mockingbird” has inspired millions as a model of dedication to justice, patience and paternal wisdom. But this summer’s publication of Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman,” which presented a new, more difficult view of the character, left us wondering what members of the N.C. Bar Association make of this hero revisited.

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Gifts for Lawyers Who Say They Don’t Want an Apple Watch — But Really Do

Editor’s note: This article appears in the November edition of NC Lawyer.

By Erik Mazzone

I didn’t want an Apple Watch. Really.

With an iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air, I figured owning three Apple devices that need charging daily and upgrading regularly is enough for one person. Not to mention I wanted to avoid being one of those officious “Apple fan boys” running around, going, “and then Apple innovated by putting a device on my wrist … and it tells the time! Mind. Blown.”

Then this happened.

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In my limited defense, it was a gift. In my even more limited defense, I asked for it. It’s not entirely my fault, though. My normally tech-disinterested wife has been rhapsodizing about her Apple Watch for months now:

My Apple Watch does this. My Apple Watch does that. My Apple Watch has a built in laser app like Iron Man.

I’m only human. I broke.

I assumed the Apple Watch was going to be kind of a disappointment. It needs to be Bluetooth tethered to an iPhone. The screen is tiny. It doesn’t really do that much. I was prepared to be underwhelmed.

As it turns out, though, it has been kind of a delight. I’m not overwhelmed. But neither am I underwhelmed. Just regular whelmed.

After a few weeks of wear, the Apple Watch has quietly crept into some crevices in my tech life that I didn’t know existed.

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Nine Questions to Ask About Your Firm’s Website

By Deborah McMurray

Law firms are investing more in the de­sign and development of their websites than ever. But are your visitors any happier?

No matter your law firm’s size or budget, visitors expect the same intuitive experience that they have with CNN.com, Southwest.com or Opentable.com. And your site is be­ing judged by the same criteria: (1) Is it easy to navigate and search—meaning do I quickly find what I want and need? and (2) does it an­swer my question or solve my problem?

If you have marketing or business development expectations of your law firm website, then you must view this medium and investment very differently.

1. Start at the Beginning: Is Your Strategy Clear? The reason so many law firm websites are poor is because too few firms pay attention to firm vision and goals, understand their target mar­kets or develop a website strategy. Firm strategy, key messages and points of differentiation should shape every decision that’s made in creating design, determining functionality and developing con­tent. Your firm strategy should be clear when a visitor comes to your site. You have one chance to make the right impression—and you have about five seconds to make it before your visitors make a “stay/leave” decision. Don’t risk making the wrong impression by not spending time on this critical step.

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