Deposition Insanity

Client forwarded this funny item to me. Never had one go this bad, but the witness was clearly coached to lie and the other lawyer got flummoxed when he should have been able to explain the question in functional terms instead of getting angry.


Phone Connected Medical Devices

The New York Times profiles several medical devices that attach to iPhones and similar devices.

As with almost all internet and computer related technologies, there is zero discussion as to whether these devices are legal. Medical devices require FDA approval and for good reason. There is no way to know if these devices are suited for the purposes they claim, or if these are tasks properly performed by non-professionals.

My wife, an experienced audiologist, notes that she had to spend a long time learning to look in people’s eardrums. It is not simply just looking straight in, and there is a strong potential for inexperienced people to scratch the eardrums ear canal (apologize for the initial error) when using the home otoscope device. This is especially true when dealing with a child in pain from a possible ear infection who is not going to be a fan of the device in his or her ear. Furthermore, the use of photos to diagnose medical conditions seems to leave even more room for doubt that doctors have a sufficiently good view of what they are looking at. Many doctors aren’t so good at diagnosing ear infections to begin with.

The solution to high health care costs is not to shift responsibility to individuals with no medical experience. It is to make sure we have access to experienced primary care doctors at reasonable cost and reasonably priced drugs (see the price of ciprodex, a drop for ear infections that is astronomically expensive for a tiny bottle).

Sign on the Digital Dotted Line

A real estate client of mine sent me an article form the New York Times praising electronic closings. The actual experience is not the nirvana that the Times thinks it is. The software is cumbersome and designed to make it even harder for the borrowers to know what they are signing. It also is burdensome on small law firms who will have to adopt different pieces of software for every lender. There is a much better way to simplify the closing process, simply reduce the unnecessary documents, many of which are repetitive and can be condensed into many fewer documents. Real estate closings are an example of disclosures gone awry. Too much information is not helpful as people need to close and don’t have time to sit and read every piece of paper. We need smarter and clearer disclosures, not more disclosures and not gimmicks like esigning.

Sign on the Digital Dotted Line

Technology for paperless closings has long been available, and now lenders have new incentives to adopt it.

Sorry New York Times, Attorneys aren’t Permitted to Pay Referral Fees

The Times highlights a legal marketing company that expects a 10% cut of billings from attorneys they refer through their referral service. RPC 5.4 makes it clear that sharing fees with a non-lawyer is prohibited.

Furthermore, basically every bar association has a lawyer referral service for its local jurisdiction, and those referrals are free to clients and inexpensive for participating attorneys.

As to the notion that this is somehow making attorneys’ fees affordable, one should assume it isn’t. I for one am happy to work out reasonable fees for small business and to provide some free advice to my clients when they have quick questions. More importantly, clients should be aware that you get what you pay for.

Desktop Legal Practice Management Software Part 4

I have spent some time talking about the legal practice software I did not purchase, and the products I used to use, but now I am finally ready to describe my final choice for my office.
I purchased Amicus Premium 2014 with Billing. It is expensive, around $1,000 for the license and about $400 per year for maintenance (and you need the maintenance- Amicus is complicated and can get cranky).
Amicus is classically complex desktop software, with an SQL server based server that is probably more powerful than most of us need, and an old fashioned Windows interface that is reminiscent of Microsoft Outlook 2000. Amicus is certainly not the smoothest experience I have ever had on a computer.
Yet, despite the flaws in its architecture, Amicus is quite good at what it is supposed to do, managing a law practice. It integrates with Microsoft Office, Acrobat, and Quickbooks. It syncs your contacts, calendar and email with Microsoft Exchange so that it is up to date regardless of where you do your work. The email integration can automatically designate emails as related to matters (which Amicus strangely refers to as files). It also automatically saves attachments from linked emails. This feature does not work as well when you have email from people linked to multiple matters, though.
Amicus does all of the basics of legal practice management, it’s time keeping is excellent, and it keeps track of billed work you have done in the “time entry assistant” that lists all in billed work including all of your unveiled emails. I have already made some extra money because of this feature.
Yesterday, I finally did my first mass billing, and it was quite good. Amicus can email invoices out to all of your clients at once, it simply prepares the invoices, deducts any available funds from retainers, and then gives you a list of who to email. It auto fills this into the list, but you can change or add addresses as needed (I need to make sure the billing component has the correct email address when I open my matters). The whole process took about ten minutes. When I used Clio, monthly billing would take hours, and I would have to manually apply any retainer amount, by checking what Clio had listed as available on the file.
Another automation feature that Amicus has is simple task and calendar templates, that allow linking tasks to a certain event, so that I can use a precedent for a real estate closing that auto links all tasks to the closing date I set for the file, when it is actually determined.
I am still getting my templates set up with Amicus for document automation, but it seems pretty good. I haven’t seen any perfect automation, but Amicus does the basics well, I just have to figure out how I want things set up.

Updated 12:12 PM to correct typos.

Word for Ipad

Microsoft finally released its Office suite for ipad last week. I don’t care much about excel or PowerPoint, but in do most of my work in Word. The word app is in a word, excellent. Performance is great and finally I have something compatible with my existing documents. Also, the Office apps sync automatically with my computer using Onedrive, a huge improvement over trying to deal with Pages and it’s ICloud storage.

It happens to be that I already had an Office365 subscription, so this is just a free benefit for me. Office 365 was a good deal already if you have a bunch of computers, now it is an even better deal.

It is nice to see that Microsoft can still put out some excellent software when it needs to.

Why Tesla is illegal in NJ

It has always bothered me that internet companies believe they can operate in disregard of the law, and then when caught simply ask that the law be changed to accommodate their business models. Even if one accepts that lots of old laws are outmoded and ban things they weren’t meant to ban, it doesn’t mean that it should be okay for companies to disregard the law.

AirBNB allows individuals to rent out their apartments or homes as hotel rooms, by the night. In NYC, this type of behavior has led to problems. One it undercuts the hotel tax and two, it turns residential properties into hotels in violation of the law. AirBNB being over the internet does not obviate these concerns and does not provide a justification for promoting violation of the law.

Now we have Tesla operating in NJ. For some reason, the Motor Vehicle Commission gave them a license for their two “dealerships” even though the law as to what a dealership must look like is clear. It must be owned by a third party, it must have an exterior sign, it must have a service department and it must have at least two cars on display.

Tesla had two NJ dealerships that clearly violated the law. They literally were not in compliance with a single aspect of the law regulating car dealerships. Tesla might believe that the law is outmoded, poorly drafted and designed to protect car dealers at the expense of manufacturers, but that is the law.

Instead of lobbying the legislature to amend the law, which would require effort, Tesla simply asked the MVC to continue licensing their existing dealerships. The MVC correctly refused to continue to ignore the law.

As to whether the motor vehicle franchise law protects consumers, that is an open question. I think that it certainly protects car dealers from being overrun by much larger manufacturers and promotes local business and investment. I believe that requiring a service department ensures that warranty repairs are locally available. One could argue as to whether display model space and signage are significant at all.

Tesla will now start selling to NJ residents over the internet or in their NY dealership only. They certainly can sell in NY, assuming they aren’t violating laws there, but I don’t see why selling directly over the internet changes their obligations to comply with NJ law. I suspect they have some litigation in their future.


It is no secret that I am a supporter of Obamacare despite the law’s obvious flaws. The most major flaw is that it relies on health insurance companies to deliver health benefits and as such we are all stuck with inefficient and stupid companies to deal with.

I switched to Amerihealth NJ and they double billed my first month’s premium, admitted to doing it to many others and claimed it would be fixed. It is now four months later and my billing is still screwed up. After a while you start to wonder whether it is intentional, which would certainly be a violation of the NJ Consumer Fraud Act.

If anyone else believes that their insurance company is intentionally or negligently overcharging or denying benefits, then please contact me. I have experience litigating against health insurance companies.

That being said, the deadline for open enrollment is closing soon and it is important to get health insurance, so people should get to as soon as possible to sign up.

Legal Practice Management Software Part 3

Lexis Nexis has several products for legal practice management, one is cloud based and called Firm Manager. It is simply awful. Lexis gave me a free account a year ago, at some point I assume they want to charge for it, but the product is just half baked.

Firm Manager is not fully featured, it is slow and it is buggy. The interface is okay, but somewhat dated. I don’t recommend wasting time on this product.

Lexis also has two desktop programs, PCLaw and Time Matters. PCLaw is primarily a legal accounting product with some case management capability and Time Matters is solely case management, but cannot do billing. I believe time matters integrates with various accounting programs.

I wanted to try PCLaw and Time Matters but despite the claims on the Lexis website, they would not just send me a trial version of either product. I got a call from a lexis salesperson who said someone with knowledge to answer my questions would call back in about a week and a half since Lexis was having a conference for its salespeople.

I got a call back in three weeks, and by then I had already purchased another product (Amicus Attorney Premium, which I will discuss soon). Clearly Lexis needs to do more to make anyone feel confident buying this product.

Desktop legal practice management, Part 2

One program I have used for years that does a decent job is Easy Trust for trust accounting.

This program is relatively pricey, but simple enough to use without a support plan. It is sold by Easy Soft, which makes a whole suite of legal programs. There is a complete time and billing module as well, but I haven’t used that.

I like keeping my trust accounting totally separate from my legal or accounting software. This helps prevent mistakes. Easy trust is great for a transactional practice, in that you create a ledger for each matter and it will not allow you to enter any debits that make that particular ledger go below zero.

EasyTrust integrates with EasyHud, so you can import transactions from a HUD1 closing settlement statement and not have to type in the details, though I have found it better to just type everything again.

Easy trust has a bank reconciliation feature, can print checks and does the one job I use it for.