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?


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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Giving the People What They Want: The Ability To Contact Their Lawyer Even When You Aren’t At Your Desk

By Samantha Duncan

My clients have the ability to get a hold of me on the telephone, even when I’m not at my desk. Furthermore, they can even contact me when I am not even in the office. However, this does not mean that I have succumbed to breaking my golden rule of never willingly giving out my personal cell phone number to my clients. Instead, my firm uses a cloud-based phone system called RingCentral.

RingCentral allows us to access our office lines through our cell phones through the company’s app which is available for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS systems. RingCentral is not the only cloud-based phone system on the market, there are many competitors such as Grasshopper, Vonage, Nextiva, and more. These systems also give you the ability to text message your clients using your office telephone number through the app so that you do not have to break my golden rule mentioned above. Talking on the phone with a client and text messaging a client is not the only benefit of these systems, as they also allow you to fax documents over your firm’s internet connection. Bottom line is, these systems allow you to be at your “desk” in your bed, in your car, at the courthouse, or anywhere else that you are able to access the internet.

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Turning On Two-Factor Authentication for Office 365

By Pegeen Turner

In the age of technology, stolen identities, compromised credit cards and all things online, technology companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and others are trying to help us. These companies have come to recognize that they cannot force their users to use strong passwords and change them frequently.

Welcome to two-factor authentication.

You may have heard the term two-factor authentication and you may know it has something to do with security. It is also referred to as two-step or multi-step verification or authentication. You may even be using it if you bank online, use an Apple ID and any number of other places you access online. Two-factor authentication comes in many forms including a text message, a secondary question about when you were married or your pets name or a prompt to say YES on your phone.

What is two-factor authentication?

Some of you have probably heard about the concept but aren’t quite sure what it is and if you need it. Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security to make sure that you are the only person who can access your online account, even if someone knows your password. It is a security feature that is available on most cloud-based programs that law firm use today including Office 365, G-Suite for Business (or Gmail), Dropbox for Business, Box.com, almost every cloud-based practice management, and document management system geared for law firms today.

Two-factor authentication will (as Google describes it) “Help keep the bad guys out of your account by using both your password and your phone.”  The process forces you to identify yourself by not only a username and password but also something that is in your physical possession, like a cell phone (that is the two-factor part).

Should I use two-factor authentication?

In short, you need it – wherever you can get it. No matter what type of account that you are using, if it has two-factor authentication, turn it on.

How do I use two-factor authentication?

The name says it all. You need two different ways (two factors) to confirm access to your account – your password and another device that you use, typically, your cell phone. The process is similar no matter which program you are setting up. Here are the basic steps:

Set up two-factor authentication. The program will walk you through the setup process and send a test message via text or phone to your cell phone.

Turn on two-factor authentication. Once the test process is complete, the program will help you turn on two-factor authentication.

Use two-factor authentication. By accessing your online account, you will be prompted for your username (email address) and password as normal. After entering the password, a secondary prompt will ask you for a response with a code, or a prompt or whatever authentication method you choose in Step #1.

Setting up two-factor authentication for Office 365

With the popularity of Office 365 and online email access, security should be a top concern for all law firms. The steps below outline the steps necessary to set up two-factor authentication (called multi-factor authentication by Microsoft) for Office 365.

If you are the Office 365 administrator, you can use the instructions here to turn on multi-factor authentication, then follow the steps below:

a. If you have Outlook open on your local computer, close Outlook.

b. Check whether your Office 365 admin has turned on multi-factor authentication for your account. If they haven’t, when you try to do these steps you won’t see the options in Office 365.

c. Log into your Office 365 email account by going to outlook.office365.com.

d. With the two-step authentication turned on, you will be prompted to “Set it up now”. Choose Set it up now.

e. How should we contact you?

a. Choose authentication phone.

b. If your prepopulated cell phone number is not correct, please put in the correct phone number.

c. Choose to “Send me a code by text message” or “Call me.” Choose whichever is more convenient for you.

d. Choose Next and Microsoft with call you or text you for verification.

Setting up an app password

Some older versions of Outlook and Apple Mail on iOS devices will require a secondary password called an app password. The steps below will help you generate your app password.

a. After verifying your contact method, a screen will appear to generate the app password.

b. Choose the copy icon to copy this password to your Clipboard.

c. If you already have Outlook on your computer, open Outlook.

d. Paste the app password in the password field.

e. Choose OK and Outlook will open as normal.
f. You are done!

NOTE: After adding two-step authentication to your Office 365 account, depending on the make and model of your cell phone, it will either prompt you to log into your Office 365 account (and prompted for a code) or use the app password above for your new phone password.

Next steps

The next time you log in to Office 365 online, you will see the two-step authentication kick in. You will be prompted to enter the code that was sent to you via text message, phone call, etc.  Enter the code you receive in the text message in the field below and choose Sign In.

With that, you will be well on your way to securing your email from “the Bad Guys.” Your email and all your client confidential email messages will now be more secure with two-factor authentication set up. Enjoy the peace of mind knowing your data is safe and sound.

Post-Project Review: How Lawyers Can Leverage Mistakes


By Alicia Mitchell-Mercer

Mistakes happen. They happen to brand new attorneys. They happen to attorneys who have been practicing for 30 years. Fear of reprisal can cause competent lawyers to correct and brush those mistakes under the rug so quickly that they do not take time to learn from them. They are a fact of law practice because, despite public opinion, lawyers are human. Instead of dismissing those opportunities for improvement, what if you could find a way to leverage those mistakes and make them work for you instead of against you?


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The Newest Forms Of Ransomware and How To Protect Your Business From Them

By Chris Michalec

This article details how dangerous ransomware is, how it could harm your business, and what you should do to protect your data.

The Situation

Ransomware is now one of the top security concerns for businesses and organizations of all sizes. For example, the City of Atlanta was recently hit with a ransomware attack called SamSam. SamSam crippled some important departments like Atlanta’s court system, their sewer infrastructure requests, and their water billing department.

The attackers who deploy SamSam are known for clever, high-yield approaches. This, combined with the City’s lack of preparedness, explains why the infection was so debilitating.

Experts are telling us that SamSam will strike again. Unlike many forms of ransomware that spread via phishing attacks where individuals inadvertently invite the attack, SamSam exploits IT system vulnerabilities and cracks weak passwords. These ransomware attackers have made $1 million in less than six months.

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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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Five Content Marketing Methods That Go Beyond Blogging

By Alexandra Davis

When people hear the term “content marketing,” they immediately think of blogging. For most busy lawyers, the prospect of fitting blogging into an already packed schedule is daunting: How many topics can possibly fill a 1,000-word blog post? How can you keep your content interesting before the well runs dry? And, above all, how are you supposed to make time to keep up with your online presence when you already have a full plate?

Although blogging is indeed a highly effective content marketing method, it’s not the only one. In fact, the concept of content marketing long predates blogs. Today, it takes on a sundry of shapes and forms.

What is so beneficial about content marketing is that it allows ample room for creativity and innovation. At the heart of content marketing is telling a compelling story; the medium you choose in which to do this means little. What matters most is the content that fills the pages, the impact it has on your customers, and the relationships it ultimately cultivates.

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