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September, 2011:

Cyberbullying: What’s A Kid To Do

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  This blog should not be viewed as legal advice.  It is simply my experiences, opinions, and information I looked up on the internet.

Last week, the world was saddened to learn about the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer. This 14 year-old was repeatedly bullied by his peers since the fifth grade. To the outside world, it seemed like this was a child with enough self-esteem to overcome this adversity. He had support from his therapist, social worker, friends, and family. He even made a video for the It Gets Better Project where he said, “All you have to do is hold your head up and you’ll go far.” All of this support wasn’t enough to keep Jamey from taking his own life.

Summary http://www.epa.gov/win/winnews/images0...

Image via Wikipedia

According to reports, Jamey was repeated bullied at school and online. It’s not uncommon for victims of bullying to remain quiet because they are too ashamed to report that they are being victimized. Also, many teens feel a need to be independent and handle their problems on their own. They need to know that they have resources and recourse for addressing cyberbullying when it occurs.

Here are my top three tips for responding to cyberbullying.

1. Limit Who Has Access To You Online
Jamey received hateful messages via Formspring. In his It Gets Better video, he admitted it was a mistake to create a Formspring account. It allowed people to send him hateful messages anonymously. I wish Jamey knew he could have avoided this harassment. You can adjust your Formspring settings to disallow anonymous postings. It won’t stop all the harassing posts, but it will stop anyone who is too cowardly to let their name be seen. Likewise on Facebook, you can adjust your settings so certain people can’t see you at all or so that only your friends can send you messages or post on your wall. On Twitter, you can block people who are harassing you.

2. Report Abuse To The Website Where It Occurs
If you’re being harassed on a social media website, report it! Formspring, Twitter, and Facebook all have policies against using their sites to abuse other users. The same holds true for email providers. I suspect these site start by warning users who violate their terms of service, but they don’t change their behavior, they could have their account suspended.

3. Keep A Record Of The Abuse
I know it’s hard to do, but don’t delete abusive posts, emails or text messages. Take screenshots of posts online in case the bully deletes it later. It’s easier to prove you’re being abused when there’s hard evidence. It’s not a he said-she said situation at that point.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up for yourself and report abuse. I know it’s scary, but remember that reporting abuse is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

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Freedom Is The New Rich: An Interview with Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers, principle attorney of Rachel Rodgers Law Office, has a virtual law office (VLO) that is dedicated to new business owners. She is sharing her knowledge and experience with her latest endeavor, Freedom Is The New Rich, where she will provide products and services to help lawyers and entrepreneurs pursue the work life they’ve always wanted.  Rachel was gracious to take some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her upcoming teleclass called 21st Century Lawyer: Lifestyle Design with a Virtual Law Office.

Why are you calling this new endeavor Freedom Is The New Rich?
Because freedom IS the new rich! When I talk to fellow lawyers that are unhappy in their work, it’s usually because they want more freedom in their lives, not more money. I used to think that in order to live the way I wanted to live and do work that was exciting and meaningful, I would have to get rich first. I thought that living the way I truly wanted had to wait until retirement. Living richly doesn’t require being a millionaire. It just requires making a conscious choice and strategic decisions about how you want to live your life instead of just accepting the way society says you should live.

Tell us more about the 21st Century Lawyer Teleclass.
It’s a 4-week teleclass that will consist of 4 one-hour class sessions, followed by Q & A. The classes will take place Wednesday evenings from October 5th-26th and participants can attend class via the web or phone. All of the classes will be recorded and made available on the course website immediately so those who aren’t available at the specified time will still be able to participate. All participants will also receive the 21st Century Lawyer Virtual Law Office Guide, which is chock full of resources that will help participants create their own VLO. The introductory price is $147 and from now until September 26 at midnight, I’m offering early enrollment for just $97.

What is the purpose of this teleclass?
Each class will begin with a practical, informative lecture on that week’s topic. After each lecture there will be a class survey where participants answer a few relevant questions and then a class discussion with audience participation will take place where we will sort through the relevant questions and deal with participant fears. By the end of the class, participants will have a complete action plan for creating their own VLO that allows them to practice the type of law they want for the kind of clients they want, and that is designed to fit the way they want to live as well.

Who should take this teleclass? 
Any lawyer or soon-to-be lawyer who is not content with the status quo, who understands that the legal marketplace has changed and knows there is a way to have their ideal lifestyle while practicing law the way they always wanted.

What types of resources will participants receive as a result of participating in this class?
Participants will learn how to quiet their fears about living their ideal lifestyle, how to identify what their ideal lifestyle truly is, how to create a financial plan to start a VLO and support their ideal life, how to create a profitable VLO in a desired niche area and how to obtain a steady flow of desired clients. They will also receive resources needed to start a profitable VLO including information on different types of technology, how to create a VLO website, complying with ethics requirements, creating sources of passive income and much more!

What are the benefits of having a VLO compared to a traditional law firm?
A VLO can be operated for far less than the cost of running a traditional law office. The technology allows lawyers to serve their clients securely from anywhere. Additionally, an online-based practice has a presence throughout the states in which the attorney is barred, rather than in just their local community. That means they have a greater potential client pool than most traditional law offices. Other benefits include offering convenience and affordability to clients. Offering unbundled legal services allows clients to purchase only the services that they need from you instead of mandatory full representation, which allows clients who can’t afford high hourly rates to obtain legal services.

What’s your response to lawyers who claim that no one has enough expertise to be a solo attorney right out of law school?
There is a quote that says, “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” Furthermore, going solo right out of law school is not a new concept. Jay Foonberg, an award-winning lawyer and author of the classic, ‘How to Start & Build a Law Practice,’ not only believes it’s possible to go solo out of law school but also recommends it! Abraham Lincoln also advised young lawyers to go solo. He said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” A lawyer who studies, has mentors and gives each case his or her all, is not likely to fail.  In fact, any young lawyer who doubts their expertise should spend a day at the courthouse. You’ll be shocked at how obviously terrible some very experienced attorneys really are. Experience alone does not determine your ability to practice law.

Participants can register for 21st Century Lawyer: Lifestyle Design with a Virtual Law Office starting on Tuesday, September 20, 2011. Early registration is $97 until September 26th and then the price goes up to $147.

This sounds like a great opportunity for any law graduate or attorney who is ready to go solo and have the freedom to have the career they’ve always wanted.

Breaking Into Digital Publishing

Evo Terra, (cc) sheiladeeisme on Flickr

I spent last Saturday at ePublish Unum’s first Digital Publishing Workshop for Authors. EPublish Unum is a new company started by Evo Terra and Jeff Moriarty to educate and assist digital authors in publishing their work. Between the two of them, they have a host of knowledge and experience in writing, marketing, social media, and podcasting.

I am at the beginning my writing career. I attended this workshop because I’m ready to take my blog writing to the next level and become an ebook author. This workshop taught me that writing a manuscript is just the beginning of being a successful digital author.

Jeff Moriarty, (cc) sheiladeeisme on Flickr

Being a digital author is completely different from using a traditional publisher. I co-authored a book chapter during law school. I wrote the manuscript and had to proofread the draft after it came back from the editor and that was basically it. As a digital author, you don’t have the burden of shopping your work around for a publishing house, but there are so many other things you have to do and consider.

  • A digital author is an author, publisher, and promoter.
  • An acceptable layout on paper may not translate well to an iPad or Kindle.
  • Your cover art has to look good as a thumbnail.
  • Ebooks are a lot cheaper than paper books, but they are outselling paper books.
  • You have to convert your book from a manuscript to an ebook and decide which service to use.
  • You have to proofread your work after conversion to catch any “gremlins” that were created.
  • You have to decide how you will promote your work and interact with your fans.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! There was so much information, I felt like a sponge taking it all in. Despite the enormous amount of information that was being presented, Evo and Jeff always presented the material in a nonthreatening way. I walked away inspired and feeling like being a digital author was something I could do successfully as long as I was willing to do the work.

I currently have three ideas for ebooks:

  • The legal side of blogging,
  • The legal implications of being a flash mob organizer, and
  • The best thing I did in law school was take off my pants on the light rail (how I made law school work for me).

I am petrified and excited to begin working on these projects. I am grateful that there are successful digital authors I can look to for inspiration and the incredible people at ePublish Unum I can turn to for guidance when I need it.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read – Verify It

Today, I saw a link to a story posted by FCKH8.com about a high school student in Tennessee who was at risk of being suspended for trying to start a gay-straight alliance (GSA).  FCKH8.com suggested that everyone call or email Principal Moser at the school to tell him not to suspend the student.

According to the story, Nathan Carroll wanted to start a GSA at high school and circulated a petition to get support.  When Carroll brought the petition to Principal Moser, the principal threatened to suspend him if he tried to create a GSA because the petition created a “disturbing the educational environment.”

My FCKH8 Shirt

Now, I love FCKH8.com. I support their mission. I love their videos and I have a FCKH8 t-shirt.  I’m glad FCKH8 publicizes stories about discrimination that occurs based on sexual orientation, but this time it looks like they didn’t do their homework before posting this story and encouraging everyone to complain to the school.

Thanks to FCKH8.com, I had Principal Moser’s phone number. So I called him. He was a very pleasant man.  According to Moser, Carroll created a petition to get student support for a GSA.  Many students supported the idea and others who were very opposed to the idea. The disagreement between the factions began to cause disruptions in classrooms that were interfering with the teachers’ ability to teach. The principle told the students on both sides that petitions would no longer be allowed in school because of the disruption they caused, and violating this directive could result in a suspension. Moser told me that he told Carroll about the process that all school clubs are required to go through in order to be created and that if students went through that process, then the school could have a GSA. I thanked Moser for his time, and I told him that I hoped the teachers used this situation as an opportunity to teach students how to appropriate communicate when there is a disagreement and people with strong beliefs on both sides.

I’m sure the real truth of this situation is a combination of the students’ and the principal’s perspective, but I looked at this situation much differently after I hung up the phone.  If Moser’s version is mostly accurate, he seems to have acted reasonably for the situation. The school isn’t against having a GSA; it just has to be done through the proper channels.

I went back to FCKH8.com’s Facebook page and posted a comment about my experience. Many others who left comments said that they had emailed the school. There were many posts that took the news story at face value, assumed that it was completely accurate, and called the principal homophobic and insensitive among other things. There were several dozen people who had reposted the original news story on their Facebook profiles.

There are enough bad situations involving discrimination based on sexual orientation in schools that we don’t need to look for problems where they don’t exist. Today’s experience taught me how important it is to verify information and to give the other side an opportunity to explain their perspective before posting comments or repeating information online. If you’re posting inaccurate information, you’re adding to an existing problem, and it’s that much harder to fix.

PS – If everything Principal Moser told me was a lie, please tell me.

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MBE Score: To Look Or Not To Look

The Arizona Bar Exam has three sections.

  • Multistate Bar Exam (MBE): 200 multiple choice questions (6 hours), 50% of your score
  • Multistate Essay Exam (MEE): 6 essay questions (3 hours), 30% of your score
  • Multistate Performance Exam (MPE): 2 practical questions (3 hours), 20% of your score

This is my actual MBE score, still in its envelope.

You have to get a score of at least 410 out of 600 to pass the bar. The results of the exam will not be out until October; however, five weeks after the exam, we received our MBE scores in the mail. It is possible to bomb the MBE and still pass the bar, and it’s possible to ace the MBE and still fail. I decide the stress of not knowing anything was less than the stress I would feel if I opened my MBE score and I wasn’t happy with the result. So, when my score arrived, I put it in a drawer instead of opening it.

A lot of people heard about what I did and couldn’t believe that I had enough self-restraint to not open the envelope. Many of them asked if they could open it or at least hold it up to a light bulb so they could know what it says. These people are all banned from my home until after the final bar exam pass list is posted.

Fortunately, I have significant experience with being academically stubborn. During law school, I never checked my grades after the first semester. After each semester was over and final grades were posted, I emailed the assistant dean of the law school. He checked my grades for me and let me know that I passed and that I was in good academic standing. I never knew what my GPA or class rank were and it made me a happier law student.  My focus shifted to learning the material and my stress level dropped significantly. I have a copy of my final transcript on my computer in case a future employer wants to see it, but I’ve never looked at it.

I decided not to open my MBE score because knowing this information would not give me any definitive answers about my bar score. It’s a bit cruel that the powers that be tell us what 50% of our score is and make us sweat it for another 5 weeks. I’d rather take the bar exam and forget about it until the official pass list is posted.

To anyone who would not react well if they score below average on their MBE, I recommend not opening your MBE score when it arrives.  All that matters is that you get the total score you need to pass.

Business Cards for Law Students

Lawyerist recently wrote a great post about why lawyers need business cards. They are a simple yet effective tool to have when networking.  You never know whose hands your card will end up. The same lesson is true for law students, and law students have more freedom to design cards that fit their personality.

Every law student should have business cards. Over the last year, I’ve picked up a lot of do’s and don’ts when it comes to selecting and designing a personal card. Every card should have the following information:

  • Your Name,
  • Your School,
  • JD Candidate,
  • Class of ______,
  • Your Phone Number, and
  • Your Email Address.

There are three main options for cards.

Option #1: School Business Cards
Many law schools give their students the opportunity to purchase business cards. These tend to have a simple and clean look. Students customize their cards with their personal information.  This is my friend Stephanie Green’s card.

Stephanie's Business Card - Address & Phone Info Removed

She realized after she had them printed that she shouldn’t have put her address on them because she’s moved twice since then.  Additionally, you might not want to put your home address on your card because you never know who will end up with that information.

I was happy when my school offered business card for sale; however, I cringed when I saw the template.  It was way too plain for me.  All the white space was a turn off for me.  I needed something with more personality and color.

Option #2: Personalized Business Cards
Vistaprint and Moo have many options for people who want more colorful and creative business cards. Vistaprint has many templates for free business cards that are suitable for law students. These companies make business cards for businesses, and the templates are designed to make the company the focus and not the individual. My classmate input his information exactly as the template suggested, and the result looked similar to this.

Bad Business Card

This design was perfect for his personality, but his card looks odd because you focus on the school and not him. Students who opt to have more personalized cards must remember that templates suggest where you put certain information but you can chose what information you put on it and where you put it. If I had this card as a law student, here’s how I’d do it.

Good Business Card

I think it’s better for students to put a non-school email address, because the information will continue to be current if someone wants to reach them after they graduate. However, the email address must look professional – something like YourName@gmail.com.

Option #3: Untraditional Business Cards
Some people are extremely creative when it comes to their business cards. Jason Tenenbaum got his business cards from Moo. It has a picture on the front and a QR code on the back that links to his information.

A divorce lawyer has a sassy business card that’s perforated in the middle with the same information on both sides. It pushes the envelope on appropriateness, but it makes me laugh. It’s a great gimmick.

In some industries, it’s common to have MiniCards – half sized business cards. I considered getting these instead of business cards, but I changed my mind when I showed a MiniCard to a young up-to-date lawyer, and he couldn’t understand what it was. In the future, I think I will have both standard business cards and MiniCards and will let the setting determine which one I use.

Along with business cards, every law students should have a business card case.  Without a case, the corners of the cards will become bent and dirty in a wallet or pocket. Reasonably priced ones are available from Amazon and VistaPrint, and more exciting ones are available on ThinkGeek and UncommonGoods.

Lawyers’ Bad Reputations Start with Arrogant Law Students

In every industry, there appear to be some people who cling to the old school ways and others who fully embrace innovation. Apparently in publishing, there is animosity between writers whose work is published by the Big Publishing Houses and writers who self-publish.  Allegedly some people who are represented by Big Publishing claim that people who are self-published do not qualify as authors because they didn’t go through the same process to publish their work. In the big picture, it doesn’t matter. All writers have the desire to communicate their work and have to work hard to cultivate a following — let alone put the words on the page.

Gavel | Andrew F. Scott: P6033675

Image by afsart via Flickr

In the Arizona legal community, one source of animosity is the law school from which one matriculated. Until recently, Arizona had only two law schools: Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arizona (UofA). There is an ongoing rivalry between these school based on who is ranked higher. In 2004, a new law school entered the scene: Phoenix School of Law (PSL). This school is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA); however it is not ranked in the top 100 law schools by the U.S. News. PSL has the reputation of being the school that people go to when they couldn’t get into ASU or UofA and that students hope to perform well enough during their 1L year so they can transfer to a better school.

I was not prepared for the hostility that some people have towards PSL graduates. Earlier this summer, an article was released that stated that 1/3 of 2010 law school graduates have jobs that do not require passing a bar exam. The responses from two of my classmates were appalling.

  • “This is why I hate…… PSL kids….. yes I’m going public with this comment and I don’t G.A.F.  If you want to be a lawyer, go to a real school and stop saturating the saturated market.  Was that too harsh? Whatever, I know everyone is thinking it.”
  • “I agree.  And the ABA could have a huge role to play by making law school accreditation more difficult. The problem is that there is a consent decree with the FTC which means that the ABA can’t refuse accreditation to more law schools or cut off accreditation to make fewer lawyers because it would be “anti-competitive.”  The problem now, of course, is that there’s too much competition and too many bottom-feeding, hungry lawyers.”

These comments were made by two people who had not yet taken the bar when they made these statements. My response: Who are they to judge? We all took the LSAT, got into a law school, passed our classes, and graduated. Everyone who passes a bar exam has the right to be a lawyer if they chose to be (and can find work), regardless of the road they took to get there.

These comments show the immaturity, insecurity, and enormity of their egos. During my 1L orientation, the then-dean of the law school encouraged us not to tell lawyer jokes because it perpetuated the image of the legal profession as being full of soulless, greedy, and unscrupulous ladder climbers. Unfortunately, this reputation is still earned by many lawyers now coming out of the gate.

My friend, Eric Mayer, is a brilliant criminal defense lawyer who says, “Good lawyers are not made by their law schools.” Law school is just the beginning of a legal career. A lawyer’s reputation should not be based on where they went to law school, but rather on their intelligence, competence, and ethics. I surprised an ASU law professor this week when I told her that I did not care about the future reputation of my law school because the body of my work will be more determinative of whether I’m a good lawyer.

If the legal profession wants to change its reputation, it should try to screen out these arrogant people when they apply to law school and continuously foster the idea that there’s a place for all types of people to be lawyers. More realistically, I suppose, schools should integrate elitist conversations into their classrooms and truly take the time to debate students who repeatedly demonstrate this type of arrogance. I hope comments like those enumerated by my classmates are not the norm for my class, my school, or the legal profession, but I have my doubts.

Having a different educational background does not make a person a bad lawyer. It just makes them different, and it’s this diversification that permits the profession to grow and remain relevant. Just as self-published writers may be looked down upon as being less credible, it is those who take a different path that are now spearheading certain areas of the industry. If you have a hang up about a person’s legal education, hire someone else.