Oregon eCourt Q and A

Looking for answers to frequently asked eCourt questions?  Check out this Q & A session from the November 19, 2014 Oregon eCourt Update CLE, jointly sponsored by the Oregon State Bar and Professional Liability Fund.

 

What Should I Do About Lost or Stolen Client Files?

imagesIs there any worse feeling than having your briefcase or laptop stolen?

While it can be hard to bounce back from such an experience, there are immediate steps you should take  if you discover that confidential client files have been compromised.

  1. File a police report.
  2. Don’t risk your personal safety. While Find my iPhone and MyLaptopGPS can track lost or stolen mobile devices and laptops, leave the police work to the police.  Do not confront the thief.
  3. If your laptop or mobile device is missing or stolen, notify your IT department.
  4. Change your network user name and password.
  5. Consider changing your user name and password for all accounts – anything you access via the Web.
  6. Check lost-and-found if applicable.  Believe it or not, laptops, devices, and briefcases get turned in by honest citizens.  Don’t give up until you try.
  7. Monitor Craigslist.  If you believe a thief has posted your property for sale, inform police.
  8. Contact your business insurance or liability carrier.  Property, valuable papers, or data breach coverage may cover the cost of replacing your laptop or reconstructing files. Beginning in 2013, the PLF added a Data Breach and Cyber Liability Endorsement to all excess coverage plans. The endorsement provides coverage for information security and privacy liability, privacy breach response services, regulatory defense and penalties, website media content liability, and crisis management and public relations services. Read more here.
  9. Inform your clients.  This is never easy, but clients must be informed if confidential information has been compromised. A sample notification letter is available on the PLF website.  Select Practice Management > Forms > Client Relations > “Notice to Clients re Theft of Computer Equipment.”
  10. Begin reconstructing your file.  Lawyers who are straightforward about an office break in or theft often find that clients are sympathetic, understanding, and more than willing to help.  With a bit of luck, you should be able to reconstruct most or all of your file from your backup or documents supplied by clients.
  11. Going forward, consider storing passwords or other sensitive information in an encrypted password manager.
  12. Backup, backup, backup!  Online backup services are a great way to automatically back up your laptop’s data.  Read more about backup protocols and available resources on the PLF website. Select Practice Management > Forms  > Technology > “How to Backup Your Computer.”
  13. If the theft occurred during an office break in, reassess building security. Talk to the building owner or property manager about alarms, surveillance, or other measures.
  14. Learn more by reading Protect Confidential Files – It Helps!
  15. Call your friendly Law Practice Management Advisor for help.

Scanning Documents for eCourt

mouseIn my last two posts, I discussed the 10 steps all practitioners should take to get ready for eCourt and how to manage the anxiety and stress of transitioning to the eCourt system.

This week the focus is on two essential eCourt tools: PDF and OCR software. 

Efficiency with a 2 in 1 Solution

There is no doubt in my mind that a two-in-one solution is best: PDF conversion software with OCR capability built-in. 

Most practitioners know immediately what a PDF document is, but not everyone is familiar with the acronym OCR

OCR refers to “optical character recognition,” and OCR software does exactly that.  It takes a scanned image – like your printed pleading document – and uses software to recognize the text on the page, making your scanned document searchable.  This is a necessity for eFiling under the Uniform Trial Court Rules. 

Software that can perform these two functions simultaneously is a great time saver. 

Assuming you have a working scanner that meets your needs and is compatible with your operating system (Mac OS or Windows 7/8), the next step is to get your hands on two-in-one PDF and OCR software.  If you don’t already have a scanner, see last week’s post for suggestions

Top Three Choices for PDF/OCR Software

  1. For me, the number one choice for PDF/OCR software is Acrobat XI.  As I said last week: get the “Pro” version for the redaction features. Adobe is running a 20% off sale on monthly subscriptions for two more days (the sale expires December 3).  See last week’s post to learn more.
  2. Nuance Power PDF Advanced would be my second choice.  Over the years, Nuance has expanded product features to compete against Acrobat – to the consumer’s benefit. 
  3. Coming in last is PrimoPDF.  I admit this is my personal bias, however, I don’t feel it is as robust as the other two choices. 

All three of these programs convert to PDF and all three have OCR software built-in to make your scanned documents text searchable. 

Setting Acrobat XI Pro to OCR Automatically

By default, Acrobat XI Pro should be set to OCR automatically if you initiate document scanning by using the program.  To verify that Acrobat XI Pro is set to OCR automatically, follow these steps:

  1. Start Acrobat XI Pro 
  2. Select Create
  3. Choose “PDF from Scanner”
  4. Move your cursor to the bottom right of the pop-up menu and select “Configure Presets…”
  5. Toward the bottom of the “Configure Presets…” box, verify that “Optimize Scanned PDFs” and “Make Searchable (Run OCR)” are selected
  6. Click Save then Close

Acrobat XI Pro will retain these settings.  As long as you initiate a scan from within Acrobat XI Pro, your documents will automatically be OCRed.  Follow these five simple steps to scan a document using Acrobat XI Pro:

  1. Load the document(s) in your scanner
  2. Start Acrobat XI Pro 
  3. Select Create
  4. Choose “PDF from Scanner”
  5. Select Black & White Document

and you’re done! 

Prove to Yourself that Your Scanned Document is Text Searchable

To prove that your PDF is searchable, type <ctrl> F if you are a Windows user; <command> F if you are a Mac user.  The “Find” box pops up:

find box

Enter a search term you know is contained within your document, such as your client’s name.  Click Next.  In a text searchable PDF, Acrobat XI Pro will jump to the first instance where the search term is found.

[All Rights Reserved – 2014 – Beverly Michaelis]

 

 

 

 

Submitting Your First eCourt Filing

Mandatory eCourt begins today for the eleven circuit courts that currently have the Oregon eCourt system.  In last week’s post, I described 10 steps to get ready for eFiling. Today I want to address how to manage the stress and anxiety of this transition.

Give Yourself Extra Time

I truly believe that once practitioners gain experience with eFiling, the transition will be embraced.  I appreciate that the road to gaining experience brings anxiety, especially since there is no way to “practice” with the Odyssey eFile & Serve system.

Knowing that the first filing or two might be a little nerve-wracking, please give yourself extra time.  You will become familiar with the process, but building familiarity and confidence takes time.  Don’t create extra pressure for yourself by waiting until the deadline date to file a document.  If your filing is rejected, you will need to seek relation back to cure the missed deadline.

If at all possible, file well in advance of the deadline.  If your filing is rejected, you will have time to breathe, fix the problem, and refile.

File During Business Hours When Support is Available

The Odyssey eFile & Serve system is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  While it may be tempting to complete a filing at 10:00 p.m. Friday night, technical support staff are not available to assist you if something goes awry.

File during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Central Time when Tyler Technologies support staff can assist you.

Tyler Technologies support staff can walk you through:

  • Initiating a new filing
  • Filing into an existing case
  • eServing parties in a case

Tech support can also use “GoToAssist” to take control of your computer and help you complete an eFiling. Keep the support number handy: 1.800.297.5377 and don’t hesitate to use it.

Reach Out to Experienced Colleagues

If you know a colleague who has used the Odyssey eFile & Serve system system, ask for pointers.  There are practitioners in Yamhill, Crook, Jefferson, and a handful of other counties who have lived with eCourt for 18 months.  If you don’t know of someone personally who has used the system, posting to a listserv or contacting a Resource Lawyer through the Oregon State Bar Lawyer-to-Lawyer program may be an option.  (Note: eCourt is not a specific resource category in the Lawyer-to-Lawyer program, but Litigation is.)

[All Rights Reserved – 2014 – Beverly Michaelis]

 

Are you eCourt Ready?

Clickhere_medFLT_490x250On December 1, 2014, eCourt will become mandatory for the eleven circuit courts that currently have the Oregon eCourt system, including the eFiling requirement.  Follow these steps to get ready for the mandatory transition:

  1. Get a credit or debit card that can be used to pay court fees online.  The Odyssey eFile & Serve System (eCourt) accepts Visa, MasterCard, and Discover.  Learn more about eCourt filing fees here.
  2. Create an eCourt account by registering with Odyssey eFile & ServeDon’t wait, do it now.  If you need assistance setting up your account, it may be difficult to reach Technical Support on the December 1 effective date. Registration is only a few steps.  Choose an account type, enter your name, contact information, and e-mail address, then create a password.  Sole practitioners should register as a “Firm Administrator.”
  3. Check your e-mail inbox for an activation link from Tylerhost.net – the vendor that operates Odyssey eFile & Serve for Oregon.  Click on the activation link to finish creating your account.
  4. Login to Odyssey eFile & Serve with your e-mail address and newly created password, click on the Firm Administrator tab, and set up a payment account (credit card).  [Note: if you are a firm member who created an individual user account this step was completed by your Firm Administrator.]
  5. Check your “tech.” To be an e-filer, lawyers will need a scanner and PDF conversion software with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capability.  More on this below.
  6. Sign up for one of the free, one-hour training sessions on how to use Odyssey eFile & Serve.  There are three classes this week and additional classes scheduled for December.  See the complete class listing here. During the training you can ask questions.  If desired, take the training more than once.
  7. Watch the Oregon eCourt Update CLE presented on November 19, 2014 – available for Oregon lawyers to stream or download free of charge on the Professional Liability Fund (PLF) website.  This CLE provides an overview of the rules and includes a question and answer session with Oregon Judicial Department staff.
  8. Read Chapter 21 of the Uniform Trial Court Rules – Filing and Service by Electronic Means – and the Chief Justice Orders adopting out-of-cycle amendments.
  9. Get an OJCIN Account (Oregon Judicial Case Information Network).  OJCIN is the official website of Register of Actions and judgment records for the State of Oregon Judicial Department. OJCIN includes OJIN (Oregon Judicial Information Network), OECI (Oregon eCourt Case Information Network), and ACMS (Appellate Case Management System).  If you want to view case activity and access documents online, you must have an OJCIN account. ($35.00 per month.)
  10. Monitor the Oregon State Bar (OSB) and PLF websites.  Using the discussion from the Oregon eCourt Update CLE, OSB staff are preparing answers to frequently asked eCourt questions that will be posted in the near future.  This information will also be accessible on the PLF website.

Buying a Scanner 

Mac users can search for “top rated scanners” at MacWorld. If you have Windows OS, check out the online reviews at PC Magazine.  The Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 was voted the best scanner of the year in 2013 by MacWorld and comes bundled with Acrobat XI Standard for Windows.  (You can – and should – upgrade to Acrobat XI Pro for a few more bucks.  See below.)

Brother scanners are popular too.  A “combo” machine – combination printer/scanner/copier may also be a good choice depending on your needs.  Check the sources listed above for product reviews.

When you’ve chosen a scanner make and model, use sites or apps like PriceGrabber and Google Shopper to find the best prices. Include shipping costs for the best head-to-head comparison.

PDF Conversion Software with OCR Capability

All documents submitted via the eCourt system must be text searchable PDFs.  PDF conversion software with OCR capability (Optical Character Recognition) turns your scanned documents into text searchable PDFs.  The free Adobe Reader software cannot do this.

For PDF conversion software, nothing beats Adobe Acrobat XI in this author’s opinion.  (Get the “Pro” version for the redaction features.)  While it may seem that you have no choice but to subscribe to Acrobat on a monthly basis, you can still purchase the product outright. Call sales at 800-585-0774 for details.  My two cents:  Buy the subscription.  Adobe is running a 25% off sale through December 3.  A subscription to Acrobat XI Pro is $14.99 per month (normally $19.99).  Subscriptions are locked in for one year and include all upgrades free of charge plus free telephone support.  If you purchase Acrobat XI Pro outright, you must buy the upgrades separately.  Free telephone support ends in 30 days, although other support options remain available.

PrimoPDF and Nuance Power PDF Advanced are worth a look too, but don’t have all the bells and whistles of Acrobat.

Using Your Scanner and PDF Conversion Software with OCR Capability

Use your scanner and PDF/OCR software to:

  • Create searchable PDFs of your pleading documents for eFiling.
  • Create searchable PDFs of attachments to pleading documents (e.g., a scanned copy of a Last Will and Testament attached to a petition for probate – a copy of the Will is eFiled with the petition; the original Will must be filed conventionally).
  • Create searchable PDFs of signature pages or signed documents.  (Text on the page will be searchable; signatures will not.)

Note:  Lawyers sign eCourt documents using a conformed signature: /s/ Lawyer Name.  If you are eFiling a document containing signatures other than your own, you must scan the signature page or the entire document.

Master the Tech and Make Your Life Easier

  • If you aren’t already using a version of Word, WordPerfect, or OpenOffice with built-in PDF conversion, upgrade now.
  • When you convert to PDF directly from within Word, WordPerfect, or OpenOffice your document is automatically text searchable.  No need to scan.
  • Always choose File > Print > to create a PDF from your word processing program.  Select File > Print, find the PDF printer in your printer list (Adobe PDF for example), click Print, give your document a name, and save it in the desired location.  When you create a PDF by selecting File > Save As > PDF or File > Publish to PDF, you are converting all the metadata in your document.  Additionally, files that are “published” to PDF are about 80% larger than documents that are “printed” to PDF.
  • Digital pleading templates are the way to go.  If you are printing the body of your document on numbered pleading paper, you will need to scan and OCR your documents for eFiling.  If you aren’t familiar with digital pleading templates, check out these options from Microsoft.  [Note: conform all templates to meet Oregon court rules.]

Troubleshooting

Don’t struggle on your own!  Call Odyssey eFile & Serve free technical support at 1.800.297.5377, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Central Time.  Tech support can help with the following issues:

  • Browser error messages
  • Registering with Odyssey eFile & Serve
  • Setting up payment accounts / payment account troubleshooting
  • How to initiate a filing
  • How to file a document into an existing case
  • How to eServe parties

Use the Knowledge Base

You can find quite a bit of useful information in the Odyssey eFile & Serve Knowledge Base, which is divided into these categories: Administration, Court Contact, eFiling, eService, Notifications, and Support and Training.

Under Administration, learn about attorney management, fees, firm information, passwords, payment accounts, reconciliation, registration, and user management.  Under Court Contact find telephone numbers and other contact information for Multnomah, Yamhill, Crook, and Clatsop County Circuit Courts.  eFiling provides information on the active locations for eCourt, describes the filing process, document status, and how to create templates in the eFiling workspace.  Under eService read answers to commonly asked questions, such as where do I find proof of service for a filing I submitted?  (Also see Notifications.)  Access the Knowledge Base here.  Look for this sidebar on the left side of your screen:

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[All Rights Reserved – 2014 – Beverly Michaelis]

 

 

Beware of Bad Check Scams Aimed at Lawyers

beverlym:

Lawyers continue to be a common target of check and money scams. Stay alert with the latest tips from our friends at NWSideBar.

Originally posted on NWSidebar:

An overview of the most recent fraudulent check schemes that continue to plague law offices, what they look like, and how to spot them.

View original 978 more words

Learn by Doing: Acrobat Tips and Tricks

Mandatory eCourt in Oregon is just around the corner. By court rule, all documents submitted through the eFiling system must be in PDF or PDF/A format and practitioners need to get up to speed now.

How can you become a power user of Acrobat, the powerful PDF authoring software?  By connecting to resources like the Adobe Acrobat Users Community and Acrolaw, the Acrobat for Legal Professionals blog.  Consider the usefulness of these shares and posts:

Subscribing to Acrolaw Posts

To follow the posts on Acrolaw [Acrobat for Legal Professionals] visit the home page, scroll down, and in the right navigation pane, choose the ACROLAW RSS FEED or under the BLOGROLL heading, select the third option “Sign up to get my Blog via email.”  Under BLOGROLL you can also follow the author, Rick Borstein, on Twitter or link to his training movies.

Accessing the Acrobat Users Community

Anyone can access the Adobe Acrobat Users Community. Visit the Web page for tutorials, quick tips, resources, and to submit questions.  If you prefer, the users community is active in social media.  Consider following the community on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, or LinkedIn. You can also sign up for the AUC [Adobe Acrobat Users Community] Newsletter.

Buying Acrobat at a Discount

If you don’t already own Acrobat XI Pro – the latest version with all the bells and whistles – Adobe is offering a special deal through December 3: $14.99 per month if you commit for a year; $29.99 per month if you don’t.  [$29.99 per month is the regular rate.] Read more about Acrobat XI Pro here.

All Rights Reserved [2014] Beverly Michaelis

 

Word to WordPerfect Conversion: How to Strip Formatting

If you’re a Corel WordPerfect aficionado, chances are you’ve been frustrated by the “hidden” codes in Microsoft Word documents.

While there are various ways to see Word’s “hidden” formatting, sometimes it’s just easier to strip the formatting out.  Here’s how:

  • Start WordPad*
  • Select File, Open…
  • If you are converting a .doc file – change All WordPad Documents (*.rtf, *.docx, *.odt, *.txt) to All Documents (*.*).  If you are converting a .docx file, there is no need to change this setting.
  • Browse to locate the Word file.  Double-click to open it.
  • Select File, Save as.  Choose Plain Text Document.
  • This warning appears:2014-09-11_15-12-38
  • Click Yes.
  • Close WordPad.
  • Open the file in WordPerfect.  If you receive a prompt to convert file format, click OK.  Format your document as desired in WordPerfect.

*WordPad is a free text editor/basic word processor that ships with Windows.  Find it quickly by using Search all programs and files.

[All Rights Reserved 2014 Beverly Michaelis]

Establishing a Successful Home-Based Practice

Shingle Style CottageWhat does it take to establish a successful home-based practice?  Are there hidden pitfalls to drafting legal documents in your spare bedroom?

Learn whether you would be suited to working from home by considering these nine criteria:

Dedicated Office Space

Find a bedroom, den, or other area you can dedicate to full-time work.  Practicing at the kitchen table is less than ideal if it means assembling and disassembling your “office” each day.

Family and Confidentiality

If you live with others, take appropriate precautions to prevent access to client information (on computers and mobile devices as well as physical client papers).  The laptop you share with your spouse is not suitable for your law practice.

Boundaries

Failing to set personal boundaries can result in one of two extremes: nothing gets done or all you do is work.  Several years ago I met a home-based lawyer who reached out for help with procrastination and time management.  During the work week the lawyer let family chores and home responsibilities rule. To meet client deadlines, the lawyer worked all weekend.  As you might imagine, the lawyer’s spouse was not happy with this arrangement.  I have also witnessed the opposite. Workaholic tendencies are amplified tenfold when your commute is just down the hall….

Isolation

Working from home usually means working alone.  Make a concerted effort to get up and out.  Set concrete goals to attend CLEs, networking events, bar committee meetings, or go to lunch with colleagues.  Make these contacts a regular part of your schedule.

Privacy and Professionalism – Your Address and Telephone Counts

Arrange for a business mailbox at the post office, UPS Store, or through an executive suite and get a dedicated business phone.  This can be your cell, Google Voice [if you can still get a number], a VoIP provider, a virtual receptionist, or anything else you can figure out.  Using your home address or home telephone allows clients, opposing parties, and opposing counsel unfettered access to your personal life.

Meeting with Clients

This is best done outside your home.  One of the easiest solutions is an executive suite.  If this isn’t economically feasible, you may know a colleague with a spare office or conference room.

If you pursue one of these options, keep one eye on confidentiality and the other on conflicts.  I am not saying that borrowing someone’s conference room makes you a “firm member” for conflict purposes, but I am asking that you remain attentive to how such arrangements may evolve.

Whatever you do, don’t use coffee shops.  Revisit the comments above.  For help in selecting an executive suite, visit the PLF’s Web site.  Search for the form/practice aid “Virtual Law Practice.”

Home Office Permits

Projecting professionalism and protecting your privacy are the foremost reasons for not meeting clients at home, but if you need more, I am happy to oblige.

Most municipalities regulate home offices – which could, in the right circumstances – have a substantial impact on neighboring homes.  (Parking is the first issue that comes to mind.)

Do your research!  At a minimum, expect to complete an application and pay a fee.  You may also be required to notify neighbors, wait for the objection time to pass, and attend a neighborhood hearing on your permit application.

Premises Liability

The typical renter’s or homeowner’s policy covers risks associated with social invitees who slip and fall on your premises. It does not cover risks associated with business invitees who are injured on your premises [unless you purchase an appropriate rider or endorsement].  Of course, if you are uninsured you assume all the risk all the time.

Business License

If you live in a municipality that requires licensure, purchasing a business license is another step in addition to obtaining a home office permit.

[All Rights Reserved 2014 Beverly Michaelis]

 

The Nontraditional Law Practice

A nontraditional law practice can be anything a lawyer wants it to be:

  • Hybrid or alternative fee arrangements;
  • Unbundling;
  • Virtual law practice;
  • Home-based practice;
  • All the above; or
  • Something else entirely

Hybrid or Alternative Fee Agreements (AFAs)

As more clients push back against the hourly rate model, lawyers are looking for unconventional ways to price legal services.  One of the most popular?  The hybrid or alternative fee agreement (AFA).

Before you enthusiastically embrace this option, read this post and make sure your AFA satisfies the 5 “C’s” test:

  • Clarity
  • Completeness
  • Compliant
  • Common sense
  • Can’t be excessive

Hybrid or alternative fee agreements are often combined with other elements of a nontraditional practice.  Used correctly, they can be a huge asset.

Unbundling: Have it Your Way

With unbundling, clients pick and choose discrete services from a menu of available choices:

Providing limited legal services is not a new concept. Transactional lawyers have long served in the role of document reviewer or preparer. So how is unbundling different? It takes the idea one step further by employing a team approach in which the lawyer and client decide who will do what based on the legal services required by the client’s case. The client takes a much more active role in the matter and often assumes responsibility for pro se court filings and appearances.

Keep in mind that unbundling has its risks: Unbundling in the 21st Century: How to Reduce Malpractice Exposure While Meeting Client Needs and its ethical limitations.  See Unbundling Legal Services: Limiting the Scope of Representation and The Ethics of Unbundling:  How to Avoid the Land Mines of “Discrete Task Representation.”

Virtual Law Practice or Home Practice?

A virtual law practice or virtual law office (VLO) is a term of art referring to online delivery of legal services through a secure client portal.  If you are interested in creating a VLO, Stephanie Kimbro’s book Virtual Law Practice: How to Deliver Legal Services Online is a must.  [Available on the ABA Web store here. If you are not an ABA member, save money at checkout by using the Professional Liability Fund’s (PLF’s) discount code OSBPLF.]  Also see this post about click wrap or click through fee agreements.

VLOs aside, most lawyers who express an interest in practicing virtually mean they want to work from home – due to economic necessity, personal choice, or both.  In next week’s post, I’ll discuss the nine steps to establishing a successful home-based practice.

[All Rights Reserved 2014 Beverly Michaelis]