Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention

Today, I received a letter from hedge fund where I have a small investment, letting me know that a laptop, along with my personal information, had been lost.  It read: “In order to assist you, we have arranged with a security company to provide you with complimentary use of an identity theft protection service, which includes $1 million in identity theft expense insurance, for two years.”  They were obligated to contact over 600 past and present investors.  The estimated cost for their new insurance expenditures is over $10,000.  That doesn’t include the long term costs they might incur if any identity theft actually occurs, nor does it include the time and reputational damage they’ve experienced, nor the sleep I’m sure they’re losing, worrying if this will be the death of their three-person firm.
Learn from their example.  The New Year is a great time to think about liability issues, the potential game-ending risks at your firm and above all, what you can do to mitigate or completely remove them.  Often, a small effort can fix potentially big problems.  In the example above, employing endpoint encryption on users’ PCs, only a few hundred dollars per year, could have avoided this entire fiasco.  (Shameless plug:  NexFirm provides encryption service.)  As your firm grows and matures each year, the risks you incur will change; and ongoing, periodic review is required.  For most law firms, the largest risks lie in three areas:  Data protection, Regulatory compliance and Insurance coverage.
Data protection
It’s good if your firm protects data from potential loss with a security system.  It’s better to prevent unauthorized users from accessing that data, whether it’s lost or sitting on your office desk.  So, get encrypted.  Encryption is a get out of jail free card:  If encrypted data is lost, you don’t need to notify clients, you don’t incur liability and you don’t need to worry that the data will be compromised.  Virus protection is the other side of the coin.  We recommend an administrator-directed security solution so you can confirm that your anti-virus regimen is followed religiously.  And to make your data protection plan complete, you need firm backup procedures, replete with data recovery plans.  To be fully effective, your backups must be off site, encrypted and provide a restore time frame that supports your business needs.
Regulatory compliance
Requirements change with surprising frequency and effect many parts of your operation, including data archival and employment responsibility.  Touch base with the regulatory bodies in your jurisdictions of practice and confirm that your procedures comply with regulations.  It makes sense to have an employment attorney review your employee handbook each year to make sure that you incorporate changes to the law and to confirm that your firm is using the best practices available.
Insurance coverage
You are forced to review your malpractice coverage each year for renewal, a helpful process that allows you to reassess your professional liability.  This is a good time to review the other types of liability your firm incurs and to assess whether additional coverage strategies make sense.  General liability, crime, fiduciary, employment practices, error and omissions and several other types of coverage could be worthwhile.  This is also a good time to consider creating or updating a buy/sell agreement for the partnership and purchasing life insurance and long term disability insurance for the principles of the firm.
I wish I could promise you that doing this type of review will be fast, easy and inexpensive; it may not be.  Compare that to the tumult you will experience should your firm face an issue, and you will find that the time and expense are well spent.  And, of course, if you feel stuck or generally unenthused by the project, give us a call at NexFirm.  We’re happy to help!

David DePietto is the founder and CEO of NexFirm.  He can be reached at dd@nexfirm.com.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Be Like Seth

Be like Mike SETH

Being a successful attorney means being in the business of business development.  We all need new clients; bigger clients and better clients.  The question is, how do you achieve this objective?  What is the best way to become a big rainmaker?

The answer is networking.  Attorneys should strive to raise their visibility so they can demonstrate their expertise with potential clients and create credibility.  Strong business relationships are the vehicle for raising your visibility, and meaningful personal relationships are the cornerstone for business connections.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Seth Farbman, CEO of Vintage Filings and Co-Chairman of Vcorp Services, a sharp little company that helps attorneys quickly and inexpensively organize corporations and do other corporate filings.  Seth is in an ultra-competitive business, and his success is dependent upon his ability to differentiate himself, even though the services his firm provides are seen as a commodity.  It’s a tough task, but Seth has done exceptionally well by building strong personal relationships with his customers and leveraging those into new connections.  If you want to play basketball, be like Mike.  If you want to be an attorney with a strong, committed network, be like Seth.

·         Focus on people that will be helpful to you.
Identify the smartest people in your space and don’t worry if they are not big hitters just yet. Today’s junior associate is tomorrow’s managing partner.  And, don't shy away from networking with competitors.  Cream rises to the top and people change seats many times over the course of their career; if you are playing for the long run it doesn’t matter if they can give you business today.  Spend your time networking with networkers and don’t waste time with those who don't respect personal relationships.

·         Don't say you are a good person to know, just be a good person to know.
Adding value is the key to business relationships.  Building a network isn't about listing contacts in your phonebook; it's about building trust with others and letting them see the value that you provide them.  Helping others network is the best kind of networking.  The tireless attempt to understand what people are trying to achieve and trying to help them achieve their goals is the most powerful way to build lifelong relationships.

·         Be honest, and don't try to hide your intentions or be afraid to ask for help.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help, or telling the people who you know that you want to be introduced to others.  Treating those to whom you are introduced well and making a point to say thank you to the connector is enough.  Giving gifts or trying to provide compensation for introductions can create a whiff of impropriety or just discomfort.  Reciprocate, don’t buy assistance.

·         Don't wait until it's too late.
People in positions of power and influence are difficult to connect to.  Introductions via mutual friends may open the door to a sought after contact (isn’t this even more of a reason to focus on growing your network?).  Instead of spinning your wheels with people who are unlikely to join your inner circle, pay special attention to those who need you instead of those who you need.  Those out of work or in the throes of a difficult time professionally or personally will remember you inviting them to use an empty office, taking them out to lunch or introducing them to someone who can help them.  People may forget the things you say to them or the things you do for them, but they never forget how you make them feel.  Let them feel like you are there for them.

·         Have fun.
If you commit to growing your network, you will meet people along the way who you enjoy and who become great friends.  You will be exposed to ideas that you might never have considered, learn from other’s mistakes and have opportunities that you may not have otherwise had.  If you enjoy the relationships you build, the results will be that much better.

David DePietto is the founder and CEO of NexFirm.  He can be reached at dd@nexfirm.com.