7th Inning Stretch
This newsletter is reaching you on the longest day of our earthly lives in the year 2017. Following the summer solstice, the days only grow shorter and *hopefully* easier to conquer as we head toward the madness of the holiday season. On the horizon we have the pomp and circumstance of Independence Day and the soothing respite of Labor Day to look forward to in our personal lives. All the while, business is heating up, and the Austin area is growing with leaps and bounds. We had two new members join the chapter in May and we're looking forward to sharing many great momemnts with them as our chapter year pushes forward.
While summer might be the signal for rest and relaxation, the committee chairs and board members are hard at work developing educational programming, volunteer activities, and a fantastic lineup of educators and exhibitors for the expo in September. Tomorrow we will welcome Mike Kennedy from Avison Young to learn about the current real estate market and the impact of the growth on our firms and on Central Texas businesses in general. Our July lunch and learn (7/27) will feature Judy Hissong with Nesso Strategies. Judy will lead an informative program regarding stress management that will have take-home lessons for each of us to implement in our offices. Mark your calendars now, and remember that our lunch and learns are typcially held on the fourth Thursday of the month from 11:30am-1:00pm at the Headliners Club. If you aren't a regular attendee you should consider coming out more frequently. You deserve it!
Our members are excellent communicators. We all rely on the listserv to get us through the surprises out of left-field, the quick check-ins to make sure we're on the right track, and the awkward moments where we honestly don't know where to start. However, the listserv does have limitations and believe it or not there are some rules. We are bound by anti-trust guidelines set forth by the Sherman Antitrust Act. Therefore, if you ever have a question as to whether or not your question or call-to-action is fair game, please reach out to a board member for clarification befor you post to the listserv. For some light reading on the subject, head here. Please also be aware that a new listserv is in the works. It will operate the same as the current listserv, but we are in need of an update and the current platform is no longer supported. Additional details will be communicated before the changes are implemented.
The chapter gives away several scholarships throughout the year. The goal of the scholarship program is to give a variety of members the chance to reap the benefits of attending a regional or national conference with ALA. Therefore, please take note that throughout the year we will award the following scholarships:
1) Application-based scholarship valued at $1,750 (details and award date TBD)
2) Annual Expo and Education scholarship valued at $1,200 (to be awarded at expo 9/14/2017)
3) Attendance Award scholarship valued at $1,200 (to be awarded at annual chapter meeting 2/22/2018)***Must attend all 2017-2018 lunch and learn meetings to be entered to win.***
We are looking forward to sharing many more great events with members - seasoned and new alike- throughout the chapter year!
Amazon lends billions to small businesses -- and surely plans to expand.
Jun 20, 2017 at 6:46 PM
In the wake of Amazon’s announcement last week that it is buying Whole Foods, analysts and commentators have rushed to analyze what the deal means for the future of the grocery segment. Yet legal and financial professionals might instead want to ask what Amazon has planned next. In fact, there are some indications that Amazon is planning a foray into a new arena that could have a dramatic impact on a large swath of the professional-services market.
Amazon began a program called Amazon Lending a few years ago to supply capital to small businesses, in particular merchants selling through the Amazon platform. That effort has ramped up considerably in the last 12 months. Since the program started in 2011, Amazon has loaned $3 billion to third party-businesses; $1 billion of that total came in the last 12 months alone.
Why does any of this matter to lawyers and bankers?
The answer is that Amazon is unlikely to be content with this in-house program. Amazon’s lending so far has been focused on small business loans from $1,000 to $750,000. This lucrative niche is helping Amazon learn the ropes in the space, and the firm will probably move to offering loans to a broader audience in the future. Amazon has a very low cost of capital compared to most other firms, and it has embraced data analytics in a way that is almost unparalleled across most industries. For all of the data analytics focus of Wall Street, most business lending is still distinctly 20th Century, at least based on my experience with the industry.
This matters for a lot of attorneys. Amazon is all about cutting costs to enable lower prices for customers, and they would likely bring that same focus to a broad lending platform. This would almost certainly mean lower fees for attorneys, or possibly borrowers forgoing an attorney altogether in favor of boilerplate documents that Amazon could use. That has significant implications for any attorney involved in finance. Moreover, imagine what would happen if Amazon moved into lending to consumers for housing; the traditional attorney-led closing process for buying a house could disappear.
Some of this might seem far-fetched. After all, Amazon would have only incremental share in any lending market it chose to enter. Yet, despite small market share, Amazon has tremendous stature in any industry it enters. Grocery stores and their shareholders are not panicking about Amazon’s current sales; they are panicking about what Amazon’s share might be in the future, and the broader industry effects Amazon might engender. The same situation could play out in lending. For those who remain skeptical, ask yourself – a decade ago, did you foresee Google becoming a real player in the car market?
Whether Amazon ultimately enters the financial markets or not is one issue, but even if they don’t, attorneys should still pay attention to the company. Amazon is demonstrating an ability to upend a very traditional and staid business that hasn’t changed much in decades. While the business in question is the grocery store, the same description could be said to apply to the law firm as well.
The legal markets are ripe for disruption from litigation finance, the application of Big Data to the law, and from changes to legal marketing practices – all topics that I have written about previously. Come what may from Amazon or others, the lawyers who succeed tomorrow, will be the ones who think about how to incorporate these new practices and ideas into their businesses today.
Michael McDonald is an assistant professor of finance at Fairfield University in Connecticut. He holds a PhD in finance. Michael consults extensively through Morning Investments Consulting and writes for Litigation Finance Journal. Michael has served as an expert witness in legal disputes, and is an arbitrator with the Financial Industry National Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Michael can be reached at M.McDonald@MorningInvestmentsCT.com.
June Diversity Tip Sheet:
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (lgbt) pride month
For many in the United States, and around the world for that matter, gay pride is something associated with parades, festivals, and at times people behaving outlandishly as a sign of being free. The truth is that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans- gender individuals around the globe have been fighting for the right to be treated in a way that so many of us take for granted, Namely, to be treated with dignity and respect This struggle dates to Pre-modern times through the 19th Century movements in Germany and up to today. But for those of us in the United States, Gay Pride as we know and celebrate it has its birthplace at The Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969.
On June 28, 1969, New York City police began a raid at The Stonewall Inn. It was a common occurrence for places where gay people congregated for police to conduct raids and to extort money from bar owners. These raids usually happened where the bar owners knew in advance and could prepare for it with the end result being a kickback to police as well as patrons often being harassed, beaten, and arrested. On June 28, 1969 something different occurred at The Stonewall Inn. When police began the raid, people did not do what was expected. They fought back against public humiliation and harassment and did so for several days. For many this event is considered to be the beginning of what united the gay community in the United States and in some part around the world.
The first Gay Pride parades simultaneously took place in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles one year after The Stonewall Inn Riots. Today, there are hundreds of Gay Pride parades and festivals that take place throughout North, Central, and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Despite increasing acceptance and celebration of LGBT Americans, there are still many social and workplace situations that create uncomfortable or even hostile conditions for our clients and co-workers. They may not choose to fightback as Stonewall’s patrons did, but their dignity, satisfaction and happiness are no less important. I want you to ask yourself this month, “What can I do or do better to lessen or eliminate conditions in my workplace that are unfriendly to LGBT individuals?” When you ask yourself that question, you are creating a better workplace for everyone that walks in your door.
On May 30, 2014, President Barack Obama proclaimed June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. In that Presidential Proclamation, he stated: “This month, as we mark 45 years since the patrons of the Stonewall Inn defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement, let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way. Following their example let each of us speak for tolerance, justice, and dignity – because if hearts and minds continue to change, laws will too.”
When we allow people to be “first rate versions” of who they are, our firms and our lives prosper. That is the promise of diversity and inclusion. On behalf of the ALA Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, Happy Pride Month to you and your office!
Explore Additional Resources:
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLG) - www.community.pflg.org
Human Rights Campaign - www.hrc.org
Lambda Legal Defense - www.lambdalegal.org
It Gets Better Project - http://www.itgetsbetter.org/
GET THE MOST OUT OF OUR CHAPTER WEBSITE
The Austin Chapter ALA websited hosts great resources for our members:
Member Area provides:
NEW! Forum (just like listserv, but better!)
June 22, 2017 Tasty Thursday Wine Tasting
- Please join us for a FREE weekly wine tasting series provided by our business partners at the Stephen F. Austin Interconntinental. There's just two weeks left to enjoy this fun and free event that runs from 6pm to 8pm each Thursday through June 29th. Wine tastings will take place in Stephen F's, located on the 2nd Floor. The Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental is located at 710 Congress Avenue.
June 22, 2017 June Lunch & Learn at Headliners
Please join Mike Kennedy, Managing Director for Avison Young, as he leads an exciting presentation regarding real estate development in Austin's central business district. He will uncover the political, social, and business influences on local real estate developement, current market activity, and the impact on future downtown development.
July 12, 2017 Small Firm Roundtable at Austin Bar
- The small firm roundtable is a monthly gathering for administrators. The meetings allow for a safe space to ask the questions you might not want to circulate on the listserv or that you feel might be best answered in person. Each unique situation we face as law firm administrators is fair game at these sessions. Contact Christine Giles or Ana Helton if you're interested in attending.
July 27, 2017 July Lunch & Learn at Headliners
- Please join Judy Hissong, CLM for a discussion about stress management.
September 14, 2017 Expo & Educational Seminar
- Don't miss the annual expo at the Stephen F. Austin Interconntinental. This day-long event is an annual tradition and the best opportunity to learn, meet our business partners, and have the opportunity to win some fantastic prizes. You DO NOT want to miss this!
October 10, 2017 BP Appreciation Happy Hour
- This event is your chance to thank our business partners for supporting our chapter throughout the year. Enjoy a cocktail in a relaxed setting and congraulate one another on another successful year. Our BPs want to see you at this event. Mark your calendars today!