Prioritize Preparedness: Hurricane Season Preparation During a Pandemic

By Elizabeth B. Savage

This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 3-9), and although COVID-19 is dominating our news channels and conversations, we should not let it overshadow the upcoming hurricane season, which begins June 1, 2020. COVID-19 has certainly taken a toll on the State of North Carolina, with the most recent NCDHHS laboratory confirmed case count at 12,256. On May 5, Gov. Cooper announced that North Carolina will start Phase I of a reopen plan on Friday, May 8. This announcement comes almost two weeks after the governor first announced the three-phase plan. The United States has not faced an infectious disease disaster like COVID-19 since the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic; while our nation and state continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic response, North Carolina must also prepare for hurricane season.

Hurricanes and severe tropical storms have historically wreaked havoc along the North Carolina coast. These natural disasters are sudden, catastrophic, and have a disparate impact on vulnerable populations, and this season’s hurricane activity is forecasted to be above normal. The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project recently published a forecast of the 2020 Atlantic seasonal hurricane activity that predicted sixteen named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes.

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Why Do I Care More Than They Do? A Young Lawyer’s First Attempt at Coaching High School Mock Trial

By Amanda Perry

As lawyers, we preach philanthropy and public service on a regular basis, but we often are so overburdened with deadlines, paperwork, and research that philanthropy can often turn into a charitable donation. While in law school at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa., I was an avid and cutthroat competitor in our trial advocacy competition team, so when I was stationed at Fort Bragg to start my career as a Judge Advocate with XVIII Airborne Corps, I wanted to find a way to combine that advocacy competitiveness and my philanthropic core principle. Enter: becoming an attorney advisor for a high school mock trial team through the North Carolina Mock Trial Program.

When I first met with the team in September, I had to remind myself of one major underlying principle: these are high school kids, not law students. As a law student competitor, we practice relentlessly and often; we find a way to balance the rigors and demands of law school with the demands of honing our advocacy skills. It’s expected that you will be emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically exhausted, but at the same time, every person in that room is there to win. None of those things are expected of a high school team nor, more importantly, should they be.

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May is NCBA Member Appreciation Month!

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By Alejandra Villegas

Just because we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn’t mean we forgot about Member Appreciation Month. This May, we are celebrating you for the whole month just to thank you for being a member! Member Appreciation Month is an NCBA tradition that started two years ago and will occur over the next five weeks. We hope you take advantage of all the remote resources and giveaways we have in store for you.

First, we are bringing back Free Fridays. On May 1, 8, 15, and 29, we will be teaming up with our Center for Practice Management (CPM) to provide free LinkedIn and Social Media Profile Reviews and a limited-edition workshop entitled “Build a Business Development Plan.” In this free workshop, CPM Director Catherine Sanders Reach will give insight into law firm marketing tactics. She will discuss different types of business development endeavors from websites to social media to networking to help you strategize what works for your practice. Space is limited, so be sure to register soon.

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Educated Users Are the Best Defense Against Phishing And Ransomware

By Eva Lorenz 

Ransomware has been an ongoing threat to law firms for years.[1] Once impacted by this form of attack, law firms struggle with issues such as how to pay ransom, which often requires some form of cryptocurrency (e.g., bitcoin). Alternately, if the firm elects not to pay the ransom, the issue becomes how to provide continuous service to its clients while staff cannot access important files from a down computer network.

While ransomware is a more recent threat compared to other forms of malware, the delivery vehicle used for such attacks has been around for decades. Most ransomware attacks start with a phishing email. Prior to ransomware, most phishing emails captured account credentials that attackers then repurposed for spam attacks. But with the advent of ransomware, attackers found a more lucrative outlet for their “creative” ideas. Studies predict there will be a ransomware attack on businesses every 14 seconds by the end of 2019, and by 2021, it’s projected that attacks will increase to every 11 seconds.[2] Educating users not to click on phishing emails is more important than ever and is a critical first step in preventing ransomware attacks. But what is the most effective way to train users to avoid the 1.5 million new phishing sites that are created each month?[3] In addition to regular security awareness training that explains how to pick a strong password, companies should amend their training to include phishing awareness.

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Wednesday Wellness Sessions: How to Excel Under Pressure

By Stan Phelps

The human brain is the most powerful processor on the planet. It’s responsible for incredible advances in art, culture, and technology. Yet, at times, it can cause us to act like anything but a human being.

When we are exposed to a high enough level of pressure—for instance, when you find yourself in a tense negotiation with a client—the human brain loses its ability to distinguish between actual and perceived risk. This causes the most primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, to kick into high gear to protect you from an impending (though non-life-threatening) situation that it fears may kill you.

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Ten Tips for the Quarantined Lawyer

By John O’Neal

Good day Counselor. I hope this post finds you and yours safe and well in these unusual times. The COVID-19 pandemic has given most of us more free time than we have had in a long time.

While you definitely need to use some of the free time to recharge your battery and engage in some non-work activities, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to improve your practice.

Here are a few quick tips:

  1. Review your list of current clients. Make and execute decisions on some of the cases that you have not worked on in a while. Disengage from the cases you need to get out of and re-engage on the cases that you need to work on. Reconnect with the client if it has been a while since you have touched base. Assess statutes of limitations in all unfiled cases.
  2. In all of your litigation cases review your case management plan. If you do not have a case management plan create one and think through the steps needed to execute it. Discovery, motions, depositions, mediation, and establish timelines if appropriate. Also, devise estimated costs for the different phases and facets of the case, so you can better account for your time and fees as well as what it may cost your client for your handling of the case.
  3. Review your monthly expenditures and determine if you need to cut any items, add any items, or reassess some of the items on which you are currently spending.
  4. Go through your list of accounts receivable, aka clients who owe you money. Consider whether you need to provide deferrals, payment plans, reductions, or waivers. Assess the probability of receiving payment and then proceed accordingly.
  5. Think and rethink your current areas of practice. Is it time for you to disengage from certain areas of practice? Is it time for you to learn and undertake new areas of practice? Identify areas of practice in which there is a shortage of attorneys in your geographical area.Nowadays, you can use technology to broaden the geographical area that you service and cover. You can also use technology to obtain resources and content and relationships to help you learn new areas of practice and obtain mentorship and guidance as you begin handling new cases. Often, to get the connections, resources, information, and additional fresh perspectives for your cases and practice, you have to look nationally versus locally. For me, joining the National Association of Consumer Advocates is one of the best career moves I have made. I should have done it years earlier.Do not keep doing what everyone else is doing and pulling your hair out about how you will beat or keep up with the competition. To the contrary, think outside the box, do something different, fill the voids around you, and see the results. This is especially important for the new lawyer.
  6. Connect with some of your colleagues and your top referral sources. Identify your top clients and reach out to them directly with a card, phone call, or other means of communication.
  7. Review and update your website. Do not delegate or leave this task to someone else. You are the legal expert and should have the best idea as to what content is needed in the current legal marketplace of new clients. It is okay to have your web developer review your proposed edits but do not let the developer be solely responsible for the content on your site. And if you do not have a website, seriously look into getting one . . . and soon!
  8. Determine ways you can gain an edge on your competition. What are your strengths and unique selling propositions that can separate you from your competition? Also identify any current weaknesses or limitations that you can work on to better improve your standing in the marketplace.
  9. Find ways to give back. Mentor young lawyers. Be a resource for people who are interested in a legal career. Connect with your college or law school alumni association and take a leadership role. Donate money or time or resources to the community. Start a scholarship fund for high school students seeking to attend college or college students seeking to attend law school. Reach out to local organizations and groups as to how you can provide free consultations for workshops or resources/information to better educate them on their rights.
  10. Remember where you came from. If your family and friends and hometown provided you support that helped you to accomplish your goal of becoming a lawyer, think of ways you can reconnect and give back to say thanks. Remember that these people and institutions should represent your warm market and can often be the source of new clients and relationships that can really boost your practice.

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Loneliness in the Law

By Marc E. Gustafson

As we’re all adjusting to this new normal, I’m quickly realizing that practicing law from home certainly isn’t without its issues. There are the technological issues of not having your files immediately at your fingertips, the inconvenience of not having multiple screens to compare documents and the reality of one’s unflattering appearance on Zoom.

Then there’s the very real problem of wanting to eat everything in the house, not just because of its ready availability but also the urge that stress prompts. And if you’re like me, you have the added pressure of trying to homeschool two young boys that have been stuck inside for large parts of the day without their school friends to help them burn off their seemingly endless energy. But above all that, there’s the loneliness, which seems odd given the constant comings and goings of my family through my makeshift office in the dining room.

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Wednesday Wellness Sessions: Transforming the Way Attorneys Treat Themselves, Their Clients and the Law

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By Alicia Journey

In the face of a world-wide crisis and unprecedented uncertainty, panic and fear are the true pandemic. And as advisors we are asked to put our own problems on the back burner and focus on those of our clients. However, we must ask certain crucial questions before we become a casualty of an unforeseen warfare, that of the health and well-being of those in our profession.

As attorneys, are we allowed to feel as if we are on the front lines when a crisis hits, even though we are not on the ground as first responders? Are we given permission to feel the weight of the trauma that we see, hear and feel daily from our clients when tragedy strikes? Who gives us this permission? Our profession? Society? Ourselves?

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Slowing Down

By Marc E. Gustafson

I must admit this article began as a piece about slowing down to enjoy the holidays after I observed my almost five-year-old son napping on an airplane flying to see family. But then I thought about all the times I had heard someone (a preacher, a parent, an unsolicited stranger, a Hallmark commercial) extorting me to slow down, and I thought better of it.

Given that I was working on that flight, though, I started to think about ways I could slow down the practice of law, and maybe be a better lawyer for it.

Given the ever-present pressures of the billable hours (and the perennial jokes that go with earning a living in such a manner), it’s no surprise that lawyers are sensitive about time. We rush to draft closing documents, to serve discovery, to argue motions and to communicate with clients, colleagues and opposing counsel so that these tasks fit neatly into 1/10 of an hour increments.

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Checking In: Jan. 7, 2020

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By Sidney Shank

From left, Jeffrey Russell, Melissa Michaud, Colin Shive and Stephen Rawson.

Tharrington Smith Announces Four New Partners
Four associate attorneys—Melissa Michaud, Stephen Rawson, Jeffrey Russell, and Colin Shive—have been promoted to partners at Tharrington Smith in Raleigh. Michaud, Rawson, and Shive practice in the Education Law Section, and Russell practices in the Family Law Section.

Michaud has worked at Tharrington Smith since 2013, prior to which she taught middle school in eastern North Carolina through Teach for America. She holds a bachelor of arts in political science from Brown University and a juris doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rawson has worked at Tharrington Smith since 2013, prior to which he was a middle school science teacher in Kentucky. He holds a bachelor of science in physics and a juris doctorate from Duke University.

Russell has worked at Tharrington Smith since 2013 and is a board-certified specialist in Family Law. He holds a bachelor of arts in political science from Furman university and a juris doctorate, magna cum laude, from Campbell University.

Shive has worked at Tharrington Smith since 2012, prior to which he clerked for the Honorable William Osteen, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. He holds a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Clemson University and a juris doctorate with high honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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