Lawyerist.com: A CLE presenter is born

Recently, I noted on a listserv that one of the cheapest ways to get CLE credits and market oneself at the same time is to teach CLEs. In Minnesota, presenters can receive credit for the time spent preparing the seminar, plus the organizers usually let the presenters attend the rest of the program for free.

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A CLE presenter is born

CLE Teaching11 A CLE presenter is bornRecently, I noted on a listserv that one of the cheapest ways to get CLE credits and market oneself at the same time is to teach CLEs. In Minnesota, presenters can receive credit for the time spent preparing the seminar, plus the organizers usually let the presenters attend the rest of the program for free.

But in response to my listserv post, someone asked me a simple question: how exactly does one become a CLE presenter?

Although it may help to have stunning good looks, that could not be the explanation in my case. But I did begin presenting CLEs just a few years after I graduated from law school, long before I really knew anything.  I spend a lot of time talking with CLE providers and coming up with CLE ideas. So here are some tips for getting up to the podium:

Start small

Look around for county or state bar section meetings. Many of these sections try to serve their members by offering free or low cost CLEs. The section chairs are often volunteers themselves and they are always looking for volunteer presenters and interesting topics. Call or e-mail them to say you have noticed that the section hosts CLEs and that you would like to get on their schedule for a future meeting.

Bank on basics

You don’t have to be the leading expert in the state to deliver an effective CLE, especially if you are talking to folks outside your practice area. “7 Things Every Family Law Attorney Should Know About Real Estate� and “9 ½ Things Every Real Estate Attorney Should Know About Family Law� are very popular CLE topics (for the family law attorneys and real estate attorneys, respectively). The more lawyers specialize, the more cross-fertilization will make for good CLEs.

Offer to organize

In Minnesota, many CLEs have volunteer planning committees that develop particular programs.  When you attend a program in your practice area, find the organizer, volunteer to work on next year’s program, and put an item on your calendar to follow up in a few months (it would help, of course, to come up with some clever ideas for new seminars). Working on the planning committee often leads to serving on a panel or presenting a topic on the day of the program.

Volunteer vigorously

When a group of lawyers spends enough time together, eventually they decide to run a CLE, either in connection with a fundraiser (which is becoming more common) or to raise awareness for a pro bono cause  or for their own marketing purposes. Volunteer for bar committees or pro bono legal clinics or the like, and CLE opportunities may come along.

Get glib

Are you passionate about your area of practice? Are you willing to answer people’s questions? Do you have time to help out your fellow lawyers?  People who seem to know what they are talking about -through magazine articles, website and blog posts, listserv responses, etc.- get noticed, which can lead to CLE invitations. Speak up (but be humble).

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice, practice, practice. Once you get a CLE gig, do not forget to prepare a useful set of materials for the audience and put together a compelling talk. Remember some essential speaking elements: do not read your materials to the audience, tell war stories only to make a specific point, use humor carefully, and stay focussed on your outline. If speaking does not come naturally to you, practice beforehand.

If none of that works, find someone you know who presents CLEs frequently and ask them to show you the secret handshake.

lawyeristlab banner A CLE presenter is born

A CLE presenter is born is a post from the law firm marketing blog, Lawyerist.com

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Lawyerist.com: Facebook ethics: it’s not about Facebook

There is a good deal of postulating in the blogosphere about the types of ethical trouble a lawyer can get into by using social media. The nattering nabobs of negativism warn us to be careful when using social media like Facebook or Twitter, lest we unwittingly disclose client confidences, improperly solicit new clients, or misrepresent facts or law.

Read this article over at Lawyerist.com >

Facebook ethics: it’s not about Facebook

facebook11 Facebook ethics: it’s not about FacebookThere is a good deal of postulating in the blogosphere about the types of ethical trouble a lawyer can get into by using social media. The nattering nabobs of negativism warn us to be careful when using social media like Facebook or Twitter, lest we unwittingly disclose client confidences, improperly solicit new clients, or misrepresent facts or law.

Although there is precious little evidence that any lawyers have gotten themselves in ethical hot water using social media, the Philadelphia Bar Association recently gave its own example of the potential dangers when its Professional Guidance Committee issued Opinion 2009-02 (March 2009).

The premise for the opinion is straightforward: a lawyer wanted to know if he could have a non-lawyer assistant send a Facebook “friendâ€� request to a witness for the opposing party in a piece of litigation. The lawyer apparently thought there were juicy tidbits to be found on the witness’s Facebook  page (or at least information with impeachment value) but did not think the witness would accept a friend request directly from the lawyer (no surprise there—he had just recently taken her deposition). But the lawyer thought a friend request from an otherwise unknown assistant stood a good chance of being accepted.

The Philly opinion frowned on the lawyer’s proposal. It called it a “highly material fact� that the witness would be making a friend request without disclosing the real reason for the request. Inducing the witness to respond favorably without that important fact would be a deception traceable to the lawyer, violating several ethics rules.

Whether one agrees with the opinion or not ( I did a double-take the first time I read it), the opinion is not really about Facebook. It actually tackles a difficult subject in legal ethics known as “dissembling� or “pretexting� (which has nothing to do with sending text messages). The terms refer to situations in which a person, particularly a lawyer or the lawyer’s subordinate, pretends to be someone he or she is not for the purpose of obtaining information.

As noted in the Philly opinion, such conduct is permitted in many jurisdictions for the limited purposes of civil rights investigations (think fair-housing testers) or for patent infringement cases. Some jurisdictions, in contrast, have tried to outlaw pretexting entirely (see the authorities cited in the Philly bar opinion).

When one takes a step back from the Philly opinion and looks at it in the context of the larger legal issue, it becomes clearer that while it is certainly possible for a lawyer to violate an ethics rule while using social media, it is the lawyer’s conduct, not the medium, that will likely be at the heart of the issue. An unthinking lawyer who posts too quickly on Facebook or Twitter is not that unlike a lawyer who speaks too loudly about a client matter in a crowded elevator or puts an ad in the yellow pages that inflates the lawyer’s credentials.

The old maxim that one should think before he or she speaks (or tweets) applies no less to the internet than it applies to other forms of communication.

If you are new to social networking, check out our Facebook 101 post.

lawyeristlab banner Facebook ethics: it’s not about Facebook

Facebook ethics: it’s not about Facebook is a post from the law firm marketing blog, Lawyerist.com

 

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Facebook ethics: it’s not about Facebook

facebook11 Facebook ethics: it’s not about FacebookThere is a good deal of postulating in the blogosphere about the types of ethical trouble a lawyer can get into by using social media. The nattering nabobs of negativism warn us to be careful when using social media like Facebook or Twitter, lest we unwittingly disclose client confidences, improperly solicit new clients, or misrepresent facts or law.

Although there is precious little evidence that any lawyers have gotten themselves in ethical hot water using social media, the Philadelphia Bar Association recently gave its own example of the potential dangers when its Professional Guidance Committee issued Opinion 2009-02 (March 2009).

The premise for the opinion is straightforward: a lawyer wanted to know if he could have a non-lawyer assistant send a Facebook “friendâ€� request to a witness for the opposing party in a piece of litigation. The lawyer apparently thought there were juicy tidbits to be found on the witness’s Facebook  page (or at least information with impeachment value) but did not think the witness would accept a friend request directly from the lawyer (no surprise there—he had just recently taken her deposition). But the lawyer thought a friend request from an otherwise unknown assistant stood a good chance of being accepted.

The Philly opinion frowned on the lawyer’s proposal. It called it a “highly material fact� that the witness would be making a friend request without disclosing the real reason for the request. Inducing the witness to respond favorably without that important fact would be a deception traceable to the lawyer, violating several ethics rules.

Whether one agrees with the opinion or not ( I did a double-take the first time I read it), the opinion is not really about Facebook. It actually tackles a difficult subject in legal ethics known as “dissembling� or “pretexting� (which has nothing to do with sending text messages). The terms refer to situations in which a person, particularly a lawyer or the lawyer’s subordinate, pretends to be someone he or she is not for the purpose of obtaining information.

As noted in the Philly opinion, such conduct is permitted in many jurisdictions for the limited purposes of civil rights investigations (think fair-housing testers) or for patent infringement cases. Some jurisdictions, in contrast, have tried to outlaw pretexting entirely (see the authorities cited in the Philly bar opinion).

When one takes a step back from the Philly opinion and looks at it in the context of the larger legal issue, it becomes clearer that while it is certainly possible for a lawyer to violate an ethics rule while using social media, it is the lawyer’s conduct, not the medium, that will likely be at the heart of the issue. An unthinking lawyer who posts too quickly on Facebook or Twitter is not that unlike a lawyer who speaks too loudly about a client matter in a crowded elevator or puts an ad in the yellow pages that inflates the lawyer’s credentials.

The old maxim that one should think before he or she speaks (or tweets) applies no less to the internet than it applies to other forms of communication.

If you are new to social networking, check out our Facebook 101 post.

lawyeristlab banner Facebook ethics: it’s not about Facebook

Facebook ethics: it’s not about Facebook is a post from the law firm marketing blog, Lawyerist.com

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Lawyerist.com: Your honor, I move to strike

For the most part, rude or obnoxious behavior between attorneys does not result in an ethics violation. But sometimes, lawyers can just go too far. An excerpt from the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Decision in In re Greenburg (May 5, 2009): “During the hearing, Mr. Greenburg suggested that…

Read this article over at Lawyerist.com >

Your honor, I move to strike

Kids with tongues out11 Your honor, I move to strikeFor the most part, rude or obnoxious behavior between attorneys does not result in an ethics violation. But sometimes, lawyers can just go too far. An excerpt from the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Decision in In re Greenburg (May 5, 2009):

“During the hearing, Mr. Greenburg suggested that “some hanky-panky� on the part of Mr. Lewis might well justify an award of attorney’s fees to Mr. Greenburg’s client. The following exchange then occurred:

Mr. Lewis: Here we go again, Your Honor, the former D.A. is always suspect—
Mr. Greenburg: Your Honor, I’m going to object right now—
Mr. Lewis: —or somebody . . . the law—
The Court: Gentlemen, quiet.
Mr. Greenburg: —and ask that this jackass—
The Court: Gentlemen, quiet. Quiet, gentlemen.
Mr. Greenburg: —quit bringing up anything—
Mr. Lewis: Jackass?
Mr. Greenburg: Jackass.
Mr. Lewis: Your mother is a jackass.
The Court: Hey, hey, hey. All right, y’all are both in contempt.

“Following the exchange of profanities, Mr. Greenburg grabbed Mr. Lewis’ suit jacket and both men fell to the floor.“

In addition to each being cited for contempt, Greenburg was convicted of  battery against Lewis. The Court suspended Greenburg for a year and Lewis for six months, although all but 30 days of Lewis’ suspension was stayed.

So remember, when you’re arguing with opposing counsel, leave his or her mother out of it.

lawyeristlab banner Your honor, I move to strike

Your honor, I move to strike is a post from the law firm marketing blog, Lawyerist.com

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