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Posts published in August 2016

Fastcase Fasttip: Statute Currency

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Anytime you're researching statutes or anything else, it's important to know that the research you're doing is up to date. Fastcase makes that information easy to check, with currency information for every jurisdiction right on the main Search Statutes page. For more information: click here.

18 Ways to Improve E-mail Etiquette

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Do you practice good etiquette and safety when using e-mail? Do you know how to protect yourself from certain risks, like malware and phishing?

Guess what?! You're not alone!

Like any form of communication, it's important to practice good etiquette and safety when communicating with others. Here are a few tips to help you communicate more effectively using e-mail:

  1. Always include an opening and closing greeting. While e-mail is designed to be short, sweet, and to the point, remember to draft your emails with an individual in mind. You never know, that connection could be the foundation of making or breaking a relationship with networking opportunities.
  2. Be clear and concise. People are more likely to read an e-mail if they know what it is about. Be sure to include a relevant subject line. Also, remember avoiding long run-on sentences or rambling. Details are important, but make sure they are clear.
  3. Check your tone. Remember to phrase things in the clearest way possible. Avoid using irony, puns, or sarcasm. Although you may mean no harm, other readers may not be able to recognize your well intentions.
  4. Reply carefully. Double check the CC and BCC fields carefully before responding to an e-mail. It's easy to include recipients by accident. Avoid using the BCC fields when corresponding with your client(s). It doesn't matter how convenient it is. (Some clients may not know what BCC is and may click reply all on an e-mail that originally went to opposing counsel only. Imagine a client responding back to you under attorney-client privilege and that e-mail being sent also to opposing counsel.)
  5. Review before sending. Check grammar and spelling. 99.9% of the time e-mails cannot be unsent. Remember to ALWAYS make sure your spelling and grammar is error free.
  6. Limit text formatting. Although your e-mail software/editor may have many formatting options, remember that some recipients are not as fortunate. Be aware that formatting can make e-mail difficult to read and look unprofessional.
  7. Use a short signature. Do you have a long signature? You might want to shorten it up so that people know how you want to be contacted. While employers have their own signature policies, many do not. Include only your preferred contact information.
  8. Avoid CAPS lock. While it may sound silly, writing/typing in ALL CAPS is actually a form of shouting! Recipients who know this may think you are angry or upset with them. Also, some users find it difficult to read. Avoid making this most basic e-mail etiquette error.
  9. Ignore chain e-mails. We all get them! You know those chain e-mails that involve "if you love your dog, share this message" or "read this right away and then forward", etc. Guess what? Those messages are a form of spam. Just like you receive junk mail in your post office box at home, so will you receive hoax mail in your personal or work inbox. Stop the cycle and don't share.
  10. Never attach a file without mentioning it.  Always attach files before you write your e-mail (so that you don't forget to send them) and always mention the attachment somewhere in the body of your e-mail (so your recipient won't forget to open it/read it).
  11. Consider file size and format. Avoid sending large files or uncompressed photos. Also, make sure your files / attachments don't need to be viewed using a special program.
  12. Always include related attachments. Sometimes you may need to send multiple attachments. Send each attachment in multiple e-mails, especially if your recipient is not familiar with those multiple attachments.
  13. In business, use a basic e-mail address. If your e-mail address is something like abclovessoccer@email.com or lololololol@email.com, then you might want to create a new e-mail address. Some attorneys or businesses may actually consider your e-mail address to be a spam and your e-mail address could leave a bad impression.
  14. Be courteous and polite. Using informal language or street talk is unprofessional to some recipients.
  15. Never use profanity.  Using profanity is extremely unprofessional and in some cases may result in disciplinary action through your employer.
  16. Be cautious and discreet. Be aware that potentially your e-mails could be read. Never send anything defamatory or derogatory that others could take offense to.
  17. Avoid sending highly sensitive information. Never include any personal information like your social security number, date of birth, passwords, or a credit card number. Cybercriminals prey on sensitive information like this and will use it to steal your identity.
  18. Know what you should look for when it comes to e-mail and internet safety.
    1. Spam - modern day junk mail or unwanted advertisements. Remember to ignore or delete these messages. They are not worth getting malware over.
    2. Phishingthere are all forms of phishing out there including spear phishing and whaling. Cybercriminals will use whatever tactic they can to make you think you need to take action like send money, etc. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
    3. Attachments - Some attachments can contain viruses or malware like ransomware. Never open attachments you aren't expecting. If you are unsure, call the sender and ask him/her if he/she sent the e-mail/attachment.

While some etiquette is meant to be broken, remember to tailor each e-mail with these simple guidelines in mind. Also, don't forget to learn more about e-mail etiquette and management at the LPM-TECH Conference on 9/16/16. Contact pmap@scbar.org with any questions.

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Spot negative citation history with Fastcase’s “Bad Law Bot”

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Fastcase has enhanced its Authority Check feature to show you where courts have noted that a case has been treated negatively (i.e., reversed or overruled on any grounds). The new feature, "Bad Law Bot," uses algorithms to find negative citation history. Bad Law Bot then flags those cases that have negative citation history and provides you with the links to those cases.

Keep in mind that Bad Law Bot is not intended to be a complete replacement for a full editorial citator or for reading all later-citing cases. A red flag means that there's likely negative treatment since a court has said much by their use of negative citation, but no red flag does not necessarily mean that a case is still good law. If a case has been overturned but no court opinion has cited to it yet, Bad Law Bot won't be able to find any citation signal information.

Bad Law Bot is part of Fastcase's Authority Check, which means it's free to you as a member of the South Carolina Bar. For more information, visit www.fastcase.com/badlawbot.

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Fastcase Fasttip: How to Search Statutes Across Multiple Jurisdictions in Fastcase

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Fastcase offers a variety of searchable databases to help you find cases and statutes quickly and easily. One of Fastcase’s features is the ability to search statutes across multiple jurisdictions, allowing you to survey a topic across our statutory collection.

Example: If you are looking for statutes on the equitable distribution of property, you could follow these steps:

  1. Select Search Statutes from the Search menu on the homepage.
  2. In the search bar, enter the following: “equitable distribution” & property.
  3. Click the Select All button under the list of current statutes.
  4. Select Search.
  5. You will then see a list of all the statutes that reference the phrase “equitable distribution” and property. The results will be listed by relevance (the sections containing the most detailed discussion of your keywords will be listed first).
  6. You may now click on the title of a section to view it individually.

You may then print your desired results, add them to your print queue, save them to your library, or email them to your to you colleagues.

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