Category Archives: The Business of Law

Lawyers Sharing Space – Benefits and Responsibilities

lawbooks.jpgAtlanta lawyers are subleasing with other lawyers and entering into law space sharing arrangements. The Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct do not prohibit attorneys from sharing office space. With law firms downsizing, the empty law office space entices new lawyers into a sublet deal. Know the benefits and responsibilities.
Benefits of law space sharing include: (i) the occasional consult or assisting with certain legal issues which may arise; (ii) reduction of overhead costs; and (iii) potential referrals for legal work in each lawyers’ area of practice. While lawyers seek to share rent, copier costs, internet costs, legal research expenses, lawyers must use extra care about maintaining the confidences and secrets of clients. For instance, if the lawyers sharing law space retain a joint receptionist who performs legal tasks, she or he should be advised to maintain confidentiality of the clients and keep files for the clients in a separate work area. Ethical issues can be triggered by sloppy administrative practices. All confidential information gained in the professional relations with a client, unless the client consents after consultation are required by the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (Rule 1.6) to be protected. The duty of confidentiality shall continue after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated (Rule 1.6(e)). So the files must be kept separate even after the case or matter is completed. The bottom line: lawyers or law firms should not fail to take adequate measures to protect the client’s confidential information of each space-sharing lawyer.
Lawyers who are dual professionals also must make clear to the public the separate nature of their legal and other businesses, and should take measures to protect client confidentiality. The dual professional may be required to keep separate phone numbers, letterhead, books, records, and files. The lawyer should take special care to keep separate the provision of law-related and legal services in order to minimize the risk that the client/customer will assume that the law-related services are legal services. (See Georgia Rule 5.7, comment (8)).
Each state may have a specific position regarding the dual professional practicing in one office. For instance, Colorado takes a stronger view, stating that it is easier to avoid confusion if the second occupation is not conducted from the legal office. The basis for Colorado’s opinion is that risks such as improper solicitation are increased when one office is used.
Whatever the commissions ultimately decide, space-sharing is an important concern for many lawyers and can be maneuvered easily if thoughtful steps are taken prior to conducting the business of law. Lawyers should always remember that the essence of the Rules of Professional Conduct is based on communication with the clients.
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See Also: You Can’t Run a Law Practice from a Coffee Shop, Atlanta Lawyers Sublease Space, The Need for Law Space Match, Law Firms with Unused Offices

You Can’t Run a Law Practice from a Coffee Shop

LawOffice2.JPGBeing a solo practitioner can sometimes be overwhelming, particularly for those who have never done it before. Among the many different decisions that a prospective solo practitioner needs to make is office space for the law firm. Because so much of the practice of law has become electronic, some solo practitioners have come to the conclusion that they can successfully practice law without dedicated office space.
However, just about anyone who has attempted this sort of arrangement will tell you, having functional and reasonably appealing office space is a very worthwhile investment. While it is true that you can work on a letter or brief from a laptop at the local coffee shop or a room at the law school or your converted garage space, these types of arrangements are typically inefficient. Functionality is the key to efficiency, and it is hard to replace a well-designed office space with reliable copying, scanning, and other equipment, high-speed internet connection, and a dedicated space you can meet with clients and potential witnesses. Nothing screams a lack of credibility to potential clients and opposing counsel more than an attorney that does not have a dedicated office address. Meeting with a client in a home-office leaves the client wondering why the attorney is not profitable enough to afford office space. Having opposing counsel send documents to a post office box opposed to an office address indicates you do not have the resources to adequately handle cases. In short, there is a reason why virtually all successful attorneys invest in adequate law office space to support their practice.
Moreover, particularly in light of the current economic trends, there is very good space to be had at a bargain. Opportunities to sub-let “Class A” space at a discount abound. And while you may not have your name over the door as a sub-tenant, you will have access to functional space, adequate equipment, and respectable surroundings. If you are planning to run a law practice, finding good Atlanta office space at a reasonable price is well worth the investment.
In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created LawSpaceMatch.com, a website dedicated to helping law firms with open office space and solo practitioners connect with each other. This free service matches lawyers seeking to sublet office space with law firms possessing unused office space across the country. Elaine is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Her office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.
Contributed by: William B. Ney
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See Also: Atlanta’s March Unemployment Report Offers Hope for Region , Don’t Count On Your Real Estate Broker When You Need a Sublease of Your Office Space, Law Firms with Unused Offices

Playstation Network Hack Raises Concerns About Cloud Networking

The video game industry is among the most expanding branch of the electronic business today, with customer bases ranging from the stereotypical adolescent teen to the parents of these teens. Video gamers are becoming increasingly more interconnected through networks such as Xbox Live, and the Playstation Network. On these networks, gamers not only compete against each other, but can do many things not related to games, such as stream their instant queue from Netflix, download music using Rhapsody, and even update their Twitter and Facebook.

With these developments, consumers have put increasingly more personal information onto these networks in order to reap their benefits. One would think that a major industry giant such as Sony would be able to keep this information under padlock and key, but recent developments have shown that this may not be the case. In the month of April, hackers officially deemed by Sony as “anonymous” hacked into an estimated 100 million user accounts on the Playstation Network, obtaining street addresses, phone numbers, full names, and other personal information. Thankfully, most credit information was locked in a different network and was not reached, but the hackers still reached about 12,700 non-U.S. credit and debit accounts. Sony has stated that many of these numbers are outdated, but the company is still moving to notify affected customers “as quickly as possible”.
This situation is incredibly disconcerting, and presents many possible legal ramifications against Sony. One has to wonder how much precaution Sony put into locking this personal information, given that the conglomerate is one of the largest electronic companies in the world. Through this, the question of negligence pops up. In the coming months, the true ramifications of this hack will be seen, as the information stolen from Sony will undoubtedly be sold off and subsequently used by its buyers. A possible use for this information is to assist in stealing people’s identities, a crime that may have been assisted by Sony’s lack of precaution in safely storing their customer’s personal information. So, a rational thought for a customer finding his/her identity to be stolen after knowingly giving personal information to Sony may be to sue the computer giant for customer negligence. This presents a larger issue for Sony and its legal team, an opportunity for some lawyers, and exposes a problem that may have even more far-reaching ramifications.
Cloud Networking is an ever-growing method for businesses to store their information and contacts over the Internet. The Sony debacle has exposed these networks to be vulnerable, and has caused people to think that they have possibly put too much faith in corporate clouds. As a result, companies such as Safesforce.com, network software engineering company, have seen dips in stock prices, which had previously been among the highest performing stocks in the past year. Thus, the hack of Sony’s Playstation network may be seen to have much more far-reaching ramifications than one would initially think, both legally and business-wise. As the situation shows, no network is impervious to hackers, representing an up and coming issue as our society moves into a state fueled by and reliant upon technology and networking.

What is the “Cloud” and How Can You Use it In Your Law Practice

Lawyers are talking about successful “cloud” case and document management. You may have heard attorneys talk about “the cloud” when discussing IT projects or back up for legal documents. The cloud simply means computer power that is available as a service, accessed securely through the Internet rather than using on-premise servers. After all, servers take up your valuable office space in your law firm. With cloud computing, great scale and best practice benefits are achievable, meaning high availability and productivity for you and your law practice.
Another term you may have heard is “unified communications”. For most companies
and law firms today, telephone, e-mail, IM, audio conferencing, video conferencing, Web
conferencing and voice mail all live in their own disconnected silos. Unified communications reduces technology complexity by putting people at the center of the communications experience by integrating all of the ways we contact each other in a single environment. In order to leverage the cloud and cloud-based unified communication services, you’ll need a reliable way to connect your office, satellite offices and remote lawyers to the cloud. There are numerous firms which provide private cloud hosting and part or fully managed outsourcing. Security and management of data are also key issues. Make certain that any vendor or company you may consider has appropriate certifications.
With today’s expansive choice and availability of services, law firms are now utilizing the cloud and are pleased with the predictable costs and high reliability it provides.