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A Familiar Hat

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Our Firm gives out a lot of promotional Joel Bieber items. For instance, I try to leave a Joel Bieber pen whenever I eat at restaurants. That leads to a story that was told to me yesterday that made me smile.

The father of one of our lawyers in the Richmond office, recently went on a cruise that left from the port of Jacksonville, Florida. During the travel of the first day at sea, he was walking around while wearing a Joel Bieber hat. It is one of my favorite promotional items.

As he was preparing to get in line for the noon buffet, another man walked up to him to ask about his hat. He told the man that his son worked at the Firm in Richmond. In response, the man asking about the hat smiled, “Well, my daughter works as a paralegal at the Joel Bieber Firm in South Carolina”.

And for pic o’ day, if you like Lab puppies then…

Lab Results

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Don’t Talk Like a Lawyer

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Hall-of-Fame broadcaster John Madden was known for stating the obvious. He would say such things as, “It’s 3rd and 20…They need a good play here.” or “When its raining the field gets wet, then all of a sudden everyone is running slower”.Madden

In describing one player during one of his broadcasts, he stated “There’s a lot of letters in Ladanian Tomlinson”. He just kept it simple and it served him well. In fact, his simplicity ultimately led him to great wealth from a game.

Madden knew nothing about using computers during the early 80′s, except that he would use a telestrator to show the television audience how players were moving on the field with a diagram over the play screen. In 1984, game designer Trip Hawkins set up a meeting with Madden to discuss creating a football game for computers. As a side note, the meeting took place on a train because Madden traveled on Amtrak. He had/has a great fear of flying.

Madden had once taught a class at the University of California, Berkeley called “Football for Fans” as a way to teach and test plays. So, when Madden was approached about being endorser for a computerized football simulation for computers, Madden was interested. Hence, the computerized game of Madden NFL (originally John Madden Football) was born.

To this day, Madden sees the game as an educational tool. In 2012, he was asked to describe the game and he simply stated that it is “a way for people to learn the game and participate in the game at a pretty sophisticated level”. That’s it. A game that comes out with a yearly new version generating sales of more than 4 billion in total revenue for the game… and Madden sees it as a “teaching tool”.

Not only does Madden see it simply; He also feels it financially. Even though he has retired from the franchise in doing the announcing voice for the game, he continues to loan his name and likeness to the game.  At one point, he signed a 10 year deal with the game maker for a total payout of 150 million dollars. Now that he has retired, it may be a little less… but the money machine continues to roll in the millions for him, just for his likeness.

Keeping it simple also reminds me of a childhood story. As I was helping my grandfather feed the pigs in their barn area, I was struck by how they were so aggressive for their food and how their area was so muddy. I asked my grandfather why they were acting like that over food and why their area was always so dirty. His simple response… “because they are pigs”. Yep!

Both of these illustrations serve as a lesson to us at the law firm. Regularly, I attend seminars on how to be a better lawyer. If I could boil down the advice given from some of the best speakers in the nation, it would be in one sentence… “stop acting like a lawyer”. The words like Whereas and Wherefore really don’t help anyone.

I have heard several lawyers give the advice to just tell the story and then get out of the way and let the jury decide. The worst thing I can do as a lawyer is to get in the way of the evidence. Just keep it simple.

And for pic o’ day, I’m sure this sounds familiar if you have ever been a dog owner :

alone

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Milk: Health or Hurt

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

“Don’t let that cow kick you”, my grandfather said as I stood next to him with the bucket. It was sometime around 4 a.m. and I was three or four years old. At that age and time of morning, you are not thinking of milking a cow or of getting out of the way. You really aren’t thinking.

Having lived on a farm until I was seven still makes me feel connected to farming. While I admit that I don’t know much about planting and harvesting, I do know how to manually milk a cow. A bit of a lost art for those brought up with the electric milk machine; Or better yet, just grabbing a gallon of milk without giving a thought of how it got to the grocer’s case.

I don’t begrudge someone who has never milked a cow. That is still really early anyway. Still, we can all appreciate milk because of the great advertising campaign that, “Milk Does a Body Good”. At least that’s what we all thought.

That’s until a recent study that tells us that maybe it isn’t so good for us. (Detroit Free Press) According to a recent study from Sweden, women who drank three glasses of milk or more every day had nearly a doubled risk of death and cardiovascular disease with a 44% increase in cancer; compared to women who drank less than a glass a day.

The study also found that the risk of bone fracture for women increased by 16% when they drank at least three glasses of milk per day. For men? Researchers determined that their overall risk of death increased by 10%, when they drank at least 3 glasses per day.

These findings resulted from research involving 61,000 women and 45,000 men. One of the researchers explained the findings by explaining that milk has high levels of sugar which could contribute to these health risks.

These findings seem directly in contrast to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines that recommends three servings of dairy per day to supposedly help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

I suspect that there will be a new study to explain away these findings. A bit like the response to the ills of red meat. All of a sudden we heard the booming advertising voice tell us “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner”, while extoling the benefits of beef as part of a healthy diet. And, is pork really the other meat?

Maybe milk will tell us “It does a body and mind good”. Come to think of it, maybe the cow kicking me would have been safer than three glasses of milk.

And for pic o’ day, I reverted back to the costumes. Plus, bananas are healthy, right?

banana costume

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The Bacon Sentence

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Now that Halloween is over I guess it means the end of the costumes.

costumes

It means that the Ninja, Superhero, Dorothy, or the Lion and Tin Man costumes can go into the closet. I’m guessing that no one wore a Meat Dress like the one once worn by Lady Gaga. I have always wondered why Hardee’s and Wendy’s have advertised entire campaigns around Bacon. But that’s just me.

bacon

However, as you know, there are obviously some religions that take pork and bacon very seriously. The Judaism and Muslim religion adhere to anything connected to the unclean pig to be off-limits.

This takes me back to the June story at BBC.com where an 18-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man were jailed after they thought that they had pulled a prank on an Edinburgh Mosque.

The couple from Scotland had attached bacon to the handles of the mosque and then opened the door and thrown more strips inside. As a result, the pair was charged with behaving in a threatening or abusive manner, likely to cause fear and alarm. One pled guilty and the other was initially found guilty. They both ended up getting sentenced to nine months in prison.

As one member of the Muslim congregation stated, “it hurt my feelings when I saw this meat hanging inside tthe mosque in the worshiping place”. As a result, of the criminal charge to the pair and the resulting sentences, it’s clear that throwing bacon in Scotland is taken very seriously.

I did not originally blog on this story because I thought that ultimately the sentences would be reduced. I don’t believe that there was any reduction. I understand taking religious beliefs seriously. I just hope that I never see this kind of case and punishment  in the United States.

And for pic o’ day, how about Homework dog?

homework dog

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Categories : Current Affairs
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Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I am in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, where my nieces and nephews are getting excited about the treats…not the tricks.  So, I thought that the pic ‘s should be part of the theme.

Have a great weekend!

Halloween-Funny-Dog-2 boxer-dogs-in-costumes

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Authority is the Authority

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

You know the old saying that everyone has a boss… even when they are the boss. I have had a judge tell me that a trial was going to be scheduled during my vacation, and that his courtroom was not dictated by my schedule. Sure enough… he was not controlled by my schedule.

This week, the National Basketball Association kicked off its season. They have 3 referees at the game calling fouls and enforcing the rules. The refs are paid significantly less than the players but they are still the authority.

The rules of evidence, just like rules in a sports contest, are ultimately the rules that govern the play. There is always authority and consequences for not obeying authority, just as there are prison inmates who would ruefully tell us that they broke the rules.

I started the blog with all of that to lead to this video below. I know that you might have a device that will make it difficult to click and watch. In brief description, it shows a boxer who was not happy with a referee counting him out and stopping the fight. Then, he punched “the authority”. I am sure there will be consequences to pay!

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Settlement Negotiation Statements

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

At the beginning of every mediation in our office, the mediator will pass an agreement around for everyone in attendance to sign. The agreement includes language that says that all statements made during the mediation cannot be used as evidence in the trial of the matter.

That doesn’t mean that everyone expects the mediation to fail. It only means that everyone can be open about their perceived strengths and weaknesses of the case. It’s also why statements made during settlement negotiations involving amounts are not admissible at trial. Without such limitations, settlement discussions would be discouraged and settlements would occur  less frequently. Conversely, it’s why  I cannot get up and announce to the jury that the defendant has only offered $12,000 to settle the case.

This serves as a backdrop to the ultimate downfall of Chicago gangster Al Capone. (wiki)  His own admissions in negotiation served as the evidence to convict him.

Al_Capone_in_1930

Everyone knew that Capone was both violent and a bootlegger. However, he seemed above punishment because he knew where to pay money and he was also known as a modern day Robin Hood with his donations. All that changed after the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.

Gang members were lined up against a wall and shot. Everyone believed that Capone had a hand in it and there was a public outcry. Prosecutors were unable to charge Capone with any of the killings but they did ultimately charge him with tax evasion.

Despite living a life of financial excess that included regularly staying in luxury hotels with his entire entourage for weeks at a time, or buying a 14-room retreat in Florida; Capone did not have a checking account and always used Western Union for cash deliveries for amounts less than $1,000. As a result, prosecutors were having a difficulty in pursuing their case against him.

Capone decided to negotiate a deal with prosecutors, rather than constantly dodging and weaving income evidence. In negotiations, he admitted his income in an attempt to arrive at a final tax payment resolution. When settlement negotiations broke down… the judge let his settlement admissions into evidence.

Capone was ultimately convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He appealed the evidence but lost on appeal, despite his proper claim that the evidence of settlement negotiations should never have been put before the jury. He knew that his reputation kept him from having his conviction properly overturned.

Not surprising, the Judge and prosecutors were later rewarded in their careers by putting Capone in prison. One of those “the end justified the means”.

Capone never recovered from spending time in prison. He lost his position as a crime boss and ultimately died at the age of 48, while also having suffered from dementia in the latter days of his life.

And for our pic o’ day…

Dog no cat

      

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The Cause and Effects

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

 “Drop a pebble in the water: just a splash, and it is gone; But there’s half-a-hundred ripples Circling on and on and on, Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea. And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.” (James W. Foley)

Part of my job as a lawyer is to establish all the injury and damages from a crash. A while back I met with a doctor regarding his care for one of my clients. In the meeting, he told me that he did not like to tell his patients that they had a permanent injury. He felt that it would become self-limiting if they thought that they would never get better.

Sometimes in a jury trial, I will tell the jury about the injuries and medical bills in the case. Then I proceed to the elements of damage of my client that include pain and suffering and mental anguish. Sometimes that would make the jury roll their eyes just to hear the words pain and suffering. I think that they rolled their eyes because I didn’t do a very good job in conveying all that my client had suffered.

In one seminar that I attended, I heard a lawyer quantify pain and suffering. He reminded me that we gladly pay between $25-$75 for a shot of novacaine at the dentist’s office, just to be without pain for an hour. So, how much was pain and suffering worth for someone that was going to have it for the rest of their life.

Now, let me switch lanes here to discuss what would happen, if we could change our mental anguish. More specifically, studies have been done to reverse aging effects, just by changing environment, thinking and mindset. It kind of reminded me of that doctor who did not want his patients to think about their chronic pain and permanent injury.

The New York Times had a story in its Health section titled “What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?   I won’t be able to do justice to the study with a blog summary. Basically, it discusses the studies of a psychologist named Ellen Langer who believes that she has proven that we are what we think we are. She applied it to age.

age

Basically, she proved that we are as old as we think we are. In one study, she demonstrated in a study involving elderly at a nursing home, that memory can improve when incentives are given to remember. In another study, she brought 8 men in a controlled area and saw effects of the study that reversed the aging.

It’s admittedly a long article. For that reason, on a Monday you might not have time to read it. However, just as the effects of mental anguish may be overlooked; so may the effects of positive reinforcement. We are who we think we are!

 

And for pic o’ day…

 

calories

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No Sandwich Competition

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

I try to eat healthy at lunch. However, without fail, I am always greatly tempted by the sandwiches on the menu. Thinking about it right now even makes me hungry. That said, I am not a big fan of the sandwich shop Jimmy John’s. Just not a big fan of their sandwiches.

Now, I have learned that Jimmy John’s makes their new employees sign a non-compete agreement when they are hired. The agreement provides in part:

Employee covenants and agrees that, during his or her employment with the Employer and for a period of two (2) years after … he or she will not have any direct or indirect interest in or perform services for … any business which derives more than ten percent (10%) of its revenue from selling submarine, hero-type, deli-style, pita and/or wrapped or rolled sandwiches and which is located with three (3) miles of either [the Jimmy John's location in question] or any such other Jimmy John’s Sandwich Shop.

This is what a new employee signs as part of a bunch of paperwork when hired. For instance, this is restricting a sandwich maker or a delivery driver from jumping to a competitor for a period of two years. In the agreement, competitors are defined as any business that is near a Jimmy John’s location that receives at least 10% of the restaurant business from the sale of sandwiches.

Now, let’s really narrow it down to what it means. Jimmy John’s advertises that it has more than 6000 restaurants throughout the United States. Those locations are in 44 states. So, if a sandwich maker or a delivery driver happened to move to another state and tried to go to work at a restaurant that had that 10% sandwich ratio… boom, they would be in violation of their non-compete.

To be fair, I can understand how some employees who have served in management would have learned trade secrets. The non-compete would have some legitimate purpose. In legal terms, a legitimate business reason. However, such a broad restriction on all employees can surely have impact on someone’s ability to earn a living.

In the past, Jimmy John’s has been sued for “systematic wage theft” under a claim that employees were required to work off the clock. In addition, a class action suit was filed against them because they were regularly failing to put sprouts on sandwiches. Yep… sprouts!

Now, some workers are beginning to file suits relating to the non-compete, with a claim that it is oppressive. So, it appears that Jimmy John’s is fighting about wages, sprouts and competition. The business of making sandwiches sure seems to be pretty complex outside of the bread.

And for pic o’ day:

triangles

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Trusting the Doctor

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Dr. Custer was trying to tell us what might be important for an upcoming Bible test. Since we were a class of a bunch of ninth-graders, I am not sure that I can even imagine the expressions on our faces. Then he told us to remember what “walking circumspectly” was describing.

There are many things that I do not remember from school. I still remember the lesson on “walking circumspectly ”. Dr. Custer told us it was “walking with eyes in the back of your head”. Then, he physically demonstrated as though he was walking with eyes in the back of his head. Like the old saying, “be alert… we need more lerts!”.

That memory came to mind when I saw a Washington Post story about a trial that was scheduled to start on Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia. It also was a reminder that just because a person has Dr. in front of their name does not mean that they are not susceptible to greed and fraud.

Dr. Amir Bajoghli, owner of Skin & Laser Surgery Center, has been charged with 60 counts of fraud that involved his patients who were seen and treated between the years of 2009-2012. According to his indictment, he also billed insurance companies for surgeries that he did not perform. In addition, it is alleged that he had unlicensed and unqualified medical assistants to close wounds and perform skin grafts while unsupervised.

In fact, Dr. Bajoghli had been named as one of the regions “Best of”, when considering top dermatologists in the area.  He also had multiple offices throughout Virginia and the surrounding D.C. area.

The prosecutors intend to prove that this doctor performed unnecessary surgeries and also was intentionally misdiagnosing his patients with skin cancer. Not only profiting in his billing by intentionally providing insurance codes that allowed him higher reimbursement, but also scaring his patients by  telling them they falsely needed treatment for their skin cancer . Mostly, he was telling elderly people that “you have skin cancer and I have to operate (cut it off or out)”.

Pair that alleged fraud with the charge that he improperly billed and received $31,000 for procedures that were done improperly by a nurse practitioner or assistant.

Because I regularly see a dermatologist, I think that this kind of charge and trial hits close to home. Isn’t it true that we want to trust our doctors and in fact need to trust them? Hence, the reminder of the need of ”walking circumspectly”.

We basically have to have eyes in the back of our head today. It’s also why I don’t get excited about “Best of” lists. Instead, there is nothing like a personal referral. I gladly tell anyone to go see my dermatologist. It also reminds me of those Hotel commercials with “Captain Obvious”, who says that you should read the reviews of someone who has actually stayed in the room instead of a review from someone who was paid to write it . That really does seem obvious.

DID YOU KNOW that the Internet was originally called the ARPANet? (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network designed by the U.S. Department of Defense)

And for our pic o’ day, here’s a nod toward decisions for Halloween costumes:

Costume

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