Disability Insurance for Lawyers - Good Idea or Not?
Wondering about general consensus on disability insurance - for office jobs, do the insurance companies try to get out of paying on claims? Is the consensus that must have disability insurance or wondering if my premiums are better spent elsewhere?
I have a friend hurt in a bike accident. He has had to stop practicing law because of it. He is getting full pay from disability insurance and has been for several years.
Shell Bleiweiss, Illinois
Your best investment is individually purchased disability insurance (own occupation specific), rather than premiums on a group (ERISA covered) long term disability policy.
Happy to chat if you have questions. These cases are my main area of practice (disability insurance - group and individual).
Jennifer Danish, Illinois
For what it is worth, my friend's was a group plan from the firm.
I had a boss who developed a disability and was out of the office for several months. When he returned to the office, a disability adjuster came to visit. I showed him the appointment book (this was before we started keeping appointments and court dates online) which showed a sudden bunch of dates with no appointments or court. And I had documented all the continuances that I had to get from the courts and OCs while he was out. If you need to make a claim, make sure you can show your absence from the office, in case medical records aren't enough.
As far as I know, the company paid the boss's claim in full.
Marilou, a retired legal secretary who misses those days...
It is important that the policy applies to you practicing as an attorney. There are policies that only pay out if you suffer a disability that prevents you from doing any kind of work.
I recommend it. If you suffer a serious injury or get a bad medical diagnosis, you probably won't have an adequate financial fallback without insurance.
Bert Krages, Oregon
A friend of mine, a very good litigator and trial lawyer, was T-Boned in an intersection collision and suffered severe concussion and likely some brain damage when her head was thrust violently sideways into her car's side pillar. (she was wearing a seat belt). She lost some slight cognitive functioning and had to give up all trial work and within a year or so, all litigation - anything which required accurate recall or quick decision making. Fortunately, she had maintained a disability policy that covered her disability, so she was able to retire from active law practice.
Michael L. Boli, California
And you want a high minimum payment. They will require you to file for SSA and then offset their payment by your SSA amount and many times end up only paying the minimum payment (of like $25/month) though I have seen some with much higher minimum payments (closer to $500)
Erin M. Schmidt, Ohio
My law school mentor was a partner in a major firm here, billing 300o+ hours a year when he got a head injury. Out of the practice. And I have a sui generis condition that affects rapidity of thinking, and I'm retiring from trial work as a result. I was ready anyway, so not a big deal, and I'm continuing to do local counsel work where I'm not in the well of the courtroom myself.
I suppose your friend's T-Boner didn't have insurance...
In my friend's case, the insurance companies fought him tooth and nail. He was relatively young and the likely bill ran into millions of dollars.
I have an individual policy through the ABA. One thing to consider is whether you have your firm pay the premium (and write that off as a business expense) or pay it out of your pocket. The big difference comes if you ever use the policy: The monthly disability payments are taxable to you if your business pays the premiums. If you pay the premiums out of your own pocket, the monthly disability payments are not taxed. Makes a big difference.
Andy Simpson, U.S. Virgin Islands
Apologies if this has been mentioned already, but most disability policies expire at age 65, on the theory that people retire then (yeah, right) and that one becomes eligible for social security. But for an extra premium, you can buy a rider that continues the payouts for life or as long as the disability lasts, whichever ends first.
(This was the case when I was shopping policies, but that was a long time ago. YMMV.)
James S. Tyre, California
Don’t CC Your Client!
I am in the middle of a case with lots of attorneys (3 for the plaintiff, 4 for one defendant, little ole me for another defendant, one for a cross complaint). One of the defense attorneys emailed me with a CC. I hit reply all because the prior associate used to email me and cc two partners. As I was about to hit send, I double checked the email addresses and one of them was the defendant himself! Good thing I checked.
Stop cc'ing clients!
Also, stop bcc'ing clients because if they hit Reply All, it will go to ALL.
Include the parties you want to receive the email, hit send, THEN forward that sent message to the client.
LFMM (Learn from my mistake)
Gina Bongiovi, Nevada
So I’ve gotta take the opposite view here. STOP REPLYING ALL. I personally think that “reply all” is anathema. You are 100% at fault of you reply all and end up copying a party.
Jerry W. Cain, Jr., Georgia
So riddle me this (and yes, I am intrigued): what do you do when you have a case with some 1st year associate when the associate cc's the partner and you KNOW the partner is making decisions but you don't want the associate to color your responses?
I tried a case against a local school district. The associate did all of the work up. Had the associate passed on the right information, the case probably would have resolved short of trial. But it was clear the associate was not giving the partner all of the information and, thus we ended up trying the case.
That taught me to reply all so that the partner was in the loop and could take over if a young associate was screwing up.
Jonathan Stein, California
There’s a difference between blindly replying all and doing it for tactical reasons. @jonathan - I bet you’d delete the represented party if you saw them on there.
At the end of the day, though, I don’t think a represented party being included in an email is any different than talking across a table to opposing counsel at a deposition when the party is there. We often talk to attorney when our words are really meant for a witness, party or even a judge.
My point is blindly replying all is a bad bad idea.
Jerry W. Cain, Jr.
> Include the parties you want to receive the email, hit send, THEN
> forward that sent message to the client.
I've put Gina's response at the top of this reply, because IMHO, this is the ONLY way to keep your client in the loop, yet make sure that your client doesn't inadvertently (or vertently!) communicate to the other side.
On the flip side -- yes, I often receive emails from OC, with OP included in the email addresses. I know this is faster and easier, but as others have pointed out, it lends itself to
a) me sending a reply that includes OP, and
b) OP sending a reply that includes me.
It is SO easy to forward the email to your client, which prevents both a and b from happening.
And it is easy for me to read through the email addresses on an incoming email and winnow out the ones I don't want to reply to, which prevents a from happening.
Laurie Axinn Gienapp, Massachusetts
"Also, stop bcc'ing clients because if they hit Reply All, it will go to ALL."
+1 ... or "Two easy steps to decrease the risk of your client waiving privilege."
Tim Ackermann, Texas
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that my client emailed me and opposing counsel in extremely rude terms, basically saying we're going to kick their butts, etc., and how dare those SoBs do that to him, etc., etc.
Of course they deny that it was inadvertent, and assert that he was making threats of violence (even though he clearly wasn't, although he did use a lot of military jargon), and they intend to use the email to the best advantage they can. Sheeeesh!!! I suspect this will be the biggest motion in limine fight I'll have. But I wonder if I did bcc him on something and he was hitting reply all. That might help me in my argument later on. That would show it was truly inadvertent and therefore still protected by A-C privilege.
I bcc clients all the time. I will stop doing that from now on.
Sterling L. DeRamus, Alabama
In my office we email OC and then forward it to the client with text of "Your bcc." It is also our practice to closely check OC's email for OC's client and delete that person from the reply email.
Just don't need to have a scenario that is ripe for regret that can't be fixed or an accusation that we are communicating with a represented party.
Deb Matthews, Virginia
I am curious about this Reply All from a bcc problem.
Is this also from outlook, not just from gmail?
I would like to test this out with 2 other members here who do not use gmail. Any volunteers for a 3 person test, off gmail?
Roger M. Rosen, California
Yes, it's also outlook, it's all email programs.
And yes, you can use me as a guinea pig if you want.
James S. Tyre, California
No one would ever call you a pig. :-)
I always forward email to a client. Never CC.
Scott Barer, California
How do you talk to your clients about the lack of surety or guarantees in our field? Even if you have the right facts, a motion may fail on a technicality, the jury could believe the other side, etc.
The first substantive paragraph in my retainer agreement is (in bold): "WE CANNOT AND DO NOT GUARANTEE RESULTS."
Suzanne L. Hawkins, South Carolina
I tell clients that the best case there is has a 90% success likelihood in court. Never 100%. And most cases go down from there. Judges and juries just do some crazy things.
Shell Bleiweiss, Illinois
If a client has a strong case, I tell them that the prospects are good, but that law is a human process and nothing is guaranteed. Sometimes, depending on the prospects, I will tell clients that I can't rule out a positive result, but an adverse one is definitely possible.
Bert Krages, Oregon
As my former boss used to say, "I've seen sure winners lose, and sure losers win."
I've probably given that warning to clients as many times as I heard him say it, over the years.
Timothy A. Gutknecht, Illinois
I do two things:
My representation agreement contains the following language: "Of course, I cannot make any promises or guarantees about the outcome of any matter...".
Second, when discussing a matter, I always tell the client that a particular outcome is not a sure thing. If a client opines that we "should" win or a win is a "no brainer" I immediately make it very clear that there is no such thing as a sure thing, and that even when the facts and law seem to be in our favor, the outcome can be a surprise.
Caroline A. Edwards, Pennsylvania
And when I've had a client tell me that something is a "sure thing" I remind them that if it was so sure the other side would not be wasting money on it.
David Kaufman, Florida
I always tell my clients there's no guarantees; if it's a strong case I'll opine that it is a good case; but I also point out that litigation is expensive, time consuming, stressful and uncertain; even if it is a strong case it might not go to trial and even if it does, it doesn't mean we will win. Then I tell them a story or two about judges who frankly ignored the law. And I encourage them to keep settlement open.
Ron Jones, Florida
"Litigation is inherently uncertain."
Roger Rosen, California
Ultimately, I think there will be some clients who will never understand that there aren't any guarantees. I have a written disclaimer in my engagement agreement and often will verbally remind the client, but some will just never get it. Either that or they will conveniently forget that you told them there were no guarantees when they lose their case and try to blame you anyway.
As lawyers, we're trained to think in terms of probability. That's what leads us to always say "It depends" when answering a question. There are certain factors that will increase the probability of one outcome (e.g. plaintiff wins) and certain factors that will increase the chance of the opposite outcome (e.g. defendant wins).
People who don't work in the legal field (i.e. sane people, er, I mean lay people) think much more in binary terms. A lot of my inquiries from prospective clients contain some form of the question "Will this contract protect me from legal liability?" (i.e. a binary yes-no answer) or "What can I do to win my lawsuit?" (i.e. a set list of tasks that if accomplished will guarantee victory).
This probability explanation sometimes works. Depending on who I'm talking to, I will sometimes get even more basic and say something like 'Well, the judge might get in to a fight with his wife the morning of your trial. You never know.'
This isn't easy to do, but what sometimes works is analogize the "no guarantees" thing to a context the listener already knows. I had a guy call me today, for example, looking to sue the Los Angeles County Superior Court because he lost a small claims court case. Based on the conversation, I could tell he was fairly emotional and was not going to understand appeals or immunity issues. I gambled that he was a basketball fan and painted a picture for him of me sitting at home watching an NBA game and cursing at the referees for making lousy calls. I then used that to illustrate how, for instance, the judge could always make a bad call and that could mean he could lose when he really shouldn't.
It sounded like he understood, but you never know.
Andy I. Chen, California
There are so many variables that we cannot control that can determine the outcome of a case, many of which have nothing to do with the merits of the case. Just look at my thread regarding a defendant being forced to disclose LLC members and sub-members in a federal diversity case to aid a plaintiff's claim of diversity. There are so many factors that can influence the outcome of a case that have nothing to do with the actual merits of the case.
Barry Mortge, Illinois
Reflections on an Anniversary
Exactly 22 years ago today, right here on solosez, I created the COTE acronym and bestowed it upon one rose, jennifer j. I've grown old and senile since then, but thanks to technology (in this instance, my computer calendar), I don't need to remember such things, my computer remembers them for me.
When I saw the reminder, my first thought really wasn't about COTE or me, it was a feeling of marvel that solosez has existed for so long (technically, since some time in 1996) and that it still thrives. There have been births, there have been (too many) deaths. There's been at least one marriage of two people who first encountered each other on solosez. We've celebrated others'successes, commiserated with others' failures. We've survived a controversy or two that came awful close to causing ABA to kill the list.
Most email discussion lists have a truly active lifecycle measured in single digit years. But we persist, thanks in no small part to COTE's iron fist. (I've seen it, it's quite intimidating.)
I've no desire to drone on, folks may or may not add their memories as they may choose. But I thought it remarkable that solosez has lived long and still prospers.
James S. Tyre, California
As an early member (not as early as COTE, Tyre or Bubba from Dime Box), Solosez has been an invaluable resource over the many years from which I've met online and personally a large number of wonderful members who have generously imparted their time, wisdom and experience upon us. Glad it's still going strong.
Craig McLaughlin, California
I discovered this group completely by accident and have learned more than I can say. I know I have participated at least 15 years - well, if participating counts reading and wondering if I would ever know enough not to be dangerous!
Thanks to all for the feeling that I have a safety net on which to rely.
Reta McKannan, Alabama
I was there when COTE was crowned. And I raise my glass to toast her.
It has been amazing to watch all that has transpired here. I joined when I was a law school student and Debbie was the list manager. I give a lot of credit for my professional success to Solosez. As a baby lawyer in a firm I was able to present knowledge and wisdom beyond my years because of what I learned here, especially for tech and practice management. Now on my own for coming up on 11 years, Solosez has continues to be just a few clicks away. Social media has given the listserv a run for its money (who among us has not sought to click on like and then remembered where you were?), but we have persevered. Here's to many more...
Deborah G. Matthews, Virginia
Yeah, I've been here since either August or Sept. of 1996 and I find it quite amazing that we're still going.
Bear in mind, in 1993 I started law school and Email was still quite new to most people; we had email accounts thru the law school but it involved dialing in via a modem, calling up a Unix shell and invoking PINE to read your email (at least for most people; there may have been some PC email programs but no one I knew had them; I had to teach several younger students how to check their email after our contracts prof insisted on communicating by email).
So, 1996, yeah, there was Windows and graphical browsers (Netscape) but it was still rather novel; and I read in the ABA Journal an article on Solosez; and I signed up shortly after taking the bar exam.
A LOT of people helped me in those first year or two; Chris Menard for one (I don't know what happened to him) Bruce Dorner for another and a lot of others I can't think of off the top of my head. And we've seen deaths here; John Page, but also Kathleen De La Rosa aka Kathleen Coughenor (I really liked Kathleen, she had a wonderful sense of humor) ; that shocked me; as well as Ross Kodner (man, he was awful damn young) and others that I, frankly, will get depressed if I start recounting them.
That's why I try to help people on this list; I got a lot of help, pointers, straight forward advice early on and I try to reciprocate.
Ron Jones, Florida
Deb, I hope you won't mind my sharing a personal story, but it's one of many (many many) that show what a great place this is.
I have no recollection of how Deb became aware that I've been playing roto league baseball forever, or how I became aware that Deb is a huge fan of the Washington Nationals. But, one year, I had then-Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmermann on my roto team. Deb knew that, and happened to be at a game that was a JZimm bobblehead giveaway game. A few weeks later, a mysterious package arrived in the mail, it was the JZimm bobblehead!
Though JZimm is but a shadow of his former self, and hasn't been a Nat for years, I still have it where I see it every day. Deb being the amazing person that she is, the bobblehead is possibly the best unexpected gift I've ever gotten from anyone!
James S. Tyre
Jim, you are one of my all-stars!
There are a hundred million similar stories. My DD and I went to Coeur d'Alene to attend a cousin's wedding. I had something that suddenly had to be printed, signed, and faxed while there. Art Macomber kindly permitted me to use his office and I made my deadline. Then as we tried to fly home we ran into travel hell (there may be those family members who would tell you that one flies with me at one's own risk). We dropped my sis and family off for their early flight, checked on our flight, and went to Spokane to see the rapids featured in some odd movie my daughter loved.
Got back to the airport and found our flight was cancelled due to an air show - you know, those special events one would have to arrange with the FAA well in advance of the date. We waited and waited to get a flight out and in the process missed our connecting flight. Rather than a two stop layover plan, we opted for one long layover in Seattle. I called Mark Stern to ask where we might eat given our multi-hour layover. He said if we'd wait for him to take his dogs home from his sailboat that he would come pick us up. He took us to a lovely place near Pike Place Market - and he treated us. Of course when Marc needed his justice bobblehead picked up from George Mason University here I went over, picked it up, and shipped it to him for a couple of years. And there's when I was at the National Solo and Small Firm Conference in Santa Fe and Marc gave me a ride to Albuquerque. With that, I shall stop and let someone else carry the tales forward...
I haven't been on this list as long as many of you and I am not quite as active on this list these days but I still appreciate the support and camaraderie this list provides. Thank you to COTE for the many years of herding us cats.
Naomi C. Fujimoto, Hawaii
I still come back here for answers. And I miss Ross, too. And John Page. I still have e-mails from both of them.
Oh, and I trimmed the message. You're welcome, COTE. :)
Gregory Zbylut, California
Damn. Maybe folks are trainable. Well done, Greg. May many others follow your fine lead.
Deborah G. Matthews
I don't remember the controversies, but I love reading y’alls stories! I'm glad we're all still here.
Marilou Auer, retired legal clerk/secretary, Virginia
I'm not sure when I joined, but I know I was here for Bush v. Gore. I miss stories from Dime Box.
Anthony S. Alpert, California
You Sezzers gave me several years of my favorite task at the ABA Journal -- writing the Solo Network column. I could always find somebody here to interview, no matter the topic. You all were always very generous with your time. Since I went back to practicing law, you've helped many times too.
And yes, CJ, I'm sorry about the photog they sent to photograph you. I know. He was a demanding twit. Sorry, again, 15+ years later. ;)
Meg Tebo, Illinois
I have been here since 2008, and I still wonder when I will know enough to give more advice than I ask for. I am not as active as some, but I am eternally grateful for what I have learned from this list.
I also want to say that I really like that we can discuss off-topic things. All my local listservs prohibit off-topic discussions. But it really is nice to be able to ask for travel suggestions, computer advice etc.
Brian C. Hagner, Wisconsin
Don't forget the Great Cast Iron Pan Thread. Who knew people had such strong feelings about cast iron?
Naomi C. Fujimoto
Solosez has been a huge part of my enjoyment of solo practice. It is a place where there are others who understand the strange world of being a solo, and who have overcome the same problems that I have. I have learned so much. It is also a place where camaraderie and collegiality are paramount.
Just want to say, thanks to everyone who is part of Solosez, thanks to COTE, and thanks to Jim for noting the anniversary!
Caroline A. Edwards, Pennsylvania
Well, let's see. I joined this fun fun group in December 1996 just as I was opening my own practice. The amount of support at that time was amazing and heartening. It was here that I realized I wasn't the only 2nd career lawyer in the world and that life did not revolve around Big Law. I still have many of the old jokes and threads (remember I compiled the "thread of the month" for several years).
So who remembers the toilet paper hanging controversy? or Word vs WordPerfect? I still have the Clinton/Lewinsky jokes saved somewhere (but they have not aged well have they?). Bubba, DimeBox, Yolanda Mae? Still, one of the best illustrations of how we all pulled together was helping Andy S get re-married by double proxy.
Anyway, Happy Birthday COTE
David Kaufman, Florida
Jim, you are part of the soul of SoloSez.
Wendy Lascher, California
I'll pick up that story for the newbies on the list. I posted the historical retrospective (below) in 2011 (now updated to 2019) when someone was collecting favorite stories about Solosez and mentioned my travails.
The story began 17 years ago. On January 5, 2002, we held our daughter Rosie for the first time. She was 10 weeks old at the time and we were adopting her from Guatemala. We were in Guatemala, and only scheduled to have temporary custody of Rosie for three days, at which time we were returning to St. Croix to wait out the adoption process, which typically averaged 7-8 months. But while we were there, our adoption agency told us that we were so far along in the process, that we would be done by the end of January. It made no sense to fly back and return in only three weeks, especially when Robin could stay with Rosie the whole time. Soooooo, we made arrangements for Robin to stay with Rosie for the remaining three weeks and I returned to St. Croix since I had to work and had two trials starting up at the end of January.
I no sooner got back to St. Croix than we were informed that there was a hitch. We knew we were adopting when we got married, so we had followed the required formalities for the adoption, which was that our Italian marriage certificate had to certified by the clerk of court for the town. This certificate was submitted to the Guatemalan embassy in D.C. which approved it and sent it down to Guatemala. Unfortunately, some bureaucrat in Guatemala (three months later) decided that the certificate had to be certified by the region (Milan) and the national government in Rome.(Imagine trying to get your marriage certificate certified by some regional authority and then the State Department in D.C. -- then imagine doing that in Italy, famed for its 4 hour government work days, random job actions, etc.)
I immediately got our wedding planner in Italy working on it but she said it could take months. So I started working on Plan B -- re-marry Robin and use a new marriage certificate from the states. But, since Robin was in Guatemala with Rosie (Guatemala had a six week period for advertising the marriage before you could marry, so flying back there was out of the question), I looked into a proxy marriage. (I was familiar with this because my USMC brother had been the proxy for his best friend, also a Marine, who was in Iraq in the first Iraq war and needed to marry his immigrant wife before her visa expired.)
I reached out to Solosez to find out which states recognized proxy marriages and find people who might stand in for us. The response from the list was incredible as people offered solutions and information about their states' respective laws. As it turned out, no state would allow a proxy marriage where both people had proxies. And I had those trials starting up, so I couldn't go to the states. But, I had found out that Texas recognized proxy marriages and would allow you to get married without photo ID. The Texas contingent of Soloszezers were all over this and I specifically recall Darrell Stewart and Beckie Fahie helping with ideas. (I'm focused on Texas, but there were responses from all over the Solosez world.)
There was a lawyer here in the Virgin Islands who split his time between here and Texas and he was heading back to Texas. So I arranged for him to pretend to be me (remember, no photo ID made this work) and his wife to be my wife's proxy. My only condition was that he make sure that he get a wedding photo -- both he and his wife are black and my wife and I are both white!
Was it fraud? Perhaps. But since my wife and I were already married, could it really be fraud?
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view), we never found out. The day before "I" was to leave for Texas, our wedding planner emailed and said that, miraculously, she had obtained the needed Italian certifications (in only two weeks’ time), and they were en route via overnight courier to Guatemala.
That two-week delay had a domino effect upon the processing of the adoption. It was not until March 31 that the adoption was completed and we were able to bring Rosie home. Robin stayed there the whole time – not something we would have planned in advance; but, in retrospect, it was a great opportunity for her to bond with Rosie, learn Spanish, and become far more acquainted with Rosie's native country and its people. We fell in love with both.
FYI, I joined Solosez shortly after starting my practice as a solo in early 2000. So the response I got from Solosez to someone who had only been on the list for two years at the time was truly awesome. I really regret that the fake marriage didn't happen. I would love to have that wedding photo on my photo table.
And Rosei (that's how she spells it now) is now 17. My future Latin American dictator (so named because of her fiery temper and willfulness as an 8 year old) will be 18 in October. Still spirited, but a joy to be with.
Andy Simpson, U.S. Virgin Islands
I remember those days so well. How on earth could your little spitfire be 17?
You and I also attended a Springsteen concert today and had dear Ross' guidance on our culinary choices. Well, no choice really. In Philly that meant a cheese steak.
Actually, per Ross, 2 cheese steaks because he wanted to compare Geno's w/ Pat's. At least that's what he made me do when the Solo & Small Firm meetup in Philly happened.
Thank you for sharing that, Andy.
I’ve only been on SoloSez for 10 years,* so I wasn’t aware of the backstory.
*And, before someone else says it, I’m sure it feels like much longer to those of you who put up with my weird comments.
Brian H. Cole, California
Toilet paper hanging and Word vs Word Perfect are still controversies.
Naomi C. Fujimoto
Brian: No, because they've had to put up with me for around 12 years (9 of them in CA).
Naomi: Neither Word nor WordPerfect can hold a candle to WordStar.
I remind that our/my ABA dues support Solosez and the other related links.
Please join the ABA. I have been a member since 1971.
Solosez is just one of many contributions made by the American Bar Association, which organization needs dues in order to provide services.
I add, your state bar and local bar([s) do the same. Getting a bit far afield here. If your local bar(s) have regular meetings/luncheons/dinners with CLE (for which we receive continuing education credit in Texas, as we have at two bars in my area, work up a presentation and volunteer to present it, and then keep it tuned. Nowadays, 'they' often no longer have CLE papers to hand out; rather, 'they' have thumb drives. If you present, have real paper papers and leave white space in a margin for the lawyers to make notes. Try to go with two-sided pages; think about using colored paper. Of course, the cover page will identify you, your address, contact information, etc. You may want to tho' in thumb drives bearing your firm information.
I have met several Sezzers in person. To list three, I met Jennifer Rose, aka COTE, for the first time at an ABA annual meeting in Chicago some years ago.
Brian Cole. Met him for breakfast a few years ago near LAX. Now that I think about it, I think he gave me a lift from my LA hotel to breakfast and then to the airport. Thanks, Brian! By the way Brian Cole is your 'go to' franchise law attorney.
Dayum! I almost left out Meg Tebo. Have met her at both Austin and Chicago.
Mention of giving a lift brings some sadness. Shortly before his untimely passing, I gave the legendary Ross Kodner a lift in Austin. Was great to chauffer a celebrity.
Rob Robertson, Texas
I remember reading a similar message from James on the 17th anniversary of COTE and was impressed by how amazing that was. Cannot believe I have been on my own since then, but I have Solosez to thank for my continued survival (and COTE for maybe our sanity?).
Here's to another 22 or more! Cheers.
Murtaza Sutarwalla, Texas
I remember many of those although I believe I have been on the list less than 15 years ... how do you tell? And... in case anyone has forgotten - it's over and WordPerfect will always be the far superior product even if it doesn't have a higher market share. :)
I miss Ross almost every single day. The legal and "tech" worlds are completely out of control. So bad these days, I don't even utter that word. I help law firms select the right people, processes and products needed to get the work done. I call them the 3 P's of office management. ;)
Thank you to all who make this list the true digital water cooler of legal - despite the craziness that goes on in the real world. You cannot duplicate Solosez on any other medium. We can have lists and groups and such - but they are not the same, never will be the same and cannot replace this list - in terms of function and feeling. We like it as it is, not because we are luddites who don't change; because we already know nothing about it needs changing.
... and can't believe you didn't have MOTH on the list!
Andrea Cannavina, nope notta
Been here since 2004. Never thought I'd still be posting here, but here I am thanks to all the wonderful folks on here. Probably will keep posting until I can no longer type.
Gene Lee, California
I tripped into SoloSez in late ‘98
I fanatically sequence my subject lines as a result of SS.
[AREA] MY CLIENT and your client - Topic :: Specific Items
1. It lets the reader know what’s up/in store 2. It helps you separate conversations 3. It enable you to search content 4. It shows that you CARE!
Thx Creature of the Ether!
Michael J. Sweeney, Connecticut
I found SoloSex ( 😉 ) in 2008, when I realized that LPM class was not targeted to solos and small firms, and that I would be on my own when I went, well, on my own. So my Sezzer archives pre-date my law school graduation, as do my memberships in the ABA, the NCBA, and the NCAJ.
As a second-career lawyer, I had already figured out that I was pretty much too old to get any attention even from small firms until or unless I proved my mettle. (And by that time, I was more interested in building a small firm than joining one.) In fact, a friend and colleague who had been practicing law in a pretty big Silicon Valley firm in SF told me before I applied that I should not realistically expect to get any attention from firms due to my age (I started the MBA at 40, 1L at 41), and should plan my curriculum accordingly. If a firm /did/ give me any attention, he said, I should not expect to be given any serious consideration as a partner, as they would likely view me as not sufficiently "plastic" to be molded in the firm's image, and I should be prepared to be regurgitated after my initial stint as a wage slave.
I think I cajoled one into giving me an interview, but I knew from the outset it was mostly a sympathy call, because I applied for an interview despite being outside of their stated GPA range, explaining that I had spent my first two years caring for a terminally ill partner, and suggested they compare my performance (despite the circumstances) during those two years, and compare them to the first year of my MBA and my 3L year. I was awarded an MBA "with distinction" - I was in the top six in the class - so that may have counted for something.
And, in reality, based on that advice, and based on what led me to a dual-degree program in the first place, I mostly expected to find a firm that would give me a couple years' experience, and move on to consulting, leveraging my law degree and practice experience to bolster a business consulting gig. Ultimately, I discovered that enjoyed the law more than the business side, though I find the MBA very helpful at times. Solosez was a big factor in building my confidence, and keeping me from abandoning law practice early on (and several times since). And because folks here were always so willing to offer guidance, advice, legal know-how, forms, cites, and encouragement, I have made it my practice for over a decade now to try to pay it forward not only here on the list, but to new lawyers, at least to the extent I had more of a clue than they did!
From memory, I have had referrals and/or local counsel work from Sezzers in Texas, California, Oregon, Nevada, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, DC, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska, and possibly others.
I have been able to provide Referrals to and for Sezzers into California, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, New York, South Carolina, Florida, DC, Maryland, France, England, Canada, and Japan.
I hope the list is around for a good many more years; it's a wonderful benefit and a joy to many.
Richard J. Rutledge, Jr., North Carolina
Soon after I joined, I sent a post with [SOLOSEX] rather than [SOLOSEZ] in the heading. I was mortified and sure I was going to be ejected from the list. I sent another post immediately, apologizing. Duke kindly forgave me and assured me that that's why we have an annual meeting!
So many good times!
Duke that prude! Just kidding
I found this group in 2009 when I first decided I needed to go on my own.
I was so incredibly grateful for the feeling of having a safety net that this listserve gave me back then. My solo practice was absorbed into another firm after some issues arose with my family (divorce) and I was badly hurt in a car accident. Circumstances ended my dream of having my own firm back then, but I always remembered this group fondly.
When life took another turn recently and I was ready to leave bigger firm practice and try again, I signed up here before I even had my own business phone line!
I'm older, wiser, stronger and have a new(old) last name, but I'm so happy to see the group still going strong.
Deena L. Buchanan, New Mexico
Naomi C. Fujimoto
I think I've been on the list since 1998 or thereabouts (I'm too lazy to check at the moment). And I don't read or post nearly as much as I used to, but I do try to help people out now and then. . . . The list has been invaluable over the years.
And like Ron Jones, I miss those who have passed on.
Veronica Schnidrig, Oregon
It's been an amazing 22 years, no? Thank you one and all for those resoundingly great vibes.
Solosez began as a project of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Solo & Small Firm Practitioners in 1996. In 2004 or so, sponsorship of the list was transferred to the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division.
For the first few months of its life, subscribers stood around like kids at a junior high school dance, afraid to be the first ones on the dance floor. We weren't sure what we wanted to talk about, but Bruce Dorner and Ross Kodner broke the ice with the Word - WordPerfect jihad. Someone thoughtfully composed a hypothetical, and the unanimous response was "We've passed the bar, and we're not going to take any more law school final exams." A hesitant few would send their posts to Deb Owen, who was the staff director of Solosez' original sponsor, the ABA Standing Committee on Solo and Small Firm Lawyers, and to me, asking that we bless their submissions.
We've had lawyers join and promptly complain about the noise level, only to find themselves become among the list's most active posters. Some of our number have left private practice for other practice settings, and some have come to Solosez from those settings. Solosez lawyers practice in very rural communities as well as in New York City. This group represents the broadest range of specialties imaginable.
During its 22 years, Solosez has developed its own legends, history, nicknames for frequent participants, and, like family and friends, its own language. Breaking the usual “15% of a list’s subscribers make 80% of the noise” axiom, participation among subscribers is very high. They consider themselves not simply mailing list subscribers – but “The Firm.” They even speak of withdrawal if the list server’s down, wondering if they’ve been suspended from the list.
Beyond combating professional isolation, Solosez is a sounding board for lawyers who don’t have the resources of a large firm:
1. It’s a source for quick answers on substantive legal issues, technology, law office management, and even personal issues.
2. One feature we offer is the ability to send anonymous posts. Actually, this just sort of happened about 20 years ago when a list member had discovered that his secretary embezzled from his trust account. The lawyer was notifying the bar authorities, but at 5 a.m., he wanted to know what he should do next. So, he asked me to post the question anonymously, because he didn’t want his identity revealed. Since then, this feature has been used by list subscribers about once every ten days for personal issues as well as substantive legal questions when the subscriber doesn’t want his or her identity revealed.
3. It’s a referral source. List members are making connections and networking for new business.
4. There’s a strong support network here. The list has been there for new lawyers going through their first trials, for list members struggling with nasty opposing counsel, hiring and firing staff, and even list members wanting to transition to and from other practice settings.
5. Solosez subscribers have a friend in every city in America and even abroad. It’s not unusual to see someone posting “I’m going to Seattle, and would anyone like to have lunch?” Someone will respond, and it’s sort of like Rotary for solo and small firm lawyers.
6. Lawyers in small towns, and sometimes even LA’s a small town, there’s no one for solo and small firm practitioners to bounce ideas off of, to approach with problems, or even to get that second opinion. Solosez extends the range throughout the planet for these folks.
7. It’s an opportunity for lawyers inexperienced in a particular area to rub elbows with the masters. We have some lawyers who can barely draft a divorce petition, and they’re able to get a quick answer from nationally recognized matrimonial lawyers.
I'm humbled by the praise heap upon COTE, but all of the credit belongs to the Solosez community.
And like Rob Robertson, please show your support and help the Solosez survive by joining the ABA.
jennifer j. rose, Mexico
I think I've been on Solosez for over 20 years. Perhaps Jennifer knows.
I joined Solosez when I met Frank Kautz. Frank told me he was on 17 listserves. At the time, I didn't know what a listserve was!
As a result of Solosez:
1. I've met a number of you in person. Ross and I shared a number of food experiences (including me sticking my spoon in his creme brulee).
2. The Massachusetts group has been meeting for monthly dinners for around
20 years. We refer work to each other all the time, but more importantly , we always provide an ear for bouncing a question or how to deal with a sticky situation.
3. I wrote numerous articles for the solo/small firm column or magazine or newsletter, or whatever it was.
4. I went to a number of Techshows.
5. I wrote a chapter for a book.
6. I presented at the ABA annual meeting (my PowerPoint was a disaster-not to be remembered).
7. I helped host Boston Techshow.
8. I was chair of the LPM division of the Mass Bar Association.
9. I've received referrals and referred some awesome matters.
10. I've read some great books.
11. I rushed to join Facebook and now have a number of people I barely know seeing pictures of my family.
12. I met Andrea Cannavina and think she's awesome.
13. I am usually up on the latest/greatest technology for solos.
There's probably more, but it's more than enough!
Andrea Goldman, Massachusetts
In this thread "Ross" and "Ross Kodner" have been mentioned.
He was a force unto himself and a great contributor to this list.
Unfortunately, he unexpectedly passed away in the last couple of years or so.
I have mentioned this before somewhere. Some years ago he had to be in Austin for a technology presentation at a conference. I offered to pick him up and take him back to the airport. That was enjoyable. I think I even saved up some questions for him.
I have met several people from this list in person at Los Angeles and Chicago and Memphis and New Orleans and Fort Worth. A couple of 'regulars' practice in my geographical area.
Solosez is a valuable resource, subsidized by our American Bar Association dues.
And someone remind me/us. There are a couple of other Solosez-related pages where we can post attachments, etc.?
What are they?
Rob Robertson, Texas
Social Media Warning as Part of Fee Agreement
I would like to append to my attorney-client fee agreements a warning to the client not to use social media to discuss their cases.
If you have language for this that you are willing to share with me (with Solosez) I would appreciate your sharing it.
This would not be over-sharing.
11. Social Media: *It is very important that all communications about court cases come through your attorney. *Do not comment about any imminent or pending court case on any social media site (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)* The Firm insists on this policy in order to avoid giving your opponent an advantage and to prevent you from being accused of interfering with the privacy of others or prejudicing legal proceedings.
Timothy A. Gutknecht, Illinois
I would actually suggest going further and having the client temporarily suspend / shut down all social media accounts during the pendency of litigation.
Eugene Lee, California
I think that's going too far, unless there's a meaningful reason to think that the client just can't be disciplined about social media use.
People live on social media these days. (Well, an awful lot of people, not literally everyone.) Litigation will last at least months, often years. Asking a client to abandon social media completely during the pendency of litigation is a good recipe for losing the client.
James S. Tyre, California
I take your point. Ultimately, I think it depends on the case. But if the case is a serious six figure claim or more, I would seriously consider it.
As an example, if the case involves a plaintiff alleging clinical depression as a result of work-related events and plaintiff posts even one picture of themselves smiling (at dinner with family, at a party) during the pendency of the suit, the defense lawyer is almost certainly going to make that an exhibit at trial and parade that to the jury.
When I post on listservs, I tend to be too terse. This particular topic is a complicated one (not to mention very interesting) and probably deserves an entire seminar or legal practice article.
I agree with James, Gene. I would note there is a significant difference in the types of cases and clients each of you represent, but I think the bulk of the things I see included in fee agreements are designed for the attorney’s benefit, particularly CYA, and often adverse to the client’s interest which is likely to be unenforceable. My agreement is less than two pages in plain English. Whether or not you want to represent a client is a personal choice, but trying to restructure the client’s life is an abuse of your position in the relationship. When you draft your agreement, it would be wise to look at it from the perspective of a malpractice attorney who is preparing to sue you on behalf of a former client.
Duke Drouillard, Nebraska
Duke, I think reasonable minds can differ on this point. In any case, I'm going to stick with my guns here. I had a case where my client was being surveilled by the defendants after we filed suit. I had told him I strongly suspected he would be surveilled and he agreed with me when he started noticing strange people hanging around his house. I also suggested he shut his social media down as I believed defendant would be monitoring his social media closely through coworkers who he had friended. Lo and behold, during discovery, defense counsel informed me they had surveillance tapes and social media pages from my client's account. They didn't end up using any of them at trial because they were completely useless. On the other hand, I've had clients continue to use social media during litigation against my advice, and those became key defense exhibits at trial, leading to very depressed awards. A lawyer can't "order" a client to shut down their social media accounts, but a lawyer can certainly "recommend" it, which is what I do. I think it would be irresponsible *not* to recommend it when the case warrants it.
Anyhoo, I need to get back to writing a brief that's due on Monday, so I'm done chiming in on this thread. Have a great weekend all!
Monday is a court holiday in CA state courts.
Thanks to those who have responded to my post so far.
On a somewhat related topic I am listening to s podcast now, San Harris making sense, number 152, which he interviews a guest who explains, among other things, why social media is addictive, how the giant companies involved capture data about us such that, distinguished from Wikipedia, if you and I put the same search into google, we get different results based upon our prior histories. Also social media encourages hate and tribalism because reptile brain activating information (fear of the other) keeps a user’s attention, so those types of stories, inputs, are prioritized on social media.
Roger M. Rosen, California
Gene, good luck with the brief.
Your concern is not misplaced and I tell clients to be extremely cautious if not step away from social media when I represent personal injury and employment plaintiffs.
As defense counsel, pulling up social media pages was the first thing I did when I got a new case. It's amazing how many cases had their values adjusted drastically downward as a result of my showing the plaintiff these things in deposition or at mediation. For example, a kid whose parents claimed he was disabled with a TBI posted pictures of him winning the award for best all-around student athlete in his school. A woman who claimed she was paralyzed and couldn't leave bed posted a photo guzzling a bottle of vodka in the front seat of a pickup partying with friends. A guy who claimed he couldn't walk, sit or work due to back pain posted photos of himself dancing crazy at his wedding, jumping off a cliff into a pool of water and running 5k/10k races. I could go on and on and on. The lawyers didn't do their due diligence with their clients and were in some cases suborning perjury in my opinion and I never would have known any of it if the social media didn't exist. I do always ask for social media in discovery, so locking it down isn't always effective and deleting posts is super risky.
These same pages are always the subject of motions in limine here because they can be so damaging.
My 2 cents!
Deena Buchanan, New Mexico