Lawyers often take on too much. Regardless of how much we want to help, there are only so many hours in the day that we can dedicate to our jobs. Try some of these ways to better manage your calendar before things get out of control.
eDiscovery Software: Eye of the Storm
Discovery can be a major headache for law firms. The proliferation of electronic data makes it challenging for lawyers to efficiently manage all of this information. The typical discovery process can be complicated and expensive, especially for solo and small firms. Managing electronic discovery used to be seen as necessary only for large firms in complex litigation. Now, law firms of all sizes need to be able to handle eDiscovery.
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.
New Practice Aids Available on the PLF Website
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.
If You Build It They Will Come: Make It Easier for Potential Clients to Contact You
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?
Don't Underestimate the "Obvious": Document, Document, Document
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.
Positive Takeaways from COVID
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.
PLF CLE on Malpractice Risks in Bankruptcy - The Takeaway
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.
No Regrets: Tips to Help Clients Avoid Settler's Remorse
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.
Resources for Improving Your Remote Court Hearing Experience
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:
Mobile Banking: Take Advantage and Tread Lightly
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.
Communication with Clients: Adjust as Necessary
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.
Working from Home? Make Your Internet Work for You
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.
Resources for Connecting During COVID-19
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.
Phone Systems: What Works for Your Firm?
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.
Collaborative Word Processing
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.
Maintain Control by Narrowing Down Your COVID-19 Resources
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.
Client Portals: Take Control of Client Communication
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.
Client Intake: Making it More Effective and Efficient
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.
Loss Prevention Resources
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.
Using Interpreters or Translators
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.
Video 3: Practice Management Tips for Avoiding Missed Deadlines
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.
Video 1: Introduction to the Oregon Statutory Time Limitations Handbook
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."
Electronic Payment Processing Software for Law Firms
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.
State Courts: Take Advantage of All Available Resources
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.
Hiring Staff: Considerations Before and During the Hiring Process
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.
Evolving Scams: Don't Let Your Guard Down
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.
Options for Redaction
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.
Notetaking Outside the Office
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.
All Travel and No Play: Confidentiality Concerns if Working While Traveling
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.
Video: How to Remove Metadata from a Word or PDF Document
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.
Managing Client Expectations
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.
Microsoft Office 2007 and Beyond
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.
Video: How to Create a Transparent Personal Electronic Signature
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.
Lawyers as Supervisors
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.
Setting Achievable Goals for the New Year
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.
Tips for Establishing and Maintaining an Organized Office
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.
Copying and Pasting from a PDF
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.
New Lawyer Mentoring Program
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.
Saving Text Messages
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.
Passphrases: An Enhanced Level of Security
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.
Communicating Effectively and Professionally
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.
Inclement Weather Conditions and State Court Facilities
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.