Your Forms Library is Your Most Important Asset

Forms and templates are the most important intellectual property owned by a law firm. We rely on them to be efficient, effective, and productive. But is that reliance misplaced?

The answer is yes, if we fail to devote the necessary time and resources to maintaining our most valuable asset.

Here are some suggestions for keeping your forms library in tip-top shape:

  • Update your forms in accordance with the annual rules cycle. Proposed changes to the UTCRs are effective on August 1 of each year. Supplementary Local Rules (SLRs) are effective February 1 unless disapproved. Set task reminders accordingly!
  • Monitor and flag out-of-cycle rule amendments by subscribing to OJD News and Media Releases.
  • Watch for Oregon State Bar CLEs and publications discussing pertinent legislative changes.
  • Use Professional Liability Fund (PLF) resources. The PLF publishes legislation alerts on the most significant changes made by the Oregon legislature. The December 2019 issue of In Brief covers updates in 13 practice areas. The PLF also offers forms, which it strives to update in accordance with the legislative cycle. Visit the PLF Forms page for more information and to view revision dates for documents pertinent to your practice. Also of interest are “Cases of Note,” included in each issue of the PLF In Brief.
  • Create a centralized forms library that limits editing rights, but grants access to all users. Capture the library as part of your backup and regularly test backup integrity.
  • Consider appointing a forms czar or committee. Establish a process for adding, updating, and dumping forms.
  • Ensure that form content is scrubbed of metadata and does not contain confidential client information. Variables – the client-specific information you will be inserting into the form to customize it – should be readily apparent. Using document assembly software like The Form Tool is the way to go.
  • Push notifications to firm members when forms in their area of practice change.
  • Ask firm leadership to stress the importance of using the centralized library versus hoarding resources on individual desktops or copying and pasting content from one client document to the next.

Start by Downloading the latest UTCR Forms

The latest forms adopted by the Uniform Trial Court Rules (UTCR) Committee and approved by the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court can be downloaded in Zip, PDF, or Word format on the Oregon Judicial Department UTCR page. These include the following, which were revised in 2019:

Request to Segregate Protected Personal Information
Request to Inspect UTCR 2.100 Segregated Information Sheet
Request to Redact Protected Personal Information from Existing Case
Motion for an Expedited Civil Jury Case Designation
Order Designating an Expedited Civil Jury Case
Request for Hearing re: Statutory Restraining Order

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

For the latest out-of-cycle UTCR amendments – effective November 2019 and January 2020, visit the Current Rules page on the OJD website.

US District Court Countdown to NextGen

Do you practice in the US District Court for the District of Oregon? Are you ready for NextGen – the new version of Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF)? If not, act now because time is running out. Here are the pertinent timelines and to-dos.

Effective date for NextGen

Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

When CM/ECF will be Offline

From 3:00 p.m. on Friday, January 17, 2020 through 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. During this time, notices of electronic filing will not be issued.

Court-Imposed Deadlines 

Court-imposed deadlines falling on Friday, January 17, 2020 are extended to 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. Standing Order 2019-13.

Time-Sensitive Filings Must be Submitted by Email

The Clerk’s Office will accept via email time-sensitive filings, such as filings nearing statute of limitations deadlines, requests for emergency injunctive relief, and notices of appeal.

Counsel or self-represented parties who are concerned about whether a filing must be submitted to the Clerk to ensure its timeliness should also submit the filing by email during the period when CM/ECF is unavailable.

Documents must be submitted to filings@ord.uscourts.gov and will be deemed filed as of the date received. Any documents submitted via email during this time will be entered on the docket by the Clerk’s Office as soon as practical after CM/ECF is operational. Standing Order 2019-13.

Upgrade Your PACER Account Now

Attorneys will NOT be able to log in and file with their current CM/ECF user names and passwords after January 21, 2020. To avoid any interruption in filing:

Note: Attorneys are required to have individual, upgraded PACER Accounts. Shared accounts may not be used.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

 

Capture Text Messages for Use in Court

A reader recently asked for an app to capture text messages – a very understandable request. Here are some DIY options to consider.

Screenshot Method

Most everyone is familiar with this irritating and incomplete approach, which involves taking partial images of texts that end up overlapping. Screenshots are a pain, often lack date and time stamps, don’t capture contact information or other metadata, and must be combined somehow to form a PDF. Not a great way to go. Next, please.

Decipher TextMessage and Tansee for iOS

The Decipher TextMessage app uses five simple steps to capture text messages for export to PDF. Unlike the screenshot method, it automatically grabs date and time stamps, attachments, and accurate contact information for senders and recipients. It can also recover deleted conversations.

Decipher TextMessage is $29.99 and uses the iTunes interface. If you’re dubious about spending thirty bucks sight unseen, take advantage of the free trial, but this app has a lot going for it. Read more about Decipher TextMessage here.

Tansee iPhone Transfer SMS is another great DIY solution at the same price point for a three-year license. It uses its own proprietary software installed on your desktop rather than iTunes.

The clean printout rendered by (Tansee) allows for a seamless production. (Users can) Bates-stamp each PDF page and produce the thread in one comprehensive file, rather than in disjointed screenshot images pieced together in an unorganized manner. Use of this software allows for a more efficient in-house review process, as well as a more transparent production set to opposing counsel.

A disadvantage of this software is that it does not retain the actual native file, merely an organized photocopy with some of the relevant metadata attached to each message.

Cell Phone Extraction for the Small Firm.

SMS Backup+ for Android

SMS Backup+ is a free app in the Google Play Store that allows users to store texts in a gmail account. Conversations can be printed to PDF using a web browser. Sounds simple enough, but since this is a backup program it can only capture what is presently stored on a phone. There is no mechanism to restore deleted conversations. Another downside: reviewers say the app is buggy. However, as one noted: “I tried other SMS Backup apps, but they are not the same or as good! This app is significantly better (in my opinion).”

Other Options

For other print-to-PDF choices consider:

iOS

Print Utility Lite, Xerox Print Portal, To Print, Mobikin or iPhone Backup Extractor.

Android

Mobile PrintShare, Printhand Mobile, or Mobikin.

Evidentiary Concerns

The evidentiary concerns surrounding use of text messages are substantial. As mentioned, accurate date and time stamps and true identities of senders and recipients are critical. Capturing location data, attachments, and special characters can be troublesome. See How to Print Text Messages for Use as Evidence.

As this post points out, before extracting evidence from smart devices consider employing expert forensic help – not just to get it right, but to secure an independent witness if authenticity isn’t stipulated.

All rights reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

20 Apps for Lawyers

It’s been a while since we talked apps. From the first iPhone/iPad educational tracks at the ABA TECHSHOW, iOS apps for lawyers have only grown. We’re an attractive market with money to spend, even if our profession tends to be slow in adopting new technology.

This begs the question: which new (or newer) apps are among the best? Which of the tried and true are still worth using? Check out my curated list of the top 20 most-mentioned apps for lawyers:

Calendaring and Docketing

SmartDockets, DocketLaw, and CourtDaysPro promise to help users quickly and easily calculate deadlines using federal and state automated court rules. Choose the court, the trigger, the date and time, hit “Calculate” to get the result, and post to your calendar.

Courtroom Presentations

Looking for courtroom presentation software? TrialPad is the most popular kid on the block. The developer, LitSoftware, boasts “Whether you need to display a document in an evidentiary hearing, annotate a photo during a deposition, or compare, highlight, and call out two documents for a jury, TrialPad makes it easy. And while you can plug and play in the courtroom or the boardroom, you can also present wirelessly with AppleTV.” TrialDirector is free, and a good alternative if you have limited exhibits and no need to display video.

Credit Card Processing

SquareRegister lands high on the popularity list, but isn’t the best when it comes to trust accounting compliance. Honestly, you’d be better off with LawPay or Headnote.

Digital Signing Apps

Jeff Richardson of iPhoneJD favors SignMyPad Pro for digital signature capture. I’m a fan of DocuSign and HelloSign, which integrate with some of the more popular cloud-based practice management programs.

Encrypted Messaging for Lawyers

If you care about secure client communications (and you should), eielegal is for you. It offers “encrypted information exchange,” thus the name, and also creates an archive of conversations. As you’ll recall from a post two years ago, texts are part of the client file and should be preserved. The eielegal app solves that problem, as does Zipwhip.

File Sharing, Storage, Markup, and Management

Dropbox remains the most popular app for file sharing and storage. While the standard version will get you far, the advanced version at $20/month is a great price point for unlimited file storage. Advanced data protection is available for both.

Want to read, markup, sign, and share docs? Consider iAnnotate.

Readdle Docs and GoodReader are the kings of file management – superior to iOS’ “Files” app. Both allow users to open, access, and work with files regardless of where they are stored.

Legal Research

Everyone loves the Fastcase app but if you’re looking for an alternative, consider Westlaw or LexisAdvance.

Reminders

Sometimes free is best. The built-in iOS Reminders app does a stellar job of creating time- and location-based reminders. Tell your iPhone: “Remind me to call John Doe when I get to my office.” When you return, your iPhone will notice you’re in the office and remind you to make the call. Doesn’t get better than that!

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis