Wellness Wednesday: Time to change our business model?

“BigLaw” refers to the nation’s largest law firms.  Contrary to popular stereotypes, BigLaw lawyers have been some of the most influential voices in the on-going discussion of attorney well-being.

Jana Cohen Barbe is a partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm.  Last week, several outlets, including LawFuel and Law.Com, published an open letter in which Attorney Barbe argued that a root cause of the legal profession’s mental health crisis is, in fact, the profession’s business model.  As such, Attorney Barbe urged firms to re-think compensation systems, vacation packages, and “the almighty billable hour.”

I urge you to read Attorney Barbe’s letter.  Here’s the paragraph that resonated most with me, mainly because it reminded me of a blog I posted two weeks ago: Vacations, Devices & Vacations From Devices:

  • “What would happen if we de-emphasized the billable hour or did away with it completely, sizing our fees to projects undertaken and rewarding efficiency in performance? What would happen if we fostered a culture where vacations were mandatory and professionals were instructed not to check email while out of the office? I posit that our workforce would be happier, our clients would be happier (and also institutionalized to a far greater degree) and we could still pay the proverbial rent.”

Indeed, what would happen?  It’s time to find out.

(thank you Geoffrey Bok for the tip!)

Wellness

Monday Morning Answers #172

Good Monday morning!

Friday’s questions are here.   I finished the 17.2 challenge.  Originally, my plan was to take it easy in the 1 mile and 5K.  Not just to save myself for the half marathon, but to do well enough in the half to have a shot at finishing with a combined time in the top 3 for my age group.   I thought that approach would give me a chance.

However, when I woke up yesterday, I decided to apply the theme of Friday’s column, and not live life going through the motions. So, I went for it in both the 1 mile and the 5K.  It worked, as I ran very good times (for me) and finished 2nd and 4th in my age group.  Alas, I faded in the half marathon, painfully shuffling up and down Rockport’s hills to the worst time I’ve ever run for that distance.

But as I wrote Friday, it’s the process not the outcome.  Would the half have gone better had I taken it easy in the 1 mile and the 5K?  Undoubtedly.  But what did I have to lose? I went for it.  I tried to win the combined for my age group.  I didn’t.*  But that’s ok.

Because too often I settle for “middle of the pack,” writing it off as  “the smart approach.”  Not this weekend.  Sure, I stumbled, and I could’ve done better.  But, for the first time in a long time, I was in the arena, toiling in dust and sweat.  And it felt good not to be timid.

Also, I wasn’t the only Vermont lawyer in the arena.  I bumped into Bonnie Badgewick.  Bonnie also completed all 3 races in the Triple Threat Challenge.  Great job Bonnie!

IMG_3041

*Updated at 4:12 PMwhen I left the race, I didn’t think I’d finished in the top 3 in my age group in the “Combined” category.  Due to a time-keeping snafu that the race director informed me he had corrected, it turns out that I actually won my age group.  Still, my message stands.

Honor Roll

  • Room 1009 (pronounced Ten Oh 9)
  • Karen Allen
  • Matt AndersonPratt Vreeland Kennelly Martin & White
  • Alberto Bernabe, Professor, John Marshall Law School
  • Honorable John M. Conroy, United States Magistrate Judge, District of Vermont
  • Erin GilmoreRyan Smith & Carbine
  • Laura Gorsky, Esq.
  • Bob Grundstein, Esq.
  • Keith KasperMcCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper & Burchard
  • Tom LittleLittle & Cicchetti
  • John LeddyMcNeil, Leddy, & Sheahan
  • Pam Loginsky, Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
  • Lon McClintock, Esq.
  • Jack McCullough, Project Director, Vermont Legal Aid Mental Health Law Project
  • Jeff Messina, Bergeron Paradis Fitzpatrick
  • Hal Miller, First American
  • Jim Runcie, Ouimette & Runcie

Answers

Question 1

Fill in the blank.  (It’s 1 word).

By rule, a lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

Rule 1.4(b).

Question 2

Attorney called me with an ethics inquiry.  I listed, then said “a comment to the rule makes it clear that the rule doesn’t apply to an organization’s former constituents.”

Given my statement, it is most likely that Attorney called me to discuss the rule that deals with what topic?

Contacting the former employees of a represented organization.  See, Rule 4.2, Comment 7.

Question 3

An attorney called me with an inquiry.  I listened.  To clarify, I asked the following question:

  • “Ok.  I’m not clear.  Will someone other than the person committing the act be harmed?”

Based upon my question, what general ethics topic did the attorney call me to discuss?

Disclosing confidential information relating to the representation of the client. 

More specifically, when a lawyer reasonably believes that a client or another will commit a criminal act that is likely to result in the death of or substantial bodily harm to someone other than the person committing the act, the lawyer must disclose.  Rule 1.6(b)(1).

If the act is likely to result in the death of or substantial bodily harm to the actor, the lawyer may disclose.  Rule 1.6(c)(1).

Question 4

What am I?

  • I can be a tool to help provide access to legal services for those who might not be able to afford a lawyer.
  • I am specifically authorized by Rules for Family Proceedings and the Rules of Civil Procedure.
  • Per Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct, I am permitted if I am reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.

Again, what am I?

I am a limited-scope representation.  See, Rule 1.2(c).

Question 5 (and bonus)

Having spent some time at the bar exam this week . . .

In 2002, one of Hollywood’s megastars was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his work playing a character named Frank Abergnale, Jr.  The movie also starred Tom Hanks as an FBI agent named Carl.

Here’s an exchange from the movie:

Carl: “How’d you do it Frank? How did you cheat on the bar exam in Louisiana?

Frank: “I didn’t cheat. I studied for two week and I passed.”     

Name the movie and the actor who played Frank.

Catch Me If You Can & Leonardo DiCaprio

 

 

Five for Friday #172

Welcome to #172!

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to tie the quiz number to the intro.  I guess that’s what happens when you get into the 100s.  Yet, the stars aligned today.

I took up running in 2006.  Back then, my goal was to finish one leg of the relay in the Vermont City Marathon.  I accomplished my goal, completing my 5.2 mile leg.

From there, my goals evolved: finish a half-marathon, finish a marathon, qualify for Boston.  All sorts of new challenges that not only drove me, but that fed my love for running.

This year, my running goal is to complete at least one half-marathon in 10 different states or provinces.  On Sunday, I’m running a half-marathon in Rockport, MA.  It’ll be my 6th state.  I’m looking forward to it more than I’ve looked forward to the past few that I’ve run.

The first 3 – Tennessee, Vermont, Indiana – were a ton of fun. The 10-state goal was still new & exciting, and my times improved in each race.

Then, in early June, I hit a lull.  Summer and its amenities distracted me from training as often or as hard.  Yes, I finished half-marathons in Maine and Illinois. Yes, each trip was fantastic.  The races, however, weren’t fun or exciting.  Each was a grind, running just to tick off another state on the slog to 10.  I felt like I was going through the motions. I didn’t love running.

So why do I think Sunday will be different?  Because I’ve added something new to the mix.

I entered what’s called The Triple Threat Challenge:

  • 8:00 AM – 1-mile race
  • 8:30 AM – 5K
  • 9:30 AM – Half Marathon

I’ve never run an event like this.  While it presents a new challenge, Sunday will also bring me back to why I took up running: the challenge of competing against myself to accomplish something that I’ve not done before.

I think it happens to all of us.  Without really noticing it, “fresh and exciting” becomes “the same old, same old.”  Indeed, the me that existed in 2007 never would’ve envisioned being bored during a half marathon or slogging through a run for no other reason than to say I finished.  Rather, I embraced and enjoyed the challenge of finishing.  I look forward to doing so again on Sunday.  The challenge has me excited.

Don’t live life going through the motions. Whatever it is that you don’t enjoy quite as much as you used to, find a way to make it as exciting and challenging as it was when you first started doing it.  That’s part of well-being.

Which reminds me: if you’re a lawyer whose practice has become routine, contact Mary Ashcroft.  Mary is the VBA’s Legal Access Coordinator and will be more than happy to assign you a pro or low bono case that’ll bring you back to what made you excited to be a lawyer in the first place.

Oh, the tie-in to the quiz number?  It’s week 172.  The total miles in the Triple Threat Challenge?

  • 1 mile = 1 mile
  • 5K = 3.1 miles
  • Half Marathon = 13.1 miles

17.2

Onto the quiz!

Rules

  • None.  Open book, open search engine, text/phone/email-a-friend.
  • Exception – but one that is loosely enforced – #5 (“loosely” = “aspirational”)
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to michael.kennedy@vermont.gov
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday
  • Please don’t use the “comment” feature to post your answers
  • Please consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Please consider sharing the quiz on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

Fill in the blank.  (It’s 1 word).

By rule, a lawyer shall __________ a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

Question 2

Attorney called me with an ethics inquiry.  I listed, then said “a comment to the rule makes it clear that the rule doesn’t apply to an organization’s former constituents.”

Given my statement, it is most likely that Attorney called me to discuss the rule that deals with what topic?

Question 3

An attorney called me with an inquiry.  I listened.  To clarify, I asked the following question:

  • “Ok.  I’m not clear.  Will someone other than the person committing the act be harmed?”

Based upon my question, what general ethics topic did the attorney call me to discuss?

Question 4

What am I?

  • I can be a tool to help provide access to legal services for those who might not be able to afford a lawyer.
  • I am specifically authorized by Rules for Family Proceedings and the Rules of Civil Procedure.
  • Per Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct, I am permitted if I am reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.

Again, what am I?

Question 5 (and bonus)

Having spent some time at the bar exam this week . . .

In 2002, one of Hollywood’s megastars was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his work playing a character named Frank Abergnale, Jr.  The movie also starred Tom Hanks as an FBI agent named Carl.

Here’s an exchange from the movie:

Carl: “How’d you do it Frank? How did you cheat on the bar exam in Louisiana?

Frank: “I didn’t cheat. I studied for two week and I passed.”     

Name the movie and the actor who played Frank.

Safeguarding Client Data: Don’t Forget Email Safety.

Like Starship built a city on rock ‘n roll, I built this blog on tech competence.  More specifically, on a phrase that, while once my mantra, I’ve not typed in ages:

competence includes tech competence.

The story of a lawyer’s duty of tech competence includes many chapters.  Perhaps the most important is the chapter on the duty to take reasonable precautions against the unauthorized access to or inadvertent disclosure of information related to the representation of a client.  Given the feedback I’ve received here and at CLEs, lawyers seem to associate that duty most closely with cloud storage.

Yes, protecting client data this transmitted or stored electronically is important. So important that I’ve run my post The Cloud: What Are Reasonable Precautions? four different times.

But don’t forget e-mail security.  And, within the topic of e-mail security, don’t get so pre-occupied with whether there’s a duty to encrypt that you forget about some of the simple things.  For instance, whether a lawyer has a duty to disable autocomplete.

Almost two years ago, I posted Client Confidences: Disable Autocomplete?  Two “real-life” events inspired the post.

The first was a story that I repeated often on this spring’s CLE circuit.  As reported by Above The Law, it’s the story of a lawyer who meant to send a message to other lawyers in the firm, but mistakenly sent it to a Wall State Journal reporter in what appears to have been an autocomplete snafu.

The second hit closer to home.  Thanks to autocomplete, an email that a lawyer intended to send to me mistakenly went to Judge Michael Kainen.

Catherine Sanders Reach runs the North Carolina Bar Association’s Center for Practice Management.  Earlier this week, Catherine posted Make Email Less Dangerous.  It’s a fantastic piece on protecting client data when using email.  Catherine’s tips include instructions on:

  • disabling autocomplete
  • using “delay send” and “undo send”
  • Microsoft Add-Ins that protect against sending to the wrong recipient
  • keeping internal emails internal

I recommend Catherine’s blog.

After all, and to tie this back to the intro, better to spend some time with Catherine’s tips than to find yourself Knee Deep in the Hoopla that will certainly ensue if you inadvertently send confidential information to an unintended recipient.

Yes.  I’m quite aware that I posted a blog constructed around what some consider to be the worst song of all-time.