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Prosecutor Suspended For Accidental “Reply All” Email

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If you are active in business this has probably happened to you at least once. As soon as you hit “send” on an email you realize it went to more people than you intended. If you are lucky it’s innocent, if not then someone reads something you really wish they didn’t. In a sign of our interconnected times, this happened to a prosecutor involved in a major cheating scandal in the Atlanta schools, according to the ABA Journal. The case accuses senior school officials of rigging test results. Twenty-one people have already pled guilty to participating in the cheating or its coverup.

The Assistant District Attorney in Fulton County, GA was reacting to an email that a senior school official said she was too ill to appear in court due to cancer. Her two word response, meant only for her DA colleagues, “Surprise surprise.” Unfortunately this went to a whole bunch of people who received the email, including the official’s lawyers. Oops. Now the ADA has been suspended for 3 days and removed from the case. The ADA herself is actually a cancer survivor. She was apologetic, etc.

As careful as we all are, in the hundreds of emails I deal with every day the possibility of a simple messup like that is probably way too high. How many times have you received the “so-and-so would like to recall this email” messages? Is that worse than ignoring it? This also happens frequently with text messages, where people accidentally receive texts meant for others. So lawyers, business people and other humans, take that extra few seconds each time and make sure you know who you are writing to!

Law Schools: Smallest Entering Classes Since 1970s

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In a dramatic and accelerating trend, law school entering classes in the US in 2014 were down 11% from the prior year and 24% over the last 3 years alone. And the applications this year are down another 9%. This represents the smallest total number of new law students in a year since the Brady Bunch was doing their thing in the 1970s. This according to the Boston Globe. The exception: the higher end schools such as Harvard Law, which are seeing increases.

Reasons: of course the high and increasing cost of law schools (some schools have frozen tuition in response to the declining enrollment), and the lackluster legal job market. Also, there’s no big law show on TV these days. Sounds dumb, but back in the day when shows like LA Law made lawyer life sound exciting, fun and lucrative, applications soared. Despite the need to lay off professors and cut course offerings, we do not yet see a crisis mentality among Deans and others at schools, unless they are hiding it very well. Some point to the increases in top school admissions and say that’s a sign things are turning around.

Is this a recession-based blip that will eventually reverse? Is the model broken where the cost-benefit analysis of law school is more and more problematic these days? Will this become the new normal with smaller and smaller new law student classes? Is that necessarily bad for the profession? If we find a way to manage tuition and scholarship dollars and offer a 2-year law school option, I believe greater numbers of applicants will return.

Women in Business: Lean In? Lean Out? Stand Up Straight! A Male Perspective – Part V

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Hiring as a Female Boss

Reality: for millions of years until about 40 years ago, men ruled stuff. They worked outside the home and women generally took care of the home and children. Women only earned the right to vote in the US in 1920. The genders each had roles (growing up my sisters cleared the table, and I cleared snow from our driveway). Some men in the business world still believe in the old ways and honestly admit they would rather women not be in the workplace. We need to rid the working world of this generation but it has not happened fully yet.

This manifests in multifold ways for female entrepreneurs and bosses today. Starting your own business helps get away from difficult (male and female) bosses. But you could end up hiring men who should be, but are not gender-neutral in their views, and either resent working for or will not provide enough respect for a female boss. On the other hand, some women also do not like working for other women. And although some women like female mentors, the mentors sometimes worry that the mentees will overtake their success (this is true of men as well of course).

I do not know how women think, but I know how many men think, and what women say. As to working for a female: some are fine with it and some are not. Of course it should not matter, but it still does for some people. And of course some will say they prefer female to male bosses. I think the key is not to ignore the issue in the hiring process. Try to elicit the likelihood that this potential employee may have an issue working for a woman. If they did before, what was that experience like? This can be asked honestly and not defensively. Body language also can be telling in an interview. Is a male candidate a little flirty, or borderline condescending (both problems)? Do you get a firm handshake (good sign)? Is eye contact an issue?

Bottom line: address the issue up front. You are more likely to make the right hire.

SEC Issues 2013 Small Business Forum Recommendations

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My regular blogees know that each year, as mandated by Congress, the SEC holds a Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation. The result of each forum is a list of recommendations developed by the participants who range from business folks, professionals, academics and government types. Then the recommendations are ranked by the participants and the list is released. They just got the list out from the November 2013 forum. A large number of recommendations relate to the world of what I call “statutory” crowdfunding, which is not my beat here. The other key recommendations made:

1. Eliminate the SEC’s proposed additional restrictions on the use of Regulation D for private offerings when general solicitation and advertising is permitted.

2. Promptly adopt final rules regarding Regulation A+ to allow a simpler public offering preempted from state regulation.

3. As approved by Congressional committees, allow all public reporting companies to register public offerings on short form S-3.

4. Allow smaller reporting companies to avoid submitting financial information in XBRL format as it is expensive, time-consuming and not terribly beneficial.

5. As approved by the House of Representatives, widen “tick sizes” to encourage trading in smaller company stocks.

6. Allow market makers of small company stocks to be compensated by issuers for their efforts.

7. As approved by Congressional committees, end the application of Rule 144(i) which restricts trading of former shell companies two years after a reverse merger.

8. Lower to $15 million the current $40 million minimum public offering following a reverse merger required to bypass “seasoning” restrictions delaying uplisting of these companies.

9. Change public company disclosure rules to eliminate the need to disclose information which is not material to an investor.

10. Eliminate SEC Schedule 14f-1 requiring filing and mailing an information statement when public company boards change as it is onerous, often duplicative and inconsequential.

Some of these items are new, and some have been “on the list” for years. We know it is important to keep this list current so that when Congress or the SEC Commissioners believe timing is right to take action for smaller companies, the items of concern to those of us in the hustings are well known. Thanks Tony Barone and my friends at the SEC for their hard work each year on putting together this valuable conference.

Lefties of the World Unite!

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Five of the last seven US Presidents. Bill Gates. Oprah. Babe Ruth. Einstein. Darwin. Paul McCartney. Prince William. Napoleon. DaVinci. Marie Curie. Artistotle. Jimi Hendrix. Actors from Dick Van Dyke to Kermit the Frog. John McEnroe and Monica Seles. Four of the 5 designers of the original Apple Mac. And of course, as noted above, The Simpsons’ Ned Flanders (actually Bart as well).

In a few weeks we celebrate the annual Left Hander’s Day. As a right-challenged lefty, I like to revel in the probably mistaken belief that lefties pretty much rule. But am I mistaken? According to Dr. Oz (OK not the best choice this month but still) from Oprah.com (good choice lefty-wise), “‘Left-handed people can deal with more incoming information that doesn’t come in an organized way.’ Dr. Oz says this is because of the way the brain develops when a baby is in its mother’s womb. ‘The left brain normally controls your right side, which is really powerful,” he says. “[In left-handed people], it allows the other side, the right brain, to become an equal partner.’” This, for example, is why many say left-handed athletes are very successful.

Yet through the centuries lefties were villified. In fact the very word “left” comes from the Anglo word for “sinister.” And there is at least one study saying lefties are more likely to be or become psychotic. Which is why some say lefties are very smart and a little bit weird. When I say that to lefties they all nod and say, “True, true.” So fellow kaggy-fisted folks, let us celebrate our difference, elbow our dinner partners to our left, smudge that fountain pen when we write, and stay your super-smart little bit weird selves.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

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I believe that much of what makes great entrepreneurs and business leaders is ingrained in their personality, whereas some can be learned. I have found in representing hundreds as attorney and advisor that one key trait of successful business owners is being a natural leader and decision maker. Do you fit the bill? Here are six things to look for:

1. Like being in chargeI used to think, “Who doesn’t like being in charge?” until I discovered that many do not appreciate the pressure and potential rejection in running things. True leaders would rather be the one making decisions.

2. Enjoy challenge of motivating people. You love watching your people rise to a task in part thanks to your encouragement and offering them a sense of ownership in a project. You are thrilled when someone surprises you as you patiently awaited their moment.

3. Serve as key cheerleader. You realize that your people take their cue from you and you like that (most of the time). You show up every day enthused and supportive, regardless of your actual mood.

4. Manage by incentive and communication not fear. Great leaders don’t yell and scream, firing then rehiring people. Fear may yield compliance but resistance simultaneously. But good management is not about sharing power; it’s about good communication, even if you don’t always take the advice you receive. You listen to your people and reward the good.

5. Make decisions efficiently. You don’t rush into a decision but don’t dwell on the process either. Business moves at light speed and you know things have to happen quickly. After a decision is made, you monitor its implementation so that if problems arise you can learn from them.

6. Have a strong sense of organization. You think ahead, plan and organize. Your business has a clear structure in which each person fully understands his or her role and responsibilities. And you have a clear and regularly revisited short and long term strategic plan.

Can this stuff be learned or is it all about the wiring you showed up with? What do you think?

What’s the Legal Impact of the Redskins Trademark Decision?

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Many people seem confused by the decision of the US Patent & Trademark Office to rescind the registered trademark “Redskins” owned by the Washington football team. So let’s try to analyze it in my usual three paragraphs. For those who don’t know, there has been a decades old battle to get the team to stop using the name which many feel is offensive to Native Americans. In the 1990s a court declared the trademark invalid, but that was reversed on appeal, the court claiming there was not enough proof of the name’s disparagement and that it took too long for the case to be brought (a legal doctrine called “laches”).

This latest decision probably also will be appealed, judging by comments of their lawyers. But note that the decision does not require the team to stop using the name. There are two types of trademark rights. One set you get through a “registered” trademark (when you see the “r” in a circle after a mark) that the USPTO lets you have. There are many benefits to a registered trademark including a presumption in your favor if you sue anyone for infringement. But without a registered mark, if you can prove you used a mark before others in a particular class of goods or services, you can still use it and exclude others from using it. These are called “common law” trademark rights (when you see a “TM” after a mark).

Another advantage of a registered mark: apparently the team will have a harder time stopping counterfeit merchandise from foreign countries, since Homeland Security requires you to have a registered mark. But other than that it seems the team could go on using the name. Should they? Well that’s for others to decide. Things that are not accepted now but were 30+ years ago should be carefully examined for sure. And hate speech in general is never good. But we just have to be careful not to let the PC police send us all down that famous slippery slope. I found this on the Web: “A UK recruiter was stunned when her job advert for ‘reliable’ and ‘hard-working’ applicants was rejected by the job centre as it could be offensive to unreliable and lazy people.” Really? Don’t know, what do you think?

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