Do you have mystery money in your lawyer trust account? Uncashed checks? Funds you can’t return to clients? Join me on Wednesday, October 16 for Abandoned Funds: Trust Account Dilemmas and learn how to address these issues. This CLE is designed for lawyers, legal staff, bookkeepers, or office administrators – anyone interested in proper handling of abandoned funds and lawyer trust accounts.
Identifying abandoned funds
Determining ownership and residence
Exercising due diligence: statutory and ethical duties
Assessing the legal, practical, and and ethical implications of using stop payments, closing your IOLTA account, using stale dates, purchasing cashier’s checks to replace funds in IOLTA, and writing off leftover balances
Avoiding abandoned funds
Reporting and remitting abandoned funds outside the statutory deadline
Group Discounts: Available to firms who wish to register 5 or more attendees. Contact me for more information.
Participate in Polling & Ask Questions: Questions are welcome during the live event. Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.
How to Register
Register here, choose the image above, or visit the Upcoming CLE page. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the $25 registration price.
Video and audio recordings will be available to download along with the program materials shortly after the live program event. Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store to place an order.
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Written program materials, including presentation slides and resources
Answers to polling questions asked during the live CLE
MCLE Form 6 for self-reporting of MCLE credits
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This is a hard one, and I get it. But nothing will change unless you make the time.
I don’t have a magic solution for adding a 25th hour to the day. I do know that if something is important enough, we make room for it. So if you’re motivated, start by looking for time on your schedule. Find two one-hour blocks, whether they are close in time or a month apart. Schedule appointments with yourself. Mark the subjects “Workflow:brainstorm” and “Workflow:prioritize.” Commit to making the first time block outside the office. Leave your smartphone and other devices behind. Grab a legal pad, a pen or pencil, and go. Visit your favorite coffee shop or sit in the park.
During the first time block, make a list of all the functions in your office that you’d like to improve. Dream small: “I wish saving email to the client’s file was easier,” or dream big: “We need a better conflict system.” Don’t rule anything out. Just let the ideas come and go until the hour is up.
Your goal during the second time block is to prioritize. This can happen in your office IF you commit to working distraction-free. This means no phones, no checking email, no interruptions by others. You are in an appointment, albeit with yourself. If the temptations are too great, leave. As before, don’t bring devices.
Pull out the list of ideas from your brainstorming session and start marking what is most important: first, second, third, and so on. If you’re in your office, type up the list. If you’re out and about, take a moment when you get back to do so.
Schedule another one hour appointment on your calendar. This third time block will be devoted to investigating options for the number one priority on your list. Google is your friend. Look for online reviews from neutral, authoritative sources. The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center is a good starting point. Check out blog posts that come up in search results. Ask colleagues by posting to a listserv. If you have an IT person, get their input. Ask staff. Depending on how complicated your first priority is, you make have to block out more time for this step. However, there are definitely some small-scale functions that you can reasonably investigate in an hour’s time.
Keep going: implement and master
Sticking with your number one priority, make a decision on which option you want to pursue. Schedule out more appointments on your calendar to implement the option. Then wait. Live with your new technology or process a while. Be prepared to make adjustments. When you are comfortable and feel you have mastered the new workflow, move on to priority number two and repeat the steps above. My point: you can find the time and you can make the time. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.
We sometimes procrastinate about improvements we know we should make because we feel overwhelmed or have trouble accepting change. Hopefully the approach outlined above will help you overcome these concerns. If after the brainstorming session you are worried that your priority list has nothing but large-scale items, consider reaching out for expertise. Ask colleagues for referrals to IT or other consultants. Consider using the practice management team at the OSB Professional Liability Fund. You don’t need to do it all, and you don’t need to do it alone. There is help. It may be that you would benefit by blocking out time for a second brainstorming session. Use this appointment to identify three things that are important to you that you can realistically accomplish in the next twelve months. Save your original list, but table it for now.
You can do this. Remember, if you are overwhelmed pick the top three things you know can be accomplished in the next twelve months. Save your other ideas, but table them for now.
Stay motivated! Improving workflows will make your life easier by eliminating unnecessary, repetitive steps. This will reduce your stress and free up more time. Who doesn’t want that? And with three or more successes under your belt, I know you’ll want to keep going.
The new OSB 2017 Economic Survey is available for download. In it, you’ll find a plethora of information about Oregon lawyers, including employment characteristics, compensation, billing practices, career satisfaction, and future plans. Here are a few highlights:
28.3% of survey respondents reported being a member of at least one other state bar.
86.1% reported working as an Oregon lawyer; 13.9% were not.
Lawyers who chose to work part-time did so to maintain work/family balance, pursue other career interests, or because they were semi-retired.
Slightly more than 60% of working Oregon lawyers reported being in private practice, with just under 20% in government positions.
The most dominant areas of private practice are business/corporate (transactional and litigation), civil litigation (plaintiff and defense), tax/estate planning, family law, and real estate/land use/environmental.
The most common practice size was a 1 lawyer office, followed by 3-6 lawyer offices, and 7-20 lawyer offices.
The statewide mean compensation was $143,277.
The amount of compensation was highest in the Portland metro area and lowest on the Oregon coast.
The highest paying area of practice was real estate/land use/environmental.
Statewide, female lawyers reported earning less than male lawyers.
Peak earning years were 50-59, with compensation generally decreasing after age 60.
Statewide, the mean hourly rate was $286, ranging from $226 to $324 regionally. (The highest reported hourly rate was $850 in Portland.)
By area of practice, the highest hourly rate was for business/corporate – litigation, with a mean of $333. Other top billing areas were: real estate/land use/environmental, civil litigation – defendant (excluding insurance defense), and business/corporate – transactional.
On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being very dissatisfied and 5 being very satisfied, lawyers statewide had a mean career satisfaction rate of 3.98. In general, the more years in practice, the greater a lawyer’s satisfaction with his/her career.
By location, employment, and area of practice, the most satisfied lawyers were:
In the Upper Willamette Valley
Working as judges or hearing officers
Practicing in civil litigation defense, real estate/land use/environmental, or criminal law (private bar).
19.2% of lawyers statewide reported they were planning or contemplating retirement.
6.7% were planning to leave the profession, but not retire.
Another 10.3% were planning to reduce their practices.
A trial court clerk in Florida served an order by email awarding a significant amount of attorney fees to the prevailing party (appellee). The opponent/appellant claimed it did not receive the order, resulting in its failure to file an appeal. What happened? The opponent/appellant’s email system automatically deleted the court’s email as spam.
The opponent/appellant asked the court to vacate the original order on the grounds of excusable neglect. The trial court declined and Florida’s First District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Researching Paralegal cites these factors:
First, the review of the court clerk’s email logs confirmed that the email with the court’s order was served and received by the law firm’s server. Second, the law firm’s email configuration made it impossible to determine whether the firm’s server received the email. Third, the law firm’s former IT specialist’s advice against this configuration flaw was deliberately rejected by the law firm because its alternative cost more money.
The trial court concluded the law firm made a conscious decision to use a defective email configuration merely to save money, which was not “excusable neglect.”
Another nail in the coffin was testimony by the appellee’s attorney. His firm assigned a paralegal to check the court’s website every three weeks to safeguard that his firm would not miss any orders or deadlines. The court held that the appellant had a duty to check the court’s electronic docket.
Whitelist important email. Set your spam or junk email filters to allow receipt of messages from approved senders or domains. Include courts, administrative agencies, key clients, opposing counsel, and any other senders whose email you don’t want to miss.
Review spam quarantine summaries daily. Aggressive spam filters will occasionally block senders and domains you have added to your whitelist if the filter finds content in the email to be possible spam. Addresses and domains may also change, causing new notices to be marked as spam.
Don’t forget to look at your junk mail folder, another place where legitimate messages can land.
Check online court dockets. Weekly will work for most firms; others may need to login daily, depending on case volume.
Listen to your IT staff. Here, the IT specialist argued against automatic deletion of junk and spam messages and recommended hiring a third-party vendor to handle spam filtering. He also suggested investing in an online backup system, another idea rejected by the law firm. Following either of these recommendations may have prevented the firm from missing the deadline.
A few more takeaways
It should be clear, but just in case: everyone needs a backup system. If you can’t afford the cost of an online subscription, buy an external hard drive on sale and use the backup utility built into your operating system. For backup protocols and additional backup options, see How to Backup Your Computer from the Professional Liability Fund (Practice Management > Forms > Technology).
Can’t afford a third-party vendor for spam filtering or another IT task? Understandable, but the work itself still needs to get done. This may mean you, your partner, or your staff. Technology is a tool, not a substitute for human judgment.
There are some other interesting twists and turns inEmerald Coast.For example, the law firm also refused to join in on a motion for a case management conference – a step that would have likely revealed the existence of the attorney fee award. Additionally, automatic deletion of spam wasn’t the only email configuration procedure that caused problems for this office. If you have a few moments, read the full opinion here.