2011 Annual Meeting of WV State Bar

Charleston WV Embassy Suites Hotel

Dear Colleagues; WV State Bar Annual Meeting

(This stuff was interesting to me, but no one will be criticized for moving on to the next post. But, if you are a bit guilty that you missed the Annual Meeting, this will bring you up to date. j.b.h.  3-4-2012)

It will be hard to make this note of enough general interest to post to my blog, or short enough for more than 10% of you to read it, but here goes:

1. I have not received notice of any complaints back from judges or colleagues in response to my “Letter to the Judges” which I sent out a couple weeks ago to 15 family court judges and 20 family law practitioners. I attach that letter, now a blog article, and my preceding blog article. They will be of interest more to family law lawyers. I feel strongly that we can do better in administering justice to family court litigants.

2. No judges have responded, but a few colleagues have. My favorite written response to my concern I would be out of favor with “the powers that be”:

Mirrors are often uncomfortable, but they are always accurate.
I don’t foresee any sanctions in your future.
Maybe fewer Christmas cards.

3. My next two blog articles will be; a.  the interrelationship of the family court system and mental health professionals; and b. succeeding in negotiations when you are holding very few trump cards.

4. Tonight I shall write about the WV State Bar Annual Meeting, Friday April 15-Sat April 16, 2011:

5. Peter Kalis, Global Managing Partner of K & L Gates, NYC, “Law Practice in the 21st Century: The More Things Change….” ; a Warwood (Wheeling) boy who made good. He is managing partner of the 7th largest law firm in U.S., 12th in the world, with annual billings of a BILLION dollars. Some of our colleagues felt this talk about the evolution of “the law industry” had no relevance to WV. I respectfully disagree. WV is trying to survive and thrive in the global economy. The disappearance of national boundaries and rapid changes in the practice of law, for cities as nearby as Pittsburgh are very interesting.

6. Mr. Kalis tried to refute assertions (That I first found in a book titled “The End of Lawyers”, Richard Susskind, Oxford Univ. Press) that legal services are going to become mere commodities and that legal training should be more like “vocational He stood up for “old fashioned” standards based on a long history of lawyering. Remember, Cicero was a lawyer.

Cicero – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family …

7. Anyone who believes that the pressures of technology and globalization will not change lawyering everywhere, is whistling in the dark.

8. Barry Richard, Greenburg and Praurig, P.A., Tallahassee Fla. had a marvelous presentation titled, “Security, Pseudo-Patriotism, and the Erosion of American Liberties.” It was a reminder that our country has frequently fallen short of our ideals of freedom and liberty, in particular the Patriot Act.

9. Mr. Richards played the obligatory video clips of George W. Bush answering the questions during the Ashcroft controversy and of the internment of the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. My favorite part of his talk was the quotation of Alexander Hamilton from the The Federalist Papers predicting that a country based on freedom, when challenged from the outside, will have a strong tendency to squelch the rights of the individual in order to protect itself.

10. What I decided from Barry’s one sided presentation is that it is now time to commence the mature discussion of the balance of freedom (of speech, the right to bear arms, the right to have a jury, and many other rights) and our national security. The zealots on each side of this question ignore the obvious truths in the other sides’ positions.

11. F. Paul Bland, Jr.; Chaves & Gertier, Wash, D.C.; “The Evolving Law of Challenges to Mandatory Arbitration Clauses”. Catchy huh? The truth is this guy is witty, passionate, highly intelligent, a family man, a friend of Harry Deitzer (which is probably how we got him), and eloquent in explaining how to win cases by starting by crushing the smallest “nested Russian egg” and working your way up. In other words, read these arbitration clauses and attack the worst of them

12. Mr. Bland explained to his 8 year old son that he was like the big cat who waited for the herd to go by and took down the weakest, a form of Darwinism. The weakest clauses are the most outragious and unfair mandatory arbitration clauses, the ones that violate contract law, deprive the consumer of his basic rights, and reserve to the company the right to make retroactice changes to the contract. In that sense, he explained to his son he is a predator. His son didn’t quite understand, but of course, in a real sense he is. Many trial attorneys are. This practical approach to analyzing and attacking mandatory arbitration clauses made great sense.

13. Former Congressman Allan Mollohan was our luncheon speaker. I was prepared for the “we all need to do pro bono work” speech, and he certainly made the point that things are bleak for low income litigants in WV, meager interest from our IOLTA accounts and limitations in funding. Then something struck me during his talk: You cannot, by talking to a room of lawyers, most with plenty of grey in their hair who do not even practice the kind of law that would help most low income people, fix the problem of underfunded Legal Aid. Funding for all discretionary spending is in danger. Even W.I.C. (women, infants, and children)  is taking a hit, and PBS may lose all funding, as may Planned Parenthood. Not a great time to ask for more money for low income litigants.

14. So, I introduced myself to Allan Molohan, whose father played the key role in my acceptance into the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps, over 40 years ago. I asked if he learned how Great Brittain had managed to stop the horrible mortality rate of prisoners being transported in ships from England to Australia. He confessed he did not. I explained that training would not work, exhortations would not work, and that the captains were allowed to keep any food and stores left over from the voyage. The (not so) obvious solution was that they began paying the Captains only for the prisoners who could walk off the ships at the end of the voyage. The problem was promptly solved.

15. As my wife reminds me when I get frustrated, people are motivated by self interest. So, I urged him, and Anita Casey, our worthy executive director to figure out some ways to let the young, hungry, (and not so young) lawyers of WV can be motivated by being able to MAKE SOME MONEY at family law, which includes domestic violence, divorce, custody fights, child support, modifications, and the like.

16. I will write a blog article on this subject, but if mediation were mandatory in all cases, had to cover all issues, used only lawyer mediators, let lawyers charge $500-$1000 to be consultants for divorcing people, and other innovations, with proper training and support, lawyers could do divorces for $500-$2500 in the majority of cases. Having gushed all over him, I wandered away, leaving a puzzled former congressman to try to figure out what the hell had just happened.

17.The next two sessions were, of course, my favorite; really nerdy stuff, but the absolute bedrock of practicing law in the 21st century. We can pretend that globalization does not affect Beckley, Buckhannon, or Wheeling, although of course it does, but we cannot pretend that we don’t have to cut down on the paper, increase the speed and accuracy of our communication, and steamline our ability to assemble documents.

18. These subjects were covered by two presentations of Barron Henley of HMU Consulting, Columbus Ohio. I have listened to something like two dozen hours of Barron and his partners’ presentations. I have purchased the ScanSnap scanners he recommends, had his associate Brian Cluxton to my office to evaluate my systems, hired HMU to host my Wondows Outlook, had them put together the specs of my new Dell Computer, and become something close to a “disciple” of HMU’s teachings.

19, Barron’s first hour, “Tools and Techniques for Negotiating and Revising Electronic Documents” covered the ins and outs of exchanging documents in a collaborative way, making corrections, tracking the changes, and comparing those changes to earlier documents. He mentioned the word “meta-data” and several of the grey heads in the back of the room slumped over. Meta-data, meta-data, meta-data; see how it makes you want to snooze. If you think of it as a way to avoid a month of mailing and faxing, a way of getting documents finished, accurately, signed by the clients, and signed and approved by the Court, I think you will perk right up; that’s right, because it means MONEY to the lawyers and savings to the client.

A few tips:

a. You can send a document that the other side can change but ONLY if you approve it.

b. You can send a colleague a huge document by asking him if he wants it, and if he says yes, letting him download it instead of exceeding the limits of your e-mail server.

c. You can attach balloon comments, color coded typewritten tracked changes, even audio notes to your staff, in order to facilitate editing.

d. I have heard Barron’s second hour, “Ten Ways to Make Your Practice More Enjoyable”, 3-4 times and still learned many new things.

e. You can save a document to “the cloud” using DropBox and have it on a folder on ALL of your computers, i pads, etc.

f. You can save hundreds, or thousands of dollars by buying the right equipment, software, from the right companies; the one page Barron has of his purchasing and review services is worth the price of the seminar.

20. Barron knows a secret; none of us has a clue as to what makes Microsoft Word work, or how to make it more efficient; he was so convincing, I pulled out his Word Manual from the 2009 State Bar Meeting Seminar and am re-reading. Train your staff on Word 2007 or 2010 and you will never regret it.

21.The written material mentioned HotDocs; Barron is a wizard at this document assembly program; it is powerful. I have NOT been able to master it, which means everything to me, so I add my plug, yet again for Pathagoras. This program uses Word documents, no proprietary formats; just simple questionnaires and dropdown lists. I offer to any of you several dozen “Pathagorized ” forms . All I ask is you send some of yours back when you make them.

22. Pathagoras is available as a free 90 day downlaod at www.Pathagoras.com. I dare you to try it.

23. If you prefer the better known HotDocs, Barron is the guy who knows how to make it sing. My guess is, if there are 20 lawyers or more, Hotdocs; 19 or less, Pathagoras. This is my sense. I have no idea if Barron, Roy Lazris of Pathagoras, or Lexis/Nexis agrees with me.

24. Barron strongly recommends a second, and even third monitor. I do too. And that monitor should be able to move from horizontal to vertical. It is SOOO easy to read a docuent on a 22-27″ monitor standing straight up. You can see the whole page.

25. Barron recommended DropBox, and I do too. I took the 300 page seminar manual, copied it from my DVD drive to my Dropbox, and downloaded the PDF file to my I Pad, where I could scroll through the pages, following the speakers, and move ahead when I got bored. It was so much fun, I FORGOT TO FALL ASLEEP!

26. By far the bravest speaker of the day was Joseph “Jay” H. Aughtman of Fischer, Goldasich, and Aughtman, LLC of Birmingham, Ala. “Rule 23 & CAFA Update”. I say brave because I thought Rule 23 was a disclosure rule and CAFA as EPA Rule restrictions; nope, he was talking about class actions!

27. When he asked how many of our members practiced in this area, two or three hands fluttered. We were approaching the cocktail hour. When he solicited questions, there were none. I was checking my Facebook. So, this guy cut to the quick, told us what we needed to know, was obviously poised and smart, and got off the stage, having done his solemn duty, even sending us greetings from his state association. What I learned was Alabama is not the place to file a class action, the new law is not that impossible, and it really narrows the focus which increases predictability.

28,. I admit, when they changed Christina Steinbeckter, of Fastcase, Washington DC’s topic to “boolian logic” I was “out of there” for , a martini, and raw oysters, and Mahi Mahi at the Tidewater, but it was an uplifting day.

29. Once I heard her talk the next day, I was VERY sad I missed her first talk. There is a lot of power in boolian logic, and when I had trouble following the basis course, I knew I had missed out by not learning the advanced. Fortunately Fastcase has frequent webinars available, for every member of the WV Bar! An impressive feature of Fastcase is its graphical relevance and timeline chart. The cases most likely to be on point jump out by the size and position of the circle representing that case.

30. Saturday Morning started very strong, with Thomas J. Hurney, Jackson Kelly, PLLC, “Telling the Story in The Closing Argument”. Yes, as a long time member of WVTLA/WVAJ I have heard much of this before, but the 20% I had not heard was worth the price of admission. And, recent, important, case law needs to be reviewed by all of us. Excellent reminder that if you are going to trash the other side’s expert or lawyer, you had BETTER have torn them up well in your cross examination, and your assertions had better be supported by identifiable evidence. If not, you are likely to lose on appeal. For me, this presentation was a “sleeper” which made me glad I got up on time.

31. William Hinerman, Unit Chief IC3, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fairmont, WV, gave a fascinating and enlightening summary of his work monitoring nationally and world wide internet crime and scams. I knew of much of this in general, but founds the specifics to be very troubling; yet another part of the 40% of bad that comes with the 60% good coming out of the Internet Revolution.

32. The only downer to this seminar was, where are the young and younger lawyers, and why is attendance around one per cent (1%) of the 8000 WV lawyers???

33. Full disclosure; for 20+ years, I missed the majority of the annual meetings. The Trial Lawyers met in Feb and June, but the State Bar met at THE GREEBRIAR (which I could NOT afford) during our youth soccer travelling season. Buckhannon lawyer, Bob Wallace, was a State Bar President several years ago, but that is not likely for Buckhannon in the foreseeable future.

34. I fear that something is now missing from the body of lawyers in WV; not certain individials who are doing marvelous things for clients, family and community. The missing element is a shared sense of professional responsibility, to the profession, not just ourselves or even our clients. We seem to be lacking a sense of responsibility to the profession itself, to our need to be current in our learning and our need to connect with one another and share ideas and values.

35. The grey heads moved out of the room, heads shaking with puzzlement at Barron’s tips and teachings. The younger lawyers, and I not so young, were saying WOW!

I learned a great deal last week-end and am glad to have reproduced some of it here.

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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