Coping with Mistakes

Mistakes happen.  The practice of law is complex, clients don’t always follow through as directed, and sometimes we commit errors.

The emotion of being caught up in a legal malpractice claim can be overwhelming:

A significant measure of a person is not whether he or she avoids trouble, but how he or she meets it when they find each other…. I have developed immense respect for many of our covered parties, not because of their perfection as lawyers (they weren’t perfect), but because of how they coped with the claim.
Bruce Schafer, PLF Director of Claims – Parting Thoughts: Lawyers are like other people.

Help is here if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed

Take this advice from the Professional Liability Fund:

We recognize that having a legal malpractice claim filed against you is often very upsetting. Lawyers react in many different ways, including anger, loss of confidence, anxiety, avoidance, and inability to focus.  If you would like assistance coping with the stress or other challenges associated with a legal malpractice claim, the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program offers free and confidential support and assistance. Information you provide to OAAP Attorney Counselors is not shared with the PLF Claims staff, your defense counsel, or any other person. In fact, no information is disclosed to any person, agency, or organization outside the OAAP without your consent. For free and completely confidential assistance call 503.226.1057 or 1.800.321.6227 (OAAP).  NOTE:  We ask that you do not discuss the facts or merits of the case with anyone other than the PLF, defense counsel, or others with whom you maintain a legally confidential relationship.

Putting claims into context

One of the most important roles we fulfill at the PLF or OAAP is helping you put a claim in context:

  • You are not alone.  The PLF receives approximately one claim for every nine lawyers it covers.  More than 80% of lawyers in practice 20 years or more have had a claim.
  • Having a strong reaction to an allegation of malpractice is very common.
  • There is never a downside to contacting the PLF or OAAP.  Our services are confidential and we are here to help.
  • The PLF has two claims attorneys on call every day to talk to Oregon lawyers. You should contact the PLF if you are served with a summons and/or complaint; you are concerned that you may have made a mistake; a client indicates that you have made a mistake; someone threatens you with a claim or makes a demand for damages against you; you receive a subpoena, or someone requests information, documentation, and/or testimony about your representation of a client.  Call the PLF even if you are concerned that the claim may not be covered.
  • At least one Attorney Counselor is on call daily at the OAAP office.  The OAAP is available to assist with any issue that affects the ability of a lawyer to function effectively.
  • The PLF has four practice management advisors on staff who are available to help you take action and constructively move forward with office system improvements.

All Rights Reserved [2015] Beverly Michaelis


Oregon Supreme Court Tosses Out 40 Year Precedent

Anytime the Oregon Supreme Court throws out a 40 year precedent, it qualifies as news. Here is a pertinent excerpt from the The NW Policyholder:

Good news for policyholders today from the Oregon Supreme Court: the court overruled the 42-year-old Stubblefield decision, making it much easier for defendants in litigation to protect themselves if their insurance company fails to reach a reasonable settlement with the plaintiff. Today’s decision in Brownstone
Homes Condo Ass’n v. Brownstone Forest Heights LLC means that a policyholder may more easily reach an agreement with the plaintiff to resolve the litigation and allow the plaintiff to go after insurance assets. Oregon has now joined the majority of states that allow policyholders to enter into these “covenant judgment” agreements without jumping through a series of hoops that are fraught with peril.

Read more here.

Discounts for Oregon Lawyers

10-12-2015 4-25-49 PMIn 2015 the Professional Liability Fund added WordRake, Client Conflict Check, MyCase, and Zama to its discount lineup.  But did you know that we offer discounts on five other products?  Visit our website to learn more.

The PLF offers discounts on cloud-based practice management software, including MyCase, conflict checking software (Client Conflict Check), and business productivity software (WordPerfect, PDF Fusion, and Perfect Authority).

WordRake, one of our newest offerings, is editing and proofreading software geared to the legal profession:

WordRake tightens, tones, and clarifies your writing. Just click the “rake” button and watch the in-line editor ripple through your document, suggesting edits to remove clutter and improve unclear phrasing, just like a live editor. Give your first drafts the polish of a second or third draft, quickly and painlessly.

Watch a 30-second demo here.

Zama is a news, alerts, and content monitoring service:

Zama mines over 70,000 news, information, and social media sources so you don’t have to. Easily find the information to help grow your business and strengthen client relationships.  Organizations that use Zama include Oregon law firms Ball Janik LLP and Karnopp Petersen LLP.

To better understand how Zama works (and might apply to your practice), read this blog post by Bob Ambrogi: New Service Helps Solos, Small Firms Monitor News Relevant to their Practices.

We are always on the lookout for ways to help Oregon lawyers save money and hope to add more discount programs to our lineup soon.

All Rights Reserved [2015] Beverly Michaelis

How to Say No to Clients


Did you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions?  You are in good company.

Lawyers often feel pressured to practice “door law.”  The source of the pressure may be economic:  I don’t really have a choice.  I need the money.  It can also be emotional: Family, friends, or former clients are depending on me.

If you find yourself in this predicament frequently, here is some sage advice that first appeared in In Sight.  These tips apply no matter who is doing the asking: clients, friends, family, neighbors, teachers, etc.:

  • Be respectful.  Listen to the asker and don’t interrupt. Respect the request, then respect your right to decline the request.
  • Keep it simple.  You have the right to say “no.”  Elaborate justifications aren’t necessary [and may lead to backsliding, since many of us say “yes” to avoid feeling guilty].
  • Assign responsibility elsewhere:  “That sounds very nice; unfortunately, my
    calendar is booked solid.” Now it’s your calendar’s fault. Stand firm. Avoid engaging in discussion or negotiation.
  • Refer to others who might fill the opening well.
  • Say yes when there is a good reason to do so, it will benefit you, or the cause is one you believe in.  [Life is too short to take on a case or client you find repugnant.]

I encourage you to read the full article here.

Postscript – What would I add to the above?

It’s time to keep it 100, get real, and dish some tough love:

  1. You are not the only lawyer who can help your clients.  If money is an issue, there are others who participate in the OSB modest means program, offer sliding fee services, or take pro bono referrals.  If you continually give your time away to nonpaying clients, your practice will decline and you may need to close your doors.  If you close your practice, you aren’t available to help anyone.
  2. If the case can’t be won, are you doing a service or a disservice by taking it? Once a lawyer commits to a case, many clients assume the case CAN BE WON, no matter how you qualify your representation.  Not all clients have a legal remedy, for a variety of reasons. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but the truth is better than false hope.  You can always suggest [and should suggest] a second opinion.
  3. Even when the client has the money and the case is decent, you are not always the right match.  Don’t let someone push you out of your comfort zone. Law is complex.  Staying on top of your desired practice areas is hard enough. Straying into unfamiliar areas is stressful, time consuming, expensive [because of the learning curve], and more likely to result in a claim or bar complaint.
  4. You are a lawyer, not a doctor.  Keeping clients who won’t follow your advice, don’t cooperate, and look to place blame anywhere but with themselves, is a pure misery.  This is not a situation you can cure, except by firing the client.

All Rights Reserved [2015] Beverly Michaelis


Crowdfunding Theft – New Liability For Entrepreneurs 

A Washington court ruling against a Kickstarter creator who didn’t produce exposes legal risks. Here’s what lawyers should know.

Reasons You Should Visit WSBA’s new Unbundled Legal Services Webpage

Whether you belong to the WSBA or not, I recommend you follow NW Sidebar – one of the best legal blogs out there. 

Here is a reblog of their recent post on unbundling.  For an Oregon perspective, see The Ethics of Unbundling and Unbundling Legal Services – The Latest Twist.

Here is the NW Sidebar post:

WSBA has a new Web page about unbundled legal services, and we have five great reasons why you should check it out.

Clear paragraph and font formatting in Word

From Jan Berinstein, the expert behind Compusavvy:

Even if you have been using Word for a long time, you might not realize how easy it is to remove paragraph and/or font formatting from text. This post highlights a few different methods for stripping formatting, all of which work in recent versions up through and including Word 2016. You can clear paragraph and/or font […]

Bankruptcy for the Non-Bankruptcy Lawyer

On October 14, presenters Christine Coers-Mitchell and Johnston Mitchell of Coers Mitchell Law LLC presented Bankruptcy for the Non-Bankruptcy Lawyer.  Topics included decoding “bankruptcy talk,” what to do if a bankruptcy filing occurs during litigation, how to settle a bankruptcy claim, how to handle divorce-related bankruptcy issues, strategies for creating “bankruptcy proof” agreements and transfers, and bankruptcy issues involving real property.

Below is a compilation of the best tips from this CLE via Storify 

Access Bankruptcy for the Non-Bankruptcy Lawyer here  or click on the image below:


[All Rights Reserved 2015 Beverly Michaelis]

Changes Coming to Oregon eCourt

Two important changes are coming to Oregon eCourt beginning Monday, November 16:

Documents Submitted for Signature by the Court

Beginning November 16, 2015 all circuit courts using the eCourt system will electronically affix the name and title of the individual signing a document below the signature line.

All documents submitted to the court for signature must comply with UTCR 21.040(3):

  • Leave a blank space of not less than 1.5 inches.
  • Create a blank signature line following the last line of text.
  • Do not include a title or name underneath the line.  Specifically, do not add “Circuit Court Judge.”
  • Update your pleading templates to conform to the rule.
  • Follow this example:

10-23-2015 8-39-29 AM

Direct questions to: Daniel Parr, OJD Communication and Outreach Manager at

Expansion of Electronic Notifications – Case Management System to Generate Notices of Orders Entered

Beginning Monday, November 16, 2015 all circuit courts using the eCourt system will notify attorneys by email when orders are entered on their cases.

This is a long-awaited improvement to the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) case management system.  Here are the details shared by OJD:

How does it work?

When the court enters an order in the register of actions, the case management system will generate and email a notice to all attorneys on the case. The email will be sent to the email address where the attorney already receives notices of hearings and trials.

What do I need to do?

No action is required. If you are receiving notifications when hearings and trials are set then beginning November 16, 2015 you will start receiving notices regarding entry of orders. The system will send the email from Make sure this email address is whitelisted in your email settings. If you need notifications to be directed to others within your office look into the option of auto-forwarding through your email provider.

Does the email include the signed order?

No, the email will only include a basic court notice form telling you the case number and what order was signed, based on how the order is entered in the register of actions (such as Order – Show Cause). To access the signed order, you will need to either access the case through the Oregon eCourt Case Information (OECI) system over the internet through an online subscription or otherwise go to the courthouse and access the case through a court terminal. More information about subscription services to OECI can be found here.

Will I be notified when other documents are entered into the system?

Not at this time. On November 16 attorneys will only be notified when orders are entered. OJD is evaluating expanding the capacity for similar notifications in the future.

Provided courtesy of Daniel Parr, OJD Communication and Outreach Manager


Three Features to Customize in Windows 10

More advice on how to make Windows 10 work best for you – this time from the incomparable CompuSavvy.  If you aren’t already following this blog, you should be.

Source: Three features to customize in Windows 10