Sunday, April 30, 2006

Federal Bar Association

I was invited to Washington, D.C. to speak at a leadership training event for the Federal Bar Association. The FBA is a 16,000 member nationwide organization. If you are a lawyer working for the federal government or litigating in the federal courts, this is a terrific bar association for you. I have been a member for a number of years and have found it to be very rewarding. The FBA has chapters throughout the nation and a staff and national headquarters in DC. It is strictly non-partisan.

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Lawyer Steve Filler wrote a post on his Greencounsel blog on an upcoming film of interest "Who Killed the Electric Car?" The film was made by friends of mine in Los Angeles and sounds terrific.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Two-Monitor Time Saver

Attorneys who come to my office are sometimes wowed by the fact that I have two 17" flatscreen monitors. They are Samsung 730B and are just terrific. I don't understand how attorneys who have to juggle a lot can work with just one. It's great for cutting and pasting, working from different sources, entering time or doing another task without leaving a main document that you are "really" working on. Looking at a PDF on one screen, and writing about it in a Wordperfect document on the other. Just buy another monitor, and plug & play. I've checked out the really big monitors and they seem to daze me with their size and price. My control panel shows that I could put in a third, but unless you're an addicted day trader or sports addict, that seems a little over the top. Then again, when Gillette put another blade in my razor . . .

P.S. My last blog post went out unproofread. I use a macro to create the section symbol. 17 USC (Section Symbol) 107. The macro is (Control + S). Well, to Blogger that apparently means "Publish" so it just threw my unpolished post into the blogosphere. I'm starting to be concerned about lawyers using web-based apps. Sorry to subscribers who received two versions.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ben Cowgill's SoloBlawg

Some time ago, I noticed that Smallfirmlife was getting visits from an address with the word "Cowgill" in it. I regularly visit Sitemeter (the green button at the bottom of my blog), and by clicking on a button called "referrals" it will tell me. I tried visiting the site, but it was "under construction". If you want to see who visits this blog, you can click and explore now. Scroll down and try it. If you want Sitemeter to keep your stats secret, you can pay them $$$.

Well, I kept getting referrals from the same address, and it turns out that an attorney from Lexington Kentucky named Ben Cowgill who specializes in representing lawyers who run into trouble has launched a blog called SoloBlawg. Next time you've had one too many mint juleps at the Derby, you know who to call. Seriously speaking, Ben's blog links to his professional website that reveals a very impressive career in legal ethics and discipline and innovative uses of technology.

Ok, it may be that Smallfirmlife's admiration for Ben and his blog border on jealousy. Let's explore why. The photo is fresh, dynamic and professional. The content is focused, helpful, well written. Useful for the sole practitioner. And the design of the blog itself has a number of well-done features. For example, the nice copyright notice with Ben's signature. Good, clean design.

Even better, Ben's blog attacks and solves the ethical issues of blogging in a confident, lawyerly style. First, he has a box on the blog in his bio section that says:
For information about Mr. Cowgill's services as an attorney,please visit:Benjamin Cowgill, This link is an advertisementfor legal services.

Second, his disclaimer reads as follows:

This weblog is published by Cowgill Consulting. It is not an advertisement for legal services.This weblog is a exercise in journalism, not legal advice. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney regarding any actual legal issue or dispute. Nothing on this web site should be construed as legal advice or perceived as creating an attorney-client relationship.

Well done. A confident, simple solution elegantly executed. Smallfirmlife's new rainy day project is to figure out how he did all of that and to shamelessly copy it without giving him any credit. Compare 17 U.S.C. Section 107. More comments on Ben's great new blog to come.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Reflective Lawyering Blog: Quality of Life for Lawyers

When I started this blog, one of the first people I spoke to about blogging was attorney Arnie Herz. I asked him questions about his experience with blogging, and I used the information for an article I wrote for the New York Law Journal. Arnie maintains legal sanity - not just in his practice of law, but that's the name of his blog. In the whirlwind of trying to figure out all of the technical aspects of blogging, I did not take the time to visit his site and really spend time with the content. I now have taken the time to do so, and I highly recommend you doing the same. Arnie advocates reflective lawyering, studies the effects of stress on lawyers and teaches skills to help lawyers in all walks of life deal with the slings and arrows of practice. The blog is quite scholarly, usually pointing the reader to late-breaking works of scholarship or practice developments in the field.

If you're feeling burnt out and don't have time to make it to your local Zen dojo, stop by Legal Sanity for a cool, refreshing drink of water.

PS. I tried to get a partial screenshot of the Legal Sanity blog to intro this story. Using the Microsoft Paint program, I removed the bottom part of the screen. As inserted in Blogger, the result is pretty awkward, leaving blank space as you can see.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Paint Beats Adobe For Inserting Screenshots Into Your Blog

I use a Windows/PC system. To save a screenshot, I hit "Alt" and the "Prt Scr" button on the keyboard at the same time. Then I went into Microsoft Paint (this program is found under accessories in your computer). I clicked on "Edit" then hit "Paste".

That operation pasted the file into the Paint program, which I then saved on my computer. In creating my Blogger post, I hit the photo button, picked the large and center format, then selected the file that I'd saved on my computer.

This seems a pretty easy and organized way of collecting screenshots. I tried using Adobe to convert the screenshots and it simply took a very long time and ultimately did not work. Very disappointing and expensive program. I'm currently using screenshots as exhibits to a complaint I am filing in an Anti-cybersquatting action, which prompted me to think about how to post them to a blog. The Paint program creates bitmap files. I haven't messed around with it, but the bitmap files probably convert into good PDFs.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Schopenhauer on Blogs; Playblogs v Problogs

". . . much reading robs the mind of all elasticity, as the continual pressure of a weight does a spring, and that the surest way of never having any thoughts of your own is to pick up a book every time you have a free moment. The practice of doing this is the reason erudition makes most men duller and sillier than they are by nature and robs their writings of all effectiveness: they are in Pope's words:
For ever reading, never to be read.

from "On Thinking for Yourself", Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).

I was thinking about how, for a lawyer, it makes a lot of sense to have a blog that maintains a spirit of experimentation, personality and playfulness. And then another blog that is designed to impress or advocate a particular viewpoint. Blogging not only facilitates this Jekyll and Hyde behavior, the technology is simply set up for it. For lawyers in small practices, a blog devoted to an area of interest that has no bearing on what goes on in the daily practice, whether law-related or a hobby, has got to be a fulfilling thing.

For example, I am planning to launch a "professional" blog in a matter of weeks or months. It will be devoted to a semi-scholarly inquiry into a rather narrow aspect of one area of legal practice. I hope that it will become a point of reference, a way for me to keep up on developments in the area, and a way for people who like my work product to take notice of me, a way to serve existing clients and to meet new ones.

How many of us have heard speakers move into completely irrelevant and annoying personal topics? Done well, personal topics help to illustrate a point. But when done poorly, one has the impression that the speaker has no one to share more intimate thoughts with, so is constrained to air them in an inappropriate forum - fulfilling a deep emotional need.

So I think that keeping a "Playblog" and a "Problog" would help a lawyer from running into that problem. An occasional link from Pro to Play might be appropriate for those readers interested in a more personal relationship to follow up.

The reason I thought of Schopenhauer is that I thought: I am sure that someone has already thought of all this, written it, and I'm probably going to throw out an obvious observation that anyone grounded in this technology will perceive as self-evident. But, rather than researching the heck out of it, I found solace in Schopenhauer:

"Fundamentally it is only our own basic thoughts that possess truth and life, for only these do we really understand through and through. The thoughts of another that we have read are crumbs from another's table, the cast-off clothes of an unfamiliar guest."

According to Schopenhauer, we lawyers and our citations must be getting duller and sillier by the minute. So why am I quoting a guy who says a guy who quotes has robbed his writing of all effectiveness? Most of the "best" blogs are strings of links, which are really just quotes. Nothing wrong with that, but I think Schopenhauer would say - if we don't take some risks and share some original thinking - the blogosphere will be the duller for it.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Traffic Index #2: Tax Day in the Blogosphere

This is Smallfirmlife's Second Traffic Index. Rankings of blogs and websites worldwide by traffic according to as of April 15, 2006. Traffic Index #1 is found here at my post of March 10. no statistics available 2 14 18 22 24 187 359 (tax day) 774 887 2,145 2,890 3,689
general electric 3,640 4,222 4,703 4,752 7,127
the pentagon 10,937 13,987 16,700 95,614
us secret service 130,539
Ku Klux Klan 250,171
OPEC 259,884
American Nazi Party 372,751 442,197 (under construction)
patrycopyrightblog 470,057
skullandbonesjps 518,528
smallfirmlife 1,188,011
Dowd & Marotta 1,478,589
BoiesSchiller&Flexner 5,166,704

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Blogging Cures Procrastination!

Smallfirmlife's author is now writing a book. Excuses to the publisher for missing deadlines are falling on deaf ears. So with all tasks set aside, Chapter 9 on Injunctions and Seizures in Copyright Proceedings and Chapter 14 on Damages to be written on a beautiful sunny Saturday, what to do?

Simple. Blog. This blog post today was intended to be a quickie: on the topic of self-citation for bloggers (citing your own posts or writings) and self-plagiarism (an unethical evil rampant in academe that I'd never heard or thought of until recently).

But I wanted to open my quickie post with a clever one-liner basically saying that "the God Procrastinus has visited my house". I wanted "Procrastinus" to be lit up. Not being sure that Procrastinus was an actual mythological figure (I didn't think so), I of course googled. Well, according to, "procrastinus" is a Latin word for "forward to tomorrow". One blogger, perhaps the only "Bog Blog" out there, speaks of the "Many Roads to Procrastinus." Then there's a blogger named Procrastinus who is "so money and he doesn't even know it" according to Vegas Joe.

Smallfirmlife then discovered the little-known Greek God Dilbertus Procrastinus who perfected the saunter on Mount Olympus (this sport has been discontinued in our modern Olympic Games). Plenty of support for my bold-facing the much-secretly-worshipped God of lascivious delay. Smallfirmlife plans to make elaborate sacrifices at this temple.

But for those who want to ward off Procrastinus, or to take a detour from the bog where he lives, there's a very serious website dedicated to procrastination maintained by the the University of Calgary that will permit you to take a self-test, learn theories about combatting an overcoming procastination, and study the personality types that develop these problems. The cures? Learned Industriousness, Energy Regulation, and Goal Setting.

Smallfirmlife will take the survey and figure out the source of the inner immovable object. One of these days.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Green Lawyer Blawg: Energy and National Security

A number of years ago I served as a Co-Chair of the Entertainment Media Intellectual Property & Sports Law Section of the New York County Lawyers' Association. One of my former Co-Chairs, an attorney named Stephen Filler, moved his office to Westchester and launched a thriving solo practice. Stephen has launched a new blawg called focused on environmental and energy issues. He became very active in the safety campaign surrounding the Indian Point power plant and has become politically active because of that. Let's hope that in the near future our state and federal governments will sober up and start treating these issues as serious health, economic and national security concerns. Good domestic energy policy would create jobs, stimulate the economy by reducing costs, reduce the risks of oil dependence, and let us breathe freely. We're drowning in our own waste as our political leaders cheer the process on. As Filler's latest blog post argues, solar panels are very very serious business. Let's hope that smallfirm bloggers will help to bring our government to its senses.

It's gray and rainy in New York City.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Marshall McLuhan on Blogging - Snowballs at the Speed of Light

Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher who looked at media through an anthropological lens. He wrote in aphorisms, played a lot and invented Paris Hilton (long before she was born) in an essay called the Mechanical Bride. He is very readable. He reviewed history and saw how changes in media precipitated wars because they change hierarchical structures. McLuhan would have said that the internet made the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan necessary, for example. For McLuhan, media is the extension of man.

But smallfirmlife firmly eschews philosophical meanderings and hews closely to the theme of how the little guy lawyer can make her way through all of this nonsense (while paying the rent). Every communication has its emotional tone. Sending a messenger is not sending a fedex is not sending a certified letter is not sending a fax is not sending a first class letter is not sending an email is not leaving a voice mail. And lunch is not a phone call. And an oral statement at a public meeting is not a "reply to all" email is not a conference call is not a podcast.

All of the foregoing are tools in a lawyer's toolbox. We can take them out to fix things or to break things, depending on the occasion. The medium has its consequences, its shelf life and its reincarnation (look out confirmation hearing!!!). Instinct and calculation lead us to choose the proper salves and liniments, or the appropriate weapons. These are the same types of calculations McLuhan made, evaluating these extensions of ourselves.

Chapter 2 of McLuhan's Understanding Media analyzes media as "hot" or "cool". Radio is hot. Television is cool. Cool media requires the recipient to fill in much of the information. Hot media fills the senses. McLuhan goes on and on - every bit worth reading, very accessible now, but years ago I couldn't understand what the big deal was.

Print is a cool medium. I think blogging as interpreted by the acculturated practictioners is super cool. I'm new to blogging, this post is hot (although in a cool medium). Full, expository sentences --- not one link. Very print media. Looking at supercool blogs -- you can't understand many posts without taking action: linking and clicking to sites that the blogger has referred to cryptically. This is the function of poetry in literature - to grab the imagination and make you work.

McLuhan also analyzed the delivery system of a medium. RSS, a blog's delivery system, is superhot. It delivers to nodes that the recipient has hardwired for maximum impact to the exclusion of all else - at a speed approaching the speed of light. Not just one recipient, but a willing community. And that community's superheated response approaches the speed of human cognition.

By launching a blog, a lawyer is entering a superhot snowball fight. I recently noticed one of the top attorney blogger/critics (almost) apologizing for having criticized a consultant for an attorney launching a blog for putting up a 'static' page. When I interviewed experienced bloggers, they talked about the emotional effects of blogging. The Chilling Effects website boomerangs cease and desist letters on lawyers. I think that perhaps lawyers in the blogosphere will be very very careful to be constructive to newbies. For their own survival. Compelling blogging may mean taking emotional risks or exploring ideas outside one's specialty. A confession of ignorance on a blog (in the legal profession ordinarily a sign of weakness) may result in friendships, information and allies. The large firm (all knowing mainframe computer) as opposed to linked small firms (networked small computers). To network properly, the small firm practitioner must be truthful about strengths to receive assignments. To receive proper assistance, the small firm practitioner must confess a need or ignorance.

Is the blogosphere the place for all of that to happen? Tune in. Exchanges of emails or legal briefs fosters petty linear vindictiveness, and the emotional climate of schadenfreude (the guilty pleasure of watching others suffer). I don't think that will be the emotional tonality of the blogosphere. If you've ever been hit with a soft, powdery snowball by a friend, you know it's one of life's great pleasures. If someone threw iceballs, you just walked away. Getting 86'd from a blogroll may be the extreme sanction, McLuhan's global village's equivalent of ostracism and exile that was the ultimate punishment to the Ancients.