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.

How to Say No to Clients

 

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

As we discussed in 7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships, lawyers often feel pressured to practice “door law.”  The source of the pressure may be economic:  I don’t really have a choice because I need the money.  Or it can be emotional: Family, friends, or former clients are depending on me.

Either way, saying no can be incredibly difficult, so here is some sage advice that first appeared in In Sight.  These tips apply no matter who is doing the asking: clients, friends, family, or neighbors.

Five steps to saying “no”

  • 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.

Still need persuading? Time for tough love

You are not the only lawyer who can help your clients.
If money is an issue, there are other lawyers 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.

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.

A good case and a paying client don’t necessarily mean the case is right for you.
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.

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 2018 – Beverly Michaelis

 

Are You an Effective Negotiator?

In law, negotiations between parties can end in a win-win for both sides or they can break down and leave your client further from their objective. It’s a delicate dance that requires a clear understanding or your client’s needs and desires as well as those of the opposing party.

A recent NW Sidebar posts highlights these tips for negotiating effectively:

  • Adopt a negotiator’s mindset
  • Prepare yourself mentally
  • Stay focused on your client’s goals
  • Practice total awareness
  • Be honest
  • Know when to stop
  • Confirm agreements

Read the full post here.

Before the Beginning

You can’t focus on your client’s goals if you don’t know what they are. Negotiation is a serious subject. If possible, meet with your client in person. Be open to what the client has to say, but be prepared to curb his expectations.

  • If there are boundaries you feel you can’t cross, speak up.
  • Identify and verify lienholders and others who may have third-party rights to settlement proceeds.
  • Compile your costs to date (and likely future costs).
  • Use this information to discuss the difference between gross and net settlement values. Give concrete examples.
  • Allow the client time to think even if it appears you’ve come to a mutual understanding about how to proceed.

During Negotiation

During negotiation, keep the client informed. Technically, it may not be necessary so long as you are operating within your settlement authority.  However, keeping the client involved will give her a better picture of the overall process.

Remember: the ultimate decision to settle is the client’s, not yours.

After Negotiation

Don’t stop at confirming agreements with opposing counsel. Confirm the client’s consent to settle in writing! Let the client know the likely ETA of the settlement proceeds and what the disbursement process will involve (for example, waiting for a check to clear). Provide a written settlement accounting. A sample settlement accounting and checklist is available on the PLF website. Select Practice Management > Forms > Litigation.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2018

 

The Link Between Clutter and Stress

Why do we accumulate clutter?

  • Does it fuel our creativity?
  • Do possessions make us feel successful?  Or safe?
  • Make us look busy and important?
  • Are we too emotionally attached to weed out what we no longer need or use?
  • Are we hoping that someday our stuff will be worth a lot of money?
  • Or because we paid a lot of money for our stuff, it’s too good to get rid of?

In an extensive four-year study, UCLA researchers documented the debilitating effects of clutter on our mood and self-esteem. The greater the clutter, the more stress and anxiety we feel. This is especially true for women.

Tackling stress

There are many excellent articles on how to declutter. Start with these steps from Simplemost and HouseLogic. For ideas on managing stress, see the March 2017 issue of InSight. Read the article Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress and download the associated Stress Management Self-Help Checklist and Stress Relief Toolbox. Don’t hesitate to contact an attorney counselor at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP). The OAAP can give you guidance on how to develop your own stress management program using deep relaxation, meditation, time management, and other proven stress-reducing techniques. Best of all, contacting the OAAP is free and confidential.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2018

Engagement Letters Are Your Friend

Today, I’d like to share a recent post from our friends at NW Sidebar about the importance of engagement letters.

In Cox v. Alliant Insurance Services, Inc., 2017 WL 4640452 (E.D. Wash. Sept. 19, 2017) (unpublished), the plaintiffs sought to disqualify the opposing law firm based on a conflict of interest. One of the plaintiffs argued that he was a former client of the firm on a substantially related matter, necessitating the law firm’s withdrawal.

The plaintiff’s contact with the firm was as a representative for a corporation.  In concluding that no attorney-client relationship existed between the plaintiff and the law firm, the court relied on two key points:

  • The law firm and corporation executed a written engagement agreement that identified the corporation (and not the individual) as the client in the matter.
  • The plaintiff failed to introduce contradictory evidence, i.e., he could not point to any communication or action by the firm which expanded the attorney-client relationship to include him individually as a client.

Read the full post here.

Lessons Learned

As we discussed in the CLE, Limiting Exposure to Conflicts, identifying your client and clarifying the client’s status (prospect, current client, or former client) is paramount to conflict screening and limiting your potential liability. The single best tool at your disposal? Written engagement, disengagement, and nonengagement letters – all of which are available at the Professional Liability Fund website.

But the law firm in Cox didn’t stop at the engagement letter. Firm members were also consistent in their actions toward the corporate representative. There was no evidence of emails, correspondence, or other communication supporting that the corporate representative was an individual client of the firm.

The moral of the story? A solid engagement letter is a small investment to make in the realm of thwarting conflicts and liability. Even better: maintaining consistency in your corporate communications.

All Rights Reserved 2018 – Beverly Michaelis

 

 

Path to Lawyer Well-Being

A recording of the October 2017 ABA CLE webinar, “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change,” is now available to view, free of charge. The webinar featured the report of the same name issued by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being which presents a series of recommendations directed at a variety of […]

via Free Recording of “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being” Webinar Now Available — CoLAP Cafe