Austin Chapter of LMA to Examine LinkedIn & Legal Marketing on January 6

The Austin City Group of the Legal Marketing Association will host what is being billed as a Tech Tuesday on the morning of January 6, 2015 at The Law Office of Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP at 3711 S. MoPac Expressway, Building One, Suite 300.

Tech Tuesday is a monthly webinar series that covers technology topics of interest to legal marketers, based on the most popular sessions from the Legal Marketing Technology Conference held each Fall. The Austin City Group will gather on the first Tuesday of each month to view a webinar. The webinar topic for the upcoming Tech Tuesday, which begins at 8 a.m., is LinkedIn and legal marketing. The watch party is free for LMA members and $20 for non-members.

The panelists for the session were:

LinkedIn and In-House Counsel (Brad Shepard, Kredible): Includes research conducted by Kredible, in association with Georgia Tech, on a broad cross-section of in-house counsel that shows in detail exactly how online tools have forever changed the way the credibility of law firms and their attorneys are vetted.

LinkedIn & Business Development (David Ackert, Practice Boomers): Demonstrates efficient, highly implementable techniques that will resonate with lawyers. Includes tactical takeaways and new level of social expertise and higher business value to her firm.

Great Online Profiles (Adrian Dayton, Clear View Social): Walk through examples of great lawyer profiles on LinkedIn, and learn to how to make your attorney’s profiles awesome.

RSVP at:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1M9bpMZRUSUmcPF_5ciUeenog0nFSCzWhvZX7hCS8LKs/viewform

 

Lee & Hayes Promotes Attorney to Partner in Austin Office

Lee & Hayes, a Spokane, WA-based law firm specializing in intellectual property, has announced Andrew Eisenberg has been promoted to partner in its Austin office.

Eisenberg is a member of the patent practice group and has been with the firm since 2012. He holds a B.S.E. in Computer Science from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School. In addition to assisting clients with the strategic creation and maintenance of patent portfolios, Eisenberg regularly counsels clients on patent and trademark licensing matters.

Austin Attorney Walks 500 Miles for the Poor

Thomas Hall, an attorney at Braun & Gresham, PLLC in Dripping Springs, Texas, walked the Camino de Santiago, an ancient Christian pilgrimage route in northern Spain, for 37 days to raise money for charity.

Hall’s goal is to raise $30,000 to be donated to Food For The Poor and two other charities.Texas Man Walks 500 Miles for the PoorInspired by Food For The Poor’s mission to bring clean water to those in need, Hall hopes to raise enough money to drill and install two water wells in Haiti.

“The fact that Mr. Hall has walked 500 miles to provide clean water for those who have to walk miles every day in search of water, which is often contaminated, is truly amazing,” said Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food For The Poor. “On behalf of the people we serve, we want to sincerely thank Mr. Hall for his generosity.”

Three of Hall’s four children, twin sons Patrick and Conor, age 25, and daughter Maura, 24, joined him on his 500-mile journey. They reunited in Pamplona, Spain, in time to celebrate his 60th birthday.

“Sometimes I would walk with each of my children individually, sometimes the four of us would walk together, and sometimes I needed to walk alone instead of trying to keep up with younger legs,” wrote Hall, who said there is no substitute for that kind of one-on-one time.

“Together we crossed the Alto del Perdon Mountain Range, where a series of iconic iron monuments of medieval pilgrims stand,” wrote Hall on his website. “According to legend, pilgrims who made it this far were assured of their spiritual health in the event of death.”

Conor, a cancer survivor, commemorated the journey by taking a photo next to one of the iron figurines holding a sign that read, “Outliving it!”

“Legend says that when the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was being built, pilgrims were asked to contribute by bringing a stone,” wrote Hall, who carried a piece of brown sandstone with a white stripe from the southern shore of Lake Superior, where he grew up. “The tradition is to throw a stone here, brought from the pilgrim’s place of origin, symbolizing what the pilgrim leaves behind to prepare for rebirth on the last stage of the Camino.

“Before I left for Spain, I sent out an email with a picture of a stone to family, friends, donors and supporters,” wrote Hall. “Many people added their prayers and intentions to this token. I carried it for all, and laid it down at Cruz de Ferro on your behalf.”

On October 15, Hall completed his 500-mile walk. His pilgrim passport was stamped each day at the hostels where he stayed, and the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago, Spain, confirmed Hall completed the route by issuing a certificate of completion.

Hall also carried a small portion of the cremated remains of his friend, Russell Schreiber, who died of cancer in May. At sunset, Hall released Schreiber’s ashes into the sea at Ara Solis, the altar to the sun, to give thanks and mark the end of his pilgrimage.

To help Hall reach his fundraising goal to bring water to those in need, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org/caminowalkathon to make a secure donation.

Food For The Poor, named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as the largest international relief and development organizationin the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 95 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.

Texas Legal Adds Identity Theft Restoration to Its List of Benefits

Texas Legal, the Austin-based statewide nonprofit legal insurance plan founded by the State Bar of Texas in 1972, recently added identity theft restoration as a benefit to its members. The nonprofit has partnered with AllClear ID, the technology leader in the identity protection market, to provide Texas Legal members 12 months of automatic access to identity repair services.

According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), there are more than $9 million victims of identity theft in the U.S. every year. There are various ways a thief can use personal information, including misusing your Social Security number, making purchases with lost or stolen credit cards, using checking account or fraudulently opening an account in a name, among others.

“With the rise in identity theft, we have taken a proactive approach to ensure our members are safeguarded if their identity has been compromised,” James “Jim” Buck, president of Texas Legal, said. “The necessary steps to reinstate one’s good name and credit can be overwhelming, and we wanted to be able to ease that burden for our members. We are proud to add identity theft restoration to our extensive list of benefits.”

If a Texas Legal member experiences identity theft, they simply call the AllClear ID customer support team and provide proof of Texas Legal coverage. From there, a licensed investigator goes to work on the customer’s behalf to restore their credit to its accurate state.

Texas Legal went on to share five tips on doing this effectively:

Keep your personal information secure offline.

When you order new checks, don’t have them mailed to your home, unless you have a secure mailbox with a lock. Destroy labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out.

 Keep your personal information secure online.

If you post too much information about yourself on social media networking sites, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your bank accounts and other information.

Properly dispose of devices.

Before you dispose of a computer, use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive. Before you dispose of a mobile device, check the service provider’s website or device manufacturer’s website on how to delete information permanently.

Safeguard your Social Security number.

Ask questions before deciding to share it, including if you can use a different kind of identification.

Keep your devices secure.

Don’t use an automatic log-in feature that saves your username and password. Always log off your laptop when you are finished. Before you send personal information over your laptop, tablet or smart phone on a public wireless network, see if your information is protected. If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected.

Texas Legal membership covers legal expenses much like health insurance covers medical expenses. A low monthly fee gives members access to a network of attorneys throughout the state and also identity theft restoration through All Clear ID. To learn more about Texas Legal or to become a member, please visit www.texaslegal.org.

Austin Legal Technology Company Acquired for At least $70 Million

LDiscovery, LLC, a leading provider of eDiscovery services, has announced its merger with Renew Data Corp, a legal consulting and technology company based in Austin.

While the companies did not disclose the terms and suggested it was a “merger,” the Austin Business Journal reported that it was an acquisition and involved a price tag of at least $70 million.

The companies both operate in the eDiscovery space.

“An industry leader in quality, client service and processing, LDiscovery offers the perfect complement of strengths and opportunities for synergies that are sure to be of tremendous value in supporting our clients,” said Jim Blayney, the outgoing CEO of RenewData who is working with Christopher Weiler and the rest of the management team to assure a smooth transition for clients, partners and employees. “We are now able to provide services internationally with a London processing and hosting center, offer Managed Document Review for a completely seamless eDiscovery experience, and achieve greater processing speed with LDiscovery’s world class processing technology.”

RenewData, launched in 2001, will maintain its brand name and continue offering its services from Austin, TX.

Gardere Welcomes Government Affairs Attorney to the Firm’s Austin Office

Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP has announced that Senior Attorney Royce Poinsett has joined the Firm’s Government Affairs Practice in Austin.

“We are thrilled that Royce has decided to join our government affairs practice,” said Kimberly A. Yelkin, executive partner of Gardere’s Austin office. “With his excellent government affairs credentials, Royce will play a major role representing our clients in the upcoming legislative session and will further enhance our practice.”

Joining Gardere from Baker Botts LLP, Poinsett is an experienced government affairs attorney and registered lobbyist at the Texas Capitol. His long-term clients include many prominent corporations and industry associations. Through building relationships and being a constant presence in the Austin policy arena, Poinsett stays up-to-date on political developments and effectively manages legislative efforts. He also provides crisis management counsel to businesses facing sudden legal or political threats in Texas, including public affairs controversies, investigations and legislative attacks.

Poinsett began his government affairs practice after serving as an advisor to Gov. Rick Perry and then House Speaker Tom Craddick through 11 regular and special legislative sessions. He also previously served elected officials from both sides of the political aisle, including former President George W. Bush during his term as governor of Texas, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley during his term as Baltimore city councilman.

 

Craft Breweries Sue State in District Court of Travis County over Texas Law

The craft beer scene is thriving. But its expansion could be put on hold because a new law that “is forcing brewers to give up millions of dollars of valuable property to politically connected beer distributors,” according to a press release announcing a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Specifically, three Texas craft breweries joined with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a major lawsuit challenging the 2013 law. The owners of Live Oak Brewing, Peticolas Brewing Company and Revolver Brewing “simply want to defend the businesses they built.”

For more on the lawsuit, visit www.ij.org/texas-craft-beer

Before 2013, distributors would pay brewers for the right to sell their beer in markets like Houston or Austin, according to the release. But Texas has made it illegal for brewers to accept compensation for their distribution rights. Distributors pay nothing for something potentially worth millions—creating a windfall for distributors. Even worse, distributors can then sell those rights to other distributors and pocket the money. Brewers, on the other hand, have traditionally reinvested this money to grow their breweries.

Phot

Photo: Courtesy of Institute of Justice

“This law is like the government forcing authors to give the rights to their books to publishers for free,” explained Matt Miller, managing attorney of the IJ’s Texas office. “It is unconstitutional for Texas to force brewers to give distributors property that they never earned and don’t deserve.”

“For the last 18 years, I’ve poured my life into this business,” said Chip McElroy, president of Live Oak Brewing. “I’m proud to have been part of the Texas craft beer Renaissance. When Texas passed this law, not only did it give away part of what my employees and I built—it took my beer off the shelves in Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and other parts of Texas where Live Oak beer would otherwise be available.”

IJ is representing Austin-based Live Oak Brewing; Revolver Brewing, located in Fort Worth; and Peticolas Brewing in Dallas. Unfortunately, thanks to the new law, their future growth is uncertain, according to the release. But the Texas Constitution protects the property rights and economic liberty of entrepreneurs. This case aims to overturn the 2013 law and allow brewers to keep all of the businesses they’ve built.

Austin-based State Securities Board Reveals Top Ten Investment Threats

Thee State Securities Board recently released a list of the most common types of fraudulent investment schemes and offered strategies to avoid becoming a victim.

Emerging red flags on this year’s list include digital currency transactions, stream-of-income investments, and new ways in which unregistered securities are being offered to the public.DSC03525-B

Others have been persistent problems for years and show no sign of abating: Phantom oil and gas projects or those that dupe investors with exaggerated claims about the expected output and profits; promoters selling “guaranteed, no-risk” promissory notes which promise to pay inconceivably high rates of returns; and investment contracts in real estate loan programs or projects that fail to generate sufficient revenue from the rehabilitation and sale of distressed property.

The State Securities Board and the Enforcement Section of the North American Securities Administrators Association compiled the list. Additional material comes from the State Securities Board’s Texas Investor Guide: Strategies for Investing Wisely and Avoiding Fraud.

Unregistered Individuals are a three-story tall red flag for investors. Generally, anyone acting as a sales agent for a company selling stock, bonds, or other investments to the public must be registered to do so – a fact many investors don’t realize. A promoter also can’t simply set up a website or YouTube channel and sell investments without the investments themselves being registered or qualified to be sold under very limited exemptions from the registration.

Registering with the State Securities Board involves testing requirements, background checks, and periodic review. To see if a person is registered to sell investments, visit the Agency’s website or call 1-888-663-0009. A sales agent who isn’t registered is likely violating the law. Almost all criminal actions undertaken by the State Securities Board involve unregistered persons.

A Stream-of-Income Investment is an emerging investor threat that involves a company acting as a middleman for buyers and sellers. Companies introduce investors to individuals who may want to sell income based on pension payments or government disability payments.

These transactions hold risks for both buyers and sellers.

Laws may prohibit the assignment of the stream of income/benefits. The seller typically maintains the legal right to redirect the payment, and if the seller does redirect the payment, the investor may be left with an unenforceable contract right. In addition, the benefits are contingent on the life of the seller, and even life insurance policies on the seller’s life may be cancelled and do not protect an investor if a seller simply redirects the income stream. Persons who sell their benefits are often veterans and disabled persons. These individuals may be solicited when they are in financial distress, selling much needed future benefit payments at a significant reduction.

Digital Currency and Cybersecurity Risks. Digital currencies such as Bitcoin are often touted as a sophisticated, online alternative to traditional currencies, but investors should realize these currencies are not tangible, they are not issued by a government, and are not currently subject to traditional regulation or monetary policy. Bitcoin and other digital currencies present significant risks when part of a securities offering:

  • Questionable security of the exchanges dealing in digital currencies, highlighted by Mt. Gox, the Japan-based Bitcoin exchange that imploded earlier this year among massive security breaches. In addition, digital currencies exist only on computers and transactions are effectuated through cyberspace – a combination that may provide fertile ground for hackers.
  • Unscrupulous promoters may be able to exploit the anonymous nature of certain digital currencies to conceal their true identify and assist in the concealment of a fraudulent investment offering.
  • The value of digital currencies can rise or fall dramatically in a short period of time – volatility that is particularly dangerous to investment programs tied to the demand for digital currencies or their price.
  • Securities offerings that incorporate digital currencies may be highly dependent on their growth and acceptance in the retail and commercial marketplaces, changes in consumer confidence, and government regulation.

State Securities Board Investor Alert on digital currencies

Emergency Cease and Desist Order Against Balanced Energy LLC

Private Placement Offerings are used to raise capital without having to comply with the registration requirements of securities laws. The exemption from registration allows companies to raise an unlimited amount of money, but only from investors who meet the definition of “accredited” — net worth of $1 million, excluding the value of the primary residence, or annual income of $200,000 or more. Companies raising money through private placements often have a limited operating history, however, and the investments themselves generally lack transparency.

In a recent report by the Enforcement Division of the North American Securities Administrators Association, state regulators said private placements were among the most common products or schemes leading to enforcement actions.

Changes in federal law last year lifted the ban on general solicitation of investors in private offerings. The offerings can now be advertised on the Internet, in publications, and through free dinner seminars, telemarketing, cold-calling – you name it. The offerings can still only accept funds from accredited individuals, but investors should be careful they’re not putting money into an unlawful private placement or dealing with a promoter who isn’t verifying the accredited status of investors.

Disciplinary Order Against Mark Allan Plummer and Chestnut Exploration Partners Inc.

Emergency Cease and Desist Order Against FlippingYourMoney.com and Brian Keith McLain

Disciplinary Order Against Dale Lewis Stringer

Social Media has been the weapon of choice for unscrupulous investment promoters for at least a decade, and its danger only grows. There is no limit on the number of investment scams that can be promoted on standalone websites and via Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, CraigsList, and other online networks.

Investment promoters can just as easily lie to and mislead investors online as in print, however – maybe even easier. The apparent sophistication of a promoter and the professionalism of a website or social media channel are meaningless.

Emergency Cease and Desist Order Against Quixote Exploration LLC

Promissory Notes and High-Yield Investment Programs. Low yields on safe and secure products such as certificates of deposit and money market accounts have prompted some investors to look at alternative sources of income. A promissory note is basically an IOU from a company or individual. The notes are sold to fund everything from property development to oil and gas exploration, or as a way to buy interests in a business partnership.

Sophisticated investors and corporations are likely to have the resources and expertise to evaluate the terms and conditions of promissory notes. Individual investors may not have the skill to evaluate the creditworthiness or prospects of a project that is supposed to generate enough revenue to pay the promised return on the notes.

State of Texas v. Eddie Lacy Stivers III

State of Texas v. William Charlton Mays IV

Life Settlement Contracts are complex financial arrangements in which a company sells a third-party’s life insurance policy to an investor. The investor receives an interest in the death benefits, and the benefits are paid to the investor when the third party dies. Risks abound:

  • You will not have access to your principal or any returns until after the insured person dies.
  • Returns can’t be guaranteed because there’s no way to reliably predict when a person will die.
  • Investors face steep fees and costs, including commissions to salespeople.
  • Policy premiums must continue to be paid on the policy until the insured individual dies. An investor may have to pay more in premiums than expected. If the premiums aren’t paid, an investor risks losing some, or all, of the principal.

State of Texas v. Howard Glen Judah, Gregory F. Jablonski Jr.

State of Texas v. Retirement Value LLC, Richard H. “Dick” Gray, et al.

Real Estate investment opportunities are often sold through investment contracts, notes, and other securities. Promoters promise steady returns from a variety of investments. Examples include the purchase, rehabilitation and sale of distressed houses and other property; the purchase of mortgage notes and real estate assets; and the development of shopping centers and other projects.

Investors should be skeptical of claims that real estate investment carries minimal risk because it is backed by a “hard asset.” Depending on the structure of the offering, risk factors may include the illiquidity of the investment; the impact of changes in interest rates on the profitability of the investment or the ability to sell or refinance property; and the effect that demographics, property valuation, or rental rates of inventory of existing properties may have on the revenue projects generate.

Some promoters of fraudulent real estate investments also claim to have special expertise that guarantees investors unrealistically high returns on investment.

U.S. v. Robert Langguth

State of Texas v. Richard Dewayne Hicks

Affinity Fraud. Churches, community organizations, retirement communities – all are fertile ground for affinity fraud, where a con artist exploits an affiliation with a group as a way to win an investor’s confidence. A fraudulent investment scheme often spreads quickly among members of the group. Besides ensnaring members of the group, an affinity fraud can extend to trusting family members and friends.

Affinity fraud can turn into a Ponzi scheme, where early investors may – but not always – received their promised returns with the money coming from later investors in the fraud. The fraudster may be a member of the group or may just pretend to be.

U.S. v. Kurt Barton and Triton Financial LLC

Oil and Gas investments are highly speculative and complex. It is difficult for a potential investor to investigate a promoter’s claims about how much oil or gas will be produced, the time it will take to start production, and how the investment is structured will affect revenue and potential profits. In addition, not all investors in oil and gas projects have the expertise to decipher geological maps, production reports, and filings with state energy regulators.

Investors should not rely solely on the promoter’s promises about any aspect of the investment. It’s also critical to know the background of the promoters – some may be inexperienced or have repeatedly failed in previous ventures, but not disclosed those facts to investors.

Even if the underlying project is legitimate, any revenue realized can be negated by commissions and other fees or expenses skimmed off by the managing partner, who typically sets the terms and timing of payments to investors. Interests in general partnerships or joint ventures are often non-transferable and illiquid.

State of Texas v. Kelly Gordon Rogers

U.S. v. Bruce Kyle Griffith

Waller Expands Corporate Practice in Austin

Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, a leading provider of legal services to the healthcare, financial services, retail and hospitality industries, has bolstered its corporate practice group with the addition of one attorney and the relocation of a partner.  David Garcia joins the firm as an associate while Waller partner Christopher Phillips moves to the firm’s Austin office from Nashville.

Phillips-Christopher-M-portrait

Christopher Phillips

“At Waller, we believe we are well positioned as one of the nation’s leading corporate practice law firms and this announcement only deepens our bench and strengthens our capabilities in Austin,” said Waller chairman Matt Burnstein.

Previously a partner at Waller’s Nashville office, Christopher Phillips represents national and international buyers and sellers in the acquisition, disposition, financing and operation of payment processing and financial technology companies. In addition, Philips works with healthcare industry clients on a variety of matters including the sale and purchase of hospitals, health systems and related healthcare service providers. He earned his J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School in 2003 and received his B.A., cum laude, from Sewanee-The University of the South in 1996.

“Chris is integral to our work with financial services clients,” said Waller partner Marlee Mitchell, who works extensively with community and regional banks and trust companies. “Chris is well known for his experience with payment processing and financial technology companies, which makes him a natural fit for our Austin office.”

David Garcia assists clients in the acquisition, development and formation of healthcare facilities. He also represents physicians in practice acquisitions and divestitures. In the financial services industry, he advises payment processing and financial technology companies in acquisitions, dispositions, financing and operational matters. Garcia was previously an associate in the Austin office of Jackson Walker.

Garcia-P-David-portrait

David Garcia

He earned his J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law in 2010 and an M.B.A. from Texas Evening MBA Program in 2005. He received his B.B.A. from The University of Texas, Business Honors Program in International Business in 1998.

Beck Redden Announces Hiring of New Associate

Beck Redden LLP has announced that Karson Thompson has joined the firm as an associate.

After graduating from University of Texas School of Law, Thompson spent two years clerking for the Honorable Sam Sparks at the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, where he gained extensive experience with all types of federal motion practice and procedure.

During law school, he interned for the Honorable Susan G. Braden at the United States Court of Federal Claims, and contributed to briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court as a member of the University of Texas School of Law’s Supreme Court Clinic.