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Was the Supreme Court's Ruling in Padilla Retroactive or only Prospective? SCOTUS Agrees to Let Us Know.

Tuesday May 1, 2012

Was the Supreme Court's ruling in Padilla v. Kentucky meant to be retroactive or only prospective? This is an important question at the heart of Chaidez v. United States, and the Supreme Court has granted cert in order to answer it.

There is a split among the appellate circuits as to whether Padilla created new law (making the decision prospective) or relied on existing precedent to clarify existing law (making it retroactive). In Chaidez, the Seventh Circuit relied heavily on the lack of unanimity in the Padilla ruling to find that it announced a new rule of law. What the Seventh Circuit failed to discuss was that Padilla involved a situation where an attorney not only failed to give advice about the immigration consequences of a guilty plea, but actually gave incorrect advice about the consequences. Giving bad legal advice has never been considered effective assistance of counsel, and it seems likely that SCOTUS will therefore apply the rule retroactively. However, concern about opening the litigation floodgates could certainly give them pause over applying the rule too broadly.

The Court has agreed to hear the case during the 2012 court term, but a date has not yet been set for oral arguments.

What is your opinion? Is Padilla retroactive or only prospective? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Free Legal Technology Training Courses on National Law Day

Monday April 30, 2012

Have you made plans on how you will spend Law Day 2012 on May 1? If you don't have any local events you plan to attend, consider getting some free legal technology training online. Affinity Consulting Group's Affinity University is offering complimentary legal training courses for one day only. The free technology courses included in the offer are:

  • iPad for Legal Professionals. A 20 minute quick tour of iPad essentials and some must-have apps. As a bonus, attending this seminar entitles you to a 50% discount on the full one-hour "iPad for Legal Professionals" course on May 18 at 3:00 p.m. Register now by clicking here.
  • Microsoft Outlook Tips & Tricks. A 20 minute web session that covers receiving, sending, viewing, and organizing email; managing and archiving folders; and customizing Contacts & Calendars views. As a bonus, you'll receive 50% off two of their full length courses:Outlook Email Management on Tuesday, May 8, at 3:00 p.m.; and Outlook Contacts & Calendar on Tuesday, May 22, 11:00 a.m. Register for this seminar here.
  • To learn more about Law Day 2012, visit the ABA's website.

Can You Get More Work Done By Working Less?

Monday April 30, 2012

Lawyers are known for working extremely long hours, sometimes seven days a week. But are they really increasing their productivity by putting in all that extra time? Not according to Geoffrey James in a Time Business article called Stop Working More than 40 Hours a Week.

The article reports on how Ford Motor Company ran dozens of tests to determine the optimum number of work hours for productivity, and discovered that 40 hours a week is the most sustainably productive schedule. While adding another 20 hours to the work week provided a minor increase in productivity, it was only temporary. After three to four weeks, it began to have a negative effect on production.

Many executives, such as the chief operating officer of Facebook, make sure to leave the office every day by 5:30 p.m. so they can spend time with their families. Over the long term, will it really increase the overall productivity of your law firm if your associates are burned out, going through divorces, and resenting their employer? Wouldn't you be happier if you could spend a little more time with the people you love, the people who you are working so hard to support in the first place?

If you are consistently spending more than 40 hours a week in the office, it is time for you to reevaluate your business plan. Are you being productive with your time? Are you wasting time on tasks that you should be delegating to someone else?

To get some ideas on how to spend less time in the office, take a look at our articles on Lawyer Time Management, Document Assembly for Lawyers, and Legal Outsourcing.

Idaho Bar Associations Directory Completed

Monday April 30, 2012

Our directory of the state and local bar associations in the State of Idaho is now complete. As with the list for the State of Hawaii, we have combined the state and local groups into one list because there aren't enough groups there to split them into multiple lists.

If we have overlooked your group or listed any information incorrectly, please send us an email to let us know so we can update or correct it.

Hawaii Bar Associations Directory Completed

Monday April 30, 2012

Our directory of the Hawaii Bar Associations is now complete. Because there was such a small number of legal organizations to list for the State of Hawaii, the statewide and local lists have been combined into one list for now.

Did we overlook your group or list your information incorrectly? Send us an email to let us know so we can fix it.

Georgia Bar Associations Directories Completed

Monday April 30, 2012

Our directories of state and local bar associations in the State of Georgia are now complete. Georgia lawyers can now find groups in their area through the following lists:

Directory of Georgia Local Bar Associations Added

Friday April 27, 2012

In our ongoing quest to create directories of the various national, state, and local bar associations across the country, we are now working on the State of Georgia. In our State Bar Associations Directory you will find a new addition to the Georgia Bar Associations category. We have now added Georgia Local Bar Associations (A-D), with the remaining associations to follow shortly. If you see any information that is incorrect our outdated, or if we have left your group out of our list, please send me an email to let me know so we can correct it.

Will Google Drive Kill Dropbox?

Tuesday April 24, 2012

Readers of this site know that I'm a fan of Dropbox, a great tool for backing up your office files and keeping them synchronized across multiple computers. But today Google announced the long-awaited release of Google Drive, their own online data storage service. From reading about what Google Drive offers, Dropbox may be in trouble.

Google Drive is offering users 5 GB of free storage, whereas Dropbox only gives 2 GB of free storage. Where Dropbox charges $10 per month for 50 GB of storage, Google Drive will only charge $4,99 per month for 100 GB.

I registered to receive a Google Drive account, so once mine is set up I'll post more details on how it compares to Dropbox. I don't yet know whether it is as user-friendly or as easy to use as Dropbox. But my guess is that Dropbox is going to have to start scrambling to offer more features or lower pricing if they want to stay competitive with Google.

To learn more about Dropbox, read my review and our user reviews.

Do criminal pro se defendants do better than those with lawyers?

Monday April 23, 2012

A growing number of defendants in the criminal court system seem to want to try to represent themselves on the charges against them. Sometimes this is driven by costs, such as when a person doesn't want to spend the amount of money it costs to hire a good lawyer but isn't poor enough to qualify for a court-appointed lawyer. Other times it arises from a person's belief that they can represent themselves as well or even better than a retained lawyer.

In an article called A fool for a client - Can criminal pro se defendants fare as well as their represented counterparts?, Gabriel Tynes at the Lagniappe looks at the question of how well pro se defendants do in comparison to their represented counterparts. Most of the anecdotes related in the article come from lawyers who have seen firsthand how badly pro se defendants sink their own cases. In fact, most criminal defense lawyers can recount times they were watching a pro se defendant in city court and could tell it was a winnable case if the person had retained counsel. But going at it pro se almost always seems to result in a conviction.

The article notes that there have not been many studies of how pro se defendants compare against those represented by counsel. However, I was intrigued to read about a 2006 study by a University of Georgia School of Law assistant professor. In the study, it was determined that of the 234 pro se defendants for whom an outcome was provided, just under 50 percent of them were convicted of any charge. Of the 50 percent who were convicted, just over half of those were for felonies. However, by way of contrast, defendants represented by counsel were convicted 75 percent of the time. Of those convicted, 85 percent were of felonies. So under that one study, only about 25 % of pro se criminal defendants wound up with felony convictions while 63 percent of those with attorneys received felony convictions.

Other studies cited in the article reached completely opposite conclusions, and the attorneys interviewed for the article all considered pro se defense to be a sure way to a conviction. My own experience with the court system leads me to believe that being a pro se defendant in criminal court is a very bad idea. But the 2006 study raises an interesting challenge to that belief.

What are your thoughts on defendants in criminal court acting pro se? Does it make a difference whether the case is a felony, a misdemeanor, or a traffic violation? Is the 2006 study an aberration, based on bad data, or failing to account for other significant circumstances? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Improve Productivity Doing One Thing at a Time

Wednesday April 11, 2012

Are you burned out, overwhelmed, or unable to complete your tasks on time? The problem may be that you are dividing your attention between two many things at once.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz makes a strong argument for focusing on one task at a time and not dividing your attention between multiple tasks. He also encourages supervisors to stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness from employees, so that their attention is not being divided too.

To see Schwartz's advice on doing one thing at a time, read The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time. For more advice on how to improve your efficiency at your law office, also read Three Tips for Lawyer Time Management.

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