A brief conversation with PLF Claims Attorney Bradley Tompkins about common malpractice risks and how to handle them
Finding the right associate to join your firm can feel a lot like fishing. There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but you are searching for a star. Your job description is the first connection potential applicants have with you. You want that first contact to capture their attention and interest while also conveying your values and the benefits of working with you. Read on for a few tips to describe your associate position clearly and authentically.
Oregon Circuit Court E-Filing Will be Offline on Friday, October 14, 2022, from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Due to system maintenance, Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) eFile ─ the online platform that allows attorneys and staff to electronically file and serve court documents in Oregon’s circuit courts and the Oregon Tax Court ─ will be offline and inaccessible on Friday, October 14, 2022, from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. You will not be able to file documents during this time.
The Professional Liability Fund offers a wide variety of resources to educate and assist lawyers and law office staff. As part of those resources, we maintain and update a library of over 300 forms consisting of checklists, sample letters and pleadings, and other helpful documents. We recently added four new checklists to our website that we encourage you to review.
The OAAP is pleased to announce that Kirsten Blume, JD, MA candidate has joined the OAAP as an Attorney Counselor Associate!
Law firms have always been plagued by the “knowledge drain” that happens when experienced employees retire or leave the company, taking their acquired information and established relationships when they leave. Firms must find a way to capture and retain institutional knowledge and make critical knowledge accessible if they want to ensure business continuity, provide quality legal services, and maintain a competitive edge.
Following the recent string of bleak news, researchers are forecasting an “epidemic of resilience” because “resilience is the modal and normative response to trauma.” But what about those of us who have resilienced as hard as we can and are still exhausted and overwhelmed? For us, there is the concept of Post-Traumatic Growth.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a one-minute video equals 1.8 million words. This article will discuss three ways to use video to run a better practice, reduce potential malpractice, and improve your bottom line. It will conclude with a step-by-step tutorial on how to make videos for your staff in Microsoft Teams (included free in the Microsoft Office 365 Suite).
The PLF is pleased to announce that Valerie Saiki has been appointed as a new board member effective June 24, 2022.
Meeting with a potential client may sometimes feel like walking a tightrope. It can be difficult to end the intake without any misunderstandings or unintended promises. When someone believes an attorney-client relationship has formed but you do not, a real danger exists. As the attorney, it is your role and responsibility to clearly communicate when an attorney-client relationship is established and when it is not, no matter the marketing medium.
How we choose to communicate as a society is an ever-evolving process. With the rise in digital media, trends have seen more consumers turn to text, video calls, and emails as their preferred forms of communication. Is your firm doing everything it can to reach potential clients?
To prevent mishaps and errors, you may need to evaluate how cases proceed through your office. Having a smooth process can avoid inaccuracies and save time. You can be more efficient if you have a well-defined and planned workflow for you and your staff.
End the Friday feeling well with emotional well-being
Let's connect this Thursday with Social Well-Being!
Let's engage this Wednesday with Career and Intellectual Well-Being!
Let's align this Tuesday with Spiritual Well-Being!
How Physical Well-Being fits into the role of a lawyer
See a few takeaways from the 2022 ABA TECHSHOW that you may want to incorporate into your practice, particularly regarding evaluating your technology, software for managing new clients, and virtual receptionists.
Many malpractice claims arise from a client’s or third party’s allegation about what occurred, or didn’t occur, during the representation. While it may not seem necessary to document things that did not occur, or in situations involving third parties rather than just your client, proper documentation of these events can help protect you from certain malpractice traps.
To best manage your lawyer trust account, think of and care for your trust account the way you would take care of your dog. You attend to its particular needs, such as physical and mental stimulation, dietary monitoring, and health check-ups. These steps for owning a happy and healthy dog reflect similar methods for maintaining a sound trust account.
The PLF is pleased to announce that Alexandra Hilsher (Eugene) and Michelle Johansson (Portland) have been appointed as new board members effective January 1, 2022. Ms. Hilsher’s and Ms. Johansson’s terms will conclude at the end of 2026.
Starting February 1, 2022, filers are now able to electronically submit fee waiver and deferral applications to Oregon’s circuit courts and the Oregon Tax Court through File & Serve. Chief Justice Order 21-051 amends UTCR 21.050 and 21.070 to permit electronic submission of these filings.
The last couple of years have been challenging for many people in different ways. While it can be difficult to look back on this time from a “glass half full” perspective, we can use our collective experience during the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect positively on the changes as they apply to the workplace.
ABA TECHSHOW - PLF Offers Discounted Registration Rate
The type of program you use to track your time and calculate your bills will vary depending on your specific practice and firm goals. In focusing on software for billing, you have your choice of options, but you should consider the variety of features available when making the decision which to use for your practice.
We are delighted to welcome Monica Logan as the newest Practice Management Attorney at the PLF!
If you have received an emailed hearing notice from an Oregon circuit court or the Oregon Tax Court since Monday, October 18, 2021, please double-check the time of the hearing.
On April 29, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued Executive Order No. 21-10, which was the seventh extension of Executive Order No. 20-03 and the COVID-19 State of Emergency since her original order declaring an emergency on March 8, 2020. On June 25, 2021, Governor Brown then issued Executive Order No. 21-15, which extended Executive Order No. 20-03 and the state of emergency to December 31, 2021, unless extended or terminated earlier by the Governor.
After more than 16 years of service at the PLF, Practice Management Attorney Sheila Blackford has retired to pursue her passion for writing and for helping firms resolve their differences through alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Mark your calendars for November 17-19, 2021!
The Board of Directors of the Professional Liability Fund (the “BOD”) is seeking two lawyer board members, each to serve a five-year term on the BOD beginning January 1, 2022.
As vaccinations increase and COVID rates fall in Oregon, many of us are venturing back into the world, albeit perhaps tentatively. A meal with friends or a fiddle jam in someone’s backyard can be exhilarating, tenderly heartfelt, and also a little terrifying. While we relearn how to make small talk and navigate who goes first in building entrances, now is a great time for trying out a new practice.
The PLF recently presented a CLE on potential malpractice risks for bankruptcy practitioners. PLF Claims Attorney John Berge and Julia Manela from Watkinson Laird Rubenstein PC explored how the pandemic could generate an uptick in consumer bankruptcy filings after emergency governmental financial assistance ends and eviction moratoriums expire.
We are very pleased to announce that Megan Livermore will become the new Chief Executive Officer of the PLF as of July 1, 2021. Ms. Livermore has been a business and real estate attorney in Oregon for over 15 years, with the majority of her legal career spent at two Eugene law firms – Gaydos Churnside & Balthrop PC and, most recently, Hutchinson Cox.
In our recent CLE on “Avoiding Malpractice Claims When Filing and Serving a Complaint,” PLF Claims Attorney Amy Hoven and Hillary Taylor from Keating Jones Hughes PC discussed how the process of filing and serving a complaint can be fraught with errors.
Settlements have always been common in the legal world, and they’ve arguably become even more widely used during the pandemic due to delays in court proceedings. Most civil practitioners at some point in their career will have a client who later questions their decision to settle. Unfortunately, some of these clients sue for malpractice, believing they could have achieved a better settlement or a better result had they moved forward with litigation.
Welcome to the 2021 Well-Being Week in Law! The OAAP is excited to celebrate this event and provide support for the well-being of members of the Oregon legal community. Each of the five days in Well-Being Week will focus on one dimension of well-being, and our daily blog post will include activity suggestions to “watch,” “read,” and “do” to enhance your well-being in that area. Let’s cap off the week with emotional well-being!
Welcome to the 2021 Well-Being Week in Law! The OAAP is excited to celebrate this event and provide support for the well-being of members of the Oregon legal community. Each of the five days in Well-Being Week will focus on one dimension of well-being, and our daily blog post will include activity suggestions to “watch,” “read,” and “do” to enhance your well-being in that area. Let’s continue the week with social well-being!
Welcome to the 2021 Well-Being Week in Law! The OAAP is excited to celebrate this event and provide support for the well-being of members of the Oregon legal community. Each of the five days in Well-Being Week will focus on one dimension of well-being, and our daily blog post will include activity suggestions to “watch,” “read,” and “do” to enhance your well-being in that area. Let’s continue the week with career and intellectual well-being!
Welcome to the 2021 Well-Being Week in Law! The OAAP is excited to celebrate this event and provide support for the well-being of members of the Oregon legal community. Each of the five days in Well-Being Week will focus on one dimension of well-being, and our daily blog post will include activity suggestions to “watch,” “read,” and “do” to enhance your well-being in that area. Let’s continue the week with spiritual well-being!
Welcome to the 2021 Well-Being Week in Law! The OAAP is excited to celebrate this event and provide support for the well-being of members of the Oregon legal community. Each of the five days in Well-Being Week will focus on one dimension of well-being, and our daily blog post will include activity suggestions to “watch,” “read,” and “do” to enhance your well-being in that area.
What Is “Well-Being Week in Law” Anyway? “Well-Being Week in Law” is a national event that takes place annually the first week in May. The goal is to raise awareness about mental health and encourage action and innovation to improve well-being throughout the profession.
An attorney, his spouse, and their child stayed a few nights at a hotel for spring break. The attorney ─ let’s call him Tommy ─ pulled out his work laptop on the second night and reminded his family that he had to attend an online orientation. Tommy’s spouse ─ let’s call her Tuppence ─ did not remember him mentioning this meeting and cautioned him that the hotel’s Wi-Fi network wasn't secure.
Although some courts are moving toward holding more appearances in person, certain court appearances will likely continue to be held remotely for some time to come. While the future of court system operations remains uncertain and will continue to evolve over time, below are some resources to improve your remote hearing experience:
On February 25, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued Executive Order No. 21-05, which is the sixth extension of Executive Order No. 20-03 and the COVID-19 State of Emergency since her original order declaring an emergency on March 8, 2020. Based on this latest extension, Executive Order 20-03 and the COVID-19 State of Emergency will be extended for an additional 60 days, through May 2, 2021, unless extended or terminated earlier by the governor.
For many of us, COVID has materially altered the way we work and interact with others. These changes have significantly impacted people with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Students with ADHD are often struggling to adjust to new classroom structures and methods of learning.
It’s fairly easy for clients to fire their attorney. Some clients might issue an overt announcement like “you’re fired!” Others might just make a polite statement that sounds more like a request such as, “Would you please give me my file so I can find another lawyer?” On the other hand, it’s not always easy for lawyers to fire their clients.
Law firms are known for their high turnover of associates, who leave to join a different firm, take a job as in-house counsel or government lawyer, or depart the legal profession altogether. Some of the reasons include demanding hours, unbearable pressure, a toxic culture, and a lack of work-life balance. But the reason we shall delve into here is the terrible boss.
Financial industry leaders expect that many people, both consumers and business owners alike, will continue to favor mobile banking options over traditional banking post-COVID. Take some time to learn the mobile options offered by your bank so you can make optimal use of their features.
The following is a fictional account of someone who is wrestling with the age-old challenge and uniquely human experience of procrastination. Although the story is not “true” from a factual standpoint, it contains much “truth” in the larger sense of the word – and many people will undoubtedly recognize themselves in this narrative.
2020 was a very tough year. Instead of reciting a lengthy laundry list of all the bad things that happened last year, I’d like to focus on one goal that I hope all law firms and legal organizations will commit to in 2021: building a good work culture in which everyone can succeed.
The other day I had something of an epiphany. For me, these are intuitive perceptions or insights into the meaning of something or, more frequently, how to do (or not to do) something. Of course, they are not really epiphanies in any true sense; most often, they are just sporadic breakthroughs of common sense. Most of these aha moments, when the light comes on, have to do with me recognizing some better, faster, easier, or smarter way of doing something...
The traditional legal employment model of hiring a full-time lawyer to work as an associate attorney or in-house counsel is not always suitable for certain law firms and organizations. Temporary projects or legal work that have limited duration don’t necessarily call for full-time employment of a lawyer. In those situations, working with a contract lawyer can provide the firm with needed resources and still be within its budget.
As business continues to dwindle for some law firms, they are laying off associates and staff, imposing pay cuts, and taking other measures to minimize the financial impact caused by the pandemic. The pressure to stay afloat may tempt lawyers to relax their billing practices, ramp up fee collection efforts, and even hoard billable hours. Working from home can also lead to careless billing practices as the line between work and family life begins to blur.
I am writing this post to say farewell to the Oregon legal community, as my last day at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program will be November 3, 2020. It will be a bittersweet parting, as I have been fortunate to have served our community for 21 years by helping people and building community, which has always been and remains my personal mission.
If you feel uncomfortable and unconfident marketing your law firm or yourself, you are not alone. Many professionals feel that it is unseemly to advertise, even though it is ethically permitted under the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct, as long as it is neither misleading nor false.
As the months are stretching longer and the days are growing shorter, many of us are looking for strategies to help buoy us for the long haul. One of the techniques that I find exceptionally helpful for these challenging times is GRATITUDE.
In my previous blog post, “Hoarding and Dabbling, Oh My,” I wrote about how the pandemic has resulted in a swift and dramatic transformation of the legal profession. This transformation has created new risk management challenges for many law firms, including hoarding legal work and dabbling in new practice areas. This blog post will focus on another area that may expose law firms to malpractice liability: not properly supervising associate lawyers.
Lawyers and students often leave healthy relaxing activities and rituals at the door of the profession, starting when they arrive at law school. As we get closer to Law Student Mental Health Day on October 10, 2020, I want to encourage law students to practice well-being, but I also want to help lawyers and students find ways to calm and soothe themselves.
Regardless of the practice area, many attorneys are now facing the dilemma of losing track of their clients. The pandemic, and most recently wildfires on the West Coast, has upended many people’s lives. Clients may have moved or changed their phone number, or even become homeless with limited or no access to phone or internet, making it difficult if not impossible to track them down.
A few weeks ago, I commented in my blog post about the recent Sunday morning I awoke to a warm and beautifully clear day, happily looking forward to some recreation and relaxation …. only to fairly quickly realize that it was not Sunday, it was Monday!
We understand that these are very difficult times, and we want to remind you that the Professional Liability Fund is here to help and has numerous resources available to assist you.
Criminal law has historically been viewed as a low-claim frequency and severity area of practice – and rightly so. Our claims statistics have borne that out. Over the past 12 to 18 months, though, we have started to see the potential for increased exposure to these practitioners – specifically, claims against criminal defense attorneys whose clients have been convicted, but have subsequently been granted post-conviction relief (PCR).
At the start of this pandemic, many businesses had to close their doors. A few businesses were able to switch gears and continue employing their workers to do something else. For example, some distilleries and wineries started using their own alcohol to make hand sanitizer at a time when it was in short supply. A pizza shop in Chicago that could no longer serve pizza by the slice started using its ovens to make plastic face shields for frontline workers.
Hot summer days have come. Soon enough it will be fall. Schools have reopened – albeit remotely for many districts – for concerned parents and young kids. Law school graduates have made decisions about diploma privilege, while others plan for, or have proceeded to take, the bar exam.
Many of us are more reliant than ever before on the stability and speed of our internet connection, now that the pandemic has forced us to work from home and many children are engaged in remote learning. If your home internet connection is not performing at the level necessary to support your needs, consider the options below to make it work for you.
It was twenty years ago now, but I still remember what it was like showing up at law school that very first week or so. I didn’t know anybody, and I felt a little bit like a fish out of water, because it had been a while since I’d been in school. I was the first person in my family to become a lawyer, and I didn’t know what to expect, so I was pretty nervous. But I was also excited!
COVID-19 has pushed many lawyers to quickly transition to a remote work environment and digitize their law practice. The swift and drastic transformation of the legal profession has created new risk management challenges for lawyers as they navigate different ways to run their business and deliver legal services. This blog post will explore some of the risks lawyers face when trying to get new clients and retain existing ones during the COVID-19 era.
How does the vicarious trauma caused by exposure to our clients’ suffering intersect with the stress and anxiety many are experiencing right now due to a global pandemic? If you have ever attended one of my CLE presentations, or met me in person, it is very likely you have heard me talk about vicarious trauma. I hope these discussions and others like them have helped us recognize a familiar experience for many of us in the legal community.
The pandemic has forced us to reexamine how we connect with others. Thankfully, technology has allowed us to create new virtual networking opportunities with colleagues, friends, and family. It is important to maintain those connections and establish new ones; otherwise it has been shown that social isolation can have damaging effects, both personal and professional.
Notarization in Oregon became a bit challenging when COVID-19 forced people to stay home and keep a physical distance. Many lawyers came up with clever ways to notarize their clients’ documents in person while still maintaining a safe distance.
I find myself amazed at the simplest of things sometimes and am curious, upon making new friends, what brings a sense of awe to them. What I knew before reading about some research is that when I feel that sense of awe, that fascination with something right in front of me, in that moment I possess buoyancy, light, and a childlike sense of wonder. I am in the moment, mesmerized and able to concentrate on the object of my awe.
Forgive me for not dispensing well-being advice and wisdom here. We are all navigating through uncharted waters today. Most of us are doing the best we can. There are times we get things right, and times we don’t. Below are some of my own reflections, and perhaps not uncommon examples, of how I have attempted to navigate those waters.
As we move forward and adjust to the changing infrastructure due to the pandemic, it is a good time to think about what type of phone system works best for your law firm. Phone calls remain a very popular form of communication, despite other methods such as email, video conferencing, and client portals, and may be the preferred method depending on the circumstances.
We are now three months in to what is, for many of us, this brave new world of remote work. For some, it has been a resoundingly successful experiment. Some lawyers who previously worked out of traditional law offices have made a smooth transition to working out of their homes – and may never look back, opting instead to take their practices paperless or work remotely all or part of the time.
It may be difficult, perhaps seemingly far-fetched, to consider that race and trauma coincide, or that they even exist in our individual or collective bodies. However, because of the manner in which our nervous system processes information and experiences of race and racism, both of which are so much a part of our American history and culture, it would be neglectful from a mental health standpoint to discount the mark that a societal history of racialization leaves in all our bodies.
With this blog post, let me pose the question, is there a “new normal” in your future?
Normally, the purpose of this blog is to talk about ways in which we can be healthier, happier lawyers. So my original plan for this post, when I thought about it weeks ago, was to write about a self-care topic – some little tidbit that would help better manage the daily stress of being a lawyer. But honestly, in this moment, that seems trite, a little patronizing, and frankly, a bit tone-deaf.
It doesn’t take much to open a law practice. Lawyers don’t need big expensive equipment and tools like in a dental or medical office. They can start practicing law with just a computer with access to the Internet and a few software programs. But a successful law practice does not end with having the right hardware and software. It’s the systems and procedures that will help lawyers move their cases along smoothly and provide the infrastructure for growth.
Living in the “place between no longer and not yet” (a phrase coined by Victor Turner, anthropologist, writer) can make us feel stuck. We all find ourselves living with uncertainty, and the unknowns can create a level of anxiety within us that has us freeze and then at times feel stuck.
The other day I was checking out our new OAAP blog, Thriving Today, to re-familiarize myself with the topics and the resources about which we had previously written. I wanted to post something this week that would be new and different, maybe even insightful and profound − a short piece that would dispense some really helpful advice about how, in times of significant difficulty and uncertainty, we can best help ourselves navigate our way through the challenges we sometimes have before us.
Hello everyone, When the OAAP embarked on our first endeavor to celebrate lawyer well-being week, we did not know what would unfold. What we found was sincere participation by our community and care for ourselves and others. I personally was amazed. We are all living our lives under ever-changing rules and encountering new experiences. Yet, we are able to carve out time to listen, learn, and participate together.
It turns out that the word “inspiration” comes from the Latin word “inspiratus,” which essentially means “breathe into.” It has been said that, before this literal meaning, the word inspiration had a theological basis that predated this definition. It initially referred to the influence of a divine entity on a person. I like to think of inspiration as the occurrence of both breathing life into and as something ethereal.
Welcome to Day 2 of Well-Being Week! I am so glad you have stopped by the blog today for our post on acts of kindness. There is some lovely research (see Dartmouth for a fact sheet) on how participating in acts of kindness improves our physical and mental health. Even the mere act of observing someone else sharing a moment of kindness improves our own well-being.
With the spread of COVID-19 and resulting changes in how we conduct business, we need methods for exchanging information in different ways. In particular, attorneys need secure methods to collaborate on Word documents with both their clients and colleagues. This collaboration could include simply gathering information from clients with an intake form, review and approval of a document by a client or supervisor, or more complex collaboration involving multiple versions and tracked changes.
The OAAP welcomes you to Lawyer Well-Being Week!! Watch our blog each day for new opportunities to take care, connect, be inspired, and inspire others.
If there are aspects of our human experience that many of us yearn for and thrive in the most, it would be meaningful connections and community.
In his article, “Why Leaders Need Meditation Now More Than Ever,” in the March 22, 2020, edition of the Harvard Business Review, Dr. Matthias Birk talks about the value of meditation for increasing empathy, analytical decision making, and creative thinking. These are traits needed by business leaders, and, I would argue, everyone else, during this time of change and uncertainty.
The COVID-19 pandemic may mark the end of an era of hesitation or resistance from lawyers about the use of cloud services and products. We are all now forced to rely on remote access programs and other technologies to help us do our work from home.
Working remotely and practicing physical/responsible distancing from friends and family is teaching me a lot! As an extrovert, I have learned that three hours of people contact time each day is quite satisfying, and I can achieve that through phone and Zoom most days.
In times of stress, I try to get really intentional about taking care of myself. I use a couple of strategies to increase my awareness of what is going into and coming out of my mind. I attend to how I am describing my circumstances and the world around me, and what I consume in the printed or visual forms. I came upon two great resources this week from The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley that I’ve been sharing with colleagues and friends.
Switching to a Work From Home (WFH) law practice is a big adjustment for lawyers and their colleagues, staff, and clients. To help support your efforts to make this go smoother, we have created a new practice aid, “Resources for Working Remotely in the Age of COVID-19.” You’ll find it in our new practice aid category: COVID-19.
It is no surprise that each of us responds differently to life’s changes and challenges: the birth of a child, the death of a parent, a good job obtained, a good job lost, a financial success, a financial setback. No two of us react in exactly the same way. That’s natural and to be expected.
At times like these, the amount of information available on the topic of COVID-19 can be overwhelming. With the vast number of unknowns and quickly changing landscapes, it can be difficult if not impossible to feel any sense of control. I’ve compiled various resources for you to reference, organized by topic, to provide you with a sense of where to look when you have questions.
Most law offices are operating with a skeleton crew onsite to receive, sort, scan, and deliver mail that is important for lawyers to continue practicing law by working from home.
In light of the spread of COVID-19, many lawyers are looking for ways to continue meeting with their clients and other parties while keeping some distance from them. Fortunately, we are in an age where technology makes it easy to implement social distancing efforts that many individuals and businesses are now undertaking. This blog post will cover two tools that will allow lawyers to work and maintain social distance: (1) video conferencing and (2) remote access.
Client portals allow lawyers to interact with clients in a secure environment to accomplish tasks such as gathering information, sharing documents, and making payments for services. They can be a valuable tool for lawyers, so consider implementing them into your practice if you haven't already.
“We sent a letter to our client regarding settlement and it was returned with no forwarding address.” “I am trying to close my trust account and I still have $500 belonging to a client I can’t find.” “I have a court hearing in ten days and my client’s cell phone has no voice mail box set up.” “My client no longer works for the employer he gave us.” "My client was deported." “Help! I don’t know how to find my client!”
Let’s start 2020 off with some wishful thinking: if only there were a silver bullet to solve all issues that lead to legal malpractice claims. Wouldn’t that be great? If only lawyers were better at calendaring deadlines. If only lawyers thoroughly understood and correctly applied the law. If only they meticulously documented their files. If only….
Client intake is an important process within a law firm. Just as with other industries and in our personal lives, first impressions speak volumes. According to the 2019 Clio Legal Trends Report, 42% of consumers surveyed say that if they like the first lawyer they speak with, they won’t need to speak with any others. Implement these tips to streamline and make your intake process more effective.
Despite popular beliefs about lawyers, a great majority of them are conflict avoidant and risk averse. Managing a firm difficult can be when it’s time to have tough conversations.
For lawyers who want to open their own law practice, here is something to consider: examine the market you want to practice in. Doing a market analysis is an essential first step to opening any business.
The PLF's loss prevention department provides assistance to Oregon lawyers in a variety of ways. Remember to take advantage of our resources at every opportunity.
Lawyer-client relationships deserve good beginnings. Good beginnings may seem unachievable on the days when we are strapped for time and feel pressed to get to the lawyering. Relax. Let’s strive for better beginnings for onboarding new clients.
Anne, the owner of a two-attorney law firm and a single mother of two children, pulls into her driveway after a busy and stressful day at the office. She looks at her front yard full of patches of dead grass, weeds, and random yard debris. Her eyes glance over at her retired neighbor’s perfectly manicured lawn and she lets out a long sigh....
If you find yourself in a matter that may require the use of an interpreter or translator, consider these guidelines and resources to help you understand and streamline the process.
This short video, the last in a 3-part series focusing on missed deadlines, expands on the previous videos to provide additional suggestions from Practice Management Advisor Rachel Edwards for how to avoid missing deadlines, ranging from calendaring to client and case screening.
Video 2: Why are Deadlines Being Missed: (And Tips from a Claims Attorney for Avoiding Missed Deadlines)
This short video, the second in a 3-part series focusing on missed deadlines, discusses from the perspective of PLF claims attorney Maureen DeFrank, the most common reasons the PLF sees deadlines being missed. It also provides various tips for how to avoid missing deadlines.
This short video, the first in a 3-part series focusing on missed deadlines, explains how to navigate and understand the publication titled “Oregon Statutory Time Limitations Handbook,” published jointly by the Professional Liability Fund and the Oregon State Bar. Otherwise known as the “red book."
Loss prevention is the chief focus for the Practice Management Advisor program, which is carried out by four attorney practice management advisors or PMAs. Since the PMA program is within the Professional Liability Fund, the loss contemplated is malpractice or professional negligence.
A law firm in Oregon, whom I will call Alpha Beta Charlie (“ABC”), recently posted an ad for an estate planning legal assistant. ABC received an impressive resume from a candidate. The resume hit all the right points and addressed specific requirements in the job posting. It had flawless grammar and a beautiful layout. The candidate seemed like a perfect match.
You may have heard about so many frauds that you are tired of listening. As a lawyer, you may avoid falling victim to fraud by being hyper-vigilant, by refusing to click on popup windows, or by refraining from opening unexpected attachments that could release malware onto your computer.
Payment by cash and paper checks is becoming a less common form of payment. Providing clients with the ability to pay electronically using a credit or debit card or an eCheck is now standard business practice. Many clients assume that a law firm will offer these types of payment options, and setting up an electronic payment system can provide for faster payments and simplify your billing process.
As lawyers embrace the trend to work offsite, remote access becomes an important tool. Remote access refers to the ability of one computer to remotely access information on another computer or network. This functionality lets lawyers access their applications, folders, and files on their work computer while working from home or somewhere offsite.
Unhappy clients are not the clients you want to have. They complain to you, to your staff, to their neighbors, to their friends, and they complain to the Oregon State Bar. One thing that makes clients unhappy is being ignored. Their emails go unanswered. There is no callback. If a receptionist is answering the phone, the receptionist becomes less sympathetic to the complaining client out of embarrassment or frustration.
Navigating the court system can be a challenging experience. Many attorneys find themselves interacting with the court on a regular basis, while others infrequently encounter the court system. Regardless of your experience interacting with the court, a plethora of resources are available to make the experience less stressful for you and your clients.
As more lawyers store their electronic files in the cloud through vendors like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box, or through practice management software like MyCase, RocketMatter, or Clio, they will eventually deal with the issue of what will happen to those files when they close their practice.
The three most important financial statements that lawyers should pay attention to are the income statement, the balance sheet, and the statement of cash flows. These reports will not only help you run a profitable law practice, they also will help you to provide current reports to your business loan officer if you plan to get a business loan.
Feeling overwhelmed by your workload and never quite able to pull yourself out of the black hole of tasks? Yet most attorneys have never been an employer, and the idea of all that goes into hiring an employee can feel overwhelming. Don't allow this to deter you from at least considering the prospect of hiring staff.
Since 2016, Clio has been doing annual surveys that found that lawyers, on average, bill only 30% of their time and collect on about 85% of those billed hours. The reason for this isn’t because solo attorneys and lawyers in smaller firms are slacking off. It’s because they spend part of their workday on nonbillable work that cannot be delegated due to a lack of staff. It’s also because lawyers are not always diligent in entering their time, invoicing, and collecting on their bills.
You do legal work for clients, hoping those clients will pay you an amount commensurate with that work. Is it possible to avoid the disconnect between what we think our legal services are worth and what our clients perceive as their value to them?
When it comes to scams, never let your guard down. Even though you may feel like you can recognize the red flags, the scammers are constantly evolving and creating more sophisticated scams as we catch on to their more obvious ploys.
December can be a busy month for many lawyers. One of the many tasks lawyers have to perform as they transition from 2018 to 2019 is submitting their MCLE compliance report to the Oregon State Bar. Sometimes lawyers are shocked to find out they are short 10 or more credits and then scramble for CLEs to make up for the shortfall.
Have you stopped to take stock of the resources available to the general public and for Oregon lawyers at the Oregon State Bar? There is a wealth of resources offered for free or for an affordable cost. Now is the perfect time to take stock of what is available to the general public that can be very useful for your clients and for your staff.
Lawyers often need to securely remove confidential information, otherwise known as redaction, from discoverable documents. The physical act of using redaction tape or a sharpie to remove information from documents is time-consuming and can be frustrating to say the least, especially since many documents now arrive in electronic form rather than paper. If you haven’t already, consider using software to assist with the redaction process.
One thing that some lawyers don’t typically do when opening their law practice is creating a vision and mission for their firm. They may have a website that includes an “About me” or “About us” page that consists of a biography of the lawyers. But biographies do not capture the firm’s identity: what it does, what it wants to be, and what it believes in. That is where the vision and mission statements come in.
There is nothing like a disaster occurring someplace else to make us pause to appreciate that we are not facing a similar disaster locally. I wonder whether the lawyers in the disaster zone were ready for the devastation to their law firms in the aftermath of the hurricane. I hope so because the disasters we don’t prepare for may bring harm to our clients despite our good intentions otherwise. Now is the perfect time to ensure that we are prepared in our own locale.
You’ve probably faced this scenario: You’re out of the office and you receive an email or phone call from a client or third party and have no access to a pen and paper to take notes. Many options are available that can assist with notetaking when you're working outside the office.
If you are a lawyer using Gmail in your law practice and want or need to save your client emails, here is a tip to help you do this. It requires you to have Microsoft Outlook with Adobe Acrobat PDFMaker add-on. With these two programs, you can convert an Outlook email folder including all attachments into a single PDF document.
One of the biggest challenges a solo without support staff faces is trying to get it all done. How is it humanly possible? It may take some extraordinary juggling and a persistent adherence to planning, but I believe you can get close.
Summer is a popular time for taking a vacation. Or you may be traveling for work. Even when taking a vacation, many attorneys unfortunately can never truly leave work behind. That usually means traveling with a laptop or other device to be used for completing work. Yet your ethical duty to maintain client confidentiality pursuant to ORPC 1.6 remains the same when working outside the office.
This short video shows you how to remove metadata from a Word or PDF document. Metadata is data stored in an electronic document that is hidden from immediate view. The information that is out of view, but attainable, sometimes includes information that is confidential or prejudicial to your client. PLF Practice Management Advisor Rachel Edwards explains how to use this important process for making sure you don’t accidentally reveal confidential information.
This short video shows you how to use the Windows snipping tool. The snipping tool allows you to capture a portion of what is seen on your computer screen, such as a picture, a paragraph from an article, or contact information. PLF Practice Management Advisor Sheila Blackford leads you through how to capture something using this tool and how to use the tool’s additional functions such as highlighting text, adding text, and emailing the captured information.
Many lawyers who don’t consider themselves “paperless” still prefer to electronically send documents to their clients or other parties. Most lawyers accomplish this task by using their email program. Email works great when the file is small. But it’s not as easy when the file is large. Most email programs allow users to send an attachment up to 10 MB, and a few others may stretch the limit to 25 MB. Here are some options for sending large files.
Lawyers are great planners. They are helpful to their clients because they are Grand Masters at the What-if Game: anticipating everything that might get overlooked or go wrong and planning accordingly. Today I’d like the opportunity to be the Grand Master for your professional What-if Game.
Communication is an important part of establishing and maintaining good relationships with your clients. Most if not all attorneys have represented a client who became upset after not receiving an immediate response to an email or phone call, even if the expected turnaround time is unrealistic. Managing client expectations about how you communicate can avoid the stress of miscommunication or clients feeling neglected.
It’s very temping for lawyers to slap an “of counsel” label on an arrangement they have with another law firm. The of counsel designation may sound attractive, but it has some pitfalls lawyers should be aware of.
The one thing we can count on is that plans change. You may have intended that your departure from practicing law was permanent. Sometimes, the reasons that compel us to exit stage left become replaced by reasons to return. How do we do it? Do you try to pick up where you left off or do you start somewhere else? If these are questions you are beginning to explore, here are some things to consider and some resources to help you with your journey.
This video shows you how to create your own pleading template from scratch and describes the benefits of creating your own versus using a standardized template. Former PLF Practice Management Advisor Jennifer Meisberger walks you through each step of the process, including creating the title, caption, body, line numbering, footer, and then saving the template.
Microsoft Office is a staple for many law firms and every version offers customer support. Yet support ends a certain period of time after release of the product. Office 2007 support ended on October 10, 2017. If you still use Office 2007 or an earlier version, you may be putting yourself at higher risk for malpractice claims or disciplinary issues now that your system is no longer supported by regular security updates.
This short video shows you how to create different signatures in Outlook. PLF Practice Management Advisor Sheila Blackford leads you through the simple process of how to create and customize your signature and also how to insert an electronic business card, a picture or logo, and a hyperlink to your social media accounts.
This video shows you how to create a standalone electronic signature that you can insert into Word documents. PLF Practice Management Advisor Rachel Edwards gives you step-by-step instructions on how to create, crop, sharpen, resize, and save your signature, as well as how to include your typewritten name and firm name in the signature.
How you manage your files can present a malpractice risk. Proper file management can help you reduce the risk because it allows you to find the documents you need and encourages documentation.
This short video shows you how to save time by using Outlook’s “quick step” feature for tasks like making appointments and sending emails to groups. PLF Practice Management Advisor Hong Dao gives you step-by-step instructions for making use of this quick and useful function.
In my previous blog post, I discussed the risks and reasons lawyers over-save data. This post is about how lawyers can avoid hoarding data. Don’t start indiscriminately deleting or shredding files to avoid hoarding data. The process must be thoughtful and deliberate.
The PLF is celebrating its 40th anniversary! The PLF began operations as the mandatory provider of primary malpractice coverage for Oregon lawyers July 1, 1978, though the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors created the Professional Liability Fund in 1977 under Oregon State Statute 9.080 and the approval of the OSB membership.
Lawyers are busy. You are busy. When you hear expressions like “time management,” you probably think, “I don’t have time for that.” More accurately, you don’t have time for complex technology or complicated strategies that involve extra steps in your workflow. What you need are simple solutions that will help you organize your work and accomplish it without delay. We’re here to help. Read on for some straightforward suggestions to help you manage your time and complete your work.
The old adage “I just want to practice law, not be a manager,” doesn’t fit with the business model of a law firm if you have staff. It benefits you and your clients if you put in the time to become a better manager and train your staff accordingly.
It may come as no surprise that law firms routinely store huge amounts of client and administrative data in both electronic and paper format. Although lawyers are legally and ethically required to retain certain kinds of data, some data is retained unnecessarily. When you store data you aren’t required to keep or don’t need, it’s called data hoarding.
If your billing rate isn't matched by your collection rate, you may have a problem with your billing. Here are five tips that can help you send out bills that get paid promptly in full.
At the beginning of 2017, I wrote a blog post on using the 80/20 Pareto Principle to manage your time. I start this year with a similar post on time management. For this post, I turn to Habit 3 of Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to help lawyers see time management from another perspective.
The new year is a great time to create or update a business plan for your law practice. Whether you are a recent graduate, a seasoned veteran, or just new to private practice, it is never too late to set goals and identify strategies to reach those goals. You might think you don’t have time to write a lengthy business plan. You might also wonder, would your practice even benefit from the planning process? The answer is a definite yes!
Lawyers don't have the resources, time, or money to jump on the latest technology product or service for the mere sake of being an early adopter or follower of the crowd. We frequently only stop to consider the what and how and forget the why: does the product or service facilitate providing better legal services to the client in the most efficient manner?
The concept of “New Year’s resolutions” may have a negative connotation for many of us. It is estimated that on average, New Year’s resolutions fail at a rate of close to 80%. The problem is that we create resolutions that are too vague, making them impossible to implement, track, and carry out long-term. They are merely declarations, with no actual substance or thought behind them. Thus why many of these resolutions quickly fall to the wayside.
Imagine you post an ad on craigslist to hire a legal assistant. Someone immediately responds by email and attaches a zip file. Believing the file contains the applicant’s resume and cover letter, you click on the attachment and download it to your server. Soon afterward, you can’t access any files on your computer. You have just been infected by ransomware.
Lawyers routinely receive requests to share materials from the client file. Sometimes clients ask the lawyer directly, but other times the request comes from new counsel or third parties. Evaluating these requests requires you to consider who is entitled to the client file, as well as what documents and materials belong in the client file. Furthermore, you must also ask whether any limitations prevent you from releasing the complete contents of the client file.
According to a professional organizer based in New York City, the average person loses at least one hour per day because of disorganization. Disorganization can be particularly damaging to attorneys, who need to utilize their time efficiently in order to maintain their practice. Remember that it can be easy to organize your office, but the importance lies in maintaining the system longterm.
You may have heard about the popular tax season IRS scam in which the targeted taxpayers were notified by email they were in serious trouble for tax fraud. The IRS scam is an example of spear phishing: the targeted attempt to steal information.
Lawyers increasingly rely on the cloud to store, share, and synchronize their client files. Many use Dropbox and Google Drive for this purpose. However, the use of these common cloud storage services presents some data security concerns.
As of August 1, 2017, Uniform Trial Court Rule (UTCR) 21.040(1) is amended to require that a document submitted electronically, whether as a PDF or PDF/A, must allow for copying and pasting text into another document, as much as practicable. The goal of the amendment is to conform the UTCR to the Oregon Rules of Appellate Procedure, which already require electronically filed documents to include the ability to copy and paste.
Fraudsters continue to target lawyers, seeking access to client funds and personal information. Lawyers must be vigilant to protect clients against unauthorized access to funds and sensitive information held by the firm on behalf of the client.
Oregon has had a devastating fire season this year, and it’s not over yet. Hundreds of firefighters are currently working hard to contain the Amber Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge while also fighting the Chetco Bar Fire, the WhiteWater Fire, and the High Cascade Complex. Let's not forget other natural disasters afflecting different parts of our country. This is a good reminder for lawyers to take steps to protect your practice and livelihood against disasters.
A batch of newly minted lawyers will be inducted into the bar this October. The Oregon State Bar New Lawyer Mentoring Program is a valuable resource for newly admitted members of the bar. As many lawyers have experienced, law school curriculums are often not geared toward preparing their graduates for the practice of law. Even with the advent of programs such as clinics and classes taught by practicing lawyers, new admittees often feel overwhelmed and unprepared.
The safekeeping of property is a well-known responsibility of lawyers. Attorneys understand that we must take great care in holding and accounting for any money in our possession that belongs to clients or third parties. But what happens when a lawyer has kept a client’s money safe, and the client is nowhere to be found come time for distribution? Does the lawyer keep the money in trust indefinitely? Do the funds become the property of the law firm?
The PLF gets frequent calls from lawyers asking about best practices for dealing with closed files. Traditionally, lawyers put their closed paper files in filing cabinets and store them in their office. When the cabinets are full, they move the files to a storage facility or the basement of the office building. The files stay there until destruction time, which is usually 10 years.
We all have deadlines to contend with, including those imposed by our clients, by opposing counsel, by the court, and by statute.
The medical profession uses it. Aviation uses it. Construction uses it. Even the culinary field uses it. It is the checklist. A checklist is a simple tool that can improve the effectiveness of performing complex tasks.
Text messaging with your clients is a practice that requires thoughtful consideration. If you find yourself in a situation in which you want or need to save text messages, you have many options available, but there is no "one size fits all" solution.
There are many ways to encrypt email messages sent to clients or other parties. You can use email encryption software like Trustifi, Virtu, or TitanFile. You can also use secure client portals within practice management software to securely exchange documents with clients. Even Outlook Email allows you to send encrypted email messages using a digital ID.
We now live in a digital world. Many of our interactions occur online using computers, smartphones, and other mobile devices. This new reality requires passwords at multiple stages, whether to unlock our computer or smartphone or log in to a practice management software program or website. Here are some suggestions for creating and managing passwords while following proper security measures.
Two-factor authentication is becoming one of the most important methods for safeguarding data. You’ve been using it for years without thinking twice about it. Every time you use your ATM card together with your ATM password, you are using two-factor authentication to access your bank account at the ATM machine.
If you have old computers and other office equipment laying around in your law office or home, there is a good reason they are still with you and not in the dumpster. This article will discuss why you should be concerned about the data in your devices and the proper way to dispose of them.
The legal world is changing quickly on many fronts, most notably technology. The way we communicate is greatly impacted as a result. Unfortunately, it has also highlighted a divergence among different generations of attorneys, particularly regarding the most appropriate form of communication in different contexts.
Lawyers often ask how to go about sharing legal fees with colleagues or entities outside their law firm. The answer depends on how you arrange the division, and with whom you intend to split the money. Lawyers who split fees as part of a referral arrangement must be careful to follow ethical guidelines, and to also take practical steps to avoid discipline or fee disputes with clients and colleagues.
Have you ever wanted to text an appointment reminder or a quick message to your clients without having to use your cell phone? There is an easy and free way to do this. It’s called Email-to-SMS Gateway.
This past winter has been difficult for many of us to handle, both personally and professionally. Whether it be your commute to and from work, your child’s school schedule, or ensuring sufficient food supply in the pantry, inclement weather conditions can be a stress-inducing phenomenon. It can be especially difficult for attorneys facing deadlines and court appearances if the weather situation does not permit safe travel to and from the court facility.
Lawyers set fees for clients using a variety of arrangements. Charging a fixed fee, a set price for the services the lawyer provides, offers benefits to both you and the client. In addition, fixed fee agreements may reduce the possibility of fee disputes and increase the likelihood of carefully documenting the scope of representation.
One of the biggest roadblocks to succession planning is not adopting a reasonable timeline. I like reverse planning: Start with the end goal and work your way back. I guarantee that you will be surprised at how many interim steps are necessary.
The responsibilities and tasks of being a lawyer can be overwhelming. Fortunately, a simple rule can help you manage your time and law practice by showing you where you should focus your efforts and resources. It’s called the 80/20 Rule or the Pareto Principle.