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Earlier this month, the President proclaimed October 2012 National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The observance is intended to raise awareness about disability employment issues and to celebrate the contributions of our country’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?”

In conjunction with NDEAM, he U.S. Department of Labor has launched an online Workplace Flexibility Toolkit to “provide employees, job seekers, employers, policymakers and researchers with information, resources and a unique approach to workplace flexibility.”

According to the U.S. DOL, the toolkit “points visitors to case studies, fact and tip sheets, issue briefs, reports, articles, websites with additional information, other related toolkits and a list of frequently asked questions. It is searchable by type of resource, target audience and types of workplace flexibility, including place, time and task.”

The Wage-and-Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) has released an app called “DOL-Timesheet.”  The app works on the iPad and iPhone but may later be released for Android and Blackberry. As described by the DOL:DOL Timesheet app

This is a timesheet to record the hours that you work and calculate the amount you may be owed by your employer.  It also includes overtime pay calculations at a rate of one and one-half times (1.5) the regular rate of pay for all hours you work over 40 in a workweek.

The app does not handle tips, commissions, bonuses, deduction, holiday pay, shift differentials or other non-standard methods of pay.

One notable feature of the app is the ability to send a copy of the report via email.  This may be of particular use to employees who work “on the road” or even from home, especially if their time entries are sporadic.  For example, if an employee sends a series of emails from his iPhone at home, after the end of the normal business day, this may be a helpful way for him to record that time worked and communicate it to his employer.

To set up the app, the user is asked to enter the Employer name, the hourly rate of pay, and the start of the workweek.  (Picture at left).  A nifty little feature occurred when I entered $6.00 as the hourly rate.  A warning popped up, alerting me that I’d entered an amount less than the federal minimum wage.  (Picture at right).

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The three screens below show how users can create a new timesheet; create a new time entry using either the timer or manually; and send the report via email.

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There is also a glossary of wage-and-hour terms and, conveniently, contact information for the DOL’s WHD.

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Ah, technology.  Whatever will they think of next?

**This is a cross-post with my second blog, Going Paperless, which is directed largely towards legal professionals.  It was worthy of posting here, as well, so that’s exactly what I’m doing.

 

It’s nearly time for the newest crop of summer associates (or, to the non-legal world, “interns”), to flood law firms across the country.  “Summers,” as they’re called, need a lot of care if lawyers expect them to bloom into the highly sought-after combination of brilliant legal mind and burning desire to work around the clock.

Young Conaway makes a very organized effort to help the summer class acquire as much substantive knowledge as possible by assigning work from actual (as opposed to academic) cases, while still placing “getting-to-know-you” time at a premium.  I’m a graduate of our summer-associate program and take a great deal of pride in both the program and the great lawyers that it helps to produce.

In my opinion, the best thing about our summer program is the writing component, led by John Paschetto.  Lucky participants have their work reviewed by the world’s kindest editor and, by the end of the summer, are writing at a level far beyond where they started a few months earlier.

John mentioned that he was compiling a list of helpful websites and online resources for use in his writing program this summer.  Being the compulsive list maker that I am, I couldn’t help but lend a hand.  I’ve compiled a list of 50 of the best legal-writing resources on the web, plus 25 “just-for-fun” blogs about the horrors of spelling, grammar, and style gone wrong.  (Remember the “fun” component, after all.)

I’m glad to share the list with our readers, regardless of how long it’s been since you were a summer associate.   The entire list is reprinted below but, if you’re in a rush, here’s a copy in PDF for your research file.  Don’t forget to share it with your favorite summer associate!

75 Online Legal-Writing Resources (pdf)

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The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), has been conducting an interesting online initiative designed to identify the best online job search and career advancement tools. They currently have 610 tools (!) posted on their site and are seeking input from people who have used the tools.

The tools fall into categories such as general job boards, niche job boards, career tools, career exploration guides, and web 2.0 / social-media sites that specialize in job searches or postings. Visitors to the site are encouraged to try the tools, comment on them, and recommend the ones they like. In a YouTube video on the website, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis explains the initiative. The DOL promises to publish the tools that rank the highest on its website and also to encourage the creation of a nationwide network of “One-Stop Career Centers.” Voting ends on January 15.

Anything that the DOL can do to help job seekers is a good thing.

I give a lot of presentations. And I take them seriously. Which may explain why my slides often get noticed as being “different” than many of the other presentations my clients see. I subscribe to the style of presenting advocated by Cliff Atkinson, known as Beyond Bullet PointsNancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds are two other visionaries in the field of visual communication who lead by example. In short, the principle theory behind my slide design is to present only one idea per slide and to present it with images instead of words.

And, while I could go on for many posts about the topic of effective presenting skills but I’ll save that for another day.  Instead, I’ll refrain from the evangelical sermon and, instead, offer a tiny bit of practical help.

One of the bigger stumbling blocks involved in this type of presenting is where to get the graphics you’ll use instead of words on your slides.  There really are an unlimited number of ways to create images for this purpose. 

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Of course, you can simply purchase them from stock photo sites.  I use Shutterstock to buy images and buy a one-month subscription to save on the cost. 

You also can surf the web to find images.  Google Images works great for this and so does Bing’s image search. But beware of “borrowing” images–just because they’re available online does not mean that they’re publicly available.  You must determine if you’re lawfully able to use the pictures that you find. Dave Paradi recently listed 10 excellent government sites that offer bunches of beautiful photographs for free!

One seriously underestimated tool is PowerPoint.  I use it constantly to create my own images–everything from simple stick-figure drawings to more substantial 3d graphics.  If you don’t believe that this is possible for mere mortals (i.e., non-designers), just have a look at the wonderfully instructive blog, Slides that Stick for some excellent tutorials.  You may be amazed!

One of the greatest resources, though, is right at your fingertips–or, even better, they are your fingertips!  Pick up a pen and start drawing. Don’t be “fancy”–really, it’s best if you just avoid even attempting anything that will look even close to “artistic.”  Just stick with the basics.  You’d be surprised at how well you can communicate using those same skills that you picked up as a toddler.  Need inspiration? Check out Dan Roam, who just won the World’s Best Presentation Contest at Slideshare.net–using, you guessed it, simple marker drawings! 

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken another step towards “digital enlightenment.” The Court’s website now includes links to pdf files containing the United States Reports, volumes 502 and later.  The U.S. Reports contain the final and official version of the Court’s decisions, typically three to five volumes per Term. Each volume is between 800 and 1,200 pages long, making each pdf file very large.  Large, but packed with valuable information, including, according the Court’s site:

In addition to all of the opinions issued during a particular period, a volume may contain a roster of Justices and Court officers during that period; an allotment of Justices by Federal Circuit; announcements of Justices’ investitures and retirements; memorial proceedings for deceased Justices; a cumulative table of cases reported; orders in cases decided in summary fashion; reprints of amendments to the Supreme Court’s Rules and the various sets of Federal Rules of Procedure; a topical index; and a statistical table summarizing case activity for the past three Court Terms.

For those who are familiar with Adobe’s Acrobat can create a tremendous resource for themselves by saving these files locally and creating an electronic index for super-quick searches later.  This appears to be yet another mile marker in the road to more easily accessible legal references.

What is the best leadership blog? The Remarkable Leadership Blog is set to answer that question.  It’s narrowed it down to 10 of the “World’s Best Leadership Blogs.”  All 10 blogs are listed below but you’ll want to go to the original list to cast your vote (and register to win some great prizes, too).

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Leading Blog by Michael McKinney

Great Leadership by Dan McCarthy

Seth Godin’s Blog by Seth Godin

Jon Gordon’s Blog by Jon Gordon

Leadership is a Verb by John Bishop

All Things Workplace by Steve Roesler

Work Matters by Bob Sutton

Leader Talk by Mountain State University

Next Level Blog by Scott Eblin

Leadership At Work by John Baldoni

 

And if 10 isn’t enough to satisfy your need to read about leadership, you might want to check out our list of 100 of the Leading Blogs on Leadership.

Employee-benefits attorneys and non-attorney benefits professionals must be masters of ERISA and the income tax code–two areas of the law that I  know enough to know that I do not know enough.  When I get a question about 401(k) administration or group health-insurance plans, I promptly turn them over to one of the attorneys in our Tax and Benefits Group.  rss feed icon and computer mouse

At the same time, I still have to be able to field some of the basic questions and, at the very least, spot a benefits issue when there is one.  To keep up to speed in the area of Employee Benefits, I turn to these 20 blogs.  If you know of others, please feel free to leave a comment with the blog name and address.  But, for my purposes, these are the Top 20 Benefits Blogs around:

  1. Benefits Biz Blog
  2. Benefits Blog
  3. Benefits Link Buzz
  4. Boston ERISA & Insurance Litigation Blog
  5. Employee Benefits Blog
  6. Employee Benefits Legal Blog
  7. ERISA Blog
  8. ERISA On the Web
  9. ESOP Law Blog
  10. Florida ERISA Blog
  11. Health Plan Law
  12. Managed Care Matters
  13. Northeast Employee Benefits
  14. Pension Protection Act Blog
  15. Pensions & Benefits Weblog
  16. Piper Report
  17. PLANSPONSOR Perspectives
  18. The Retirement Plan Blog
  19. Weiss Berzowski Brady LLP
  20. Workplace Prof Blog

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  It is also the national day of service and the first day of President-elect Obama’s initiative to Renew America Together.  In communities around the First State, as well as in neighborhoods around the country, Americans are volunteering to help others.  If you would like to join in this growing initiative but don’t know of any particular activities in your local area, check out USAService.org.   Here, you can search by zip code or by state and find a list of events being held today that would benefit from any time you can contribute.  And the website isn’t just a great resource today.  Its comprehensive database of volunteer and charitable events lists the many opportunities that happen throughout the year.

Walking while you work was the topic of an earlier post. This post stays within the same theme–how to be healthy at work–but with a different perspective–mine.  I have some thoughts of my own on this topic. 

For one, I would cherish the opportunity to move more through the day without sacrificing working time.  It’s not the walking part, really, as much as it’s the idea of not sitting that I find attractive.  Basically, anything that involves me not sitting would be of value.  Alternatively, sitting comfortably and without permanently wrecking my posture would be a heck of an idea.

Somehow, I’ve never gotten around to buying one and my back really pays the price for my indecisiveness.  What’s stopping me?  There’s just too many from which I could choose!  But that’s not to say that I haven’t given it a lot of thought.  Here’s the rundown on my years of searching. image

There’s the classic Herman Miller Aeron chair.  Everyone knows that the Aeron is pretty hard to beat when it comes to function and design.  Being a lover of modern furniture, I can admire the Aeron even for the story of its creation–and if you haven’t yet read the story, it’s a great story of perseverance and dedication, of leadership and teamwork.  Good stuff.  The Executive Aeron can be purchased for approximately $1,300. 

 

Herman Miller also offers the Mirra ($829) and Celle ($629) chairs as less pricey Aeron alternatives. Both chairs come in a variety of colors, which is an advantage over the Aeron.  Color is important. 

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I have to pass on the Aeron because, honestly, it’s just not “pretty” enough for me.  Yes, mock me if you will, but at least I’m honest.  I appreciate the aesthetic but I need more glamour than the black mesh has to offer. 

The Freedom chair by Humanscale is next in the rotation.  The Freedom chair (with headrest, ofimage course), also has plenty of design awards on its resume and is known as one of the best in the ergonomic category.  But, to its credit, it comes in a variety of colors and textures, including leather, which happens to be my preference.  At around $1,000, the chair is priced competitively.  The Liberty chair, priced for under $800, is Humanscale’s task chair alternative. 

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Next up is Steelcase–the maker of the Walkstation treadmill-desk combo that prompted this post.  Steelcase has plenty to offer in the way of ergonomic seating, the two most popular choices being the Leap and Think chairs.   Both are offered in various colors and both have a contemporary look, with the Think chair’s sleek, linear design being my preference between the two. image
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I’ve been known to be open to new things so it’s not surprising that I’ve given a lot of thought to the out-of-the-ordinary seating options.  For instance, the HAG Capisco saddle chair (in red, below, $690 – $1,200) dares to be different.  Even assuming that it’s as comfortable as could be and the look was where I wanted to go, the whole “saddle” concept just doesn’t work for me.  The idea is that you can sit in the chair backwards (why, I haven’t the foggiest).  Sorry, I wear too many skirts to make this a realistic possibility.  I’ll pass, although I do love the height-adjustable feature. In my ideal office, I would have a height-adjustable desk, making this feature quite important.  

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The same principles go for the “stool” option but, in the interest of fairness, I’ll list them anyway.   The Swopper Stool by Via (left, $600) is designed to force its user to keep their balance by engaging their abdomen muscles instead of letting us lazy office workers slump over in our traditionally terrible posture.   The HAG Balans Kneeling Chair (right) is even less likely to ever see the four walls of my office.  I’ve witnessed these in use and, unless you work at a health club or in another industry where you are expected to wear clothes designed for comfort, this option is just impractical.  My devotion to improved posture is not this strong.   

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Now let’s get to the serious contenders.  If and when I get around to breaking open the office-chair-piggy-bank, there are just two that make me stand up and cheer. 

First is the Steelcase Leap Worklounge Chair in Leather ($2,700-$3,400 depending on options). steelcase work lounger in leather

It’s beautiful.  And that’s exactly why I like it.  It comes in white leather, which is my favorite upholstery option (practicality be damned).  There is also an optional ottoman but who has time to put their feet up?  We’re working too hard to afford the chair!

 

 

And then there’s the ultimate in luxury office seating, the Silver chair by Interstuhl
Interstuhl is a German company and brings German precision to its line of couture office furniture.  I could say more but the pictures speak for themselves. 

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Beauty is not cheap.  The base model in black will cost you around $4,500.  But why stop there?  If you’re going to do luxurious, go all the way.  And Interstuhl has just the chair for satisfying the maximum luxury quotient.  

For a mere $65,500, you can be one of the lucky owners of the world’s most expensive office chair.   You’ll get not just the chair but the matching ottoman, as well, both of which are plated in 24-karat gold.

 

The chair has even had a few roles on the silver screen.  It was used as Al Pacino’s chair in the movie Ocean’s 13.  And, more recently, made a cameo in the latest Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

 

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