Ancestry.com Helps Family of Dead Boy Find Man Posing as Him

“A Pennsylvania man who assumed the identity of a baby who died in Texas in 1972 has been arrested on charges of Social Security fraud and aggravated identity theft after the baby’s aunt discovered the ruse on Ancestry.com.

Jon Vincent, 44, was arrested in Lansdale, near Philadelphia, on Monday, but had also lived near Pittsburgh and York, Pennsylvania since 2003 — after first obtaining a Social Security card in the name Nathan Laskoski in 1996, federal prosecutors said. Vincent remained jailed Wednesday, when a federal magistrate ordered him to appear for arraignment May 2.

The real Nathan Laskoski died in December 1972, two months after he was born near Dallas. Vincent stole the dead child’s identity after escaping from a Texas halfway house in March 1996, and used the dead baby’s identity to start another life, prosecutors said. The Texas conviction was for indecency with a child, though the precise sentence Vincent was serving wasn’t immediately clear, said Michele Mucellin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia.

Vincent lived in also lived in Mississippi and Tennessee under his assumed name, holding jobs, getting drivers’ licenses and even getting married and divorced as Laskoski before the scheme unraveled late last year, according to online court records.

That’s when Laskoski’s aunt did a search on Ancestry.com, a genealogy website.

In researching her family tree, Nathan Laskoski’s name came up as a “green” leaf on the website, which led to public records suggesting he was alive. The aunt told Laskoski’s mother, who did more research and learned that someone had obtained a Social Security card under her son’s name in Texas, as well as finding public marriage and divorce records, Laskoski’s mother filed an identity theft complaint with the Social Security Administration.

An investigator from the SSA’s Office of Inspector General took it from there in January, court records show.

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In Nashville’s youth courts, a true jury of peers

In a classroom at Whites Creek High School, wooden benches have replaced the desks. When the bell chimes, students file into 12 plastic chairs to face a judge.

On a recent morning, the volunteer in the black robe was attorney Yvette Cain.

“Do you solemnly swear or affirm to listen carefully to the evidence presented in arguments presented today, and fulfill your duty to determine a sentence that’s fair to the victim and to the respondent and the community? If so, say ‘I do,’ and you may be seated,” Cain said, sitting below a state seal flanked by the U.S. and Tennessee flags.

“I do,” 12 voices responded.

This is the youth court program at Whites Creek, one of five schools in Nashville that has an arm of the statewide reform and prevention program.

Students at the schools who commit minor crimes can be sent to youth court instead of juvenile court downtown, where they would face a judge and not a jury. In youth courts in Nashville, they face classmates filling the roles of attorneys and jurors.

The rulings of the student jury are real and go on the record.

Not only do the programs take cases off the docket at juvenile court, they also give teens a chance to explore career paths in criminal justice.

Denise Bentley, director of Tennessee’s Youth Court Program, said 17 counties have active youth courts or are starting them. The program is an arm of the Tennessee Bar Association. Davidson County’s courts have been ongoing since 2011.

More than 2,000 Tennessee students participate in the programs statewide each year, and they handle 350 to 400 cases annually, Bentley said.

“According to research, a child who goes to juvenile court for one of these first offenses has an 18 to 40 percent likelihood of coming back on another charge,” Bentley said. “The way I used to talk about it when I was in school security here in Metro Schools was, kids leave the (juvenile) court thinking they’re 10-foot-tall and bulletproof. When they leave here, because these young people have taken the time to really address the situation and the cause of the situation, fewer than 4 percent of kids reoffend after going through youth court.”

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TSA WANTS TO TWEET WITH TRAVELERS

The Transportation Security Administration is looking to airlines for customer service tips.

The Department of Homeland Security agency plans to set up a new Twitter account, @AskTSA, to respond directly to customer complaints and questions, according to a new solicitation.

Though its public affairs office currently uses social media to “communicate messages/information to the general public,” other brands, “including airlines, use social media in a different way: communicating directly with their customers, answering questions and resolving issues in real-time,” the solicitation said.

American Airlines’ Twitter handle, @AmericanAir, for instance, has 1.13 million followers and is used to respond publicly, and directly, to individual customers. In one case, on Thursday afternoon, @AmericanAir tweeted directly at a customer to “please advise a crewmember” when she took to Twitter to complain about a potentially faulty cooling system.

The solicitation could be part of TSA’s broader efforts to connect with customers digitally. The agency already has an Instagram account with roughly 303,000 followers, where it often posts photos of confiscated items, such as a set of throwing star weapons discovered last week at Alexandria International Airport in Louisiana. (TSA posted the image with the hashtag #TSAGoodCatch.) The agency’s main Twitter account, @TSA, created in 2011, has more than 46,000 followers.

The notice comes a few days after travel website Travelmath released an analysis of Twitter users’ sentiments toward TSA, using an algorithm to rank Twitter mentions in the United States as positive, negative or neutral. Among states that had enough TSA mentions to process, “nearly three times as many had a negative sentiment than a positive one,” that report said. (Words such as “confiscate,” “grope” and “rude” were among words frequently mentioned in those tweets, according to Travelmath.)

Though TSA’s solicitation is “for market research only,” the agency is searching for small businesses who can provide a Web-based customer engagement platform that up to 10 TSA staffers can log onto concurrently, according to the posting on FedBizOpps.

The Web platform must have many functions, including a “robust content repository to store pre-approved content, canned responses and approved images,” and an “interactive dashboard to engage in real time, one-to one conversations without ticket assignment,” according to the solicitation.

The goal, according to a TSA statement provided to Nextgov, is to “improve the traveler’s experience through one-to-one conversations on Twitter to actively assist customers before, during and after their travel.”

But it’s unclear what the timeline is for @AskTSA, and if TSA even owns the handle — TSA officials could not be reached for interview. Though the handle exists, it has no avatar, bio or tweets, and has so far racked up only two followers.

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WHITE HOUSE WANTS IDEAS FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT PLAN

If you want a more open government, now is the time to put your ideas where your mouth is.

The White House seeks ideas and feedback from the public, federal officials and other open government advocates as it develops a third Open Government National Action Plan to be released later this year.

The announcement came in a White House blog post authored June 4 by Corinna Zarek, senior adviser for open government at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The government’s first and second iterations of open government NAPs were released in 2011 and 2013, and as Zarek notes, those initiatives will be fully implemented by the end of 2015.

Given the object is a more open government, the process by which the White House will ideate for the third NAP is transparent and open, yet perhaps even more so than prior efforts.

NAP suggestions can be emailed (opengov@ostp.gov) or tweeted to @OpenGov. Users can also log into the collaborative, publicly available Hackpad platform to share their thoughts and ideas. That online collaboration will be managed by social and digital government guru Justin Herman of the General Services Administration.

The blog post makes clear that new suggestions regarding old commitments are sought as much as ideas for new initiatives. The only stipulations are that ideas are ambitious, relevant, specific and measurable, according to Zarek.

“You may wish to suggest expanded commitments on topic areas from the first two plans such as public participation, open data, records management, natural resource revenue transparency, the Freedom of Information Act, open innovation, or open educational resources, among others,” Zarek wrote. “You may also wish to suggest entirely new initiatives — and we hope you do!”

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Va. man allegedly robs bank, posts pictures and videos of heist to Instagram

He swindled them with charm.

A Virginia man who posted footage of himself allegedly holding up a bank on Instagram claims it wasn’t actually a robbery—because he was polite, didn’t wear a mask and filmed the entire incident.

Dominyk Antonio Alfonseca was arrested just 20 minutes after his alleged heist of a TowneBank branch in Virginia Beach on Monday afternoon, reports The Virginian-Pilot.

The 23-year-old allegedly walked into the financial institution, which he told reporters he chose because it was the “fanciest” one around, and handed over a note.

“I need 150,000 Bands Right NOW!! Please Police take 3 to 4 minites to get here, I would appriceate if you Ring the alarm a minute after I am gone … Make sure the money doesn’t BLOW UP ON MY WAY OUT;-) (sic)” it read.

He left with his loot, before bizarrely posting two clips and a photograph online of what he’d allegedly done.

The videos show the teller reading the note, and then pulling out stacks of cash and placing it into a bag. The picture features the demand letter.

Alfonseca filmed the bank teller forking over the cash.

Alfonseca was detained shortly after and charged with robbery.

But he claimed in an interview with WAVY-TV from city jail on Wednesday that what he did wasn’t actually a crime.

He said the fact that he was polite and used “please” in the note, did not wear a mask and recorded the incident meant he was not guilty.

“I’m basically asking permission for money. In my eyes, I did not commit a robbery, and I feel I’m being charged without reason,” he said.

“I posted the video on my Instagram. I videotaped it. If it was a robbery, I don’t think I would videotape it, post the picture of the letter and do that all to come to jail,” he added.

Alfonseca refused to reveal why he’d gone to the bank and demanded he speak directly with the President. He also gave shoutouts to Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber.

“Michelle Obama — high five!” he said during a rambling jailhouse interview with WTKR-TV.

Police have not commented on the Instagram account, which also features amateur rap music videos and other bizarre missives typed up by Alfonseca.

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INTERNET SECURITY ALERT

CHARLOTTE NC

In the past week, Google, Facebook and Instagram have all announced security changes that will affect Officer Safety.

The most serious change comes from Facebook.
The company announced Thursday it is officially axing a privacy setting that allowed people to hide their profiles from other users in Facebook’s search field.

The setting “who can look up my timeline by name” had already disappeared from the options for some users — specifically, those who weren’t using the feature in December of last year.

The new change affects a “small percentage of people” on the site who were still using the feature, Facebook (FB, Fortune 500) said, although it did specify how many of its 1.15 billion active users were impacted.

Facebook explained that the search tool has been expanded to allow broader searches by topics, geographical areas and a number of other search criteria.

Facebook has also expanded its internal search capabilities with the roll out of Graph Search. The feature allows users to sift through the social network’s vast data trove to find “friends who live in my city,” “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,” and similar lists. It also allows Facebook to eventually challenge sites that rate and rank local attractions like restaurants and hotels.

Facebook announced that users would no longer be able to block people with whom they are not connected from seeing their profile when searching the social network, a change that could boost the Graph Search feature CEO Mark Zuckerberg championed in a launch event earlier this year. The company said in a blog post that a “small percentage of people still using the setting” would lose it soon, after Facebook stopped offering to block searches for anyone who had not already chosen the option earlier this year.

Facebook has also changed their security threshold for their photo-sharing service Instagram allowing more people to see your photos. The Next Web reported that an update to the popular app takes away the option of not allowing videos to play automatically when a user visits the timeline. The move follows the announcement earlier this week that Instagram would begin to serve advertisements in users’ streams, the first revenue-generating attempt by the San Francisco company since Facebook committed $1 billion in a 2012 acquisition.

Google has also lifted some of their security restrictions, now sharing your photos and other information in advertisements and free displays.

What once was tucked away in your on-line privacy file has been opened and there’s not much that you can do about it.

For officer safety, we suggest that you restrict all pictures and post non-specific information and opt not to include details about your job, home address, phone number or even your favorite restaurant.

In recent years, there have been a number of private security personnel who have been assaulted while off-duty because of an incident that they were involved with while on-duty. Several situations also proved that the assailant had followed the security officer home from their work assignment and in a recent case; an assailant used public information to locate and assault a security officer for having him arrested for shoplifting.

Two security officers killed last year while off duty were found to have been targeted by persons that they had previous confrontations with while on duty.

Remember that once you post something on the Internet, you lose control of it and it’s almost impossible to take back once it has been published. For your safety, and the safety of your family,
use caution, be responsible and let common sense be your guide.

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Felony Counts for 2 in Suicide of Bullied 12-Year-Old

MIAMI — For the Polk County sheriff’s office, which has been investigating the cyberbullying suicide of a 12-year-old Florida girl, the Facebook comment was impossible to disregard.

In Internet shorthand it began “Yes, ik” — I know — “I bullied Rebecca nd she killed herself.” The writer concluded that she didn’t care, using an obscenity to make the point and a heart as a perverse flourish. Five weeks ago, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, a seventh grader in Lakeland in central Florida, jumped to her death from an abandoned cement factory silo after enduring a year, on and off, of face-to-face and online bullying.

The Facebook post, Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County said, was so offensive that he decided to move forward with the arrest immediately rather than continue to gather evidence. With a probable cause affidavit in hand, he sent his deputies Monday night to arrest two girls, calling them the “primary harassers.” The first, a 14-year-old, is the one who posted the comment Saturday, he said. The second is her friend, and Rebecca’s former best friend, a 12-year-old.

Both were charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony and will be processed through the juvenile court system. Neither had an arrest record. The older girl was taken into custody in the juvenile wing of the Polk County Jail. The younger girl, who the police said expressed remorse, was released to her parents under house arrest.

Originally, Sheriff Judd said he had hoped to wait until he received data from two far-flung cellphone application companies, Kik Messenger and ask.fm, before moving forward.

“We learned this over the weekend, and we decided that, look, we can’t leave her out there,” Sheriff Judd said, referring to the older girl. “Who else is she going to torment? Who else is she going to harass? Who is the next person she verbally abuses and attacks?”

He said the older girl told the police that her account had been hacked, and that she had not posted the comment.

“She forced this arrest today,” Sheriff Judd said.

Rebecca was bullied from December 2012 to February 2013, according to the probable cause affidavit. But her mother, Tricia Norman, has said the bullying began long before then and continued until Rebecca killed herself.

The older of the two girls acknowledged to the police that she had bullied Rebecca. She said she had sent Rebecca a Facebook message saying that “nobody” liked her, the affidavit said. The girl also texted Rebecca that she wanted to “fight” her, the police said. But the bullying did not end there; Rebecca was told to “kill herself” and “drink bleach and die” among other things, the police added.

The bullying contributed to Rebecca’s suicide, the sheriff said.

Brimming with outrage and incredulity, the sheriff said in a news conference on Tuesday that he was stunned by the older girl’s Saturday Facebook posting. But he reserved his harshest words for the girl’s parents for failing to monitor her behavior, after she had been questioned by the police, and for allowing her to keep her cellphone.

“I’m aggravated that the parents are not doing what parents should do: after she is questioned and involved in this, why does she even have a device?” Sheriff Judd said. “Parents, who instead of taking that device and smashing it into a thousand pieces in front of that child, say her account was hacked.”

The police said the dispute with Rebecca began over a boy. The older girl was upset that Rebecca had once dated her boyfriend, they said.

“She began to harass and ultimately torment Rebecca,” said the sheriff, describing the 14-year-old as a girl with a long history of bullying behavior.

The police said the older girl began to turn Rebecca’s friends against her, including her former best friend, the 12-year-old who was charged. She told anyone who tried to befriend Rebecca that they also would be bullied, the affidavit said.

The bullying leapt into the virtual world, Sheriff Judd said, and Rebecca began receiving sordid messages instructing her to “go kill yourself.” The police said Rebecca’s mother was reluctant to take her cellphone away because she did not want to alienate her daughter and wanted her to be able to communicate with her friends. Ms. Norman tried, she has said, to monitor Rebecca’s cellphone activity.

In December, the bullying grew so intense that Rebecca began cutting herself and was sent to a hospital by her mother to receive psychiatric care. Ultimately, her mother pulled her out of Crystal Lake Middle School. She home schooled her for a while and then enrolled her in a new school in August.

But the bullying did not stop.

“As a child, I can remember sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt you,” the sheriff said. “Today, words stick because they are printed and they are there forever.”

Some of the messages were sent using a variety of social media smartphone messaging and photo-sharing applications, including ask.fm and Kik Messenger, that parents have a difficult time keeping track of.

“Watch what your children do online,” Sheriff Judd said. “Pay attention. Quit being their best friend and be their best parent. That’s important.”

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Mother/daughter team jailed for million-dollar internet dating scam

A mother and daughter have been jailed for over a decade apiece after pleading guilty to money laundering for an internet dating scam that persuaded the gullible that they were helping US troops in search of love.

Karen Vasseur, 63, and daughter Tracy, 42, were part of a gang that spent three years searching dating sites and social networks for likely targets. Other collaborators posed as members of the US military overseas and persuaded dupes to send them money, supposedly for satellite phone calls, customs fees, and for travel so they could meet their imagined paramours.

For smaller amounts of cash, the scammers persuaded their victims to use Western Union or MoneyGram, but larger transfers would have attracted attention from the companies’ anti-fraud systems, so the Vasseurs were recruited to set up bank accounts to receive funds.

Posing as military agents, the two accepted over a million dollars (one British victim sent in $59,000) before funneling it to the scam’s organizers for around 10 per cent of the take.

The two set up 68 accounts in 19 different cities using 24 aliases to handle the transfer of funds and sent the bulk of the money to individuals in Nigeria, who set up the operation. Money was also wired to addresses in the UK, Ecuador, India, the United Arab Emirates, and the US, none of which has been recovered.

All the victims mentioned in the court papers were women, usually married, who had been conducting online dalliances with what they thought were male soldiers, usually claiming to be stationed in Afghanistan and with fake Army records to bolster their claims. Many of the women sent tens of thousands of dollars at a time to help these imaginary soldiers.

“Not only did this mother-daughter duo break the law, they broke hearts worldwide,” said Colorado attorney general John Suthers in a statement. “It is fitting that they received stiff sentences for their unconscionable crimes committed in the name of love and the United States military.”

Tracy Vasseur was sentenced to 15 years in prison for her part in the scheme. The authorities added an additional four years to her time in the Big House because she carried on transferring money even after being indicted, and also tried to influence a public official and take control of her children’s inheritance.

Her mother Karen was sent down for 12 years plus five years of parole. She will also serve a 10 years sentence for a separate fraud in which she convinced at-risk adults to pay fees to free up a bogus Nigerian inheritance, but that sentence will be served concurrently.

The case shows that one of the oldest internet scams in the book is still going strong, and that the ringleaders are getting away with it. The Vasseurs weren’t actually involved in duping the victims but were simply money mules, and the masterminds behind this operation are no doubt already finding new victims to fleece.

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Children’s privacy law catches on to apps, social networks

The FTC updates rules tied to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, but the changes won’t really affect companies like Apple or Facebook.

The Federal Trade Commission today moved to make a key children’s online privacy law more up-to-date in a world of smartphones and social networks.

The agency has approved amendments to the regulations implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, that would require apps and Web sites that target children to obtain parental consent before collecting geo-location information, or photos, videos or audio files that include a child’s image or voice. The law was also expanded to cover services that track kids’ online activity — namely, which sites they visit — and then give the information to third-parties, like advertisers.

“The Commission takes seriously its mandate to protect children’s online privacy in this ever-changing technological landscape,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a statement. “I am confident that the amendments to the COPPA Rule strike the right balance between protecting innovation that will provide rich and engaging content for children, and ensuring that parents are informed and involved in their children’s online activities.”

But Apple and Facebook, the biggest companies associated with apps and social media, may not feel much of an effect at all.

The changes, the first since the law took effect in 1998, apply only to sites that specifically target children. They don’t apply to third-party plug-ins — such Facebook’s “Like” button — or ad networks, unless the companies behind them have “actual knowledge” that they are collecting information from a service that’s specifically for children.

The commission defines those who have “actual knowledge” as a third-party that has been told directly its plug-in or advertisement is on a site for children, or if the third-party company recognizes that the site is specifically for kids, according to the updated rules (PDF).

Then there are app platforms like Apple’s App Store, the largest single source of apps in world. Platforms like Apple’s won’t have to make sure they sell apps that follow the new law. But apps made available there are hardly untouchable. On Monday, for instance, Nickelodeon removed a SpongeBob app from the Apple App Store after an an advocacy group filed a complaint with the FTC alleging that the game violated children’s online privacy rights by collecting their e-mail addresses without parents’ permission.

And the rule changes themselves may prove vulnerable to challenge in court or in Congress. “I believe a core provision of the amendments exceeds the scope of the authority granted us by Congress in COPPA, the statute that underlies and authorizes the rule,” commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen wrote in her dissenting statement. “I do not believe that the fact that a child-directed site or online service receives any kind of benefit from using a plug-in is equivalent to the collection of personal information by the third-party plug-in on behalf of the child-directed site or online service.”

The FTC has the support of at least one key figure on Capitol Hill. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia and the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, issued a statement today saying that the changes were “long overdue,” and necessary for a world filled with smartphones, apps and social network. He said he would “determine if Congress should act to make further changes in the law” –

The new rule puts all online companies on notice, no matter who they are, that they are required to comply with the law. Under the new rule, when a children’s website or application allows third-parties to collect information from children, those websites and apps will be liable under COPPA.

Furthermore, those third-parties will also be held liable if they know they are collecting information on websites or apps directed toward children.

The changes come after the FTC released a report last week slamming the app industry for not providing parents enough information about privacy. The report encouraged app companies to develop best practices to ensure parents were educated on privacy options.

The new rules are set to go into effect July 1, 2013.

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12 Ways to Stay Current in the Fast-Evolving World of Legal Support

The world of legal support is evolving around us much faster than most of us anticipated and were prepared to address. Technology waits for no one and pushes forward constantly, shrinking the world and putting everything right at our fingertips. It is so very crucial now to ride the crest of that wave and not get left behind. The days of old school service of process have given way to the demands of the legal practice embracing current new technologies, thereby raising their expectations of what legal support professional provide and how quickly they can deliver. It is so crucial that we, as a whole, embrace this trend and engage fully in the art of staying current and relevant. The following are some suggestions that can be useful to that end.

1. Educate yourself

-Attend professional workshops, seminars and Legal Tech conferences
-Read, learn and understand the codes that affect our profession
-Understand the trend within law offices to meet their evolving needs

2. Join and/or Sponsor Local, State and National Associations

-Process Serving, Photocopy, Investigation and Collections Associations
-Secretary, Paralegal or Legal Professional/Assistant and Bar Associations
-Chambers of Commerce, Business Groups and Service Organizations
-Sheriff, Marshall and Constable Associations

3. Join Topical User Groups, Newsgroups, and Stay Current with Discussions

-Observe trends and use foresight to predict likely directional shifts
-Identify top commentators and follow their posts

4. Join Job Listing and Job Posting Sites

-Ask for additional information to give an accurate quote
-Respond quickly with details of what you will provide

5. Make a Commitment to Educate Your Staff and Contractors

-Encourage or require participation in training programs and events
-Bring in educators and experts to provide in-house training
-Take advantage of online educational opportunities

6. Sign Up for Public Notices from the State and Federal Courts in your Area

-Be among the first in your area to receive alerts and info blasts
-Forward relevant information in a newsletter or e-blasts to your clients

7. Read and Follow Professional Publication, Trade Magazines, Newsletters and E-zines

-Example: CALSPro Press (CA), The Docket Sheet (National)
-The Serve Report

8. Use Social Media and Locate Blogs that Keep you Informed

-Check in daily to stay current
-If available, sign up for auto-notification when new content is released

9. Follow Proposed Legislation and Legislative Digests on Matters of Potential Concern

-Track State and National Bills potentially impacting service of process
-Digest and fully understand all related legislative changes and how they affect you

10. Educate Your Clients and Customers

-Host trainings for your customers at your location or theirs
-Forward upcoming MCLE opportunities as a service to your clients

11. Get Active and Participate at a Higher Level in Associations and other Professional Groups

-Submit articles and/or posts, and weigh in on current topics
-Become a committee member or even chair a committee
-Run for an elected office or seek appointment and help shape our future

12. Embrace Changing Technologies, Keep your Website Fresh and Lively, and Improve Your Timelines and Methods of Delivering Information to Your Clients and Customers

These suggestions are only some basic ideas to be a springboard for your ongoing effort to position yourself or your company in a way to remain ever relevant. By continuing to keep this concept at the forefront of your thoughts and business plan, you will in fact be engaged in the evolutionary process and may even become an agent for what legal support will become in the years ahead.

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