Volume 2, Number 4
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Business Protection Tips (For lawyers, judges and others)
This will be the first of a series of articles discussing business and personal protection tips for the lawyer, judge, and other professional who deals with people in emotional crises or with people who are just plain dangerous.
This column is not interested in merely telling the reader to buy a weapon or a dog or whatever. These tips are basic, they work, they are generally not expensive and they usually have a “whack!” factor. (A “whack!” is the sound of your hand hitting your forehead as you say “Why didn’t I think of that?”)
In this column let’s talk about that most ubiquitous of electronic devices, the phone.
First, the cell phone. These little devices (some think of them as the spawn of the devil) are wonderful life-saving tools when properly used (and I don’t mean as a weapon a la Rep. Cynthia McKinney (Ga. D)). The first thing anyone should do when they get a phone is to program it. I urge all people to program “9" to speed dial “911". That way you can a push of the button summons help right away. By the way, this same tip should be used for all your home and office phones, especially the receptionist’s phone and your phone.
I just love speed-dial on all the phones. That way you can call for help or advice or whatever quickly and easily. But! You have to update your speed-dial numbers regularly to be sure that they are the ones you want to use. I suggest you review your speed-dial list at least every month. That way, you can have already dialed someone you trust and all you have to do is press the “Send” key if you are in distress.
Some cell phones are flip-phones and some are not. Many of us carry the phones with a locked keyboard. If you are one who carries their phone locked, unlock the keyboard when you are carrying the phone in your hand. A locked phone cannot make quick calls and is just a hand tool--and not a very good one either.
Another tip which is gaining more popularity (or notoriety) came out of the London bombings in July 2005: establish a separate entry in your cell phone “I_C_E” (In Case of Emergency) with a specific cell phone number. The reason for this is that many of us have family members listed as “Mom” or “Dad” but these people are not the people we would want called if there were an emergency. ( I know that my mother, although she is a fit 87, is not the person I would most want first notified if I were injured and unable to communicate. I suspect that I am not the only one who feels that way.) “I_C_E” is the number to use to designate the key contact person in the event that you have been injured and cannot communicate. This convention is becoming a well-established protocol in the emergency responders’ lexicon.
Now, let’s talk about the office phone.
When you train your staff be sure that they understand what they can and cannot say. You may not want people to know where you are. That gives someone hunting you an idea where to look. Good example: Do not say “Mr. Kaufman is in Washington D.C. Superior Court this morning.” That tells people where I will be and (maybe) the route I will use to return to the office. It also tells people (roughly) a schedule of when I can be expected to be in the parking lot near my office. All of these facts are facts that someone who is stalking me would love to know. Because this is how they can identify my car, etc.\ The same applies if someone calls to make an appointment. I have time to meet them or I don’t. But do not tell people I am in or out of the office.
Similarly, staff should never give out any other information to anyone without checking with you first. Astonishingly, even in this age of identify theft, people still give out their attorney’s schedule, his cell phone number, make and model of his car and all kinds of other personal information. None of this information should be given out to anyone without checking with you first. You simply don’t want people to know when you are working late, alone in the office and when the office is empty or any other information like that.
I love Caller ID. In fact I tell clients that I will not take calls that are ID-blocked. Similarly, I love *69--the reverse dial that tells me who or what is calling me. This lets me screen all my calls. Staff should be told to do this and to keep a record of all numbers on the “proscribed list” so that they will know who cannot be put through.
I also love Radio Shack. They have the most amazing stuff there sometimes. For example, did you know that, for about $20.00, you can buy a little device that plugs into your phone and lets you record conversations on a recorder? This little thing is wonderful if you are prone to getting telephone threats--a call comes in, the threat starts, and you start recording it for evidence. Be sure to obey the law though. Some states, like Maryland, require that both sides to the conversation consent to taping. Others do not. Check for yourself before trying this. One easy place to start checking is http://www.rcfp.org/taping/ This site is run by the Lawyers Committee for A Free Press and is about 3 years old. But it will let you start your research with an advantage.
Finally, a word about what to say (or do) with your phone. Establish a code phrase for you to use on the phone in case something happens (kidnaping, break-in, etc.) - something innocuous like, "I'm fine. Take care of yourself”. Use it whenever you need to send a message. Depending on your level of paranoia, a 'code phrase' that is NOT used may also be a clue. In other words, if someone is holding you and telling you to read from a script, and you can't say "I'm fine, take care of yourself” then they won't know that you're in trouble. If, on the other hand, your code is, you always end the conversation with "Take care of yourself” and you don't use it, THEN the other party knows you're in trouble.
Anyway, I hope these help. Good luck and be safe.