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These Are the People I Deal With

I don’t expect anyone to read this except for search. And I don’t expect anyone to sympathize with my complaints, either, because this is the way the world is arranged. I’ve was raised to be a nice person but there are too many mean people to overcome. This is not something I can win. And, given my constant nightmares since 1988, not something I can cope with.


This weekend at a community picnic, I was introduced to an old cowboy who asked me what I did for work. I told him that I work part time online, at which point the conversation quickly drifted south because of him. He told me that the greatest computer was between our two ears, the human brain. And I said, I agree with that.

He then went on with a whole series of statements and questions that were aggressively going after. I think I think when I start talking about computers and what I do online, it’s so far out of reach of most people that they think that I’m trying to be smarter than them, or somehow they feel inferior. I think that’s a great deal of it. They have an inferiority complex to anybody that’s working with computers. They act as if I’m trying to prove that I’m smarter than them, when in fact, I usually don’t start the conversation at all because I’m so far out of reach with what I’m doing, with what most other people do that it’s not even worth bothering to talk about.

Like all of the work that I’m doing with AI and Chat right now. And it’s very discouraging because I had a friend say to me recently that it was possibly economic, because not everybody can afford a computer or the resources that I have, and that’s not really the case at all. I should probably stop at this point and refresh everyone’s memory that early on, before the Internet went commercial, back in about 94, 95, with the advent of Mosaic. Mosaic was the first graphical based Internet browser that you could see images with that became relatable to people. Images provided a boost to advertising, but librarians had been on computerizing, their catalog, card catalogs, for years before.

And so when personal computers came out, they started populating libraries with them. Especially, really around 84, when IBM came out with its own personal computer for the masses. There was this Charlie Chaplin advertising campaign that was hugely successful. But years before, Apple had been trying really, really hard to place computers in the school to get these lucrative contracts, and they did a good job. They started about 1980 with the Apple II.

So by the end of the 80s, computers were basically in every library and school. And so everyone’s had an opportunity since then to use computers in one way or another. Night school classes, adult education classes since really the late 80s, early ninety s. And I’ve actually been on computers since 1978. Over 40 years.

Everybody’s had a chance. But an idiot like this that I was talking to, he doesn’t want to go to the library. I’m sure he hasn’t been to the library in decades. He probably can’t remember when he checked out a library book last. I have many computers.

I think I have two desktops, two laptops, two tablets. I also have a library card from Pahrump. A library card from Goldfield and a library card from Tonopah. And I am in those libraries, actively. I’m checking out books.

All of those libraries have a computer. I think it’s just laziness on most people’s part and not having an interest. It’s easier to put down somebody for what they do than to ask about it or just say simply nothing at all. These are the people that drive me crazy. There’s so much amazing stuff going on and I don’t mind if they’re not interested, but it’s the librarians that I’m infuriated with.

They’re the gatekeepers in education and they don’t want to know about Chat or AI. So it’s not really economic. It is a deliberate decision on many people’s part not to engage, not to learn, to let the things go by. And people that are actually interested, that are burning to create, that are trying new things, that are experimenting with new things, those are people that are something to be put down on because I think it might remind them of how little they want to know, how content they are with their own little world. And that’s fine as long as you don’t go out and bully people or put people down.

This is the way I can make some money. I can make this money part time. I’m doing a good service and yet I have people people commenting who don’t even know the basics of writing and business writing.

Self-sustaining freelance writers are maybe four or 5% of the population. That’s it. Everybody else is doing a second 3rd, 4th job to enable their hobby or their passion the and as far as nonfiction writing goes, nobody understands that. As far as business SEO, there’s nobody that I know, haven’t known for a couple of decades that has any idea of what I’m doing. But if they ask, if I try to explain, it’s just an immediate putting down of what I do.

It’s just this prejudice against the unknown, which is really the root cause. If you don’t know something, if somebody knows something you don’t, you don’t want to hear it. Instead of asking questions about it or letting it go, they want to put it down because they’re bullies. That’s all they can do. They’re trolls.

And maybe it reminds them of the fact that they’re dead to the world, that they have no interest in inquiry.

Anyway, I just wanted to put down what I have to deal with almost every day in my effort to be creative. I really have to keep it hidden. Can’t discuss it because it’s like we’re going back to the Dark Ages. One idiot, in fact, who’s in charge of something historical, he was talking about computer literacy, computer literacy in such a way that I asked him this:

You’re not holding out computer illiteracy as a point of pride, are you? And this guy’s a former engineer and he thought about it and said, that’s a good question, actually. I am. This is a living, breathing, talking luddite. He doesn’t want to learn.

He wants to put down people for learning. We’re going to go back 300 years into the Dark Ages when people were prosecuted and killed for trying to learn things, for trying to advance science. We’re going to try to discredit them. Or Mao’s Cultural Revolution, in which anybody with higher learning or higher ambition was killed. That’s what we’re going to get.

We’re going to go back to the Dark Ages and then we’re going to take 300 years to come back again. At the end of the Dark Ages, they had to reinvent all the math that the Greeks had done, what, 1500 or  2000 years before, because people were criticized and killed for trying to learn new things. And now we have people writing about chat and AI who don’t actually use it, haven’t experimented with it, but don’t want to learn. They just want to put it down. So it’s frustrating, but that’s the world we live in.


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Are Writers Made or Born? by Jack Kerouac (transcribed for the first time!)

I transcribed this article from two image files at the Writer’s Digest website. I have introduced line breaks of my own to make the text more readable online.

This is a six minute read. Kerouac reserves the word “genius” (and his attendant praise) to those who originate a writing style, those “born” to write. As he puts it, anyone can write but not everybody can invent a new way of writing.

This is a well planned piece by Kerouac. Notice how he echoes or repeats the use of ‘five thousand’: “five thousand writing class students, “five thousand university trained writers,” and “five thousand ‘trained’ writers plus Joyce.” These echoes are all made at distinct, different points in his work.

Notice, too, the depth of Kerouac’s study and reading of the Great Books. You might think a Beat writer would have laughed off the classics when developing a new way of writing but Kerouac didn’t. This man _studied_. Only the Great Books provide a wellspring deep enough to inspire new thoughts. Although Tom Clancy is an excellent writer, no one will ever pen a Great American Novel by reading how Jack Ryan breaks into a locked file cabinet.

[Thomas Farley, (link to this post) September 18, 2022]

The text of this article and post is available here in .pdf format (internal link)


BY Jack Kerouac

Writer’s Digest, January 1962.

Paragraph 1

Writers are made, for anybody who isn’t illiterate can write. But geniuses of the writing art like Melville, Whitman or Thoreau are born. Let’s examine the word “genius.”

It doesn’t mean screwiness or eccentricity or excessive talent. It is derived from the word gignere, (to beget.) And a genius is simply a person who originates something never known before. Nobody but Melville could have written Moby Dick. Not even Whitman or Shakespeare.

Nobody but Whitman could have conceived, originated and written Leaves of Grass. Whitman was born to write a Leaves of Grass and Melville was born to write a Moby Dick. “It ain’t what you do,” Sy Oliver and James Young said. “It’s the way atcha do it.”

Five thousand writing class students who study “required reading” can put their hand to the legend of Faustus but only one, Marlowe, was born to do it the way he did.

Paragraph 2

I always get a laugh to hear Broadway wise guys talk about “talent and genius.” Some perfect virtuoso also who can interpret Brahams on the violin is called a “genius,” but the genius, the originating force, really belongs to Brahams; the violin virtuoso is simply a talented interpreter – in other words, a “Talent.”

Or you’ll hear people say that so and so is a major writer because of his “large talent.” There can be no major writer without original genius. Artists of genius like Jackson Pollock, have painted things that have never been seen before.

Anybody who’s seen his immense Samapattis of color has no right to criticize his “crazy method” of splashing and throwing and dancing around.

Take the case of James Joyce. People said he wasted his talent on the stream of consciousness style when in fact, he was simply born to originate it. How would you like to spend your old age reading books about contemporary life written in the pre-Joycean style of, say, Ruskin or William Dean Howells, or Taine?

Some geniuses come with heavy feet and march solemnly forward like Dreiser. Yet no one ever wrote about that America of his as well as he. Geniuses can be scintillating and geniuses can be somber, but it’s that inescapable sorrowful depth that shines through – originality.

Paragraph 3

Joyce was insulted all his life by practically all of Ireland and the world for being a genius. Some Celtic Twilight idiots even conceded he had some talent. What else could they say, since they were all going to start imitating him? But five thousand university trained writers could put their hand to a day in June in Dublin in 1904 or one night’s dreams, and never do with it what Joyce did with it: he was simply born to do it.

On the other hand, if the five thousand “trained writers” plus Joyce, all put their hands to a READER’S DIGEST-type article about “Vacation Hints” or “Homemaker’s Tips” even then I think Joyce would stand out because of his inborn originality of language insight.

Bear well in mind what Sinclair Lewis told Thomas Wolfe: “If Thomas Hardy had been given a contract to write stories for the SATURDAY EVENING POST, do you think he would have written like Zane Gray or like Thomas Hardy? I can tell you the answer to that one.

He would have written like Thomas Hardy. He couldn’t have written like anyone else but Thomas Hardy. He would have kept on writing like Thomas Hardy. Whether he wrote for the SATURDAY EVENING POST or CAPTAIN BILLY’S WHIZBANG.”

Paragraph 4

When the question is therefore asked, “Are writers made or born?” one should first ask, “Do you mean writers with talent or writers with originality?

Because anybody can write, but not everybody invents new forms of writing. Gertrude Stein invented a new form of writing, and her imitators are just talents. Hemingway later invented his own form also.

The criterion for judging talent or genius is ephemeral, [ed. note – added the comma] speaking rationally in this world of graphs, but one gets the feeling definitely, when a writer of geniuses amazes him by strokes of force never seen before and yet hauntingly familiar (Wilson’s famous “shock of recognition”).

I got that feeling from Swan’s Way as well as from Sons and Lovers. I do not get it from Colette, but I do get it from Dickinson. I get it from Celine, but I do not get it from Camus. I get it from Hemingway, but not from Raymond Chandler, except when he’s dead serious. I get it from the (sic) Balzac or Cousin Bette, but not from Pierre Loti. And so on.

Paragraph 5

The main thing to remember is that talent imitates genius, because there’s nothing else to imitate. Since talent can’t originate it has to imitate or interpret. The poetry on page 22 of the New York Times, with all its “silent wings of urgency in a dark and seldom wood” and other lapidary trillings, is but a poor imitation of previous poets of genius like Yeats, Dickinson, Apollinaire, Donne, Suckling . . . .

Genius gives birth. Talent delivers. What Rambrandt, Brandt or Van Gogh saw in the night can never be seen again. No frog can jump in a pond like Basho’s frog. Born writers of the future are amazed already at what they’re seeing now, what we’ll all see in time for the first time, and then see imitated many times by made writers.

Paragraph 6

So in the case of a born writer, genius involves the original formation of a new style. Though the language of Kyd is Elizabethan as far as period goes, the language of Shakespeare can truly be called only Shakespearean. Oftentimes an originator of a new language forms (sic?) is called “pretentious” by jealous talents. But it ain’t whatcha write. It’s the way atcha write it.


Writer’s Digest’s image files.

External Link (s)

Interesting discussion of this essay:


Wilson’s “famous shock of recognition”? More fully, Melville, “Genius all over the world stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle round”.

Samapattis: The Britanica offers this on Buddhist meditation, “[F]our further spiritual exercises, the samapattis (‘attainments’): (1) consciousness of infinity of space, (2) consciousness of the infinity of cognition, (3) concern with the unreality of things (nihility), and (4) consciousness of unreality as the object of thought.”

Celtic Twilight idiots: Followers of the material Keats and his like penned regarding Irish folklore.

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Revising an Ontra White Paper

Revising an Ontra Whitepaper

I  rewrote an Ontra (external link) white paper recently to show them how I could write and edit for their company. I have over five years of legal content creation experience and that is what they were looking for. Supposedly.

An Ontra employee said the .pdf I wrote looked great but a later email said there were no positions open. Yeah, right. At this moment their website says they have 18 positions open and that they are actively recruiting.

I now think they hand out this white paper just to grab your email address, since you must provide it before you can read their out of date and sometimes dangerously bad guidance on how to start a practice.

This paper’s author has no experience writing business plans; I am astounded that Ontra is giving advice without the writer or its editor having gone through the business plan and startup process.

Here’s their job description, of which I am deemed not qualified. No requirement for SEO knowledge (internal link). Or whether someone has content authority experience. (internal link) Every online business writer today must know something about on page SEO. Who are these people?

About the job

Where we work

Our team enjoys hybrid/remote flexibility and we offer employees a generous WFH budget to help create a productive and ergonomic WFH environment. If you are located in a city where we have an office, you are welcome to work from the office on a voluntary basis.

About the opportunity

Ontra is seeking a Legal Content Writer to join our rapidly growing company and contribute to a world-class marketing and content strategy! The Legal Content Writer will play a foundational role in supporting the company’s content and demand generation departments. This is a great opportunity for someone who specializes in writing various forms of content for a legal audience and wants to help drive the company’s marketing strategy by working alongside functional leads to create high quality content across all stages of the buyer’s journey. This person is an exceptional writer that can successfully manage the full cycle of content—long-form and short-form—from ideation to execution and create legal content designed to turn prospects into customers.

The Legal Content Writer will report directly to the Director of Corporate Communications at Ontra and we are open to great candidates across the U.S.*.

Important: our preference is to make a full-time, permanent hire, but we are open to candidates with an interest in contracting and contract-to-hire as well.

What you’ll do
Content Creation: Ideate and draft legal content lead for new whitepapers, industry trends reports, blog posts, and guides by collaborating with internal teams on development and execution of legal content strategies that advance business objectives.
Ad-hoc requests: Handle one-off requests from different departments to help aid with attorney and employee recruitment campaigns.
Optimization: Partner with marketing operations and digital marketing to optimize content across the digital journey.
Reporting: Measure content KPIs on a monthly basis with respect to month over month growth and high level performance for senior management.

What you’ll bring
Experience: 2-5 years of content writing experience in a legal environment
Written Communication: Able to write at a high level across a variety of marketing materials including whitepapers, blog posts, reports, and guides
Detail oriented: Attention to detail while creating new content, interviewing subject matter experts, and aligning content deadlines with existing marketing programs
Collaborative: Ability to work cross functionally and especially with sales/account management teams
Exceptional storytelling skills: Expert understanding of how to craft and evolve legal narratives
Deadline-driven: Highly organized and can manage projects across a variety of personas and mediums


Their original text is in black, my comments in blue, my rewriting in red.

[Revised .pdf file is here, side by side comparison, text differs slightly from below (internal link)]

I. The Era of Remote Work Has Arrived – Ontra’s writing

The era of remote work has arrived. Did you catch this? This is very important. Instead of writing, “the remote work has arrived” or “the remote work era arrives”, the writer softens the sentence by using the word “of.” I’m not being pedantic. Use passive words throughout a work and you slow and fuzzy up that writing. I never let that sentence construction pass when I was revising and writing for the law. Corporate offices are disappearing, while employees plan to relocate away from larger cities and build their careers from home. Employers continue to expand their remote workforces, some offering up to 70% of office employees a virtual option. While the legal industry has yet to fully realize the impact of the shift to remote work, it will surely define the practice moving forward. This is a unique time; the future of the legal industry is as uncertain as its present. A new wave of digital work and professional flexibility provides opportunities for entrepreneurial attorneys to launch new ventures. The possibility and benefits of solo practice have never been greater.

Wordy and repetitive. Keep openings short.

I. The Remote Work Era Has Arrived – my writing

The remote work era has arrived. Corporate offices disappear while employees move to smaller cities to build careers from home. Employers continue expanding their remote workforces, many giving employees a virtual option. The possibility and benefits of solo practice have never been greater. This guide looks at the risks and rewards of solo legal work while providing ideas on infrastructure and strategy for the independent practitioner.

II. The Decision – Ontra’s writing

At law school graduations during the Great Recession of 2009, many newly-minted lawyers graduated without the guarantee of a plush law firm job. They were told: every one of you is now an entrepreneur, a small business owner Today, law firms have recycled that same word when conducting interviews and information sessions: entrepreneurial. It is a quality that firms claim to reward allowing the intrepid attorney to directly reap the benefits of their hard work through the billable hour. What? Are they saying a firm allows a lawyer under them to set their own billable hour rate? Really? If not, what does that sentence mean? Also, these lines need a paragraph break here or some white space. This is too block like for web reading. However, the personal and social pressures of firm work often diminish those rewards, leading some attorneys to seek change. But lawyers are risk-averse; the idea of working outside the structured environment of a law firm and its reliable book of business can deter potential solo practitioners. Hold on, what does this mean? Most lawyers who get that ‘plush law firm job’ are working endless hours to make partner. That’s probably the biggest thing an associate will lose if they leave. Despite the risks, solo practice presents an ideal opportunity for many legal practitioners.

Attorneys who are parents can balance family and work responsibilities. Long-term caregivers can re-enter the workplace on their own schedules without explaining a resume gap. Seasoned practitioners can scale back their practices while maintaining a stimulating workload. Attorneys restricted to a narrow field of practice can work on matters outside the silo placed around their work by a firm. Lawyers considering whether to launch a new venture should begin by assessing their risk profile as a business owner. Performing a SWOT analysis, evaluating their business strengths and opportunities versus threats and weaknesses, can guide potential entrepreneurs.

Excellent Ontra graphic below. The entire white paper was beautifully designed. As I show later on, these questions must be considered by the practitioner in consultation with a seasoned small business owner. Way too much risk to go it alone.

II. The Decision – my writing

The 2009 Great Recession Era left many law school graduates without a guaranteed law firm job. Instead, they were told by the profession that they were now independent small business owners or entrepreneurs. Free to manage and price their own billable hours.

The trade said, in other words, “Find your own work. Make your own job.” Young lawyers with few contacts and no network of helpful associates found that advice difficult to take. Others with college debt or poor finances found a storefront office too expensive to build.

After a time, many wound up as lawyers before them, with a traditional firm. Once established, many potential solo practitioners hesitated to strike off on their own. Their firm’s structured environment and its reliable book of business made many lawyers hesitate. Along with, of course, making partner.

Today’s technology and resources, however, enables remote and independent work not possible a decade before. Practitioners can now take the advice of the last era as The Law moves into the next.

  • Some Solo Practice Benefits

Attorneys with children can balance family and work responsibilities. Long-term caregivers can re-enter the workplace on their own schedules without explaining a resume gap. Seasoned practitioners can scale back their workload to focus on cases they prefer. Narrow field of practice attorneys can work on matters outside what an existing firm covers.

III. Laying the groundwork – Ontra’s writing

If the lawyer completes their SWOT analysis and decides in favor of starting a new venture, the time has come to lay the foundation for the business.

No it hasn’t! Hold on before you lose your money, your existing job, or your marriage. Maybe your life. Starting a life changing new business means writing a good business plan and not the thought exercise Ontra advocates. See my writing further on. 

Strong legal and technological infrastructure will support a successful solo practice. Selecting the type of entity to create will determine the kind of income taxes the sole practitioner and their venture will pay. A limited liability company (LLC) or partnership (LLP) is most common, balancing liability with a favorable tax structure. Consulting with a tax expert after defining specific goals for the new organization will prepare the venture for short- and long-term success.

Thank you! Consulting here is absolutely essential and the biggest thing Ontra left out when brandishing that silly SWOT acronym.

Infrastructure will require considerably more capital than filing the requisite paperwork to create the new legal entity. (Duh!) It will also present many challenges, some of which will not be obvious. Consider the ethical guidelines that govern lawyers. These include an unyielding commitment to client confidentiality. New venture lawyers must consider spatial issues (Spatial issues, indeed! Can you imagine a friend saying their house has spatial issues? Sheesh. No, they don’t have enough room in their house.) , such as whether their homes (and housemates) allow for confidential conversations and secure storage of client documents. The new venture lawyer should also consider data issues some states and ethical guidelines require attorneys to utilize data privacy software sophisticated enough to protect their clients sensitive information from a breach.

The solo practitioner should prepare to overcome the stereotype of the math-averse attorney. Accounting software can help in tracking, billing, and collecting for time spent working for clients. However, attorneys will need more than efficient software to collect on their bills they will need to build strong relationships and deliver value to clients. This will involve a significant time investment to increase the probability of timely (and repeated) payment. Attorneys report collection rates around 83%. A 97% collection rate is exceptional, and unusual. And even when clients pay their bills, they pay late 59% of the time. This introduces a level of uncertainty (you’ve got that right!) to the solo practitioner that can seriously impact the bottom line if not accounted for in the business plan.

Really good information here, nicely detailed with footnotes which I omitted for this post. But why bring this up now? This should already be in the business plan. Main problem with this writer? They have never written a business plan. The last one I worked on took over two months to complete with a dozen or so calls, sit-downs, and e-mails to Score volunteers.

Depending on the practice area, policies intended to increase collection rates like upfront payments or retainer fees may not meet a client’s service expectations.

III. Laying the Groundwork – My writing

Any lawyer considering a new venture must assess their risk profile as a business owner. Enter the SWOT analysis, the start of a small business plan. A SWOT analysis helps a potential entrepreneur’s decision making but only if performed in collaboration with an experienced small business owner, preferably another lawyer who has done what the entrepreneur now envisions.

SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Analyzing these elements without context or advice is an academic exercise. Private consulting firms can certainly help but an SBA funded program called SCORE puts volunteer mentors with years and often decades of experience in touch with the entrepreneur. Lawyers current and retired are among SCORE’s volunteers. SCORE’s services are free. SWOT is a big part of a small business plan. Consulting with a mentor is similar to sitting down with a CPA, a financial advisor, or a realtor. An expert. Most businesses using a self-developed business plan fails.

The chart on the next page outlines key ideas to think about while searching for a business mentor. Each subject needs discussing with an advisor who has been over them before. Someone to talk to. An authority who, when appropriate, can say things like, “That’s a good idea but you’ll need a big loan to carry it out.”

Getting old means experience. I’ve written business plans, magazine articles, newspaper articles, thousands of online posts, content mill articles, and a tremendous amount of writing in the law.

Years ago I got a paralegal certificate from a technical college and went on to assist attorneys throughout the Sacramento area with case prep and legal research and writing. I wrote or drafted points and authorities, case briefs, interrogs, memorandums of understanding and so on.

I liked criminal law the best although trying to determine legislative intent of a bill or a law was also enjoyable. I went with an attorney to court many times and always worried if I had done enough research. In part, because of my effort, would a client walk free or would they go to jail? That’s the real law, much of what Ontra writes on doesn’t feel that way.

– Sidebar – Reaching Out to Partners: Despite his willful and headstrong nature, Steve Jobs from the beginning surrounded himself with top financial and industry experts to guide Apple from its foundation to one of the greatest companies in the world. Alexander Graham Bell, more an elocutionist and tinkerer than anything else, retained top Boston lawyers who designed the leasing model for the telephone, a customer arrangement which financially powered the Bell System and then later AT&T.

These sidebars add variety to an otherwise monotone sounding text and repeat the need for collaboration. Ontra has a variety of partners they are eager to match practitioners up to but they ignore partnership when it comes to consulting on the business plan. 

 A successful solo practice starts by choosing the right business entity to operate under. Different business types exist, with a liability company (LLC) or partnership (LLP) the most common, balancing liability with a favorable tax structure. The business entity type determines the income taxes the sole practitioner and their venture pays. Consulting a tax expert after defining goals for the new organization best prepares the venture for success. A good business foundation also includes strong technology choices which enables the new venture. Hardware and software decisions today act on challenges not always obvious.

Attorneys never compromise on client confidentiality. New venture lawyers must consider whether home offices have enough private space to conduct confidential conversations. Securely storing client documents is a must. But not just for hardcopy documents. The new venture lawyer must also consider data issues, in that some states and ethical guidelines require attorneys to use data privacy software secure enough to protect their clients sensitive information from a breach.

Accounting software helps track, bill, and collect for time spent working for clients. Attorneys, though, need more than efficient software to collect on their bills; they must build strong, attentive relations with clients. This significant investment in time is necessary to increase the chances of getting paid on time. of the time, clients pay late. 59% Attorneys report collection rates around 83%. A 97% collection rate is exceptional and unusual. And even when clients pay their bills, they pay late 59% of the time. This uncertainty can seriously impact a lawyer’s practice if not accounted for in the business plan.

For their part, the attorney must strive to immediately bill upon completing a client’s work. Billing immediately shows organization, dedication, and discipline. Billing 60 days or 90 days after suggests no urgency to the client.

NB: Ontra’s original text in black, my comments in blue, my rewrite in red.

IV. Launching and growing a legal practice — Ontra’s writing

After making a business plan and setting up key infrastructure, the solo practitioner is ready to begin serving clients. (Again, only if the business plan is in order and enough financing is in place.) In the early days of solo practice, the lawyer can expect to spend most of their time developing client relationships, either through word-of-mouth advertising from previous clients, or through local bar associations, specialty professional organizations, or nationwide affinity groups which can lead to meaningful professional relationships and enriching collaborations. As new clients come in, the solo practitioner must balance the demands of client development with actual client work. Ideally, new business would continue flowing in as existing clients return year-over-year to sustain growth.

Ontra’s paper doesn’t address the nation’s two and a half year pandemic in any way, not giving any suggestions on how to carry out their advice in this time of Covid. Actually, most concerns starting out will be about money as it disappears twice as fast as planned. No one’s fault, this just happens. But a well written business plan, vetted by a experienced consultant and perhaps a bank, will keep the lawyer from devastating their savings to keep going.

Outsourcing or automating some business development work to a PR firm or a CRM software platform could allow the lawyer to focus more attention on legal practice. However, the lawyer must prepare to balance the need for business development, client relationship maintenance, actual lawyering, and outside personal responsibilities. This juggling act must be performed skillfully, else the sole practitioner risks jeopardizing many of the benefits of individual practice.

Determining if and when to add a paralegal, associate, or partner to the team will prove the most crucial next step for the solo practitioner. Becoming an employer will introduce a host of new challenges and expenses, tax contributions and health insurance to name a few; but when timed correctly, will enable the continued growth and success of the practice.

Ontra suggests W2 employees without mentioning 1099 folks. Independent contractors. Why would a start up incur payroll complexities, health care, maternity leave, and so on without first trying workers whose ties to the firm are de minimis? I’ve edited and revised legal content writing from foreign contractors for my last employer. I myself was a freelancer, an independent contractor. Today, it’s all about a remote workforce, just as Ontra stated in this white paper opening. But here, we’re right back in the conventional office.

IV. Launching and growing a legal practice – My writing

Vetting the business plan and setting up the infrastructure to enable it leads the solo practitioner to start serving clients. Early days finds most attorneys chasing leads through personal and professional networking. This is made harder with the pandemic. Money is a constant worry as cash disappears far faster than it should, no matter how well done the business plan. As new clients come in, the solo practitioner must balance the demands of client development with actual client work. Ideally, business would continue flowing in as existing clients return year-over-year to sustain growth Provided, of course, that the firm makes it year after year.

50% of small businesses fail by year five and that statistic holds firm year after year.

Business Failure Rates by Year:

First year: 21.5%

Second year: 30%

Fifth year: 50%

Source: Business Capital Report

These hard facts and statistics should not discourage any enterprising attorney. Rather, these points should educate the entrepreneur on what lies ahead, giving them an advantage over the unknowing, poorly prepared, and rushed competition. Lawyers know the type. And knowing the odds means more work and more research before starting up.

Fortune favors the prepared mind.

An entrepreneurial attorney as an employer faces new challenges such as payroll taxes, health insurance costs, workers’ compensation, and maternity leave obligations. Or, is the practitioner better off hiring freelancers or virtual assistants? The right hiring choice will certainly drive future success.

Web Work: Any practitioner in a competitive field like injury law must appear on page one of Google’s search results or they are invisible. Placing ads is one way to get there, building a website with pages attractive to the search engines is another. Ontra can hep an attorney find a website builder that handles only law firms.

Social Media: Social helps if done with humor and quick replies to questions and comments. Social should be avoided if time prohibits responding to the questionable behavior too often seen on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

V. A partner in practice – Ontra’s writing

It is difficult to manage risk in solo practice; being a small business owner will always carry the possibility of strategic missteps, unreliable revenue streams, or other market forces outside the practitioner’s control.

An external partnership can help the new venture focus its attention on lawyering. Software partners like Clio and Zola assist sole practitioners by consolidating their case documents, client information, billing, and email platforms in a single software solution. This relieves some of the infrastructure burden previously discussed, because these solutions bundle the essential elements of legal business practice in one place. These last two sentences repeat themselves. Even with the support of a powerful software suite, the solo practitioner must spend considerable time managing the firm’s logistics and client pipeline.

To acquire, maintain, and collect on hours worked, the practitioner must wine and dine clients, participate in community organizations to build goodwill, and advertise through traditional and/or digital channels. Nothing about Covid. The solo practitioner might also find that bidding for work from their ideal clients (sophisticated enterprises with recurring legal needs) is difficult in a saturated market of elite law firms and AI-backed legal technology companies that can cut legal spend through automation. Automation? Really? A/I? Really? I’ve tried several A/I promoted programs to boost productivity and all of them were major fails. The last word spinning product I used had the company admitting to me that the software was not recommended for legal work.

Interested practitioners should visit to explore a partnership with Ontra. Partnering with Ontra shortens the runway when launching a new venture and removes some of the logistical challenges small practices face when seeking to grow.

Solo practitioners seeking to augment their current solo practice or, conversely, scale down their business and practice law on more of a part-time basis may wish to consider a partnership with Ontra. In addition to infrastructural software support (like email and case management), Ontra’s lawyer partners:

The article ends here with a graphic, not text as the colon suggests.

V. A partner in practice – my writing

How does a practitioner manage risk in a small business? Inevitably, poor business decisions get made, well paying clients move away, the current pandemic will cause unforeseen costs, and so on. External partnerships helps the new venture focus on lawyering. Software partners like Clio and Zola assist sole practitioners by consolidating their case documents, client information, billing, and email platforms in a single software solution.

Even supported by a powerful software suite, the solo practitioner must spend considerable time managing the firm’s day to day and client relations. To acquire, maintain, and collect on hours worked, the practitioner usually had to wine and dine clients, participate in community organizations to build goodwill, and advertise through traditional and digital channels.

Today, getting together in person is harder than before and will get even more challenging once the remote work era is built out. Zoom and FaceTime meetings are possible but the occasional warm telephone call to clients and associates is direct and simple. The solo practitioner might find that bidding on work for clients with recurring legal needs is difficult in a saturated market of large law firms who cut legal spending through automation.

We at Ontra help level that playing field. Solo practitioners seeking to augment their current solo practice or, conversely, scale down their business and practice law on a part-time basis should consider partnering with Ontra. In addition to infrastructure software support, Ontra’s lawyer partners enable all of these services for you. Thanks for reading. Let’s work together. Let’s partner. Your success is our success!

Very important to thank the customer for reading and to give them a reason to get in touch. What online marketing calls a “call to action” or CTA.


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Onboard with Wikimedia Commons!

Yay! I’ve just published my first photograph to Wikimedia Commons, a source of many images on

I had considered making photo galleries for the better, unused photographs that were to appear in my original book, however, that would be a problem for anyone wanting to use them.

One of the greatest difficulties I faced as a magazine article writer was sourcing copyright permissions or releases for photos taken by others. I might have a great picture in hand but who owns the copyright? Even if I found the owner, permissions were always slow in coming, most never meeting my deadlines.

Any editor needs a copyright release for any picture submitted for publication. No exceptions. Similarly, no commercial website of any size will want to use a photograph without permission of the creator. There’s another problem as well.

With the internet, images get tossed around and resized so much that in most cases a photo is too low in resolution to print. A design team will always want the largest possible file size to work with. And they would like to work with RAW files or tiffs, preferably, but Wikimedia does not host RAW files and only to a limited extent tiffs.

So, I could establish galleries but then images would float away without any release attached to them. Now, a person can find an image fairly easy along with the release and all sorts of information about the photograph. Since I do not make a living from my photographs I am putting them under them under the most liberal release possible, giving them what is called a “Public Domain Mark.”

This is the language:

“The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of their rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.”

Most people, though, would probably be more comfortable with a license called “Attribution (CC BY).”  That means you have released your work for others to do as they will, but you have to be credited  as the one who took the photo.

Other licenses you can choose get more restrictive. Like not allowing commercial use.

You may have noticed that there are no ads at my site, not even logos on my Vimeo videos. I pay extra to make sure my sites are commercial and ad free. And no copyright notices. The only copyright notice I have ever used is now on my travel writing (external link) because there is a threat that the publisher I walked away from (internal link) will use my work. They have my completed MS in hand. And they have promised to bring out a book along similar lines and I can’t have that pack of rats thieving. Maybe another pack of rats but not them.

This goes back to the rise of the commercial internet. All os us were wrestling, and are still wrestling with the same old question, “Should information be free?” My answer has always been a conditional “Yes.”

“Yes, in some way, in some form, at some time.” No one publishing a current book should have the entire text exposed online for free but I do think a sample chapter or several good pages should be online for someone to read. If, after ten years or so and the book is out of print, never to see life again, the author should think about releasing the full text.

A writer gains nothing monetary from used book sales and the reader gains nothing if they can’t use what might be valuable information, simply because copyright extends decades after a writer is dead. If the writer is still concerned, they could supply the material in a locked down .pdf which can’t be copied or altered. Or perhaps one or two good chapters. Again, in some way, in some form, at some time.

I’ll have something on the mechanics of posting photos to Wikimedia and then how to insert them into Wikipedia in a future post. Also, musings on how we should all be building that inverted pyramid of knowledge. I bet you can’t wait.

My four recent wild desert tortoise photos should be showing up as a small gallery at this page:

And this is an example of a Wikimedia entry of mine:
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Sound Check!

Sound Check!

Good audio trumps bad video. People tolerate fairly poor video with good sound. If the video is great but the audio bad, well, people tune out. This iRig mike (external link) can also plug directly into an iPhone’s Lightning port, making great audio on the go. I’ve used it for years and for my newspaper interviews.

Listen to this demo.


It also has a long enough cord that you can hand a mike to someone while you film an iPhone video.
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What Does Junk Mail and Wikipedia Have in Common?

The answer is that both only get  a two to three percent response to their solicitations. And while junk mail sells junk, Wikipedia serves a good purpose.

Their articles do a fine job of providing secondary source material  (external link) and an excellent job of listing or linking to primary sources of authority.

“If everyone who used Wikipedia this year donated, we wouldn’t need to fundraise for years to come. But only 2% of our readers give. We’re sustained by the support of our donors, who choose to do something exceptional.” Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder

I donate whenever I can to Wikipedia. I hope you are able to do as well. (external link – URL goes to the parent foundation)

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A Stock Photography Tour of the Southwestern United States

I’m off to New Mexico and Arizona in the first week of October. I’ll be gone at least seven days, possibly ten, looking at rock shops, places to collect, museums, and natural wonders. Along the way I’ll be taking photographs for my book. What photos are eventually used is up to the publisher but it’s better to take more images rather than fewer. They advise me to take portrait oriented photos as well as those oriented in landscape view.

——————- for stock photography. The publisher told me to gather any photos I may need in a Shutterstock folder which they can review when they design the book. It costs nothing to do this assembling, and the publisher will eventually buy any photos they decide upon. Shutterstock has an immense, amazing library.

Looking up  items as diverse as Arizona’s Mogollon Rim, Utah’s Monument Valley, or New Mexico’s Mount Taylor, brings up serviceable images nearly every time. This assures me that I will have publishable photographs for everything important. If I don’t find an image then I will be sure to photograph that place in person. Using this stock photography site also allows me to see up ahead, to give me a better idea of what to look for when I get into the field.

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The Essential Errata

NB: Updated for clarity on June 14, 2022

The Essential Errata

An errata or corrigendum is a corrections list, a paper or web page noting and correcting errors in a publication, typically a large academic work. The errata fills the gap between the next edition of a book, when any errors are formally corrected. You’ll often find an errata slipped into the back of a work, a page or two inserted before the title leaves the printer.

A great example of an online errata is that for the Jepson Manual (external link). This serves as the update page for the Manual,  a 1,600 page hardcopy tome. Erratas note mistakes and keep people current on new findings in a field which change the publication. It’s no shame to have an errata as no thousand page book is perfect, anymore than the humans who write and review them.

My geology textbook, though, all 836 pages of it, does not have an errata sheet. A little discouraging for a $170 text. In one chapter alone I discovered five errors or oddities, blemishes that carried over to the online materials supporting the work. The book is Dynamic Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology by Christiansen and Hamblin (2015).

The publisher remains silent on this despite my e-mails. Although I am enjoying the course, I am now worried over what is correct and what is not. 99% of the book must be accurate, I just can’t tell. Unless I have an errata sheet.

We all make mistakes, it’s how we handle those mistakes that counts. Right now, I am counting the moments until I get an errata, as I go further and further into the book. As I struggle with new words and new ideas, I hope I am on the right side of all of them. Let me be very clear about this.

The book has mistakes. A logical concern and question, therefore, is whether those mistakes are reflected in the tests. If the book, for example, states that a certain granitic rock is metamorphic, and not igneous, what do I put down as an answer to that question in a test? A test must be utterly consistent with the text of a book but what if that book has mistakes which the student doesn’t know about?

The instructor eventually e-mailed me to say that no errata sheet exists but that I seem to be compiling one. Thanks for the sarcasam, Professor. I was only looking out for my grade and in a small way trying to help. I thought better of BYU before this course.

A single web page noting mistakes costs nothing. Only sloth and indiference prevents an errata, two characteristics BYU does not accept from its students. Their students, in turn, should not tolerate this conduct from their teachers.

Update: I later dropped the class since I found it impossible to effectively complete the labs outside of the traditional setting in which students, TAs, and professors meet face to face. Much online testing relied on correctly telling the difference between colors in a photograph. I couldn’t judge those nuances. And the book continued to be a minefield of mistakes.

FYI: At the time I wrote this I was working as an editor in The Law. I wasn’t  looking for mistakes, they just appeared. Anyone who has been a professional editor knows what I mean.

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An Expanding Balloon

Have you ever attempted an article so complex that it demands a timeline or a character map? Right now I am working with an editor to come up with an angle on a story about an inland lake. What do we want to cover? What is the essential story given the magazine’s audience and its orientation?

As with anything involving water rights in California, multiple agencies play a part. Local, state, federal, and non-governmental organizations each have their roles, those often overlapping. Money for remediation projects is an issue as are plans slated for the lake, most only partially implemented or set in the future.

As the editor and I discuss the potential article, the subject becomes an expanding balloon, growing ever bigger and more difficult to handle as it increases in size. Numerous sidebar ideas present themselves as our preliminary research continues.

Over the next week I’ll develop a timeline and a list of key players. Then, I may use my reMarkable tablet (internal link) to make a graphic showing how these groups come together and what their role has been over time. Yes, it does sound confusing.

The potential article is like a jigsaw puzzle without an illustration showing what the finished puzzle looks like. We have the pieces in rough form needed to construct an image but we don’t know yet what that image will be. By laying out the details in graphic form we may yet finalize what angle we should take.

All of this fiddling around won’t be wasted as it now constitutes the preliminary research for the article. Identifying the key players and important dates is necessary to write the article no matter what direction it finally takes.Датотека:Pride_and_Prejudice_Character_Map.png

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Battling Through a Cold – Working on A TOC

After I got back from Atlanta a week ago I developed a bad cold. It lingers still. I want to get a book proposal (internal link) done by January 2d and I fear I may not make it.

Aside from my infirmity, I am struggling with writing a table of contents. This book’s word count can’t exceed 70,000. Let’s call it 60,000. That permits 12 chapters of 5,000 words apiece to 20 chapters of 3,000 words apiece. But is there any reason, aside from aesthetics, to make the chapters uniform in length?

I know I want some sidebars, short pieces from 750 to 1,500 words. Already I have disconformity. I’m leaning toward having the first chapter quite long as it is an introduction to the book. And then have the remaining chapters hew closely to 2,500 words.

The path I am now on is identifying the topic for each chapter, as well as a list of sidebars. I  have in mind 15 main topics and three sidebars. Have any of you done a Table of Contents? And if so, what did you find? Please e-mail or comment.