Saturday, January 31, 2009

Interesting cross-examination by a prosecutor

The video below shows inappropriate conduct for a prosecutor, or any attorney, in a courtroom, and I'd say the same for the judge. The witness is Stacy Castor in Syracuse. Read more about it at the Syracuse Post-Standard. You think a defense lawyer would be allowed to scream at a cop like this?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Traffic/Criminal Lawyers Club Update

The Traffic and Criminal Lawyers Club is up and running. We are approaching 30 members. I've put together a draft user guide and posted it on my firm website: Traffic/Criminal Lawyer Club User Guide. This is a large file in "pdf" format. It describes how to join and how to use the club features.

I will be updating the guide over the next few weeks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hiring Is Harder Than Firing

We're currently in the process of hiring a new associate. Since I started this firm, nearly 6 years ago now, I've hired several people and fired some. Based on my experience so far, I have to say that firing people is much easier than hiring them. That may sound harsh, but it's true.

Say you get applications from about twenty people for one job. You're going to have to say no to 19 people. When you fire someone, you're just saying no to that one person. When you hire, you're saying no to a lot more.

Firing is easier because you have gotten to know the person, seen the quality of their work, and you know they're not right for the job. You know you're making the right decision. There's only one person I've fired where I feel any regret. We all liked him and still do. It was still the right decision, but it was tough.

Hiring is so much harder because you know so little about the candidates. You get a one-page summary (their resume), a transcript that shows how they did in the past in school (and that may have been years ago), and maybe a few other documents. In my experience at least 5 of the 20 applicants will clearly be wrong for the job, so those aren't as hard. And a few people will have misspellings and other typos in their papers. That is a huge negative.

From these pieces of paper you narrow it down to interview maybe 6 of the people. You've already said no to 14 people and you never met them. But there's a middle group. To be fair I try to interview a few extra people on the phone, and bring in the ones who seem okay.

So you do the interviews. A few people will show themselves to be wrong. But you'll end up with at least three people who seem pretty good. You call a few references who almost always say nice things about them.

Now you have to make a decision. How do you choose between three or four really good people? You take your best shot. It's a guess more than anything else.

To make things worse, sometimes the first person you offer the job to says no. Maybe the second. I got my first lawyer job because the first choice failed a credit check.

After all that, the person comes to work for you. Hopefully it works out. I'd say about half the time something goes wrong within the first six months (and sometimes the first couple weeks). Either they leave or you fire them. And you have to start the whole thing over again.

For another (brief) view on hiring and firing see what Darth Vader of Sith Sigma has to say about it.

Trying a different Amazon Ad format below. It's for a book about hiring.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Weird Analytics

Something weird on Google Analytics just now. This blog had nearly 300 visits in the past two days from a single keyword phrase search from Yahoo. The search was for "funny speeding ticket excuses".

Ordinarily I'd figure it was some kind of glitch on one computer somewhere. But I checked and the searches come from 255 different cities. See image below. I also checked operating system -- 273 from Windows and 23 from Mac. Three different browsers too (IE, Firefox and Safari). That would mostly seem to rule out a virus causing this. I can't figure out what prompted 300 people to search for the phrase "funny speeding ticket excuses" on Yahoo only, and then click on my page on speeding ticket excuses, which doesn't even rank #1.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Traffic Lawyers Club - Free!!

Our traffic lawyer club is up and running. This is a feature on our traffic court website.

Membership in the club is for lawyers only and it's FREE. We are going to verify that those who register are lawyers.

If you're a lawyer who handles some cases in traffic court or local criminal court, please register on the site.

There are currently 14 states in the directory, plus DC. A couple of the states are incomplete (TX, PA, and WA).

Please try it out. There are three main benefits:

1. You will be listed in the lawyer directory. Our site is visited by about 100,000 people a month. In the last 31 days there were over 35,000 visits from New York State, over 13,000 from California, and over 11,000 from New Jersey. And there's more: CT (4500), PA (4000), OH (3600), MA (3150), VA (3000), FL (2400), and TX (2200).

Some of these people might want a lawyer. Membership is free for now (we'll start charging $100/year in 2010). It'll take 10 minutes to get set up on the directory.

2. You can write articles that will appear on the site. This can generate more business for you.

3. There is a calendar feature. There are times when a lawyer needs another lawyer to cover an appearance. It can be tough to find someone. If you put your calendar in, someone looking for help will find you and you'll get more business. If you're looking for someone, the calendar will help. And as a fallback, the calendar lists lawyers who say they regularly handle that court.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Oklahoma Playing Dirty

Just a quick hit on the Florida-Oklahoma game. Oklahoma is playing dirty. There was a horse-collar tackle on a FL running back (#3) - no call and it took him out of the game. A wicked facemask on Demps (FL #2) as he neared the end zone - called but just a nasty facemask. There was the uncalled and obvious cheap shot on Harvin (FL #1) when the Oklahoma defender yanked his legs after the tackle. And I saw a few cheap shots on Tebow too. One to the head, and another where the OU defender dropped a knee on Tebow's back after the play was over. The refs didn't call those. Tebow being the Man of Steel, he didn't notice either. But I did.

Of course the refs did find time to penalize Florida for excessive celebration once and a very weak taunting call on Tebow. Apparently an ACC crew that must hate the SEC.

I was also amazed at Demps' field speed on one play. Harvin had a long run in the first half, and Demps blazed ahead of him and blocked a defender.

I'm not sure Tebow is an NFL quarterback -- they tend not to like star QBs running hard up the middle. But he's clearly the MVP of college football this year.

Before the game I thought USC had an argument for being #1. Now, as the game appears to be out of reach, it's pretty clear that Florida deserves the title.

Traffic Court 2008

2008 was a good year for our traffic court website. Here are some numbers:

Almost 900,000 visits (897K)
Over 700K unique visitors (different people using the website)
Over 2 million pageviews

The site's homepage was viewed over 220,000 times by over 150,000 people. The NY page had over 80,000 views by nearly 55,000 different people.

The top court pages were:
Jersey City Municipal Court (over 10,000 views)
Philadelphia Traffic Court (over 8,000)
Nassau County District Court (over 8000)

Not far down the list was our own Albany Traffic Court with over 7000 views. The Criminal Part page had over 4000 views. The Courts in California are on the rise and some of them will likely crack the top in 2009.

Overall, site traffic more than doubled from December '07 to December '08. Meanwhile 2009 is off with a bang. The Monday after a holiday weekend is usually strong, and January 5th was far and away the site's biggest day ever, with nearly 7000 visits. Tuesday and Wednesday were lower, but bigger than any day before Monday. Revenue from Google ads and direct attorney ads are both up dramatically, and the site remains profitable. We have invested nearly all the revenue in improving the site, adding courts and new features.

Speaking of which, any day now we will be introducing the lawyers' club. Lawyers will be able to create accounts, list themselves in a directory of traffic lawyers (by state, county and court), and write articles. The "killer app" (I think) will be a calendar feature accessible only to lawyer-members. Lawyers can put in where they're going to be. Lawyers who can't make it to a court appearance will be able to see who is going to be there. The club will be free for 2009, and we expect to charge $100/year starting in 2010.

Other site improvements will include a "flag comment" feature so people can easily note incorrect information, inappropriate content, copyright concerns or other issues. We are also improving our Google ads, though most users will not notice this. The site will use "channels", mainly by state, so people viewing NY pages should see less ads for VA attorneys and such.

While on 2008, I should mention that our law firm's main site: Albany Lawyer had over 100,000 unique visitors and over 200,000 pageviews. It is the driving force behind our firm. This blog was viewed by over 25,000 different users who viewed 40,000 pages. The top blog post hands down was my 2005 post about 1110a and our traffic violation research project - viewed over 4000 times. In a distant second and third place were posts about tailgating and marijuana dismissals, both from 2006. An August 2008 post on car depreciation is booming and was the #1 post for December. I'm a little puzzled by that one.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Attorney Ethics and Jurisdiction

Here's an interesting ethics question that came up in our practice. We have gotten a number of cases dismissed on "geographic jurisdiction" under Article 20 of the CPL. In short, our client is charged in a town, but it turns out that the location where the incident occurred is clearly in a different town.

When it's a simple traffic ticket the police are unlikely to reissue the ticket. It's just too much trouble to go and find the defendant and serve them again for something so minor.

What happens if your client flees the jurisdiction before any charges are refiled or served upon him? With a felony the client risks extradition, and that's no fun. With a misdemeanor, extradition is pretty unlikely.

What do the ethical rules say about advising your client on fleeing the jurisdiction? I don't see a clear answer.

The typical case where this arises is where the defendant lives here but has little or no ties to New York and can easily move back to their home state. If the defendant leaves and nothing happens after a couple years, there is a good chance of a speedy trial dismissal and the statute of limitations will have passed (on a misdemeanor).

An attorney should advise the client of all the consequences that might arise from any course of action. Where fleeing the jurisdiction has mostly positive consequences, it would seem that an attorney might even recommend it.

The problem is that this leaves a bad taste in the mouth, at least for some people.

So what do readers of the Albany Lawyer blog have to say? Please post your comments.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Speeding ticket and DWI data

Interesting data on the web about speeding tickets on the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle website. There's another data set on DWI: RocDocs DWI.

Now, I say the data is interesting. Partly that's because it doesn't look accurate to me. For example it appears there are more DWI arrests in Albany County than in the Bronx. And there also appear to be no speeding tickets in New York City.

But it's still interesting.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Albany: DWI and Mass Transit

Here's an article in the Times Union. Albany County couldn't get a program together to provide free bus rides home for New Years Eve drinkers. For various reasons we ended up with nothing at all.

Government is just fine at getting the arrest and prosecution programs together. Prevention must be too difficult.

I wrote an article about the policy choice between mass transit versus DUI enforcement just a few days ago. Albany's failure to manage a one-shot kludge shows how far we have to go.

David Soares deserves credit for trying to save it. I could say "too little, too late," but that's not fair. This isn't the DA's job. Not really the Sheriff's either. In a state and country that are increasingly run from the top down, it falls to the state and federal governments.