Quote of the Day - My chances of racing in this year's Tour de France are slim to none. That's what got me out of bed every morning.
How Landis Handles The Court Of Public Opinion Offers Businesses A Case Study Opportunity
When the Court of Public Opinion turns its harsh light on you, how do you respond when you're in crisis mode? Let's take the doping charges facing cyclist Floyd Landis. Public relations wonks recommend immediate and full disclosure, along with a mea culpa, if appropriate. That advice makes stomachs of business lawyers do somersaults, especially when the Court of Public Opinion transforms into a court of law.
Right now, Mr. Landis steadfastly denies using any illegal substances that may have elevated his testosterone levels. Unless he's prepared to give up the title, he really can't say much else. If he issues a mea culpa, not only will he immediately drop out of the news, but he will also lose his victory. He doesn't have too many choices. It's defend or die. The Court of Public Opinion, however, may not be so harsh to businesses. But how do you communicate to your audience?
You can expect to hear those statements later in trial; there's no privilege that applies to exclude them from evidence. Then again, most cases settle, so should you even worry? Isn't the Court of Public Opinion more important? That depends on your audience, and how you want to be remembered. In Mr. Landis' case, his court trial will come quickly. Testing will be done immediately and evaluated by the officials at the Tour de France. In business, that trial won't come for a year or more, if ever.
But Mr. Landis' audience isn't the Tour de France. Or is it? Without the winner's title, there is no Court of Public Opinion. The second link in this post points to an Associated Press story that advises Mr. Landis to get a good - in fact a great - attorney. Should the AP's advice really advise Mr. Landis to get a good - in fact a great - public relations consultant instead?
MIPTC thinks perhaps both is best. The general advice of a PR consultant is to over-communicate extensively and consistently - both within and outside the company. At the same time, however, just prior to offering that extensive and consistent communication, check with your lawyer who can provide counsel about the effect of your statements down the road when you get to the court trial, if the crisis turns into litigation.
How would you handle Mr. Landis? What spin would you give the doping scandal? Who should speak - Landis or his lawyer? Like most, MIPTC believes Landis should speak to the public and his lawyer should speak to the Tour officials, and probably with a medical expert on testosterone.
Whatever the outcome, this situation presents a good case study on how businesses can handle the Court of Public Opinion, and the circus that comes with it.
Is Your Blog Fully Accessible? Check Out Skye's Twelve Tips For Compliance
You may have an easy time reading this blog if you are completely abled. If you're not, then it is apparently more difficult than I realized. For example, I thought we complied because MIPTC features a text-only site. While MIPTC has made a special effort to provide an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant site, I leaned today that we still have more to do to be friendly for all. At today's BloGher conference in San Jose, Blogger Skye Kilaen offered a presentation that many blawgs may want to consider.
Here are some of her recommendations:
(1) Create a strong color contrast between the text and the background. Black text on white background is preferred by people who have a difficult time seeing.
(2) Label your images. Those who are blind and use screen readers will have the benefit of your description of the photograph. Otherwise, they just hear just how the photograph was saved by the digital camera: "0072806.jpg."
(3) Resist visual CAPTCHAs. A CAPTCHA is that small screen of letters and numbers you have to somehow read and then input in the correct sequence to successfully leave a comment on a blog. MIPTC banned them just last month because they were too hard to use, even for those with full eyesight.
(4) Move your navigation bar to the right side or add a command for a screen reader to skip to the text of your most recent post. Otherwise, a blind person has to listen to your entire blogroll before getting to your topmost post.
(5) Use relative font sizes instead of point- or pixel-based fonts. MIPTC's text-only site complies with this recommendation.
(6) Check your widgets (your calendar, blogroll and the like) to ensure they're screen-reader friendly. You can check your site by loading it and then hitting the Tab key to navigate it. If you get stuck, it needs to be reworked.
(7) Break your post into paragraphs. More white space makes it easier for everyone to read. This post is a prime example. Imagine how hard it would be to read if these paragraphs ran together as one, continuous post.
(8) Make your link text explanatory. For someone who's listening to your site, links labeled such as "here" "here" and "here" don't mean much. Describing them as "See the full opinion of the court" has more meaning to describe the link. I've been guilty of that practice, but now know to change.
(9) Don't open new windows from links without warning people. MIPTC gives this warning, fully disclosing the practice in the site's Primer.
(10) Change the style of visited links. When someone has clicked on a link, left your site and then comes back to it later, navigation to the spot where that person left is much easier to pinpoint if the previously-visited links are a different color.
(11) Use more than color cues for links. For people who are color blind, red and green links are indistinguishable. Adding an underline feature makes a hyperlink easier to see.
(12) Use punctuation. Screen readers pause for punctuation. Otherwise, your post is just one long monotone of words.
For more tips, you can visit Skye's sites at lizardkingdom.org, lonestardemocracy.org and heroinecontent.org. You can get the full range of tips from Knowbility. You can also expect some subtle changes at MIPTC over the next several months as we implement these recommendations.
Coast to Coast Internet Radio Turns Corporate
In-house counsel can be one of the most coveted jobs in the legal field - and with good reason. Join me and my Coast to Coast co-host and fellow Law.com blogger Bob Ambrogi as we get the lowdown on these high powered men and women of the legal world, their salaries, bonuses, perks and other benefits.
You can join our guest from the legal magazine, Corporate Counsel, which compiles a list of the 100 Highest Paid General Counsel every year. Bob and I welcome Robin Sparkman, the Editor-in-Chief of Corporate Counsel magazine, to Coast to Coast to discuss the ins-and-outs of this survey. Don't miss it.
MIPTC Potpourri: Podcasts, Elections, Debates, Prop 64, Books, Blogs, Objections and Sharks
Every once in awhile you run into days when there are just too many good things to write about, and it's difficult to pick just one. Today is one of those days. So you can pick from the potpourri available, here's a laundry list of things that came across my desk in the last several days:
Deputy District Attorney Sheila Hanson is running for Orange County Superior Court Judge in the upcoming November election. MIPTC is proud to endorse her, and notes that in the race for the seat, she's the only candidate rated by the Orange County Bar Association, where she received the Bar's highest rating. The other two candidates declined to participate in the rating.
Blogger Jeremy Blachman, who I met at the first BloggerCon conference and is a definite hoot, published a new book, the Anonymous Lawyer. It's well worth your investment of time to read and once you get done laughing, and if you're a lawyer, more worth your investment to think about addressing the sarcasm behind every guffaw. You can pick up the book here.
PinHawk publishes a wildly successful law blog digest, available by email.
Thanks to the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, I now have the entire California Evidence Code, with objections, downloaded to the Smart Digital card on my Pocket PC telephone. The phone now works in Europe as well thanks to Samsung's newest GSM chip. Now if I could only make my trial objections in French.
To top it off, there's today's news item detailing research that proves shark fins and human arms have common genes. That's news? Lawyers have known that for a long time.
Improvements To MIPTC's Interface As You've Requested
You can surf May It Please The Court and discover many little tricks about the way things work on our site. If you want the Cliff notes, we've got a primer for you. We continue to improve the site to make it more user-friendly, frequently adding or changing the way things works thanks to your suggestions. Two suggestions we were most pleased to implement were the Americans with Disabilities-compliant, text-only site and a PDA-friendly site for those of you who read MIPTC on your PDA.
The latest additions to our long list of features and benefits are two items. First, we added a small little button under each post called the "Email to a friend" icon. Click on this button and, for example, you get this screen. Fill it out, and the post is on its way to your nearest and dearest, or perhaps to someone who needs to have a point made. Second, you can now download my vCard to your computer by clicking on the link under my photo, over there to the left.
We promise not to enroll you or your friend's email into a database (unless you click on the box at the bottom to be added in to our extensive list of email recipients) and we promise never to sell or divulge this email list to anyone else (even our sponsors) if you sign up. We respect your privacy.
There's one other change we've made to accommodate readers' requests to comment on various posts but at the same time prevent comment spam. Comments are now open for posts under 14 days old, and then the comment box automatically closes. Don't worry, though, after the comments have closed, you can send me your comment, and I'll post it.
Our next improvement will be the long-awaited and much-requested restart of periodic MIPTC emails to your desktop. After we made several software changes in MIPTC and our law firm's software, we've suspended it for about six months or so. Due to popular demand, however, it will be back shortly (read: immediately after we get the last few bugs worked out). And yes, for those of you who have asked, MIPTC will likewise resume its regular podcasts of its daily posts in the very near future.
As always, your suggestions for improvement are welcome. We really do listen and implement them.
You May Get 25 Miles To The Zucchini, Or 25 To Life
Imagine this: your car runs on leftover vegetable oil from your favorite neighborhood fast-food restaurant. The restaurant is happy because they don't have to pay someone to haul the used vegetable oil away. You're happy because you don't have to pay for regular fuel. Your car reports that the jury's still out because its piston valves are a bit sticky from time to time.
The Sierra Club is both happy and unhappy. On the one hand, you're not contributing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and hastening the ice cap meltdown. On the other hand, however, you are contributing soot in the form of nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere (if there were a lot of you using vegetable oil, then it would be a very big problem). Not surprisingly, the petroleum industry is decidedly unhappy: they're not pumping high test into your car.
The USEPA is likewise unhappy, but they apparently don't care. Using vegetable oil to power your car is illegal, but the USEPA has bigger fish to fry (no pun intended), and frankly, they don't have the resources to hunt you down and slap you with a ticket.
So, you're off and running on vegetable oil.
But should you be? It may benefit one part of the environment, and hurt another, both at the same time. The monetary savings might be there, but there's a lot more work involved both with the conversion of diesel to vegetable oil, and then there's the decided lack of vegetable oil "gas" stations. You can use a restaurant, but unless you've planned ahead, you may run out of fries.
Then again, you could just go solar.
MIPTC Book Review: The Deep Blue Alibi by Paul Levine
Some time ago, lawyer-turned-writer Paul Levine forwarded a copy of his first Solomon vs. Lord novel, and I enjoyed the characters, Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, so much I couldn't wait for the next installment. Paul's latest book, The Deep Blue Alibi, has been out for some time, but like most lawyers who read for pleasure, it takes me awhile to get through a novel. It mostly takes a vacation to find that kind of time, but my advice is not to wait. Get the book now and enjoy a top-notch story with crisp writing, great storytelling and legally accurate courthouse drama.
You won't regret it. Anti-hero Steve Solomon is a Coconut Grove beach bum lawyer whose father resigned from the bench to avoid disbarment and isn't too far behind that possibility in his own practice. Victoria Lord, on the other hand, is a glam Miami blue blood lawyer, with legs that distract most from her real asset: a sharp legal mind full of ambition. The contrast provides sparks from the Keys to the Courtroom, and you won't be able to put the book down. It's a great read, and it won't frustrate lawyers with the typical mistakes most non-lawyer writers make.
This sophomore novel is Paul's second of three Solomon vs. Lord books, with the third book, Kill All The Lawyers, scheduled to be released early next month. I can't wait for this next book. Paul also contributes to the blog, Naked Authors, another MIPTC favorite.
IRS Can't Apply The Internal Revenue Code Retroactively
The Internal Revenue Service just lost a six billion dollar case with the stroke of a federal judge's pen. The IRS had challenged the "Son of Boss" tax shelter invented by KPMG, and Judge T. John Ward ruled against the IRS' attempt to retroactively apply its revocation of the tax shelter. Generally speaking the IRS code itself prevents its retroactive application, but when you're talking lost revenues in the multiples of billions and you're the IRS, well . . . you try anyway.
According to the New York Times, the "Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling. Donald L. Korb, the I.R.S.ís chief counsel, said in a statement that the agency 'was still studying the opinion.' "