The Legal Chamber Newsletter • June 2010
Top 5 Law Firm Security Essentials
Client confidentiality is paramount among lawyers and involves daily vigilance even when it comes to throwing things away. The security of your office should extend further than a shredder, computer passwords, and your receptionist; data breaches can cost big bucks. Furthermore, cyber threats like hacking and phishing are more prevalent than ever. And what happens if you simply lose your flash drive with all that important information?
Below are 5 ways to keep your clients, and your practice, safe from today's most common threats and avoidable data disasters.
- Document disposal companies are more popular these days, and most offer eco-friendly recycling of your products. When those documents are made into pulp, rest assured: nobody can read them.
- Many lawyers still think that having printed documents and giant filing cabinets are routine; however, paper is perishable and electronic data can be easily replicated. Top law firms have at least two sets of recovery files and backup tapes: one in the office and one stored off-site.
- Alarm systems are great for keeping your office and employees safe. While some people opt to have a private party do custom work, companies like ADT and Bay Alarm Systems offer a wide variety of installation options, system monitoring, and high tech stuff like keycards, motion detectors, and surveillance cameras.
- USB thumb drives are everywhere. You probably have one in your pocket or briefcase right now. Their size is convenient, but they can easily be misplaced or stolen. Thumb drives that offer encryption and password protection are best if you're worried about security or have a busy travel schedule.
- Laptop theft doesn't just happen in airports and college libraries. The FBI Crime Information Center reported a 48% jump in laptop theft in the last 2 years alone and some stolen laptops caused notable headaches. Lo-Jack for Laptops claims a 75% recovery rate!
A Lawyer's Guide to Termination
If you own or operate a legal practice then you're probably aware of the unfortunate aspects of management, namely firing employees. Law school teaches you applicable theories and principals of law but doesn't address these real world problems. Retaining a staff that is knowledgeable and works well together is paramount for a successful practice. You have to know that you can rely on your staff and they can rely on each other. So when it comes to getting rid of employees who can't hack it, you want to be safe and do things by the book.
Below are some easy procedures and policies for your practice that will make dropping that dead weight a little easier:
- Clearly defined termination policies are great for any business. They delineate expected and prohibited behaviors so everyone is on the same page and there are no excuses when it comes time for termination.
- Familiarity with state employment laws is always a good idea even if it's not your designated practice area. It's important to understand acceptable reasons for firing an employee as well as the potential risks.
- Documenting performance is normally done by the Human Resources personnel whom most small firms do not retain. In many cases, this documentation can save thousands from a wrongful termination lawsuit.
- Succinct honesty is best when dealing with an employment termination situation. Avoid making any kind of vague or humiliating personal statements and be clear about whether the employee will be allowed to return. Be as supportive as possible.
- A company property check-list is a good resource to ensure your office keycards and supplies are accounted for. Employees should be allowed to take their personal property from the office after-hours or on the weekend.
- Notify staff of the incident but refrain from using any defamatory statements. Take the opportunity to update your staff and invite them to conference with you about the termination if they have any questions.
Top 10 Websites for Legal E-Books
E-books and readers are immensely popular and have taken stake in the publishing industry. There's a high chance that you have some form of reader like an Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, or Sony eReader among many others. The e-reader is particularly prevalent among travelers and businessmen because you can take multiple books, magazines, and such with you and not have to lug around all that extra weight because it's stored electronically.
Below are 10 sites that have the best selection of legal e-books around so you can write that e-reader off as a tax deduction. It was a business expense, right?
- eBooks is a perfect place to start if you're just beginning to load your e-reader. They offer a wide range of genres and also work with professional publishers to bring you new content.
- Lawyers-Books is one of our favorites because it is law specific. You can access a wide variety of books by practice area, state, author, or by using the search bar.
- E-Library only currently retains about 100 books on the law but they address everything from sports franchising to environmental books on coal burning.
- Princeton University Press proffers a long and actively updated list of e-books and reading material. This site is great for well known law books you want in electronic format.
- Amazon is one of the more obvious places to look for e-books and shouldn't be overlooked. Much of what they list as available in print is also available for purchase in e-book format.
- Project Gutenberg was the first producer of free electronic books and retains over 30,000 titles that you can download for free!
- eReader is run by Barnes & Noble so you get all of their best search tools and guarantees when you buy from them. They also offer category RSS feeds so you can stay up to date on their collection of law books by getting an email each time one is added.
- GoogleBooks has the omnipotent indexing powers of Google so you know you're getting a reasonably definitive list of what's available. That said, you can search nearly anything to find your book like quotations, authors, titles, or ISBN numbers.
- BooksOnBoard doesn't have the most stellar selection of law books but does happen to offer reviews, excerpts, synopses, and a saved wish list like Amazon.
- MobiPocket is one of the best places to buy ebooks online. Analogous to Amazon, MobiPocket has one of the most extensive collections of books on the internet and they run specials often.
Legal Tip #5: Give it a Professional Touch
If you plan on running a professional practice, you should be aware that clothes sometimes do make the man, at least in your client's eyes. And the same goes for your professional stationery.
Develop a "New Client Packet" for incoming clients, and you'll be establishing yourself as an involved, professional attorney. But what should a New Client Packet consist of? For starters, consider including:
- A formal-but-friendly letter, describing your relationship with and dedication to their specific case.
- A brief intake form, which allows your client to provide you with more information at their leisure.
- Your business card, in case they lose your contact information.
- An information sheet, with a brief history of your practice and areas of expertise.
- Any other information that you think would be of help to your client (and you).
Your New Client Packet doesn't have to be fancy or costly, but it should show that you run a professional, organized business. And once your client senses that you are organized and involved, you can both rest easier and focus on the case.