And the storm rages on

Hurricane Katrina came and went almost six years ago, but the litigation it spawned is nowhere near complete. And more surprisingly, there are new Katrina-related lawsuits still being filed daily.

In Louisiana, many lawsuits are subject to one year liberative prescription. What that means, effectively, is that after an accident or storm or other event that damages a person, that person has one year to bring a lawsuit to make him whole, either against the person who did him harm or against his insurer or both. Normally, if the person doesn’t bring his lawsuit within the one-year window, he can never bring it.

But after Katrina, the legislature extended the normal prescriptive period because of the huge number of insurance claims and the general disorder left in the storm’s wake. The legislature extended the deadline from August 29, 2006, to September 1, 2007, unless a longer period was provided by law or contract.

But a recent Louisiana Supreme Court decision has effectively extended that deadline indefinitely. Continue reading

Book Review: Typography for Lawyers

Full disclosure: I’m a design nerd. I love good design. Good design — whether it’s in the shape of my Macbook Pro or in the syntax of the Ruby programming language — makes me happy. I notice it, and I’m willing to pay for.

In the opening pages of his exceptional book, Typography for Lawyers, Matthew Butterick reminds us that every producer — especially lawyers — should pay attention to his product’s design. But what do lawyers produce? Documents. Lots and lots of documents. But many lawyers don’t even know they should be thinking about document layout and design. Typography for Lawyers is where those lawyers should start. Continue reading

HTTPS Everywhere by the EFF

Recently, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released the 1.0 version of its Firefox extension, HTTPS Everywhere.

HTTPS Everywhere makes Firefox use the SSL-encrypted version of certain websites automatically. It works in the background to redirect your regular HTTP traffic to HTTPS if it’s available. So, for example, when you click a link on http://facebook.com that someone sent you, the extension automatically rewrites your request to connect to the encrypted version of the site instead.

Sadly, the extension only protects you when the websites you access support HTTPS. But it’s a great start for secure web browsing.

Network Security for Attorneys: VPN Tunnels

I ran across Ernie the Attorney’s post about mobility and security a while back, and some of the comments talked about using a VPN for network security outside the office. But they assumed you know what a VPN is and what it’s for.

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and refers to a family of technologies that work together to connect two or more remote computers to one another as if they were attached to the same physical network. Usually the connection is encrypted and provides other security features to verify the identities of the computers involved.

But what’s that mean for you? As used by most mobile attorneys, a VPN will let an internet-connected mobile user connect to his office network and use its resources as if here were physically connected to it. For example, if you set up a VPN connection to your office network from a public airport wifi network, you can use the networked printer in your office or connect to the fileserver stashed in your wiring closet as if you were there.

Properly set up, a VPN can also help you protect sensitive data and conceal your online activity when you use unencrypted public wireless networks. In addition to using network resources like your office printer, you can also use your office’s internet connection, making it appear to the outside world that all the surfing and emailing you do outside the office originates from the office. Continue reading

Bento and the Zen of Client File Management

When we opened our firm, I had no idea how to run a law office; they don’t teach that in law school. Early on, my girlfriend gave me Jay Foonberg’s How to Start & Build a Law Practice. And while some of the information in it is painfully outdated (first edition © 1976), it was a good starting point.

But I put off setting up a formal file management system. Why bother? It was easy to keep track of three files with nothing in them. After a while, it got harder. Did I send a disengagement letter for that case? When you asked for the Smith file, did you mean his divorce file or his estate plan? Is that case open or closed? What’s the next step in that case over there?

So I broke out the Foon’s book and turned to the chapter entitled “Simple Hard-Copy Filing Systems for the New Lawyer.” I like simple, and the Foon was serious about the simple part. Continue reading