October 28, 2007

"Tip of the Week" - Back Up Your Blog!

This week I realized I've never backed up my blog with nearly a year of content and hard work (435 posts!)because, quite frankly, I never thought about it.  Now I realize this is no longer an option. 

  • If you have a content-rich, resource-rich web presence, back it up.
  • If your blog represents your major internet presence, back it up.
  • If you blog is your primary marketing tool, back it up.
  • If you use your blog as your personal legal research library filled with cases and more, back it up;
  • If you plan on writing a book from all your e-zine type articles you've posted, back it up!

If you use Typepad like I do, here is a series of instructional videos on how to back up your site from Flyte.

If you use another blogging platform or host, inquire as to the best method for backing up.  You'll be glad you did.

October 19, 2007

Typosquatting & Cybersquatting Can Impact Your Solo Practice and Good Name

(UPDATE: 10/29 - Good article discussing how typosquatters profit off your name.)

Typosquatting is the registering of a domain name with a deliberate typo in it, a common typo, to redirect another's potential visitor to one's own site.  Outside the legal realm, a famous typosquatter, one who is sitting in jail for redirecting innocent kids TV shows such as BobtheBiulder or Teltubbies to porn sites, has just been fined $164,000 for typosquatting other sites and redirecting the searcher to non-porn related revenue generating sites.

What has this got to do with solos?  Well, awhile ago I went to contact a friend of mine who is a medical malpractice lawyer.  I initiated a Google search for his law firm's name and ended up on a junk advertising site.  I looked to see if I had misspelled the firm's name only to see I hadn't.  The firm's name had been cybersquatted...meaning someone purchased their law firm's name before they did.  It would appear this was done specifically so the law firm would have to purchase their own name back....the price would certainly be cheaper then hiring a lawyer to sue for the rights to their own name.  That's the scam. 

Ironically, the law firm had purchased a different more generic domain in an effort to direct key word traffic to their site and...oops....didn't think it was important to purchase their own law firm name.

For $9.99 on Godaddy.com you can buy your name with the .com, .net, .org, etc. even if you are still waiting on a getting your website or blog. If you decide to relinquish your name to the cybersquatter, understand you are also relinquishing potential clients to that cybersquatter.  Spend the $9.99 on Godaddy.com and buy your domain name(s) now and avoid the problem altogether.

October 14, 2007

"Tip of the Week" - Update Your Contact List With One Click

I left the 2nd Annual Solo and Small Firm Conference with so much information from the tech gurus I had to share some of the neat little tips and programs they shared which hopefully will make your life easier.

So, here goes. If you are like almost everyone else you never have time to enter your contact information into your electronic contact files.  Well, with this nifty little program you can no longer have any excuse.  GetAnagram is this terrifc little program whereby all you have to do is highlight your contact information from ANY electronic document and with 98% accuracy and one click it will intuitively turn it into a proper contact entry filling in all the fields correctly.

That's right.  Pull the information off a brief, a menu, a scanned in business card, the signature block on an e-mail...highlight and click and your address book will be completed with the contact information.  No more time consuming copying and pasting and/or manually typing in each field.

There is a free 45 day trial and then the program is only $29.95.  Everyone was calling it a G-dsend.  I have no doubt because of all the time you will save...and actually update your contact file.  Enjoy!

(And by the way, it works not just for contacts but for appointments, tasks and notes, too!)

October 07, 2007

"Tip of the Week" - Learn How Your Website Ranks

I found a neat little website called Marketleap.  This website lets you know where website ranks with your competition, how your key search words are or are not working and if your site is placed within the top three pages of the top six search engines when potential clients use those key search words. And there are many more informative reports.  All free.

This tool can be very valuable for niche practices in a competitive market as you can compare your site to your competition and see if they, in fact, have optimized their site and are coming up on the first three pages of the major search engines, too.

Check it out.

August 26, 2007

"Tip of the Week" - Remote Control Mail to Your Computer

Will the postman be an historical footnote in our children's history lessons?  It appears one company, Earth Class Mail, has taken mail delivery to a whole new level...unopened enevlopes scanned, sent to you via e-mail, you decide if it is to be actually opened and contents scanned.  If you want the contents they then will send it to you via e-mail in PDF format. Or if not opened or opened and unwanted, then it will be shredded and recycled.  (Make sure to check out the video!)  You can have multiple postal addresses with all mail going to one central location for handling as you choose.

Earth Class Mail is expanding its services to allow checks mailed to you to be directly deposited to your account so you can conduct business without a hiccup while you are jetsetting anywhere in the world or travelling from court house to court house.

Security is tight, all mail scanners ex-military with high security clearance. 

What are the ethical considerations of having clients' confidential information being scanned and PDF'd to you?  I would imagine you could opt to just scan the front and have the company forward the package of information unopened so you can scan sensitive documents into your computer yourself.

However, it seems to me it is one very interesting service being offered to solo practitioners to eliminate time-consuming, paper-cluttering, non-essential administrative tasks which is also very earth-friendly and eliminates significant overhead in the form of either your time or that of an administrator.  No more PO Boxes; no more putting your mail on hold or long lines at the post office. Check it out.

August 21, 2007

Some Solos Gaining Global Exposure Through Second Life

While some solo practitioners haven't even started blogging, missing this incredible opportunity to gain authority and clients, other solo practitioners are getting business through Second Life, creating storefronts for international exposure...with help of course.

Evanston attorney Omar Khuri plans to get in on the Second Life craze, opening a law office in the Internet-based virtual world to reach people from around the globe who might need a visa or legal help with other immigration issues.

Bizarre as the concept first seemed to him, Khuri now sees real business potential in posing as an avatar called Ettorney Stapleton and assisting clients 24/7 thanks to the help of Evanston-based Simuality, a six-month-old Evanston start-up serving Second Life firms.

"Now it's so obvious," said Khuri, who this month created a discussion group on Second Life called "U.S. Immigration."

It's a whole new virtual world out there but solo practitioners can compete on a global level like never before.  (Article)  There are over 9 million residents.  But like blogging only a little over 1 million are active.  There are many business and educational opportunities available and it does look very interesting. 

If others have experience with Second Life, please share.

August 03, 2007

"Protecting Your Domain" - Cybersquatting and Typo-Squatting - Interview With Enrico Schaefer

In keeping with my post on "Who Owns Your Website" here is a transcript of an interview with Enrico Schaefer of Traverse Legal (Greatest American Lawyer) on VTalk Radio: Topic: Protecting your internet identity: Cybersquatting and Typo-squatting.

JOHN: Welcome to VTalk Radio Tech Spotlight. Sponsored by Traverse Legal, PLC . Today we are talking about domain name nightmares with Enrico Schaefer, specialist in technology and domain law. Enrico joins us via phone here in the studios. Welcome Enrico.

ENRICO: Thanks, John, pleasure to be here.

JOHN: Now, what is a domain name and what is it used for.

ENRICO: Well, domain name is a fancy word for the website address we are all used to plugging into our browser, Internet Explorer or Firefox or the Netscape browser. That is the www. address. So www.traverselegal.com
- that's a domain name. And domain names are what we commonly think of - when think of websites.

JOHN: Now, what should I do if someone steals my domain name?

ENRICO: Well that's a good question, John, because people really don't understand and appreciate that the domain name business is really still the wild west in a lot of ways. We get calls here at Traverse Legal everyday from people who have lost their domain names, and people lose their domain names for a variety of reasons. In general, it can be that they simply didn't respond to a email from the Registrar asking them to provide information on whether or not they wanted to renew their domain name or someone could hack into the registrar level, and the registrar is the company that holds your domain name for you. They're the company you go to to register a domain name. They'll send you an email, for instance, when it's time to register and for a variety of reasons, you don't get that email or you don't respond; all of a sudden you wake up one day and that great website that you invested in that's driving tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of business through is gone. And someone else owns it. So, it's a big problem. It's one people really don't anticipate and they don't manage and in many cases, they are surprised when they wake up that one morning and their domain name is no longer under their control.

JOHN: Now that is a nightmare. Especially if you're a business.

ENRICO: It is a nightmare, and we get people who call us and they are really heated because they don't understand what happened. They say, "How could this of happened. How could I of lost my domain name?" And there are literally hundreds of ways people can lose their domain names. One that we get a lot of calls on concerns cybersquatting. And, John, cybersquatting is a huge problem in the internet area right now.

JOHN: What do you mean by cybersquatting? What is cybersquatting?

ENRICO: John, cybersquatting is a term which essentially means that someone stole your domain name or lawfully registered a domain name that includes your company name or your personal name or a name you own the common law or registered trademark rights at. So, for instance, if someone were to register the domain name, vtalkradios.com, VTalk Radio owns the common law trademark for VTalk Radio. That is a business. It's being operated. And, if someone were to try and use that name with a slight variation in the letters or the wording. They would be infringing on VTalk Radio's trademark rights. A lot of times people will go ahead and register a domain name for someone that owns the trademark in that domain, and then they'll put up different sorts of content on that website. John there's all sorts of content that someone might want to put up on your trademarked name website for financial gain. Now, John, that's really the essence of cybersquatting is someone who registers your trademark name and uses it for some purpose in order to pawn off of your good will.

JOHN: I've been on the internet before, and I've seen this kind of an idea before. When I typed in a name of a site I wanted to go, and I missed a letter, and it's been directed to another site using basically the name I typed in. That's cybersquatting?

ENRICO: Yes, that's a version of cybersquatting. That's called "type-o squatting" And type-o squatting is rampant today in the internet because General Motors for instance has not registered every possible variation of their trademark name General Motors. So if I were to delete a letter from General Motors and register that as a domain name or add a word to the front or the back or to the middle of General Motors, I might end up with an awful lot of traffic of people who are simply trying to get General Motors and accidentally ended up with me on my site. Now, if I were a classic cybersquatter or type-o squatter, what I'm gonna have on my website which is infringing on General Motors trademark is I'll have a bunch of google adwords, programs, or other advertising revenue or other link programs or perhaps pornography that I'm doing business off of that cybersquatted domain because I know a certain percentage of people are going to accidentally end up at my site. So I'm using the General Motors' trademark for my own financial gain. I am under law, a cybersquatter. I am a type-o squatter and, John, there are some essential elements you have to prove in order to categorize someone as a cybersquatter or type-o squatter in order to have legal rights.

JOHN: What would those things be that I'd have to prove?

ENRICO: In general, John, they deal with a couple different elements. The first thing you have to show is that you have trademark rights in the domain name. So, trademark rights are easily established. If you you're in business as a company name, the moment you started business, you have common law trademark rights in that company name, as long as you were the first to use it in commerce. If you have a product and your product has a name, the moment you put that product for sale, and you use that brand name, that product name, related to that product, you have common law trademark rights. Now, you can register that trademark with the various government agencies. In the United States it would be the U.S. Trademark office. You could register those rights, but you don't have to. If you are doing business as a name, you are selling a product as a name, you have trademark rights and that's the first thing you have to show in order to have legal claims for someone who is cybersquatting on your name. So, John, the first thing you have to show is that you have some rights in the name that someone has taken from you.

******

JOHN: Welcome back to VTalk Radio's Tech Spotlight. We are in the studio with Enrico Schaefer of Traverse Legal. We were talking about establishing trademarks. Enrico, how do I prove I was the first to use a trademark?

ENRICO: There are a variety methods that can be used to establish first use under the trademark laws. Obviously, if you weren't the first to use the trademark, you'll never win that particular battle, but keep in mind you only have to prove you were the first to use that particular trade name or mark or company name in commerce within the relevant market you are operating in. So, if you are selling, for instance, if you're a website developer and you're selling websites and you're using a particular name, ABC Website Company, it doesn't matter that there is an ABC Tool Company that is manufacturing pipe. That wouldn't be a problem, but you establish your first use by going out on the internet doing the Google search and showing that, hey look, there is no one else who is coming up within my class, my category of goods and services that's out there. Because virtually everyone who is anyone has got some sort of website presence. So if I wanted to search for ABC Web Development Company, I could do that. I can research to determine whether or not someone else was using that name before me.

JOHN: What about personal name registration, like enricoschaefer.com?

ENRICO: That also can actually be cybersquatting, John. If someone were to actually use my name or register my name and my name had some fame to it. For instance I was an actress or actor or even a business person. I am fairly well know within my market as an attorney specializing in technology internet domain name issues. So if someone were to register enricoschaefer.com and put up a website that dealt with those issues and the person's name wasn't Enrico Schaefer and they had no other legitimate use for the words, Enrico Schaefer, then chances are they are a cybersquatter as well, and they're simply trying to leverage the traffic of folks who would be putting the words Enrico Schaefer into Google or Yahoo in order to find me and then would click through by accident to their site. So that's another very common form of cybersquatting. John there are a few more things that have to be proven in order to establish that someone is cybersquatting on your domain. And, those are issues dealing with bad faith.

JOHN: Tell us about bad faith? What is bad faith?

ENRICO: Well if you have trademark rights in a name or a brand, the next thing you have to do is you have to show that the person who is using that domain is doing so in bad faith. A good example of a use that would not be in bad faith would be for a domain name, for instance, maybe the domain is liongate, ok and there is a company called Liongate Industries and someone registers liongate.com. Well, that person is not necessarily a cybersquatter if they have a legitimate right to use that domain. For instance, they may be a non-profit organization called Liongate and the purpose of that non-profit is to saves the lions. So that person isn't a cybersquatter, they have a legitimate use for that domain in a separate market. So what you need to show, John, is that person who has registered the domain on something where you have trademark rights and that they did it in bad faith and there are four examples that are given for bad faith, John.

JOHN: And what are these four examples, Enrico?

ENRICO: Well, the first one is registering or acquiring the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling it back to the trademark owner. So, a lot of times what happens is, I'll get a lot of calls from folks who register a domain of a major company. So let's say, they were to register microsoftisgreat.com, and then they contact Microsoft to try to sell it to Microsoft. Well, they are a cybersquatter and they've just established they are registration was bad faith registration because then they tried to sell the domain to the rightful trademark owner, Microsoft. So that's the first one, John.

JOHN: I've heard of that before in the news where people will buy names of big companies or even key word names knowing that somebody down the road may want that name and almost like gambling.

ENRICO: In many cases it is, and the cybersquatter doesn't know what they are doing is illegal or unlawful or creates liability to them. They think it's a great idea and they simply register the domain of a major company, changing the words around a little bit and the next thing that happens is they get a threat letter from an attorney say, "you're a cybersquatter and we're going to sue you if you don't turn over the domain." Now, if they've offered to sell that domain to the trademark owner, they're dead in the water. They are a cybersquatter and they would lose a court case concerning that issue. So that's the first one, John. That's the first typical thing we see that establishes bad faith.

JOHN: What other things would we see that would establish bad faith?

ENRICO: Well there are some other examples. If you simply register a domain name to prevent the trademark owner from getting the domain, that's also an element that shows bad faith. So, if I happened to be Netscape and I want to preclude Microsoft from getting a domain of a new product they are putting out say Vista, the new operating system, and so if Netscape were to hear that there was going to be a new system and Microsoft was silly enough to fail to register, not only the domain, but all versions of that domain and Netscape registered a version of that domain, it would be pretty clear that Netscape was simply registering it to prevent Microsoft from getting it. This typically occurs between competitors and that would in fact show bad faith registration and thus cybersquatting. That's the second one, John.

JOHN: What else would establish bad faith, Enrico?

ENRICO: Well, there are other examples as well and if you simply trying, and this one is related to the last one that you typically see among the competitors, but if you register a domain simply to disrupt the purpose of the business of a competitor, that would also be an element of bad faith. And then the fourth thing we often see is that people will register a domain name simply for commercial gain to attract website visitors to their website using someone else's trademark. So, some of the early examples that we talked about would apply here. If someone were to register traverse-legal.com, and therefore, they would be using our trademark and if they had no legitimate use for that mark and there was simply a link site which had a bunch of Google adwords links on it, that would establish that they are a bad faith cybersquatter because they're actually getting paid for everyone that comes to that site that then clicks through to one of these adword links, but they are getting paid by Google for all these referrals. So, that's the most common thing we see out there. There are huge companies that simply register or take expiring domains and through these link programs on the domains. They have no legitimate use or interest in the domain name, but they know there is traffic that is going to be coming there and so they will simply pickup the domain, they'll put there little software program on it that puts these links on the domains, and they'll drive commercial benefit profit from people who are unfortunate enough to land there and think it's traverselegal.com
and click through to an unrelated site perhaps even a competitor. This brings us to the classic situation which is where people forget or fail to re-register the domain name, and one of these giant companies has gotten the domain name on reserve because they see that it's coming up for expiration and that automatically gets scooped up by that company that's cybersquatting, a link site goes on it, sometimes it's pornography and boom all of a sudden, you've got a huge problem, because not only do you lose your website, but everyone who comes to visit your website is seeing unrelated activity and in some instances it's pornography.

JOHN: Now, Enrico, you do have a website and contact information that people can speak to you about these important subjects, can you give me that please?

ENRICO: Sure, John, I am an attorney and founding attorney at Traverse Legal. We are a high-tech internet based, technology based law firm which can be found at www.traverselegal.com
or at www.thetechnologylawyer.com. Our phone number is (231) 932-0411 and you can always send me an email at enrico@traverselegal.com.

JOHN: Well thank you for being on the program with us today, Enrico.

ENRICO: Thanks for having me John.

JOHN: You are listening to VTalk Radio's Tech Spotlight. We've been in the studio with Enrico Schaefer of Traverse Legal
based in Traverse City, Michigan. Thank you for joining us today.

ENRICO: No problem, John, it was my pleasure.

August 01, 2007

Chuck Newton Can Save Your Lungs (Or, Another Reason To Go Paperless.)

Chuck Newton over at the Third Wave Lawyer, brings us a disturbing article which tells us that your standard laser printer can give off as much particulate as second-hand smoke thereby causing damage to your lungs.  Check out the post and article. (Welcome back, Chuck.  We missed you!)

July 28, 2007

"Tip of the Week" - Make Sure You Know Who Owns Your Website - Domain Name, Design, Content, and Coding!

There was an excellent post recently regarding who owns your website/blog?   It is an important discussion as more and more services are cropping up willing to design, code and host your site.  But when you hire their services are they also going to own your domain name, content, design and coding making you captive to their services or you lose all the 'link love' and SEO you created should you switch services?

This is an important discussion and it is well discussed by Brett Trout, a copyright attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. 

Because these clients paid money for their website, they think they own things like:

  • The design of their website;
  • The software code behind their website;
  • Their domain name;
  • The graphics on their website;
  • The other content on their website;
  • The terms of use and privacy policies on their websites.

Most clients think they are obtaining an “assignment” of these things when they write a check. They are shocked to learn that the people they paid to create these things actually still own them. Intellectual property laws are designed to protect the creator, to encourage the creator to create. If you hire someone to design a website for you, what you are actually purchasing is a “license” to use the design for the use intended by you and the designer.

One of the easiest steps you can take is to go to any number of domain registration sites and register your domain name on your own.  It's fast, easy and I would recommend you register any variation on the theme with not just .com but .net, .org, etc.  Grab what you can.  It's a tiny, tiny investment you can make now to protect a marketing vehicle which will prove your most valuable in the future.

July 24, 2007

You Want to Be Competitive? Go Paper - 'Less'.

The future is upon us.  And solo practitioners who want to be lean, mean and competitive have the technological tools to rocket ahead.  These tools, when used properly, will help you to create the ultimate paper - 'Less' office.  Paperless does not mean 'no paper.'  It means LESS paper. 

Going paper - "Less" means configuring the right hardware and software for yourself and it remains subjective because there is a huge technological world out there with many products.  The basics remain the same, however.

This is why I invited Grant Griffiths to guest post on the elements of his paper - "Less" office.  Grant is a solo practitioner and home office lawyer.  He's got it down to a science. The programs he recommends work for him and he is partial to Macintosh. But it gives you an insight into the basic products needed.

The Paper - "Less" Office - Grant Griffiths, Home Office Lawyer

"I am quite honored Susan has asked me again for a guest post for this great blog. Susan and I recently had a discussion concerning my method of using a paper - "Less"/Virtual Office in my law practice. During that visit, Susan stated to me, "you realize you are describing to me your next guest post?" And she was right. Below is a description of how I use the technology, both hardware and software available to everyone.

In order for me to handle the case load I do and to be able to travel from one county courthouse to another, I had to utilize a paper-"Less"/Virtual Office model. Because I no longer care physical files with me to court or appointments with clients, I had to make sure the main piece of hardware I was using was the most reliable on the market. The only choice in my opinion is the Apple MacBook or MacBook Pro. The hardware is outstanding and, best of all, it works. The OSX operating system is stable and not subject to viruses or worms. The next piece of the hardware puzzle is the scanner. Price, reliability and function were the key features I looked for. And I found all of that in the Fujitsu ScanSnap. The ScanSnap “quickly converts paper documents into PDF files you can organize, share, and protect.“

With the MacBook and ScanSnap I scan every document that comes into my office each day. In order to organize the number of documents I get in my family law practice, I set each client up on my harddrive in a virtual file cabinet. Each client has a folder for each case or matter I am handling for them. And inside each folder are sub-folders designed to handle the different type of documents we deal with. From pleadings, discovery, notes, experts reports and billing. With this simple system, every document for every client in my practice is at my finger tips. Even if I am not in the office. It is actually quite amazing how fast I can locate a document with this system when I am in court or on the phone. With just a few clicks of the mouse or touchpad, I have the document right there in front of my on the computer display. (Depending upon the file management program used, clients can have 24/7 password protected access to their files to know the status of their case.)

Next, for those cases which are contested and going to trial, I use a wonderful program called Circus Ponies Notebook. And to take Notebook even one step further, I set up the Notebook just like those legal binders you can buy from Bindertek. With Notebook, you can even color code the tabs to match those in Bindertek. You simply link or copy all the documents and discovery into Notebook and you have a virtual trial notebook. With this great tool, you can find what you need in trial fast and easy. And what is best, are the looks and stares you will get from opposing counsel when you can locate their exhibits and documents faster than they can.

Finally, in order to maintain the paper-"Less" office to its next level, I don't own a traditional fax machine. What I use is my Mac Mini which I have set up as my file/fax server. On the Mini and the MacBook, I have a program called pagesender. With pagesender, all of my faxes come into my Mini and are emailed to my MacBook no matter where I might be. When a fax arrives that needs my signature, I sign it by pasting my signature in the correct location in the document. I have my signature saved to my desktop. I rarely if ever, print any of my faxes to hard copy. Once I have reviewed them, I do a number of things with them. I save them to the client’s virtual file folder for the case it is associated with. Next, I email a copy to my client. I try to educate my clients on the importance of using email in this way. If another attorney or party is involved in the case, I will email them a copy of the same document. Or send them a fax of the document. If by chance there is a document I need to fax and it is not in my virtual file cabinet, I just scan it with the ScanSnap and send it off with pagesender. All of this has been done and the document has never been printed.

One thing we all need to keep in mind however is, we will never have a paperless office. That is why I too use the word paper-"Less.". I do maintain originals I may need in trial as an exhibit.

By using the paper-"Less"/virtual office described above, I have been able to work out of a home office without the need for walls full of file cabinets, a loud and expensive copier and piles of file folders taking up good carpet space."

Grant Griffiths publishes and maintains the Home Office Lawyer Blog. In addition he is in the process of developing a new program called Blawg for Profit. Grant is working with Michael Sherman on this project. Grant also publishes the Kansas Family & Divorce Lawyer blog which has been a great marketing tool in his practice.