Legal News and Upcoming Events

Is Mandatory Malpractice Coverage Coming to Washington?

Mandatory malpractice coverage is well known by Oregon lawyers and may be coming soon to members of the Washington bar (WSBA).

In July, the WSBA Mandatory Malpractice Insurance Task Force presented a tentative recommendation to the Board of Governors (BOG) to mandate malpractice insurance for Washington-licensed lawyers. The task force expects to present a final report to the BOG in four short months.

Next steps include:

  1. Considering feedback from the Board of Governors;
  2. Ramping up information efforts among WSBA members, and obtaining and considering additional comments received;
  3. Detailing the recommended malpractice insurance mandate, including the specific
    required coverage minimums;
  4. Identifying in detail the recommended exemptions from the professional liability
    insurance requirement; and
  5. Drafting a proposed Court Rule for the Board of Governor’s consideration

Members may submit comments to insurancetaskforce@wsba.org. The task force continues to meet monthly through the end of the year. Read the interim report here.

Free Access to PACER

This past week, the ABA Journal reported a potential end to PACER fees:

A new bill before the U.S House of Representatives would prohibit the federal courts from charging for public documents. The Electronic Court Records Reform Act would require that documents downloaded from the PACER database be free. Currently, the repository for federal court documents charges up to 10 cents a page.

The article notes that PACER has become a reliable money-maker for federal courts, pulling in $150 million in fees in 2015 alone.

Of further interest to federal court practitioners, the proposed bill would require documents to be posted to PACER within five days of being filed in federal court in a manner that allows for easy searching and linking from external websites.

Additionally, it would require consolidation of the Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system, allowing for one-stop shopping when searching for federal court cases. Presently, each court operates its own separate CM/ECF system.

Free Data Breach CLEs in Bend and Medford

The Professional Liability Fund is offering two free data breach CLES in October:

These CLEs will explain data breach, what you can do to protect your client’s information, your ethical duties, and what to do if a breach occurs. For more information, follow the links above. Register for the Bend CLE by emailing DeAnna Shields at deannas@osbplf.org. Register for the Medford CLE by emailing Eric B. Mitton at eric.mitton@cityofmedford.org.

All Rights Reserved – 2018 – Beverly Michaelis

End of the Line for Viivo Encryption

In late June, PKWARE announced the end of life for Viivo encryption.  If you’ve relied on Viivo to protect your files in Dropbox or elsewhere on the Web, you need to find another encryption solution sooner rather than later.

How Long Will Support Continue?

Users of the free and commercial versions of Viivo will have one year of support.

What Does Viivo Recommend?

While Viivo can be used after the service is shutdown, the company does not recommend this. All customers should move to another encryption solution.

How Long Do I Have to Act?

Viivo service will remain online until July 1st, 2018.  (But don’t wait until next year to tackle this issue!)

Next Steps

  1. Research and select another encryption solution (see below).
  2. Backup all files currently protected by Viivo.
  3. Decrypt all files currently protected by Viivo (the Website has step-by-step guides that walk you through the process).
  4. Implement the new encryption solution.
  5. Review your credit card statement.  If you have a paid Pro or Business subscription, your payment processing should have been suspended automatically.

Alternatives to Viivo

If you really like Dropbox and don’t want to switch, finding another cloud-based encryption service to fill the gap is imperative. BoxCryptor and Sookasa are two options. Sadly, CloudFogger and TrueCrypt are no more.

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis

Choice of Entity for New Lawyers

coffee-cup-and-docs-bought-at-ssChoosing a legal structure and entity type for your law firm seems like an easy decision. But is it? Consider the following scenarios:

New lawyer establishes law practice with the goal of becoming an associate

If this is you, being a straight-up sole proprietor may be the best choice, assuming you have no employees.

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure chosen to start a business:

  • No formal action is required to start your business
  • It’s inexpensive
  • No papers to file
  • Nothing to dissolve
  • Simple tax preparation

When you’re ready to make the move from running your own practice to becoming an associate, the transition couldn’t be any easier.

On the downside, sole proprietorship means you have unlimited contractual liability and potentially higher taxes.

But how significant is the liability exposure?

Lenders, property managers, and others with whom you do business will typically require a personal guarantee for loans, leases, or other business transactions.  A personal guarantee means YOU are on the hook, even if you form a professional corporation or single-member limited liability company. As a result, contractual liability protection doesn’t count for much in evaluating whether to form an entity.

The real choice between sole proprietorship and forming a PC or single-member LLC comes down to taxes and the trade-off between potentially saving money (with entity formation) and simplicity (going with the sole proprietorship model).  Talk to a CPA so you can make an informed decision.

What if I’m planning to practice business law or intellectual property?

Why would your area of practice make a difference?  And didn’t we just say entity choice is driven by risk aversion – wreaking whatever benefit you can from contractual liability protection – and saving money – courtesy of a lower tax burden?  So what difference could practicing business and IP law possibly make?

If your goal is to help clients form entities and protect intellectual property, it could look a little odd that you haven’t followed the usual formalities in establishing your own business.

Fair or not, client perception counts.  So does marketing.  And part of marketing is how you brand your law firm.  Appending a PC or LLC designation to your business name may actually be an important part of how you choose to present yourself to potential clients.

If you plan to have employees …

This is an entirely different ballgame.  Without a doubt, form an entity. If you are a solo, choose a PC or single-member limited liability company (LLC).

Both entity types offer liability protection for non-professional torts committed by your employees.  The contractual liability protection discussed above will also kick in.  Talk to a CPA, but the likelihood is that forming an entity will also result in a noticeable tax savings.

If you plan to practice with others …

This is another occasion when forming an entity is a no brainer.  Do it for the avoidance of liability discussed in the preceding paragraph and for the limitation on vicarious liability.  The ideal structure may be to form a sole owner PC or single-member LLC that belongs to the firm’s entity. This may allow you, as the individual lawyer, to completely escape personal vicarious liability.

Multi-tier entities are complex, administratively messy, and no longer have the tax benefits they once enjoyed.  BUT avoiding vicarious liability is a big plus.  To learn more about this strategy, read Choice of Entity for a Legal Practice and Lawyers as PCs, LLCs, & LLPs in Oregon, referenced below.

Being fully informed in the premises

This post skates over some pretty significant content that deserves more in-depth thought.  Do your homework.  Recommended reading includes:

  • Sole Proprietorship as a business structure choice, courtesy of the Small Business Administration.  While you’re on the SBA site, poke around.  There is a ton of great content here.  And don’t forget about the help and resources available from the Small Business Development Center.
  • Law Firm Choice of Entity, from the ABA Young Lawyers Division.
  • Choice of Entity for a Legal Practice in Oregon, available on the PLF website. Select Practice Management > Forms > Entity Formation for Lawyers.
  • Lawyers as PCs, LLCs, & LLPs in Oregon, available on the PLF website.  Select Practice Management > Forms > Entity Formation for Lawyers.
  • Tax Considerations for Choice of Business Entity, Chapter 3 of the OSB CLE Seminar Handbook Broadbrush Taxation: Tax Law for the Nonspecialist (2015). Available in BarBooks behind the member login on the OSB website.

Most importantly

Talk with a CPA.  I can’t say this enough.  This is one of the best investments you can make in getting your practice up and running.  A CPA can help you determine whether forming an entity will result in tax savings.  He or she can also help you select an entity type – which is highly driven by tax considerations.

You’ll also learn about property tax, business income tax, business licensing, and other obligations you may not be familiar with – all of which are determined by where your business is located.

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis

Best Free Productivity Apps for the iPhone and iPad

Last week we took a look at nine free iOS apps to help you track expenses and mileage, organize bills, calculate on the go, budget, make smart purchases, and track packages. This week we focus on free productivity apps for project management, paperless meetings, better communication, security, task management, file sharing and storage, workflow, video conferencing, scanning, PDFs, eSigning, notetaking, sketching, languages, and business travel.

Project Management

Trello is the free, flexible, and visual way to organize anything with anyone. Forget lengthy email threads, out-of-date spreadsheets, sticky notes, and clunky software for managing your projects. Trello lets you see everything about your project in a single glance.  Compatible with Apple Watch.

Paperless Meetings

minute-iconUse Minute to conduct easy paperless meetings. Instantly invite attendees, turn agendas into meetings, import and share documents from Dropbox, Evernote, email, etc. Collaborate on notes, to-dos, decisions, and documents. Delegate tasks to attendees. After the meeting read and revise notes and export meeting minutes.

 Better Communication

Rather than worrying about your data allowance or cell signal, WhatsApp lets you send messages over Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection instead. Send and receive photos free over Wi-Fi* with no size restrictions. (*Or if you have unlimited mobile data.)

Security

1passwordKeep track of passwords, security codes, and alarm codes in one place with 1Password. Search to find what you’re looking for on any connected device. Save and fill passwords, credit cards, and addresses into webpages with a single click. Keep your data safe and encrypted. Unlimited installations with paid subscription. Compatible with Apple Watch. (Free 30 day trial; $5 per month subscription.)

Task Management

todoist-iconAdd, complete, and re-schedule tasks from any device, even offline with Todoist. Automatic 24/7 sync. Create sub-tasks and sub-projects, set priorities, and color-code projects. Share projects, assign tasks, and add comments all within the app. Instant notifications will keep you up-to-date whenever changes are made. Compatible with Apple Watch.

easilydoEasilyDo connects to online services, like your email, calendar, and Facebook, then looks for things it can help you get done. For example, it might ask you if you’d like to add contact details of someone who emailed you to your address book. Or it might spot an upcoming birthday. (Best for personal use.)

File Sharing and Storage

Transfer files instantly across Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows platforms using simple drag and drop with Instashare Air Drop. Transfer any file type (MP3, images, PDF, slide decks, docs, and more). Any size. Completely secure – files are transferred only between devices – no copy is kept in the cloud. Supports older devices: back to iPhone 3Gs and iPad. No need to register, just open the app, and start sharing. No email account, no passwords required.

hightailUse Hightail (formerly YouSendIt) to upload files to a shared project area called a Space then name it and add context or project goals. Solves the problem of oversized email attachments. Upload to Hightail instead and send your recipients a link. Supports PDF, docx, PPT, png, and other file formats. Documents can be secured with an access code.  (Free 250 MG storage.)

Workflow

Use Clips to clip from anything from anywhere: quotes, links, stories, images. Ideal for users who write a lot on their iPhone and iPad or hate switching between apps to copy-and-paste. The custom keyboard doesn’t log any of your input and requires no use of the Internet. Sync across all iOS devices through your private iCloud account with the Pro version.  Compatible with Apple Watch.

ifttt“If this, then that.” Use ifttt to automate just about anything: create events in Google Calendar with only a few taps; keep your team in sync with scheduled reminders for Slack; catalog important email from your inbox in an Evernote notebook to go over later; sync files quickly. Ifttt makes two separate apps work together!

Video Conferencing

zoomZoom offers quality video and audio conferencing – available for mobile devices and on the desktop.  Screen share apps and photos, send files, annotate, mute attendees (or not), easily invite phone, email, or company contacts.  (Free for 50-person or less meetings that last no longer than 40 minutes.)

Scanner and Whiteboard Converter

CamScanner turns photos of sketches, receipts, sticky notes, and whiteboard notes into editable files. Make digital copies of printed documents, business cards, or posters and trim them precisely. Printed text is automatically recognized (using OCR) so you can search for words in images and copy and edit them.  200MB free storage.

PDFs and eSigning

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC is a PDF viewer made specifically for the iPhone. Take a picture of your handwritten signature on your mobile device, and then sync it to sign PDFs at your desk or on the go. Annotate PDFs or mark-up files.  Draw on the screen with the drawing tool. Store, access, and share files from your Dropbox account.  (In-app purchases may apply.)

signnowUse SignNow to sign documents with your finger. Fill and complete PDF, Word, or rich text documents. Open documents from your inbox, Dropbox, and more. Easily collect signatures from multiple people. Secured with bank quality encryption.  (Sign up to five documents per month at no charge.)

Notetaking and Sketching

Use Paper 53 to draw on photos or quickly spotlight details. Sketch diagrams, charts, and drawings. Want to add titles to notes?  Swipe left. Want to add a checklist? Swipe right.

Learn Languages

duolingoUse the free Duolingo app to read, listen, and speak Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and English.  Learn languages in bite-sized lessons: Apple’s iPhone App of the Year.  (In-app upgrades available.)

Business Travel

Hopper hopper-iconconstantly monitors prices to find great deals on airfare. Shows you the best time to go, predicts the right time to book flights, and where to buy.  Includes personalized tips.  Promises savings of 40% or more on your next flight.  A best app of the year winner in 2015.

Input your itinerary and GateGuru will automatically provides you with the check-in airport terminal, airport weather, gate arrival and departure information, real-time flight status, estimated TSA security wait times, airport food and amenity information, airport maps and tips, last minute rental car bookings.

All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis

2016 ABA TECHSHOW Wrap Up – 10 Most Important Upgrades

On the heels of the 2016 ABA TECHSHOW, here is a roundup of the top 10 most important upgrades compiled by Jared Correia.  Most involve new features of established case management programs, but there were also important developments in lawyer referral (Avvo), job search resources (Evolve Law), and peer-driven security standards for cloud computing (LCCA).  If you are ever tempted to attend TECHSHOW, you’ll also find a link to an interactive map of where to eat/drink (Gyi’s ABA TECHSHOW Recommendations).

Jared’s Top 10 Upgrades List Includes:

  • Rocket Matter
  • VineSign
  • Smokeball
  • MyCase
  • Evolve Law
  • CosmoLex
  • Clio
  • Avvo
  • Legal Cloud Computing Association (LCCA)
  • Gyi’s ABA TECHSHOW Recommendations (food/drink)

Access the top 10 most important upgrades here.