About beverlym

As a law practice management consultant and educator, my goal is to help Oregon attorneys improve their office practices and procedures. With over 35 years in the profession, I possess the problem-solving skills to help you make your law practice more efficient, effective, and profitable. Learn more here: http://www.oregonlawpracticemanagement.org/about/. My complete biography can be viewed at http://www.linkedin.com/in/beverlymichaelis.

Collecting Fees

With law firm revenues taking a hit from COVID-19, effective billing and collection procedures have never been more important. Follow the best practices outlined below to minimize hiccups.

Bill smarter

  • Review pre-bills carefully. Misspelled names and billing errors are irksome to clients.
  • Correct any mistakes that slip by quickly and accurately – the first time.
  • Issue statements before clients receive their paychecks – before the 15th and again at month end. If you serve corporate clients, send bills in a manner and format that works for the accounts payable department. When cash flow is challenging – for you or your client – weekly billing may be an option.
  • Always include a due date on statements. Most clients prioritize payment based on due date.
  • Offer incentives. In lieu of late fees or interest, offer clients a discount if payment is received within 10 days of the billing date.
  • Give clients the 411. Your bill should tell a story – the who, what, and why of the work performed.
  • Stick to your agreed upon billing interval. Monthly, quarterly, weekly – whatever it may be. Inconsistent billings disrupt firm cash flow, infuriate clients, and make collection more difficult.
  • Be flexible in how you accept payment – Venmo, Zelle, PayPal, ApplePay, credit card. Absorbing processing fees may not be fun but it’s better than not getting paid.

Head off problems

  1. Always take the time to discuss fees, costs, and billing procedures. Most nonpaying clients who file retaliation suits or malpractice counterclaims do so because they never understood what the lawyer’s services would cost.
  2. Never leave home without a written fee agreement. Be specific and complete. Your agreement should: (a) specify the scope and timing of services; (b) describe what the client is expected to pay for and when; (c) explain billing practices; (d) identify what will occur if payment is not timely made. Losing a potential client who refuses to negotiate and agree to a comprehensive fee and engagement agreement is a small price to pay compared to defending yourself in a malpractice claim or disciplinary proceeding.
  3. Consider alternative fee arrangements – flat fees, fixed fees, unbundled fees, evergreen retainers, or “last month’s rent.” Clients cooperate more fully when they are financially invested in their case. If the client is unwilling to commit financially, the matter quickly becomes your problem rather than the client’s.
  4. Don’t allow outstanding fees to accumulate during the course of representation. As soon as a payment is missed, call the client. Get to the root of the nonpayment. Is the client dissatisfied? If a client becomes seriously delinquent, terminate the attorney-client relationship and withdraw from representation if possible.
  5. Offer to resolve disputes through the Oregon State Bar’s Fee Dispute Resolution Program.

Before you sue

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will a judgment be collectible if obtained?
  • Do you stand to gain or lose a substantial amount of money?
  • Are there any grounds upon which the client can credibly dispute the debt or any part of it?
  • Have you really listened to your client’s side of the dispute?
  • Was a good result obtained in the underlying case?
  • Has an uninvolved, experienced lawyer reviewed the file for possible malpractice?
  • Will a law suit result in bad publicity reflecting negatively on you or your law firm?
  • Have you offered to arbitrate, compromise or meet the client part way on the amount due?

Remember

Most collection problems can be averted at the outset of representation. A frank discussion of fees, finances, and billing procedures will greatly reduce the possibility of disputes.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Happy Thanksgiving

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Holiday Stress Revisited

You may feel there’s nothing you can do about stress. The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. However, you have more control over stress than you might think. No matter how stressful your life seems, you can take steps to relieve the pressure and regain balance.

How? By using the four A’s:

Avoid

Alter

Adapt

Accept

For specific advice on how to cope with holiday expectations and holiday-related stress, review these articles from the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program:

Updated 2020 All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis

Claims Attorney Opening

The OSB Professional Liability Fund is seeking a full-time claims attorney to join its Claims Department.

Responsibilities

Responsibilities include managing a caseload of lawyer professional liability claims and working with covered attorneys and outside counsel on a broad range of matters involving lawyer professional liability.

Requirements

Oregon State Bar membership, a minimum of five years of private practice experience in the State of Oregon, and proficiency in MS Office applications. Insurance coverage experience is helpful.

Compensation

Competitive salary, plus excellent retirement, health insurance, and other benefits. 

Application Deadline

Application deadline is December 11, 2020.

How to Apply

Applications will not be accepted via telephone calls or inquiries.

Please email cover letter and resume to: 

Madeleine Campbell 
PLF General Counsel 
Email: HR@osbplf.org

About the PLF

The Oregon State Bar Board of Governors created the Professional Liability Fund in 1977 pursuant to state statute (ORS 9.080) and with approval of the membership. The PLF first began operation on July 1, 1978, and has been the mandatory provider of primary malpractice coverage for Oregon lawyers since that date. Learn more here.

Equal Opportunity Employer

The PLF is committed to the principle of equal employment opportunity for all employees and to providing employees with a work environment free of discrimination and harassment. All employment decisions at the PLF are based on business needs, job requirements and individual qualifications, without regard to race, color, religion or belief, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or identity, age, disability, family or parental status, or any other status protected by applicable laws or regulations. Candidates from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. 

Juice Jacking

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

While traveling is not as prevalent as it was before COVID-19, we remain mobile. That means you can still run out of juice while away from the office.

Did you know that using a charging port, borrowing a cable, or relying on someone else’s external battery can put your smartphone, tablet, or laptop at risk?

The problem is malware, in which hackers take advantage of USB connections to hide and deliver secret data payloads that a user might think was only transferring electrical power. This is called “juice jacking.” Its visual counterpart, known as “video jacking,” occurs when a hacker records and mirrors the screen of a device that was plugged in for a charge.  

Protect Yourself from Data Theft

The FBI recommends:

DoDon’t
Use AC power outlets to charge devicesUse USB charging stations in public places
Buy only from trusted suppliersAvoid cheap deals and free giveaways
Bring your own car chargerDon’t borrow car chargers
Bring your own USB cablesDon’t use someone else’s
Bring your own AC or battery backupNo borrowing!
FBI TECH TUESDAY

Best Practices

  • Consider buying a charging-only cable, which prevents data from sending or receiving while charging. 
  • Discard any free USB cables, chargers, adapters, or similar accessories that you received as a promotional item. They are too risky, warns the FBI. Microcontrollers and electronic parts have become so small these days that criminals can hide mini-computers and malware inside a USB cable itself.  
  • As we move into the holiday season, you may be tempted to buy cheap electronic accessories as stocking stuffers or gifts. Please think twice. Consider the source and the manufacturer when making your purchases. Proprietary cables, chargers, adapters, docks, or battery backups often feel like they cost more than they should. (Pssst … Are you listening Apple?) But imagine what you’d spend trying to recover from data theft and fraud if a hacker gained access to your device? It isn’t worth it.

There’s another good reason to buy genuine electronic accessories from the manufacturer. They prolong the life of your device by charging it properly and completely.

As an example, the charging cables for your iPhone and iPad are not identical. The same is true of Samsung devices. I’m not saying that switching out proprietary chargers among your devices won’t work. I am saying that doing so is not optimal. And that’s within the same device manufacturer ….

Before we had to worry about juice jacking, I fell down the path of cheapie chargers. I learned quickly that I was wasting my money. If you don’t believe me, just Google “why cheap charging accessories don’t work,” to see pages of posts and warnings.

Better safe than sorry.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis