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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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....
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.