Lawyers — answer this one question if you want to persuade judges

In my experience I have found that simplicity is the key to persuasion — and the key to simplicity is to remember to answer this one question from the very beginning, because we all know this is exactly what the judge is thinking: “Where’s the Beef?”

… there’s no such thing as too much lawyering.

This is one of those articles that I just can’t help but blog — why? Well, I’ll let you figure that part out and you can start right here:

When a single case can make or break your business, there’s no such thing as too much innovation — or too much lawyering.

via Ready to Innovate? Get a Lawyer. – Larry Downes – Harvard Business Review.

Social Media Law: Video Presentation for Social Media Breakfast

The full video of my recent presentation on social media law is now available!

On August 30, 2012, I made a presentation to Social Media Breakfast Dallas titled Social Media Law: It is Real and, Yes, It Can Impact Your Business. The presentation was about social media law and how it relates to businesses using social media. The presentation was professionally videoed by Jason (@jcroftmagic) and the great people at Magic Production Group (@magicprogroup) and they did a fantastic job on the production! The full video presentation is embedded on both Vimeo and YouTube below and you can also access it by clicking on the links for Vimeo and YouTube. As always, please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss these issues any further! Shawn Tuma: @shawnetuma / / 214.726.2808.

<p><a href=”″>Shawn Tuma – Social Media Law</a> from <a href=””>Magic Production Group</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Break Into A Home, Violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?

How’s that for a crazy sounding question? Could breaking into a home violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?

I know you’re wondering just how I come up with these crazy things, right? From the news, of course! I read a really interesting article by David Goldman on CNNMoney entitled Your Jetsons Home is Almost Here in which the premise is that, based on the advanced state of technology, companies at Mobile World Congress “are showing off how everything in your home — from your door locks to your thermostat to your TV — can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet.” This is so because “the hardware, software, and cloud-based infrastructure necessary to make it a reality is finally inexpensive enough for companies to bring full-home connectivity to the mainstream market.”

Now, presumably, to make the home truly “wired” in this manner, that hardware and software would have to be integrated into the home and the home would likely be be connected to the Internet for it to all work. Let’s review a little about what makes a computer a “computer” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act:

  • The CFAA applies to anything with a microchip or data processor that is connected to the internet. See Can Stealing a Car Violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?
  • If a home were to have a microchip or data processor integrated into it, and if such device were connected to the Internet, then that home would be a covered “computer” and the CFAA would apply if were broken into.

Now, that only covers the first part of a CFAA violation and there would be other questions remaining as to whether the intrusion amounted to a full violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act but, theoretically, I’d say it would be a pretty good argument! How about you, what do you think?

Also, what do you think about my other two crazy ideas — would hacking a “human” violate the CFAA and would stealing a “car” violate the CFAA?

Share your password, do the time – lessons under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act


The Student: Jane Smith, a County Clerk of Court with a distinguished career of service for 39 years.

The Mistake: Sharing her computer password with an IT contractor who was working on the Clerk’s office computers with the Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office, and Madison County Jail to improve the sharing of records and increase efficiency. The IT contractor was the retired IT Director and Deputy Administrative Director of Courts for the Alabama Court System who had over 30 years of service with the courts system. Would you really question this guy if he asked you for your password so that he could work on the computer system on which he was hired to work? Well now you know, why you should. Apparently the IT contractor got into some kind of mischief to warrant a 2 year investigation and Ms. Smith got pulled into it as well.

The Crime: Aiding and Abetting Unauthorized Access Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

That’s right, Jane Smith, the Madison County Alabama Circuit Clerk was charged with 3 counts of Aiding and Abetting Unauthorized Access under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; she accepted responsibility for her mistake and entered into a plea agreement for the charges:

“When you make a mistake, you own up to it, accept responsibility, and move on. My only goal with this computer project was to ensure that Madison County has the most efficient and modernized system possible to improve efficiency and make our courts run better. I am happy to put this issue behind me and continue my 39 years of service to this office and the people of Madison County.”

You can read more about this in the following article: Madison County Circuit Court Clerk Charged – UPDATED (2/15/12). I would like to thank my friend and law school classmate Greg Varner for sending me this article — he is a really smart guy and you should follow him on Twitter: @varnergreg

Discussion of Problems with Proposed Cybercrime Legislation

There are many proposals floating around Capitol Hill that will purport to beef up our nation’s current cybercrime laws, first and foremost the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. I have recently read two very good articles that do a nice job of explaining many of the inadequacies of the proposed legislation and is well worth the read:

Obama Cybersecurity Proposal: Flawed, But Fixable

Obama’s Cybercrime Crackdown Already Outdated, Experts Say | Government & Legislation | Law & Justice | SecurityNewsDaily.

As for me, the first thing I want Congress to do is make it clear what is really an improper access under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and tell us to whom it is really intended to apply (yeah, I know, different Congress = different intent … but hey, if I’m a wishin’ I’m a gonna wish good!).

Beyond that pipe-dream, I am wondering if the most effective thing Congress could do isn’t to simply amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to provide that (1) a “loss” required for a civil claim includes having one’s personally identifiable private information compromised, and (2) the person who’s information was compromised has a civil claim against both the hacker of the information and the person or entity from which the information was hacked.

Make this happen and some very enterprising plaintiff’s lawyers will take care of the rest.

As I asked in my post last week: Who’s Gonna Get It? Mark my words, at some point, somebody will. My hunch is that if Congress made these couple of amendments we’d find out the answer to that question a whole lot easier and quicker!

My Experience With Lawyer Coaching

You may be asking yourself why any lawyer would need a coach?

I once asked myself this same question. To get to the answer you have to first understand the simple fact that a law practice–any law practice–cannot succeed without clients. In a private law firm practice your clients usually come from two sources: other lawyers in the firm who have the “client relationship” or your own clients that come to you directly. If you’ve been around a law firm, you know that it is very easy to tell the difference between those lawyers who have the client relationships and those who work for them.

Which would you rather be?

How’s that for an answer? I want to be the “client relationship” lawyer and, therefore, made a decision to put more effort into developing my own clients. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to do it. Like most lawyers, I always believed that if I did good work and put in my time, the clients would come to me. While I have had little difficulty learning that does not work, it was not so easy learning what does. I had the desire but lacked the knowledge.

Fortunately, I found Cordell Parvin’s website and began reading his blog and articles on a regular basis. There are many very good lawyer coaches out there but I was drawn to Cordell’s style of coaching because he not only encourages lawyers to work on client development but actually explains the practical steps for how real live practicing lawyers can do it–in a way that makes sense to me.

“They call it coaching but it is teaching. You do not just tell them…you show them the reasons.” -Vince Lombardi

Spend a little time reading Cordell’s blog posts and you will see what I mean. Then imagine what you can learn from an entire program that ties it all together.

I had a chance to participate in the beta test for Cordell’s new client development series Securing, Retaining and Expanding Relationships with Your Clients and the value of the information exceeded my expectations. Any blog-length comments on the substance simply would not do it justice. I did, however, have a few observations about the individual components of the program that I shared in a guest post on Cordell’s blog and I would encourage you to give it a read: Client Development: Video, Workbook and Group Telephone Coaching Program.

If you have any questions about this program, Cordell’s coaching, or lawyer coaching in general, please feel free to let me know and I will be happy to talk with you about my thoughts and experiences.