Sunday, April 30, 2006

Switching gears

Time for a Sunday update. I'm switching gears.

Last Monday I attended the PBI's 10th Internet Law Update, getting me 6 of the 12 CLE credits I need to maintain my law license. This is a really good program but I noticed that it was somewhat repetitive from last year, so I don't think I'll go in 2007. One of the presenters was one of my employer's in-house counsel, so I introduced myself and got to answer the usual, "So why are you working as an engineer?" question.

I also ran into an attorney who I worked with closely back before I switched careers. I hadn't seen him since 1999 and my beard through him off, so he didn't recognize me immediately. It was nice to catch up.

Thursday and Friday I attended PBI's 12th Employment Law Institute. This got me another 12 CLE credits, so I'm halfway done my requirement for 2006 - 2007 (I'm in the 5/1 - 4/30 compliance group.) This was the fourth or so ELI I've attended and they've been uniformly excellent. There is a wide variety of workshops to attend, and I focused on those relating to technology in the workplace.

When I practiced law for a living, plaintiff's employment discrimination made up the bulk of my work. It wasn't the area I wanted to practice in and frankly, I grew to seriously dislike it, for several reasons. One is that most of our clients were very high maintenance, to put it politely. Second, despite how the Supreme Court ruled, I don't believe that the ADA is fully constitutional -- parts of it violate the free association clause of the First Amendment. Finally, it's an area of the law where you see even good people at their worst. Representing management in employment issues was also a lot more pleasant than representing plaintiffs, if for no other reason that we usually got paid in a timely manner. Unfortunately, I found it hard to drum up that kind of business.

In contrast, when handling business, contract, and trademark matters, I found the work to be quite interesting, not to mention a lot less confrontational than litigation. This kind of business was harder to generate, as well.

As it turns out, I've had a couple people approach me recently about handling some legal matters in the nature of setting up LLCs, crafting commercial use policies for websites, and reviewing contracts. Just by participating in various online fora and becoming friends with small businessmen, I've been doing networking. The other thing that helps now is that with my experience working in the business world for the past seven years, I have a better perspective of what clients needs. Most recent law school grads don't, and most never do develop a businessman's perspective. This can only help me.

To be honest, working in technology has gotten to be a little boring of late. Something else I'm concerned with is that tech is mainly a young man's game, and I'm already in my later 30s. I'm a little worried that at some point I'm going to run into a brick wall due to my age. In contrast, having gray hair seems to help a male attorney's credibility. (And I've already got a lot.)

So Friday during some down time I created a spreadsheet listing things I need to do to start up a part-time law practice. It looks like this is something I can do part-time to start while building up a client base. As long as I don't take on any clients who do business with my current employer I won't run into any conflict of interest problems.

One of the things I need to do that'll be of most interest to my readers is what technology I'll be using. To say that law office tech has developed dramatically since 1999 is putting it mildly. The firm at which I practiced used dated technology but wasn't alone in doing so in 1999. For example, our primary app was WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, running on PCs running MS DOS 6.2 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 on top of Lantastic. (Lantastic was one big piece of junk, let me tell you.) I do want to keep my practice primarily Macintosh-based, but I'll put up a separate post discussing that.

In the interim, if you're in Pennsylvania and in need of an attorney to help you with a non-litigation business matter, drop me a line with the general nature of your issue (but don't include anything that's sensitive in unencrypted email!) at dave {at}

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