February 27, 2015 nº 1,598 -  Vol. 11

"People do not lack strength; they lack will."

Victor Hugo

In today's Law Firm Marketing, how to design your engagement letter so it plays a key role in your marketing

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  • Top News

Net neutrality rules passed by US regulator

In what is seen as a victory for advocates of net neutrality, the commission voted in favor of changes proposed by chairman Tom Wheeler that the Commission "use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open Internet protections.". Three commissioners voted in favour and two against. The US Telecommunications Industry Association said that broadband providers would take "immediate" legal action over the rule changes. The main changes for broadband providers are as follows:

  • Broadband access is being reclassified as a telecommunications service, meaning it will be subject to much heavier regulation
  • Broadband providers cannot block or speed up connections for a fee
  • Internet providers cannot strike deals with content firms, known as paid prioritization, for smoother delivery of traffic to consumers
  • Interconnection deals, where content companies pay broadband providers to connect to their networks, will also be regulated
  • Firms which feel that unjust fees have been levied can complain to the FCC. Each one will be dealt with on a case by case basis
  • All of the rules will also apply to mobile providers as well as fixed line providers
  • The FCC won't apply some sections of the new rules, including price controls

Ahead of the vote, commissioners heard from a variety of net neutrality advocates, including the chief executive of online marketplace Etsy and a TV drama writer. Web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee also contributed via video link.

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  • Crumbs

1 - Legal pot arrives in District of Columbia amid wrangle with Congress - click here.

2 - Marijuana Is Now Officially Legal in Alaska - click here.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China top court announces five-year legal reform plan

China's Supreme People's Court on Thursday announced a five-year comprehensive legal reform plan to make the judiciary more impartial, fair, independent and accountable as a way to emphasize the rule of law and "safeguard national unity." The reform has five basic goals: to 1) streamline political organization; 2) respect the law; 3) promote reforms in the law while ensuring safe and orderly reformation; 4) promote progress generally and 5) strengthen the design of the legal system and encourage local exploration and practice.

Sifting through fake documents

The Chinese authorities have launched a campaign to "sift through" profiles of all officials to crack down on fraud. This latest effort comes after inspection teams of the anti-graft watchdog reported rampant "falsifying" of personal information during their inspection rounds. The China Daily calls the tampering of personal files "a form of corruption", saying it is "unforgivable for officials to get involved in such an indecent and unethical practice"

China in temporary ivory import ban

China imposes a one-year ban on the import of ivory, amid criticism that demand among Chinese consumers is fuelling poaching in Africa.

China's loans to Latin America rise

Loans from China to Latin America rose by 71% to $22bn in 2014, new figures from the China-Latin America Finance Database suggest.

  • Law Firm Marketing

How to design your engagement letter so it plays a key role in your marketing effort
By Trey Ryder

Don't underestimate the importance of your engagement letter as both a legal and marketing document. Because if prospects aren't comfortable with your agreement, they may not sign it -- and all your prior marketing efforts have been for naught. You want prospects to welcome your engagement letter because their signature on your agreement allows you to start working on their behalf.

How To Write Your Engagement Letter

STEP #1: Use an engagement letter rather than a contract because a letter is seen as personal, where prospects often perceive a contract as cold and impersonal.

STEP #2: Write the way you talk. Word your agreement so its tone is consistent with the tone you use in conversation.

STEP #3: Write to one person, "you." For marketing purposes, write in the second person, to "you" the reader. Your engagement letter is a letter to you (the client), from me, (your lawyer). When you emphasize the you-and-me nature of your engagement letter, you reinforce the fact that you and your client are on the same side working toward the desired result.

STEP #4: Use active verbs, not passive verbs. Write with enthusiasm. Change: "If you are interested in hiring me" (passive) -- to "If you want to hire me" (active). Change: "The lawsuit will be filed today" (passive) -- to "I will file your lawsuit today" (active). Choose active voice to keep your reader alert and actively involved with your message.

STEP #5: Choose short, simple words. Write your marketing documents at the sixth grade level because short words are powerful. Even the best-educated people don't resent simple words. But simple words are the only words many people understand. Even if you have to substitute three or four short words for one long word, you're usually wise to do so.

STEP #6: Keep sentences short. Short sentences are easier to read and understand than long sentences. Nothing turns people off faster than long, complex sentences. When you're writing to sophisticated prospects, keep your sentences between 15 and 20 words. For less sophisticated prospects, shorten sentences to 10 to 15 words. These numbers are averages. Some sentences will be longer, some will be shorter.

STEP #7: Keep paragraphs short. Try to keep paragraphs no longer than five lines of type. Not five sentences, but five lines. No reader likes to pick up any document and see a huge block of black print staring him in the face. If a paragraph is longer than five lines, try to break it into two shorter paragraphs. Also, vary your paragraph length. Follow a two- or three-line paragraph with a four- or five-line paragraph.

STEP #8: Don't use fine print. Small print creates the impression that you're hiding something. Prospects feel more comfortable when you use large print in easy-to-read fonts. A one-page contract of fine print arouses much more suspicion than a two-page agreement where the type is large and easy to read.

STEP #9: Use white space to your advantage. Make sure your engagement letter is pleasing to the eye. Leave adequate margins around the page. And insert at least one line of white space between paragraphs.

STEP #10: Start each paragraph that begins a new topic with a bold heading. A paragraph topic heading makes it easy for your prospect to find what he's looking for. It makes your engagement letter look easy to read and easy to understand.

STEP #11: When possible, avoid complex engagement letters for simple matters. Several years ago I hired an out-of-state lawyer. During the hiring process, I interviewed more than a dozen lawyers by telephone. One lawyer sent me a 12-page agreement. I concluded this lawyer was my adversary, not my ally. Another lawyer I spoke with -- and the one I hired -- sent a two-paragraph letter of understanding. I signed and returned the letter with my check and he did an excellent job.

STEP #12: Make sure your engagement letter looks crisp and clean. If you have a sharp, clean agreement, prospects expect your work will also be crisp and clean. Print a new, fresh laser copy for each client.

What To Include In Your Engagement Letter

STEP #13: Don't skimp on facts. If you expect your prospect to sign your engagement letter, you need to provide answers to your prospect's questions. You're in a stronger position when you discuss issues and concerns in your engagement letter. If your client has a problem and feels stressed, he might not remember what you say. You protect yourself and your client from faulty memories when you put key facts and important points in your engagement letter.

STEP #14: Explain what you will do. List the specific services you will provide -- or the services you might provide -- depending on the type and progress of the case. Draft your engagement letter following the Value/Price Equation, which says:

Prospects will hire your services as long as they believe the value they receive from you is (1) greater than the fee they pay, and (2) greater than the value they would receive from another lawyer for the same fee.

In your engagement letter, show your value by listing the services you will provide -- before you disclose the fee your client will pay for those services.

STEP #15: Explain what you expect your client to do. Whenever possible, explain things from a positive point of view. Explain what your client needs to do and how those steps will help you get a better result.

STEP #16: Explain anything that your client might perceive as negative. When possible, describe negatives in a positive light. If your agreement contains things your prospect might view in a negative way, explain in your engagement letter why you include those terms.

STEP #17: Explain how to approach a problem. Tell your prospect that you want the opportunity to address his concerns before they turn into problems. Invite your prospect to talk with you anytime he has concerns about you, your services, your employees or his case.

STEP #18: Proofread your engagement letter several times. Your engagement letter is the first example of your work that your prospect sees. Make sure it represents your best work.

How To Present Your Engagement Letter

-- If before your first meeting: Send your educational marketing materials, including your engagement letter, to your client and ask him to review everything before your first meeting. With your engagement letter, include a handout that explains each paragraph and puts your prospect's mind at ease, just as you would do during an in-person meeting.

-- If during your first meeting: Show your engagement letter to your prospect and explain each paragraph so you put your prospect's mind at ease The longer you keep your engagement letter hidden, the longer your prospect might worry about it.

When Referring To Your Engagement Letter

-- Promote your client-friendly engagement letter as one advantage of hiring your services.

-- Emphasize that your engagement letter reflects how your client and you have agreed to work together and what each of you will do.

-- Refer to your engagement letter as a standard form agreement and imply that prospects routinely sign it without objection, almost as a formality.

-- If you offer an escape clause, emphasize how easily your prospect can cancel your agreement. Your prospect feels more at ease and in control when he has the power to end your relationship.

-- Explain that your engagement letter protects both your client and you from misunderstandings.

When you use proven marketing principles to create your engagement letter, you help turn a potential obstacle into a powerful, persuasive marketing piece. Plus, when your prospect reviews an agreement that's easy to read and understand, his fears melt away, your credibility soars and you win a new client.

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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.

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  • Historia Verdadeira

Gasolineras

La mexicana Femsa comprará las franquicias de venta de gasolina de la petrolera estatal Pemex que se encuentran junto a sus tiendas Oxxo, aprovechando la apertura energética en México para acelerar su crecimiento. La compañía invertirá US$430 mlls. (Presione aquí)

Acuerdo

La Argentina y Estados Unidos firmaron un memorando de entendimiento para reanudar el intercambio de información sobre comercio exterior entre ambos países. Entre los objetivos esta "perseguir las actividades ilícitas" que puedan llegar a producirse, como el lavado de dinero. (Presione aquí)

Préstamos

China prestó en 2014 a Latinoamérica US$22.100 mlls., cifra superior a los US$20.000 mlls. de financiación combinada del Banco Mundial y el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo y la mayor parte estuvo concentrada en Brasil, Argentina, Venezuela y Ecuador. (Presione aquí)

Negocios

La constructora francesa Eiffage adquirió la compañía colombiana Puentes y Torones, especializada en obras de ingeniería, confirmando así su voluntad de extender sus actividades fuera de Francia. Puentes y Torones, creada en 1992 y con sede en Bogotá, cuenta con cerca de 500 colaboradores y tiene un volumen de negocios anual de cerca de 20 mlls. de euros.

  • Brief News

Virginia eugenics victims win payout

Lawmakers in the US state of Virginia have agreed to pay compensation to people who were forcibly sterilized by the authorities decades ago. Victims will be paid $25,000 (£16,000) following a legal fight by campaigners. Along with more than 30 other US states, Virginia once operated a sterilization program for individuals deemed undesirable or mentally unsound. More than 8,000 Virginians were operated on between the 1920s and 1970s. The state's program was said to be the model for the Nazi eugenics policies introduced by Adolf Hitler when he aspired to create a master race. Several countries practiced forced sterilization during the 20th century, including Sweden, Canada and Japan.

9/11 case halted by order forcing judges to move to Guantanamo

A military judge on Wednesday halted proceedings in the 9/11 terrorism case due to a new Defense Department rule that forces judges to relocate to Guantanamo Bay. In December military commission judges were directed to move to Guantanamo at the request of a Pentagon legal official in hopes of speeding up litigation in the three active cases. The Defense Department's interference has been met with controversy. Army Colonel James Pohl said in his 10-page ruling on Wednesday that the relocation order created "at least the appearance of an unlawful attempt to press the military judge to accelerate the pace of litigation and an improper attempt to usurp judicial discretion."

Cyber attacks top US threat list

US intelligence agencies have placed cyber attacks from foreign governments and criminals at the top of their list of threats to the country. Russia's military is setting up a cyber command to carry out attacks; China, Iran and North Korea are seen as leading threats. While the US is not likely to face "cyber Armageddon", severe threats exist. The idea that major infrastructure such as financial networks or power grids could be disabled by hackers now looks less probable. However, ongoing series of low-to-moderate level cyber attacks from a variety of sources over time would impose cumulative costs on economic competitiveness and national security.

Spain top court declares Catalonia independence vote unconstitutional

Spain's Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that a November 9 Catalonia independence vote was unconstitutional. According to the court, both the decree from the Catalan regional government that allowed for the vote and two articles of a regional law passed in September on "non referenda popular consultations" are unconstitutional. A majority of the 2.3 million voters who cast ballots during the referendum favored Catalan independence. While the court ordered that the November vote be suspended while the government's complaint is considered, Catalonia has argued that it was merely an informal process.

Judge throws out cover-up allegations against argentine president

A federal judge in Argentina has dismissed a controversial case against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her foreign minister. They had been accused of covering up alleged Iranian involvement in a bomb attack against a Jewish center in 1994. Judge Daniel Rafecas has concluded that there was not enough evidence to pursue the charges. The accusation came from special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead last month in his flat.

EU blow to US deserter's asylum bid

A former US soldier who deserted from his army base over the Iraq war has suffered a setback at the European Court of Justice in his quest for asylum in Germany. The court ruled that Andre Shepherd could be granted asylum if he could prove the US was likely to commit war crimes during his upcoming tour. But he would still need to show he had no alternative to desertion. The decision on his asylum application will now go back to the German courts. Germany turned down the bid by in 2011 but a Munich court referred the matter to EU judges. In 2007 he refused a second order to return to Iraq where he said he would be involved in war crimes. "When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing," Shepherd told. "I could not in good conscience continue to serve."

Morgan Stanley agrees to $2.6 billion mortgage-backed securities settlement

The settlement is the latest in a string tied to the mortgage practices that led to the housing bubble, which was mostly responsible for the great recession.

South Korea court strikes down adultery ban

The Supreme Court of South Korea on Thursday decriminalized extramarital affairs. The 7-2 decision held as unconstitutional a 1953 law that made marital infidelity punishable by jail. South Korea was one of only three Asian countries to criminally ban adultery, and the law was presented to the court on constitutional grounds on four previous occasions before Thursday's ruling. Critics had considered the law outdated, but supporters claim the decision will lead to sexual debauchery.

Boehner stays silent on homeland security funding vote

House Speaker John Boehner has refused to say whether the House will vote on a Senate bill funding homeland security before a Friday deadline. "When I make a decision, I'll let you know," Boehner said. The Senate is set to pass a bill without blocking immigration policies made by US President Barack Obama by executive action last year. If the House does not take it up by Friday, a partial government shutdown will follow.

Judge in Batista's insider trading trial in Brazil is removed from case

The court's inspector general removed the judge, Flávio Roberto de Souza, after he was filmed driving a Porsche that the police had seized from Eike Batista.

Tobacco companies settle 400 lawsuits for $100 million

The three biggest US tobacco companies agreed to pay $100 million to settle 400 Florida lawsuits, potentially resolving a group of cases filed after a 2006 ruling by the state's highest court that made it easier for individuals to sue the industry for smoking-related harm. Altria Group Inc., the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, Reynolds American Inc., whose brands include Winston, and Lorillard Inc. agreed to the settlement that resolves federal court cases but not the thousands of other lawsuits pending in Florida state courts.

California plastic bag ban halted by referendum petition

The implementation of California's plastic bag ban, which was set to go into effect in July, has been halted by a successful referendum petition. The ACPA contends the bag ban will eliminate manufacturing jobs and boost grocery store profits. Supporters of ban, including campaign group California vs. Big Plastic, argue the law is intended to protect the environment by preventing littering and pollution caused by plastic grocery bags.

  • Daily Press Review

The sacrificial books of Mosul
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Nadia Hilou, first Arab Christian woman to serve in Knesset, dies at 61
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Widow wants 'Jihadi John' alive
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

ISIS militants take sledgehammers to Iraqi antiquities
CNN International, London, England

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: It'll be Sherlock homebody soon as Benedict Cumberbatch reveals he can't wait to prepare for the arrival of his first child
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Helicopter crashes into Sussex field but pilot and two passengers walk away from wreckage
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Riots in Athens as left-wing supporters vent their anger at newly-elected premier
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

France unveils reforms to tackle Muslim radicalisation
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Authoritarian practices against critics rise in Turkey, says Amnesty
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Isis rise caused by Obama administration, says Sarah Palin
Independent The, London, England

Japan police arrest teenager for 'Islamic State-inspired' killing
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

My Beauty Life: Nicole Scherzinger
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Prince William starts Japan visit with trip to tea house
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Samsung Freezes Wages This Year
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

USled strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Why do students protest?
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Top court backs Kaiyukan on sex harassment suspensions
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Australian laws on storing phone, Internet records to change
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Ukraine President cancels trip over protests in eastern Ukraine
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Baird's do-or-die infrastructure plan: 'There is no plan B'
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Your Top Plays for Today
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Buy-and-hold fund prospers with no new bets in 80 years
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

James Foley's parents says U.S. government failed executed ISIS hostage
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

James Foley's parents say U.S. didn't do enough to save son
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Liberty Reserve Brought Down By 'Joe Bogus': How The Feds Arrested Arthur Budovsky
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

Indigenous Storytelling in the Limelight
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Oil's drop chills Asian stocks, inflation data boosts dollar
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

More Hong Kong university students back independence - poll
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Fahmy charges spurious, Egyptian prosecutor says
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Deadly bombs at Nigeria bus stations
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England
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