September 30, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 4:07:04 pm The Dangerous Side of Family Law
There’s a popular saying that speaks volumes about potential for violence in family law disputes: Criminal court is where bad people are on their best behavior, while family court is where good people are at their worst.
While Michigan detectives and the ATF investigate the Sept. 20 car bomb explosion that targeted a Michigan lawyer and his two teenage sons, authorities continue to examine the possibility that the attack was related to his family law work. The bombing is just the latest reminder of the risks of violence facing lawyers, particularly those who handle family law cases, says Dallas-based family law attorney Brad LaMorgese. "More than any other area of the law, family law generates intense emotions that sometimes spill out of the courtroom in the form of violence and threats of violence," says LaMorgese, a partner in McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing.
An ABA survey found that 60 percent of family lawyers had been threatened by clients of opposing counsel and 17 percent by their own clients.
"It's something no one would dispute," McCurley Orsinger co-founder Mike McCurley told the American Lawyer Media back in 1999, adding that he’d been shot at twice, placed on an assassination list once and "threatened more times than I can imagine…In probably no other area of the law has our court system become more aware of the tendency for violence."
There are simply too many incidents of violence against lawyers to list, but below are just a fraction of the known cases:
September 30, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 11:13:14 am Expect RIpples From FTC Cap on Debit Swipe Fees
The big card-issuing banks are already implementing new fees for checking account holders in an effort to make up the $9 billion in revenue they expect to lose as a result of new FTC regulations capping the amount they can charge for debit card “swipe fees.” Bank of America was the latest with an announcement Thursday that account holders will be charged a $5 monthly fee for making debit card transactions.
Zahara Alarakhia, a partner in Dallas-based Munck Carter, says the swipe-fee regulations that are part of the Durbin Amendment will send ripples through the economy. "Bank customers accustomed to free checking and rewards perks will see those incentives disappear as banks try to recoup the lost revenue," says Ms. Alarakhia. "Merchants stand to gain by not having to pass along the higher fees, but it remains to be seen whether that will translate to lower prices for consumers."
Writes the Christian Science Monitor:
Why is Bank of America making this move? It certainly fits a trend: ATM fees have been rising, bounced check fees have been going up, and free checking accounts are fast becoming a thing of the past.
Bank fees have been changing rapidly in recent years. Back in 2009, 76 percent of checking accounts in the US were free. This year, that number is only 45 percent, according to a study by Bankrate.com. ATM fees are up an average of $0.07 from last year, and average overdraft fees went up $0.36 in the same time.
September 29, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 3:12:41 pm First of Its Kind Ruling on Social Media in Workplace
More than once, employees have found themselves holding pink slips because of something they said about their work life on Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets. But Audrey Mross of Munck Carter in Dallas says employers should be very careful with such terminations. Earlier this month, for the first time, an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board ruled that a Buffalo, N.Y., company wrongfully fired five employees because of what they said on Facebook. Writes the Wall Street Journal:
The NLRB complaint against Hispanics United of Buffalo reaffirms the agency's position in an earlier case that labor law allows employees to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with co-workers and others—including postings on social-media sites.
In the latest complaint, an employee of Hispanics United who was scheduled to meet with management about working conditions posted on Facebook a co-worker's allegation that employees didn't help the nonprofit's clients enough, the NLRB said. That post drew responses from other employees who defended their work and blamed conditions such as work loads and staffing issues.
When Hispanics United learned about the postings, it discharged the five employees who participated, claiming their comments were harassment of the employee originally mentioned in the post, the NLRB said. The NLRB said the Facebook discussion was "protected concerted activity" under the National Labor Relations Act.
"Basically, the NLRB is saying even disparaging comments about terms and conditions of employment among co-workers can be protected speech, whether it happens at work or after hours, via Facebook," Mross says. The NLRB reports an increasing number of charges related to employees' use of social media to discuss their employer and each other.
September 16, 2011 by Dave Moore at 9:34:07 am Houston Lawyer John Kim Gets Animated, Takes Message Straight to Clients
Many trial lawyers try their best to be animated in the courtroom. Houston trial attorney John Kim, however, has taken the step of being animated on his own website (shown here at thekimlawfirm.com). With assistance from the creative team at Androvett Legal Media & Marketing, Kim has cast himself in an animated short in which a cartoon artist captures his essence based on peer descriptions of his style and reputation. It’s the kind of lively approach to the world that we’ve come to expect from this talented business litigation attorney.
“Most lawyer ads . . . well they’re lawyer ads,” Kim said about the production. “I wanted something that was like me – quirky and entertaining, but not too obnoxious.”
We could go on and on about this video, but it really speaks well for itself.
September 12, 2011 by client-news at 11:23:13 am 7 Tips for a Better Website
The award-winning team of media and advertising professionals at Androvett Legal Media & Marketing has developed a list of seven simple and effective ways to take your website from bland to grand.
Whether you're creating a new website from scratch or simply updating your existing site, these seven essential steps can make your website more interesting, effective and relevant. For a more detailed discussion, visit the related white paper.
1. Make it Easy to Find
When it comes to online search, your goal should be simple: Have a website that’s easy for your potential and existing clients to find and read. It’s not about having a site solely focused around SEO (Search Engine Optimization); it’s about building a search-friendly architecture and providing targeted and relevant content.
2. Make it Easy to Navigate
Developing an intuitive and well-thought-out site map from the beginning allows you to direct how users travel your site and ensures they are able to quickly get where they want to be.
3. Write for Your Audience, Not Yourself
What information is going to be most important to someone who needs to hire a lawyer? They’ll likely want to know about your relevant experience, your fees and perhaps most important: What separates you from the many other lawyers and law firms who practice in the same area of law?
4. Update Your Content - Regularly
Your website doesn’t need an entire facelift every two months, but regularly adding interesting news stories, blog entries and case summaries, and refreshing your homepage and attorney bios at least twice a year will keep your content fresh and stimulate traffic to your site. Updating your content regularly also enhances search engine optimization.
5. Start a Blog and Stick With It
A blog can go a long way in positioning you as a leading expert sought for insights and information by new clients, colleagues and even the media. The key to any successful blog is providing valuable content, or more specifically, content that is unique and useful to your audience. One of the greatest advantages of a blog is that it ensures you are continually creating new content for your site, making it more “findable” (see point 4).
6. Share and Be Shared
Creating social media accounts and republishing your blog posts, new stories and other quality content can incite a social discussion that allows you to reach far beyond your website. Another effective technique is adding a “Social Media Bookmarking” widget to your site that allows readers to share information they find valuable directly with their social media accounts through the click of a button.
7. Go Mobile or Go Home
The web is accessible at all times on mobile devices such as iPhones and smartphones; having a parallel version of your site optimized for mobile viewing is now a requirement rather than an “add-on.” Whether users are reading attorney profiles, getting directions to your office or simply trying to call you, they want it in their hands and on the go.
September 2, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 4:19:54 pm (Red) Shoe Drops in Louboutin Trademark Fight
Fashion designer Christian Louboutin is famous for the distinctive red lacquered soles on his high-end heels – so much that he trademarked the color back in 2008 to fend off competitors and knock-offs. The enforceability of that trademark is now in doubt after a New York federal judge found that the color on the shoe is a "decorative element" rather than a feature that can be trademarked, although the legal challenge by designer YSL is far from settled.
The judge stated in his ruling, Louboutin's claim would cast a red cloud over the whole industry, cramping what other designers do, while allowing Louboutin to paint with a full palette.
"Louboutin shoes are readily identifiable by their red soles," says litigation attorney Jennifer Ingram of Dallas-based Munck Carter, who has experience in trademark matters. "Businesses of alltypes use trademarks to protect elements that make their products distinctive, including signature colors, but in this case the judge has given signals that he believes the use of color alone is overly broad."
September 1, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 3:58:38 pm New Texas Laws Countdown: New vigilance for high school football concussions
A recent Purdue University found some startling statistics about the prevalence and severity of concussions in high school football. With roughly 1 million high schoolers playing football any given year, the study found some 67,000 reported concussions. But just as important as the concussions, a Slate.com article details, the researchers found an equal number of concussions go unreported “because fans, coaches, and parents don't want a star athlete pulled from a game.”
Reports Slate.com: Some of the high-schoolers studied suffered about 150 head impacts per week during the season, or about 1,500 impacts per year. On average, the hits carried a force of around 40G. (The force of impacts is measured by sensors within helmets.) These hits did not knock players out, but they caused systematic changes in their brain functioning. Unlike the violent helmet-to-helmet collisions in the open field that have drawn warnings and suspensions from the NFL, these blows usually involved routine blocks and tackles, often along the line of scrimmage.
A new Texas law (HB2038) is designed to take the guesswork out of whether to take student athletes out of games in such circumstances. The law requires to immediately remove players who show signs of a concussion during a game or practice and have them evaluated by a doctor.
“This is a great step for the safety of student athletes in Texas,” says The Lanier Law Firm’s Gene Egdorf, who has successfully represented injured student athletes and their families. “The University Interscholastic League has had some safeguards for players showing concussion symptoms, but getting these student-athletes checked out by a physician will help ensure that they are fit to play.”
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