OSB Professional Liability Fund

Playing the What-If Game

July 13, 2018
by Sheila Blackford

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.
 
Someday, something bad may happen to you so that you are unable to tell someone the passwords to your computers, smartphones, and case management programs. How will someone know how to check your calendar for critical deadlines approaching? Where will someone be able to find your active client list with accurate contact information for notifying your clients that something bad has happened? Where will someone find your trust accounting and billing records? Someone may find your IOLTA trust account checkbook and your general business account checkbook, but unless someone has been properly added to these accounts, no one is going to be able to sign IOLTA trust account checks to refund trust account balances to clients or to sign general business account checks to pay your office expenses. And who is the someone you want to handle these things on your behalf?
 
No one likes to think that some tragic accident might put them into the intensive care unit of a hospital or a morgue. But just like we have to bring up unpleasant what-if scenarios for our clients, we need to consider how these scenarios might impact ourselves and our families, and we are obligated to consider how they might impact our clients.
 
Where to begin:

  1. Identify someone to assist in closing your law practice.
  2. See the PLF publication, “A Guide to Protecting Your Clients’ Interests in the Event of Your Disability or Death.” www.osbplf.org – see the Practice Management Tab at the top of the website, select Publications on the drop-down menu. Also see the practice aid forms that are referenced in this publication by selecting Forms on the drop-down menu and choosing the category Closing Your Law Office.
  3. Check with your bank where your IOLTA trust account and general business account are located. Obtain the proper forms required by your bank to add an additional authorized signer on your IOLTA trust account. In Oregon, this second signer does not need to be an attorney, but Washington rules require that the second signer be an attorney. Do the same for your general business account.
  4. Gather account numbers and passwords together in one place. For example, have a red file folder labeled “In Case of Emergencies” in your desk drawer. You may want to keep this information stored safely in your safe deposit box at your bank branch or at home, but make sure that information on accessing this safe deposit box can be found quickly.
  5. If you would like to have help with any step, please call one of the PLF practice management advisors. We’re here ready to play the What-if Game with you.