July 2013 Archives

Electronically-In-Touch

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July 2013
Dear Young Lawyers Section Members:

Welcome to the latest edition of Electronically-In-Touch, the e-publication of the NYSBA Young Lawyers Section. The current issue includes a message from our new section chair, Lisa R. Schoenfeld, Esq., pictures from the Supreme Court Admissions program, information on our upcoming 75th anniversary celebration and update from our Intellectual Property Section Liaisons. We then have articles on trusts and estates, ethics and your password, and career transitions. We are always looking for submissions so please keep your articles coming to Electronically-In-Touch.

The Officers of YLS and the Editors of Electronically-In-Touch also wish to make clear that the thoughts and opinions expressed in the articles that follow are those of the respective authors alone, and do not represent the opinions of the NYSBA Young Lawyers Section, or its Officers or Executive Committee.

Erin K. Flynn, Esq.
Editor in Chief, Electronically-In-Touch
Erin.K.Flynn@gmail.com

Brian M. Doyle, Esq.
Managing Editor, Electronically-In-Touch
doylebm@gmail.com

A Message from YLS Chair Lisa R. Schoenfeld, Esq.

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Welcome to the 2013-2014 term of the Young Lawyers Section (YLS), which also happens to be our 75th anniversary! We are proud to be getting old while staying young, and we have a lot of exciting events and programs planned for this year. But first, I have to congratulate our Immediate Past Chair, Michael L. Fox, Esq., who did a wonderful job for our Section last year. The Section has enjoyed many successes and we truly thank Mike for all of his efforts.

As one of the largest Sections of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), the YLS comprises more than 4,000 members, including law students and admitted attorneys who have been practicing for 10 years or less. Our members practice in a variety of substantive areas, throughout the state, across the country, and around the world.

It is the intent of our Section to serve as a bridge to professional life and to NYSBA. We offer CLE programs geared to the interests of our members, networking events, and pro-bono/community service opportunities. The YLS has a large Executive Committee, with representatives to each district in New York State, liaisons to each substantive Section of the Bar, and several committee Chairs (i.e., the Mentoring Committee, the Diversity Committee, the Pro-Bono/Community Service Committee, the Membership Committee, etc.).

The Section features many annual programs. We just recently concluded our United States Supreme Court Admissions Program in Washington D.C., where attorneys were formally admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court. Due to the high demand for this program, we began hosting it annually several years ago. We will hold our fall meeting in New York City this year, during which time we are co-sponsoring the New York State Bar Association CLE Department's Bridge the Gap program. We will have our Executive Committee meeting and a dinner the night prior to the start of the program. We will also be presenting various CLE programs during the New York State Bar Association's Annual Meeting in New York City in January 2014, including a half day CLE program on Wednesday, January 29th, and our two-day Bridging the Gap program on Thursday and Friday, January 30th and 31st. Shortly thereafter, we will hold our 5th Annual Trial Academy, which is being planned for March 2014 at Cornell Law School. The program is a five-day intensive trial techniques program, which includes direct participation by the attendees. This year's program is being co-chaired by Michael L. Fox, Esq., our Immediate Past Chair, and Sarah Gold, Esq., our Chair-Elect.

We are especially looking forward to celebrating our 75th anniversary, which we will holding at CitiField on August 24th. Click here for additional details.
The Section is also planning many events in districts throughout New York State.

I am looking forward to a wonderful year and to working with the other Officers of the Section - Sarah Gold, Esq., our Chair Elect, Jason Clark, Esq., our Treasurer, and Erica M. Hines, Esq., our Secretary, and the rest of our Executive Committee.

If any of you are interested in becoming more involved in our Section, please feel free to reach out to me at lschoenfeld@soklaw.com to find out what opportunities are available. We look forward to working with each of you and providing you with membership benefits that far exceed your expectations.

Supreme Court Admissions Program

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On June 10, 2013, members of the Young Lawyers Section traveled to Washington, D.C. and were sworn in at the United States Supreme Court. The President of the New York State Bar Association, David M. Schraver, had the honor of making the motion for admittance. After the ceremony, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg welcomed the group.

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Diversity

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The Young Lawyers Section (YLS), for the second year, was recognized by the Association at the 2013 Section Leaders Conference for its commitment to diversity.

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YLS members are diverse in gender, race, ethnicity, religion and practice areas. Accordingly, our programming reflects that - we have diverse speakers at our events and have co-sponsored programs with community organizations and local and minority bar associations. Our commitment to diversity is embedded in the core of our section's mission.

Simone N. Archer, Esq.
YLS Diversity Chair

Upcoming Events

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Staying young while getting old!
Young Lawyers Section
Celebrating 75 years!

Saturday, August 24, 2013
12:30 p.m. CLE Program - Café Roma, Caesar's Club, Mets CitiField
(1.5 NY CLE credits)
1:45 p.m. Lunch and Refreshments
3:00 Guided Tour of CitiField
4:00 Game Time! Mets v. Detroit
Please join the Young Lawyers Section as they celebrate staying young while growing old at a CLE program and baseball game with the New York Mets.
Click here for additional details.


Ethics CLE Program & Day at the Track

On Friday, July 26, 2013, the NYSBA Young Lawyers Section, together with the Real Property Law Section, will co-sponsor an Ethics CLE Program and a Day at the Track. The CLE will be a lunchtime program on "A Cautionary Tale: Recent Cases Instituted by the Grievance Committee Involving Real Estate Transactions" at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, followed by an afternoon at the Saratoga Race Track. The event is expected to be free to YLS members. Please join us for this informative program and fun afternoon of networking. For additional information, please contact Erica Hines at emh@hrfmlaw.com.

Liaison Updates

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Intellectual Property Section Liaison Update

The Young Lawyers Section and Intellectual Property Law Section recently co-sponsored two successful community service events. The events, which were co-organized by Teige Sheehan, Erica Hines, Sitso Bediako, and Brett Blair of the YLS, took place in Albany and Queens. The Albany event took place on Sunday, May 19, 2013 from 9 am - 11 am at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, located at 965 Albany Shaker Road, Latham, NY 12110. The Queens event took place on Saturday, May 4, 2013 from 8:45 am - 12:00 pm at City Harvest's Queens Mobile Market.
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For more information on joining the Intellectual Property Section, please contact Teige Sheehan at tps@hrfmlaw.com or Erica Hines at emh@hrfmlaw.com.

Trust and Estate Law

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What Happens to My Assets When I Die?
By: Roman Aminov, Esq.

A question I often hear from clients is: "What will happen to my assets when I die?" This sobering question is important not just for the person asking it, but also for the loved ones that they leave behind. The person making the inquiry wants to make sure that his family will be able to receive their inheritance in a quick, efficient, and inexpensive manner. To answer this question, we need to look at the most common ways of owning property in New York:

Tenants by the Entirety:

The most valuable asset in a person's estate is their home. A married couple usually owns their home jointly, as tenants by the entirety, which means that after the death of the first spouse, the home automatically passes to the other spouse. Only married couples may take title by tenants by the entirety. While this may make estate administration easier by avoiding probate, there are certain drawbacks to this approach. First, it doesn't allow the deceased spouse to fully utilize their New York lifetime estate tax credit amount which may cause higher estate taxes after the second spouse's passing. Second, the surviving spouse may be, or may soon be, on Medicaid, and owning the home in their names may subject them to Medicaid liens or Medicaid estate recovery. Additionally, when the second spouse passes away, the property will have to go through the probate process (see below) unless a joint owner is added to the deed. An estate attorney should be consulted in each situation.

Joint Ownership:

A second way of holding title is by joint ownership or joint tenancy. This is similar to tenants by the entirety except that it lacks some protections which are outside the scope of this article. Real property can be held as a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (JTWROS) which means that when one joint owner passes, their share automatically transfers to the other remaining joint owner(s), avoiding probate. At the death of the final joint owner, the property passes under his will or through intestacy and necessitates the probate or estate administration process. Bank and brokerage accounts can also be held jointly. This type of ownership, common among spouses, means that each co-owner has the full right to use the assets during his or her life, with the balance going to the surviving joint account holder at his or her death. Owning assets jointly may be convenient, but it also opens up all the joint owners to liability based on the acts of one joint owner.

Beneficiary Designations:

Another common way of passing assets is by designating a beneficiary. Many financial products allow for the designation of a beneficiary. Examples include bank accounts ("POD" or "ITF"), life insurance policies, and IRAs. When you list a beneficiary, that person will be able to collect the funds without going through a court process. That individual will simply present a death certificate to the financial institution and fill out the necessary paperwork. This is a great way to pass money to people to help pay for immediate expenses associated with the funeral. There are some issues which need to be considered with beneficiary designations, however. First, a minor should not be listed as a beneficiary since the money will not be accessible until he or she turns 18 or 21, depending on the state. Consequently, it is advisable to name a trust or a custodian as the beneficiary to hold the money for the benefit of the minor. Second, if the beneficiary is receiving governmental benefits such as SSI or Medicaid, he or she may lose their benefits upon receiving the funds. In this situation, it is advisable to establish and name a supplemental needs trust for the benefit of the beneficiary. Third, if you own a life insurance policy on your own life, your heirs may have to pay an estate tax on the proceeds. To avoid this result, ownership may need to be changed and an irrevocable life insurance trust may be necessary.

Assets in a Trust:

Assets which are titled in the name of the trust pass under the terms of the trust and avoid probate. Commonly, a pour over will is also executed to transfer anything not titled in the name of the trust. A trust can allow for asset protection, preservation of Medicaid and/or SSI benefits, and distribution to minors.

Sole Name with No Beneficiary

A person may simply own property in his own name without any joint owner or beneficiary. In such a case, except for certain property passing to his or her surviving spouse or minor children, the property will have to pass through probate (if there was a last will and testament) or administration (if there was no will). Probate is an expensive and time consuming process. You will likely require the assistance of a probate attorney to deal with the Surrogate's Courts in the county where the decedent was domiciled.

In order to properly and efficiently plan for your future while protecting your family, it is important to speak with an estate planning attorney about your particular situation.

Roman Aminov is a trusts and estates attorney concentrating in estate planning, elder law, and probate. He is experienced in the drafting of wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies, and trusts of all types. He can be reached at (347)766-2685 or http://www.aminovlaw.com.

Ethics

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How Good Are Your Passwords?
By: Gabriel D. Huntington, Esq.

Lawyers in New York, like all states, have ethical duties to be both competent and to keep client information confidential. Attorneys also have a duty to understand the technologies that they employ in their practice. The FBI has advised the largest 200 firms in New York City how to protect clients and their security infrastructures. But what about your small firm or solo practice? One small step you can take is to learn how to create and use strong passwords. Passwords are everywhere in law practice; email accounts, practice management systems, wifi access points, smart phones, encrypted thumb drives, QuickBooks and databases. With more of your practice moving on to the web this article will focus on passwords for web or cloud services.

Understanding how to create a strong password requires understanding how passwords are vulnerable and how they are stored on a website. The basis of a password is a shared secret. When asked for it you provide the password it's compared to what is stored and access is granted or denied. How a password is stored is important to how secure and unique it should be.

There are two primary ways that passwords are stored; in plain text and hashed. Plain text is human readable text, such as what you are reading right now. Hashed text is the product of a process where plain text is fed into a hashing algorithm, which is a kind of one-way cryptographic meat grinder. For example, the word password fed into the common MD5 hashing algorithm comes out as 5f4dcc3b5aa765d61d8327deb882cf99. When you create a password on a website it is often hashed before it is stored in its database, meaning that the website does not know your password. This is important because while all websites should hash passwords, many do not -including the NYSBA.org website. In order to determine whether a website hashes passwords, set a temporary password and go through the "Forgot Password" process. If the website sends you an email with your password, then it is stored in plain text. But if the website asks you to go through the process of resetting your password then it is most likely hashed. If a website stores your password in plain text and that website is compromised then so is your password. Because of this your password for a websites that stores plain text must be completely unique. Users of the Sony Playstation Network were rudely awakened to this reality when its databases were compromised and millions of username and password combinations were stolen and used to access other online accounts.

However, your password is not necessarily secure just because it is hashed. While it is true that hashing algorithms are one-way, hackers have access to the same hashing algorithms as website developers. Hackers have created large tables that correlate a plain text password input to the hashed text output. The result is that common passwords are easily matched up to their hashed counterparts. This process has been made easier by the large-scale hacks of major websites such as LinkedIn where 6.5 million hashed passwords were leaked to the web. Hackers and security researchers were able to use this list and computational brute force to figure out 90% of the hashed passwords. Now even if a website practices hashing, the password can still be looked up by using these tables. There are some advanced hashing techniques that websites can and should employ, but you cannot count on them to do so. The one way to avoid this is if your password is truly unique. Unfortunately humans are just not that creative when it comes to making unique passwords, for example the most common password from LinkedIn was Link.

In order to craft strong passwords the most important factor is its length. The longer a password is the more difficult it becomes to use computational brute force to figure out its hash. For example, the total number of six-character passwords made up of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters is about 690 billion different passwords. And while that may sound like a big number, consider a low-end home computer built for gaming can make more than 600 million password guesses per second, meaning that every single six-character password could be guessed in about 1200 seconds or 20 minutes. Whereas a 12-character password using the same parameters and computer would take about 25 million years to guess.

One of the best ways to remember a long password is to use song lyrics or movie lines, then mix in digits from childhood phone numbers and a few special characters. At first, it may seem daunting to have a 20+ character password but after about a week finger memory will take over. Finally, making subtle modifications to each password depending on where it is used can add another layer of security, for example adding NYT to your New York Times.com password. It may be helpful to keep a written list of these modifiers at your office or home, but it's best not to write down the password itself. At the very least you should keep a list of all places that you have signed up for and change your password annually on a date that you can remember, like your mother's birthday. Collectively these practices are referred to as password hygiene and you can learn more on the web.

Finally, a word on smart phones: they are small, easy to lose and often stolen. You should set a passcode on your smart phone to prevent access to your email accounts. The strongest password in the world will not protect you if it can simply be reset by email. You should also set the option that will erase data on your smart phone after ten failed passcode attempts.

You may think that you will not be targeted because you are not filing patents for Lockheed Martin, but all lawyers are keepers of secrets. Even the solo practitioner has a wealth of information that is valuable to identity thieves such as SSNs and birth dates. Increasing reliance on cloud services puts more of this data out of your direct control and make its security contingent on a strong password. While your ethical obligations may not yet extend to good data practices, you are not going to have repeat business from a client whose data you lost.

Career Transitions

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Rarifying the Common Law
By: Seth Engel, Esq.

In this economic environment, it is the lucky few, or unlucky few depending on your perspective, who make it being a first-year associate at a large international law firm. These young attorneys are finding themselves more than ever under the weighty pressure to perform and demonstrate profitability to both their partners and their firm. This entry into practice i.e. "the real world" is no bar review. As law students, we are the pampered end consumers of our schools' services with friendly faces and free beers at our disposal. It is a tad scarier when thrust into the very adult world of law firm life, an experience often aggravated by a simultaneously undergoing a geographical transplant.

The near collapse of the global legal market in 2010-2011 nearly brought a generation of young lawyers to its knees. At the same time, however, it has forced us into innovative and adventurous professional careers that would have perhaps been abandoned had more traditional and stable opportunities been readily available. Many young attorneys agree that that it can feel preternatural to leave the familiar world of section study groups, open office hours, and free weekends, only to jump down the rabbit hole of constant competition with peers and strict office hierarchy where the only thing that's free is your first Blackberry. And now imagine adding another layer to this metamorphosis - leaving your home jurisdiction. Imagine showing up to your first day of work only to find that everyone around you is speaking a foreign language, practicing a foreign law, and acting in a way completely different than the culture that brought you up. Sounds like bad dream, right?

Welcome to the life of a junior associate in a foreign jurisdiction, a disorienting experience of which I will briefly explain some of the pros and cons that I have encountered as a first-year associate in a large international law firm in Paris, France.

I will never forget my first day of work. I emerged from the Madeleine metro station, my step faltering as I gazed up from the shadow of the enormous pillars of the ecclesiastical neoclassic monolith and into the smoggy Parisian sky. I blindly followed the suited pedestrians who seemed to know how to cross this perplexing intersection, wading through tiny honking European cars and bustling European people and clad in one of the two suits I owned. Upon arriving at my firm, I find myself sucked through a pair of electric glass doors, shutting out the cacophony of the Parisian morning with the sharp gasp I imagine astronauts experience upon entering free space from their ship. I was greeted warmly by HR in French, and I stood awestruck at the foot of a marble staircase whose grandeur had only been matched in my mind by films I and museums. And then I stepped forward towards my first day as an associate attorney.

Since that day, what shakes me up the most is the little things, which are just different enough to make me feel out of place. Imagine, to take some mundane examples, that the only coffee you can drink is espresso, the only breakfast you can eat is a small pastry, or the only lunch that won't be frowned upon is at a restaurant. By way of less mundane example, imagine that a trial judge can and is expected to ask questions of the attorneys and witnesses, can call his or her own witnesses, and can order further investigations of questions of law or fact. Imagine that employment law plays a central role in every single merger or acquisition, that corporate tax is even more complicated than in the US, and that the federal bankruptcy law you once knew and loved has been transformed into a completely different process with entirely different (and sometimes unknown) consequences. Welcome to practicing law in France.

The switch from common to civil law, from English to French, and from New York to Paris, have imbued my entry into practice with a kind of magic and enchanting unpredictability that I do not think I would have attained had I chosen to practice in my home jurisdiction. In some ways, I could not ask for a better or easier entry into practice. Having gone to law school in Washington, DC, I was consistently shocked and appalled by the sartorial choices of my male (and female) colleagues - the bagginess and ill-fitting nature of the suits attorneys and law students would wear to court, client meetings, and conferences. Many Parisian attorneys, on the contrary, actually appear aware of what clothing they don each morning, paying attention to colors and seasonal details in socks, pocket squares, and cufflinks. This is a breath of fresh air and makes a surprising amount of difference in terms of quality of the workplace.

As a first-year associate, I would most likely have had to learn a large percentage of the law on the fly, regardless of where I practiced. Although partners and senior associates at my firm may have at times perceived me as an American bumbling his way through the French legal system, being thrown into the fire has also demonstrated my ability (or inability) to learn complex ideas quickly and apply this knowledge to communication with a client or revision of legal documents. As an added bonus, I am inevitably given leeway just for being "the American" whose impeccable English skills are constantly in demand by French attorneys working with British, American, German, and Chinese clients. My American-ness is both an added bonus to my abilities as an attorney and a handicap that my superiors factor into deadlines. It's a win-win.

There are, of course, negative factors to practicing in a foreign jurisdiction, perhaps more particularly in France. The Weberian work ethic and drive for efficiency for which Americans are simultaneously admired and ridiculed is simply lacking in many European attorneys. The use of the internet and internet-based research is less developed and less effective. Gyms, one of the two great outlets for attorney fever, are either dilapidated and old or new and too expensive. Drinking with colleagues, the second great attorney outlet, is scaled down to an unrecognizable, wine-sipping level. But these professional and personal disappointments often evaporate, however temporarily, upon arriving at the top floor of your building and feeling your breath taken away by a view of the Eiffel Tower and the glistening rooftops of Paris.

While fully acknowledging my luck for having landed this position, I am also grateful to the economic crisis for having forced me into practicing in a foreign jurisdiction and into stepping out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. Both the positives and negative aspects of practicing law in a foreign jurisdiction contribute to what I feel is a learning experience that would be unmatched had I chosen to stay in the USA.

Career paths inevitably have many twists and turns, but the product of this generation of law school graduates will have some interesting stories to tell. Mine will be littered with pocket squares and espresso.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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