Monthly Archives: January 2015

Race To the Bottom by Trippe Fried

I would like to ring in the New Year by alerting you to a brewing race to the bottom on NBC. It features two unwitting contestants, Jenna Bush-Hager and Rosie O’Donnell. The operative double-entendre here is “unwitting”.

Jenna Bush-Hager is a correspondent on The Today Show, a program featuring six people who can barely stand each other acting like BFF’s. The Today Show stars the mature and knowledgeable Matt Lauer and a gaggle of nitwits, most prominently Al “I Just Don’t Care Anymore” Roker who delivers the world’s least informative weather report while taking pot shots at the tourists who flock to Rockefeller Center each morning hoping desperately for a few precious second of unearned air time.

Mrs. Bush-Hager is the daughter of former president George W. Bush – a man whose greatest life accomplishment is a portrait of his own feet. George W. made a lot of enemies while in office but he shares his greatest foe, the English language, with Jenna, who comes across as someone who considers herself a “veterinarian” because she doesn’t eat meat. Her chief assignment on The Today Show is interviewing members of her own family; there is something both morose and pathetic listening to a would-be newscaster interview two former U.S. presidents about former First Lady Barbara Bush, a woman to whom she refers on air as “Gammy”. Jenna’s recent expose into George W.’s painting was embarrassing on many fronts, not the least of which was the uncomfortable fact that both father and daughter were completely oblivious to the fact that the segment wasn’t fit for anything more intellectually developed than Sesame Street. This may explain why Lauer speaks to Bush-Hager much like a proud parent praises a child who just read its first book without any help.

Rosie O’Donnell is on The View, a daily bromide-fest in which four women try to discuss current events while giving second-rate actors like Jason Biggs a forum in which to prove that they truly are complete asses. Rosie’s cohosts include the always astute and balanced Whoopi Goldberg, Blond Republican Chick (name unimportant though she is also knowledgeable), and actress Rosie Perez. Noise, not knowledge, is O’Donnell’s stock in trade. During the Ferguson protests she evinced either an uncanny gift for hyperbole or a stunning ignorance of environmental nomenclature by referring to “black boys” as an “endangered species”. On a different episode Rosie opined that the United States should deal with the threat of international terrorism by adopting Gandhi’s policy of non-violent protest (not that she put it so eloquently). It’s difficult to explain the difference between imperial subjugation at the hands of the British (who wanted to beat the Indians into submission) and the genocidal ambitions of jihadists (who want to kill Americans) to someone who vehemently insists that she is never wrong. Even if Rosie understood that for Gandhi non-violent protest was a means to an end and for some reason still believed that Americans should allow themselves to be killed to forward a greater national interest, it is difficult to see Rosie shutting up for long enough to hear that there is a flaw in her logic.

As anyone who has suffered through five consecutive minutes of programming on The Learning Channel will attest, there is no shortage of morons on television. What makes the presence of Jenna Bush-Hager and Rosie O’Donnell worrisome is that both are considered “newscasters” by the NBC network. News by definition informs, and even in a wired world where broadcasts are agenda-driven we still want to have some confidence in the qualifications of commentators. Paul Krugman is an unabashedly liberal Democrat but he is credentialed as a Nobel Prize winning economist. Conservative commentators like former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele bring real knowledge of and experience in the halls of power. Bush-Hager and O’Donnell offer neither. One brings a surname, the other even less (O’Donnell’s feud with Donald Trump notwithstanding).

The networks long ago ceded the role of primary source for television news to the likes of CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and there is a reason that excerpts from Walter Cronkite newscasts seem ancient. But some semblance of competence and knowledge is still important. In this race to the bottom, we all lose.

Andy Peterson

New Appreciation by Andy Peterson

As we have just rung in a new year in 2015, many will face new years with a ton of resolutions and look to make a significant change.  The simple fact is that many will start and few will ever complete whatever goal they may have hoped to achieve.

Focusing on something “new” for this article, I am taking a slightly different perspective.  What if everything we ever needed or wanted was around us and we were just too busy to recognize it?  I have found myself realizing that if I pause for a moment to look around, I have a wealth of abundance around me daily.  While I don’t share the following to brag, I do realize that I have been immensely blessed with an amazing wife who, to date, has endured all of my strengths and weakness for the past 17 years.  I may tell her that it feels like 25 years, but honestly can’t believe where the time has gone.  I am also very blessed to have 2 healthy and incredibly talented children who have their own unique strengths.  I don’t always understand each of their particular nuances, but still appreciate them and love them beyond comprehension.  As much as I have begun to realize this, I haven’t always shared this with them or helped them learn to appreciate all that they have had around them.

Hal Elrod’s book “The Miracle Morning”, reminds us to start each morning with this perspective, and is a fundamental key to his acronym that he uses as the Life S.A.V.E.R.S.  Hal encourages everyone to embrace the Affirmations, or reflect on all of the blessings we have in our life. This could easily become an ego trip for some, but that is not the point.  Many of us don’t take even just a moment to recognize all that we have, and with this provides each of us with a boost of daily energy to keep a sane perspective.

Recently I was listening to a Jay Abraham series, where he was reflecting on what putting things in perspective means using a piece of fine art.   He had purchased several custom paintings that were captivating yet were unable to transform a room without the proper lighting.  The realization is that no matter how good something is, unless you see it, it doesn’t have full potential value.

I wonder if we all don’t have similar experiences that we have each encountered in our daily lives?  We can see all that others may have but also note that they don’t recognize them.  We commonly refer to this as the “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”  We can see and envy what others have, but fail to appreciate the fine things that we have around us every day.

I am still working on refining my own perspective, but why not try a new perspective this year?  I believe each of us are blessed each and every day, but simply fail to recognize or appreciate them.  Best wishes in 2015 to you, and to everyone you are blessed to encounter each day of the year!

Andy Peterson:  After chasing a childhood dream as a professional pilot, Andy stepped away from aviation to honor a commitment to his family.   He is currently the Director of Business Development for Kahuna Business Solutions.  When not working, Andy enjoys racquetball, providing part time flight instruction, introducing aviation to youth, and spending time with his wife and 2 sons.

January = New by Cynthia Sharp

In preparation for 2015, I analyzed where most of my business had come from over the past three years and found that most had come from people with whom I have personal relationships. Simply put, my businesses have always grown when I networked in person and picked up the phone.  This ratifies the words shared by Jeffrey Gitomer: “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends.  All things being not quite so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.”

While I embrace the New Wild Digital World along with its significant benefits and encourage attorneys to do the same, I also like to take a step back and get back to the basics – to those activities that make the biggest difference in my bottom line.

In a world of “high tech/low touch”, strategic in person networking remains the most powerful way to create and deepen relationships. Here are a few tips to successful networking at an event or conference.  Note how the integration of NEW world technology and social media can amplify potential results:

(1) Research the background of any speaker or other attendees (if you have that information).  I normally connect through social media prior to the event which warms the atmosphere for an in person introduction.

(2) Instead of hanging out with others from your office or social group, be sure to mingle.  The purpose is to establish new business relationships.

(3) Engage fully while conversing.  Glancing around the room, at your watch or cell phone sends an unattractive message to your conversation partner.  Many professionals (and other adults) have unfortunately not mastered basic social skills. Make sure you’re not one of them.

(4) The most important and neglected part is The Follow Up. Immediately after a networking event or conference (usually before leaving the premises), I take a snapshot of the business cards given to me. Using Evernote, the image is sent to my assistant along with instructions to add contact information to our marketing database as well as the appropriate follow up action (i.e., send a letter, schedule a lunch date or other specific action).

Time for….Secure Cloud Backups by David Bilinsky

One of the major themes of the Predictions for the Legal Profession for 2015  – Part 1 and Part 2 from the 25 thoughtful contributors was the increasing focus on security for law firms for 2015.  Perhaps Sharon Nelson, a lawyer and President of Sensi Enterprises Inc, a digital forensics, information security and information technology firm in Fairfax Virginia,  put it best when she said:

“Cybersecurity is now universally the chief worry of large firms. We have already concluded that we cannot keep determined intruders out. “

 I am aware of several law firms that have been hit by the Crypolocker or Cryptowall ransomware malware.  These ransom Trojans enter your system and begin stealthily encrypting all files that they can locate.   Finally one day you enter your office only to be met with a message similar to this on your screen:

The ransomware then demands payment to de-encrypt your files in Bitcoin within a very short time frame (too short to use brute force attacks to break the encryption) and if payment is not made within this time frame, it vanishes from your system – leaving your files fully encrypted.

PCWorld stated, quoting CTU Reseachers:

“Between mid-March and August 24, 2014, nearly 625,000 systems were infected with CryptoWall,” the CTU researchers said. “In that same timeframe, CryptoWall encrypted more than 5.25 billion files.”

The largest number of infected systems were located in the United States—253,521 or 40.6 percent of the total. The next most affected countries were Vietnam with 66,590 infections, the U.K. with 40,258, Canada with 32,579 and India with 22,582.

How does it enter into your system? Typically these Trojans enter by way of an attachment to an email message that appears to be sent by a legitimate company.  It is a disguised executable file and it installs itself and adds a key to a Windows computer that causes it to run on startup.  From here it contacts one of many command and control servers that generate a very large encryption key pair.  The public key is sent to the infected computer and uses these keys to encrypt as many local and networked files that it can find (per Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CryptoLocker).

The firms that do not pay the ransom gave up on their data or –  the fortunate ones – were able to restore their system from a cloud-based backup that was not attacked by the Trojan.

Accordingly, we can learn from someone’s unfortunate experience by creating a backup that (we hope!) will be immune from such ransom exploits.

How have the firms done this that survived the attack?

They had cloud-based backups that were not continually connected to the office servers.  In other words, they made periodic backups that were ‘versioned’ and as such, the firm was able to go back to a date prior to the infection and at least restore their data as of that date.

It may have been of assistance that the files were also stored in encrypted format by the cloud backup service.  If the files are not of a format recognized by the ransomware, they are not encrypted.  Furthermore the cloud-based backup was not recognized by the ransom Trojan.

One cloud storage and backup service that may protect your files against such a threat is Spideroak (note that we say may protect – we make no assurances in this regard and each reader is recommended to check with their IT and security expert to determine how best to guard their systems against these threats).

Spideroak (https://spideroak.com) is a zero-knowledge backup and storage service.  That means that the Spideroak servers never know the plaintext contents of the data you are storing (most importantly they are not stored in Word or other common formats!). Furthermore only you have the key to de-encrypt your data (you can’t ask Spideroak to reset or provide this for you..they don’t know it) and they don’t know your password either.  They can’t reset that for you, either.

These days, when it comes to your precious law firm data, it is reassuring to know that at least someone has your back.

The Rural Lawyer – New Year’s Goals

To be perfectly frank, I stink at New Year’s resolutions. While my intentions are admirable, most of my resolutions seldom make it past mid January, early February at the latest. So this year, I’m resolving to avoid resolutions altogether and in their place try goal-setting instead. The cool thing is that there is some tech for that — granted it’s a analog device that Buddhists have been using for some 400-odd years, but I have no doubt that someday soon there will be an app for that.  It’s called the Bhavacakra (“wheel of life”) and it is a framework for laying out goals.

Step 1 – Identify the important stuff. Thing big picture; what are the 8 things you’d like to tackle this year. If you need some help coming up with ideas – one version of a Bhavacakra is pictured below. Think of these big picture items as forming the rim of the wheel.

wheel

Step 2 – Create a few aspirations to go under these big picture categories. Aspirations are your answers to questions like: I want to develop more…, I want to learn…, I want to try to… There should be at least one aspiration for each of your big picture items – but a many to one mapping works too, just remember not to bite off more than you can chew, after all you only have 365 days to work with. For our example, aspirations might be “I want to develop more clients” which maps to “marketing”, or “I want to be more mindful in my practice” which maps to “health”.  These form the spokes of the wheel and are usually where most New Year’s resolution stop.

Step 3 – Develop measurable, manageable goals with timelines that will meet each of your aspirations. These fill the sections of the wheels.  Goals need to be measurable so you can track your progress, need to be manageable so you don’t get overwhelmed and they should have a time line so there is an impetus to stay on track. The more specific you can make your goals, the better; details are things that can be tracked, measured and managed

The only thing left is to left to do is to execute your goals and the best way to do that is to find away to keep yourself accountable for them. This can range from blogging about your progress to finding an accountablity partner – someone to check in with on a regular basis and who’ll help keep you on track. The key is to find a process you are comfortable with and to go with it. Personally, I use a system of rewards to keep me on track (meet a milestone, get a treat – I find old Scotch and fine chocolate work well as). It’s basically operant conditioning without the electroshocks. If you want a bet of a technological edge, there are goal tracking apps out there; topping my list are Joe’s Goals, Mindbloom’s Life Game, Goalscape, Lifetick, and Milestone Planner. I would note that most of these could double as project management software as well, so while you are on the road to personal improvement, your practice could become more efficient as well – what a great twofer.

So, here’s to a new year and success in achieving your goals.

Bruce M. Cameron Having decided that going to law school and opening a solo law practice would be a sufficient response to the male midlife crisis, Bruce now practices Collaborative Family Law and Estate Planning in rural Minnesota. When not in the law office, he can be found on his small farm where he and his wife are at the beck and call of a herd of horses, a couple of cats, a few dogs and one extremely spoiled parrot. http://www.rurallawyer.com