Mobility: Faxing

metrofaxlogo It’s amazing what can be done with technology these days! One of the neat tricks-of-the-trade for mobile attorneys is being able to fax from your mobile device!

Most of the Internet-based fax services come with their own mobile apps. Even if they don’t, however, you can get to their website on any mobile device. After trying several services over the years, I stuck with MetroFax. It’s been a reliable service and is a good value, especially with the number of base pages you get with the various plans. I have a toll-free fax number that comes with a 1000 pages before I incur any additional per-page charges. I have not gone over that limit in a few years. MetroFax has cheaper and more expensive plans to suit your faxing needs. My mobile devices are an iPhone and an iPad. MetroFax has an iOS app.

Real-World Use Examples

Let me give you two examples of how I have used Internet faxing from a mobile device. The first happened when I was at an out-of-town ABA conference. I still had to file a motion, proposed order, and notice of hearing, while also serving opposing counsel. In the morning before the conference activity began, I finished preparing the documents.

Quick aside…
Because I have an electronic signature (electronic image of my actual signature in blue “ink”), I am able to electronically sign my documents in Microsoft Word and thus avoid the infamous “/s/Benjamin K. Sanchez” that so many attorneys do these days. I save my Word documents to Adobe PDF format and they are ready for faxing, emailing, electronic filing, etc. My pleadings are electronic but with the true signature feel.

Back to the Examples

Now that my documents were ready, I e-filed them with the county clerk. Afterwards, I was able to use the MetroFax app to fax my documents with a cover page to my opposing counsel and then get my fax confirmation via e-mail. (For every fax I send out, I get an e-mail confirmation that the fax succeeded or failed.)

Although I didn’t describe every single movement I made to effectuate the above fax, it truly was very simple. Once you understand how to do it, you’ll be wanting the opportunity to arise when you can fax from the road!

In the second example, which happened just a week ago, I was out of town filing a new petition and application for temporary restraining order (TRO). I had to file everything in person (rather than e-filing) because my client and I needed to see a judge after the pleadings were filed in order to obtain the TRO. While the district clerk was in the process of filing the documents, she asked if I had a cover letter setting forth the instructions on who to serve, where to serve, and how to serve. Although this information was clearly spelled out in the petition itself, I obliged her and asked if I could send a fax rather than a completely separate letter. When she said that was fine, I pulled out my iPhone, went into my MetroFax app, and whipped out a fax with the information she needed. While we were standing there, the fax came through her fax machine!

Moving to Electronic Documents, Filing, and Faxing

I don’t have to tell you what you already should know: each day we are moving closer to electronic documents, electronic filing, and electronic faxing. The Texas Supreme Court has instituted a plan that will transition every court in Texas to an electronic-filing court and requires attorneys to e-file all documents as early as January (the plan is being phased in over the next two years based on county size). I have been using electronic faxing (and more specifically, Internet-based faxing as opposed to server-based faxing) for six years now. I rarely have to print anything that I create, but I still do so for affidavits and verifications, where I have to sign in front of a notary. But there again, in Texas we now have “Unsworn Declarations” that need no notary as long as you follow the language of the statute and swear under penalty of perjury! Although I prefer to use a notary for most things, I find myself using the unsworn declaration more and more to verify routine documents such as a motion for continuance.

It’s important that attorneys and their staff know how to be nimble regarding our new electronic world. I guaranty you that attorneys who fax from their mobile device for the first time get a tingling sensation all over! Try it; you just might like it!

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FedEx Office v. Harris County Law Library

logo-header-fedexIn addition to my regular clients who retain me as their attorney of record in particular matters, I also have law firms and lawyers who hire me to appear for them in court. Most of the time, they are out-of-town and thus are unable to attend, but sometimes they are local attorneys who simply have a conflict in their schedule.

On a recent morning, while I was sitting in Starbucks, drinking my coffee and preparing for the morning hearings in three difference courts in the Harris County Civil Courthouse, I realized that one of my appearance clients had not filed the motion they emailed to me and thus I might need to file a hard-copy of the motion with the court. This is not necessarily a big deal, but for the fact that I try to be as paperless as possible. Whenever I or an appearance client have filed pleadings and evidence in advance of a hearing or bench trial, I tend to bring only my iPad to court. I see no sense in needlessly wasting paper.

After e-mailing my client to confirm that they had not yet filed the motion, I used my iPhone to find the nearest FedEx Office with a computer/printer bank and then headed on over. Once I arrived at the FedEx Office, I jumped onto a computer, opened my e-mail, and printed off the motion that the client had sent to me. Unfortunately, through computer usage fees and printing fees, I ended up paying about $25 for less than 5 minutes of computer time and 41 printed pages.

I made it to the courthouse with more than enough time to file the motion with the court clerk. Only one problem: when I handed the clerk the motion, she handed it back and noted that it was for a different case in a different court. I immediately realized that I had printed the wrong motion (it was for one of my other hearings that morning). Frustrated, I had to think fast. I then realized that the newly-renovated Harris County Law Library was just two blocks from the courthouse. So I walked on over to try this again.

Although I have visited the Law Library several times over the years, it wasn’t really updated for technology until the recent renovation that was completed earlier this year. Now, the Law Library has more than enough computers to go along with the books. The Law Library also has an independently-contracted printing shop inside to allow for printing, copying, and other services. There are more than enough tables and electrical outlets that one could bring his or her own laptop and camp out without disturbance.

I thus get on one of the public computers, again go to my e-mail, and print out the correct motion this time. I head over to the service cashier to pick up the printed pages and pay. Total bill: $3.10! No charge for use of the computer and only 10 cents a page for the print. The obvious light bulb went off in my head! No more FedEx Office during normal hours (FedEx Office will still come in handy in the evening when the Law Library is closed). Lesson learned, and now you know as well!

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ABA Midyear Meeting

ABA LogoA week and a half ago, I attended the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting in Dallas, just a few hours north of my hometown of Houston. I lived in Dallas from 2000 to 2003, so attending the meeting in Dallas was not necessarily an eye-opening travel experience for me. As for travel, I’m looking forward much more to attending the upcoming meetings in Chicago (IL) in April (ABA Section of Litigation Annual Conference), Anchorage (AK) in May (ABA GPSolo Spring Leadership Meeting), San Francisco (CA) in August (ABA Annual Meeting), and Lexington (KY) in October (ABA GPSolo Fall Meeting and National Solo & Small Firm Conference).

As for content and leadership, I had an excellent and varied experience at the Midyear. If you are not into bar association work or attending bar association meetings and conferences live, then you may not yet understand how beneficial such events can be. Not only do they help with networking and getting valuable association work done, but also the CLE and social events can be just as beneficial! Of course, all of this goes on against the backdrop of your continuing law practice back home.

So, what did I do during the Midyear? I’m glad you asked! I attended the GPSolo Editorial Board meeting, a couple of focus group sessions by a corporate sponsor for the ABA, various CLEs at the Midyear hotel, a CLE sponsored by the Dallas Bar Association at the Belo Mansion (home of the DBA), some breakfasts and lunches, and a Saturday night showing of My Cousin Vinny, sponsored by the ABA. I enjoyed catching up with friends and colleagues and meeting new ones! For all you “bar junkies” out there, I encourage you to get involved in the American Bar Association and attend the meetings. Hopefully I will see you there!

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Loving the Courtroom!

Perry Mason Image

Perry Mason

I decided to be a lawyer after conducting a career study as a freshman in high school. Having been a good student in both Math and English, I narrowed my choices to a professional career as an engineer or lawyer. Given the construction bust in the mid-80s in Texas, the legal profession won out. When I thought of being a lawyer, the only type of lawyer I could consider was a courtroom lawyer, a trial lawyer! Having watch Perry MasonLA Law, and assorted lawyer movies growing up, I just knew that being in a courtroom was going to be my place in the world.

When I attended college, I took communication and speech courses to help improve my public speaking and thinking on my feet, not that I had trouble with either before then. I was blessed with a mother and step-father who were professional newspaper journalists. My mother was a copy editor, and my step-father was a reporter and later a news editor. Both taught me to write well, improving not only my writing mechanics and fundamentals but also my writing style and voice.

While in college, I also joined a pre-law fraternity. The fraternity didn’t help much with my skills, but I appreciated being around people with similar interests. Most of my fellow collegiate students in the fraternity also wanted to be trial attorneys, so there was definitely a lot of confident and outgoing people with whom to share experiences.

By the time I reached law school, my writing and speaking skills were great, but they hadn’t been honed yet for the legal profession. I earned Best Brief in my first-year legal writing class, after having earned Honors in my first-year legal research class. I followed my first year with a summer of creating and developing the new and only student chapter of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association so that I could bring hands-on teaching from experienced local trial attorneys. My law school career continued with student advocacy competitions in mock trial, moot court, and mediation, as well as being on the Board of the student organization that managed all of those competitions.

By the time I graduated from law school, my confidence to do what I had set out to do all those years before was higher than ever. My first ever courtroom experience fell flat, however, as I helped a friend through an agreed divorce proceeding. Half-way through the prove-up hearing, the judge politely stopped me and took over the questioning in order to get the matter concluded. Not deterred, I kept at it and was blessed to be asked by one of my law school lawyer mentors to represent him in a partnership-dissolution case regarding the breakup of his law firm partnership. To be sure, he would be the managing attorney, but I was able to work hard, observe, and participate in hearings and the two-week jury trial within nine months of being licensed. The experience was hard work but phenomenal. I have loved the courtroom ever since that first year of practice 15 years ago!

Being a trial lawyer is not easy, and most people don’t recognize or understand that amount of work that goes into a case before it ever sees the light of a courtroom in front of the judge or jury. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not only do I represent my own clients in court, but I also am retained by other attorneys to represent their clients in court. I am in court a great deal these days and loving every minute of it!

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Say Hello to My Little Friend!

I am glad to welcome this blog back to my life. I’ve missed it. I had it for a brief time when I bought my first iMac, which had iWeb included as part of the iLife software suite. Although I had used Microsoft Frontpage to develop my business website, I decided to take the plunge and do something a little more personal on the iMac. That blog was sorely neglected and ultimately died, even long before MobileMe died yesterday.

In trying to figure out what to do with the domain name that I had bought and used for the prior blog, I decided that I really did want to write a blog about the intersection of the practice of law and the living of life. I’ve explained what a “law affair” is here, but suffice it to say that law doesn’t always play well with others. I hope that my readers will come to understand just what a lawyer’s life (especially one of a litigator) is like and how the legal profession tends to monopolize a lawyer’s life if he or she isn’t careful and steadfast to guard against that.

May the games begin…

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