Letter from an Insane Asylum

“For the first time in my life, it makes me deeply question what women can achieve in this society.” “I still can’t believe all this is real.” “There is no silver lining here.” Many reacted to last night’s election with so much shock and pain. I feel the pain and despair too, very deeply. But I get a perverse kind of comfort from the thought that I—and so many others—feel pain and despair, on a smaller scale, almost every single other day too. To work for the little guy, in isolation and in anonymity, with little or no financial reward or social recognition, and sometimes with no success, is to feel despair on a daily basis. I don’t have the mantle of authority that comes with being part of an organization, especially a respected white-shoe firm or district attorney’s office. I’m just me, a young, inexperienced, soft-spoken, slight, insignificant woman, who works in an attic […]

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BlueLine saves time on cite-checking

Legal Technology Big Change Through Small Revolution Guest post by BlueLine staff Investment in legal technology has moved at a staggering pace over the past few years. Tech start-ups promise to radically disrupt law practice by automating everything from document review to legal research, while Lex Machina and Judicata promise to empower lawyers with data-driven insights and analytics. Despite these revolutionary possibilities, myriad simple legal tasks, such as cite-checking, pulling cases, and reviewing quotes, still consume absurd lengths of time. We question whether the low hanging fruit is being left on the tree. The low hanging fruit has already been picked in practice management software. Lawyers are now familiar with digital time-entry, e-billing, and expense-tracking applications. There has been less interest in applications that are specifically designed to improve the tasks that lawyers can actually bill their clients for doing. Perhaps this is because lawyers focus on automation that speeds […]

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Choosing a bank for your law practice

If you have no idea how to choose a bank based on anything other than how long it takes you to walk to the closest branch (or whether they offer lollipops at the teller window), I off the following checklist of other factors to consider. Not all banks are created equal, and most experts recommend reevaluating your banking needs not just at the start of your business but also every few years. As you comparison-shop, a business account officer from each bank you’re considering should be available to answer all your questions—though you might get the best scoop by asking around among your colleagues. Is it approved for IOLTA accounts? If you plan to hold client fees in trust (i.e., before you perform the work), you need to hold the money in an “Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account” (IOLTA). In Massachusetts, attorneys may only hold IOLTA deposits in financial institutions that have […]

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Tips for better legal writing

Some of my favorite tips from legal writing authority Bryan Garner: Don’t rely exclusively on computer research. Also use print indexes, digests, and treatises, including resources like Corpus Juris Secundum and American Jurisprudence, to round out your understanding of the subject matter. Google Books (especially the advanced-search function) can provide fresh resources to supplement what you find with Westlaw or Lexis. Lead with a summary of your conclusions, not with a full statement of facts. Start your brief, opinion letter, or research memorandum with an up-front summary, which will typically include the principal questions or main issue, the answers to those questions, and the reasons for those answers. Never open with a full-blown statement of facts. Facts are useless to a reader who doesn’t yet understand what the issue is. Instead, integrate a few key facts into your issue statement. Make your summary understandable to outsiders. Your biggest challenge is put your upfront summary in a way that your friends and relatives […]

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How to write a declaration

Declarations provide the factual basis for claims made in memoranda of points and authorities, briefs, and writs. (I.e., every statement of fact in a brief must be properly supported with a citation to a declaration.) Here’s how to write a really good declaration: First, write the declaration in the declarant’s own voice, using her own language, from her own perspective. Second, tell a good story. The declaration should be a narrative, and it should be comprehensive with regard to the incidents it relates. Finally, follow the rules of evidence. Everything in a declaration must be admissible as if it were testimony in court. There must be foundation (how the witness knows what she knows) and there must not be inadmissible hearsay. Show personal knowledge for every claim in the declaration. For example, do not say, “I applied for General Relief last week but I can’t get it for six more weeks.” Instead, […]

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