IT COMES AS NO SURPRISE TO MOST THAT SECRECY IN GOVERNMENT HAS
been on the rise in recent years, but the amount of that secrecy may still
Consider that in 2007 the federal government:
Received 21,758,628 Freedom of Information Act requests, up 2 percent
from 2006, when 21,412,736 requests were received.
Imposed secrecy orders on 128 new patents, increasing the number of total
secrecy orders on patents to 5,002.
Requested 2,371 FISA applications, up nearly 9 percent from 2006.
Source: OpenTheGovernment.org’s 2008 Secrecy Report Card.
WHEN REPORTERS AND EDITORS IN OHIO NEED
to know their rights to certain government documents or whether they must issue a retraction
to a story, they don’t have to go far for legal
advice. If they are members of a state media
association, they’ve got a lawyer standing by
ready to take their call.
Lawyers at Baker & Hostetler man a hotline
for the Ohio Newspaper Association, and they
are not alone in their enterprise. Law firms around
the country staff hotlines, often pro bono. Among
them are one in Houston for consumers with bank-
ruptcy questions and one for members of a Midwestern Realtors group.
And, as the economy continues to tank, more law firms are readying themselves to be that legal operator standing by with the hope that, by answering
little questions, they may reel in something bigger.
“We’re helping people make the right initial decisions when they’re faced
with these issues and hopefully helping them avoid litigation,” says Louis
Colombo, a Baker & Hostetler partner in Cleveland who helps on the hotline.
IT’S JUST ABOUT TIME FOR SPRING
cleaning, and a good start is getting
your office organized. According to
Kelly Lynn Anders, author of The
Organized Lawyer, the bulk of lawyer disciplinary problems stem from
So if you are guilty of breaching
the duty of care to your office, here
are Anders’ top tips for getting organized:
u Take control of your e-mail.
Create an electronic filing system
that uses simple terms. Spend five
minutes a day working on inbox
v Tackle your personal paper.
Create a color-coded filing system
for your personal files. It will help
you locate what you need more
quickly and efficiently.
w Spend one day a year weeding
through your paper and electronic
files to determine what to keep, toss
x Ensure that everything on your
desktop is useful, functional or
decorative—in that order.
y Avoid junk drawer overload.
Buy inexpensive trays to keep your
desk drawers tidy and prevent loose
items from moving around.
And remember, take it one step
at a time, says Anders. The decision
to become more organized is a personal one that will net many professional benefits, but it takes time,
care and commitment.
Firm hotlines operate on different business models. Baker & Hostetler receives a small monthly retainer from the media group that allows its members
to call certain firm lawyers directly. Chicago-based Sonnenschein Nath &
Rosenthal is manning, pro bono, a Web-based hotline for members of the
Media Bloggers Association who’ve purchased the group’s liability insurance.
Sonnenschein partner Blaine Kimrey says the firm agreed to staff the hotline for a variety of reasons. “What I will get is the satisfaction of helping
bloggers exercise their First Amendment rights,” says Kimrey, a former
journalist. But the project also will help the firm train young associates, and
be a recruiting and retention tool. “Many of these same positives could apply to similar hotlines at other firms.” —Melanie Lasoff Levs
The Organized Lawyer, $20
COURTESY OF TIM COLTON, CAROLINA ACADEMIC PRESS