Use of Information

One of my favorite quotes of the past ten years is by the author Philip Caputo who wrote “we drink greedily from the salt water of information while our throats are parched for droplets of wisdom.”  So it seems that our world edges ever closer to the inevitable conclusion that all of the information we have is useless because we do not know what to do with it.  I suppose I am not so pessimistic.  Mankind has always found a way to adapt to the technological changes that have a profound effect on our lives.  We survived the automobile and the telephone in this century alone.  The computer will be assimilated into the 21st century and our lives will be better.  It leaves the question of the moment, however, which is “how do we actually USE all of this information?”

The answer is one that is constantly morphing along with the changes in technology.  There are certain guidelines that I try to use to keep the torrent of information under control:

1.  Under commit.  It took some time to decide to actually do this blog.  It is not worth doing unless it is to be taken seriously.  Committing to too many different kinds of information attachments creates confusion and erodes credibility.  Like Gram said about the buffet line; take all you want but eat all you take;

2.  Set limits.  The telephone revolutionized communication but it created a situation where too much needless communication was done and it actually became counterproductive at times.  Like limiting a teenager’s time on the phone after school, we have to decide how much time and information is productive and where it no longer serves its best purpose.  An example is legal research.  Lawyers have mountains of case summaries at their fingertips, far more than ever before.  Processing, understanding and organizing all of that information takes precious time and energy.  There are few cases where a ton of legal research is necessary.  Managing ALL of our resources is an art and a skill that brings success and results that any lawyer strives for;

3.  Narrow the focus by learning.  I first touched a computer keyboard in college.  Advances in software are not things that I process or accept easily.  I resist it whenever I can.  The reality is that old dogs HAVE to learn new tricks in this day and age to stay competitive.  I try to keep an open mind and learn something new about the power of my computer each day.  I ask for help when I need it which is often.  I try to jettison the cumbersome processes and focus on what works, what information is valuable to me and can be used most efficiently;

4.  Integrate experience.  Law practice is still a people centered business.  Instant communication of information does not mean a response has to be shot back in an hour.  Cases some times have to ripen.  A non-response is often a very powerful response.  Using the information available in the context of years of experience is what gives each client the very best of his or her lawyer’s talent.

The list above grows and changes each day of my practice in the areas of Criminal, Family Law and General Litigation.  I strive to find the “pearls of wisdom” by using the information I have as best I can with thought, consideration, and realistic expectations of my self and others.   I try to make each day a little better than the last so that I can best serve my clients and the legal system.

By:  Kent M. Barker

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Family Law – Know What to Expect

The new year begins with a commentary on family law.  Specifically, on parental rights and responsibilities.  Too often, parties look at children, or time with their children as a commodity to be bargained for.  In October, 2005, the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act, RSA 461-A, was enacted into law.  This act drastically changed the way that courts view parenting responsibility.  The act encourages frequent and continuous contact between the children of a divorced family with both parents.  In some respects, the change in the law has shifted the focus of the parenting aspect of family law cases from a “win/lose” situation to a more cooperative approach.

Most parties come into a divorce situation without knowing what to expect.  Since many aspects of a divorce include competition for possession of assets, they are more likely to view the parenting time aspect as the “win/lose” scenario.  It is the responsibilities of the lawyers on both sides of any such case to educate the parties that the parenting responsibility aspect of the case can and should be as much of a “win/win” result as possible.  It is clear from statistics and from direct observation that the best interests of the children are always served when this is the case.

By: Kent M. Barker

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It’s All About Balance

The rights of someone injured at work are often misunderstood by those who haven’t had the misfortune. The way it is supposed to work is that if one can prove that employment activity caused injury, one is eligible to receive:  60% of any resulting income loss, payment of the necessary medical expenses, help returning to work, and a modest payment for permanent bodily impairment. To be entitled to those benefits, the worker doesn’t have to show that the employer caused the injury. He or she need only prove that the injury was caused by work activity. This is the law of workers’ compensation.

However, workers’ compensation rights are determined in the context of an adversarial process. The employer’s insurance company, therefore, has the right and often will challenge the evidence that there has been an injury, that the injury happened at work, that the medical care is reasonable and/or related to the injury, the extent to which the injury is disabling, whether or not and the extent to which permanent impairment has resulted, etc. These disputes in a workers’ compensation case are not decided in court.  There is no right to a judge or jury in workers’ compensation cases. By law, the testimony and evidence is heard and decided by a hearings officer at the New Hampshire Department of Labor.

Under this law, even if negligence by the employer’s or a fellow employee causes the workers’ injury, the worker may not make a claim for the usual compensation for injury. The injured worker’s rights are limited to the above workers’ compensation benefits.  He or she has no right to sue to seek the compensation to which one  would be entitled for injury outside the workplace: 100% of past and future lost income, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, the emotional impact of the injury, physical pain, etc. The rationale for this law is that, in exchange for the employee’s right to benefits despite the absence of any employer fault, the law gives the employer a blanket immunity from suit by all injured employees. This law, first passed in 1911, is justified as a balancing of burdens and benefits between the employee and the employer by our Legislature and our  Supreme Court in the interest of the efficiencies of the workplace.

However, a recent change in the law has suddenly increased the burden-side of this “balance” for the  injured worker.  Today our laws are being interpreted by our courts to permit  negligence on the part of the immune employer to be raised as a defense in an injured worker’s claim against a third party who contributed to cause the workplace injury. Our courts had long deemed the concept of employer fault eliminated by our workers’ compensation statute. Yet the concept  has suddenly reappeared. While the employer continues to not be legally liable to the injured worker for injury caused by its negligence, the employer’s negligence can now nevertheless be used against the injured worker.  The balance has become unbalanced.

By: Peter G. Webb

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