No Smoke and Mirrors: Smokeball Is an Impressive Toolbox for Law Firm Management

Smokeball is a law practice management software with document assembly capabilities. Smokeball has an unusual name, to be sure; but, it actually comes from a famous legal case, which just about every substantive law-loving attorney can appreciate. (I love the smell of precedent in the morning.) Smokeball was founded in 2010 and has been adding useful features for law firms ever since. But, amidst the explosion of interest in legal tech software that has generated since the coronavirus pandemic, Smokeball has made some serious moves, including taking on $30 million in investment in early October to promote its further development and growth. And, with that cash infusion in its back pocket, Smokeball is building on an already impressive foundation, which will be addressed below. Frankly, with all the features already in place, it’s going to be pretty exciting to see what Smokeball will be able to add, moving forward, with new investment funds. Passive Aggressive: Smokeball’s Passive Timekeeping Application Is Smokin’ If law firm attorneys and staff hate manual time tracking – and, honestly, how could they not? – Smokeball includes a native passive timekeeping program that captures user time automatically as tasks are completed. If you’ve not heard of a “passive” timekeeping tool, it is a program that logs time automatically for specific timekeepers within the system by tracking their web-based activities. This solves the problem of contemporaneous timekeeping and allows lawyers to avoid the always-problematic situation that results when attorneys (and other law office timekeepers) have to reconstruct large swaths of time after the fact — which often results in write-offs, and missed billables. The passive timekeeper feature available in Smokeball works for internal Smokeball operations, as well as with integrated software, like Microsoft 365. All such captured time is pending until the user manually finalizes it. Eliminating

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Attorney at Work’s Top 20 Articles of the Year

The most-read articles on Attorney at Work this year focused on personal technology how-tos, along with law firm management, productivity and profits. Another popular theme: lawyer wellbeing. Or, in 2021 parlance, “me-ssential” advice on why and how to prioritize self-care activities (like sleep) and protect your time. Counting Down the Top 20 of 2021 When 2020 finally ended, we searched for a word to encapsulate the year. “Unprecedented” and “Pandemic” topped the list at dictionary sites, beating out personal favorite “hellscape,” and those themes dominated Attorney at Work’s content. For 2021, “vax” and “vaccine” have achieved word-of-the-year status at The Guardian and Mirriam-Webster, respectively. As Mirriam-Webster says, “For many, the word symbolized a possible return to the lives we led before the pandemic.” Emphasis on the word “possible,” as we spent the year in a strange, slightly unfocused limbo, doing our best to improve our personal workspaces and daily efficiency habits while waiting for definitive announcements on hybrid work and WFH policies — and vaccination requirements. “Vaccine” was also selected word of the year because it has been at the center of debates about personal choice, political affiliation, professional regulations … and so much more. For the business word of the year, Grammarly put forward the following somewhat cringy but apt contenders: “Rethrival,” “communigreat,” “stratiskilled,” “flexpert,” “fur bomb,” “greenhousing,” “jammagabbing,” “blursday (what day is it?)” “spark-tacular,” and “me-ssential,” a word that encapsulates the movement to prioritize self-care and wellness in the workplace. Here, then, are the most popular, spark-tacular posts published by Attorney at Work in 2021, based solely on page views. Thanks to all of our contributors for sharing their expertise (flex and otherwise), creative thinking and support this year. Here’s to your rethrival in the new year. The Top 20 Articles of 2021 Countdown 20. “These are a

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Vth Surana & Surana and Shaastra IIT Madras IP Law Moot Competition 2022

bout the Competition The Surana & Surana & Shaastra IIT Madras, Intellectual Property Law Moot Court Competition shall be held on 13th, 15th & 16th January 2022 virtually (online). Any clarification sought in respect of the case should be addressed by email to [email protected] before 2nd January 2022. IP Moot PosterThe competition is open only for students who are enrolled in an LLB three year or five-year course during the current academic year. 16 teams will be selected on the basis of their memorials for participation. Online registrations are open from 6th December 2021. The teams must register online by 31st December 2021. Teams will have to register online at www.moot.in. Teams will receive an automated system generated acknowledgement on successful submission of registration. Important Dates Start of Online Registration: 6th December 2021 Last date for Online Registration: 31st December 2021 Last date of issue of clarifications: 2nd January 2022 Last Date for Submission of Memorials –Soft copy by email (both applicant and respondent)for selection of participating teams: 7th January 2022 (5.00 pm) Confirmation of teams after evaluation of memorials: 11th January 2022 (11.00 am) Orientation: 13th January 2022 Prelims/Quarters/Semi-final: 15th January 2022 Finals, Valediction & Prize Announcement: 16th January 2022 Moot Problem Surana-Surana-and-Shaastra-IIT-Madras-IP-Law-Moot-Court-Competition-2022-Moot-Proposition Contact details for Clarification Regarding Case Head, IPR Surana & Surana International Attorneys Email: [email protected] Ph: 91 – 044 – 2812 0000, Fax: 91 – 44 – 2812 0001 Regarding Online Registration Preetam Surana (National Administrator) Surana & Surana International Attorneys Advocate & Head, AcademicInitiatives Head ( Admin) Litigation & Arbitration Practice Email: [email protected] Ph: 91 – 044 – 2812 0000, Fax: 91 – 44 – 2812 0001 Student Heads Arvind Car +91 8939031073 Nithin +91 9361334004 Coordinators Asritha +91 9346651649 Abhiram +91 6305872015 For Registration / Memorial Submission Asritha +91 9346651649 Abhiram +91 6305872015 Rules

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5 Ways to Gift Yourself More Time This Holiday Season

Most lawyers I know have at least one thing in common. No matter their practice areas, or the size of their firm, or their work setting, they all wish they had more time. More time to live, to work, to spend with family, to exercise and on and on. Think of all the things you’d like to do if you just had more time. So, give yourself the gift of more time this holiday season. With these five ideas, you can create more time in your life to do some of those things you’d do with more time. Perhaps you will even have time to achieve your New Year’s resolutions for 2022! 1. Detox Your Contacts Assess whether the people in your life make it more difficult to have the life and practice you want. Do they take more than their share of your resources — late-night calls, impossible to please, extreme lateness, repeated last-minute cancellations, or constant “fire drills”? Think about what your practice would be like without those clients. How could you use those same resources to improve your life, your time, your services to other clients? It might be worth it to end a personal or client relationship to better use your resources for yourself and other clients who do not monopolize your time and energy or compromise your sanity. 2. Hire Someone to Take on Tasks  Are you trying to do it all yourself? Or maybe you are handling too many aspects of your business life or personal life? Assess the tasks that are never completed on time. See if there are any items that remain on your to-do list for months. These could be work-related or personal tasks. Maybe you need to hire a bookkeeper or a paralegal so you can focus on building your

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UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES – THE UNSUNG HEROES

>John Vithayathi John Vithayathi, who is currently pursuing his LLM degree from NUALS, Kochi, analyses the role of unwritten Constitutional principles in Indian Jurisprudence, vis-à-vis the Canadian Position. Introduction The Canadian Supreme Court passed a historic yet highly controversial judgement [Toronto (City) v. Ontario (Attorney General), 2021 S.C.C. 34 (Can)] recently. ‘Unwritten Constitutional Principles cannot be used as a device for invalidating legislation, that does not otherwise infringe the written constitutional provisions’. Supreme Court of Canada in Toronto (City) v. Ontario (Attorney General) Paradoxical as it may seem, this very same judgement that negates the value of unwritten constitutional principles also opens up an avenue for contemplating the nature and, more importantly, the function performed by such principles in the modern constitutional setup. This blog seeks to evaluate the status of unwritten constitutional principles in the Indian constitutional jurisprudence and explains how they might, quite ironically, be more deeply entrenched in the Constitution than a few written ones. Dichotomy of Opinions A constitution bench of the Canadian Supreme Court was considering the validity of a provincial legislation that redrew ward boundaries and reduced the number of wards while campaigns were underway for municipal elections in the city of Toronto. The question before the court was whether the legislation could be struck down if found contravening an unwritten constitutional principle such as democracy.  The majority bench answered the question in the negative, thereby effectively relegating unwritten constitutional principles to merely interpretative tools ‘that may aid in the purposive interpretation of the expressly mentioned provisions.’ The majority gave a very interesting justification for its decision by opining that a legislation that does not infringe the express provisions of the Constitution cannot be considered as being repugnant to the basic constitutional structure.  In an equally vociferous albeit minority opinion, Justice R.S. Abella endorsed

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Is It OK to Pay Referral Fees?

In most practice areas, a lawyer’s marketing efforts should focus on generating a strong referral pipeline — from both business colleagues and other lawyers alike. If those efforts are successful, you’ll probably need some guidance on attorney referral fees. Here it is. There are Clear Guidelines—Mostly No referral fees permitted for non-lawyers Can lawyers pay referral fees to non-lawyers? Most attorneys know they cannot share fees with non-lawyers. The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, adopted by most states, are quite clear. Rule 5.4 (a) states that “a lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a non-lawyer.” Rule 7.2 (b) states that “a lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services.” A referral fee is certainly something of value. (See Michael Downey’s article in the ABA Litigation Journal, here, explaining the nuances of Rule 7.2(b) and the “nominal” gifts of gratitude allowed.) Referral fees permitted for lawyers Attorneys can share referral fees with other attorneys, as long as they comply with the governing ethics rules. Under Rule 1.1 of the Model Rules, for example, “lawyers” can only refer to competent lawyers. Rule 1.5 (e) specifically governs referral fees between attorneys, and spells out certain requirements, including these three: The division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;The client agrees to the arrangement, including the share each lawyer will receive, and the agreement is confirmed in writing; andThe total fee is reasonable. While the last two clauses are self-explanatory, many lawyers have questions about the meaning of the first clause. Some mistakenly believe that all fee division arrangements must be proportional. The rule is clear that this is not the only option. Non-proportional arrangements are allowed if “each lawyer assumes joint responsibility.”

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Fashion Law: appreciation vs. appropriation

Gargi Yadav, a 3rd Year law student pursuing BBA LLB (Hons.) from The Northcap University explains the relation between appreciation and appropriation in fashion law. Introduction Perhaps the most clear-cut and significant definition of cultural appropriation was given by Susan Scafidi, an author and law professor at Fordham University, who wrote in her book “who owns culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American law” as follows. “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”(1)   Susan Scafidi, “Who Owns Culture?: Appropraition and Authenticity in American Law” While this may appear to be a well-intentioned act that treads on the foundation of cultural inspiration, the danger of such appropriation is that the cultural outcome may one day become entirely disconnected from its original community. In fashion, cultural appropriation refers to the usage of non-dominant culture in a way that disregards its original meaning or fails to give credit to its source. It is not a new phenomenon but has existed for decades. Consider the seventeenth century. The three-piece suit, which is the typical ensemble of Islamic nations, was adopted by English and French aristocracy. Similarly, dandies from the English Regency period adopted the Indian “churidar” into the slim fitting pants. “Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes of where it originated, but is deemed ‘high fashion,’ ‘cool’ or ‘funny’ when the privileged take it for themselves. When power is imbalanced, cultures are no longer mingling; they’re being redefined externally

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Take Control of Your Calendar With Outlook Categories

Is your day filled with internal meetings, Zoom calls with clients, and trips to the courthouse? Manage it all at a glance with Outlook categories. Try these tricks, adapted from Affinity Consulting Group’s “Microsoft Outlook for Legal Professionals.” Introduction to Categories Categories allow you to “color-code” emails, tasks, appointments and contacts. Categories carry across Outlook. If you create a new category while updating an appointment, that same category will be available for email, tasks and contacts. Categories can be used to color-code things, and they can be used to filter. Each category is assigned a color. While you can assign multiple categories the same color, most people assign each category a unique color to help distinguish them at a glance. Color-coding is especially useful on your calendar. Setting Up Categories From your email, categories are found on the Home ribbon. From your calendar, click on an appointment to open the Meeting tab where you’ll find categories. You can also find them by right-clicking on an email, appointment, task or contact. Whichever way you open the categories dialog, from Categorize, select All Categories… at the bottom of the list. Outlook contains categories like red, blue and yellow out of the box. Either rename those to something meaningful to you or delete them and start from scratch. When setting up categories, think about ways you’d like to color-code your calendar (or emails, tasks and contacts). What do you want to be able to tell at a glance? Do you want to know whether your meetings are internal ones, ones with the client, or ones with the court? Set up a category for each of those. For example, if internal meetings are yellow, client meetings are red, and hearings are blue, just by glancing at your Outlook calendar, you’ll know what types of

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Marketing and Business Development: Show and Tell

Say what you will, but when it comes to effective marketing and business development, how you act matters more than the words you choose. If you spend any time reading lawyer bios (as I do), you will run across characteristics lawyers emphasize to differentiate themselves. Qualities like responsiveness, creativity, writing skills, thoroughness and pragmatism are regularly inserted in LinkedIn profiles and website bios. I’m all for identifying and promoting the things that set you apart from others. However, it’s important to remember that people’s impressions are based on their experiences with you more than on your words. Creating Impressions Through Your Marketing Activities Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of clients and representatives of the community complain about board members who consistently miss meetings, speakers who don’t submit their materials before the meeting or authors who miss due dates. Your marketing and business development activities have the potential to either demonstrate or damage your professional brand. Here are some examples. Proposals or pitches When you have opportunities to get new business, do you: Make an effort to research the entity, individuals and opportunity?Ask the prospect informed questions so you can tailor your response?Answer all the questions that have been asked?Find out the preferred form or format of the pitch or proposal?Meet the deadline? Presentations If you have a speaking opportunity, do you: Pay attention to the organization’s desired topics and formats?Tailor your program to the audience?Respond in a timely way to requests for bios, session descriptions and session titles?Submit your paper or slide deck on time? Board or committee memberships As a leader of a group or association, do you: Show up — and show up on time?Come prepared to the meetings (e.g., read the agenda and prepare materials/information in advance)?Follow through on your assignments? rticles When you are

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Outsourcing Your Legal Blog Requires Collaboration

Recently, a marketing company asked me to take over writing the blog posts for one of its clients, a law firm that specializes in construction law. According to my contact, while their marketers are “quick to learn, they are not legal experts, and our client has made the comment they need to spend more time than they would like to with revisions.” What I thought was, “Duh. You’ve hired a group of non-lawyers to write posts that sound like they were written by an expert in construction law.” What I said was, “It sounds like you have an issue with this client’s expectations.” Outsourcing Your Legal Blog is Not a ‘Set-it-and-Forget-it’ Endeavor It’s impractical to expect third-party marketers to write as if they are lawyers. Just like clients hire lawyers because we can effectively help them with their legal problems, we hire marketers because they have expertise in marketing. They probably didn’t go to law school, and definitely haven’t spent years focusing on any area of law for 40-plus hours a week. Additionally, each legal specialty has its own jargon and rules that are unfamiliar to outsiders. It will take time for even the brightest marketers and copywriters to build up their knowledge base so they can write more efficiently. What to Expect When Outsourcing Your Legal Blog If you want to outsource any aspect of your content marketing — blog posts, social media posts, videos — expect to have an ongoing dialogue with your marketing team. At the beginning of your relationship, your marketing team will need a crash course in your area of law. Here’s my recommendation: As part of the onboarding process, schedule three two-hour meetings with your marketing team. The first meeting will be more of an academic lecture where you will teach your marketing team

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