Better Than The Dentist


dental visityOne of the most anxious days in a home with young children is “Dentist Day.” In our family, we try to get it all over with as quickly as possible, and have the dentist see all the kids in consecutive appointments. What usually happens is that at least one of them needs some follow-up, either to fill a cavity, get sealants, or check up on the progress of a stubborn baby tooth that won’t fall out. On a recent Sunday morning, it was my turn to take my daughter for one of those follow-up visits. Thankfully it was not intended as a dramatic visit involving real dental work — just a quick x-ray to monitor the progress of a tooth, nothing more.

What struck me as I watched my daughter settle into the chair was how her demeanor completely changed — really from the moment we got to the office, but more starkly once she was actually sitting down in the chair. Even though she knew we were going to the dentist, and may have had reservations about what to expect, she was her usual active, engaged self on the drive over. But once we got into the office, I could see the anxiety creep onto to her face. Once she was in the chair, it was clear that she was concerned and uncertain. I did my best to deflect her attention, and the x-ray was finished in a moment. As dentist visits go, this was as easy as it gets, and her mood almost instantaneously improved as soon as we left.

The entire episode reminded me of something we sometimes take for granted as lawyers — in particular when we interact with non-lawyers, especially when they are on our turf. While we might be comfortable in our familiar surroundings, and convince ourselves that because we have nice well-appointed offices that non-lawyers will automatically welcome a visit, the truth is that very often we are overlooking the possible anxiety-causing aspects of the experience. Any good pediatric dentist knows the importance of making their patients comfortable, whether by distraction with toys or by having kid-friendly shows or movies on the screen. Since for many people dealing with lawyers is at least as uncomfortable as a trip to the dentist, we should be sensitive to our clients’ needs in this regard.

I am not saying that law firms should start springing for Netflix subscriptions for the flat-screens in the conference rooms. Just that we recognize that even a visit to a friendly lawyer can be an anxiety-inducing experience in a client. For example, every litigator knows the importance of preparing witnesses for their depositions. While the most important part of that process is making sure the witness is comfortable with their expected testimony and the substantive issues in the case, deposition preparation of clients would be lacking if the witness’s potential anxiety is not addressed. For that reason, it is important to acclimate the witness to their surroundings. If at all possible, that can mean preparing the witness in the same conference room where the deposition will take place, or at least one like it. The more of a dress rehearsal the preparation is, the better. Including the stage for the performance.

Likewise, it is not unusual for witnesses, and even less experienced lawyers, to have some anxiety in the courtroom. One of the best ways to deal with that anxiety is to have the witness or anxious colleague visit the courtroom before their scheduled performance — ideally on a day when court is in session, so they will have the ability to watch a similar proceeding to the one they are supposed to participate in. While nothing can completely diffuse the tension of an important hearing or trial, it is best if the participants are at least acclimated to their surroundings. Performance anxiety is not necessarily always bad, since if channeled properly, it can coax a better performance out of the person experiencing it. At the same time, there is no need to pile onto an already anxious situation, particularly when some simple planning can alleviate some of the fear of the unknown.

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What Do Millennials Want?



A recent article in the weekend Wall Street Journal had some fascinating points to make about the training and retention of millennials in the banking/investment banking industries, and I think that many of those points apply equally to millennial/newbie lawyers.

Retention is a problem for the finance industry and it is becoming a problem for the legal industry as well. In finance, millennials are leaving, not just to join hedge funds or private equity funds to boost their income, but they’re leaving for startups and other employers where they feel that they won’t just be cogs in wheels, but can actively contribute to the business at hand, rather than the repetitive drudgery of spreadsheets and Power Point stacks. Sound familiar? It should.

We have the same problem in our profession, assigning millennials to document review, drafting and responding to discovery, form documentation work, all the drudgery work that makes up so much of so many lawyers’ lives, and that we all had to do as part of our training. I wonder how many of us would have ever gone to law school had we known how much routine and yes, even boring, paperwork there is, decades into the practice.

In my days, it was Perry Mason and The Defenders (if you’re not familiar with the latter, Google it, a great show) that factored into my thinking to be a lawyer. For newer lawyers, it was probably L.A. Law, The Practice, The Good Wife, among others. How many times, if ever, did we see these TV lawyers slaving over a motion to compel or a motion for summary judgment? How many times, if ever, did we see TV lawyers review files or plead telephonically with the court clerk trying to get that default judgment entered? How many times did we ever see an associate breathlessly run into the partner’s office, having found a case on all fours? “None” is the number that comes to my mind. Yours? These tasks are all part of a lawyer’s job, like them or not.

So, what do we do to train and retain lawyers? Practical skills training in law school only get the students so far. What the Journal found in numerous interviews was a tension between hierarchical culture and the desire for the younger employees to have more substantive work earlier in their careers. So, is the concept of “paying your dues,” e.g. doing the crap work that the senior lawyers had to do early in their careers, still viable? “I had to do it, so you do, too.” (Don’t get me started on the California Bar Exam being reduced from three days to two starting in 2017… talk about a rite of passage….)

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Don’t Wait For Opportunities, Create Them


It continues to be a tough market out there for law opportunitystudents and recent grads. A general malaise still envelops the oplegal industry. There are signs of optimism here and there, but no tangible, overall recovery. Too many law students continue to scramble for too few jobs. Many of them are struggling and grasping for straws

Many established lawyers look at the current employment landscape for new lawyers and say “not my problem.” Which largely, it isn’t. They’re busy looking after their own. But some lawyers (myself included), think it’s important to reach out and try and help new lawyers as best we can. For me, it’s because I remember what it was like graduating into the morass of the legal industry back in 2010. So this past week, I helped organize an event for current law students in conjunction with my local bar association.

The event started with a panel discussion with lawyers from small, medium, and large firms, along with an in-house counsel for a large corporation. A local judge moderated the panel. We talked about how we all ended up where we did. The hiring processes. How students and new grads can stand out on the job (in a good way, not in a show-up-on-ATL way).

Some question the value of bar associations, but I’ve found them to be great resources. Bar associations are essentially a lawyer’s professional community. And as I have noted before, if you invest in your community, your community will invest in you. By joining a local bar association and dedicating real time and effort to it, you can begin to develop the relationships you need in order to thrive as a small-firm practitioner. Extending these same sort of opportunities to law students only follows suit.

After the panel discussion, there was a social event held in conjunction with the small-firm section of the Bar. Twenty or so law students mixing with sixty or so lawyers. I was circulating about, chatting with many of the other lawyers there that I know. Talking shop, asking about families. The usual.

I was keeping an eye out on the law students while doing so. I was curious how many among them would take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to them on a silver platter.

FYI to law students: many lawyers find chatting with you to be a chore. Especially at Bar functions. Most of the lawyers are there to relax or socialize with other lawyers. Suddenly a law student desperate for a job comes up and starts digging for information. It’s not exactly endearing.

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Pepper Hamilton and Reed Smith Are Talking Merger

By: Gina Passarella, The Legal Intelligencer

A merger betReed Smithween two Pennsylvania-founded law firms could create a firm with more than 600 lawyers in the state and more than 2,000 worldwide if early-stage talks between Reed Smith and Pepper Hamilton result in a union. While news of a potential intrastate deal raised some eyebrows, many cited to both firms’ need to grow either in terms of geography or practice depth, with the pharmaceutical, life sciences and corporate practices touted as some of the firms’ mutual strengths.

Word of merger discussions between the two firms was first reported by Bloomberg BNA Big Law Business.

“These talks are in the early stages and will require a substantial amount of ­additional consideration on our part before we are prepared to bring this transaction before the Pepper partners for full consideration,” Pepper Hamilton said in a statement Tuesday.

In its own statement, Reed Smith said it has wanted to strengthen its industry focus and add to its strategic practice areas.

“In executing this strategy, we speak regularly with law firms around the world regarding our respective objectives,” Reed Smith said in the statement. “As part of that process, we have had preliminary discussions with Pepper Hamilton, a firm we know well and respect, about a possible combination. Based on these preliminary discussions, we see many potential ­benefits to joining forces. There remains a ­significant amount of work to do with Pepper Hamilton to assess those benefits and before any ­transaction would be ready to bring to the Reed Smith partnership.”

Reed Smith has taken a few years off from substantial mergers after growing ­significantly over the course of the decade to become an international firm with more than 1,600 lawyers. But the firm laid off 45 attorneys and additional staff earlier this year in what the firm said was an effort to be more efficient. It also saw the defection of a team of lawyers in the last few weeks to McGuireWoods in Pittsburgh, New York and San Francisco that handled a notable Bank of America account.

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Strong Attachments (Or: Important Advice about Email)


attachmentEmail has long been the communication method of choice for lawyers. While chat has begun to make inroads, the vast majority of most lawyers’ communications — both internally and to the outside world — are via email. Lawyers use email heavily, irrespective of what kind of law they practice, or the type of organization they practice their law in. I have previously provided some tips for crafting good emails, and stressed how important it is to respect your reader by looking for ways to give them the information needed with as little burden as possible.

In that column, I gave admittedly short shrift to the topic of email attachments. In fact, my entire discussion of that subject matter was: “if you promise an attachment, please include it. That’s it on that one. Failure to do so shows carelessness.” While I still agree with myself, and believe that failing to include a promised email attachment is bad, I also think there is more to consider on the topic of email attachments. Before I get to that, it is best to preemptively respond to those who would say (strawman, anyone) that neglecting to include a promised attachment is not a big deal. Because at least in the legal profession, it is.

I concede that you may not care too much when your cousin in Minnesota forgets to attach pictures, like of her kids making snow angels, in her weekly update email to the entire extended family. But consider how you would feel if you just paid an obscene amount of money to a ticket broker for those Taylor Swift tickets that your teenage daughter insists would be the greatest present ever, only to realize that the confirmation email didn’t include the promised PDFs of the actual tickets. Even though you would get the tickets resent with just another call or email to the broker, you would be annoyed, and likely begin to seriously doubt the professionalism of the business you just dealt with. Clients paying you hundreds of dollars an hour feel the same way when you waste their time with careless mistakes. Sending an email without a referenced attachment qualifies as a careless mistake.

In our competitive profession, there really is not a lot of room for such kinds of mistakes. Will neglecting to include an attachment get you fired as an associate, even if you are forced to deal with the most demanding partner imaginable? Probably not. But it will dent your reputation, especially if it occurs frequently or overlaps with other demonstrations of carelessness. You need every ounce of equity you earn in this business. Trading that equity in, even in small measure, to cover for careless mistakes is just not worth it.

Paper Clip IconThankfully, I have noticed that my current version of Outlook will actually prompt me in the event my email references an attachment and one is not actually attached. It’s a handy feature, and will probably save me at some point from a careless error. At the same time, when your email client reminds you not to forget an attachment and you do it anyway, it looks even worse.


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Which Type of Exercise Is Best for the Brain?

By Gretchen Reynolds


Some forms of exercise may be much more effective than others at bulking up the brain, according to a remarkable new study in rats. For the first time, scientists compared head-to-head the neurological impacts of different types of exercise: running, weight training and high-intensity interval training. The surprising results suggest that going hard may not be the best option for long-term brain health.

As I have often written, exercise changes the structure and function of the brain. Studies in animals and people have shown that physical activity generally increases brain volume and can reduce the number and size of age-related holes in the brain’s white and gray matter.

Exercise also, and perhaps most resonantly, augments adult neurogenesis, which is the creation of new brain cells in an already mature brain. In studies with animals, exercise, in the form of running wheels or treadmills, has been found to double or even triple the number of new neurons that appear afterward in the animals’ hippocampus, a key area of the brain for learning and memory, compared to the brains of animals that remain sedentary. Scientists believe that exercise has similar impacts on the human hippocampus.

These past studies of exercise and neurogenesis understandably have focused on distance running. Lab rodents know how to run. But whether other forms of exercise likewise prompt increases in neurogenesis has been unknown and is an issue of increasing interest, given the growing popularity of workouts such as weight training and high-intensity intervals.

So for the new study, which was published this month in the Journal of Physiology, researchers at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland and other institutions gathered a large group of adult male rats. The researchers injected the rats with a substance that marks new brain cells and then set groups of them to an array of different workouts, with one group remaining sedentary to serve as controls. Continue reading

How Apple’s Siri Got Her Name

by: The Week Staff







It may be a household name now, but the first time Steve Jobs heard the word “Siri,” he wasn’t sold. That’s according to Dag Kittalaus, the Norwegian cocreator of the iPhone 4S’ famed virtual assistant, who offered new details this week on how the technology was named, and how it seduced the late Apple founder. Today, 87 percent of iPhone 4S owners say they use Siri each month. But how did the increasingly famous digital assistant end up with her unique name?

Who came up with the name?
Kittalaus did. As he revealed at a startup conference in Chicago this week, he planned to name his daughter Siri after a former coworker (in Norwegian, Siri means “beautiful woman who leads you to victory”) and even registered the domain Then he and his wife had a son, and the website was shelved. But when Kittalaus was ready to launch his splashy speech recognition technology, he resurrected Siri. “Consumer companies need to focus on the fact that the name is easy to spell [and] easy to say,” he said.

How did Apple get involved?
Siri, Inc. was incorporated in 2007, and the technology was launched as an IOS app available in the Apple Store in early 2010; plans were in the works to make the software available for the Blackberry and Android phones. Things changed when Kittalaus, then the start-ups’s CEO, received a call three weeks later from Steve Jobs.

Then what happened?

The Apple CEO flew Kittalaus to his home in Cupertino, CA, where the two had a three-hour chat in front of Jobs’ fireplace about the the future of technology. “And, you know, he talked about why Apple was going to win, and we talked about how Siri was doing,” said Kittalaus. “He felt that we cracked it.” Apple went on to purchase Siri for $200 million in April 2010, ending plans to make it available for rival operating systems. There was one problem, however — Jobs wasn’t fond of the name.

Why didn’t Jobs change the name?
Kittalaus, who worked for Apple until October 2011, tried to convince the notoriously hardheaded Jobs that Siri was a great name. But in the end, the company stuck with the name for a more straightforward reason: No one could dream up anything better. (According to Wikipedia, the name is now also used as shorthand for “Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface.”) “Jobs was similarly on the fence about the names ‘iMac’ and ‘iPod,’ but failed to find a better option,” says Leslie Horn at PC World. But it seems Kittalaus was right about Siri. Today, she’s an indelible part of pop culture, and a benchmark other companies are trying to top.

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Hello. My name is Caleb Eadens, and I am an intern at Grimes Legal.   I am also a sophomore in High School.  Outside of work, I participate in indoor percussion.  Our last competition was the SCGC Championships, on Sunday, March 20th at Belmont University in Tennessee.  We placed first in our class, Scholastic Concert Open.

When they called us to the floor to get our awards, we were placed on a red carpet with huge bright lights shining down on us.  Our instructor lined us up and presented us each with a gold medal with a blue ribbon.  It was so exciting to be in front of all those people with their cameras flashing.  Finally, the announcer called our name and said we were Kentucky State Champions!  After the competition, we had numerous people come up to us and congratulate us on our fantastic performance!

Where Have You Gone HUD-1?

Bill AukampBy William M. Aukamp

It has been a long time since I last represented banks or borrowers at residential mortgage closings, but one of my colleagues does and the other day I noticed he was carrying a folder as thick as the Manhattan telephone directory used to be back in the days when such directories were printed. I was curious about what kind of transaction could generate enough documents to account for such a thick file. I was surprised to learn that it was a garden variety residential mortgage closing. I had a general familiarity with RESPA and the HUD-1 disclosure form mandated by its implementing regulations, but that knowledge is useless today. The HUD-1 has mushroomed into three forms. This reminds me of Fourth of July fireworks, when a rocket rises and then splits into three pieces. I asked my colleague where one would go to become better informed about the new rules. He suggested doing a Google search for T R I D. I had never heard of this acronym before. I followed his suggestion, which resulted in my winding up on the web site of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It was chock full of information about T R I D, more than enough to make me glad that I no longer represent parties to residential mortgage transactions. Among the resources available on the CFPB site was a Small Entity Compliance Guide. In the hope that it would make me an instant expert on the subject, I downloaded the Guide. But the Guide, intended to explain the new rules in simple terms, was 90 pages in length. To save paper and ink, I opted not to print the guide. However I did scroll through it in order to try to find the salient provisions.

Here are some of the things I discovered. As best I can tell, three, or possibly, four forms are required. There is a Closing Disclosure, a Loan Estimate Disclosure and, if there should be any modification to the Closing Disclosure, a Modification To Closing Disclosure. In Addition, lenders must provide to borrowers a list of service providers. The latter could prove to be troublesome. What criteria, if any, should lenders apply in determining who gets to be included in the list. The form also provides space for listing service providers who borrowers may not use, which seems to amount to a sort of blacklist. All of this could result in corrupt behavior involving loan officers and service providers desperately trying to get on the list or, at least, avoiding the blacklist. The information required to be disclosed is voluminous and includes such critical information as the real estate brokers license ID.

The CFPB has also provided a Guide To Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure Forms, that can be downloaded from its web site. If you are looking for a nice, simple explanation you will be disappointed, because it is 96 pages in length. So we now have “simple” explanations of the new rules and the required forms that total 186 pages. One shudders to think of how many pages it would take to describe all of this in non simple terms. Aside from the content of the forms, one can easily get tangled up in the timing requirements. The Loan Estimate Form must be mailed to the borrower no later than the third business day after receiving the application and again mailed no longer than the seventh business day before consummation of the transaction. The CFPG has pointed out that consummation is when the parties become legally obligated, a determination to be made under state law, and not necessarily the closing date. Adding to the confusion is the fact that two different definitions of business day are used. For purposes of providing the loan estimate,  it “is a day on which the creditor’s offices are open to the public for carrying out substantially all of its business functions.” The creditor must ensure that the consumer receives a revised Loan Estimate no later than four business days prior to consummation. For this purpose, a business day  “means all calendar days except Sundays and holidays specified in 5 U.S.C. 6103 (a) such as New Years Day, the birthday of Martin Luther King,Jr., Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.”

I could go on to point out other features of the new rules, but I do not want to get in over my head, so I will stop here. What I can say, without equivocation, is that as a result of the new rules, residential mortgage closings have become more time consuming and expensive, to a point that they provide a disincentive to banks to make residential mortgage loans and for attorneys to become involved in such transactions.

Oh for the good old days. Where have you gone HUD-1?

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Interview with Anita Johnson, a Partner with Litchfield Cavo

By:  Pixie Meredith

Anita JohnsonAnita Johnson’s situation was not ideal for her practice.  Although she had received a lot of calls from recruiters, Nancy Grimes’ voicemail got her attention.  What was different?  Anita felt that Nancy actually reviewed her biography, did her research and was knowledgeable about her practice before she ever attempted to dial her number.  Anita’s expectations were all over the place when she decided to dip her toe in the water; however, Nancy certainly listened and guided her through every turn of the road, even focusing her on what she really wanted out of a move.

Anita indicated that Nancy knew what she wanted and picked up the phone, called her contacts and found a home for her practice.  “Nancy knows where there is chemistry, calls the firm, and gets it done.”  Anita also added, “Nancy has a way of being upbeat and positive, which just automatically causes you to be up.  Even though you think you know everything about interviewing, she can analyze the situation and give you guidance in the most positive and palpable way, including how to best handle yourself and the personalities of others in interviews.”  When asked if Anita would recommend Nancy’s services to others, Anita answered, “Everyone knows Nancy and loves her.  She has continued helping me even after placing me.  It didn’t end just because I started at my new firm. I would gladly recommend her.”

Anita Johnson is a member of Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s Workers Compensation CommitteeAmerican Bar AssociationIllinois Bar AssociationChicago Bar Association