September 17, 2014 by Dave Moore at 12:00:00 am Energy Future Holdings Reorg Takes a Twist
There’s no doubt that prearranged bankruptcies have become popular in the realm of corporate reorganizations. There are plenty of reasons: many key players are incorporated into the process of settling debt issues; they’re much quicker and (as a result) less expensive than traditional bankruptcies; and the company can continue to operate throughout the process.
But, as Dallas bankruptcy attorney Rakhee Patel wrote (paywall-protected link here) recently for Texas Lawbook, something unanticipated happened in the prearranged bankruptcy planned for Energy Future Holdings (EFH) and its subsidiaries:From the start of the bankruptcy process, one of EFH’s main goals has been a tax-free spinoff of its TXU Energy division. However, an unexpected wrinkle arose when a competitive bidding war emerged relating in part to the Oncor division, resulting in EFH potentially having more value than initially thought.
Patel, a partner in the restructuring and bankruptcy section of Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton, LLP, indicates that the increased value of the Oncor division effectively nixed the prearranged bankruptcy planned for Energy Future Holdings, very likely increasing the length and expense of the bankruptcy.
The gain in Oncor’s value in the EFH reorganization might reinforce the maxim: Good things come to those who wait.
August 1, 2014 by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:00:00 am Q&A with Bruce Vincent
What do reporters understand least about lawyers?
Lawyers often ignore deadlines that aren’t dictated by a court, which can infuriate reporters who make their living by meeting countless deadlines on a daily basis. That can create a dynamic where a deadline-efficient reporter becomes frustrated or upset with a lawyer when they do not get a reply in time to meet their deadline. Although work on a last-minute filing may preclude you from taking a call from your own mother, reporters still will be perplexed by why you can’t take their call. That is why it is so important to make sure and respond to a reporter’s request, even if it is to tell them that you’re too busy to comment. Making this small gesture has preserved many reporter/lawyer relationships that could have turned sour in the absence of a response.
What is the top thing you find that lawyers don’t understand about reporters?
With today’s Internet deadlines, reporters literally don’t have an idle minute. If a reporter takes the time to sit down with you to discuss a case, that means they want to cut to the chase quickly with as few extraneous details as possible. Reporters are no longer willing to spend an entire afternoon interacting with a lawyer-source for a story. That’s why you should be able to provide the most important facts and state your position within the first few minutes of an interview. If it is clear that the reporter has time, then that is when it’s appropriate to include the related details.
What has been the biggest attitude shift you’ve seen by law firms in their approach to media relations during the past decade?
The era of “no comment” for law firms is largely a thing of the past. When The American Lawyer magazine began publishing its annual listing of law firm revenue, plenty of firms opted not to participate only to later discover that an anonymous firm member had surreptitiously turned over the firm’s financial numbers, or, worse, delivered incorrect information. That spurred many firms to opt in during the years that followed, which improved the reporting and provided a better picture of the firms overall. The cooperation between law firms and the media that began with AmLaw’s firm finance list has grown exponentially ever since, and now firms have entire marketing teams devoted to interacting with the media.
What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to writing, grammar and punctuation?
Writing that buries the most important points deep within the overall text is a common mistake, even for lawyers who are trained to frame their issue initially before getting into the facts. Much like the interview process, writing should grab readers quickly and include the details later. In terms of grammar, the useless and practically meaningless word “moreover” is on my Top 10 Don’t Do list. “Moreover” is defined as “in addition to what has been said.” Based on that definition, “moreover” could be used to begin every sentence after the opening line in any document ever written, which is ridiculous. Also, text messaging and social media have led many people who know better to butcher the rules of punctuation in their emails, letters to clients and other communications. If it’s worth writing down, then it’s worth punctuating correctly. We all make mistakes, but I’ve always remembered this solemn warning from my college writing professor: “People judge you by what you write, fair or not, and they never lose that first impression no matter what you do afterward.”
Can you recall one or two examples of working with Androvett clients that you found the most rewarding, fulfilling or just fun? The most fulfilling part of my job comes when I can help a lawyer or law firm overturn negative perceptions about their case or their client. I’ve found that the “common knowledge” often isn’t common or knowledge, but rather the result of a spin from the opposing party that simply hasn’t been addressed effectively. In terms of rewarding efforts, I have to say that working with the good people at Dublin Bottling Works tops the list. They eventually lost an ugly partnership dispute with Dr Pepper Snapple, but we helped raise awareness of the legal battle and promoted Dublin Bottling Works’ plans to continue its operations, which allowed us to play a small part in successfully re-launching the company as a non-Dr Pepper entity. I hope more and more people discover that Dublin is still bottling the world’s best sodas today.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I may well have become a school teacher but for a third-grader I was monitoring as part of an elementary education class in college. I had a date to a basketball game that was scheduled to start shortly after the class, so I wore a new shirt. Unfortunately, the student apparently thought the shirt would benefit from a swipe of orange watercolor paint. I wore the now-ruined shirt to pick up my date, and noticed one of her roommates reviewing the same textbook from a journalism course I’d completed the previous semester. I commented that the professor was tough, and she agreed, telling me “He says he’s only had one student who understood journalism in the 30 years he’s taught this class.” Trying to make a joke, I told her that it was probably me. The roommate, who I hadn’t met before, replied: “I doubt it. He said it was some guy named Bruce Vincent.” I switched my major to journalism the next semester.
July 15, 2014 by Dave Moore at 12:00:00 am High court tackles patent innovations
One in seven people worldwide use Microsoft Office. Civilized free time is dominated by Netflix and Facebook. Many of our communications depend on smartphones.
Since modern society leans so heavily on software that operates those and other technological wonders, many had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would define what sort of software deserves legal patent protection when it decided Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank.
To some degree, it did just that.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling … confirms that United States patent laws will continue to protect investors who create truly innovative software,” Dallas patent litigation attorney Adam Sanderson told Texas Lawbook’s Jeff Bounds recently. In the case of Alice Corp., however, the Supreme Court determined that abstract ideas aren’t patentable, even if they involve the use of computers to help apply them. However, the court stopped short of defining what is patentable.
“Software presents a special challenge to courts because it has not always been easy to recognize when a software engineer has done enough to ‘transform’ a mere idea into a new and useful invention,” Sanderson, a partner at Dallas-based Reese Gordon Marketos, told Lawbook.
Since the question of what’s a truly innovative patent has yet to be answered, it’s likely the Supreme Court will face the question again.
May 23, 2014 by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:00:00 am Q&A with Pat Rafferty
What’s the best thing about your job?I work with smart people, and every day is different because we work with a variety of lawyers and law firms. No two projects are alike because every firm has different practice areas and cultures, which makes it fun. Our challenge is to identify what makes each firm special and parlay that into something that can be branded and communicated to the desired target audience(s).How have you seen the legal profession change in the 20+ years you’ve been working with lawyers and law firms?I worked for Texas Lawyer newspaper in the early 90s when few firms were advertising, and those that did ran “tombstone” ads only. Eventually, law firms evolved and began full-blown branding campaigns, especially in print publications. That was about the time when this thing called the Internet came about and changed everything. The fax machine, annual reports and printed tombstone cards were replaced by email, websites, video and online/digital marketing. Law firms began to realize that a website is both a virtual lobby and the most important item in their marketing tool belt. Today, firms have multiple blogs, microsites for various practice areas, and social media initiatives to communicate with various audiences.What do you wish most lawyers knew about advertising?Advertising is most effective when you can define your primary target audience, focus on one core message, and repeat that message over and over again. Don’t try to fill the ad space with too much information or it will become a cluttered mess that no one wants to read. You have only a couple of seconds to capture a reader’s attention before they turn the page. Ask yourself the crucial question: What is the one thing you want the reader to know?What’s the most important thing lawyers and law firms need to know about the Advertising Review process?There are many ways for attorneys to disseminate information about their legal services that fall outside the filing requirements established by the State Bar of Texas and its Advertising Review Committee. While some communications are exempt from filing, one must always comply with the attorney advertising rules. All attorney communications are covered under R. 7.02. The related rules prohibit false, misleading and deceptive statements regardless of whether the communication is being made to the public or lawyer-to-lawyer. It’s really all about the content rather than the tools used to disseminate the information (print, digital, online). Remember, the rules do not emphasize the means by which attorneys spread the word about their legal services, regardless of whether it is via an electronic or non-electronic avenue. The rules operate to protect the public.What is something most people don’t know about you?I am a member of the State Bar’s Advertising Review Committee. In my free time, I enjoy coaching and I’m a sucker when it comes to watching football and baseball games, especially youth teams. Sometimes, I’ll stop by a field and watch teams play even when my own kids aren’t involved.
May 13, 2014 by Robert Tharp at 3:15:00 pm Comedian Takes Patent Troll Lawsuit Standing Up
Popular comedian and top-rated iTunes podcaster Adam Carolla is going on the offensive to defend himself in a suit filed against him in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas by so-called patent troll Personal Audio Inc. The company claims Carolla is infringing its patent for podcasting technology. But Carolla says he will not settle, and he’s calling on crowd funding to raise money for his defense.
Writes Inside Counsel:
James Logan, founder of PersonalAudio, claims he has never made a podcast, but has helped create the medium of podcasting in 1996 – and he has the patents to prove it. According to USA Today, in a legal battle, PersonalAudio is suing comedian Carolla's ACE Broadcasting, two other podcasters and networks Fox, CBS and NBC, claiming they are infringing on his intellectual property. According to The Economist, PersonalAudio once owned a patent on customized cassette tapes with current news. It updated that patent in 2009 to cover any serialized podcast that can be downloaded from a specific URL.
Before the trial begins in September, Carolla is raising money for legal fees against patent trolls. According to Carolla, he needs $1.5 million to face PersonalAudio in an East Texas courtroom that has been favored by patent litigants. So far, Carolla has pulled in just over $370,000 on the Fundanything.com, including a $20,000 donation from e-commerce giant Amazon.
“Carolla argues that Personal Audio is not a legitimate patent owner enforcing its ‘technology ownership rights’ but rather an entity formed for no redeeming industry purpose with no intention to ever manufacture or market the patented invention,” says intellectual property attorney William Munck of Dallas’ Munck Wilson Mandala. “Carolla’s argument strikes a nerve because what he argues Personal Audio is doing feels un-American. The U.S. patent system is broken. The Patent and Trademark Office issues too many fundamentally flawed patents that years later place tremendous financial burdens on U.S. businesses defending against cost-of-defense patent trolls.”
April 22, 2014 by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 6:00:00 am Androvett Is Hiring
DIGITAL MARKETING PROJECT MANAGER JOB DESCRIPTION
The Digital Marketing Project Manager will work collaboratively as a member of the Ad/Marketing team to plan, oversee and execute various digital projects and services for clients. The Digital Marketing Project Manager position requires creativity, technical insights and skills, and a professional business sense. This role requires strong foundation in digital production, website production, online advertising, SEM, SEO and social media along with project management, vendor relations and organizational skills.
Androvett Legal Media and Marketing is a full-service marketing firm working primarily with lawyers, law firms and their clients. We also represent clients in the areas of energy, retail, construction, education and government, among others. Founded in 1995, we specialize in public relations, advertising, marketing, brand strategy, web and developing positive relationships with members of the news media.
See our work at http://www.androvett.com/marketing-gallery/websites/
Send resume to email@example.com
April 15, 2014 by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:45:00 am Q&A with Kit Frieden
What have you found to be the biggest challenges in making the transition to your new role?
It’s been really interesting to be on the other side of a news story. That means helping clients provide careful answers to aggressive reporters while also maintaining client confidentiality.
Are there parallels or similarities with your previous experience that you didn’t anticipate?
I’m a little surprised at the diversity of the issues we deal with at Androvett, which is similar to the variety of news I used to confront every day. Also, I am enjoying the familiarity of an editor role – working with lawyers on articles or press releases in what almost feels like an editor-reporter relationship.
Where do you see your lengthy experience as a journalist being most helpful to Androvett clients?
I know how to find a story and how to pitch it to a reporter or editor. It might be something for TV, a local newspaper, a national website, or a narrow-interest trade publication. But there is an audience for almost every subject. Plus, I know a lot of reporters and editors working in newsrooms across the country, and that is useful to our clients. Also, having directed news coverage of everything from the Branch Davidian standoff to missions to Mars to genetic discoveries, I’m not afraid of the unfamiliar. I know how to translate complex or obscure matters into something that’s more easily understood.
What have you worked on recently that you’ve found particularly fulfilling?
I helped a client attract major media attention to a very sad case that deserved to be in the spotlight. It was a tragedy in which a young man died, and I think his family found some comfort in the fact that others cared about it. Hopefully they will benefit from the result of that case. I also have had success helping clients get published in some prominent legal publications by making the pitch and then editing the material. I enjoy collaborating and brainstorming with clients, and it’s not so different from the kind of thing you do in a newsroom.
I grew up in Burlington, Oklahoma, a town so small that in sixth-grade social studies class we conducted our own census. We didn’t even have to leave the room. We just named the families house-by-house while Miss Neff tallied them up on the blackboard.
April 11, 2014 by Dave Moore at 12:00:00 am Tort reform drives health care cases to Texas Medical Board
In a recent interview published in the Dallas Business Journal, Dallas trial lawyer Bill Chamblee explained the 76 percent spike in the number of cases before the Texas Medical Board.
Chamblee, who handles cases on behalf of physicians facing actions before the Texas Medical Board, says that when Texas passed laws that capped noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, it also expanded the enforcement powers of the state.
The Dallas Business Journal’s Bill Hethcock writes:Once tort reform passed, measures such as a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages took away plaintiff’s lawyers’ financial incentive to pursue cases, Chamblee added.“Even though a plaintiff’s attorney today might believe there was negligence on the part of a health care provider, the economics aren’t there to pursue it,” he [Chamblee] said. “So the plaintiff’s lawyer will tell the client, 'The only real avenue is to file a board complaint.’”
Texas isn’t alone in this phenomenon. Other states that implemented tort reform, including California, Florida and others, have seen an increase in medical board complaints and investigations as well, said Chamblee, managing partner of Chamblee, Ryan, Kershaw & Anderson.
The winners in this sea change?
“Tort reform primarily — not exclusively, but primarily — benefited health care professionals,” Chamblee told Hethcock.
March 19, 2014 by Dave Moore at 12:00:00 am Dashcam videos eliminate many he-said/she-said disputes involving traffic stops
He said/she said legal cases are among the hardest for jurors and judges.
When a verdict is handed down, there can be nagging doubt: Is the wrong person being punished in this case? With the increasing use of portable audio and video technology, such doubts are evaporating in disputes involving traffic stops. A good recent example of how audio and visual evidence can change the legal dynamic is the dashcam video taken from a March 13, 2013, traffic stop in Electra, Texas (2010 population 2,791).
The video – which has logged more than 200,000 views on YouTube – has become a symbol of abuse of power in small-town police departments to many.
"The police officers in the video used coarse language and ordered the person they were investigating to be silent, and they refused to answer his questions,” says Dallas criminal defense attorney John R. Teakell, who has more than 25 years of trial experience. “The prosecutor had to consider how that behavior looked and the case likely was dropped for that reason. In the Electra traffic stop, the dashcam became an equalizer.
The case wasn't going to be about the word of two police officers versus the man they were questioning. It was about what the camera captured."
As audio and video surveillance becomes more prevalent in American society, it’s likely the amount of such evidence will continue to grow for courts.
March 7, 2014 by Robert Tharp at 4:10:00 pm Fan of ABC’s “Scandal”? Meet Androvett Legal Media’s Mary Flood
KTRK-TV in Houston recently piggybacked on the popularity of ABC’s hit show “Scandal” by seeking out a real-life local example of the show’s brilliant fixer, Olivia Pope. They found her in Androvett Legal Media’s own Mary Flood.
In a segment that aired on the opening night of the show’s new season, KTRK’s Melanie Lawson spoke with Mary about the show (she’s a big fan), the challenges of crisis-related public relations, and how her real-world professional life differs from what viewers see on “Scandal.”
While Mary hasn’t had to deal with any PR-crises involving dead bodies (yet), she routinely helps clients navigate the media gauntlet. The stakes can be high, often involving professional reputations or critical business conflicts and criminal or ethical questions. Discretion is at a premium here, so anyone wanting juicy stories will have to stick to “Scandal.”
Those who find themselves in a jam listen to Mary because she has the professional bona fides – she’s a Harvard-trained lawyer and a former nationally respected news reporter – but also because she doesn’t put any shellac on her advice.
“We find out what the true story is, and we remind them that you never, ever, ever lie,” she tells KTRK.
A full list of our crisis-communications advice can be found here.
March 4, 2014 by Robert Tharp at 3:30:00 pm While Tech Jobs Abound, U.S. Businesses Seek H-1B Visas to Find Qualified Workers
Business analysts are expecting a jump in the number of H-1B visa applications filed this year by U.S. companies trying to fill coveted science, technology and engineering jobs. As many as 160,000 or more foreign-worker visa applications are expected when the H-1B visa filing season begins April 1. While job offers are plentiful, the H-1B applicants will be vying for 85,000 available visas this year. Businesses must seek the visas because U.S. universities are simply not turning out enough U.S. students with these specialized skills.
“It just shows the U.S. still lags behind other countries when it comes to an emphasis on educating American-born students in computer science, math and other areas," said Dallas immigration attorney Marc Klein of Thompson & Knight in an interview with CNBC.
"So many get advanced degrees at American universities that natural-born citizens don't receive, and (which) are needed for the hard-to-fill jobs," he said. "They go home, and yet so many of them make up the number of applications to work here."
Writes CNBC: It's not just the areas of technology and science that are seeing a need for foreign-born workers in the U.S., Klein added. He said he's processing applications for jobs in accounting, advertising and architecture.
H-1B visas have been part of immigration reform talks that have stalled in Congress, with many on Capitol Hill and the business community— especially those in high-tech industries—urging the government to raise the 85,000 limit or remove it completely. With reform stalled in Congress, the quota will remain for now.
Some U.S. business leaders say they have no problem finding American-born workers for the high-tech jobs that often go to foreign nationals. However, Klein said the economics indicate otherwise.
"It's not cheap to try and get H-1B visas," he said. "Companies don't really want the expense if they can avoid it. But they're having trouble avoiding it."
February 20, 2014 by Robert Tharp at 11:28:00 am SCOTUS to Consider Making it Easier to Make Patent Trolls Pay for Frivolous Lawsuits
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases next week in which businesses are seeking to recover attorney fees for the cost of defending frivolous lawsuits. The two cases – Highmark Inc v. Allcare Health Management Systems, Inc. and Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc.– ask the Court to revisit the Patent Act and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and invoke “loser pays” fee-shifting in patent disputes.
“Making fee-shifting more common in patent litigation could be one tool to help control the rise in filings from patent trolls or so-called non-practicing entities,” says intellectual property attorney Matthew Anderson of Dallas’ Munck Wilson Mandala.
Indeed, patent infringement lawsuits filed by non-practicing entities have risen sharply, costing U.S. businesses dearly. According to RPX Corporation, patent trolls in 2012 filed more than 2,900 infringement lawsuits nationwide (nearly six times higher than the number in 2006).
The cost of defending against bogus patent litigation reached $29 billion in 2011, according to a Boston University study. Lawsuits by "patent assertion companies" made up 61 percent of all patent cases filed in 2012, according to the Santa Clara University School of Law.
Meanwhile, this litigation trend is ncreasingly targeting smaller businesses. In 2005 patent trolls sued 800 small firms (those with less than $100 million annual revenue), the number growing to nearly 2,900 such firms in 2011; the median defendant's annual revenue was $10.3 million.
“Even frivolous patent lawsuits can be extremely expensive for businesses to defend against," Mr. Anderson says. "The Court here has an opportunity to expand the definition of what constitutes an ‘exceptional case’ that allows fee-shifting. A broader application of fee-shifting could discourage trolls from filing suits that are frivolous or primarily aimed at ‘shaking down’ the defendants for a quick settlement.”
January 17, 2014 by Robert Tharp at 11:55:00 am As `Pot Tourists' Arrive in Colorado, Employment Law Problems Back Home Follow
Now that adults over age 21 in Colorado can purchase and consume marijuana without fear of prosecution under state law, hospitality industry entrepreneurs are already gearing up for a boom in what they’re calling “weed tourism.” Imagine just 5 percent of the state’s 60 million visitors testing the newly decriminalized recreational marijuana market – that’s roughly 3 million individuals that Slate describes as “wealthy old stoners” on the equivalent of a Napa Valley wine tour.
But it’s not that simple. The Colorado law creates confusion for marijuana tourists who might not realize that while smoking small amounts of marijuana will not get you arrested in Colorado, the actions may run afoul of employment policies back home. After all, evidence of a weekend of smoking weed in Colorado could still show up in employment-related blood tests 30 days later. Many job candidates and employees in certain occupations must undergo periodic drug screenings. Meanwhile, workers involved in on-the-job accidents are often required to submit to a drug test. Even if an employee isn't intoxicated at the time of the incident, a drug test that returns positive for marijuana could jeopardize a career.
"Employers everywhere should view this as an opportunity to review HR handbooks and policies to ensure that, for example, policies are crystal-clear for workers who may be subject to for-cause, post-accident or random drug tests," says employment attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas' Munck Wilson Mandala. "Making sure that workers know and understand employment policies is far preferable to being surprised by consequences that can end a career. A well-written handbook is a great medium for conveying that information."
January 10, 2014 by Robert Tharp at 1:44:00 pm Law Firm Marketing Checklist for New Year
As the business world shakes off a long holiday season, the start of the New Year presents an ideal time to look forward, and reevaluate business and marketing goals. That starts broadly, not only with assessing goals and competitive positioning, but also important tasks such as ensuring that a firm's website operates properly on all mobile devices with fresh and relevant content.
"It's easy for busy firms to forget about these details, but a stale or outdated website does not create a good first impression," says Androvett Legal Media & Marketing founder Mike Androvett. "Businesses should regularly reevaluate changing business trends, positioning and visibility within the market. That doesn't have to be complicated; it starts with a disciplined and thoughtful approach." Androvett Legal Media has created a white paper outlining strategies for refreshing firm marketing materials and business development plans in 2014.
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