Lisa Arthur, President, Young Lawyers Section, Greensboro Bar Association

Young Lawyers Section: Connections, Feb 2017

Upcoming Events Hosted By The Young Lawyers Section

Scrubs v. Suits MD/JD Basketball Game, February 26: Help us raise money for a new play therapy room to expand the mental health services offered to children at the Mustard Seed by helping us defeat local doctors from the Greater Greensboro Society of Medicine in a basketball game.  To sign up to be a basketball team member or to be a member of the spirit squad, please contact Lisa Arthur (lisa.arthur@smithmoorelaw.com).

Greensboro 4ALL, March 3: The YLS and the Piedmont Triad Women Attorneys are taking over the 4:00pm-7:00pm volunteer block at 4ALL this year. To register, please sign up here: https://4all2017greensboro.eventbrite.com.

NC Law School Consortium Invites Employers to Participate in February’s Interview Programs for Law Students

The NC Law School Consortium (a consortium of all NC law schools) presents two interview programs each year, one in Charlotte and one in Raleigh, each catering to employers in those areas of the state.  Employers in the past have included private firms (25 or less attorneys), companies with in-house legal departments, public interest organizations, and associations.  Employers recruit for summer interns and / or entry-level associates.  Employers post their positions for all NC law school students’ consideration, select the students they wish to interview and interview them on the specific dates in Charlotte and Raleigh.  The Western program will be held at Charlotte Law School on February 18 and the Eastern program will be held at the NC State Bar in Raleigh on February 25.  For more information, please click here.

Superior Court Seeks Public Guardians

The office of the Clerk of Superior Court seeks four (4) qualified Attorneys to serve as Public Guardians for Guilford County.  The Public Guardian serves the community by providing fiduciary services when property is discovered belonging to a minor or incompetent person without a guardian or when a person who is eligible to be guardian is unable or unwilling to serve.  Pursuant to N.C.G.S.§ 35A, your responsibilities would include ascertaining and securing assets, income sources, benefits, and debts as well as filing proper inventories, petitions, and accountings with the Court. Interested persons should contact Lisa Johnson-Tonkins, Clerk of Superior Court, at (336) 412-7301.

Amanda Hodierne Promoted to Partner at Isaacson Isaacson Sheridan Fountain & Leftwich

Isaacson Isaacson Sheridan Fountain & Leftwich, LLP is pleased to announce Amanda P. Hodierne as partner in the firm.

Ms. Hodierne joined the firm in 2013, immediately after graduation from Wake Forest School of Law and admission to the North Carolina Bar.  Since that time, she has handled various real estate, corporate and general matters while focusing her practice on all aspects of real property and land use law including commercial transactions, entitlements, financing and leasing.  Prior to entering law school, Ms. Hodierne worked as an urban planner for the Town of Cary, the City of Raleigh and in the private sector for various developers.  During that time she earned her designation as Certified Planner from the American Institute of Certified Planners and continues to put that knowledge base to use in her legal practice.

Ms. Hodierne is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and the Greensboro Bar Association.

Amanda P. Hodierne

Amanda P. Hodierne

Habitat Needs You!

Hopefully by the time you read this, you will already have donated (or pledged a donation) and completed a volunteer form for our eighth Habitat for Humanity House.  On the chance that you have not done so, both the 2017 Contribution Form and the 2017 Volunteer Form are available on the Greensboro Bar Association website.  We also offer the option of donating online.  Although your payment can be made either this year or by February 28, 2017, we need to obtain donations and commitments as soon as possible.

Tom Kane

Kane: Traditional Hourly Billing Is Finally Dead – Almost

By Tom Kane (Reprinted from Tom’s LegalMarketingBlog.com dated January 25, 2017)

More than 10 years ago, I started talking about:

I now know that those posts were a “touch” premature. I’m not so sure they still are. I can confidently state that the “traditional” hourly billing is dead. According to the “2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market by Georgetown Law’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and Thompson’s Reuters Legal Executive Institute, in many firms, AFAs (only 15-20% of revenues) and  budget-based pricing “combined may well account for 80-90 percent of all revenues.”

The “widespread client insistence on budgets (with caps) for both transactional and litigation matters” over the past decade is the reason, according to the report. While firms may still keep track of their time on a billable hour basis, be assured that it is a different animal when it comes to invoices sent out. Debra Cassens Weiss’s take on the topic can be seen online at ABA Journal and is entitled Billable hour pricing is effectively dead because of budget caps, report says.

After discussing other significant changes to the legal profession over the past decade, the report concludes that “those firms that are most likely to survive and prosper in the new market environment are not necessarily the oldest or the strongest or the smartest, but rather those most able to adapt to the changes around them.” A good start would be to read the entire 17-page report.

Ten Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP Attorneys Named to North Carolina Legal Elite

Ten Greensboro attorneys from Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP have been selected by their peers as part of Business North Carolina’s 2017 Legal Elite. The Legal Elite awards are categorized into 14 legal and business-related categories and are compiled annually based upon a poll of North Carolina attorneys. The attorneys selected are considered by their peers to be the best practitioners in their respective fields.

The Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP attorneys honored as North Carolina Legal Elite are:

  • E. Kent Auberry, Business
  • Amber R. Duncan, Business
  • Kimberly Bullock Gatling, Intellectual Property
  • Gregory G. Holland, Litigation
  • Neale T. Johnson, Construction
  • Frankie T. Jones Jr., Real Estate
  • Patrick M. Kane, Litigation and Young Guns
  • Robert D. Kidwell, Business
  • Alexander L. Maultsby, Employment
  • Patti West Ramseur, Employment
  • E. Garrett Walker, Real Estate

Chapman Law Firm Wins Significant Victory on Appeal in National Interest Waiver Immigration Case

On December 27, 2016, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) issued a rare “precedent” decision in Matter of Dhanasar, 26 I&N Dwec. 884 (AAO 2016).  Gerard M. Chapman, principal at Chapman Law Firm, was counsel for Dr. Mookesh Dhanasar, the applicant, throughout most of his green card case and the entire appeal that resulted in the precedent decision.  The AAO issues only a very limited number of such decisions, and in this case, it vacated the last precedent decision on National Interest Waiver (NIW) cases from 1998, Matter of New York State Dep’t of Transp., 22 I&N Dec. 215(Acting Assoc. Comm’r 1998) (“NYSDOT”).

In issuing its decision, the AAO confirmed that the test under NYSDOT was not appropriate for several reasons, and created a new standard that is more practical and likely to be useful for a wider range of applicants, including entrepreneurs, who typically have few, if any, avenues to immigrate to the US.  Although the new standard under Dhanasar will be more user-friendly, under that new standard, USCIS (the agency that receives these cases initially) will demand proof of the following:  the applicant’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; the applicant is well-positioned to advance that endeavor; and on balance it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and a labor certification application (the first step in a green card case).

The old NYSDOT standard demanded proof that still can be used in cases filed under Dhanasar, so much of the work in an NIW case will resemble the evidence gathered in pre-Dhanasar cases.  At the same time, it is significant that the AAO decision contained a number of examples and cited several types of cases in which an NIW application could be approved.    For years, petitioners have asked the AAO to replace the standard in NYSDOT, and in announcing the new Dhanasar standard, the AAO gave significant guidance to practitioners and to USCIS that it should be flexible and reasonable in its handling of NIW applications.

The most important aspect of the case is the likely expansion of approvals in NIW cases, which should allow applicants in business, entrepreneurialism, science, technology, culture, health, or education to submit approvable NIW applications.  The flexibility of this decision reflects the need for USCIS to adjust to changing conditions in all of these areas, and the AAO should be commended for its vision in announcing the new Dhanasar standard.

Mr. Chapman has been an NC State Bar Board Certified Immigration Law Specialist since 1997, and currently serves as a member of the NC State Bar Immigration Specialization Committee.

Camille Stell

Stell: What’s Hot and What’s Not in 2017

Let’s look ahead to see what the new year holds. Here are a few ideas about what’s hot and what’s not for 2017.

Practice Areas.

According to articles and surveys by many of the top legal staffing companies in the U.S., hot practice areas include healthcare, corporate transactional law, intellectual property (particularly pertaining to entertainment law) and technology law. There continues to be a rise in cyber practices including privacy issues and data breach response. In North Carolina, real estate practices, both residential and commercial, are booming.

Legal Jobs.

At the 2016 annual meeting of the National Association of Bar Related Insurance Companies (NABRICO), several states reported the beginning of a shortage of lawyers because of retiring senior lawyers and lower law school admissions. Nationally, the unemployment rate for the employment sector that includes legal is 5.3% as reported by Special Counsel in December 2016.

In North Carolina, our over-supply of law schools and the very slow transition of senior lawyers means that it will take a little longer for us to experience a shrinking legal profession. As a result, many lawyers in North Carolina continue to experience unemployment or under-employment. We currently have more than 28,000 lawyers in North Carolina with more than a 1,000 candidates sitting for the bar exam each year.

Many experts expect to see a decline in the number of lawyers over the next ten years as more baby boomers transition out of practice coupled with the lower number of students applying to law school.

What does this mean for your firm? Strategic recruiting is important. If you have growth plans for your law firm or if you want to keep the status quo as senior lawyers retire, you need to have a growth plan in place. You should be working with the Career Services Department in our law schools, as well as connecting with legal recruiters. You should have a lawyer in your firm dedicated to strategic recruiting and they should have a list of recruiting tactics that include sponsoring events at the law school, participating in resume drops and student receptions, and offering internship or summer associate positions.

Transitioning Lawyers.

As senior lawyers begin to consider their next chapter, the idea of winding down a law practice (for a solo or small firm lawyer) or succession planning (for larger firms) becomes important. A well-developed succession plan should take a few years to work through, at least 18 months. Don’t wait until your best rainmaker announces a retirement date six months away before developing a succession plan.

As a solo lawyer, you should consider the idea that your law practice has value and there may be a market to sell your practice. Attend a “selling your law practice” program or talk with Tom Lenfestey with the Law Practice Exchange (www.thelawpracticeexchange.com) about buying or selling a law practice.

Changing Business Model.

A catchphrase for 2017 is be nimble. Adapt. Experiment with different options for your clients – a variety of ways to communicate, bill, and receive services – and see what your clients like. Many successful businesses experiment with their business model until they find what works best for them. Then they build on the model. Most law firms adopt a model that was built decades ago and they continue to operate the firm the same way, regardless of whether clients like it, employees like it, or associate attorneys like it. When the model ceases to provide results, there is no enthusiasm for building a new model.

The idea of a nimble workplace allows you to seek new ideas, collect input from your lawyers and staff and experiment with your clients. After putting an experiment in place, debrief about the process and results. Ask yourself three questions:

  • What went well that we should keep doing?
  • What didn’t go well that we should stop?
  • What should we try next time?

Move to Digital.

This could be the year for you to move your practice to the cloud. You could also move to paperless. You don’t have to get rid of all paper or servers cold-turkey, but start the new year with scanned files, backed up to the cloud and encrypted. Move your email to the cloud with a program such as Microsoft 365 or Google Apps for Business. Joyce Brafford and Erik Mazzone at the Center for Practice Management with the North Carolina Bar Association are a great resource for technology tips, as well as referrals for technology solution providers.

There are many cloud-based practice management solutions available today. One North Carolina based success story is TrustBooks. Tom Boyle, a Raleigh CPA serving law firms, saw the need for a technology solution designed for legal. QuickBooks is a commonly used tool by small businesses, but lawyers have special needs created by the ethics rules. Tom’s solution was to build Trustbooks, a cloud-based software designed for solos and small firms and priced accordingly. Visit www.trustbooks.com for a free demo.

Importance of Data.

Managing your law firm requires you to know and use your data. Your accounting and billing software probably collects more data than you use. Use your new digital products to help you master the analytics that make your firm run. Keeping track and analyzing everything from hours on projects to costs of doing business will help you see the big picture of how healthy your law firm really is.

Artificial Intelligence.

In recent years, artificial intelligence (A.I.) has made big strides. Many Baby Boomers spent our Saturday mornings watching the Jetson’s, a science fiction cartoon family, as they lived with a household robot and zoomed around in futuristic space cars. Many of us see IBM’s Watson computer as the most common evidence of artificial intelligence, but in fact, today, we experience artificial intelligence in our smart phones, our cars and our household appliances.

Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking called A.I. “the biggest event in human history.” Technology leaders such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk worry about a time when A.I. could become smarter than humans and whether that will cause it to become a threat rather than an opportunity.

A.I. will impact the profession for years to come not only through enhanced technology tools, but as lawyers sort the many legal issues that will arise over time.

Alternative Legal Service Providers.

While Legal Zoom might be the name we know best, Avvo has also launched their version of online legal services. There is more to say about online legal services than the scope of this article will allow, but for some insight visit Bob Ambrogi’s blog post, “Avvo CEO Says New Legal Forms Offering Will Help Steer Self-Help Consumers to Lawyers” – http://www.lawsitesblog.com/2016/04/avvo-ceo-discusses-new-legal-forms-offering.html. The post includes links to earlier posts, as well as comments by Avvo’s chief legal officer, Josh King.

The North Carolina State Bar Ethics Committee has a sub-committee studying Avvo’s online legal services and the North Carolina Bar Association has convened a task force to study the rapidly changing legal marketplace and how legal services are provided.

Many of these ideas can be discussed in more detail with Lawyers Mutual. Reach out for a strategic consulting session or to obtain practice guides and other risk management resources for succession planning, strategic recruiting and other practice management topics.

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at camille@lawyersmutualnc.com or 800.662.8843.