S – E – Ohh: Search Engine Optimization For Small Law Firms

By Deirdre M. Stephenson

What happens when people google “Divorce Lawyer” in the geographic area where your small firm is located? Does your firm come up on the results page? Do you even want to be a result of a search for family law attorney? Do you see other firms on the list of results that do not even practice family law? In a world where the answer to a posed question is more often than not: “I don’t know …just Google it,” it is important, if not imperative, for small firms to harness the power of Search Engine Optimization, aka SEO.

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NC Loan Broker Act Remains an Important Lending Statute and Litigation Tool

By Adam Altman

The North Carolina Loan Broker Act was enacted in 1979 “to protect the public from unscrupulous loan brokering practices.”  Brief of Amicus Curiae Roy Cooper, Attorney General of North Carolina at 4, Printing Services of Greensboro, Inc. v. American Capital Group, Inc. 361 N.C. 347, 643 S.E.2d 586 (2007).

The North Carolina Loan Broker Act (the “Act”), codified in Article 20 of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes, requires that loan brokers provide prospective borrowers with a disclosure statement, obtain a surety bond or establish a trust account, and file certain disclosures with the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State.  See N.C.G.S. §§ 66-107, 66-108, 66-109.  The Act prohibits loan brokers from collecting an advance fee from prospective borrowers prior to the closing of the loan.  See N.C.G.S. § 66-108(c).  There are several categories of persons and entities that are expressly excluded from the provisions of the Act.  See N.C.G.S. § 66-106(b).  If loan brokers fail to comply with the Act, prospective borrowers may void the loan brokerage contract and sue for damages, recover attorney’s fees, and obtain treble damages.  See N.C.G.S. § 66-111.  The treble damages component is available because the violation of any provision of the Act “shall constitute an unfair trade practice under G.S. 75-1.1.”  N.C.G.S. § 66-111(d).

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Pro Bono Spotlight: Molly Gross, NCBA Disaster Legal Services Volunteer

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By Caroline Trautman

Few things make people feel helpless like a natural disaster can. If you’re like most attorneys, your daily work doesn’t involve feeding people, clearing giant trees, or repairing homes. As we settle into our day-to-day work, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have anything to offer people who have lost basic needs like clothing and shelter.

But what we forget is that many of our jobs, at their core, DO involve helping people clean up messes – and the knowledge and skills we’ve picked up along the way are probably more useful than we think.

 

Molly Gross, a young lawyer in Hickory who’s been bitten by the pro bono bug, has figured this out. Her story is proof that attorneys like you can impact people with big needs, even with just a little time. We at the NCBA Pro Bono Committee were so inspired, we thought we’d give her a shout out.

 

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Will the Supreme Court Take Up LGBT Rights Under Title VII?

By Robin Shea

According to news reports, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon consider, and hopefully decide, whether to review lower court decisions addressing whether sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Virtually everyone agrees that in 1964, when Title VII was enacted, no one thought “sex” meant anything other than biological males and biological females. However, interpretations of the word “sex” have obviously changed since 1964.

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Apply For New Ways To Get Free CPE

By Debbie Harris

The NCBA Paralegal Division has changed the way it gives back to its members.

The Paralegal Division has replaced its Membership Scholarship with the “Member Premier Pass Giveaway,” and Premier Passes will be given away to two lucky Division members in a lottery-type drawing each year. This package is valued at $325.00, and is an exclusive NCBA member benefit providing you unlimited CLE/CPE including access to hundreds of On Demand programs throughout the Bar year (July 1 to June 30). Complete details, including benefits and terms and conditions, can be found here. As we are starting the process after the beginning of this Bar year, this year’s drawing will occur before December 31, which will give you six months to attend programming.

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A Better Way to Find Time

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Finding a mutually available time to meet with multiple busy people including clients, colleagues and other parties used to mean a lot of negotiation and multiple emails. Then tools like Doodle and FreeBusy came along to make scheduling much easier. Now users of Microsoft Office 365 can take advantage of a built-in polling tool called FindTime that integrates directly in the Outlook calendar for free!

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Are Public Payment Bond Rights Assignable Under NC Law? Maybe.

By Jonathan Massell

Contractors, like other businesses, often find it advantageous to assign their accounts in exchange for some other form of consideration from the assignee.  What is different about a contractor’s accounts, as compared to most other businesses, is that the amounts owed might be secured by payment bonds.

It should not be disputed that a contractor can assign its accounts to a third party so long as the proper procedures are followed.  However, if the accounts relate to a project where the contractor would have a valid claim on a public payment bond, can this right be assigned along with the accounts?  Practically, the ability of a third party purchaser to make a bond claim would make the assignment of accounts more lucrative for the assignee and would provide some bargaining power for the contractor who wants to assign the accounts.  However, once the accounts are assigned and the third party assignee goes to make a claim on the bond and enforce that claim in court, will a court dismiss the action right off the bat for lack of standing of this new claimant?  In North Carolina, maybe.

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Pause Before Adding Clients On Social Media

By Alicia Mitchell-Mercer
Increasingly, we’re seeing attorneys and paralegals connecting with clients on social media including LinkedIn and Facebook. When I ask why, I’m hearing that social media connections (e.g. Facebook) make the client feel like they are more than just a file. I think there’s also this belief that it’s an inconspicuous way to get your name out there and connect with their connections who may require legal services. From a marketing perspective, it may make sense to have a social media presence that includes the clients you serve, but is it a good idea?
Here are reasons to think carefully before sending or accepting a connection request:

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Navigating Trial Decisions Through an Appellate Framework

By Kip Nelson

Trial lawyers have a hard job, and it’s easy for appellate lawyers reviewing a cold record to find fault in the decisions made by their predecessors. As others have recognized, a symbiotic relationship can occur when a trial lawyer and an appellate lawyer work collaboratively during trial to reach the best solution for the client. A recent Court of Appeals decision, Boone Ford, Inc. v. IME Scheduler, Inc., No. COA16-750-2 (N.C. Ct. App. Nov. 6, 2018), provides two helpful reminders for appellate practitioners working at the trial level.

First, the Court of Appeals reiterated that a party cannot move for judgment notwithstanding the verdict unless the party previously moved for a directed verdict. This rule might seem counterintuitive for a party who is asserting a claim; normally one thinks of a motion for directed verdict as being brought by a defending party. Nevertheless, because the third-party plaintiff in Boone Ford had not moved for directed verdict, the court concluded that any argument regarding the third-party plaintiff’s Rule 50 JNOV motion was “not preserved for appellate review.”

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Take Steps This Holiday Season

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By Catherine Sanders Reach

With the holidays approaching, we can look forward to gathering with friends and family, celebrations, and merriment. We also look forward to lots of great food and tempting treats. For many the holidays also add stress, tension and increased feelings of depression. Make time to keep up with exercise, which will help guard against weight gain and help boost your serotonin levels. Need motivation? Your mobile device likely has a pedometer built in to help you keep track of your steps and stay on goal.

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