Insured Medical Bills vs. Uninsured Medical Bills

A quick comment about rates insurance companies pay and how much uninsured people pay. I recently helped a friend out with a few doctor’s bills. I don’t do this for a living, but did it to help a friend. The bulk of it was two Emergency Room visits about two months apart. She had insurance on the second visit, but was uninsured for the first visit.

Insured ER VIsit

She had charges of $2,617. Insurance paid $370 and there was a contractual adjustment of $2,047.00. That left her a balance of $200 to pay.


UNInsured ER VIsit

She had charges of $4,719.76. The hospital agreed to reduce it to $3,020.65.

Of course, if she got the same deal that the insurance company got and paid both her portion and the insurance portion, it would come out to owing the hospital only $1,027.96 .

We were able to work a significant reduction for her. But it’s crazy that this goes on.

Posted inMisc |Comments (0) |Permalink

I'm Back. Plus an Update on the Exercise

A lot of things have been going on lately and I’ve gotten out of the habit of posting. Hopefully that will be changing soon. Jessica and Eric are now 5 and 2. Erica just had her second birthday a few weeks ago and Jessica is in pre-kindergarden and is learning how to read. It’s amazing how much time having a family takes.

I’ve received quite a bit of encouragement on the exercising and diet. I’m eating healthier and still exercising. I’ve lost 25 pounds and 5 inches off my waist. My cardio endurance is up 30% and I’ve reduced my body fat by 5.5%. I’m not quite ready to run a triathlon. Apparently, I had let my health go farther than I realized. But we’re making lots of progress and I’m staying with it.

Jennifer (my wife) and I have converted the garage into an exercise room. We’ve put down a 3/4” mat, and I’ve put in a Life Fitness elliptical, a Vasa swimming trainer and a bike trainer so i can train for and do an entire triathlon without leaving my house. We also put a tv with cable and dvd, so that we can watch exercise videos or movies while exercising.

I’ve learned a lot. If I exercise my butt off and eat perfectly, the weight will jump off. But that’s difficult to keep up on a consistent basis. It seems like exercise is the key. If I exercise a moderate amount and eat moderately healthy, then the weight will come off. Without the exercise, I have to eat perfectly to lose weight, and I mean perfectly.

So progress is being made and we’re sticking with it. Jennifer is going to the same trainer as I am and she’s also doing a cardio-boxing class that she likes. We’ve also put up an angle (mushroom) heavy bag for her. It appears that she likes hitting things. Keep reading if you want to see the equipment we got. Continue Reading Posted inMisc |Comments (2) |Permalink

Myrtle Beach Lawyer Returns from AAJ Ultimate Case Workshop

I just got back (well a few weeks ago), from AAJ’s Ultimate Case Workshop in Charlotte, NC. Wow, what a great experience. I can’t talk about specifics, but there were a few things I got the okay to share and I can share some of my general impressions from the workshop.

After some lectures from some of the top people in the country. Eric Oliver author of Facts Don’t Speak for Themselves, Howard Nations, Paul Skoptur, Phil Miller, Robert Bailey, plus a host of others, we were broken up into groups. My group had 3 other cases in it. We all had premises liability cases.

The rest of the weekend was spent reviewing the cases, helping each other with the cases and focus groups on the cases. Each case got two focus groups. Altogether we sat through 8 focus groups on similar (or at least moderately similar) cases. Plus lots of great advice and pushing and pulling on the cases. Great, great experience.

There were a number of people that were there for their third or fourth time. I will go next year with a different case. Oh, and in addition to the instructors all of the lawyers there were very talented, very nice and I got a lot from talking to them as well.

Posted inMisc, Themes / Arguments, Trial Techniques |Comments (0) |Permalink

Lawsuit! the Board Game

BoardI was recently sent a copy of Lawsuit! The Board Game. They describe the game as follows:

is a fun and educational game for adults and children ages 6 and up. Players experience and learn about the law in a fun way as they make their way through law school, past the bar exam and into their own law practice and the courtroom. It's a game for the whole family, and friends too!

It’s a simple game that kids can play. The rules are on a single side of one piece of paper. It’s basically like ‘Life’ with a legal twist. You move from the beginning of the board to the end with the cards giving you an advantage or send you back. Depending on the results of the spaces you land on, you will make money by bringing lawsuits or settling cases or spend money on staff, office equipment, CLE’s…

The first thing that I noticed was the ‘Attorney of the Year’ was the one that made the most money. Hmmm……There were also some setbacks for forging court documents and also sanctions for not getting along with opposing counsel. I didn’t think those were the most appropriate, but in the space of the gameplay they weren’t nearly as offensive as I thought.

We played a game with four people in about 15–20 minutes. The gameplay was very simple and a lot of fun. The first game I came in last place and the second game I won. When you land on the appropriate squares you can bring a lawsuit. Sometimes it will direct you to a Settlement card or an Appeals card.

As I said before, the game reminded me most of the game of ‘Life’, but instead of picking up children, you bring lawsuits. While I don’t think this game is a re-enactment of practicing law, it was fun to play, brought up a number of issues in practicing of law (like the cost of equipment and staff) and was entertaining.

We will play it again.

Posted inMisc |Comments (2) |Permalink

Book Review: The Art of Learning

The Art of LearningI just finished reading the Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. Josh was the young chess prodigy that was featured in the movie Waiting for Bobby Fischer. Well, Josh has gone from winning a number of National chess championships to moving to Tai Chi, a martial arts. He’s won a stack of National Championships in Tai-Chi and some World Championships in Taiwan.

Josh has written a book about his learning and performance styles that have taught him to excel. The thing that stuck out most in my mind is how aggressively he has looked at his weaknesses, or taken any time that he has been beat and rather than running away from it, ignoring it, or pretending it didn’t happen, he would turn straight into the weakness and turn it into a positive.

One example was that when he was playing chess, he didn’t do well with distractions. Most people don’t. Some of the ‘diry players’ would purposefully kick him under the table and then act innocent, hum a tune and the pretend nothing happen when monitors were around and so forth. So instead of trying to call them out on it, or jump up and down and complain, Josh realized that this was 1) taking him out of his game and 2) giving the poor sports a leg up. So he started training with distractions and found a way to get into a ‘soft zone’ and eliminate this ‘advantage’.

Good stuff about a highly talented person that is constantly measuring himself and finding ways to improve. This is one of the best books I’ve read not only this year, but ever.

Posted inDecision Making, Misc, Practice Management, Trial Techniques |Comments (5) |Permalink

Visiting Charleston, S.C., on the Cheap


The New York Times has an article on seeing visiting Charleston, S.C., on a Budget

“WHEN celebrities and other well-heeled travelers fell in love with Charleston, S.C., drawn by its air of 19th-century elegance and its palm-fringed seacoast setting, the $400-a-night hotel room and the $100 dinner entree inevitably followed. But this progressive and mystically lovely city, surrounded by water and wilderness, can still be a destination for the budget-conscious, too.”

Click on the link to read more.

Posted inMisc |Comments (1) |Permalink

Attorney Reese Joye Dies

A lion of the Charleston bar, Reese Joy of the Joye Law Firmdied on Sunday morning. I didn’t know Reese well, but he was very well respected for how hard he worked and how prepared he was for his trials. Geoffrey Waggoner, tells a remembrance of Reese from his ‘early days’ of practicing law.

Reese Joye was the first lawyer I interviewed with, 31 years ago, right out of the USC School of Law.

I had come by way of Duke University, but to everyone who knew me as I graduated from Law School, I was from New Jersey, 12 miles west of Manhattan, and when I let people know I thought Charleston would be a good place to live and raise a family, I was told I didn't have a chance.

Instead, they suggested, if you want to be a trial lawyer, look for work in North Charleston; and in North Charleston there was only one lawyer whose practice I wanted to join, and that was Reese Joye.

When I first interviewed with Reese, in 1977, he told me bluntly that I had no experience and wasn't worth much and, as if to prove it, offered me a yearly salary of $8000. I went elsewhere for a year, but then he came back to me and asked me if I would accept $12,000, and I jumped at the opportunity.

He never mentioned that I wasn't from Charleston and, at the time, had another outsider working with him, George Kefalos, from Pittsburgh. And not soon thereafter, another, from Florida, Elliott Barrow. Though we weren't from Charleston, Reese gave us our start at becoming trial lawyers here.
Eventually, with recent marriages, and young children, George, Elliot, and I could not keep up with Reese's seven-days-a-week-at-the-office pace, and struck out on our own. But even then, and despite the undeniable financial stresses that the sudden departure of 75% of his firm caused him, Reese touched me with his other side.

For Christmas, barely three months after our parting, he had delivered to my new office, complete with a red bow, an antique lamp which he had acquired, and which I had coveted, and which I have since considered one of my most prized possessions. It is a perfect symbol of the complex man who had disregarded our out-of-state origins, taught us the rewards of passion and hard work for our clients, driven us away with his inimitable work habits, suffered the embarrassment and financial strains of an exodus from his firm and, despite it all, took time and trouble to touch someone in a warm and most personal way.

Sadly, and though I have called on Reese for practice management advice since our paths diverged, it is his sudden passing that calls to mind the influence he had on my life, and on the lives of many others, when we began our careers as trial lawyers.

Thanks for taking the time to share, Geoff. This is a big loss for the legal community and the people of South Carolina. Our hearts and prayers go out to Reese’s wife, Jackie and his children, Mark and Todd.

Posted inMisc |Comments (0) |Permalink

The Myrtle Beach Lawyer Gets in Shape

I know it’s off-topic, but being over 40, getting in the car wreck, having two children under the age of five, and being fairly sedentary to begin with has taken it’s toll. I’ve decided that I have to do something about it.

I’ve been doing cardio on a fairly consistent basis and that’s helped some, but not enough. So I’m trying a personalized 12 week program with a trainer / nutritionist / chiro. We’ll be working on core muscles, cardio and nutrition. I think having a trainer that’s also a chiropractic doctor (an adjustment with every workout) will be a plus to help beat me in to shape.

They say the more people you tell, the more accountability you’ll have. The more people you tell, the more embarrassing it is is if you don’t follow through.

The exercising I can do. The nutrition is new to me, We’ll be working off a version of the Duke low glycemic diet. All sodas (even diet ones) are gone.

I’ve set a goal to do the Las Vegas Triathlon on September 28. I’m going to start out with the ‘Sprint’ category. .7k swim, 18k bike ride, 5k run. Wish me luck.

Posted inMisc |Comments (8) |Permalink

What Operating Systems Do You Use?

I was recently asked whether I use Windows of Mac OS X at home.

I use Windows (Toshiba R500) and Max OS X (MacBook Pro), my wife uses a MacBook and my 4 year old daughter kicks it with Linux (Asus Eee PC).

Hmmm…….I didn’t realize we had that much going on.

Posted inMisc |Comments (0) |Permalink

Why People Don't Like Lawyers

A guest post from a friend:

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

So this lawyer is in a doctor's office in Mount Pleasant yesterday.
She is asked to present an identification with a picture so that her
insurance card and use can be confirmed. She IMMEDIATELY begins to
yell loud enough for my friend (and the other 20 people in the waiting
room to hear): "I am a lawyer and I know the law. Since January of
2008, it is against Federal law to request a picture ID. You should
know this......." blah blah blah.

After her outrage, the people working at the office AND in the waiting
room (part of any potential venire) were heard to comment, almost in
unison, about how bad lawyers are, how they are and have destroyed
America, etc etc.

This lawyer hurt us all. Continue Reading Posted inMisc |Comments (1) |Permalink

Explaining Being a Plaintiff's Lawyer to a 4 Year Old

I was going to a mediation yesterday morning and was pulling everything together. My daughter wanted to know what I was doing. How do you explain being a lawyer to a small child? The conversation went something like this:

Jessica: “What are you doing?”

Me: “I’m preparing for mediation. I’m a lawyer. I help people when they get hurt and have doctor’s bills and lose money because they can’t work.“

Jessica: “Oh….I was playing at the playground and fell down and hurt myself. I got a scab…But the scab fell off. Daddy, Can you help me?”

Me: “Ummm……no. You don’t have a case. But I can kiss your boo-boo and make it better”.

I wish I was making this conversation up.

Posted inMisc |Comments (1) |Permalink

Court TV to Televise Horry County Murder Case

The Myrtle Beach Sun News  reports:

truTV - formerly Court TV - will be stationed in the Horry County Courthouse to televise a pair of murder trials over the next two weeks.

A trial for Richard Gagnon, accused of killing his estranged girlfriend's parents in 2006, is scheduled to start March 10.

The Gagnon trial is expected to be televised live.

Bill Grammer, a good friend will be trying the case.

Posted inMisc |Comments (12) |Permalink

Holiday Fun

JibJab, those people that brought the very funny political parody of 2004, where they skewered both sides, has a new service. You can upload pictures, trim the heads and put your own family and friends in the video.

Here is one I did with my daughters, Jessica and Erica. Erica, the baby’s head looks much larger than Jessica’s. I guess I’ll have to work with it to trim it up. The first one is free and after that, they let you make as many examples as you want, but it costs $2–3 to send it to someone. Once you’ve paid the price, you can send it to as many people as you want.

I know my daughters will enjoy seeing themselves in their very own movie. Have fun with it.

Don't send a lame Holiday eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!
Posted inMisc |Comments (0) |Permalink

Back in the Saddle Again


Well, I’ve seriously slowed down on the blogging, lately. A few people have been kind enough to check and see if I’m okay.

A combination of our second child and a car wreck have slowed me down. The second child has been a lot more work than I thought. Before Jennifer and I would trade off with the child care and get a break now and then. Now, I will take Jessica (the older child) to the park to give Jennifer a break. So, having two children under the age of five is a bit of work.

The car wreck, was a relatively minor car wreck, but has effected me a lot more than I thought. As an injury lawyer, the medical treatment, physical therapy and effect on my life has been very interesting and educational. I’ll write about that in the future. Months of vicodin, flexeril and voltaren have slowed me down enough so that I haven’t been up for a lot of extra-curricular writing.

Plus, I’ve been putting a lot of work into a very interesting tech/legal project that hopefully will come to fruition soon. I’ll let people know about that project at the appropriate time.

Posted inMisc |Comments (1) |Permalink

Going with the Toshiba Laptop



After a lot of deliberation, I decided to go with the Toshiba R500.

General specs are 12” LED screen, 19mm pitch keyboard, 8.5” x 11” footprint, 2 gigabytes of RAM, 64 gig solid state drive, internal DVD burner that is only 7mm thick, About 3/4 inch thick and it only weighs 1.88 pounds. Yes, that’s right. Less than two pounds.

When checking out the reviews, I found something exciting. Toshiba is coming out with this model as the R1 in Japan, but it is bringing it to the States as the R500 at the same time. Normally, if the same model is sold in the United States (and it frequently isn’t) we tend to be about 6 months behind the Japanese release.

One of my concerns was the 12” screen. I’m used to the 14.1” monitor of the Panasonic Y2. I’m 43 years old and my eyesight is not as good as it was and don’t like the type too small. The 12” widescreen model is about the same as my 14.1” monitor, but not as tall. As long as I can read the text well, I don’t mind a little scrolling.

The model with the solid state drives has not been released yet (either here or in Japan), but it should be sometime in September. I’m looking forward to it.

Posted inMisc, Tech Trends, Technology |Comments (3) |Permalink

Shopping for a New Laptop, Continued


Panasonic Y-7 – The Old Standby

This is Panasonic’s newer version of the Y-2. 14.1” screen, full 19mm pitch keyboard, built-in cd/dvd burner, lots of RAM, 160 gig hard-drive and Windows XP and weighing in at 3.3 pounds.

It even comes in colors now. The gun metal blue looks the coolest.



 Toshiba RX-1 Dynabook – The Foreign Competitor

 64 gig solid state hard drive, 2 gigs RAM, .77 inches thick. Built-in DVD burner that’s only 7 mm thick. 12.1” transflective LCD wide screen, full size 19mm keyboard (believe it or not) and an incredible 1.88 pounds.



 Dell XPS M1330 – Surprising Challenger

Dell, home of klunky generic boxes has come out with an intriguing and sexy laptop design. Who’d have thunk it?

32 gig solid state drive, 13.3 inch LED backlit screen with VGA camera (2 megapixel with the LCD screen, 2 gigs RAM, built in DVD burner, great design comes in three colors (I would probably choose the piano black) and I do not know the size of keyboard yet. Regardless of which one I choose, this looks like a high performer, with good design and Dell will have a big hit on their hands.


  Asus U3 – Dark Horse Candidate

 Thanks to Engadget for this catch. It has a 13.3” screen and specs that include integrated GPS, HDMI and S-Video outs, eSATA, USB, and Firewire ports; SD and ExpressCard 54 slots; and an NVIDIA 8400M graphics chipset -- which can be switched off via hardware for power. I don’t know the price or other detials (like weight, solid state hard drive…). It should be coming out in September, which is about the time that the other models will be available with the solid state drives.

It looks like there’s a lot of good ultra-lights out with a lot of power and it doesn’t appear that there are any ‘wrong’ choices. It should be interesting.

Posted inMisc, Office Technology, Tech Trends, Technology |Comments (1) |Permalink

Shopping for a New Laptop

Time for a new laptop. What features am I looking for?

  • Weight Under 4 Pounds – This is a definite requirement. The lighter the better. I take my laptop with me everywhere that I would take a pad of paper. It needs to be in the 3 pound (or lighter) range. There needs to be a serious reason to bump up into the 4.1 or 4.3 pound range.
  • Keyboard – This is a bit of a surprise for me. In dealing with ultralights, or any laptop for that matter, there are certain tradeoffs and the keyboard is typically one of them. After a few weeks, your fingers get used to a different keyboard configuration for the laptop, and get used to a cramped keyboard layout. My Panasonic had a full size 19mm keyboard and I really enjoyed not having to switch keyboard sizes between my main computer and laptop. So, I’m putting a lot more emphasis on the keyboard than I used to.
  • Screen – Preferably an backlit LED, as opposed to an LCD screen, something that looks sharp, but I don’t need a tremendously high resolution as I’m over 40 and my eyesight is not what it used to be. I need something at least 12.1 inches. I’ve seen 10” screens and they’re too small for me. If I’m looking at a laptop and not a toy, the ultraportables with 7” or 8” screens aren’t even an option. I love the size, but not the crispness of the 14.1” Panasonic that I have now. A 13.3” is probably optimal.
  • Hard Drive – I would prefer a solid state drive. They come in 32gig and 64 gig models. Solid state drives are faster, lighter, use less power, are more reliable (and more expensive). I have a desktop computer and a home computer, so the size of the hard drive isn’t important. I just need the hard drive large enough to carry video depositions in Sanction for trial. If the laptop doesn’t have a solid state drive, it needs to be at least 7,200 rpms. There’s nothing worse than slow hard drive speed.
  • Ports – The only port that is criticial to me is a VGA monitor port. I speak in enough places where I have had problems with cable hookups for an S-Video or HDMI ports. Give me a standard monitor port anyday of the week. Built in wireless of course. An SD card reader would be handy, but is not a requirement. Other than that, lots of USB ports, and a biometric reader, expresscard (instead of PCMCIA) would be nice. None of them are dealbreakers.
  • Coolness/Fashion sense – Yes. I hate to admit this, but I want a laptop that looks good, that draws some attention and is fun to own. Think “sports car” or “convertible” for laptops.
  • Operating System – I would seriously prefer Windows XP instead of Windows Vista. I want to stay away from Windows Vista as long as possible. (Although, I don’t know if it will be possible).
  • Speed – I don’t really care about speed. I primarily do word processing, e-mail and research on the internet. The case management software is straightforward calendaring and contact management database software. Even the videos for mediations and trial presentation don’t take up that much processing power. Any of the computers currently out will be more than fast enough for me.
  • Optical Drive – This is not an important factor. It used to be, but not anymore. In my last laptop, I said “I want an internal cd/dvd player, so that way I don’t have to tote an extarnal player, plus I don’t want to be caught without help on that. It turns out that in three years, I have only used the player a handful of times. A nice feature, but not critical or a dealbreaker.
  • Price – Sadly, this is not important. This is my personal laptop that I will take everywhere with me and will hopefully have for three years. The difference in price between the cheapest laptop on the market and the most expensive one is not that large that price is the primary factor in deciding. And when I am looking at a 2–3 pound laptop, with a solid state hard drive, lots of memory, a good keyboard and a nice screen, those specs don’t come cheap.

Next up. I’ll preview the three laptops that I am considering.

Posted inMisc, Office Technology, Tech Trends, Technology |Comments (2) |Permalink

How Not to Get Out of Jury Duty

A Cape Cod, Massachussets man trying to get out of jury duty claimed that he was racist, homophobic and a habitual liar to get out of jury duty. The discussion with the judge went like this:

"You say on your form that you're not a fan of homosexuals," Nickerson said.

"That I'm a racist," Ellis interrupted.

"I'm frequently found to be a liar, too. I can't really help it," Ellis added.

"I'm sorry?" Nickerson said.

"I said I'm frequently found to be a liar," Ellis replied.

"So, are you lying to me now?" Nickerson asked.

"Well, I don't know. I might be," was the response.

Ellis then admitted he really didn't want to serve on a jury.

"I have the distinct impression that you're intentionally trying to avoid jury service," Nickerson said.

"That's true," Ellis answered.

Nickerson ordered Ellis taken into custody. He was released later Monday morning.

Ellis could face perjury and other charges 

While jury duty can be disruptive to the schedule, it is a civic duty. (Plus, if you’re trying to get out of jury duty, there are better, more honest ways to do it. Posted inMisc |Comments (3) |Permalink

Like Father, Like Daughter

I am so proud. Jessica, my three year old daughter is now using the computer. I found this coloring site, courtesy of Matt Homann’s  the [non] billable hour blog.

I colored with my daughter, having her point to the color she wanted and then point to what she wanted colored as she sat on my lap. I then realizedd that she could probably work the trackpad on the MacBook Pro all by herself. Within minutes, she was working the trackpad and clicking on the mouse.

The next day she pulled the oven door off her Little Tykes kitchen set and walked around calling it her computer, using the oven door window as her screen and the base as a computer She repeated all of the things for her coloring program on her oven door ‘computer’.

I decided if she was using an oven door as a computer, it was time to get her a computer. She now has her very own Barbie laptop. The first night I brought it home, she slept with it in her arms like it was a teddy bear.

I am so proud.

Posted inMisc |Comments (1) |Permalink

Sometimes You're In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Image001I received this picture from a friend. I don’t know how old it is, but sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ouch.

At least you know the person that hit you has enough insurance.

Posted inMisc |Comments (0) |Permalink

Working on Getting Set Up Again

Wow. I came in to work last Thursday morning and saw a blue screen of death. Okay. I’m down with that. No problem, I’ll reboot.

No can do. The drive is shot and won’t boot. Luckily, I had a new computer I was about to install and put in it’s place. I have regular backups, so all of the documents and the case management is on the server.

I just missed out on my WordPerfect settings, figuring out which version of Word and Office I need to install and inform MicroSoft of, my blogging software, my newsreader and my blogging software. Ouch.

In the last six months I’ve had the following:

  • Mac laptop – in the shop twice. Once under warranty and a cracked screen that was very expensive to fix.
  • Panasonic Ultralight PC laptop – In the shop twice, once for a cracked case and a second time for a loose video cable. When it went to the shop the first time, they replaced the hard drive for no discernible reason.
  • iPod Nano – Cracked screen and hard drive. It was in my briefcase and the MackBook Pro took it out. My personal opinion is that it was a professional hit. But I upgraded from the 4gig Nano to the 8 gig Nano.
  • Desktop – Hard drive ground to a halt. How often does that happen?
  • Treo 700 – This was replaced because of standard wear and tear. There was an upgrade involved but nothing serious.

I think the moral of the story is that I shouldn’t get near electronic equipment. I’ve been using computers since about 1979 (and no, that’s not a typo) and have never encountered a period like this.

Ah well….I’ll just put the pieces together one at a time. I’m looking forward to getting my laptop back tomorrow and we’ll see what happens from there.

"Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination." -- Albert Einstein

Posted inMisc |Comments (0) |Permalink

Meet the Myrtle Beach Lawyer in Louisville, Kentucky

I'll be in Louisville on Friday, March 16, 2007 to give a presentation on blogging for the Kentucky Academy of Trial Attorneys program Technology: How it Can Make You a Better Trial Lawyer.

Steve Frederick of the Kentucky Injury Law Blog graciously invited me to speak about blogs to the Kentucky lawyers. It should be a lot of fun. If you want to meet, give me a call on my cell phone at (843) 267-5455, or come down and join us.

It looks like a great program and we should have a lot of fun.

Posted inMisc |Comments (3) |Permalink

Meet the Myrtle Beach Lawyer in San Antonio

I'm in San Antonio, for the Workplace Injury and Litigation Advocacy Group's Convention. I'll be speaking on technology issues and workers comp. Okay, I'll be talking about blogs.

There should be quite a number of members of the group blog here. Todd O'Malley is the President of WILG this year. Also, Gary Gober, Randy Scarlett and John Romano are scheduled to be here. There should be lots of learning and a good time.

I do love Texas. My father's family is from East Texas, my wife is from Plano and we were married in Richardson, Texas.

If you want to have a beer, or join us, give me a call on my cell phone at (843) 267-5455.

Posted inMisc |Comments (0) |Permalink

Getting the Tools Back in Place

Blogging posts have been light lately. A lot has been due to a brand new baby. But a lot also has been due to losing all of my blogging tools. The last time I sent my laptop in for service to repair a crack in the case, they replaced the hard drive. I hadn't thought to back up the hard drive as I didn't have any problems with the drive. Mistake #1. It was replaced anyways.

I had my news aggregator with all of my feeds and all of the blogging software on my laptop. I purposely hadn't loaded it to my desktop, because I didn't want to blog during business hours. Mistake #2. Oops.

The laptop's screen has been flickering. I believe that the ribbon cable connecting the screen to the laptop is loose and needs to be re-seated. Anyways, I am backed up now. We'll see what we get back.

I'm currently working on getting my newsfeeds back up on the MacBook Pro and also making certain the MarsEdit works.

I also upgraded my Treo phone a few months ago and put most of the pre-sets that didn't transfer in place. This afternoon, I worked on getting the Treo to auto-dial Speak-Write and automatically log in and start a new message.

It takes time and effort, but it feels good getting the tools back in place.

Posted inMisc |Permalink

New Addition to the Swanner Family

I am pleased to announce an addition to the Swanner family. On Friday evening, January 19, 2007, Erica Swanner was born. She was 8 pounds, 2 ounces and 21 inches long. She is healthy, beautiful and looks like a miniature W.C. Fields (minus the cigar).

She came about 2–3 weeks early. Jessica was born 4 1/2 weeks early. My wife firmly believes that while the rest of the female population of the human race requires a gestation period of nine months, that she can finish a baby in less time. So far she’s been right.

And for those that are overly curious, we are stopping with two precious girls. I have been given the priceless advice of never letting the rug rats outnumber you. When you have to go from a man-to-man defense to a zone defense, it’s all over.

Posted inMisc |Comments (10) |Permalink

An Unusual Technical Problem

I had a computer meltdown the other day. My computer locked up and I rebooted. Well…..I tried to reboot. When I turned the machine back on, it wouldn’t go through it’s boot sequence. In fact, it wouldn’t even start the boot sequence. I couldn’t even bounce out to the BIOS menu. Ouch.

It turns out I had an iPod Nano who’s screen was broken. Ironically enough, it was broken when I put my MacBook Pro in my briefcase with the Nano. I don’t seem to have good luck with the screens of Apple products. The iPod worked for a few days and then conked out.

For some unknown reason, my computer was trying to boot to my corrupted iPod. Thank heavens for tech guys. I don’t think I would have figured that one out by myself.

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Special Invitation to Southern Trial Lawyer's Convention February 14-18

Howard Spiva has issued an invite to plaintiff’s lawyers to come and enjoy the Southern Trial Lawyer’s Annual Convention in New Orleans on February 14–18, 2007. If y’re a plaintiff’s attorney, this is a very worthwhile event, whether you’re in the South or not. It’s going to be a quick hitting seminar, with a lot of good information condensed into a two day seminar. Here is the lineup of presenters:

Tommy Malone (Atlanta, GA) with  Dr. Joel Llavine  (San Diego, CA), James Clark (Tampa, FL),  David Swanner (Myrtle Beach, SC), Charles Monnett III (Charlotte, NC), Fred Orr, II (Decatur, GA),  Frank Branson (Dallas, TX),  Earl Denham (Ocean Springs, MS), Gary Green (Little Rock, AR), Matthew Bobo (Irving, TX), Randy Scarlett (San Francisco, CA) and Susan H Connors (McLean, VA), Richard Jones (Atlanta, GA), Stan Broome (Irving, TX), David Crawford (Atlanta, GA), Elizabeth Pelypenko, (Atlanta, GA), John Romano (West Palm Beach, FL), Ben Hogan (Birmingham, AL), Buck Rogers (Atlanta, GA), Richard Shapiro (Bradenton, FL), Andrew Pillersdorf (New York, NY), Larry Schlachter (Roswell, GA), Howard Nations (Houston, TX), Fayrell Furr, Jr (Myrtle Beach, SC), Dr. Lichtblau (North Palm Beach, FL), W. Coleman Allen, Jr.  (Richmond, VA), Mark Zamora (Decatur, GA), Peter Perlman (Lexington, KY), Gary Gober (Nashville, TN), Chris Glover (Birmingham, AL), Roy Barnes (Marietta, GA), Howard Spiva (Savannah, GA), Marvin “Bo” Mullis, Jr. (Columbia , SC), Tom Dempsey (Los Angeles, CA), Jim Vititoe (Westlake Village, CA), Chris Searcy (W. Palm Beach, FL ), Stephen Smith (Hampton, VA), Gene Odom (Brandon, FL) and Eric Romano (W. Palm Beach, FL).

There’s a number of people presenting that our in our group trial lawyer blog. In alphabetical order,

Gary Gober, John Romano, Randy Scarlett, Mark Zamora and myself. Below the fold is Howard’s invitation: 

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Great Quotes for Lawyers

Over at the Trial Lawyer Resource Center Blog, Howard Spiva of The Spiva Law Group  in Savannah, Georgia, has a number of guest posts. I particularly like the collection of quotes he has put together. There are so many good ones, it’s hard to pull out one or two. I’ve listed one below because it was a favorite of Kerry Randall

You have brains is your head.
You have feet in your shoes.You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
-Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You'll Go!)

In other words, you need a plan and you need to execute. No one can say it better than the Seuss Man.

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Travel for the Tech Minded

I travel a lot for work. There are two things that help me feel more at home when I’m on the road. The first is internet access and the other is my music.

  • Internet Access – Nearly all hotels that I go to now have broadband internet access. Relatively few of them have wireless access. I have wireless access for my laptop at the office and the house. But when you go to a hotel, you have to sit at their desk with a short cord, that is normally not within eyesight of the tv. You can solve this problem by plugging in a portable wireless router. I’ve had it for about a year now and it works great. You plug it in and it works. No installation or messing with software needed.
  • Music – I like to listen to happy bouncy music in the morning when I wake up. I like mellow music to fall to sleep to. I also have a hypnotic sleep cd that helps me fall asleep. I have all of this music on my iPod Nano. When I’m at home, I plug my iPod into a Bose Sound Dock. Of course, the Bose gets a tremendous sound. It’s amazing the bass and sound response that it gets. When I’m on the road, I have an Altec Lansing speaker that is made for the Nano. It’s 2/3 of an inch thick, 5” x 8.5” and folds flat for travelling. It also charges the Nano, so I don’t have to bring a separate charger. It doesn’t get quite the sound of the Bose, but it’s pretty good. I enjoy the sound and the ability to have the music in the room while I’m out of town.
  • Phone / Treo 700p – If I’m out of town for 2–3 days, I need my phone. I get absentminded and forget to pack my phone charger. So I got an extra charger and keep it in my courier bag that is used for travel. I prefer the courier bag to a briefcase, so I don’t have to carry it. I prefer a courier bag to a backpack, because I can get in and out of it while it slung across my shoulder. With the extra charger, I don’t have to worry about packing or forgetting a charger.

Anything I can do to make travel easier.

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Meet the Myrtle Beach Lawyer in Atlanta

Next week, I’ll be in Atlanta from Wednesday evening through Sunday afternoon (November 29 – December 3). I’ll be going to Auto Torts, meeting up with friends and taking care of other business.

If you’ve never been to Auto Torts, you should really give it a try. There’s a tremendous lineup. From out of state, there is John Romano, Randy Scarlett, Mark R. Kosieradzki,  Gibson Vance and Mike Eidson. The South Carolina lawyers that will be speaking are David Fedor, Jahue Moore and me.

We also have from the judiciary Judge G. Ross Anderson, Judge Joe Anderson and Judge Kaye Hearn.

Rounding out the lineup is Senator Lindsey Graham and William Grooms (an accountant talking about expert witnesses).

Bo Mullis always gets a top-notch lineup. If you haven’t registered yet, you can sign-up here (pdf warning). I’ll be speaking on Saturday morning from 8:30 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. and talking about weblogs and how they are changing the face of the internet.

If you want to meet me, drop me an e-mail at or call my cellphone (843) 267–5455. I always like meeting new people.

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Light Posting Update

I’ve been light on posting lately. I’ve been travelling a lot for work and had a tremendous number of workers compensation hearings at the same time. My office has also been forunate enough to see an increase in the number of cases we have settled at the same time we’ve had some staffing issues (the height of the cold and flu season mixed with one staff turnover and our wonderful college student employe focusing on college). That plus, I was rearended in a minor car wreck. It all adds up to hectic and less time for blogging.

We’ll get back in the swing of things shortly.

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Looking for Part Time Help in Myrtle Beach

I have used this blog before to get some tremendous help. We got a college student to help open files, make copies and put demand packages together. She turned out to be a great worker, incredibly bright, nice to have around and a tremendous asset to the firm. We got her at a good price and in exchange gave her a lot of flexibility with her schedule. As she spent more time, she did more and more work and I was amazed at her ability to do pre-trial briefs, client statements, draft complaints, put together medical summaries, create checklists or pretty much anything we threw her way. It was really a delight to see her grow and to have her in the office. The only problem is that with her being a college student, we knew we would lose her sooner or later. It appears that it is sooner and we need another part-time person.

We are looking for a part-time person to work about two days a week. It can be two four hour days and an eight hour day, two straight days, four half days or any other combination. You don’t have to have any legal experience, but it would help to have some office experience. We’re looking for someone that is a hard worker, has a positive attitude and is willing to learn. If you have those traits, we’ll help you with the rest.

It took me awhile to understand how important a positive attitude is. First, because it determines what you can accomplish. As Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.” Secondly, I’ve got a great group of people working with me where we all like each other and all have positive attitudes. It makes it a fun place to work. We all come together when there’s a problem or something that needs to be fixed. Life’s too short to work with someone with a negative attitude.

So if you’re in Myrtle Beach, and want a part-time job, read the section on practice management, see if this is the kind of firm you would want to work for and send me an e-mail. If I’m lucky, we’ll get a high school or college student that’s at least half as good as Kellie.

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Meet the Myrtle Beach Lawyer in Williamsburg, Virginia

On Friday, October 20, I’ll be giving a presentation at the Virginia Trial Lawyer’s Association Solo and Small Firm Conference  (pdf warning) that is being run by Ben Glass. I’ve heard great things about this program. They have separate tracks over the two days for Practical Technology, Efficient Practices, Substantive Law and Expert Tracks. I will be speaking on “Managing a Plaintiff’s Firm: The Numbers that Matter”.

I will be in Williamsburg through Saturday morning. If anyone wants to meet for dinner or a beer, drop a line at my e-mail address. I’m looking forward to the great information and meeting new people.


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Holding an Unconference for the Southern Trial Lawyer's Fall Retreat

 Next Thursday, I’ll be going to the Fall Retreat for the Southern Trial Lawyer’s Association. Howard Spiva and I were talking about the open space ‘unconference’ that Matt Homann and Dennis Kennedy used at BlawgThink! in Chicago last October. I was very impressed with ‘unconference’ structure and Howard said “Let’s give it a shot”.

I did some research and found more about unconferences and posted it here: Designing a Better Conference. Here’s a little excerpt:

  • Whoever comes is the right people.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
  • Whenever it starts is the right time.
  • When it is over, it is over.
  • Finally we come to the One Law of Open Space. The Law of Two Feet. Every individual has two feet, and must be prepared to use them. Responsibility for a successful outcome in any Open Space Event resides with exactly one person -- each participant. Individuals can make a difference and must make a difference.

It will be interesting to see how it turns out and a lot of fun. I’ll let people know what happens.

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Update on the Myrtle Beach Lawyer

I’ve been slow on posting, because I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort into getting a new project off the ground.  It’s required a lot of my time to get the project underway.

Mark Zamora and I had talked about starting a group blog. We kicked around a number of ideas before settling on the final one.

We have a number of friends that are extraordinary trial lawyers and would benefit tremendously from a blog, but they didn’t have the time to write their own blog.

So our idea was to do a group blog with a number of the top trial lawyers, where they would only have to write about a post a week. And if their trial or speaking schedule kept them from writing for a month or so, they could take the time off because there would be others keeping the blog going.

We’ve gone past the idea stage and the group blog is about two weeks from going live. We’ve recruited about 15 lawyers to contribute to the blog. The focus on the blog will be trial techniques and the talent we have is amazing.

I’ll let you know more about the blog when we get closer to being live.

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Lawyers and A Sense of Humor

I just got back from the South Carolina Trial Lawyer’s Association Convention in Hilton Head. I gave a presentation on management reports and what to look for in managing a practice. My firm also sponsored a comedy show on Friday night. I brought in Manny Oliveira, a headliner from Atlanta. I was the feature performer and Manny was the Headliner. Manny wrote this essay about his experience at a Trial Lawyer’s Convention:

Most people have found attorneys and a sense of humor to be mutually exclusive. I admit that I have been one of the many misguided and ill-informed people who maintain this belief. Though attorneys have, at times, been looked upon as the lowest form of humanity, I must admit that I was wrong.

I recently performed for the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association. I can’t begin to tell you how many people gave me suggestions as to what I should do when I stood before them. The ideas ran the gamut from humiliation to mass murder. There is little compassion for this group of litigators. I was not looking forward to four days of judges and lawyers especially given the fact that my disdain for them was reinforced by anyone who had an opinion. Continue Reading Posted inMisc |Comments (5) |Permalink

I Will Never Buy Another Apple Computer Again

Less than six months ago, I bought a MacBook Pro. I loaded it up with the lots of  and a fast hard drive. The computer cost me nearly $3,000. It has been in the shop 2 times in less than six months.

The first time the keyboard had to be replaced. It was done quickly and painless and was a great example of Apple’s customer service. The second time, the monitor cracked.

I picked up the computer and the monitor cracked. I have had laptops for twenty years, going back to Zenith SuperSports and MiniSports, a stack of Toshiba laptops, a Sony, a Sharp and a Panasonic. I’ve never had a single one crack on me. I’ve had very litle servicing of any of my laptops. I am now told it will take $1,300 to replace the monitor because of ‘user error’.

I was told I could dispute the decision, was put on hold for over 20 minutes and was politely and friendly told to pound salt. I asked “Ummm….how is this ‘disputing’ the decision if you aren’t going to listen or change your mind?” The service tech thought that was a rhetorical question. I actually wanted an answer to why they put me on hold and made me wait to pretend to listen to my answer, when they had no thoughts of changing their mind.

The MacBook Pro was already overpriced for the equivalent of a Windows based PC. I was enjoying it and starting to buy into the Macintosh / Apple way, but not anymore. I can’t have a laptop that breaks for an inexplicable reason, have them blame it on me and then be told it’s $1,300 to fix when it’s less than six months old. That has not happened with any other computer manufacturer.

They’ve just lost a customer. I believe they’ve lost a customer for life, but will wait a while to make that decision. I don’t think they should treat any customer unfairly. I give a lot of seminars and presentations on technology to trial lawyers and speak to trial lawyers on a regular basis. I find it hard to believe that they really want to lose me for the price of a monitor screen.

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Meet the Myrtle Beach Lawyer in Columbus, Ohio

I’ll be in Columbus, Ohio next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers Convention. I’ll be the plenary speaker, opening the convention and will be giving a presentation entitled “What Military Interrogation and Stand-Up Comedy Taught Me About Being a Trial Lawyer: Lessons Learned on the Road Less Traveled.” Hmmmm… That sounds like quite a presentation. It’ll be interesting to see how I combine the three topics of interrogation, comedy and trial law. I’m not quite certain how it will all work out, but I know it will be entertaining by the time I’m done.

I’ll also give a presentation on blogging that I already have put together and is much easier to do.

If you want to meet me for coffee or a beer in Columbus, drop me an e-mail and say howdy. I always love meeting new people.

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Mac Laptop goes Kaput

Well, I have enjoyed various parts of the Mac laptop and was slowly learning some of the niftier aspects of the operating system when I started having problems with the keyboard. The bottom row of the keyboard just stops working every now and then. There’s no rhyme or reason, but it starts back up only to cut out again. It’s hard to get work done or write a post when the keys “zxcvbnm,.” don’t work. Apple says it’s a bad keyboard and will repair it. We’ll see how that works.

Hmmm….. that’s 2 laptops in the shop at the same time. I’m not even going to comment on that.

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Why Did You Become a Lawyer?

A middle school student in Rhode Island is doing a paper on lawyers and sent Evan Schaeffer an e-mail asking the following questions:

1. What is roughly your yearly income?

2. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

3. What school did you go to and for how long?

4. What do you do if you know your client is guilty?

5. What kind of cases do you take care of?

Help her out with her paper and answer the questions in Evan’s Comment Section.

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Posting Slowdown

Postings have been slow. My laptop is in the shop and it had all of my blog stuff on there. It has my news aggregator and Blogjet, plus other things I need. I feel nekkid without my news feeds. I’m getting some set up on the Mac, but don’t have all of the settings yet to make things post easily.

We’ll get there.

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Trying Some New Technology

The connector for the power supply on my laptop finally broke all the way and I had to send it off to get serviced. It’s a ‘Japanese Only’ model Panasonic Y4, so it will be gone for the better part of a month. To replace it, I ordered an Apple MacBook Pro. I’ve been wanting to check out Apple and OS X for awhile, but haven’t had the chance.

Last year, I bought a Macintosh PowerBook and my wife started using it and made it her own personal laptop. I haven’t seen it since. She does everything on it and is fairly ‘non-techie’, so I think that’s my answer. I have a few friends (Grant Griffiths, Ben Stevens, Ernie Svenson and Justin Kahn) who are big fans of the Mac and have been trying to turn me to the way of Apple, so it will be fun to check out.

I’ll report back on my impressions of it. The MacBook Pro hasn’t arrived yet (it’s being shipped from China. Say it isn’t so, Steve Jobs). So in the meantime, I’m stuck on my old 12” Sharp Actius laptop.

They say the first step towards fixing a gadget problem, is admitting you have a gadget problem. Personally, I don’t think I have a problem that more memory and a faster hard drive won’t solve.

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Meet the Myrtle Beach Attorney

I’ll be teaching a class on Winning Your First Civil Trial in Charleston on Friday, March 24, 2006. I’ll be in Charleston on Thursday afternoon to take care of some business and will be available for dinner, drinks, coffee and chatting on Thursday evening. If you want to meet, drop a line at my e-mail or call my cell phone (843) 267–5455.

Next up? Columbus, Ohio on May 25, I’ll be the opening speaker for the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers Convention.

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Designing a Better Conference

It is a rare conference that is entertaining, educational and worthwhile. My rule of thumb used to be that if I can get one piece of information out of the conference that was useable when I went home, it was worthwhile. Well. That’s a pretty low standard isn’t it? Dave Winer states the problem well:

The idea for an unconference came while sitting in the audience of a panel discussion at a conference, waiting for someone to say something intelligent, or not self-serving, or not mind-numbingly boring. The idea came while listening to someone drone endlessly through PowerPoint slides, nodding off, or (in later years) checking email, or posting something to my blog, wondering if it had to be so mind-numbingly boring.

This observation may turn out to be the Fundamental Law of Conventional Conferences.
The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.

Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine also talks about the problems of standard conferences:

Too many conferences suck. They’re too expensive. They are filled with boring panels. They are all about speeches and not about conversation and argument and learning and meeting. They don’t capture the expertise of the crowd. They enrich the organizers at the cost of both the “talent” and the “audience” (a distinction that is usually random, meaningless, and essentially insulting).

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A Petition for Rehearing that is Unlikely to Win

Every now and then I help a friend out on a project. We received a Petition for Rehearing that was filed by the Defendant in this case (without a lawyer). I will reprint the Statement of Issue and Conclusion in their entirety:

Statement of Issue Presented for Review: The Court of Appeals committed a major error in affirming the dismissal. The Court did not address the facts of the case. The Court has a warped perspective of the Rule of Law.

Conclusion: The Court Administration should have the case reviewed by competent individuals.

Ouch. I doubt insulting the Court will make it change it’s mind. Even, if he feels he’s right, that’s not a good way to win friends and influence people.

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Myrtle Beach Lawyer Selected as Workers Compensation Attorney of the Year

My office was selected by the Myrtle Beach Herald as the Workers Compensation Attorney of the Year. While I realize it’s more of a popularity contest, than anything else, they limited it to a single vote per subscriber. We appreciate the vote of confidence. There are a lot of good workers comp lawyers in Myrtle Beach. We work hard and look out for our clients. We try to go the extra mile to help out our clients and make a difference in their lives at a difficult time for them.

Thanks goes out to our clients and the people who voted for us. We appreciate the recognition.

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New Orleans Six Months After Hurricane Katrina

Visiting New Orleans, I was curious to see how it was doing. It’s hard to say. The French Quarter is up and running, most of the places opened up a week before Mardi Gras. One third of the restaurants and shops were still closed. Harrah’s had opened a week before. The upscale mall and the aquarium are still closed. But the places that were up and running seemed in good shape.

We were the first regular convention that had booked at the hotel and not cancelled and everyone at the hotel was very appreciative. The hotel was in good shape. Room service had limited hours, there was no mini-bar / in room service and they were only changing sheets every third day (unless requested otherwise). Small concessions, but you could tell that they had some problems with staffing.

Then you go out to the low lying districts and the devastation is mindboggling. Miles and miles of destroyed houses. I’m from Myrtle Beach and am used to seeing some hurricane damage, but it’s incomprehensible to see how many houses were destroyed by the flooding. Entire towns and communities that need to be torn down and rebuilt or relocated. Hurricane Katrina generated 60 million tons of debris. In the past 6 months, 30 million tons have been removed. There’s a lot of work to be done. More houses were destroyed than exist in the entire city of Nashville. Ouch.

Everyone we talked to had a story of what they went through. The interesting thing is the resourcefulness and resiliency of the people. While listening to the loss, hearing about people rolling up their sleeves, digging in and rebuilding their lives you hear stories of courage and determination and a sense of purpose that we tend to lose in the hectic pace of every day life. And while you hate the tragedy that caused it, seeing the city pull together is an inspiring sight.

Obviously, there’s a tremendous shortage of housing. Apartments are renting for $1,500 and landlords are requiring first and last month’s rent with a one month security deposit. Most people don’t have the $4,500 to rent an apartment. I read in the paper where Paul Prudhomme bought trailers for all of his staff, so that he could open his restaurants and they would have a place to live. Others have just lost their businesses. I was surprised to hear that the landlords in the French Quarter weren’t working more with the business owners.

Mark Zamora has a more detailed description of how New Orleans is doing. Monica Bay, also has described the condition and vibe of the city better and in much more detail here , here, here, here, here, here, and here. And of course, Ernie The Attorney has also done a tremendous job chronicling the rebuilding of the city from the inside.

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Back from the STLA Convention

I just got back from New Orleans and the Southern Trial Lawyers Convention. What a great, great group of people. I have never met such an incredibly talented and thoroughly helpful group of people in my life. Every event that I go to only reinforces this more strongly. Being around that many talented people is incredibly energizing. I’ve come away with bunches of new ideas. Ideas for educating the public, educating lawyers, marketing, public service (that has nothing to do with the law, but would still help people) and ideas on ways to be a better trial lawyer.

Right now my head is swimming and I have to get all of the ideas out of my head, down onto paper and prioritize the projects. Some of them are such good ideas that they make me practically vibrate when I think of them. Being around all of those good lawyers pays off. I’ll pass along information as some of these projects pass from the idea stage and become a reality.

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A Meme Runs Through it

Well, there’s a meme (which is internetspeak for ‘thing’) running around ‘tagging’ people to tell about themselves. I got hit by Bruce Allen of the Marketing Catalyst blog. Bruce is one of my favorite marketing people and I read his blog daily. So here goes, I’ll leave it to the amateur psychologists as to what this reveals about me.

Four Jobs I've had (in addition to being a Trial Lawyer):

  1. Busboy / Dishwasher
  2. Hungarian and Arabic Interrogator (and Interrogation Instructor)
  3. Computer Consultant / Programmer
  4. Stand-up Comedian

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  1. The Blues Brothers
  2. Real Genius
  3. Lawrence of Arabia
  4. The Mission Continue Reading Posted inMisc |Comments (0) |Permalink

Lawyers Dating Lawyers - Valentines Day Special

And a special Valentine’s Day link: Lawyers in Love

Lawyers in Love is the premier online dating site for single lawyers, law students, and legal professionals. If your schedule makes it difficult for you to meet people, if you are still working or during happy hours and other social events, if weekends are devoted to writing briefs or studying for your next law school exam, you will love this unique opportunity to find romance on the Web.

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Congratulations to McGowan and Hood

Last week Judge Floyd in Spartanburg gave preliminary approval to a class action antitrust settlement worth $489.7 Million. The plaintiff Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, was represented by Chad McGowan and Johnny Felder of McGowan, Hood along with Chad John Felder, Sr., Bates Felder, IS Leevy Johnson, and a lawyer from Tennessee and Washington (I’m sorry I don’t know their names, but will update if someone provides that.

The defendant was the largest maker of hospital beds in the country and was illegally bundling products (if you want to buy our beds, they come with these other products….). This is one of the 5 largest antitrust settlements in United States history.

With Ken Suggs being President of ATLA this year and this settlement, South Carolina lawyers are really making a big impact on the national scene. Good for them.



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Comedy for the Myrtle Beach Lawyer Update

A number of people have been asking how the comedy has been going. This spring I took a month long comedy workshop with Manny Oliveira. Manny is not only a great comedian, but also a fabulous teacher. We took the class of one evening a month and turned it into a two day Comedy Workshop for Trial Lawyers Building Trial Skills Through Stand-Up Comedy with a performance on Saturday night. Since that time I’ve gone on stage about once a week. A little less so in the winter, but still doing two shows when I go up on a Friday or a Saturday. Last October, I was the opening act on Friday and Saturday at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. That was a lot of fun. Pictures are here. And….

I’m getting better. I’m getting more comfortable going into the audience and pulling them with me. I’m having fun with new material and playing around with it. I’m learning that the energy levels and having fun are alot more important than the material. I’m about 10 minutes of material and a few months experience away from being a feature act (middle comedian). But the law and helping people is still my first love.

If you’re near Myrtle Beach, I’ll be the host and MC this Saturday, February 11, 2005 at the Comedy Cabana. There’s an 8:00 p.m. non-smoking show and a 10:15 p.m. regular show. Call (843) 449–HaHa (4242) for ticket reservations. If you’re reading this on the blog, tell them you’re with the Swanner party and I’ll cover the tickets, but you’ll have to call in and let them know you’re coming. The shows should book up fast.

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Requesting Comments on the Usefulness of Legal Blogs

I’m just putting the finishing touches on a presentation on legal blogging for the Southern Trial Lawyers Convention in New Orleans. My presentation will be on using blogs to educate the public and market your practice (.pdf warning). I just finished reading Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s book on business blogging,  Naked Conversations : How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers . Naked Conversations is a fabulous book with a lot of insight into how blogs are affecting and changing the business community and caused me to update my presentation. So now I have some questions:

  • What is GOOD about legal blogs?
  • What is BAD about legal blogs?
  • What benefits do people get from WRITING legal blogs?
  • What benefits do people get from READING legal blogs?
  • What OTHER COMMENTS do you have about legal blogs?

Any comments or e-mails from anyone that reads or has their own blogs would be appreciated. I’ll post my notes and presentation after I give it on February 23 in New Orleans.

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Myrtle Beach Lawyer Featured in SC & NC Lawyer's Weekly

Wow. Mike Dayton wrote a fabulous article about this blog in the December 12, 2005 edition of SC Lawyer’s Weekly. I believe that there was a feature article in the NC Lawyer’s Weekly as well. It was a front page story, below the fold. A half page on the front cover and a half page on the back cover, with a number of posts covering half a page on the inside of the paper. That’s a lot of coverage. I’ve reprinted their e-mail interview below:

Q:   What is blogging?
A:    A weblog is a Web site that can be easily updated. A weblog also has a newsfeed where a reader can "subscribe" to the feed and be automatically notified when the weblog is updated. Blogging is slang for writing a weblog. Some people even go as far as calling legal weblogs "blawgs."

Q:   How did you get started with it?
A:    I started off reading political blogs, then discovered legal weblogs. A year ago, most legal blogs were written by lawyers in the technical field, such as intellectual properties or computer contracts. I believe that after Evan Schaeffer in Illinois, I had the second weblog on trial issues in the country. Now, more and more trial lawyers are starting to blog. Continue Reading Posted inMisc |Comments (0) |Permalink

Meet Me in Atlanta

I’m going to be in Atlanta all weekend for the South Carolina Trial Lawyer’s Assocation Auto Torts Seminar. It’s always a great seminar. They do a fabulous job of getting national caliber speakers (Tom Vespers, Gary Pillersdorf, Charles Becton, Donald Besking, Don Kennan, Dorothy Clay-Sims…) in addition to our great South Carolina lawyers.

The J-Girls (my wife Jennifer and daughter Jessica) are making a road trip to visit friends in Virginia, so if you want to meet up for beers, coffee or a meal, drop a line at Dave @ or call on my cell phone (843) 267–5455.

See you there.

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Modern Interrogation is Built on Psychology - Not Torture

One last post on interrogation and then I’ll get off my soapbox and back to being a trial lawyer and running a trial practice. Hans Scharf, a German PFC, is the father of modern interrogation. He was the son of a South African manufacturer visiting family in Germany when World War II broke out and was conscripted into the German Luftwaffe. He was assigned to question U.S. Airforce and British RAF pilots. He always got his information. How did he do it?

The key is to get the prisoner talking. And it doesn’t have to be about military topics, or sensitive information. You just want them talking. Once they’re talking, you can steer the conversation around to other issues, toss in a few innocent questions here and there and you’re on your way. (It’s not quite that easy, but that’s the main point). Continue Reading Posted inMisc |Comments (3) |Permalink

Meet Your Interrogator: An Untrained Civilian from Lockheed Martin

Another off-topic interrogation story. I left the Army as an interrogation instructor at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona in 1989. During my time in service, I revamped and wrote (along with 2 others) an interrogation course for the Marine reserves. At that time, the interrogation course was eight weeks long and included one month of platform instruction and one months of (ahem) …’hands on’ interrogation, with the instructors roleplaying as the interrogees/prisoners.

By the time that the students had finished the course they had completed 15 full interrogations and about 5 partial interrogations that focused on specific areas. They were graded on all of the interrogations and tested on three of them. The students would have observed and critiqued 10 interrogations and had a month of classroom instruction on questioning techniques, approaches, mapreading and map tracking, report writing, document exploitation, opposing force battle strategies and order of battle and other topics.

Before teaching at the Intelligence Center and School, I was at the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky (which oddly enough is in Tennessee). I went on a training exercise working with some reservists at Ft. Bragg. Observing and critiquing one young interrogator was excruciating. He was horrible and didn’t seem to know the first thing about interrogation. I asked him where he got his training. His response? He hadn’t been trained, but he had watched a lot of war movies. Ouch. Continue Reading Posted inMisc, Other / Misc |Comments (14) |Permalink

Following the Law is Important in Interrogations

I’m going to go off topic for a bit about something that is important to me. Interrogation and international law. I’m a retired interrogator from the U.S. Army and taught interrogation for three years. Back when I was involved with the Army, we believed in doing the right thing and following international law. Times have changed.

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post writes that the Bush administration’s decision to hold dozens of al Qaeda prisoners in secret prisons, with no regard to due process is like something out of a bad spy novel. “It was a “small circle of White House and Justice Department lawyers and officials" who approved this archipelago of "black-site" detention centers, The Post reported.”

Why does it matter how we treat a bunch of Islamic radicals who are sworn to bring death and destruction to the United States? It matters because the United States draws its strength and its moral authority in the world from its ideals. We preach about due process, we preach about the rule of law, we preach about humane treatment -- and now we're ignoring our own pronouncements.

But there's more at stake than American standing in the world. Our ideals are the heart and soul of
this nation. We are not an ancient nation united by language or blood. Our ideals, rather than ethnicity or even territory, hold us together and make us a nation. When we betray those ideals, we weaken America.

He has it exactly right. It is not a matter of whether they are doing something worse. It’s not a matter of what they deserve. It’s a matter of what kind of people we are and how we choose to live our lives. I always grew up thinking that we were the good guys and believing in democracy and the justice system.

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Still Time to Sign up for BlawgThink

Matt Homann talked me into going to BlawgThink. There are two reasons that I was convinced to go. First, there were a lot of people that I’ve talked to online that I would like to meet in person and second with the number of intelligent people going to BlawgThink, I thought that some of the wattage would have to rub off. I decided to go less for the classes than for the company of many, many interesting, intelligent forward thinkers.

There’s another reason to go to BlawgThink. After signing up, I realized that there are a number of talented people that are leaders in their fields that are less tech savvy, but want to learn about blogging. People that are not denizens of the ‘blogosphere’, but also sharp enough to understand that blogs are a different way of doing business. On the attendees board, people are introducing themselves and there are some sharp, sharp people that don’t have blogs yet, but want to learn in a shortened period of time. And the faculty has most of (if not nearly all) of the legal blogging pioneers and top legal bloggers out there.

So if you’re interested in starting your own blog and want to learn more about how weblogs work, what they can do for you, how and what to write, the etiquette, how to use them for marketing, the software to use, or pretty much anything else contact Matt. There’s still time to sign up.

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Get Your Vioxx Updates from Mark Zamora

Mark Zamora over at A Georgia Lawyer, is doing a great job of staying abreast of the Vioxx trials and the MDL. So if you want to stay up on what’s going on, drop in and check it out.

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Apple Releases the iPod Nano

Well, on Wednesday Apple released the iPod Nano. It’s an mp3 player that’s smaller than a business card and as thick as a stack of 5 credit cards with a 1.5 inch color screen that will automatically show album covers or color photos. It comes in black or white and 2 gig and 4 gig versions. It’s a flash based player instead of a hard drive player.

I ordered a 4 gig black nano yesterday. And I had been doing so well on my gadget addiction too. While, I got a Treo 600 a week before the official release (thanks to a tip off by TreoCentral), I’ve forcibly held myself off on a Treo 650 (a feat of nearly Herculean discipline for a gadget freak like me). But the nano should be here in a few days. Ah well. No one is perfect.

My wife asked if I needed a new mp3 player. I was a bit confused. What does need have to do with gadgets.

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Understanding the Disaster in Louisiana

Ellen Baab, A lawyer friend of mine received these forwarded thoughts from Michelle Ghetti, a law school professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Michelle has thought out a number of the ramifications of this disaster and it’s mindboggling:

5,000 - 6,000 lawyers (1/3 of the lawyers  in Louisiana)  have lost their offices, their libraries, their computers with all information  thereon, their client files - possibly their clients, as one attorney who  e-mailed me noted.  As I mentioned before, they are scattered from  Florida to Arizona and  have nothing to return to.  Their children's schools are gone and,  optimistically, the school systems in 8 parishes/counties won't be re-opened  until after December.  They must re-locate their lives.   

Our state supreme court is under some water - with all appellate  files and evidence folders/boxes along with it.  The 5th Circuit Court of  Appeals building is under some water - with the same effect.  Right now  there may only be 3-4 feet of standing water but, if you think about it, most  files are kept in the basements or lower floors of courthouses.  What  effect will that have on the lives of citizens and lawyers throughout this state  and this area of the country?  And on the law?

The city and  district courts in as many as 8 parishes/counties are under water, as well as 3  of our circuit courts - with evidence/files at each of them ruined.  The  law enforcement offices in those areas are under water - again, with evidence  ruined.  6,000 prisoners in 2 prisons and one juvenile facility are having  to be securely relocated.  We already have over-crowding at most Louisiana  prisons and juvenile facilities.  What effect will this have?  And  what happens when the evidence in their cases has been destroyed?  Will the guilty be released upon the communities?  Will the innocent not be able to prove their innocence?

Our state bar offices are under water.  Our state disciplinary offices are under water - again with evidence  ruined.  Our state disciplinary offices are located on Veteran's Blvd. in  Metairie.  Those of you who have been  watching the news, they continue to show Veteran's Blvd.  It's the shot  with the destroyed Target store and shopping center under water and that looks  like a long canal.  Our Committee on Bar Admissions is located there and  would have been housing the bar exams which have been turned in from the recent  July bar exam (this is one time I'll pray the examiners were late in turning  them in - we were set to meet in 2 weeks to go over the results).  Will all  of those new graduates have to retake the bar exam?

Two of the 4  law schools in Louisiana are located in  New Orleans (Loyola and Tulane - the  2 private ones that students have already paid about $8,000+  for this semester  to attend).  Another 1,000+ lawyers-to-be whose lives have been detoured.  I've contacted professors at both schools but they can't reach anyone at  those schools and don't know the amount of damage they've taken. 

Certainly, at least, this semester is over.  I'm trying to reach the Chancellor's at Southern and LSU here in Baton Rouge to see if there's  anything we can do to take in the  students and/or the professors.  I think I mentioned before, students from  out of state have beens stranded at least 2 of the other universities in New  Orleans - they're moving up floor after floor as the water rises.  Our  local news station received a call from some medical students at Tulane Medical  Center who were now on the 5th floor of the dormitories as the water had  risen.&nbs p; One of them had had a heart attack and they had no medical  supplies and couldn't reach anyone - 911 was busy, local law enforcement  couldn't be reached, they were going through the phone book and reached a news  station 90 miles away!!  It took the station almost 45 minutes to finally  find someone with FEMA to try to get in to them!!

And, then, there  are the clients whose files are lost, whose cases are stymied.  Their  lives, too, are derailed.  Of course, the vast majority live in the area  and that's the least of their worries.  But, the New Orleans firms also have a large  national and international client base.  For example, I received an e-mail  from one attorney friend who I work with on some crucial domestic violence  (spousal and child) cases around the nation - those clients could be seriously  impacted by the loss, even temporarily, of their attorney - and he can't get to  them and is having difficulty contacting the many courts around the nation where  his cases are pending.  Large corporate clients may have their files  blowing in the wind where the high rise buildings had windows blown out. 

I woke up this morning to the picture of Veteran's Blvd which made  me think of my students who just took the bar.  My thoughts wandered from  there to the effect on the Disciplinary Offices.  Then my thoughts  continued on.  I'm sure I'm still missing a big part of the future picture.  It's just devastating.  Can you imagine something of this dimension  in your state?

Michelle Ghetti

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Evan Schaeffer is Speaking on Vioxx at AEI

Evan Schaeffer will be on a panel discussion on the panel discussion on the Vioxx verdict at the American Enterprise Institute. If you’re not familiar with the AEI, they are one of the leading conservative think tanks.

Notes from the program header read: 

The AEI Liability Project seeks to promote a better understanding of the scope and consequences of the liability crisis and to help ensure that political or legal reform efforts are aimed at the appropriate targets. (emphasis added).

From the AEI Liability Project Mission Statement:

Plaintiffs’ attorneys are suing on claims without tangible harms, with billions of dollars of judgments and settlements for injuries that are purely hypothetical;

Man. Billions of dollars on hypothetical claims?? That must be in another jurisdiction. Because if that was the case, I surely would have retired and would take my private jet down to the Carribean.

 Evan consistently invites dissenting opinions and voices on his blog. I admire his efforts at engaging the other side head on. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any room for common ground. It’s not a question of finding consensus on ideas and working from there. These people are out for the destruction of the jury system. More on that later, but good luck to Evan and kudos for being a voice of reason on the panel.

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Ernie The Attorney is Riding out Hurricane Katrina

Ernie the Attorney, tried to make it out of town, but decided that hunkering down was the best way to go.

So I tried to leave New Orleans today at 12:30 pm but after 4 hours of driving I had only made it 15 miles. I was alone and tired so I decided the safe play was to return. It's kind of sad when the 'safe play' is to go back and wait to be pounded by the gnashing fury of a Category 5 hurricane.

Living in Myrtle Beach, on the coast of South Carolina, I’m not a stranger of hurricanes. I’ve ridden through a number of hurricanes. I’d rather be at home, than in a hotel wondering how bad my stuff was. But not a Category 5 hurricane. I would evacuate for a Cat 5.

Let’s hope everything comes out okay for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in general and Ernie specifically. Our thoughts and prayers are with you Ernie.

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Tom Mesereau Speaks at South Carolina Trial Lawyer Convention

I just got back from the SCTLA Convention in Hilton Head. It’s always great to catch up with friends, get to know people better and meet people in person that I know through the listserv or by reputation. I gave a presentation on Blogs, RSS Feeds and News Aggregators and hosted and performed in a comedy show on Friday night.

The highlight of the Convention was a presentation given by Tom Mesereau, Michael Jackson’s attorney. Tom spoke passionately for an hour and fifteen minutes without a single pause or break with no notes. He said some great stuff. I took notes and will have a few posts on it over the next week. In the meantime, you can hear the press accounts of his presentation from the Hilton Head and Charleston (free registration required) papers.

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Fun at the ATLA Convention

I’m still in Toronto at the ATLA Convention. They have over 300 presentations in 5 days. More often than not having up to ten different tracks of presentations going on at the same time. A lot of great people to meet and catch up with, plus exhibitors that with a lot of fabulous products. I truly enjoy the mix of the education, the learning, the exposure, plus just sharing with talented trial attorneys.

I met up with Evan Schaeffer of Legal Underground and Illinois Trial Practice Weblog this morning. We talked about our practices, the effort and rewards of our respective blogs, podcasting, his book, my comedy and just got to know each other a bit. Evan is every bit as funny, nice and smart in person as you would expect from reading his blogs.

Then upon leaving the exhibit halls, I just happened to catch the nametag of someone walking past and it was John Day of Day on Torts. John and I chatted a bit and it was great to meet him too. He told me that their new Tennessee Business Litigation Weblog was really taking off. We talked about various technology issues and some of the things that he’s done with his practice. John was a lot more interesting than I had picked up just from reading his weblog.

On Monday, I saw a presentation on the use of PowerPoint by Bruce Stern of the Brain Injury Law Blog which was fantastic. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to talk to Bruce as I had to get to another presentation before the end of that block of presentations. Maybe next year.

Tonight, I’m going to the reception for Kenn Suggs, who is being sworn in as President of ATLA. It’s a great accomplishment for a fellow South Carolina trial lawyer.

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