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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

Lawyers Put Web, Wireless Technology Into Practice

It’s been about 10 years since attorney Gregory Norman Fernandez was written up in lawyer magazines touting his paperless office. The guy who said it was the future has mutated that view slightly. “It’s good to have the paper file in court also. Sometimes a hearing is over before you’re unpacked,” Fernandez said, “so I’ve changed my mind a little bit on that.” Fernandez, of Chatsworth, was an early adopter of technology, taking his skills for setting up complex networks from his days as an engineer into his law practice which he promotes through his blog, found at bikerlawblog.com. Dean Petrakis, of Firm Solutions in Woodland Hills a company that provides technology applications to law firms said lawyers tend to be behind the curve, not ahead, when it comes to technology. “Lawyers are typically slow to move to technology,” Petrakis said. “It’s a text world, not like advertising, not like graphics, not like entertainment.” Matt Crowley, of Crowley Corporate Legal Strategy in Woodland Hills, joked, “We do like our paper.” Just as law firms are using less paper, they are increasingly using fewer wires. At Stone Rosenblatt & Cha, “We’re a Blackberry environment, always have been,” said managing partner Ira Rosenblatt, adding that his firm doesn’t “try to chase the latest electronic widget” but considers technology implementation “if it adds efficacy.” Petrakis said technology is being used at small and mid-sized firms to help them compete. “Technology levels the playing field for a smaller firm to compete with major firms that have a huge IT department,” he said. “They make use of document repositories in a very secure website where they can download and post documents to share.” Innovations to smart phones and PDAs have changed mobility in ways only imagined a decade ago, Petrakis said, noting how little time it’s been since overnight package delivery and fax machines, then e-mail, took hold and now it’s impossible to imagine a world without them. “That’s the downside of the technology boom. We used to be thrilled to have it tomorrow, or later today, but I want it now I mean it, now,” he said. “We have 24/7 connectivity, whether it’s healthy or not,” he said. With automatic email updates and internet applications, attorneys can present themselves 24/7 to clients also. A quick Internet search shows that, of the easiest-to-find attorneys, most sites are standard “out of the can” presentations of stock photography with pages for attorney profiles, areas of practice and a contact page. A handful of firms’ sites add company-related news cases won, new hires and promotions, etc. posted semi-regularly. Some have online blogs (a self-publishing technology capable of constant updates with photos and links) or graphic representations of the firm’s printed newsletters; most have posts from many months or a couple years ago, and then no updates almost indistinguishable from how a shuttered firm’s site would look. Two of the most active blogs are the Biker Law Blog from Fernandez, and the Punitive Damage blog from Horvitz & Levy in Encino. Each is reflective of the business that each of the respective creators handles and are reflective of two different styles of blogs: a here’s-how-I-feel-about-what’s-relevant-to-you blog, and a here’s-a-compendium-of-information-relevant-to-you blog. One is brand new, the other a couple years old. Fernandez’ blog is heavy with his persona-viewpoint geared toward his client niche pitched to motorcycle riders and the issues they care about. He has a separate, more mainstream-oriented blog specifically for his personal injury practice, but it’s the Biker Law Blog for which he’s known. The American Bar Association dubbed the Biker Law Blog one of the “Top 100 Blawgs” in the country. “A vast majority of my cases do come from the Internet,” Fernandez said. He is insinuated into the motorcycle community, being a biker who represents bikers. “I get calls from all over the world,” he said, also connecting with a biker lawyer in Korea. “I get 10,000 hits a week or more,” he said, noting that “probably half aren’t looking for legal information.” But he knows his readers. “They tend to be hardcore guys and gals, he said, “but they’re all adults. “I can tend to use some colorful language.” Lisa Perrochet, Curt Cutting and Jeremy Rosen of Horvitz & Levy produce the California Punitive Damages blog (calpunitives.com). It’s been active since January. Its content is commentary text, quoted material and links, with citations of sources and references. The producers of the blog are attempting to get enmeshed into the crosslink community of other bloggers. Perrochet said the blog grew out of their use of other blogs. “We were collecting information anyway, keeping up on all things punitive,” she said. Cutting said the interaction with other bloggers will contribute to the strength of their blog. “We’re hoping it serves as a dialogue with others,” he said. Perrochet noted it’s beginning to build attention, getting 75-100 unique visits a day and generating feedback from people “who are doing the hardcore stuff” in the blogosphere. “It’s nice to have contact with other bloggers, especially with being appellate lawyers [their firm is 33 lawyers doing only appeals],” Perrochet said. “We don’t get out much and it’s nice to have an entree into another world.” Another Encino firm, Sylvester Oppenheim & Linde, produces the California Business Litigation Blog (californiabusinesslitigation.com). It has a similar kind of aggregate/commentary content and has been up since the middle of last year. Just as blogs captured the attention of the world’s teens a few years ago, online video has caught fire with sites like YouTube.com, and some Valley attorneys have found ways to supplement their practices by incorporating the technology through short video introductions and long-form, pay-to-play web seminars, also called webinars. The Hedding Law Firmhas on their website a “video vault” (www.heddinglawfirm.com) containing more than a dozen short video introductions into aspects of the Encino firm’s areas of practice. “If you put yourself out there on video, you better have your act together,” Ronald D. Hedding said. The website addition is just over 90 days old, he said, and they are also posted on YouTube. Crowley, a sole practitioner specializing in transactional corporate law, has created a website to create a community of, and tap into, entrepreneurs. His GetItStarted.com concept is set to launch with a series of webinars covering issues involved with setting up a business and uses video and PowerPoint technology. With the networking potential offered, entrepreneurs will be attracted to forums, resources, a job board, and Crowley hopes, his legal services. “They won’t have to come into my office, paying me $300 an hour. They can watch it on their own time for a real cheap price,” Crowley said. The 20-25 minute web seminars will run viewers $50 with discounts for trade association members (students are free). Firms Less Bound To Law Book Sets Law books are such an iconic segment of the system and culture that even the style of bookcases in which they are typically stored (glass fronts, hinged at the top) have the occupation-specific name of “lawyer bookcases.” But in this internet age, has the digital revolution made law books obsolete? LexisNexis and Westlaw have vast resources online and accessible with a few clicks. Updates can cost many hundreds of dollars, yet some attorneys are only comfortable with the real books over their virtual counterparts. Dean Petrakis, whose Firm Solutions company helps law firms integrate technology into their practices, remarked that the function of law books in some firms is merely cosmetic; they “keep them around to feel good. They provide a certain kind of gravitas.” At Stone, Rosenblatt, Cha, managing partner Ira Rosenblatt said that each year they spend less and less on the updates and “In our 15,000 square foot office the law library is less than 50 square feet.” As for making use of those books, “At our firm,” Rosenblatt said, “nearly 90 percent or so start online.” How do some other area attorneys balance their research between print and online sources? Jim Felton, Greenberg & Bass: 95 percent of the research is online, “5 percent of the time I’ll crack a book.” Lisa Perrochet, Horvitz & Levy: “95 percent of my research is online.” Curt Cutting, Horvitz & Levy: “I go online 75 percent of the time for research.” Gary Nye, Roxborough Pomerance & Nye: 75 percent of the firm goes online for research. To some, it’s more than convenient, it’s mandatory: “I think it’s malpractice not to go online for the most current information,” attorney Gregory Norman Fernandez said. James Hames

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