When Bad Things Happen to Good Legal Professionals

     Blog.iStock_000012817538XSmall[1] The story of Cinderella is familiar to most of us.  Nice girl, horrible living conditions, probably violation of child-labor laws, happy ending.  When we are children, we believe this story and for some of us, it sets our expectations for the future.  And then, real life happens. 

     When we think of what the bad things are that happen to good legal professionals, it’s generally an event, incident, illness or other occurrence that was not within the control of that person. Here are two real-life stories: 

     #1:  When I heard the following story, I wanted to explore what occurs when bad things happen to good professionals.  Were bad things a result of a higher power?  Did we bring these events on ourselves?  Or, was this just the way of life and the end result was how we chose to deal with our set of circumstances? 

     Jim was all set and poised for a positive future.  A firefighter, happily married and living in Fresno, California, this young, well-liked man was expertly advancing his career when tragedy struck.  His young wife was unexpectedly diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Within 90 days, she died.

     Struggling with grief, Jim went back to work.  A short time later, he met an amazing woman in a golf chat room of all places and a couple of years later they married.  Back on track, he thought he had it all until he was injured on the job. Four surgeries in one year put an end to Jim's chances to  live out his career as a firefighter.  Devastated,  he believed there were few job options for a guy like him.  He did not have a college degree and firefighting hardly prepared him for other positions.

            “I had always been interested in the law,” he says, “so I thought I would give paralegal
school a shot.  I won Student of the Year and after graduation, I became the head Civil Litigation Paralegal for a small firm where the managing partner was head of the Central California Trial Lawyers Association.

     Motivated and enthused by the possibility of even bigger challenges, he went on to law school.  “I graduated and passed the California Bar on the first try,” he says.  "I actually surprised myself."

            Here's a guy who twice in his life had two serious choices. With either one, he could go through life as a victim or he could set himself up as a winner.  Fortunately, he chose the winning road.  I was curious.  What strengths do you need and what pursuits do you take to overcome overwhelming obstacles?  Why do some people survive, changed for the better and why do some fold, melt and shut down?

            In the 2004 controversial fiction and documentary film, “What the Bleep Do We Know”, a connection is made between science and spirituality.  At the core, are provocative questions about
how we participate, unconsciously or not, in an unfolding reality.  What was of particular interest was the theory about the brain.

     The simplest way to explain it is if we think a certain way for long enough, those connections between brain cells are strengthened and we automatically default to that way of thinking.  We make decisions about what events mean and what should be done.  We are not required to make a new decision with each new circumstance because with repeated experiences, our brain forms associations.  Thus, if we accept limited power for long enough, we begin to automatically go through life as a victim.

           #2  Phill is a seasoned veteran of the paralegal field.  A seminary student bound for the priesthood, he was told point blank by the headmaster that he just wasn't cut out to be a priest.  How on earth do you deal with that?  After a great deal of obvious angst, he changed his career direction to become, what else? A paralegal. With over 20 years of litigation experience, he is now a Senior Paralegal at a high-profile prestigious firm earning significant dollars and enjoying the perks.  Added to his long list of credentials is author of a well-selling book for litigation paralegals and teacher in a paralegal studies program.

            Married for over 30 years, his life had been relatively peaceful. That is, until the fateful
day his wife learned she had breast cancer.  “I was devastated,” says Phill.  “I had trouble comprehending the magnitude of the situation.  Until now, we had faced a relatively uncomplicated marriage.  I was scared, very scared."

     The next six months were filled with his wife’s treatments:  partial mastectomy, and chemotherapy followed by radiation. “I missed a lot of work,” he recalls.  “Being able to work from home, I was able to cover.”  His supervisors were extremely supportive, making it easier much easier to erase his fears of losing his job.

            What got Phill through?  “Resolve,” he says.  “There was not a damn thing I could do to medically improve my wife’s condition. I resolved to do whatever I could to help so she could concentrate on fighting cancer.” 

            Looking back, Phill’s attitude puts things in perspective. “It’s a bend in the road,” he says.  While that may sound too casual for a life changing event, this is not a laid-back mind-set.  It’s a reflection of staying optimistic and maintaining control over what he could control – his outlook. His wife’s illness changed his point of view about life and career. “I think work moved work farther down on the importance scale,” he says.  Strengthened by his wife’s upbeat attitude, the couple recently celebrated two years of remission.

     By thinking positively and staying the course, Phill and Jim were able to break free from victimization and experience happy outcomes. They reprogrammed so that positive thinking was the direction they defaulted. That’s not to say that positive thinking will cure an illness or get
your job back.  By positive thinking, we are able to choose how we live out a dreadful experience, no matter how long or how short our actual lives. By choosing fresh, creative responses, we begin to
experience a more positive, powerful life.

         In a bad experience, how does someone go from feeling wretched to absolutely rocking with self confidence?  The answer is quite simple really.  You make a decision.

         There’s a thin line between “fake it ‘til you make it” and behaving your way to success.  Jim and Phill are remarkable examples of legal professionals who, against the odds, took a positive approach to bad things happening - so much so that success was inevitable.  

     Although I can’t really say that I am a huge fan of Anthony Robbins (simply because I haven’t invested time in his work), I did run across a great quote.  “The only way to change your life is to make a real decision.  A real decision means that you cut off any other possibility than the one you’ve decided to make a reality.” 

       Everyday we are given the opportunity to make decisions.  Decide how you want to live your life and run your career and set about with complete certainty to create it.  When bad things happen to good legal professionals, it takes a decision – go down with the event or rise from it – and turn your life around.  Bad things happening are not ever really good.  Deciding how you’ll handle it can be the best life decision you’ll ever make.  

Seeking to improve your career?  OLP is now offering an excellent eDiscovery Project Management Certificate Program.  Starting December 4th, this online, interactive program teaches you the core competencies of eDiscovery and project management enabling you to become more valuable to your firm.  Register now.  Seating limited to 15 students.

Excellent Course You've Just Got to Take: EDiscovery for Techies

IStock_000007271896Small[1] There's not much out there in the way of specific eDiscovery training for those with expert litigation support, technology or IT skills.   That is, until OLP came up with a fantastic course: EDiscovery for Techies.

I am most impressed by the lead instructor, Bill Gallivan, of Digital War Room.  Bill and his colleagues have come with with a course that takes into consideration that techies know everything there is to know about technology but need to learn - in the manner that they learn - the relevant parts of eDiscovery that are particularly applicable to their position.

The course is 8 weeks and meets twice a week for two hours each course.  If your serious about getting ahead in your career, you need to consider this important time investment. It's all online and by using a webcam (I got mine at Best Buy for $24.95), you interact with the instructor and other students.  If you miss a class, you can take the recorded version.  Better hurry, though, because the course starts on July 19th.  Right now, OLP is offering a two-for-one tuition - two people for only 495.00.  It's a great deal.

The course is a "doozy" as my father used to say.  Here is part of the syllabus:

Week #                                Topic

1 Introduction to Legal Terminology
2 RULES:Civil Procedure and Discovery Process  + Federal Rules - Meet and Confer, Conflicts and Interests, Ethical considerations 
3 INTERPRETATION OF THE RULES: 2009-2010 Case Law Review - Court Decisions Involving Electronic Discovery , SEDONA CONFERENCE; Sanctions, Duties to Preserve, Spoliation, Rule 37, Safe Harbor Provisions
4 EDRM BEST PRACTICES - IDENTIFICATION, PRESERVATION COLLECTION =  Litigation Holds, Triggering Event, Litigation Response Plan, Discovery Response Team, Duties to Preserve, Rule 37, Safe Harbor
5 EDRM TOOLS and TECHNOLOGIESfor IDENTIFICATION, PRESERVATION COLLECTION - Risk Mitigation and Legal Hold Triggers,  Identification, Data Mapping and Preservation; EDRM - Identification, Data Mapping and Preservation
8 EDRM BEST PRACTICES- Review, Production, Presentation 
9 EDRM TOOLS and TECHNOLOGIES- Review, Production, Presentation (Including trial technologies) 
10 Matter Budgeting:  Managing expectations, forecasting hours, resources, tool cost and vendor costs -- tracking budgets and out of scope.  Sample bdgeting exercise and homework,
11 Practice Matters:  Software Contract Disputes  
12 Final Exam Review -  Business Ethics, Qualifications, OLP Certifications and the future of our industry

In fact, even if you're not such a techie, the course outline looks absolutely fantastic.  Register now because the course starts on July 19th.  The more you know, the better you get.....

Research, 'Riting & Resources (Ok, it's a stretch - I agree)

Elwell.celia Celia Elwell, RP, is a very experienced paralegal in Oklahoma.  An avid researcher and writer, Celia sends me these wonderful listings filled with interesting articles, posts and valuable tidbits.  The light finally went on inside my head (where else?).  I thought, "Why am I not sharing these our readers?"  Enjoy!

SCOTUS Justices on the Language of Law: Advocacy and Legal Writing (and by Implication Legal Research, Too), Law Librarian Blog

Standard of Review in Five Easy Steps, by Raymond Ward, the (new) legal writer


The Winning Wal-Mart Brief: Six Returns, by Ross Guberman, Legal Writing Pro


New Examples of Good Legal Writing, Legal Writing Prof Blog

Legal Writing 201: 30 Suggestions to Improve Readability or How To Write For Judges, Not Like Judges, by Judge Mark P. Painter, Ohio First District Court of Appeals

Oops, Thou Shalt Not Know How to Use One's Electronic Calendar without Risking Missing Court Filing Deadlines, Law Librarian Blog


ABA Ethics Panel Strikes Sensible Balance on Online Marketing, Robert Ambrogi’s Law Sites


Connecticut becomes first state to require paid sick leave, by Sheri Qualters, The National Law Journal, Law.com


Favorite E-Discovery Links, FloridaLawFirm.com and E-Discovery Team


"eDiscovery" in Domestic Relations Mutual Scheming: Digging up Dirt by "Friending" Ex-Spouse, Law Librarian Blog

Facebook Discovery in Litigation, by Ronald B. Miller, Jr., The Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog

MySpace, Facebook, GPS and other e-Discovery: Coming Soon to a Texas Divorce Proceeding Near You, by DiscoveryResources.org Reporter

Are Facebook and MySpace Messages Subject to Discovery?, by Doug Cornelius, Compliance Building

10 Trial Practice Blogs Worth Bookmarking, by Gyi Tsakalakis, Lawyerist.com

Top Encryption Techniques for Lawyers, by John Edwards, Legal Technology News, Law.com

Top Ten Tips for Leveraging Cutting-Edge Legal Research Technology to Control Legal Costs and Drive Client Value, by Lydia E. Flocchini, Association of Corporate Counsel (with hat tip to Bill Statsky)

Data: Driving Force in Web 3.0, EDD Update

In Trio of Big Business Cases, Justices Sharply Divide, by Marcia Coyle, The National Law Journal, Law.com

Roberts Court extends line of permissive First Amendment rulings in video game case, by Tony Mauro, The National Law Journal, Law.com

Clarifying personal jurisdiction . . . or not, by Howard Wasserman, PrawfsBlawg, http://bit.ly/iLFwqg

D.C. Divorce Lawyer, Nobel Laureate Feud, by Zoe Tillman, The National Law Journal, Law.com

And in case you thought tort reform was slowing down . . . ., Civil Procedure and Federal Courts Blog

Great Reading for the Week of July 4th, 2011, Jim Calloway's Law Practice Blog

National Conference of Bar Examiners

iPhoneJD - a blog for lawyers using iPhones and iPads
10 iPhone Apps Every Lawyer Should Have, by Erin Geiger Smith, Business Insider Law Review
Adding Bates-numbers in Acrobat is easy (and powerful), PDF for Lawyers
Ready for CM/ECF Changes: Conforming Existing PDF Files to PDF/A, by Rick Borstein, Acrobat for Legal Professionals

LitSupport Salary Survey: Do Paralegals With Tech Skills Earn More?

339055g26uicqq4[1] OLP invites you to participate in the first Litigation Support Salary & Utilization Survey to provide legal professionals with unparalleled insight into salary and career performance information.  We’re committed to helping people make the most of their careers, so we will provide a free salary survey to give you inside information about your market value, directly from your peers.  

  This same set of data is used to help legal professionals make more informed career decisions.

           Most employees don’t have the information they need to make informed career decisions.  While there are plenty of opinions, anecdotes, and generic statistics, there hasn’t been a place to turn for personalized career information based on data and facts.

                OLP’s goal is empower people to make the most of their careers by providing personalized career information, giving them better insight into the implications of their decisions. 

“In this field, you can get more information on a book to read, a car to buy or food you eat than you can on the very career that pays for everything you have or do.”
For example, the survey will replace generic statistics such as “people with paralegal certificates earn, on average, 20% more over their careers than those with Bachelors degrees” with smart  comparisons  (based on your education, experience, career goals, work ethic, and more) earn, on average, 34% more over their careers by attending a top 25 paralegal school, feel 42% more satisfied with their career, work 26 hours more per week, and feel 14% more stressed.” 

                Companies are using data to earn larger profits, sports teams are using data to build better teams, and now it’s time for legal professionals to start using data to make the most of their careers.

     OLP has partnered with CareerNumbers.com, an innovative company providing sophisticated salary surveys to the community.  CareerNumbers partners with leading organizations that want to provide their members with free data-driven career and salary information. Employees appreciate that surveys are simple and easy.  The surveys also provide powerful multi-dimensional reporting tools that puts the full-value of the information back into the hands of the people and partners that helped us obtain it.

               OLP’s goal is to help people make the most of their careers by empowering them to better understand themselves and the types of opportunities that are available to them. 
                The best way to achieve this is by providing deeper and more meaningful career data. You probably haven’t struggled to access valuable and relevant information for other decisions such as buying a car or even a book. However, when it comes to one of the most important components of your life, your career,there is a consistent struggle to find the information you need to make informed decisions. OLP wants to help solve this  problem for legal professionals because there’s no reason that, as a society, we should have more valuable information about the books we’re buying than the careers we’re living.

Participate in the survey today.   Survey data is free to participants.  It’s anonymous and confidential. Don’t get left out!

Go directly to the survey:    www.theolp.org.  Use invitation code:  Estblog.

"The Data Boom: Can Law Firms Profit?"

Yeah, oh, yeah! Read how in this Legal Technology article about how MoFo responded when a small client was hit with a huge discovery request:

"In the fall of 2005, a small Israeli technology startup came to San Francisco's Morrison & Foerster with a lawsuit -- and, soon enough, a problem.


"The stakes weren't particularly high -- just a few million dollars. But after the case was filed, the defendant hit back with an electronic discovery request -- every relevant e-mail, Microsoft Word file, spreadsheet, you name it -- so onerous that its cost alone would take a fair chunk of any judgment.

"'We saw that it was going to take several hundred thousand dollars to do this,' says Oz Benamram, director of knowledge management and Israel practice counsel at MoFo. In fact, there was nothing terribly unique about this situation. As more correspondence and information is stored electronically, e-discovery is requiring more time, and more dollars, than ever before.

"What was different was MoFo's solution. Realizing that the standard way of reviewing documents -- having teams of associates, or lower-priced contract attorneys, sift through anything that could be relevant, deciding what was responsive and had to be turned over, and what was privileged and needed to be kept -- wasn't going to cut it, the firm suggested a radical approach: automate almost everything."

Be sure to read the PROFIT CENTER? section at the very end of this article.

"The authenticity of a found document:

Hmm, interesting problem that can torpedo a case. Does your firm's IT department employ effective document management policies?

"What seems to be the problem? Your IT organization has put in place proper procedures [PDF] for deleting electronic documents, including e-mails. So it is no surprise when as a result of litigation your e-discovery process cannot turn up a particular document. However, to everyone's surprise the document turns up on your CEO's laptop. This is a very possible scenario. You must know whether the document is admissible as evidence in a civil lawsuit.

"What do you need to know? Evidence is admitted in court only if it can be shown that the evidence is authentic. Authentic data must follow a chain-of-custody. So how does this work with a lost document that has now been found?"

Find more key questions for IT in the balance of this article from Storage

Author David Hill is the founder and principal at the Mesabi Group...an industry analyst firm that focuses on networked storage and storage management.

"Consultant Compatibility: Take the Quiz"

Always good to have thoughtful checklists for hiring vendors, I say. And this quiz from Legal Technology looks very helpful:

"There's a saying that starts, 'You know you're in trouble if ...' But sometimes, by the time you know you're in trouble, it's too late to start asking 'Why?'

"One example of such a time is with e-discovery and legal technology projects. If you're halfway through the project and run into trouble, backtracking to correct the problem usually isn't an option. A nearly ironclad way around that problem includes proper preparation and having the right team. These are key elements to the success of any legal technology project, from e-discovery to product-implementation schemes to training sessions.


"In this article, we offer the nitty-gritty for attorneys and others involved in e-discovery and other legal technology projects. Start the process of answering key questions by taking the consultant compatibility quiz...."

Authors Christin Martin and Kelly Lumpkin are consultants with Simpson Neely Group Inc., which provides technology consulting services to corporate law departments.

"EDD-ucating Yourself About Electronic Discovery"

Not a new article  (Oct. 2006) from the ABA's Law Practice Today, but someone just pointed out that it says something nice about this blog. (How did I miss that!?)

"It was back in July 2004 (http://www.abanet.org/lpm/lpt/articles/slc07041.html) when Tom published the first Strongest Links article on the subject of electronic discovery as part of an influential EDD-themed issue of Law Practice Today.  Since that time, the electronic evidence landscape has changed considerably, and EDD is more important that ever.  With December 1 -- the date the amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will take effect -- fast approaching, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit those links, and provide an update to those of you who are still learning about the intricacies of e-discovery.  Which, really, is probably all of us.


"Weblogs -- Surprisingly, there have not been a lot of weblogs on the subject of EDD.  However, those weblogs that do discuss the topic are terrific


"The Estrin Report is a group blog created for professional paralegals that often covers electronic discovery topics."

If you're a litigation paralegal, be sure to read the complete article -- it's chock-full of very helpful links!

As as regular readers know, The Estrin Report is all about finding & posting news & other items of interest to you! Your comments, suggestions, even complaints, are appreciated.

Houston's State-of-the-Art Electronic Data Discovery Lab

Ths news sounds wonderful doesn't it? I'd sure like to take a tour!

"UHY Advisors today announced the opening of its newly constructed electronic data discovery lab, a state-of-the-art facility for processing large volumes of electronic evidence and conducting sophisticated computer forensics investigations, at a secure location in downtown Houston.

"The lab is unique for its flexibility to be used for both high-volume electronic data discovery -- including data processing, culling with search terms, de-duplication and file conversion -- and complex digital forensics activities. The facility is  [PDF] secured with biometric locks and the evidence storage 'vault' is also secured with advanced motion detectors."

"Making Forensics Elementary at Your Firm"

Here's another career choice -- computer-forensics examinaton -- in which a paralegal background can be most helpful:


"Attorney and e-discovery expert Tom O'Connor, with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Legal Electronic Document Institute, says that judges in the cases he consults on are ordering e-discovery and computer-forensics investigation much more frequently than ever before. O'Connor is seeing the effect of this change on all kinds of cases.


"For civil domestic cases such as divorce proceedings, there's an enormous amount of forensics investigation occurring. O'Connor says that PCs are being examined to prove or refute claims by one spouse that the other has been engaging in extramarital affairs or hiding financial assets. Forensics experts are trained to search for e-mail exchanges in which the parties are setting dates and carrying on other communications. They can also:

  • Uncover questionable online purchases;
  • Track credit-card transactions; and
  • Detect whether credit cards unknown to one spouse are being used to make illicit purchases.

"Stephanie Simons Neal, litigation-support [PDF] project manager in the New York office of Weil Gotshal & Manges, attests to the burgeoning need for forensics expertise at her firm. Simons Neal's caseload consists of a number of patent cases, along with other corporate-litigation matters.

"'We've definitely noticed an increase in request for forensics, as well as requests for review and production of documents in native form as opposed to paper,' she says, adding that while the requests continue to come in, the expertise to meet those requests is lacking and there is a growing 'disconnect' between what cases actually require and what the law firms are equipped to provide.


"Trial attorney and certified computer forensic examiner Craig Ball of Austin, TX, has seen a marked increase in the use of forensically qualified imaging to preserve data prior to litigation rather than in reaction to it."

NOTE: This article also says: "Computer forensics is still a young science that's being shaped by the electronic-discovery rules as they continue to evolve and change. This expanding industry simultaneously presents huge opportunities and great responsibility."