Marketing online means beefing up your LinkedIn
profile, getting the right headshots, developing a logo and more – read all about it in yet another excellent post from NW Sidebar.
“Cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.” Barack Obama, President of the United States
The Identity Theft Resource Center has documented over 500 data breaches in 2014 through early September. This represents a 26.2% increase over the same time period last year. The news isn’t any better for the legal profession.
The latest ABA Legal Technology Survey Report notes that “Nearly half of law firms were infected with viruses, spyware or malware last year.” Fourteen percent of law firms “experienced a security breach last year in the form of a lost or stolen computer or smartphone, a hacker, a break-in or a website exploit.”
Where to Start
With such staggering numbers, it is easy to become overwhelmed. If you are concerned about cyber security but don’t know where to start, begin here at the ABA Web site. If you are a prolific user of mobile devices, be sure to check out the ABA’s suggestions for Security on the Go. To understand the state of security in US law firms, read this post by Bob Ambrogi.
Make Encryption Your Best Friend
Encryption is a powerful way to protect sensitive data belonging to you and your clients. The ABA post Playing it Safe provides a good overview. Since TrueCyrpt is no longer available, check out the following reviews of encryption software: LIfehacker, GFI, PC World, and Gizmo.
You’ve Heard it Before: Use Strong Passwords
It seems we are reminding lawyers every other day about the importance of using strong passwords unique to each account or Web site. See these recent posts on the ABA Law Technology Today blog:
- 3 Steps to Producing Powerful Passwords
- Password Fundamentals: Quick Security Tip [Video]
- Strong Password Refresher
Firewalls, Anti-Spam, Anti-Virus, Malware Protection
The best protection is comprehensive. This excerpt from The 2014 Solo and Small Firm Technology Guide provides guidance. Don’t be afraid to hire an IT expert to help.
Purchase Cyber Liability and Data Breach Coverage
The Professional Liability Fund (PLF) Excess Claims Made Plan automatically includes a cyber liability and data breach response endorsement with these features:
- Forensic and legal assistance to determine compliance with applicable law
- Notifications to individuals as required by law
- 12 months credit monitoring to each notified client
- Loss mitigation resources for law firms
If you aren’t eligible or don’t wish to purchase excess coverage through the PLF, contact a commercial carrier.
Protect Yourself Against Scams
The security measures outlined above are a good start toward protecting your firm and your clients from scams. For more complete protection, get educated. Order the free PLF CLE: “Protecting Your Firm and Your Client from Scams, Fraud, and Financial Loss,” and talk to your bank about fraud protection services.
[All Rights Reserved - 2014 - Beverly Michaelis]
Viruses are More Common at Law Firms than Encryption, ABA Survey Shows
“Nearly half of law firms were infected with viruses, spyware or malware last year, according to the latest ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. At the same time, only a quarter of law firms had any kind of email encryption available for their lawyers to use, the survey found.
Also, 14% of law firms experienced a security breach last year in the form of a lost or stolen computer or smartphone, a hacker, a break-in or a website exploit.”
Parting isn’t always such sweet sorrow. In fact, it can be downright contentious.
If you are contemplating leaving your firm, do your research. Meeting your ethical obligations fulfills only part of your responsibilities.
IF YOU ARE A PARTNER
Conduct your partnership withdrawal in a manner that honors the contractual and fiduciary responsibilities owed to your fellow partners. Contractual duties are controlled by your written partnership agreement. Fiduciary duties are described in case law and codified by statute in Oregon’s Revised Partnership Act.
IF YOU ARE NOT A PARTNER
Review your employment contract, employment letter, office policies, office procedures, or any other applicable terms that may control the process for terminating your relationship with your current firm or your obligations upon departure.
ARE ISSUES LIKELY TO ARISE?
Consult outside counsel experienced in the areas of lawyer mobility, partnerships, fiduciary duties, lawyer separation, and law firm dissolution.
PUT CLIENTS ABOVE ALL ELSE
If you are making a lateral move to another firm or setting up your own practice, remember that the client’s freedom of choice in selection of counsel is paramount. Always put the interests of your clients first. Keep the transition as amicable, professional, and stress-free as possible. Contentious withdrawals alienate clients and damage relationships.
GIVE NOTICE TO YOUR FIRM BEFORE YOU CONTACT CLIENTS
Inform the firm of your decision to leave before contacting any clients. Failing to give adequate and timely notice to your firm or partners before you contact clients is a violation of the duty of loyalty owed by a lawyer to his or her firm based on their contractual or agency relationship. It may also constitute conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in violation of Oregon RPC 8.4(a)(3).
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Accepting credit cards for payment is a business practice some lawyers avoid because they are fearful of the ethical implications. The process can be intimidating, unless you know the answers to some common questions. Here is a quick refresher course:
Q: Can I establish a credit card merchant account with my bank?
A: Yes. However, carefully review OSB Legal Ethics Opinion No. 2005-172. If the bank requires that you designate a single merchant account for all credit card transactions and you accept credit card payments for earned and unearned fees, your merchant account should be a trust account.
Q. If credit card payments for earned fees are deposited into my trust account, how do I avoid commingling?
A: Promptly transfer those funds into your business account (once the credit card transaction has cleared the bank).
Q: Who pays the credit card merchant fee?
A: There is no ethical barrier to passing on the merchant fee, or crediting the client for the net amount of the transaction only, if the client agrees. Therefore, the first step toward charging clients merchant fees would require updating your written fee agreement to include this cost. If you wish to modify existing agreements, remember that any modification in the lawyer’s favor “… requires client consent based on an explanation of the reason for the change and its effect on the client…. In addition, the modification must be objectively fair.” OSB Legal Ethics Opinion 2005-97.
The real obstacle in passing on merchant fees is a little something called the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). As noted by the Oregon State Bar in OSB Legal Ethics Opinion No. 2005-172:
Passing the merchant fee on to the client or crediting the client for the net amount of the transaction only … may implicate Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act, 12 CFR §226. As a result, you may be compelled to offer cash discounts to all clients and make specified disclosures to your clients who pay by credit card. See CONSUMER LAW IN OREGON ch 14 (Oregon CLE 1996 & Supp 2000).
For more information, see Just Say No to Charging Clients Merchant Fees.
Q: Can I designate my business account as my merchant account if I accept credit card payments for earned fees only?
A: Yes. This is a good approach if you want to spare yourself the extra bookkeeping involved in transferring funds and covering bank fees. See the answer to the next question for another alternative.
Q: Are there any other choices? I don’t want merchant fees taken out of my lawyer trust account and I don’t want the hassle of reimbursing them either.
A: Yes and No. In all likelihood, your bank will not be able to offer an agreeable alternative. Most are unyielding in terms when it comes to merchant accounts. The solution is to give your credit card business to a private processor who can offer more flexibility. One option is to use a processor specializing in lawyer merchant services. Check out this post for a comparison of four such providers.
Generally speaking, a credit card processor specializing in lawyer merchant services will debit your general account, not the lawyer trust account, for all fees. The payments you receive from clients can be deposited into either account at your direction. As always, practitioners should conduct their own research when selecting a credit card processor. This post is not an endorsement of the services compared here.
Q: What about Using PayPal or Square?
A: The Lawyerist post comparing four processors specializing in lawyer merchant services also includes a discussion of PayPal and Square. I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in PayPal to carefully read PayPal: Lawyer’s Friend or Foe? If you are smitten by Square, please review My Experience with Square.
Q: What happens if a client disputes a fee paid by credit card?
A: If a client disputes a fee paid by credit card, the credit card company will “charge back” the payment against the account to which it was originally credited. This means the disputed funds will be deducted from the your account and given back to the client. If the charge back is against the trust account and you have already withdrawn the credit card payment as an earned fee, other clients’ money may be at risk. You are ethically bound to ensure that any charge backs which jeopardize other client funds in trust are promptly covered with your own funds. OSB Legal Ethics Opinion No. 2005-172.
Q: Can I enter into a written fee agreement that allows me to charge the client’s credit card for the balance due?
A: Yes. Your agreement should carefully spell out the conditions under which you are authorized to charge the client’s credit card. For example, your agreement may permit you to charge the client’s credit card for the full amount invoiced as soon as a bill is rendered or only if payment by check is not received within a certain time period.
Q: Are there any other steps I should take before processing the client’s credit card for payment?
A: If you’re swiping the client’s card on a mobile device in the client’s presence, provide the client with a receipt by text or e-mail. Remember to credit the client’s account and reflect the activity on the client’s bill.
Using the client’s credit card information to process a payment without the credit card present is a trickier proposition. First, be sure you know the terms imposed by your processor for “card not present” transactions. Some processors may withhold funds for “card not present” or “card absent” transactions for up to 30 days. Second, research any legal requirements that may apply to credit card transactions, such as the PCI (Payment Card Industry) e-commerce guidelines. For recurring payments on account, these include:
“You must follow the terms of your merchant agreement. Most merchant agreements require you to have original signed standing authorizations from credit card holders. This bit of signed paper will help you if the customer challenges your charges.
It is best practice to encrypt credit card numbers. This is a mandatory requirement in the PCI guidelines.
Limit the term of the recurring payment to no more than one year, particularly if you have “Card holder not present” (CNP) transactions.
Expunge the credit card details as soon as the agreement is finished.
The problem with encryption is that you must be able to decrypt the data later on in the business process. When choosing a method to store cards in an encrypted form, remember there is no reason why the front-end web server needs to be able to decrypt them. Database-layer column or table level encryption is considered best practice.”
For help with these issues, contact your credit card processor. Visa offers an 81 page PDF with guidelines for its merchants, including how to handle “card absent” transactions.
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“To grow and thrive, you should be continually addressing and solving the problems you encounter with a plan of action.” More great advice from NWSideBar in Part II of “More Business Plan Magic.”
The following announcement was posted yesterday on the Oregon Judicial Department Web site:
Chief Justice Thomas A. Balmer, Oregon Supreme Court, has approved a plan for the move to a mandatory eFiling requirement for attorneys filing cases in Oregon’s circuit and appellate courts. The Oregon Judicial department will circulate proposed court rules in the upcoming months for comment. The plan calls for a mandatory date of December 1, 2014 for the eleven circuit courts that currently have the Oregon eCourt system, including the eFiling component (File and Serve), and includes a transition plan for those courts that implement later. [Emphasis supplied.]
Prior to the implementation of mandatory eCourt, OJD will publish the final version of the mandatory UTCR eFiling rules. The current UTCRs are available here, but expect changes in October.
If you are not already familiar with the eFile and Serve system, get training. Yesterday’s OJD announcement included the following:
Webinars and other eFiling trainings are available for Bar members. The trainings are designed for people with varied levels of experience with Oregon’s eFiling system. CLE credit has been approved for some of the sessions, and additional trainings will be added as needed.
The attached Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) document has additional information, including a link to training dates and registration information. Additional information about eFiling and mandatory eFiling is on the OJD Web site.
You should also review the resources available from the Professional Liability Fund, including our collection of eCourt practice aids and our June 15 CLE: Survival Tips for Practicing in eCourt and Organizing Your E-Mail. You may also search this blog for 10 posts on eCourt that served as inspiration for the PLF practice aids.
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By choosing File > Options in Microsoft Office, you can:
- Add AutoCorrect entries to fix common typos and misspellings
- Delete AutoCorrect entries you don’t use
- Create exceptions to AutoCorrect entries
- Rename AutoCorrect entries
Changes made to AutoCorrect in any Office program are global. For example, if you delete the AutoCorrect entry in Outlook which converts tm to the superscript ™ trademark symbol, this change will apply in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. NOTE: This does not mean the trademark symbol is forever lost, only that Office will stop autocorrecting tm when typed with parentheses. You can still insert the superscript version at will by choosing Insert > Symbol.
To add, delete, modify, or rename AutoCorrect entries in Office 2010 or 2013, follow these steps. In Office 2007, launch Word, select the Office Button > Word Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options:
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So you’ve download Office for iPad, now what? Learn how to get the most out of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint by watching the tutorials available from InvestinTech. If you are new to Office for iPad, start with the General Tips. Some of the more popular InvestinTech topics are:
- Sending Office for iPad Files to Other Apps
- Faster Ways of Entering Your Data into MS Word for iPad
- How to Use Tables in Excel for iPad
- Showing Presentations with PowerPoint for iPad
- How to Use OneNote for iPad as a Portable Scanner
Each tutorial includes screen shots and easy-to-follow instructions.
- Slim PDF Reader
- Docx to Doc Online
- PDF to HTML Online
- HTML CSS Templates
- PowerPoint Templates
- Able2Extract Mobile Apps – Allows you to convert PDFs into editable Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, and create PDFs on your mobile device.
Share your favorite Office for iPad tips by commenting below. Enjoy!
Beverly Michaelis  All Rights Reserved.