Encrypt It, Restrict It, Firewall It: The Panama Papers’ Security Lessons for Lawyers

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The leak of the Panama Papers has done more than reveal the underbelly of the international tax-dodger trade. This massive security breach, the biggest document leak in history, also serves as a wake-up call for lawyers and law firms about our responsibility to keep client information confidential.

The files, leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, came from the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama. Their contents are incredibly incriminating for several multinational organizations and many world leaders as they describe the ways powerful and knowledgeable people have gamed the financial system to create tax havens in off-shore accounts. It’s important that you understand the contents and repercussions of the documents, certainly, but even more important is that you understand what this leak means for law firm security in the future.

Here’s the takeaway:

  1. If you keep it, it can be stolen. Encrypt.
  2. If you send it, it can be misdirected. Encrypt.
  3. If you give access to it, it can be retained. Restrict Downloads.
  4. If your data is stored on your network, it can be accessed by anyone who has network permissions. Firewall it.

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On the Ides Of March, a Soothsayer’s Tips On Making Law Partnerships Last

“All happy law firms are alike; each unhappy law firm is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy wrote that. Or maybe it was Tolstoy’s lawyer. I forget.

Whoever wrote it, it’s wrong.

Unhappy law firms – and by unhappy, I mean the law firms where the partnership is fracturing – are often unhappy in similar ways and for similar reasons. I regularly do consultations with a couple of lawyers who are planning to open a firm together. It makes sense; starting a law firm is scary, and doing it with someone you like and trust feels like it helps mitigate the risk.

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Beware the Ethics Pitfalls of Social Media Research

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By James M. Dedman IV

Lawyers now find themselves well into the era of social media discovery. Time was, Internet evidence was a novelty, and courts eyed such issues with wonder and skepticism. Cf. St. Clair v. Johnny’s Oyster & Shrimp, Inc., 76 F. Supp. 2d 773, 774 (S.D. Tex. 1999) (“[A]ny evidence procured off the Internet is adequate for almost nothing . . . .”). These days, these inquiries are routine. Accordingly, corporate counsel should be aware of the ethical principles governing social media research in litigation (whether they be conducting such research internally or relying on outside counsel to do so).

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How To Ace the One Appellate Filing That Must Be Perfect

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By Beth Scherer

The North Carolina Bar Association’s Appellate Rules Committee has a long tradition of not only making recommendations regarding the Appellate Rules, but of also producing publications designed to help North Carolina attorneys comply with the Appellate Rules. The Appellate Style Manual, Oral Argument Guides, Oral Argument Comparison Chart, and a Guide to Interlocutory Appeals are just a few of the popular publications produced and regularly updated by our committee.

However, if there is one appellate filing that must be perfect, it is the Notice of Appeal.  Our courts can be forgiving in a post-Dogwood era for many mistakes, but an insufficient, late, or improperly filed Notice of Appeal can deprive the appellate courts of jurisdiction–torpedoing an appeal before it even starts.

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Can I Use a Mac at My Law Office?

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I work with lots of firms that are either starting up or looking to move to the cloud. One question comes up over and over – Can I use a Mac instead of a PC in my firm? The answer is usually YES! However, while the answer may be yes for some attorneys, it’s good to know why the answer might be no for you in particular.

 

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James Ferguson: The People’s Champion

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Long-time North Carolina Bar Association member James Ferguson won the NCBA Litigation Section’s Advocate’s Award last year. Our slide show offers scenes from his 48-year career as a civil rights attorney and leader in the international trial advocacy movement, including work with Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. For the full story, see the most recent edition of North Carolina Lawyer, which features Ferguson on the cover.

Members In Focus – Melissa Duncan

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Members in Focus highlights NCBA members’ special talents and hobbies. Melissa Duncan is Director of Career & Student Development at Elon University School of Law.

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Ten Things You Young’uns Should Know Before Stepping Into a Civil Courtroom

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As I rock on my porch muttering while watching you kids in my front yard, I remember my dewy days as a green lawyer trying my first few auto accident trials. Having been fortunate to start as an associate in the warm embrace of Bailey & Dixon in the ’90s, I was given my own small auto accident cases to prepare and try along with tons of go-bys, outlines, checklists, briefs, forms, and trial notebooks that the firm had developed through decades of trial practice. The partners and senior associates freely shared their time and wisdom and assured me that if I put in the hours and followed their advice I would be as well-prepared as possible for my first trials.

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Backers See New Retention Election As A Step Toward Judicial Selection Reform

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By Amber Nimocks 

North Carolinians voting for a Supreme Court justice this November will see just one name on the ballot but they will still have a choice to make: Keep Associate Justice Robert H. Edmunds Jr., the sitting justice whose name will appear, or open the seat up for a replacement to be appointed by the governor.

Edmunds will be the first North Carolina Supreme Court justice to sit for a retention election under a new law passed last year. Proponents of the law hope it will deflate campaign spending levels in Supreme Court races, which have ballooned in recent years, and push the state toward a new system of judicial selection.

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CLE Deadline Season: Legal Professionals, Start Your Engines

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Here we are two weeks before the North Carolina State Bar Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) grace period ends on Feb. 29, 2016. I have started to call it the “silly season.” NASCAR fans are familiar with that term. It’s when drivers, crew chiefs and car manufacturers change at the end of the season in a flurry of somewhat unsettling activity.  Similarly, the phone is ringing off the hook here in the CLE Department, and there is a definite air of desperation in the voices of most of the people calling in, some of whom need to get in all 12 hours of MCLE before the end of February.

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