The Consequences of Technological Incompetence — NWSidebar

Being tech savvy isn’t just a “good thing.”  As this repost from NW Sidebar points out, it is key to avoiding potential malpractice and ethics complaints.

Being a Luddite can be expensive, embarrassing, and potentially disastrous for lawyers and clients. Tech incompetence can result in wasted time (and therefore increased cost to the client), loss of money and identity, ethical sanctions, and embarrassment or worse in the courtroom. Those are high prices to pay for being too proud (or lazy) to […]

via The Consequences of Technological Incompetence — NWSidebar

Are Limited License Legal Technicians Coming to Oregon?

With the success of the Washington Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) experiment, will Oregon finally dip its toe into paraprofessional licensing? The answer appears to be yes.

In June 2017 the OSB Futures Task Force submitted its report to the OSB Board of Governors. Among the recommendations: implementation of a paraprofessional licensing (LLLT) program in Oregon.

The task force recommended the BOG appoint a committee to develop a detailed implementation plan. The plan would include draft rules of admission, practice, and professional conduct for approval by the Supreme Court and adoption by the BOG. ORS Chapter 9 would be amended to provide for licensure of paraprofessionals who would be authorized to provide limited legal services, without attorney supervision, to self-represented litigants in family law and landlord-tenant proceedings. Consumer protection measures would also be enacted.

Why Do We Need LLLTs (Paraprofessionals)?

Short answer: access to justice. As detailed in the task force report, the number of self-represented litigants continues to grow. Legal Aid, pro bono services, and limited scope representation only meet a small part of the need.

Minimum Qualifications and Licensing

The task force report lays out a series of minimum qualifications for paraprofessionals or LLLTs. Licensing would include “liability insurance in an amount to be determined,” preferably through the Professional Liability Fund, and continuing legal education. To protect the public from confusion, LLLTs would be required to use written agreements with mandatory disclosures.

Scope of Services

“Licensees should be able to select, prepare, file, and serve forms
and other documents in an approved proceeding; provide information and advice relating to the proceeding; communicate and negotiate with another party; and provide emotional and administrative support to the client in court. Licensees should be prohibited from representing clients in depositions, in court, and in appeals.”

Proposed Expansion of Washington’s LLLT Program

BOG approval of a LLLT/paraprofessional program seems greater than 50-50. As we await the outcome in Oregon, Washington is seeking to update its program. Under draft amendments, the LLLT role would expand to permit:

  • Accompanying and assisting clients in specific court proceedings, mediation, settlement conferences, and arbitration proceedings.
  • Attending, but not participating in, depositions.
  • Communicating with opposing counsel and parties on procedural matters and negotiations.
  • Gathering information on the value and potential encumbrances on a home.
  • Presenting agreed, uncontested, and default court orders.
  • Assisting clients seeking nonparental custody or major modifications up to the point of the adequate cause hearing.
  • Dividing single-family residential dwellings which have no more than twice the homestead exemption in equity.

Washington bar members have until July 17 to submit comments.

Parting Thoughts

At its June meeting, the BOG accepted the OSB Futures Task Force report. As noted on the OSB website, “the board will be looking at those recommendations throughout the year and likely into 2018.” Comments are encouraged and may be submitted to president@osbar.org.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

Happy Independence Day!

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

 

The Importance of Following Up

Today’s post is inspired by Ben Schorr, technologist and senior content developer with Microsoft, who has “been in this business long enough to remember when Al Gore invented the Internet.”

Being the all-around smart guy that he is, Ben recently posted:

Follow-up is one of the most important skills you can have in business.

Ben couldn’t be more right, and let me tell you why.

Clients

When is the last time you checked in with your clients? Asked how they are faring? Provided them with a status update?

Nothing is more aggravating to clients (and more damaging to client relations) than failing to follow-up. Avoid this trap by establishing an office system that reminds you to reach out and make contact.  It can be as simple as a tickler system or reminder app. Consider the advantages of interactive web portals that offer clients 24/7 access and apps like Zipwhip that let you send scheduled texts and auto-replies to clients.  Are phones overwhelming you? Worried about missing client calls? Start using Call Ruby. (Discounts are available to Multnomah Bar Association members.)

Tasks and Deadlines

Always create follow-up reminders for all outstanding to-dos and deadlines – particularly those that require action from someone else.

  • Include everything to ensure you get what you need to complete tasks on time and avoid a potential malpractice claim.
  • Include everyone who owes you information, documents, or an undertaking. Clients, co-counsel, opposing counsel, associates, staff, medical providers, investigators, and process servers are the tip of the iceberg.

Staff

Staff also deserve follow-up. Brief weekly meetings can cover a lot of ground: staff workloads, pending projects, your schedule, and responding to staff questions. For tips on working with and delegating to staff, see Revisiting Smart Delegation.

Finances

It’s been almost 7 years since I penned Accounts Receivable Do Not Improve Like Fine Wine, but the advice has not changed. You simply must follow-up on your finances:

Marketing and Business Goals

Follow-up is key when it comes to goal setting. Start by quantifying what you want to achieve, then be accountable (that’s the follow-up part). Whether it’s a business plan or a marketing plan, you are only cheating yourself if you don’t take the time to measure your results.

I’ve written extensively about marketing this year and prior years, both incidentally and deliberately.  If you’re looking for social media tips, resources for market research, how to calculate your marketing costs per case – you’ll find those posts here.  Use the Search feature at the top of my blog or under Categories choose “Marketing.” Whatever you do: follow-up!

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis

Lawyer Websites: The good, the bad, and the ugly

What goes into a well-designed law firm website?  A photo of the city skyline? A copy of your latest legal brief?  Your phone number in 6 point font in the footer?  Probably not, and here’s why.

Don’t Be the Prototypical Lawyer Website

The best law firm websites have bold, modern, eye-catching designs.  Ditch the city skyline and leave the gavel and courthouse imagery behind.

Give Clients the Content They Want

Eighteen months have passed since The Rainmaker Blog published Legal Marketing Stats Lawyers Need to Know.  Remember what we learned:

  • 25% of people researching legal topics visit YouTube during the process.  Use video to answer the most common questions that arise during initial client intake.
  • Post substantive content, but not your latest legal brief.  The information you share should be understandable to a lay person.
  • Offer resources, including apps like Our Family Wizard, a shared parenting tool.

Clients Want to Talk to You – Now!

Clients are ready to act when they visit your site.  Don’t bury your phone number in teeny, tiny font in the footer of your website.  It should be prominent – above the fold, easy to find, and presented as a call-to-action.  74% of prospects beginning a search online end up contacting lawyer’s office via phone.

Offer Maps, Directions, Parking, and Transportation Links

Eighty-five percent of clients use online maps to find legal service locations.  Ask your web designer to add a Google Map with a marker to your website.  Offer directions and links to parking and other transportation options.  Include a photo of the outside of your building and surrounding businesses.  This will make your address easier to spot.

Other Important Tips

  • Get expert help with SEO – 62% of legal searches are non-branded (“Your city” “divorce attorney.”)
  • Mobile is increasingly important.  A Google Legal Services Study in 2013 found 69% use both a smartphone and a PC for research.  Ownership of mobile devices has grown exponentially in the last four years.  In 2015 a Pew report suggested that one in five Americans access the Internet only on their smartphones.  If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re missing out.
  • Focus on local.  A FindLaw survey in 2014 found that 71% of people looking for lawyers think it is important to have a local attorney.  Clients don’t want to travel if they can avoid it; they may also assume local attorneys know the local judiciary better.  Whatever the case may be, follow these tips from Five Best Practices for Law Firm Websites.
  • Use Google analytics to learn everything you can about your web traffic: how you acquire visitors, how they behave once they land on your site, and how many you “convert.”  (A measurement of the latter would be how many visitors actually complete an online contact or intake form.)
  • As Lawyerist suggests, ban interstitial pop-ups.  They’re annoying (particularly on mobile) and likely to be blocked anyway by your potential client’s browser.
  • Do include proper attorney profiles.  Five Best Practices for Law Firm Websites suggests including practice areas, a unique differentiator, newsworthy legal issues you’ve resolved, and of course your experience and education.  What else can you include: how about community involvement? Interests? Hobbies? Something, anything that will personalize you a bit more.
  • Yes, you need a headshot and Five Best Practices for Law Firm Websites mentions this too.  Opinions abound about dos and don’ts, and if you’re like me you can usually pick the lawyers out of a headshot lineup.  Try Googling “modern headshot examples.”  Pinterest is a good resource.   Here are some suggestions from a digital photography school.
  • Incorporate social media and link to your blog.  These are pretty much no-brainers.
  • Consider online intake, contact forms, and online scheduling.  While most clients would rather call you, there is an audience who prefers web-based contact and online does have its advantages. If you use practice management software, intake may be built into your product.  Otherwise, look at Lexicata. Scheduling options include Setmore, FlexBooker, and TimeCenter among others.
  • Secure your site – for you and for your visitors. If you collect personally identifiable information, you must have compliant privacy policies.  (A simple contact form is enough to trigger this requirement.)

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis