August 20, 2019

Archives for May 16, 2012

Coach’s Corner: Do You Have What It Takes to Start a Firm?

I have often argued that that law schools do little to prepare graduates for dealing with the business of law — finance, practice management, client relations — that determines practice success. That puts the onus on new lawyers to do the preparation themselves, especially if they are starting a practice on their own.

Solo or small-firm lawyers need all the traits of an entrepreneur: motivation, acceptance of risk, resiliency, commitment, persistence. You may think you have these traits in abundance, but what do they really mean on a personal level if you want to run your own firm?

A new resource enables lawyers to get some definitive answers for themselves. The U.S. Small Business Administration now offers a self-test, aimed at anyone interested in starting a small business.

The test will prompt you with questions and assist you in evaluating skills, characteristics and experience as they relate to your potential as an entrepreneur. Responses are scored automatically to create an assessment profile for how prepared you are to run your own business. And make no mistake: A law firm is a business.

These are just some of the key questions; consider for a moment how they relate to your own personal knowledge and inclinations:

  • Do you have support for your business from family and friends?
  • Have you ever taken a course or seminar designed to teach you how to start and manage a small business?
  • Have you discussed your business idea, business plan or proposed business with a business coach or counselor?
  • Do you have enough confidence in yourself and your abilities to sustain yourself in business if or when things get tough?
  • Are you prepared, if needed, to temporarily lower your standard of living until your business is firmly established?
  • Do you have a business plan for the business you are planning to start?
  • Do you know if your business will require a special license or permit and how to obtain it?
  • Do you know where to find demographic data and information about your customers?
  • Do you know how to compute the financial “break-even point” for your business?

If there is one running theme here, it’s that the lawyer starting a firm must make a commitment to success. Expressing success in relative terms such as “more revenue” or “greater satisfaction” sets a subjective standard that is difficult to achieve.

The truly successful person wants and needs a target. To successfully start a firm, know what you want to do, who you want to be and how you will provide your clients with value.

Ask a coach or other independent person with knowledge of the profession, its requirements and the requisite skills of entrepreneurship. Ask this person to react to your analysis of your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. Although such an analysis will be at least somewhat subjective, it is essential to help you understand if you have what it takes to start your own firm.

Ed Poll is a nationally recognized coach, law firm management consultant, and author who has coached and consulted with lawyers and law firms in strategic planning, profitability analysis, and practice development for over twenty years. Ed has practiced law on all sides of the table and he now helps attorneys and law firms increase their profitability and peace of mind. He writes a syndicated legal column, Coach’s Corner, where this post originally appeared on March 22, 2012.

Spark the Discussion: Hemp for Victory

“Spark the Discussion” is a monthly Legal Connection column highlighting the hottest trends in the emerging field of medical marijuana law. This column is brought to you by Vicente Sederberg, LLC, a full-service, community-focused medical marijuana law firm.

By Brian Vicente, Esq. and Rachelle Yeung

In the final weeks of the Colorado legislative session, while House Democrats and Republicans were fiercely battling over same-sex civil unions, a landmark piece of drug policy reform legislation snuck through the Legislature nearly unopposed. The “Hemp Bill,” or HB 12-1099, sets up the framework for the study and use of industrial hemp, and seeks to use this “taboo” crop to clean up contaminated soil through a process called phytoremediation.

The passage of the Hemp Bill is a victory in a 70-year long battle against the prohibition of marijuana and a turning point towards a more sensible approach to drug policy. The regulation of marijuana is a topic of increasing importance to Colorado voters because of Amendment 64, the statewide ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, which will be voted on in November. Amendment 64 would also make Colorado the first state in the nation to regulate the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.

Historically, hemp production was encouraged in the United States – from being one of the most important crops in colonial America to being promoted by the federal government in a World War II film called “Hemp for Victory.” However, growing hemp has been outlawed since the Controlled Substances Act, because of its close association with marijuana.

Though it shares the same genus (“Cannabis sativa L.”) as its better-known cousin, industrial hemp is distinguished from marijuana by its low concentration of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC. Industrial hemp contains no more than three-tenths of a percent of THC.

Several factors make Colorado a particularly compelling candidate for hemp-based phytoremediation. Extensive mining throughout the state has left vast tracts of land contaminated with toxic waste. Phytoremediation would remove those toxins from the ground, which could then be used for agriculture and cattle grazing which are cornerstones of the state’s economy. Finally, a plant requiring very little water to grow – like hemp – is a necessity in a water-constrained state like Colorado.

The use of industrial hemp in phytoremediation is not entirely novel. In 1986, the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant caused severe radioactive contamination in areas up to 100 km away. Soil in that area became saturated with toxic waste and heavy-metals which rendered it useless for agriculture. In 1998, a group called PHYTOTECH began growing hemp in the area to decontaminate the soil and, according to Slavik Dushenkov, a research scientist with the company, “Hemp prov[ed] to be one of the best phytoremediative plants we have been able to find.”

Activists hope that phytoremediation is just the introduction of industrial hemp into mainstream use. Hemp is cheap and easy to grow, requiring few pesticides and no herbicides. It can be used in textiles, construction materials, paper products, and even body care products. Hemp seed is considered a “superfood” – a good source of protein and dietary fiber, high in B-vitamins and essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp can even be reduced to ethanol and biofuel, a boon to our petroleum-addicted society. Some activists go so far as calling hemp “the plant that could save the world.”

A similar bill was introduced in the Colorado Legislature in 1994 by then-Senator Loyd Casey, but received only a single, sad vote before disappearing into history. If Governor Hickenlooper gives this year’s HB-1099 his stamp of approval – and given its support in the Legislature, there is no reason he would not – Colorado could become the first state in the nation to grow industrial hemp since the 1930s.

Brian Vicente, Esq., is a founding member of Vicente Consulting, LLC, a law firm providing legal solutions for the medical marijuana community. He also serves as executive director of Sensible Colorado, the state’s leading non-profit working for medical marijuana patients and providers. Brian is the chair of the Denver Mayor’s Marijuana Policy Review Panel, serves on the Colorado Department of Revenue Medical Marijuana Oversight Panel, and coordinates the Colorado Bar Association’s Drug Policy Project.The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

The Failure Chronicles: Giving Up on Quitting (Part 3)

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series of job search and career transition articles. Click here to view part one. Click here to view part two.

Whenever we get deep into something we judge as not going well, we start to panic. “Quit while you can,” the voice of fear says, “because the odds are getting worse by the minute. You’re going to fail, you’re going to fail, you’re going to fail . . . .”

That’s a lie. Bookmakers set odds beforehand. The odds don’t change once the game is on. Besides, we’re playing to win, no matter what the odds.

It’s a good thing that sometimes those fearful warnings fall on deaf ears. Otherwise we’d never get to make heroes out of people who persevered and triumphed even though everyone told them to give up. We love those stories, and ours could be one of them. How about we think about that the next time we’re inclined to pronounce a failure judgment on ourselves?

With some practice, we’ll start to believe we can actually give up on failure. Which means we can also give up on quitting, too. If we can’t fail, then why quit? It took guts to get started, and it took more to keep going, so why stop now? The story’s just getting good!

Besides, hedging bets is for professional investors and gamblers, not for people trying to make their dreams and visions and big ideas a reality.

We reach for the word failure when we get to the point where we want to scream to anyone who will listen that we’ve given it our all and the whole thing isn’t working so why bother anymore. But the truth is, no we haven’t. Determination defies endurance. Just because we’re broke, lonely, worn out, and discouraged doesn’t mean we’ve got nothing left. There’s always more.

Maybe we cling to the possibility of failure because that lets us hold a little something in reserve when we try to do the impossible. That strategy appeals to our fearful side, but ironically and perversely, the thing we’re holding back might be the difference between getting or not getting what we want.

Besides, what are we holding it back for anyway? So we can keep open the opportunity to return to whatever we wanted to leave behind in the first place?

No thanks. Life is tricky enough without living with one hand tied behind our back. I say we give up on failure instead. And while we’re at it, let’s give up on quitting, too.

Five years ago, Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. He recently reopened his law practice, while continuing to write (screenplays and nonfiction) and lead workshops on change for a variety of audiences, including the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His latest workshop, Life in the Gap: Getting Over Your Inspiration Hangover and Translating Inspiration into Action, was held April 10, 2012. Watch for another program in the near future.

Colorado Supreme Court: Denying Change of Water Right for Failing to Prove Historic Use Does Not Amount to Unconstitutional Taking of Property

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Concerning the Revised Abandonment List of Water Rights in Water Division 2 and Concerning the Protest of Thorsteinson in Pueblo County: Harrison v. Simpson, State Engineer; Concerning the Application for Change of Water Right of Harrison, Personal Representative: Harrison v. St. Charles Mesa Water District on May 14, 2012.

Water Law—Change of Diversion Point—Stipulation—Unconstitutional Taking—Abandonment of Right.

John Harrison appealed directly to the Supreme Court from adverse rulings of the Water Court for Water Division No. 2 in two separate cases. With regard to Harrison’s Application for a Change of Water Right, the water court granted the State Engineers’ motion to dismiss at the close of Harrison’s case. The water court found that he was required, but failed, to establish the historic use of the right, to which he sought a change in the point of diversion. With regard to Harrison’s protest to the inclusion of the interests he claimed in the Mexican Ditch on the Division Engineer’s decennial abandonment list, the water court granted the Engineer’s motion for abandonment, as a stipulated remedy for Harrison’s failure to succeed in his change application.

The Court affirmed the water court’s dismissal of Harrison’s application, holding that (1) Harrison neither proved historic use of the right for which he sought a change nor was excepted from the requirement that he do so as a precondition of changing its point of diversion, and (2) denying a change of water right for failing to prove the historic use of the right does not amount to an unconstitutional taking of property. The Court reversed the water court’s order granting the Engineers’ motion for abandonment, because Harrison did not stipulate to an order of abandonment as the consequence of failing to succeed in his change application, but only as the consequence of failing to timely file an application reflecting historic use, a condition with which he complied.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Denying Change of Water Right for Failing to Prove Historic Use Does Not Amount to Unconstitutional Taking of Property

Colorado Supreme Court: Prosecutorial Work Product Exception Protects from Compelled Disclosure All Opinion Work Product Prepared by Prosecution in Anticipation of Any Criminal Prosecution

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People v. Angel on May 14, 2012.

Rules of Criminal Procedure—Discovery—Prosecutorial Work Product.

The Supreme Court determined that Crim.P. 16(I)(e)(1) protects against the disclosure of a prosecutor’s opinion work product, and made the rule absolute. The Court reversed the district court’s discovery order and held that the prosecutorial work product exception under Crim.P. 16(I)(e)(1) protects from compelled disclosure all opinion work product prepared by the prosecution in anticipation of any criminal prosecution. The Court remanded the case to the district court to determine, through an in camera, ex parte review, whether the contested materials contain protected prosecutorial opinion work product.

Summary and full case available here.

Tenth Circuit: New Supervised Release Is Reasonable Given Failure to Deal with Drug Issues, Need for Treatment, and Multiple Violations of Prior Terms of Supervised Release

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Handley on Tuesday, May 15, 2012.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s sentence. Petitioner appeals his sentence, following revocation of his supervised release for drug use and “imposition of a new term of incarceration of twelve months and supervised release of four years, on grounds his supervised release exceeds the amount allowed by law.” The Court determined that “because the maximum allowable term of supervised release is life . . . , the district court could impose a four-year term of supervised release following [Petitioner]’s incarceration. Moreover, the district court’s imposition of four years of supervised release in this case is both ‘reasoned and reasonable’ given [Petitioner]’s failure to deal with his drug issues, obvious need for mental health and substance abuse treatment, and multiple violations of the conditions of his prior terms of supervised release.”

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 5/15/12

On Tuesday, May 15, 2012, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and four unpublished opinions.


Phillips v. Kerns

United States v. Ciocchetti

United States v. Saavedra-Vega

United States v. Mullane

No case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.