We are open during this time of uncertainty. Two members of our staff are working from home and two others are at the office. Many folks are in need of a Will and more and more businesses/farms/ranches are expected to be in need of Chapter 11 or 12 bankruptcy relief.

The courts are also open as we write, but on a limited basis. Many trials have been continued, but probate and other essential services continue to be heard.

It looks like everyone will have to file papers electronically. This is not new. And most matters, at least in Washoe County courts, will be decided on the briefs. This too is not new. What is new is that there will probably be no in-court proceedings for the indefinite future. Each Court is handling this matter a little differently, but basically it is happening by phone or video conferencing. The courts will likely use Court Call or some similar online service.

In our office, staff is encouraged to communicate via Jami, a free video conferencing service. Though linux based, it works with Apple and Microsoft computers and, far as we can tell, all cellphones. Though it takes us old folks a while to get used to, most younger Americans only need a few minutes to download and set up Jami. Far better than Skype, we are told, once you get the hang of it.

Staff at the office is wiping things down and generally adhering to the distance protocol now in effect.

Government Procurement

Front page news today (October 26, 2019) is that the Feds have decided to give Microsoft 10 billion dollars to help with cloud storage of data. Which means, of course, that we taxpayers will be out the $10 billion. The issue here is, among others, whether government employees or private contractors should do the work. Sometimes, as is the case when, say, the school district buys computers or toilet paper or some such, we absolutely must use private contractors. But sometimes, and this appears to be the case with the Microsoft contract, the project could be better handled by having the government do it directly. It is illusory to claim that the government is small if its work is done by contracted third parties. The Soil Conservation Service is an example. That work is now done by government employees, but, no doubt, it could be contracted out to third parties. If so, the politicians could proudly point to a smaller government, but not to a smaller cost. There would be no savings to the taxpayer.

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More on Vail

For reasons that escape me, the Nevada State Bar holds its annual convention outside of Nevada. This year Vail, last year Chicago, year before that Austin. Next year New Orleans. By careful budgeting, I generally am able to attend these annual meetings. The topics discussed are generally quite relevant to my practice.

This year, for example, one of the main topics was women and their recent emergence as a dominant force in the Nevada legislature. The question? Were the thousand of new laws passed this year different from laws that would have been passed by a male-dominated legislature?

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Attorney Fees

At this weekend’s Nevada State Bar convention in Vail, Colorado, one of the speakers hit upon a topic dear to the heart of clients and their lawyers. The speaker, a professor at Georgetown law school, started his lecture with maps. Yes, maps. He pointed out how the law is much like a map, in that the client and his lawyer go from place to place. But, unlike maps, there is little in the way of fee reference points. The lawyer simply says something like: “I will charge you $600 per hour but, since I have no clue how hard the other side will fight, I can’t fix the ultimate fee at this time.” So the client can’t budget or assess whether to settle or proceed. If its not a life-changing dispute, the client will often just capitulate or try to represent himself.

The professor told us attendees that help was on the way in the form of analytics…computer programs that show the average high and the average low number of attorney hours for that kind of dispute. I bought one of those programs and plan to learn to use it soon. Fairness to both the lawyer and the client involves some way of knowing the unknowable. At least its worth a try. I will report as I learn how to use the program.