Key takeaways from ABA TECHSHOW 2015

Attendees at the ABA TECHSHOW 2015, held April 16-18 in Chicago, Illinois, had the opportunity to learn from tech-savvy lawyers and professionals and see the latest products and services from exhibitors. Below is a recap of select sessions, along with tips gleaned from panelists.

Online reputation management

With the growing number of consumer review sites like Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and Yelp, lawyers need to be on their A-game regarding their online presence. “At some point, it’s becoming more likely that people are going to write something about you online,” said panelist Gyi Tsakalakis, co-founder and director of AttorneySync, during “Shaping Your Narrative—Online Reputation Management.” One of the most important steps in protecting an online reputation is being aware of what’s already out there. Sites like,, and Google Alerts are helpful services, he noted.

Have a bad review? Don’t panic—and certainly don’t be combative or defensive. “When you start arguing and getting defensive, you put a spotlight on that negative review,” said panelist Allison Shields, president of Legal Ease Consulting Inc. Instead, she said, be brief and show concern. “You’re really not responding to the person who is giving you the negative review. What you’re really doing is responding so that other people who see that review will see how you responded.” Shields also stressed the importance of staying mindful of local ethics rules and confidentiality expectations when replying to reviews.

For the most part, the panelists noted, positive reviews can outweigh a single negative post, and it’s fine to ask for a happy client for an online review—so long as the request is reasonable and the evaluation is not false or misleading.

Using data for persuasion

“We have years to master our cases. Jurors have hours to understand what we’re talking about,” said panelist Randy Juip during “Data, Logic, and Persuasion—The Analysis and Presentation of Complex Data to a Lay Audience.” Juip, a member in Foley, Baron, Metzger & Juip, walked through a series of entertaining and effective charts as a way of explaining how to break down content when presenting complicated evidence to juries. “It is impossible to communicate a complex set of facts in an hour without using visuals,” Juip said. “If we fail them, we fail our clients.”

He stressed the importance of keeping slides short and concise without bullet points and an overabundance of words. Helpful tools from his data visualization arsenal include, Data Is Beautiful, FiveThirtyEight, and DadaViz. Juip also showed examples of misleading and unethical uses of data, which could jeopardize the outcome of a case. “You want to be really careful, not just because it’s wrong, but because if you get caught manipulating data, it will destroy your client’s case. One lie is all the jury needs to discount everything they hear.”

Security on mobile devices

If a cellphone, laptop, or tablet is used to do legal work, it carries sensitive client data and is at risk for data breaches. According to panelists of “Pocket Confidential—Securing and Protecting Information on Lawyers’ Mobile Devices,” many instances of data loss are the result of user error. During the session, John Simek, vice president of Sensei Enterprises, and Debbie Foster, partner in the Affinity Consulting Group, explained some common risks associated with mobile devices as well as some quick fixes.

Lost, misplaced, or stolen digital items are common, they noted, and when protections are not in place, data becomes susceptible. One solution is to be diligent about strong passwords and user authentication. “Encryption is your friend,” said Simek. “If you encrypt the data, it’s safe. As long as you control that encryption key, no one’s getting after it.” Simek also cautioned against clicking unknown shortened links or scanning random QR codes, which could redirect a user to a malicious website. Additionally, he recommended that lawyers take precautions when using Wi-Fi, such as turning off the function when not in use and avoiding unsecured connections. “The problem with Wi-Fi is you don’t know who’s on the other side of that wall,” said Simek. “You want to make sure you pick the right network.”

Foster stressed the importance of understanding permissions before installing or updating apps, some of which ask for large amounts of access on a device. “I have to decide, do I want the app or not? And sometimes the answer is going to be no,” she said, adding that lawyers should take the same precautions that they would take in any situation where you were giving just blanket access to things that could potentially be subject to attorney-client privilege.

Ultimately, it’s a balance of being aware and knowing what’s worth a potential risk. “Understanding what the threats are out there is half the battle,” Foster said.


Website Wizardry—The Right S-E-O for Y-O-U

Haley Odom Ackerman and Jennifer Ellis

When building a website, lawyers should include strong keywords in the headers but avoid “keyword stuffing,” which can read as spam when Google crawls the site for indexing. Additionally, a site’s message should be shaped with the intended audience in mind. “You’re not attracting lawyers; you’re attracting regular people,” said panelist Jennifer Ellis, an online marketing manager and attorney with Lowenthal & Abrams. One helpful tool to try is Google AdWords.

Bingoogleduckyahoo! How to Search for Anything and Find It
Carole Levitt and Craig Bayer
With each space entered into a search engine, an “and” is automatically generated. Something so small can really alter search results, but there are ways to get around it. Carole Levitt, president and founder of Internet for Lawyers, offered some shortcuts for Google: adding a minus sign (-) before a word will eliminate it from your search results, and the company’s “secret” proximity connector is “AROUND (#).” For an engine that doesn’t save history or filter results by previous searches or location, try DuckDuckGo.

LinkedIn’s Next Level—Getting More Return on Your Networking
Dennis Kennedy and Allison Shields
How can attorneys up their LinkedIn game? According to Allison Shields, president of Legal Ease Consulting Inc., and Dennis Kennedy, a lawyer with MasterCard Worldwide, they need to be actively connecting with others by starting and participating in groups, endorsing others, and tapping into alumni networks. Adding some personality to a profile is also important, said the panelists. Users should personalize invitations to connect and write a first-person bio with action-oriented words.


Dallas lawyer selected for ABA award

Kim J. Askew, partner in K&L Gates in Dallas, was recently named as the recipient of a 2015 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Askew, one of four winners, will receive the award during a Feb. 7, 2015, ceremony at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston.

The Spirit of Excellence Award is presented to lawyers who excel in their professional settings; personify excellence on the national, state, or local level; and demonstrate a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession.

Askew, the 2003-2004 chair of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, specializes in complex commercial and employment litigation. She is a longtime leader in the State Bar, ABA, and Dallas Bar Association.

Houston Bar Association's Law Day program earns national honor

The Houston Bar Association announced Tuesday it is one of three organizations the American Bar Association will honor for its 2013 Law Day activities.

The HBA will join the Connecticut Judicial Branch and the Law Day 2013 Dream Team, a partnership of 12 Georgia organizations, in receiving the Law Day 2013 Outstanding Activity Award, according to the ABA.

The ABA will present the awards Feb. 7 at its 2014 Midyear Meeting in Chicago.


In a news release, the HBA said it impacted more than 53,000 people in the Houston area through its programming on the Law Day theme “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.”

A new HBA Law Day event was a “Day at the Courthouse,” where 45 special-needs students from middle and high schools saw a re-enactment of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS case and learned about the importance of the ruling from Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.

The students also toured the historic 1910 Courthouse and used gavels, scales of justice, law books, and the courtroom itself to create images for a Law Day photo contest for special-needs students. Fourteenth Court of Appeals Chief Justice Kem Thompson Frost organized the event.

The HBA also conducted its annual Law Day poster, essay, and photography contests open to all Houston-area elementary, middle and high schools; conducted dialogues on freedom between attorney-judge teams and high school seniors; held poster workshops for children in three low-income areas of the city; created Law Day education and legal resource packets for every Harris County district and county court; fielded questions from nearly 300 callers during a Law Day LegalLine program; and scheduled members to read a law-themed book to elementary students in more than 100 schools.

Learn more about Law Day here.


State Bar of Texas, ABA, Lone Star Legal Aid and Local Bar Associations Stand Ready to Assist Texans Impacted by the Disaster in West, Texas

The State Bar of Texas has established a disaster legal hotline – 800.504.7030 – to assist people with basic legal questions following the devastating plant explosion in West, Texas.

The hotline – answered in English and Spanish by Lone Star Legal Aid – is intended to help low-income persons affected by the disaster with such issues as replacing lost documents, insurance questions, landlord-tenant issues, and consumer protection issues such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process. Residents can call and leave a message any time. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who have volunteered to provide free, limited legal help. 

A partnership between the State Bar of Texas, Texas Young Lawyers Association, American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, Lone Star Legal Aid, local bar associations, and other legal services providers throughout Texas is making a range of assistance available.

Additional resources are available at and

The State Bar of Texas reminds the public that solicitation of a potential legal case is a crime unless the lawyer has a family relationship with you or you have been a client of the lawyer in the past or are currently a client. Solicitation of you is also a crime if perpetrated by a non-lawyer employee or representative of the lawyer, unless the previous conditions exist. Please report any prohibited contacts by lawyers or their representatives, whether in person, telephone or otherwise, to your local law enforcement authority or the State Bar of Texas at 877.953.5535.

Attorneys who want to volunteer to help may visit our Disaster Relief and Attorney Resources page.

Lawyers needed to judge competition during ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas

The ABA Law Student Division needs 40 more lawyers and judges to participate as competition judges for the 2012-13 Negotiation Competition National Finals during the ABA Midyear Meeting February 8-9, 2013 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, TX. Specific times for the rounds are as follows:

Friday, February 8
Round 1: 8:30 am to 12:30 pm (30 judges needed)
Round 2: 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm (30 judges needed)

Saturday, February 9
Semifinal Round: 8:30 am to12:30 pm (20 judges needed)
Championship Round: 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm (5 judges needed)

Judges may earn CLE credit if their state CLE Board provides for credit via judging competitions. Texas lawyers may earn self study credit for judging this competition. Texas lawyers may report on their My Bar Page or annual verification report (the 9-digit code is not needed).

Lawyers interested in objectively evaluating the negotiation skills of the top 24 (out of 228) law student teams from across the country and giving them useful feedback are asked to select their round and supply their contact information on the form located at

In this competition, two teams of student lawyers negotiate an agreement or settle a dispute between their clients. Competition judges evaluate the teams on how well they serve their clients’ needs.

This year’s topic is Small Business Ventures. Volunteers do not need previous competition judging experience, nor expertise in the subject matter.

Please direct questions to Peggy Pissarreck at 312-988-5621 or

Comments sought on revised drafts relating to inbound foreign lawyers

The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 is pleased to release for comment, along with a Cover Memo from Co-Chairs Jamie S. Gorelick and Michael Traynor, revised drafts relating to inbound foreign lawyers.

The first two revised drafts describe possible amendments to ABA Model Rule 5.5 and to the ABA Model Rule for Registration of In-House Counsel. The third relates to the ABA Model Rule on Pro Hac Vice Admission.  

Your comments will assist the Commission in its consideration of these issues.

We look forward to hearing from you. Please e-mail your responses by October 12, 2012, to Senior Research Paralegal Natalia Vera at Comments and submissions may be posted to the Commission’s website. 

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U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas honored with 2012 ABA Justice Award

Last night, April 17, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas was honored with a 2012 ABA Justice Award. Sen. Hutchison was honored for her efforts to preserve funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). She was instrumental in ensuring that the LSC budget was cut only 2 percent when others were calling for much deeper cuts. She is pictured here with the President of the ABA William T. Robinson III, ABA Day Chair William C. Hubbard, and members of the Texas delegation to ABA Days.

ABA Honors Betty Balli Torres, Texas Supreme Court

Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation in Austin, has been recognized with the American Bar Association (ABA) Grassroots Advocacy Award. The award, which honors her efforts in securing legal aid funding and ensuring access to justice for low-income Americans, will be presented April 18 during a reception at the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Every day, families go without much-needed protection from abuse, benefits to which they are entitled, and they lose homes because they are unable to access the justice system due to inability to afford a lawyer," Torres said. "As lawyers, we each have a role to play to ensure that everyone has access to our judicial system. That access is not possible without critical funding of legal aid programs that do the day-to-day work and provide the infrastructure and support to thousands of lawyers doing pro bono work in this country."

Torres will receive one of five ABA Grassroots Advocacy Awards. Among the other recipients is the Texas Supreme Court, which is being recognized for its key role in obtaining funding for legal services during the last legislative session.

"The justices of the Supreme Court of Texas deserve special recognition for their outspoken support of legal services. Every community in Texas is a beneficiary of their dedication to equal access. The justices demonstrate yet again their commitment to be the ultimate guardians of our liberty,” said ABA President William T. "Bill" Robinson III.

ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20

At its October 2011 meeting in Denver, Colorado, the Commission decided to bifurcate its presentation of proposals to the ABA House of Delegates to help facilitate that entity's considered action on a significant number of complex and diverse subjects. The Commission will present its first group of proposals in August 2012, and the second set in February 2013. The Commission currently plans to present its proposals relating to mobility issues, outsourcing, and technology in August 2012. The Commission will circulate one more time for comment the drafts of those proposals before it files them with the House of Delegates for consideration in August 2012.  It will do so after discussing at its February 2 - 3, 2012 meeting the recent comments and suggestions received, and after making any necessary revisions to the proposals based upon those comments. The Commission will hold a public hearing in at its February meeting. Details are forthcoming.

The remaining proposals, including those relating to Model Rule 1.7, inbound foreign lawyers, and, if the Commission decides to do so, any proposals relating to alternative law practice structures, will be presented in February 2013. 

On Dec. 2, consistent with the Commission's promise to provide opportunities for input, it published for comment a Cover Memo and Discussion Draft relating to alternative law practice structures. The Commission already has ruled out certain forms of nonlawyer ownership that currently exist in other countries. In particular, the Commission rejected: (a) publicly traded law firms, (b) outside nonlawyer investment or ownership in law firms, and (c) multidisciplinary practices (law firms that offer both legal and non-legal services separately in a single entity). This Discussion Draft relates to a very limited form of nonlawyer ownership in a law firm akin to, but more restrictive than, that which has been permitted for 21 years in the District of Columbia. Before deciding how to proceed, the Commission wants to receive your comments and review any supporting materials you may wish to offer.

The Commission also posted for comment a Cover Memo and Initial Draft Proposal relating to choice of law and alternative law practice structures. Choice of law issues will exist whether or not the Commission ultimately decides to propose any modification to the current prohibition in Model Rule 5.4 on any form of alternative law practice structure. The Commission has heard that lawyers and law firms would benefit from additional guidance in this regard, particularly given the proliferation of domestic and international cross-border practice and the fact that more countries where U.S. lawyers and law firms do business now permit alternative law practice structures (as does the District of Columbia).

The Commission encourages responses to the Discussion Draft and the Initial Draft Proposal by late January 2012, so that they can be discussed at the Commission's February 2-3, 2012 meeting, and further asks that those requiring additional time submit their comments by February 29, 2012.

The documents can be downloaded here [website].

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Red Flags Rule does not apply to lawyers

UPDATE 2: On Dec. 20, 2010, President Obama signed this provision into law.

UPDATE: On Dec. 7, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives also approved this legislation.

On Nov. 30, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Red Flag Program Clarification Act of 2010, which clarifies that the Federal Trade Commission's Red Flags Rule does not apply to lawyers, doctors, accountants, and certain other service providers. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.

The Red Flags Rule requires financial organizations and "creditors" to develop programs to prevent identity theft.

The Senate action comes after efforts by bar associations and other organizations to exempt professionals who maintain accounts for clients that generally do not carry risks of identity theft.

For background on this issue, see the American Bar Association website.

Linda Addison a 2009 Margaret Brent winner

Linda Addison, a partner in the Houston and New York offices of Fulbright & Jaworksi L.L.P., is one of five recipients of the 2009 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. This ABA award was established in 1991 to honor outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence and paved the way to success for others. Addison's honors and professional achievements are too numerous to list here, but she's a longtime contributor to the State Bar of Texas, in many roles. Other Margaret Brent honorees this year include Helaine M. Barnett, Judge Arnette R. Hubbard, Judge Vanessa Ruiz, and Loretta A. Tuell. Read more in the ABA's press release.

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The end of lawyers? Susskind shakes up ABA Techshow

Legal technologist Richard Susskind created a huge buzz among attendees of last week's ABA Techshow with his keynote speech about the future of the legal profession. Susskind's latest book, "The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services," foretells radical changes to business of law, including a commoditization of nearly every aspect of legal services aside from a lawyer's own expert judgment.

According to Susskind, in order to meet client demands of "more for less," lawyers will have to become much more efficient, which they'll do through commoditization of legal work and "multi-sourcing" (breaking up a legal matter into many pieces which are handled by different providers). They must also, says Susskind, learn to collaborate through community-based sharing of legal knowledge. Online social networking, he predicts, will dominate legal services.

Lawyers of the future will be project managers and risk managers, not "expert trusted advisors" as they're thought of today. Rather than frame his predictions with gloom and doom, Susskind emphasized that we're not near "the end of lawyers" but in a time of tremendous opportunity for those willing to innovate and approach work differently.

A free video of Susskind's keynote will be posted soon on the ABA Techshow website.