December 04, 2009 Nº 848 - Vol. 7

"A person isn't who they are during the last conversation you had with them - they're who they've been throughout your whole relationship."

Rainer Maria Rilke

In today’s Law Firm Marketing, Clients and prospects forgive a lot -- when you ask

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Read Migalhas LatinoAmérica in Spanish every Tuesday and Thursday. Visit the website at www.migalhas.com/latinoamerica

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  • Top News

EU plans police exchange scheme

The EU plans student-style exchanges for European police and judges in a new five-year blueprint to improve justice co-operation in the 27-nation bloc. EU leaders are expected to approve the so-called Stockholm Programme at a summit in Brussels next week. The funding arrangements and other details are yet to be worked out. It would build on the justice co-operation that already exists, such as the European Arrest Warrant, which has replaced extradition procedures between EU member states. The European Parliament is preparing to play a big role in the Stockholm Programme negotiations, because the Lisbon Treaty puts MEPs on an equal footing with EU governments in the area of justice and home affairs. The latest draft of the programme says: "It is essential to step up training on EU-related issues and make it systematically accessible for all professions involved in... freedom, security and justice." "This will include judges, prosecutors, judicial staff, police and customs officers and border guards."

Bernanke defends record at confirmation hearing

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has defended the central bank's response to the global crisis. He made the statement to a Senate panel sitting to consider his nomination for a second four-year term. Under Bernanke's tenure, the Fed has cut interest rates close to zero, as well as spending $3 trillion to buoy the credit markets. He also said that a retreat from low interest rates "will require careful analysis and judgment". Ben Bernanke is widely credited with helping keep the "Great Recession" from becoming a second Great Depression. But the Federal Reserve chairman faces anger from both Congress and the public for bailing out Wall Street, while ordinary Americans are struggling under the crush of high unemployment, stagnant incomes and rising foreclosures.

Sprint gave GPS data to law enforcement 8 million times in the past 13 months

Did you know that Sprint-Nextel Corp. has an "electronic surveillance manager?" Well, it does, and his department provided law enforcement agencies with information as to customers' whereabouts 8 million-plus times within the space of a year. Between September 2008 and October 2009, millions of queries from law enforcement were sent via a protected Sprint Web portal for tracking users. Officers type in a mobile phone number and the real-time GPS coordinates for the handset come up. The manager revealed the stat at a surveillance conference this week, and was taped by an enterprising graduate student who then made the information public. The revelation has prompted some cries of "Big Brother!" from various corners, but Sprint is likely not alone in its practice of letting authorized agents obtain customer location information on demand. It was ruled in 2005 that no probable cause is needed to obtain a device's location information via the cellular network.

Before you open the door to the boardroom, peek through the keyhole!

Michael Page specializes in the placement of candidates in permanent, contract, temporary and interim positions within client companies around the world. Have a look at the new section of the Migalhas website and discover the professional development opportunities with large corporations, in legal and business fields, presented by Michael Page International. Click here to peep through the hole!

  • Crumbs!

1- Honduran congress votes against ousted president (click here)

2- Bernanke, seeking second term, to defend Fed role(click here)

3- Bank of America to repay the government in full(click here)

4- New York Senate rejects same-sex marriage legislation(click here)

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  • MiMIC Journal

China's Sinopec secures gas from Exxon Mobil in PNG

China's second biggest oil and gas company has secured a 20-year supply of gas from Papua New Guinea. It is the latest in a series of moves by Chinese companies to secure resources to feed the country's growing economy. Sinopec, which is owned by the Chinese government, will buy around 2m tonnes of liquefied natural gas each year. The LNG supply will come from a project being developed by Exxon Mobil and other investors.

Five sentenced to death over deadly China riots

A court in China's Xinjiang region has sentenced five people to death for murder and other crimes over deadly ethnic riots in July. Two other people were sentenced to life imprisonment. Nine people were executed last month over the riots in which nearly 200 people were killed.

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  • Law Firm Marketing

Clients and prospects forgive a lot -- when you ask

by Trey Ryder

How quickly do you return phone calls?

How long do prospects wait to meet with you in your office?

You probably have aspects of your services or procedures that irritate clients and prospects. Phone calls are a good example. Even if you make every effort to return calls within 24 hours, some people expect (or at least, hope) you will return their call within 30 minutes.

The point is, few of your clients know what it's like to run a law office. Almost none of them appreciate the demands on your time and the many priorities you juggle all at once.

And, rather than seeing the positive things you do, many people choose to focus on the negative -- the things you don't do as well as you (or they) would like.

If you know or suspect certain things get under your prospects' skin, here's a simple solution: Anticipate your prospects' disappointment or frustration and ask for their understanding from the beginning.

Some of my clients have generated literally hundreds of inquiries from a single newspaper article or a short radio advertising campaign. (One client drew 80 calls from prospects for each radio commercial he aired.) A single interview on a radio talk show drew requests from 426 prospects who asked for his information packet.

This lawyer knew it would be impossible to send everyone an original cover letter with his packet and still get the materials into the mail promptly. So we decided to use a form cover letter that contained this paragraph:

"I hope you'll forgive my not including an original letter. I receive dozens of requests for my educational materials. And while I'd like to send everyone a personal reply, I simply can't. You understand why, I'm sure."

By calling attention to what prospects might have perceived as a negative, we turned a potential negative into a positive simply by asking for the readers' understanding. As a result, my client built a close, personal, trusting relationship with his prospects -- and never sent anything more than a form letter.

You might address return phone calls the same way:

"In my office, I make every effort to return calls within 8 hours. Still, sometimes this isn't possible if I'm tied up in court or meeting with a client out of the office. I know you're busy and can't sit around waiting for my return call. So here's what I suggest: Call my office, ask to speak with Jean, my secretary. Ask her to schedule you for a telephone appointment. She has my calendar and can set a time when I'm available to talk with you."

And so on.

The result? You overcome any potential negative feelings because you (1) addressed the subject before prospects raise it, (2) asked for your prospects' understanding, and (3) suggested an alternative way of handling the phone call so both you and your prospect benefit.

Identify office procedures that you know or suspect might irritate clients and prospects. Then in the materials you send prospects and new clients, explain how you do things in your office -- identifying any negatives and asking for your clients' understanding. They'll appreciate your raising the issues so they don't put you under unreasonable pressure or have unrealistic expectations. Plus you'll benefit by having clients who know you're working hard to provide the best possible client service.

If you fail to address potential negatives, then you risk disgruntled clients who think you're ignoring them -- or, worse, think they aren't important enough to warrant your best service.

But when you ask prospects and clients for their patience, you may be surprised how kind and understanding they are.

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© Trey Ryder

FREE LAWYER MARKETING ALERT: If you'd like to receive Trey Ryder's weekly Lawyer Marketing Alert, send an e-mail to Trey@TreyRyder.com. Write "Subscribe LMA" in the subject line and write your name and e-mail address in the body of the message.

  • Brief News

Why big firms don't blog well

The absence of big firm blogs from the list is not for want of choices. Fully 41% of the AmLaw 200 are now blogging, to the tune of 227 blogs. But the ABA isn't impressed. Why not? There's one reason: lack of voice.

There are three main ways to make a legal blog succeed:

  • Be a first source of news. Large newspapers and trade rags can do that; they employ people who are paid to monitor the news. Lawyers at big firms can't compete.

  • Be extremely smart. With all due respect, law firms can't compete on this score either. The guys at Volokh Conspiracy, Concurring Opinions, Prawfs Blawg, and the like are not just smart, but -- because they're academics -- are also paid to sit around thinking great thoughts. Lawyers at big firms are paid to pursue clients' interests; it's hard to compete on your nights and weekends with the thoughts of the full-time thinkers.

  • Have an engaging voice. Be funny! Be provocative! Do something that will draw readers in.

That's the key for many successful blogs, such as Simple Justice. It's not a first source of news. It's not breathtakingly intelligent (although it's not bad on that score. But it has a voice. It's funny, and it can be thought-provoking.

But why aren't other big firm blogs having the same success? Why doesn't the ABA Journal appreciate them? Why can't big firm blogs succeed by virtue of voice?

We propose three hypotheses:

  • Most lawyers at big firms are not funny. That may be true of many lawyers at big firms (although it hasn't stopped us). But it's surely not true of all. So some lawyers at big firms could write blogs in an engaging voice.

  • Lawyers at big firms are trained not to be funny in writing. Now we're on to something. Opinion letters are not funny. They may do a fine job of analyzing issues and protecting the firm from allegations of malpractice, but they're not funny. And briefs are generally not funny. (At least not intentionally so.) Briefs present the legal issues in a persuasive and intelligent way, and they give proper dignity to the occasion of a legal dispute. They're written in formal prose, with no room for contractions, the first person, or colloquialisms. Briefs also avoid humor, and for good reason: Humor runs a risk. If you say something cute in a brief and the judge appreciates it, you might earn yourself a smile. And maybe some good will. But you're unlikely to win the motion on the basis of personality. On the other hand, if you say something cute and the judge finds it to be offensive, you may have done your client a world of harm. So most lawyers appropriately use humor only very sparingly in briefs. Perhaps years of brief-writing beats the humor out of lawyers.

  • Writing in a distinctive voice is risky. We think this is the real explanation for why most big firm blogs don't draw large readerships or accolades. Just as it's risky to be provocative in a brief -- because the benefits are so small, but the costs so potentially large -- it's risky to be provocative in a blog. If we write something funny here, you might smile. But you'd never send an e-mail to our colleagues praising us for being a laugh riot. On the other hand, if you read our attempted humor and are offended, you might not be so constrained. You might write directly to us (and some of you have) or you might write to others in our firm to complain about us (and some of you have done that, too).

Iraq VP holds out hope for election law compromise

Iraq's vice president said Thursday he remains open to talks to break an impasse on holding parliamentary elections scheduled for next month but stands by his demand that minority Sunnis have a greater voice in the voting. A long delay of the elections could complicate withdrawal timetables for the U.S. military, which is keeping the bulk of its combat troops in place because of a possible rise in violence surrounding the voting. Chances appeared to be dimming for Iraq to hold the elections as scheduled on Jan. 16.

Serbia 'progressing' with war crimes tribunal

The UN's chief war crimes prosecutor has said Serbia's co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is "progressing". However, in his report to the UN, Serge Brammertz said Serbia must continue searching for two fugitives. Belgrade hopes the largely positive report will help unblock Serbia's European Union hopes.

UN body wants probe of climate e-mail row

The UN panel on climate change says claims UK scientists manipulated global warming data to boost the argument it is man-made should be investigated. The allegations emerged after e-mails written by members of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia were posted on the internet. Robert Watson, one of the government's chief scientific advisors, has called for all the raw data to be published.

Harvard Law and Georgetown Law make grading easier

At Harvard Law School and at Georgetown University Law Center, the administrations have decided that their students need things to be a little easier. Law Schools recently changed from a letter grade system to a modified pass/fail system. Now the grades are High Pass/Pass/Low Pass/Fail. Pretty sweet if you are looking to float on. When the new grading system was implemented, however, there was a mandate that 8% of the class had to receive a “low pass.” This is Harvard, after all. But neither law school seems willing to admit that the economy played a role in their sudden embrace of grade reform.

Banco Do Brasil to tap into `unbelievable' bond demand with new offering

Banco do Brasil SA, Latin America's biggest bank, will return to international bond markets next year after receiving "unbelievable" demand for a sale in October.

Lula and Merkel agree to work against protectionism, promote trade

Merkel and Lula agreed to fight against protectionism and work toward removing all barriers to international trade during talks in Berlin. Both parties agreed to press for an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Doha round and for a resumption of EU-Mercosur negotiations.

Comcast and NBC form media giant

The cable TV provider Comcast has agreed to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal (NBCU), creating a media superpower in the US. Comcast will acquire a 51% stake in NBCU in a deal worth $13.75bn. NBCU owns the NBC television network, Universal Pictures, and cable networks such as Bravo and CNBC, as well as the Universal Studios theme parks. Consumer groups have voiced concerns about one company having so much power over the entertainment industry. One deal, three companies, 79 lawyers, including 38 lawyers and legal assistants from just one firm. That is the breakdown of legal help working on Comcast's purchase of a controlling stake in NBC Universal in a complex deal valued at about $30 billion.

Debt crisis tests Dubai's ruler

Some analysts are wondering whether the leader of this city can rescue it from the excesses of his own ambition. The travails of Dubai have some economists wondering where other debt bombs might be lurking.

Spanish anti-piracy measure under fire

The proposal calls for the creation of a government-sponsored commission with the power to investigate and shut down Web sites accused of being a conduit for piracy.

Obama seeks new ideas on US jobs

Business leaders, union leaders and economists attend Obama's White House job summit and hear a call for quick action.

Russia judges resign after criticizing lack of judicial independence

Two justices on Russia's Constitutional Court renounced their positions Wednesday, on the recommendations of their fellow justices, after publicly criticizing the nation's lack of judicial independence. Senior justice Anatoly Kononov, whose term of office was to expire in 2017, will resign from the Constitutional Court at the end of this month. Justice Vladimir Yaroslavtsev will remain on the court, but has stepped down from his position on the country’s Council of Judges. In August, Yaroslavtsev gave an interview to Spanish newspaper El Pais, in which he criticized Russia's judicial system, citing its lack of independence and corruption. Yaroslavtsev claimed the legislative branch is "paralyzed" and called the government "authoritarian." Kononov, who has spoken-out about judiciary problems in the past, publicly defended Yaroslavtsev's comments. In October, both justices were accused of undermining judicial authority by breaching the Judges' Ethics Code and the Law on the Status of Judges.

Honduras congress rejects Zelaya reinstatement

The Honduran National Congress on Wednesday voted 111-14 not to reinstate ousted president Manuel Zelaya who was removed by a military coup earlier this year. The vote was held in accordance with the Tegucigalpa/San Jose accord, brokered in October, which gave Congress the power to decide whether to allow Zelaya to serve out the remainder of his term ending January 27. Elections were held Sunday to determine who would succeed interim president Roberto Micheletti, with conservative candidate Profirio Lobo Sosa winning by a wide margin. The US has described Lobo's election as an important step in normalizing relations between the two countries, but emphasized that additional concerns about the country's political situation need to be addressed. Other members of the Organization of American States (OAS) have expressed differing opinions on the election results, with the presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, and Peru having recognized the election results, and Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela withholding support.

US approves 13 embryonic stem cell lines for research

US regulators have approved 13 new lines of human embryonic stem cells for use in scientific research. They are the first batches of embryonic stem cells - the building blocks of the body - that have been made available to US researchers in almost a decade. Their use in scientific research is controversial. Opponents say culling the cells is unethical, as it destroys the human embryo. The US government unveiled ethical guidelines for the research in July, requiring full parental consent and limiting scientists to using existing embryos that would otherwise be destroyed. U.S. bishops are irked by the new political landscape: Abortion remains legal, Obama lifted a ban on stem cell research, and a few states are allowing same-sex marriage.

UN rights chief condemns Switzerland minaret ban

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday condemned Switzerland's ban on building minarets, a type of tower associated with Islamic mosques. The ban, which was approved Sunday with 57.5 percent of the vote and the majority of Swiss cantons, was put forth by conservative political groups and opposed by churches, the government, and business groups. Pillay said that the ban was religious discrimination: “Some of the politicians who proposed this motion argued that it wasn't targeting Islam or Muslims. Others claimed that banning minarets would improve integration. These are extraordinary claims when the symbol of one religion is targeted. ... Indeed, a ban on minarets amounts to an undue restriction of the freedom to manifest one's religion and constitutes a clear discrimination against members of the Muslim community in Switzerland.” The ban has angered Muslims around the world, and Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagis has suggested that Muslims with their money in Swiss bank accounts move it to Turkey.

Bank of America to repay bail-out

Bank of America says it plans to repay its $45bn US government bail-out and raise extra capital. It received the loans during the credit crisis last year and after the purchase of Merrill Lynch. The move would allow Bank of America to free itself from government restrictions on executive pay that were a stipulation of granting the funds.

US immigration detention system violates individual rights

Current US immigration detention and transfer policies unnecessarily interfere with individual detainees' rights to counsel and procedural fairness, according to two reports released Wednesday urging reforms to the system. According to a report by the Constitution Project, the government should: “improve access to counsel for immigration detainees and, more generally, for all non-citizens in removal proceedings, including individuals who are not detained. ... Appointed counsel for detainees would benefit both non-citizens and the government. By focusing on the crucial issues in each case, attorneys could make the removal process more efficient and, as a result, less costly. Most importantly, the process would be more just. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report emphasizes that detainee transfers in the immigration system are "doubly troubling because immigration detainees, unlike prisoners, are technically not being punished" and: “erect often insurmountable obstacles to detainees' access to counsel, the merits of their cases notwithstanding. Transfers impede their rights to challenge their detention, lead to unfair midstream changes in the interpretation of laws applied to their cases, and can ultimately lead to wrongful deportations.”

Some Justices voice skepticism of Merck in Vioxx case

Some Supreme Court justices voiced skepticism Monday of Merck's arguments that shareholders waited too long to file suits alleging the drug maker misrepresented the safety of the painkiller Vioxx, which it removed from the market in 2004.

  • Daily Press Review

Iran deadline still year-end - White House
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Report: Mediators seek to lower Hamas demands for Shalit swap
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

MIDEAST: Palestinians Say No to Crumbs
IPS Middle East, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Analysis: A bus blows up in Damascus - exploding tire or terror strike?
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

Dubai Police Make Huge Drugs Haul
Khaleej Times, English-language daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

UAE banks suffer deep wave of bad debt provisioning
Middle East North African Network, Online financial portal, Amman, Jordan

Moscow: U.S.-Russia Nuclear Talks 'Coming to a Close'
Nahamet, Online news portal, Beirut, Lebanon

Panel formed on Lebanon poll law
Saudi Gazette, English-language daily, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Opening of world’s tallest tower marks end of Dubai era
The Daily Star, Independent daily, Beirut, Lebanon

Iranian president rejects IAEA resolution as illegal
Times of Oman, English-language daily, Muscat, Oman

Freed yachtsmen arrive back in UK
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Kercher murder suspects arrive in court for final hearing
BreakingNews.ie, Online news portal, Cork, Ireland

Scrappage fillip for new car sales
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

GBP 40,000 a family: The taxpayers' cash used to fund the 850billion bailout
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

ACE submarine cable gets new members
DMeurope, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Graham Sankey held over attack on Joe Anderson
icLiverpool, Online news portal, Liverpool, England

Businessman dies in 'laptop robbery' shooting
Manchester Online, Independent daily, Manchester, England

New exhibition gives lovers of Czech fairy tale films a chance to see original costumes up close
Radio Prague, Online news portal, Prague, Czech Republic

Businessman Shot By Laptop Thieves Dies
Sky News, Independent newscaster, Middlesex, England

Bundestag Debate on Afghanistan: Defense Minister Calls Kunduz Air Strike 'Inappropriate'
Spiegel International, Liberal newsmagazine, Hamburg, Germany

Banks bailout to cost taxpayer 131bn
The Guardian, Liberal daily, London, England

US seeks support for Afghan plan
The Irish Times, Centrist daily, Dublin, Ireland

MPs' expenses: Stewart Jackson says people in constituency are 'whingers and moaners'
The Telegraph, Conservative daily, London, England

Philippines police raid Ampatuan family compound
Times Online, Conservative daily, London, England

President to reinstate Bibit, Chandra
Antara News, News agency, Jakarta, Indonesia

10th Seoul International Financial Forum Kicks Off
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Anti-tank mine kills three in Pakistan's Chinari
Dawn, English-language daily, Karachi, Pakistan

Kazakhstan ratified agreement on Secretariat of Customs Union Commission
Gazeta.kz, Official online newspaper

Centre treading cautiously on ULFA talks
India Express, News portal, Mumbai, India

Mumbai miracle for US woman
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Wishing the science away
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Muhyiddin: SPM students can take two more subjects
Malaysian Star, Online news portal, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Aussie man dives face-first into deadly jellyfish
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Neighbours tell of golf buggy on crash night
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Jairam Ramesh: 20-25 % carbon emission intensity cut by 2020
The Hindu, Left-leaning daily, Chennai, India

Skyworth eyes are on 10m televisions
The Standard, Business daily, Hong Kong

Police launch assistance appeal
Antigua Sun Online, Independent daily, St. John's, Antigua

Climate change hypocrisy in Trinidad and Tobago
Caribbean News Portal, Online news aggregator

Jamaica sugar estate divestment plans still continue
Caribbean360, Online news portal, St. Michael, Barbados

Governor and Mrs Jack depart the Cayman Islands
Cayman Net News, Online news portal, George Town, Cayman Islands

Fernandez was asked to demilitarize the Dominican-Haiti border
Dominican Today, Independent daily, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

HONDURAS: What Now?
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Guns for hire - Dirty cops collecting cash to protect criminals
Jamaica Gleaner, Independent daily, Kingston, Jamaica

Norwegian company to build hydro power plant in Peru
Living in Peru, News portal, Lima, Peru

GM taking full ownership of CAMI car plant in Ontario
The Globe and Mail, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Embattled Drabinsky attempts a comeback
Toronto Star, Liberal daily, Toronto, Canada

Future of T&T in good hands
Trinidad Guardian, Independent daily, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

Guinea leader 'wounded by aide'
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

ICC reverses decision on the interim release of Jean-Pierre Bemba
CongoPlanet.com, Independent online news aggregator

Users to pay more cash for less power
Daily Monitor, Independent daily, Kampala, Uganda

Somali rebels deny they carried out suicide bombing
Daily Nation, Independent daily, Nairobi, Kenya

It's amazing to be part of this - Beckham
Independent Online, News portal, Cape Town, South Africa

Ethiopian Shipping Lines to buy nine Chinese vessels for $290 million
Jimma Times, Online news portal, Jimma, Ethiopia

Paris ballet 'flashmob' hits Louvre pyramid
Mail & Guardian Online, Liberal, Johannesburg, South Africa

2010 fever builds
News24.com, Online news portal, Cape Town, South Africa

Activist condemns clamour for Yar'Adua's resignation
Vanguard, Independent daily, Lagos, Nigeria

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