Today you would be hard-pressed to find a process that has not been impacted by technology. Below is an excellent article on the status of evolving technology and communication as it relates to the service of process.
The legal profession is not known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to utilizing new technology. In fact, the profession is more known to gravitate toward tradition over innovation. However, sometimes new technological/cultural norms force themselves upon the profession, and the courts are forced to deal with the issues. One of the issues courts are facing more and more is the issue of service of process via email or social media. While the cases below, one that permits service via email and social media and one that does not, are from outside of Pennsylvania, they illustrate an issue that will face all litigators in the near future; the tension created by trying to reconcile constitutional concerns pertaining to service of process and evolving technology/communication.
While there is no substitution for visiting the scene of an accident, there are instances where the collection of information and data must begin quickly. Drone mapping is an evolving technology that is assisting numerous insurance companies in preserving key details that were once lost as a result of delay. This article explains the latest technology and its recent advancements.
Drone mapping provides insurance companies with an easy, fast and accurate method of documenting a scene and preserving key details while also letting the process of clean-up and reconstruction begin as quickly as possible. Recently, Dronotec, a start-up company specializing in drone inspection for insurance companies conducted a case study to determine just how much money this drone mapping was saving insurance companies. Dronotec’s founder, Emilien Rose, worked as a loss assessor in France and Australia for 10 years and conducted assessments of about 8,000 claims. Rose believes that Dronetec and drone mapping can really save time and money for insurers.
For example, recently a fire in France consumed 5 acres of a vacation destination on the coast. Once the insurance company came in to assess the damages, they realized that the sheer size of the site posed quite a challenge. Moreover, so much of the property was damaged by the fire, inspectors could not enter the properties or inspect the roofs without the threat of personal injury. A plane attempted to capture photos but many of the photos were not clear or sharp enough to use. However, the loss adjuster recommend a drone to do the mapping of the scene. In about 10 minutes, the drone collected more than 300 geo-tagged photos flying about 180 feet over the property. The images were uploaded to a drone mapping program, and three hours later a 2-D map and 3-D model of the property and the damages were available. The high degree of accuracy of not only the photos but the mapping improved the likelihood of identifying the cause of the accident exponentially. And the insurance company’s team members were able to collaborate and review the mapping in one cloud-based space. In this one case, the use of drone mapping saved this French insurance company about €99,985,000 (or about $110,600,000).
The ability to quickly process claims is very helpful to insurance companies with large scale disasters that have many claims filed related to the same incident.
An article recently featured in The Legal Intelligencer highlights a number of important investigative steps for litigating personal injury matters. The authors recap instances where these minor but important moves made the difference in their case.
In your last 20 motor vehicle collision cases, how many times have you visited the scene of the crash or sought the drivers’ phone records? Once, twice … zero times?
These investigative steps should be second nature and common sense to the trial lawyer. Yet, many lawyers rarely visit the accident scene or pursue the driver’s phone records. Excuses are easy to make. Liability seems clear. There is no time to visit the scene. You can view the scene on Google Street View. The area is dangerous. Phone records are difficult to obtain without litigation. The case will settle quickly. Certainly, some cases are more clear than others, and the decision to forego these investigative steps can be justified. However, without a scene inspection or phone-record review, you will not know what you are missing. Or, even worse, what you are missing may come back to haunt you at trial.
A few months back we discussed the importance of honesty and credibility. In line with that theme, Brendan Kenny of The Lawyerist recently wrote an article titled, “Why Hyperbole Will Destroy Your Case and Understatement Will Save It.” The article goes further in expressing the significance of maintaining your credibility as an attorney. It includes examples with story lines and excerpts of video depositions. The article even goes one step further and discusses strategies for handling attorneys that cross blur the line. It is a truly intriguing article that I encourage everyone to read.
Here are a few excerpts:
“Playing loose with the facts invites your audience to question your sincerity and suspect that you are trying to manipulate them. They may retaliate by rejecting your client. In short: avoid even the appearance of insincerity.”
“If you distort or even fudge, you’ll be found out. And if you’re found out, you’ve lost everything there is to lose. You’ve lost credibility”
“If you exaggerate the strength of your client’s case in your mind, you will naturally do the same in your written and oral advocacy. Because your tone doesn’t fit the case that the judge and the jury are learning about, they will soon start doubting your honesty, sincerity, and competence.”
Read the article in its entirety at, Why Hyperbole Will Destroy Your Case and Understatement Will Save It.
Reputation and credibility are everything. I no longer tweet but one thing I enjoyed was that it forced me to express my thoughts in 140 characters or less. Forcing oneself to truncate his or her words and focus only on those necessary is an invaluable practice, especially for attorneys. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, a human’s attention span is now 8.25 seconds; thats less than a goldfish. Subsequently, the quicker that you deliver your argument the higher the probability that it will resonate.
Continuing that thought – while hoping I still have your attention – how you utilize one’s time presenting arguments will affect your credibility and reputation. Do not tatter your credibility with arguments that are illogical or implausible.
As a civil defense attorney, occasionally we are dealt a bad hand. A set of circumstances with no means of lending a clear path for your client’s release. On the day of reckoning, whether arbitration, ADR, or trial, everyone knows your plight. In spite of those circumstances, we must represent our client and their best interests vigorously. In unique circumstances I believe this is best achieved by conceding some areas, only to win big in others. To do so, we must maintain our credibility, as well as value the trier’s attention span, by presenting only the most logical and suitable arguments. Pointing out every possible area of contention is not effective nor necessary. Select your best arguments, the ones that you believe will stick.
So now you are thinking, “OK, sounds good, but where is the proof.” For some time I wondered the same. However, I recently came across an article that detailed this very approach. The defense was faced with a daunting task and a good liabity argument was essentially non-existent. Injuries appreared to be related, but the parties did not agree on the extent of such injuries. The defense obtained solid evidence pertaining to damages going at the heart of the plaintiff’s credibility. However, it was going to be critical for the defense not to diminish their credibility arguing liability where their client was clearly at fault. Read here to see the results, Admitted Liability/Reduced Damages.
In short, your credibility is everything. When placed in a tough position with little to work with, face those limitations head on. Admit your weak areas. This will go far in building your credibility and using it to persuade the trier on your more favorable arguments. Our arbitration panels, juries, and judges are human-beings. Arguing liability where the facts are clear that your client is at fault will undoubtedly affect your credibility. In fact, it may lead the trier to feel that you are unreasonable or out of touch with reality; and as a result could lead them to not value your other arguments. Instead, consider conceding liability, accepting responsibility on behalf of your client, and move on to argue damages pointing out key areas where you disagree with the extent of the injuries. Not only is this where you will score points, but where the trier of fact will value your argument, testimony, and candor.
I recently came across this article and thought it was an excellent overview of typography tips for young attorneys. Quite often, we are consumed with the substance of our writings and, while important, the presentation can be equally as essential. The excerpt below is from 10 Takeaways from Typography for Lawyers written by Matthew Salzwedel. I found number 1 of particular interest, as I previously posted an article on the same topic, Are you Team One Space or Two? Enjoy!
1. Use Only One Space Between Sentences
Butterick says you have no choice when deciding how many spaces to include after a sentence-ending period (indeed, after any punctuation mark): one space. He cites multiple typography authorities, including the Chicago Manual of Style, Garner’s The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (Section 4.12), and the 7th Circuit’s “Requirements and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs and Other Papers” (which Sam reviewed in “Legal Writing: Make Your Writing Easier to Read“). True, other writers have objected to the historical foundation of the one-space rule, but I’ve found no good authority (including the local rules of the states and many federal courts to which I’m admitted) that you should include two spaces after a sentence-ending period in court documents.
2. Never Underline
“Now that we don’t use typewriters, there’s no need to underline.”
Butterick also advises never to underline text for emphasis or otherwise. Like two spaces after a sentence-ending period, underlining is a holdover from the typewriter era, which, as many have forgotten (or in my case never knew) didn’t allow for bold or italics. On a typewriter, underlining was the only way to emphasize text. Now that we don’t use typewriters, there’s no need to underline.
In my former litigation practice, I occasionally underlined text to emphasize particular words because The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation requires case names to be italicized and I wanted to distinguish between the two. My view at that time was that underlining allowed to reader to distinguish easily between italicized case names and the text I wanted to emphasize. But I erred in doing so. Given how ugly and blunt underlining can be, start using italics and bold to emphasize any text that deserves to stand out from the rest.
Last week, I received my first Avvo client review. Avvo.com is an online legal services marketplace that creates a basic profile for every licensed attorney. Avvo’s lawyer directory provides Avvo-rated profiles, client reviews, and peer endorsements for 97 percent of all lawyers in the United States. While my current firm prohibits me from representing outside clients, Avvo attorney profiles are beneficial for developing a brand and building a network…
The Height in Professionalism and Courteous, Caring Service
When I met Andre Webb for the first time, and subsequently as he handled my legal proceedings, I was instantly impressed with his friendly, comforting and knowledgeable demeanor, which quickly put me at ease. While the legal matter turned out to be a brief one, he handled it with the out most in professionalism, and his caring and affable way really helped calm my anxiety in this unfamiliar and sometimes treacherous world that I’m so inexperienced with. It’s a great feeling to know that you have an advocate of Andre’s quality on your side, and his efforts are greatly appreciated by me. I consider him a valuable asset to his law firm, and I would certainly look forward to having him handle any further legal matters, while I also hope never to need to call upon him in the future. A true gentleman and a major credit to the legal profession.
See, My First Avvo Review. Thank you!
“A truly great mentor is hard to find, difficult to part with, and impossible to forget.” In short, a great mentor is invaluable. A mentor highlights areas of opportunity and improvement where one is oblivious. However, mentoring is a two-way street. You get out what you put in. Keith Lee of Associate’s Mind – one of my favorite legal blogs – posted an excellent piece on the value of establishing a mentor and cultivating the relationship. Great food for thought for any young professional. Here’s a brief excerpt.
The True Purpose Of A Mentor
Often times, the first word that people use to describe mentors is “cheerleader.” That a mentor is someone who encourages and praises you.
I have never found this to be the case. In fact, if all someone who was theoretically “mentoring” me did was offer praise and encouragement, I would not consider them to be my mentor. Sure there will be times that a mentor will offer praise. But those times will likely be few and far between. A mentor who only gives praise is more akin to a fawning parent. Nice to have, but not the purpose of a mentor.
A mentor is not only there to encourage you.
A mentor is not only there to motivate you.
A mentor is not only there to inspire you.
A mentor’s primary purpose is to cultivate growth.
And growth is not easy. Growth is change. Growth is painful. Growth involves leaving behind certain aspects of your old self in order to make room for what you want to become.
Continue reading at, Associate’s Mind Primer For Young Professionals Seeking Mentors.
At the outset of trial, the judge instructs counsel that there is to be no mention of the victim’s smoking habit because it may unfairly bias the jury. During trial, an expert witness for the defense mentions the forbidden and the following ensues…
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto slapped Atty. Nancy Raynor with nearly $1 million in court sanctions Nov. 4 because one of her witnesses testified that a woman at the heart of a medical malpractice trial had been a smoker, breaching a court order against such a statement. The family of the woman, who had died of lung cancer, won a $190,000 verdict, but Panepinto reversed the award and ordered another trial, finding that the smoking reference had unfairly tilted the scales in favor of the defense.
The sanctions were intended to reimburse the woman’s family and her attorneys for the lost time and expense of the first trial. But the decision has triggered sharp criticism, not only from the society, but also from members of the defense bar and others, who say the amount of the sanctions is unprecedented, and, given disputed facts in the matter, unwarranted.
Defense attorney, Nancy Raynor, and members of the defense team say that she repeatedly advised the witness of the judge’s instructions. Unfortunately, Raynor’s malpractice insurance excludes coverage for court-imposed sanctions. Now, Doctor’s rally on behalf of lawyer facing $1m sanctions and the legal community in Philadelphia is in an uproar. Yet another reminder of the heightened stakes in our profession. See also, Lawyer sanctioned $1M for allowing smoking reference in med-mal trial.
A clean, coherent, and intelligible deposition transcript is invaluable to a trial attorney. It can prevent the waste of hours of trial preparation spent decoding same. It may also be the key piece of evidence used to impeach a witness during cross-examination and question his or her credibility.
With that, know that the court reporter is your friend — help your friend help you. To do so, see this article that list best practices and suggestions for handling a court reporter at a deposition. A brief must read for any trial attorney.
When you’re taking a deposition, you know that ensuring a complete and accurate record is vital. So don’t take the person who’s dutifully taking down the proceedings for granted: Assisting the court reporter is not only polite, it might be the key to a clean depo transcript to use at trial.
Helping the court reporter start even before the deposition begins by
- Showing up early to organize documents for convenient reference and mark them as exhibits.
- Giving the reporter a copy of the case caption so the transcript will include the correct case name and court number.
- If the deponent is an expert, offering the reporter a written glossary of unusual terms that will be used during the deposition.