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May, 2012:

What’s My Picture Doing On Pinterest?

Ignite Phoenix #5 Ruth Carter by Sheila Dee

This is the photo of me that's on Pinterest -- Ignite Phoenix #5 by Sheila Dee

I’m not on Pinterest. I don’t need another internet addiction, and I think it’s a hub of unintentional copyright infringement. Pinterest provides a forum that encourages sharing, and I think it leads to people being so interested in sharing images that they don’t realize that they are violating other people’s copyright rights.

I was recently surprised when I saw that someone got to my law firm’s website by following a link from Pinterest. I traced it back to a board for the ASU Law Solo Network. The person who created the board posted a photo of me from my site with a link to my law firm’s webpage. I know the person who created the board used the picture to promote me and my business and only had good intentions. But she also didn’t consider whether she needed permission to use the photo.

My initial reaction was anger. I’m not on Pinterest, and I don’t want anyone posting any of my work on Pinterest without my permission. I started thinking about what I could do to get it removed, like sending a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice. That train of thought immediately stopped when I realized, “I don’t own this picture. I don’t get to decide where it’s shown online, and my rights aren’t being violated. I’m getting free publicity out of this, so shut up.”

I went back and looked up the original photo. It was a photo Sheila Dee took of me at Ignite Phoenix #5. The photo is available on Flickr and it has a Creative Commons license that allows anyone to copy and distribute the photo as long as they don’t alter the image, use it for commercial purposes, and if they give an attribution to Sheila. There’s nothing I can do to stop someone from pinning Sheila’s work on Pinterest. I bet Sheila’s happy that someone is indirectly promoting her by showing her work to others.

So what did I do about this photo on Pinterest? Not much – it’s not my photo and it’s free publicity for Carter Law Firm. I saw that the photo that was pinned didn’t have an attribution to Sheila Dee, so I sent the board owner an email asking her to give an attribution and a link back to the original image on Flickr.

This has been a good reminder to me that I don’t get to control every picture of me. I have no expectation of privacy in anything I do in public and part of that is I don’t have any control over where picture of me in public end up in most cases. And just because I’m not keen on Pinterest, it doesn’t mean that it can’t benefit me.

If you want to know more about copyright issues on Pinterest, check out this video.

Pinterest Spawns Copyright Issues

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Why Are Lawyers So Bitchy?

Law books on a Shelf by umjanedoan

I caught myself feeling really bitchy last week. It was a busy morning and I was headed to a breakfast meeting. I pushed the button to open the garage door. The motor whirled for a second and then stopped after opening the door only a few inches. A closer look revealed a broken spring. I went back into the house, postponed my meeting, and called a repair service. When the guy came out he started asking questions about the sound the door made and the condition of the track. I impatiently answered his questions while thinking “Just fix it!” I don’t care what sound the door makes; I just want it to go up and down when I push the button.

I’m my own boss, so if I’m not happy, it’s my own fault. My internal monologue inspired me to ponder what makes lawyers so bitchy. I immediately thought of one of my law school internships at a big law firm. My office neighbor was a brilliant but demanding woman. I was glad someone warned me that it was common for her to cut people off mid-sentence. When she heard the information she needed, she didn’t want you to speak anymore. Once I understood this, her behavior never offended me. It was just how she operated. She would tell me what argument she was trying to make and would send me off to find case law that supported it. When I gave her the information she needed, she wanted me out of her office. I had fixed her problem so she didn’t need me anymore. The benefit of doing projects for her was I never had to write a memo; she just wanted a copy of the case with the pertinent section highlighted.

Apparently sometimes she would call the office to complain about poor service in her cell phone. There was nothing her secretary could do to fix the situation, but she would go through the motions to humor her.

My reflections have led me to the acceptance that a lot of lawyers are controlling over-achievers. We were the people in high school you loved during group projects. We didn’t trust you to pull your weight and we knew we could it better, so we did all the work. We don’t like unexpected changes; our lives are too busy. We’re over-scheduled and work on tight deadlines. We don’t go with the flow. On the upside, we don’t intend to be mean or jerks, and usually we’re not. We just know what we want and we ask for it without any fluffy fanfare.

In general, we prefer to do things ourselves. We hate having to rely on others. When I have to hire someone to do something I can’t do, I’m grateful for their service, but I want them in and out of my house as fast as possible. I don’t like disruptions to my productive groove and quiet solitude.

Are lawyers going to stop being bitchy? No, not even solo practitioners like me. It’s a masochistic affliction I accept and try not to inflict it upon anyone else. And don’t think that only women can be bitchy lawyers because I’m female and the example I used is also a woman. Male lawyers can be just as bitchy.

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Get A Helmet

I was a gymnast from age 4 to 23. I was a competitive gymnast for 8 of those years. Gymnastics was more than a sport for me – it was a lifestyle. Not doing it was never an option. When I struggled with injuries, I just had to find a way to work through or around the pain.

Rocky & His Girls, 1993

I had an amazing coach during my competitive career named Rocky Kees. He brought out the best in me and all my teammates. That man was gymnastics magic. I absolutely loved training with him.  It was one of the best times of my life. And Rocky taught me more than gymnastics. He taught me life skills that I carry with me to this day.

One of Rocky’s mantras was, “Get a helmet.” It was his way of saying, “Suck it up” but it had an added element of respect for how hard our work was. He respected that gymnastics was hard or scary, but he wouldn’t tell us to do anything that we couldn’t do. We all heard, “Get a helmet” on a regular basis. To this day, I can post “It’s a Get A Helmet kind of day” on Facebook and I’ll get lots of acknowledgements from my former teammates.

Post-It Above My Desk

“Get a Helmet” has become my mantra for building my law firm. I have it written on a little post-it note above my desk. Every day comes with its own set of challenges, whether it’s managing my calendar, balancing the books, doing client work, writing my book, or marketing the hell out of myself and my firm. There are a lot of things I’d rather not do, but that’s not really an option when you run a one-person shop.  Sometimes I get tired, frustrated, and unmotivated. That’s when I look up at that post-it note, take a deep breath, and soldier on.

Remembering to “Get a Helmet” keeps my eye on the prize. I’m not asking myself to do anything impossible. It’s just hard and scary. I can handle that.

On Being an Existentialist

North Star Circa RMNP by Jasen Miller

Some days I’m profoundly aware of the fact that I’m an existentialist. This is one of those days.

I’ve always had to look for the deeper meaning of things. I’m driven by the possibility that what I do makes a difference, that people or things are changed because of something I did. I need to know that what I do has an impact.

Some people have children, and through them they have an inherent legacy that will live on. I have no intention of procreating, so I’m left with the possibility that I will not know what my legacy is because we don’t always know when we make a difference.

In my professional life, I have to change jobs when it stops being meaningful. When I go too long without thinking, “This is why I do what I do,” it’s time for me to move on. Before law school, I was a mental health therapist. There were days when I knew what I did mattered and other days where I felt like I was paid conversation. There have been instances where I’ve run into my past client since leaving the profession where they thanked me for the work I did when I thought I wasn’t doing anything.

My friend told me I should have outgrown this mind set when I finished college, and I’m sure it would make certain things easier. I accept that I am what I am and that it comes with the constant questioning and searching for meaning.


I’m not sure what brought on this self-reflection. Maybe it’s because a friend recently had a major heart attack or the fact that the anniversary of another friend’s death just passed. Both of these people were young and vibrant when they encountered unexpected medical emergencies, and one didn’t survive. Danielle Zeder reminded us at Ignite Phoenix #12 that the only guarantees in life are birth and death. We don’t know how much time we have in between and it’s important that we use that time well.

I feel lucky that I’m crafting the life I’ve always wanted. I have my own business, a basset hound who adores me, a singing voice that’s comparable to the angels, and a host of people in my life that I love and who love me. Sometimes I worry that I’m not doing enough to create my legacy, but then I have to step back and remember that that story will be someone else’s to tell. My job is in the here and now.

Walter Ball!!!

Two Christmases ago I asked Santa Claus for a Koosh ball.  I’m not good at holding still in general and I have tendency to pace and fuss when I’m thinking. I wanted a big softball size Koosh ball that I could toss between my hands while I paced around the house.

Walter Ball!!

Unfortunately, they don’t make the larger Koosh balls anymore. It’s a vintage toy, and my Santa wasn’t about to scour eBay with the hopes of finding me one.  Instead she found me a large blue ball with rubber hair in the toy section of the local drug store.  (The smaller tennis ball size Koosh ball is still available for purchase.)

Originally, the ball wasn’t going to have a name, but I while I was still home for Christmas that year, Mom referred to it as “Walter.” She meant to call it “Wilson” after the movie Cast Away. From then on, I couldn’t help but call it my “Walter ball.”

I guess Walter has become a signature fixture on my desk, kind of like my version of Dr. House’s oversized tennis ball or Captain Sisko’s baseball.  I toss it between my hands and squeeze it when I think. It is the only toy that is allowed to be on my desk. If you watch my interview on copyright infringement on Pinterest on AZ Family, you can catch a glimpse of Walter at 1:39.

Walter has been on a few adventures with me, though his size makes traveling with my unfeasible most of time. I have a world-traveling red plastic slinky that travels with me and loved one when we visit new places. Walter made the journey from my parents’ house in California to Phoenix. He also went with me to Lift Off earlier this year. I remember sitting on Pam Slim’s therapy ball and tossing Walter between my hands while I listened to her and Charlie Gilkey impart their wisdom on the best way to build my business. At one point in the weekend, we all got to draw our ideal offices. My drawing included a spot for Walter on my desk. All my other geek toys were relegated to the shelf behind me.