Category Archives: California Lawyer

EDISCOVERY CALIFORNIA: FORMAL OPINION NO. 2016-196 – ATTORNEY BLOGGING

Disclaimer:  This is a State Bar of California Opinion, and I’m Vice-Chair of the Council of California State Bar Sections (CSBS).  I want to remind you, “This blog site is published by and reflects the personal views of Perry L. Segal, in his individual capacity.  Any views expressed herein have not been adopted by the State Bar of California’s Board of Trustees or overall membership, nor are they to be construed as representing the position of the State Bar of California.”

To put it simply, the premise of CAL 2016-196 is to address when:  1) A blog post becomes a “communication”, as defined under the RPC and the State Bar Act, and 2) If it is deemed a communication, is it “attorney advertising”?

First of all, what constitutes a blog (or, as I prefer to call legal blogs, a “blawg”)?  Hmmm.  Well, if you call it a blawg, that’s probably a big hint that it’ll be legal in nature, but that’s not really what I’m getting at here.  Are your scribbles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram “blogging”, for the purposes of this opinion?

You bet (if those scribbles are legal in nature and/or purport to advertise your services).  You may not be aware of it, but products like Twitter are referred to as “micro-blogs”.

I think the continuing problem with a lot of these opinions is that they cause people to lose their minds worrying about them as if they’re something new.  The reality is, technically, a blog post is no different than if it were an article in a magazine that had a little blurb at the end that includes your contact information.  You’ll be subject to regulation for attorney advertising (California’s Rule of Professional Conduct, rule 1-400 – Advertising & Solicitation).

The real differences?

  • Someone has to subscribe to the magazine, receive it for free or pick it up in the dentist’s office office or a friend’s home.  However, if your blog is public, you need to understand, that means public; available to anyone, anywhere in the world at any time who has access to the internet.
  • The jurisdiction in which someone reads it may not authorize attorney blogging.

I bet many of you see where I’m going with the second point.  Could this trigger an accusation of improper advertising?  What about an in-depth article including opinion on a particular law?  Could that be unauthorized practice of law?

Yes and yes.  So what do you do?  For starters, click on the link above and read the opinion.  It’s only eight pages, and you’ll quickly see that a lot of it triggers opinions you’ve seen before, such as CAL 2012-186.  Two, disclaim, Disclaim, DISCLAIM.  Many a problem is eliminated if you simply inform your readers of your audience.

Of course, you can’t do that on Twitter.  So you might link to your disclaimer, or state briefly, “All opinions are my own.”

Oh, and there’s this last bugaboo:  You must be able to reproduce each and every post you’ve made for the past two years (while you’re gasping, keep in mind, it’s three years in New York).

CALBAR 89TH ANNUAL MEETING: SEPTEMBER 29 – OCTOBER 2, 2016 – SAN DIEGO

Calbar 89th Annl Mtg

Another conference, another post!

We’re over ten weeks out from the State Bar of California’s 89th Annual Meeting in San Diego.  Bookmark this link to stay up-to-date about hotels, registration, events and programs.

I know what you’re thinking:  Where’s my usual sneak peek at the latest info?  Well, here’s info on my program, presented with my LPMT colleague, Jeff Bennion:

Everything Attorneys Ever Wanted to Know About the Cloud (but were afraid to ask!)

Program 38:  Sept. 30 | 10:30 a.m. – 12 noon

This advanced program covers all aspects of what attorneys need to know before they place their trust and information—and that of their clients—on the cloud.  Learn about the perks and pitfalls of making use of this now-ubiquitous tool, including what State Bar ethics rules have to say.

Download LPMT’s free app for Apple and Android devices.  All of the programs will be listed on the calendar.

Doing the Splits!

Split Moon BWWow…I haven’t posted in two months.  Why not?  Well, the bulk of my *spare* time has been occupied with something called “Deunification“.  This isn’t actually a word, by the way (as your spellchecker will probably tell you), it’s what the State Bar of California – and the legislature – have adopted to describe the prospect of splitting the Bar in two; Regulatory on one side and Voluntary on the other.  If you want, you can refer to it by its official name, “Governance in the Public Interest Task Force“.

Every time I hear the word “Deunification”, I think of the Moonies.

Needless to say, this is by no means a simple process, and the educational Sections are caught in the middle of it.  The debate – as you can probably figure out – is over which side the Sections should occupy.

To put this in the form of an essay question on the Bar exam, it would be followed by this simple word:

“Discuss!” [‘bang’ added]

And we have been.  And we are.  And we will be, into the foreseeable future…

Board of Trustees: I Think I’m on the Right Track!

Train TracksHappy New Year All!

The election is underway in earnest.  In fact, I received my ballot via email a little more than an hour after midnight, January 1st (yes, I’ve already voted).  I understand that ballots will also go out via regular mail.

For those who took the time to read my District One candidate statement (thank you), you already know that my campaign is focused on “The Technology of Law” and how I can assist the State Bar to leverage technology with the goal of:  1) Better preparing lawyers to use technology to advance their practices and support their clients, 2) Opening up more lines of communication from lawyers to other lawyers and the public, and 3) [Maybe the most important of all]  Opening up more lines of communication from the public to lawyers.

Coincidentally, the State Bar conducted their usual monthly poll:  “What’s the most important change in the legal profession since you joined?”  The poll was posted around Monday, January 4th and with the first 235 responses collected, look at these results!

Calbar Poll - 01-2016

It’s heartening to know that a lot of attorneys out there see what I see.  If you agree, perhaps you’ll consider giving me your vote.  If so, I thank you.

Balloting remains open through February 29, 2016.

My Candidate Statement for District One

Hi All:

I thought you’d like to see my “official” candidate statement for District One.  We were limited to 500 words, so I’ve reproduced it verbatim.  Naturally, I’ll be fleshing this out over the coming weeks:

“I have an unusual story in that I’m a technology expert who decided to put myself through law school in my late thirties.  Fifteen years ago, I saw the increasing convergence of law and technology issues and how they would affect my clients – and the law firms who support them – into the future.  I feel my experience as owner of a consulting business since 1999 and approaching my 17th year – adding a solo law practice in 2008 – gives me a unique understanding of how the laws apply to these technological advances.

As a Technology Consultant, I’ve managed groups of people as well as complex projects (with budget control) for some very large international conglomerates.  I have carried my leadership skills to the State Bar by being appointed to the Law Practice Management and Technology Section Executive Committee only 18 months after passing the Bar exam and being elected Vice-Chair, then Chair by my third year on the Excom.  I was appointed an Ex-Offico Member of the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform (TFARR) by former Bar President Jon Streeter, receiving high marks from him for my contributions.

I currently serve as Immediate Past Chair of the Council of State Bar Sections.  I write a popular blawg, eDiscovery Insights (www.ediscoveryinsights.com), that was selected by the ABA as one of the top 100 law blogs in 2010 – written by lawyers for lawyers – and selected for inclusion in the archives of the Library of Congress.  At the time of these accolades, I’d only been an attorney for two years.  I present several CLE programs for the Bar annually, and personally wrote a large portion of the book, “The California Guide to Growing and Managing a Law Office”.  I possess the ability to liaise seamlessly between legal and technology issues to facilitate cooperation between the two disciplines.

I’m firmly behind the State Bar’s mandate of protecting the public and have made it a cornerstone of my practice.  In fact, I consulted with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on their “Protecting Our Kids” program, which was created to protect the Internet activities of young people.

In less than eight years, I’ve expanded my practice from Los Angeles to San Francisco, New York and Nevada.  I feel that I can make a valuable contribution as a business owner, multi-state solo law practitioner, and technology expert.  As I say in my classes, “Older attorneys are too intimidated by technology, and younger attorneys aren’t intimidated enough!”  I would very much like to contribute by making the ‘technology of law’ less intimidating and mysterious to both groups, with the end-game to protect lawyers – and by extension, the public.  A better-prepared lawyer protects the public!

I want to be clear where I stand.  I’m very bullish about the State Bar and believe that our best years are ahead of us.  It would be a privilege to put my knowledge to work for the Board of Trustees.  I’m ready to contribute any way I can.

Thanks for your consideration.”

It’s Official: I’m a Candidate for Calbar Board of Trustees in District One

Vote RWBLate last week, my nomination as a candidate for the State Bar of California Board of Trustees in District One was certified (I just haven’t had time to mention it until now).  For those who are wondering, District One includes Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma counties.

Who can vote?  “Any active member of the State Bar, in good standing on the date the eligibility list closes, whose principal office for the practice of law is located within a county that is included within the State Bar district in which there is an election, shall be eligible to vote in the 2016 election.”

I understand that ballots will be mailed out December 31, 2015 and voting concludes February 29, 2016.

More to follow.

Calbar 88th Annual Meeting – October 8-11, 2015 in Anaheim

Calbar 88th Annl Mtg - Grn

We’re still about one month out from the State Bar of California’s 88th Annual Meeting. Bookmark this link to stay up-to-date about hotels, registration, events and programs.

Want a sneak peek at the latest info?  Here’s the skinny on my program this year:

Saturday, October 10, 2015 – 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM – Program 107:

In My Opinion: A Review of the Latest Technology Rules to Protect Attorney & Client Confidentiality

But wait!  There’s more!  Would you like to see all of the programs from the Law Practice Management & Technology Section?  Download our free app for Apple and Android devices.  All of the programs are listed on the calendar.

Thanks for your continued support.  See you there.  C’mon…it’s the happiest place on earth!

Guest Post – Peter N. Brewer: LegalTech – Day Two

Peter Brewer Caricature

I think this is the first time I've ever done this on the blog, but immediately following LegalTech, I had to leave for a trip.  However, Peter Brewer, my trusty colleague from the Law Practice Management & Technology Section, was kind enough to write up a guest-post about his experience this year.

<<< I leave it to you to determine which image to my left is the real Peter Brewer:

"The ALM LegalTech West Coast event, historically always venued in the Los Angeles area, was held instead this year in San Francisco at the Hyatt Regency on July 13 and 14. As in the past, the event consisted of keynote sessions, seminars, and importantly, a large vendor exhibit area. The first day had five seminar tracks running consisting of; corporate legal operations, information governance, advanced IT, the cloud and mobile technology, and E discovery. The second day the tracks were four in number and consisted of; information governance, E discovery, information technology, and corporate counsel perspectives. 

I attended only the second day, which kicked off with an interesting discussion of the Ellen Pao versus Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers case. On the panel were two reporters who covered the trial, and the defense attorney, Lynne C. Hermle, from Orrick Herrington and Sutcliffe. The plaintiff’s attorney, Alan B. Exelrod, of Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe, had been scheduled to be on the panel but had to withdraw due to a scheduling conflict. This keynote proved to be a lively hour of informal discussion in which Lynne Hermle gave substantial credit to the jury for their thorough and diligent evaluation of the evidence. 

The keynote was followed by seminar sessions throughout the day, with ample breaks to visit the vendor exhibit hall.  I attended one of the seminar sessions on E discovery, “Every day E discovery: Bringing It In-House or Outsourcing It.” The panelists were knowledgeable; they consisted of an independent consultant, a claims manager, a partner from the major law firm, and a representative of Lexis-Nexis. The discussion was lively, but for my tastes it was a broad overview with much discussion of the concepts but very little grass-roots, take-home practical advice. I came away feeling that the discussion had been thoughtful, but with no better sense of, “where do I start,” or “what are my first steps when I get back to the office.” 

I also attended a session on cyber security. Again, the panelists were well qualified and knowledgeable. The discussion included such things as the availability of data breach insurance, engaging outside consultants to do cyber security audits of your business, and a general, high-level discussion of the topic of data security in the office. Toward the end of the session the moderator opened the discussion up to questions from the audience. I commented to the panel that, while I found the discussion interesting, I would like to have some specific action items that I could take back to my five-attorney law firm and implement, step-by-step. 

The advice that was given in response was to start with written policies and procedures. As in any endeavor, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. A cautionary bit of advice that went with the suggestion of developing written policies and procedures was that then you are duty bound to follow them. Failing to observe your own procedures can increase rather than decrease your liability.

It was also suggested that I consider hiring a security consultant to do a risk assessment of my office. Apparently for a firm the size of mine (<10 total staff) this endeavor can run approximately $5,000 – $10,000. While this seems like a sizable chunk of discretionary spending, the cost of a data breach and one’s exposure to liability for it would no doubt be a multiple of many times that amount. 

Contrasting the 2015 event with LegalTech events in years past, one significant difference stood out to me.  In past years there were seminar sessions on a broader variety of topics. There have been sessions on such things as what financial reports a law firm owner should regularly produce and review, sessions on tech gadgets, useful mobile devices, helpful apps, practice management software, and so forth. This year by far the greatest emphasis was on data. Even the vendor exhibit hall, although it did have exhibitors of a variety of useful products, seemed to be heavy on the e discovery and data security vendors. While this information is no doubt useful to some, I found it not very applicable to my small firm’s real estate law practice, where we do not get cases involving discovery of tens of thousands, or more, documents. Circling back to the keynote discussion that kicked off that day, attorney Lynne Hermle said that in the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins case Ellen Pao had produced something approaching a million documents. May I be blessed to reach the end of my career without ever having to tackle such a daunting task. 

All in all, the LegalTech event is an enjoyable break from the office, especially for those of us interested in tech.  Are you one of us?  Check your wrist.  If there’s an Apple watch on it, you are inescapably a techie.  It was nice to have this event in Northern California for a change, and the Hyatt Regency was a lovely and accommodating venue.  I hope to see the event back in San Francisco again next year."

Peter Brewer

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About the Author:   Peter N. Brewer has been a lawyer for over 35 years, and is also licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate as a real estate broker.  Peter started his own firm in 1995.  The firm has grown to five attorneys, practicing real estate and lending law.  The firm serves the legal needs of homeowners, purchasers and sellers, real estate and mortgage brokers, agents, brokerages, title companies, investors, other real estate professionals and their clients. Peter and his firm also represent clients in debt collection, creditor representation in bankruptcy, breach of contract matters, and other litigation and transactional work.

Peter obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Santa Clara Law School in 1979 and is also licensed to practice law in all State and Federal Courts in Idaho and certain Federal Courts in Michigan and Iowa (and probably in other states he no longer recalls).  He loves dogs, hates kids, and is generally considered to have an insufferable disposition.

Law Offices of Peter N. Brewer

2501 Park Blvd, 2nd Flr.

Palo Alto, CA 94306

(650) 327-2900 x 12

www.BrewerFirm.com

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