Helping People Find You With Google My Business

By Brian Craig

Have you ever been searching for something online, and used the search query “near me” or added your city to what you’re searching for? If so, you’re not alone. Recent studies have shown that almost 50% of Google searches have local intent—that is to say, the searcher is looking for a business or service geographically nearby.

Based on that stat, it’s not hard to understand why law firms are paying special attention to Local SEO recently. As most searches are done through Google, we pay the most attention to Google’s service for local search, which is called Google My Business.

Especially in the current environment with COVID-19, Google My Business is critical to helping your firm communicate with clients.

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Does Your Law Firm Disaster Plan Include a Pandemic?

By Pegeen Turner

For years, I have preached about disaster planning for law firms. When I am performing an audit for a firm, I always ask about a Disaster Recovery Plan, and many times the answer is a blank stare.

In North Carolina, Disaster Recovery Plans usually include things related to hurricanes and other natural disasters, but should we also be planning for a pandemic? With the spread of the coronavirus increasing around the world and the CDC admitting that a spread is likely in the U.S., now is the time to consider brushing off your plan and reviewing it.

Most disaster recovery plans include servers going down and a lack of internet, phones and other basics necessities of business and life. But what happens if that office is a hotbed of illness, and your firm decides (or it is decided for you) to send everyone home for a month in order to stop the spread of the virus? Will your office survive the disruption that this will inevitably cause? Are you prepared? It is time to look at what your options are right now.

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DIY Marketing Plan Challenge

By Crystal L. Mathew

An ugly truth of private practice, especially in a small or solo firm, is that marketing is a must. You might argue that you didn’t graduate cum laude from law school to hang out at cocktail parties and write blogs, but if you don’t take steps to promote yourself, no one will. The good news is that with a little guidance, focus, and discipline, you should start to gain clients, work on more interesting cases, and enjoy a thriving practice in less time than you think. Below are some simple steps to put together a relatively painless individual marketing plan that you intend to accomplish over the next 6 months.

Define Your Practice

I meet many lawyers from solo or small firms, whose strategy is to take any business that comes in the door. One week, a lawyer wants to put up a billboard targeting traffic tickets, while the next week, that same lawyer wants to hold estate planning seminars at the local Ruth’s Chris. While billboards and seminars can be perfectly fine strategies if executed correctly, you must be consistent in your messaging and marketing to successfully grow your practice. Forcing yourself to clearly define your practice and narrow your focus is going to help you gain expertise and credibility, and create lasting relationships resulting in more lucrative work. While you may be qualified and willing to do multiple types of law, I recommend focusing on marketing one practice area at a time.

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Small Firm Accelerator

Small Firm Accelerator offers education and networking opportunities to members of the Small Firm & Technology Section. Formerly called Starting out Solo, we have changed the name to Small Firm Accelerator to appeal to a larger group of members and offer a higher level of accessibility to our programming and events.

If you are part of a small firm or solo firm, just passed the Bar, or have been practicing for 5, 10, or 20 years and want to evolve your practice, you can benefit from the Small Firm Accelerator content and networking opportunities.  Topics include practice management, marketing, and technology.

The Small Firm & Technology Section serves members from across the state, but we realize that it is not always reasonable to travel to the live presentations and events held at the North Carolina Bar Center in Cary. To maximize the benefit to all our members, we will be live streaming and recording the live events at the North Carolina Bar Center making that content available under the Small Firm Accelerator section on the NCBA Small Firm & Technology webpage. We also encourage member firms to hold regional meetings across the state to broadcast the presentations and host networking events.  With your NCBA Small Firm & Technology Section membership, you can access these presentations at your own convenience by logging in to your NCBA account on the website.

For more information on upcoming events and newly posted content, visit https://www.ncbar.org/members/sections/small-firm-technology/.

Enduring Tedium: The Future of Fights Over Electronically Stored Information

Photo by Markus Spiske/temporausch.com from Pexels

By Sean F. Herrmann

“Seeking justice often involves enduring tedium.” It’s fitting that North Carolina’s first substantive legal decision on eDiscovery begins with this pithy observation. Employment litigators often lament the virtual hellscape of discovering electronically stored information (“ESI”). But the era when paper was king is long dead, and the fight is now firmly in the cyber world of custodians, native formats, and keyword searches.

For those in federal court, at least rules and precedent exist to help guide them through the dark ESI forest (especially those that find themselves before Chief Judge Frank Whitney in the Western District of North Carolina). North Carolina state court practitioners haven’t been so lucky. That is until this week. On Aug. 6, 2019, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued its first substantive decision on ESI in Crosmun v. Trustees of Fayetteville Technical Cmty. Coll. (No. COA18-1054). Judge Lucy Inman, who authored the opinion, put it well: “This appeal presents this Court with our first opportunity to address the contours of eDiscovery within the context of North Carolina common and statutory law regarding the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine.” The Court ultimately reversed the trial court’s order granting Plaintiffs’ forensic expert direct access to Defendants’ ESI, but the way the Court got there and its recommendations on remand are far more important than the holding itself.

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Hello SFT Members!

By Ashley Felton

For those of you who are new to this section, welcome! I am delighted to serve as your Chair for the upcoming fiscal year.  Following Matt Van Sickle’s and Pegeen Turner’s leadership from the last two years, I hope to continue to grow our section and add value for our members.  Our Committees are working diligently to provide content to the section for the upcoming year, as well as plan networking and CLE events.  With the NCBA’s new pricing structure allowing members to choose one free section, I am hoping we can attract new SFT members, which will hopefully bolster our presence as a section within the larger organization.  This section truly serves the needs of its members so to the extent you have suggestions or ideas, please let me know.

Our first networking event will take place on September 12, 2019 from 4:30p – 6:00p at Der Biergarten.  This event will follow our first SFT Council meeting of the fiscal year.  If you are interested in serving on one of the SFT Committees, please submit a form on our Section page.  Such Committees include:

  • CLE – led by Riana Smith
  • Communications/Blog – led by Deirdre Stephenson
  • Legislative/Ethics – led by Seth Barefoot and John Szymankiewicz
  • Membership – led by Alicia Lewis and Josh Kalish
  • Technology – led by Sarah Wesley Weaton

The SFT Committee Chairs have fantastic ideas brewing so the more the merrier!

As ideas develop and more events are planned, I will be sure to update you.  In the meantime, I encourage everyone to attend the networking event on September 12 to enjoy great food, drink, and even better company!

On behalf of myself and the remaining SFT officers, we thank you for your membership and hope to meet you soon!

Sincerely,

Ashley Felton, Chair
NCBA Small Firm & Technology Section 2019-2020

 

Enduring Tedium: The Future of Fights Over Electronically Stored Information

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By Sean F. Herrmann

“Seeking justice often involves enduring tedium.” It’s fitting that North Carolina’s first substantive legal decision on eDiscovery begins with this pithy observation. Employment litigators often lament the virtual hellscape of discovering electronically stored information (“ESI”). But the era when paper was king is long dead, and the fight is now firmly in the cyber world of custodians, native formats, and keyword searches.

For those in federal court, at least rules and precedent exist to help guide them through the dark ESI forest (especially those that find themselves before Chief Judge Frank Whitney in the Western District of North Carolina). North Carolina state court practitioners haven’t been so lucky. That is until this week. On Aug. 6, 2019, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued its first substantive decision on ESI in Crosmun v. Trustees of Fayetteville Technical Cmty. Coll. (No. COA18-1054). Judge Lucy Inman, who authored the opinion, put it well: “This appeal presents this Court with our first opportunity to address the contours of eDiscovery within the context of North Carolina common and statutory law regarding the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine.” The Court ultimately reversed the trial court’s order granting Plaintiffs’ forensic expert direct access to Defendants’ ESI, but the way the Court got there and its recommendations on remand are far more important than the holding itself.

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Going Paperless: How Long Should I Keep Client Files?

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By Jared Pierce

I would be lying if I said that going paperless was easy. Making the journey to a mostly digital office has been troubling in so many ways that one article would not be enough to cover the multitude of ways that my staff and I have been inconvenienced. However, of the many issues and concerns we have experienced along the way, none compare to the knee-shaking anxiety of creating a paperless practice while trying to steer clear of violating the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct.

Going paperless sounds fun and exciting, but the most significant misconception, in my opinion, is evaluating how much paper you have gathered over the years. Every file, intake form, retainer, background check, medical record and medical bill adds up to a verifiable mountain of paper. However, when we began discussing the need to go paperless we didn’t just sit down and create a rough outline; we spent time planning for success.

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A Day In the Life Of a Beer Lawyer

By John Szymankiewicz

Me: I’ve got the coolest job ever. I’m a beer lawyer.

Literally Anyone Else in the World: Wow! That is really cool. Uh, so, er, what do you do? DWIs?

Sorry, nope. Keep your “alleged” criminal charges to yourself. I don’t do “DWIs.” In fact, I try really hard not to do any litigation at all. My practice is almost entirely transactional and, as I tell my clients, my job is to keep you in compliance and out of the courtroom. So, what do I do? Well …

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What You and Your Employees Need to Know About Phishing Attacks

By Chris Michalec

Phishing is just one of many tools in a cyber hacker’s repertoire and it happens to be one of their most effective.  Through phishing, hackers dangle their bait in front of preoccupied employees who would never dream that their PC could provide an open door for a hacker.  That’s why it is so important that employees understand how phishing works, how costly it can be, and what they can do to avoid letting themselves become an unwitting accomplice to a hacker’s attack on their company.

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