How to Deal With Self-Represented Litigants in Family Law

By Christopher Sunnen

One of the unexpected areas for new attorneys, or attorneys that are venturing into Family Law is the fact that a substantial portion of litigants are self-represented. While the state itself does not keep (or release) statistics of the number of pro per litigants in family court, most practitioners and Judges in the southern California region believe that the number is in excess of fifty percent. Unlike other areas of litigation, this should not be surprising, due to the personal issues at stake in a Family Law proceeding, the high cost of litigation in general, and the fact that family law actions can take years to proceed to judgment – and then additional years in various post-judgment motions. While proceeding pro per offers advantages to individuals who cannot afford an attorney, or do not want to play by the rules that their prior attorneys have instructed them about, it provides challenges to attorneys who are opposing such litigation in two main areas: a) law and procedure; and for a lack of a better term b) common courtesy. Read More

Steps Toward More Effective Mediation

By Charles H. Dick

Most civil disputes will be resolved before trial,1 and mediation has become one of the most important phases of every lawsuit. Even so, the informality of mediation induces many less-experienced litigators to take a casual attitude toward the process. Too often, lawyers approach mediation as if it were the easiest phase of a lawsuit; this is serious mistake. If pleadings, discovery and motion practice warrant hours of planning, thought and effort, why treat mediation any differently? Read More

Serious Productivity Apps and Tips for the Mobile Lawyer

By Adriana Linares and Renée Stackhouse

Loosening up, if not entirely removing “office shackles,” interests many lawyers — and never has it been easier thanks to many modern technology tools, apps and services. Here, we recap our presentation during the Second Annual SDCBA Law + Tech Summit.


The Tech Dopp Kit

Yes! It’s a thing! In 1926, a leather craftsman named Charles Doppelt designed a men’s case for toiletries and called it a Dopp Kit. Today, we introduce the Tech Dopp Kit. It’s the same but different — it holds all those random but necessary tech cords and devices for the road. Like we do with many regular Dopp Kits — it’s supplied with the travel version of the necessities. If you pack it with a spare phone cord, a spare USB plug (get one with double USB ports), a spare mouse, a spare battery charger, etc., then you don’t have to go scrambling for — and risk forgetting — those important items. It’s also a blessing to those suffering from “Smartphone pinky” because you can throw in a foldable phone stand and small Bluetooth keyboard so you can take the burden off your abused pinky or thumb.

Printing & Scanning While on the Run

Being on the road doesn’t have to mean no printing, no scanning or no mailing. If these are tasks you regularly need to complete while away from the office, your options are to carry your own or learn to use walk-in business services provided at retail stores such as UPS, FedEx or Office Depot. You can visit Amazon and search for a portable printer or scanner to see and review a bevy of affordable options. We can highly recommend Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners — they are widely used and highly regarded in the legal community. If you travel light, then becoming comfortable with walking into a business service shop will make your life much easier. Know that you can email and even pay for a print job ahead of time at shops like Office Depot; know that you can also connect to your Dropbox or Google Drive account right on a multi-function device in one of these shops; know that you can also plug your USB drive right into these handy devices. The key to using these services is to get comfortable ahead of time so you aren’t frustrated and struggling while in a rush.


Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office 365 is a true gift for all lawyers. For $8-12 per month/per user, you have peace of mind in knowing that your most critical software services are active and updated. You can install Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint on five devices. If you choose to use its document storage service (Microsoft OneDrive), then your documents will synchronize across those devices. There are many more benefits to the subscription service so if you are still holding out, wait no longer!


More and more, add-ons are becoming normal to our daily computer use. Also known as extensions, apps or add-ins, they are often a third-party software script, app or service added to a program to give it additional features and functions. They can, and do, exist in browsers like Chrome, in programs like Outlook, and as apps like Grammarly for your mobile phone. Some of our favorite add-ons for Microsoft Word are WordRake and PerfectIt.

Virtual Assistants

Learning to use virtual assistants like Google, Siri and Cortana can help you power through the day with your voice. You can talk to them like a human assistant:
-“Hey Google, what is 90 days before Nov. 3, 2020?”
-“Siri, set an appointment for 3:30 p.m. to call Mike with a matter update.”
-“Alexa, add paper towels to the Office Shopping List.”
Read More

Harmonizing Work-Life Balance and Work-Work Balance

By Lilys McCoy

I recently started using a fountain pen. Why, you may ask? Two reasons: First, I felt I needed to do a digital detox and returning to longhand seemed like a good way to start. Second, my writing hand, previously hardened by years of cursive script on legal pads, spiral notebooks and paper calendars, had become weak, and fountain pens are apparently easier on the muscles (that bit of wisdom was spot on, in case you wondered). I was almost surprised to see that the descendant of the quill is still being sold and supported, but it is . . . and in many different forms and by many different manufacturers.

As I contemplated my digital detox, I also considered the hard reality that I could never really, truly unplug. Absent a decision to live completely off the grid, I must accept some connectivity in my life. And, as an attorney, I must not only accept the networked life, I must embrace it. Our ethical duties require us to do so. Notably, the American Bar Association amended ABA Model Rule 1.1 in 2012 to include technological competence: “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice including the benefits and risks associated with technology . . .” See, 2012 Amendment to ABA Model Rule 1.1 Competence, Comment 6, Maintaining Competence as referenced in SDCBA Legal Ethics Opinion 2012-1.

The San Diego County Bar Association, long a leader in the legal ethics space, decided in 2017 to lead in the legal technology space as well. In 2018 we hired one of the first Bar Association Member Technology Officers in the nation — the incomparable Adriana Linares — and launched expert law+tech education. This edition of San Diego Lawyer is dedicated, in part, to helping members become more technologically savvy. But technical competence must not be at the expense of other competencies. And, while indispensable and unavoidable, technology should be in service of what we do as lawyers, not the essence of what we do. Read More

#TechTuesday | Setting Default Font and Paragraph Spacing in Microsoft Word (Video)

It’s #TechTuesday! Today we are sharing another video tip in our new series titled “Tech Tip in a Tenth“. These are short, targeted, and practical videos approximately 6 minutes in length, because, as Technology Committee Member, David Majchrzak said, “Who can’t spare a point one!?” Read More

Conflict Cautions: What Might the New Rules Require in a Conflict Check System

By Edward McIntyre

Sara ushered two young women into Macbeth’s office.

“My friends, Samantha and Fiona, are opening their own firm.”

“Congratulations. A great adventure. Let’s move to the conference table.”

When all were seated, Macbeth asked, “How can we help?”

Fiona started. “We’ve been at large firms. Took things for granted. Now we have to be sure our firm does stuff right.”

Samantha joined. “There’s so much at the start. We’re grateful Sara suggested we meet you.”

“We’re happy to help. Let’s start at the beginning — new clients.”

Fiona laughed. “Best place to start.”

“You’re aware of the new rules?”

Both nodded.

“Let’s look at rule 1.7 — conflicts. It affects every new client. Each new matter.”

Macbeth opened his rules booklet and handed copies to Fiona and Samantha.

“Rule 1.7 (a) doesn’t change much. We can’t represent a client with interests directly adverse to another client without the informed written consent of each. Whether in the same or unrelated matters.”

Macbeth continued. “Now look at 1.7 (b). It requires informed written consent of each client if my responsibility to, or relationship with,” he started to tick the items off on separate fingers, “another client, a former client, a third person — or my own interests — will materially limit my representation of that client.”

Samantha looked up. “I’ve puzzled over that since I first read it.”

Macbeth set his booklet down. “We can talk about examples in a bit. First, how does a lawyer determine whether any such responsibility or relationship even exists? It starts with a practical problem.”

Fiona sighed. “A conflict check system. Something the firm always did. Our general counsel reviewed all new matters.”

Samantha shrugged. “We’re our general counsel now.”

Macbeth smiled. “Precisely. I can’t consider whether responsibility to someone, or a relationship, will materially limit representation of a new client — or a new matter for an existing client — until I identify the responsibilities and relationships each lawyer has.”

“Each lawyer?”

“Yes. If one lawyer has a conflict, it’s imputed to each firm lawyer.”

“Glad we’re only two. We can talk.”

“I suggest setting up your system from the beginning. Then, as you grow, it’ll be there for you.”

Sara added. “And save you from a world of hurt with disabling conflicts.”

Samantha opened a tablet and looked toward Macbeth. “ OK. Conflict check system.”

“Let’s start with the obvious. All current clients.”

Both nodded.

“Then, all clients you represented in the past. At your former firms. I suggest not only corporate, partnership and other entity names, but also fictitious business names. Also names of principal officers, directors and partners. Members of LLPs and LLCs. Then parent and subsidiary corporations — to determine if those relationships create a conflict.”

Fiona and Samantha both took notes.

“Be prepared to pick up corporate and partnership name changes. Entity clients sometimes merge. Get acquired. When you represent individuals, be aware of spouse or partner name changes after marriage or divorce. We also include names of insurers involved in any case.”

Fiona looked up. “Insurers?”

“Remember the tripartite relationship — if you represent an insured based on a contract of insurance, each is a client.”

“Right. Forgot. The firm didn’t do much of that.”

“You may not at your new firm. But I’d have a place for the information — if you do.”

Samantha spoke. “I can see an artificial intelligence-aided system really helping.”

Sara nodded. “ That’s what we have. Interactive. Fully automated.” Read More