New ABA Study on Malpractice Claims

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Approximately every four years since 1985, the American Bar Association has published a “Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims.” Plaintiffs’ personal injury and family law are the most frequent source of claims, according to the latest profile. Although the Profile does not correlate the severity of claims by practice area, the Profile’s “anecdotal observations” section suggests  that business and commercial law have traditionally been higher-risk areas on this score…

Risk Management by the Numbers: New ABA Study on Malpractice Claims — NWSidebar

Closer to Home

It is no particular surprise that Oregon mirrors the national statistics.

In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, personal injury, domestic relations, and bankruptcy/debtor-creditor law top the list for frequency of claims in our state. They do not, however, represent the biggest payout. In fact, they don’t make the list.

If your concern is cost, look to business transactions, securities, other civil litigation, tax/non profit law, intellectual property, and construction.

Here are the details:

Don’t become a statistic

The risk of a legal malpractice claim can be greatly reduced by taking advantage of practice management resources. HOW you run your practice matters as much – or more – than the area of law you choose. Reading blogs, getting advice, and scheduling a webinar are all ways to educate yourself on malpractice traps.

Learning to manage your workflow and properly track deadlines is a must. So is managing your time. Reach out if you need help or have questions. Take advantage of PLF and OAAP resources. Getting your systems and procedures in order is the single most effective step any lawyer can take to manage the risk of a claim. This applies to those practicing in larger firms too. Your firm supplies the software and procedures, but when it comes down to managing your personal caseload that’s up to you.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Oregon Vital Records Free of Charge to those Affected by Wildfires

From the Oregon Health Authority:

Many Oregon families may have lost all vital documents due to the wildfires. Family members may also have died in the wildfires. Under a new temporary rule, up to three certified copies of Oregon vital records will be provided free of charge if requested in connection with Executive Order 20-35. This new rule will remain in effect until March 1, 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does this mean?

The State Vital Records office will provide up to three (3) certified copies of a birth, death, marriage, divorce, domestic partnership or dissolution of domestic partnership free of charge if the record is requested in connection with Executive Order 20-35 related to wildfire response. The Executive Order only applies to fires that occurred in Oregon.

County Vital Records offices will provide up to three (3) certified copies of death or birth records free of charge if the record is requested in connection with Executive Order 20-35 related to wildfire response.  

When does the fee waiver go into effect?

The fee waiver goes into effect September 14, 2020 and will remain in effect until March 1, 2021.

How do individuals get the vital records fees waived?

When ordering the certified copies of the vital record, the person ordering the certificates must state the reason for needing the record as “Executive Order 20-35” or “Oregon 2020 Wildfires”. It is important that this information is noted on the order so the fee can be waived appropriatelySee link for ordering information.

What happens if I order by mail?

Complete and sign the order form. State the reason for needing the record as “Executive Order 20-35” or “Oregon 2020 Wildfires”. It is important that this information is noted on the order so we know why a fee is not included. Provide identification as required. We may request additional documentation if it appears the request for records is not in connection with the wildfires.   

What happens if I order over the Internet or by phone?

If you are ordering via the Internet or phone, you will need to pay the entire fee upon ordering. The certificate fee will be refunded once the order is received by the Center for Health Statistics. State the reason for needing the record as “Executive Order 20-35” or “Oregon 2020 Wildfires” when completing the order. It is important that this information is noted on the order so the certificate fee can be waived appropriately, and a refund submitted. We may request additional documentation if it appears the request for records is not in connection with the wildfires.

County Vital Records offices will provide up to three (3) certified copies of death or birth records free of charge if the record is requested in connection with Executive Order 20-35 related to wildfire response.  

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.

Are Limited License Legal Technicians Coming to Oregon?

With the success of the Washington Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) experiment, will Oregon finally dip its toe into paraprofessional licensing? The answer appears to be yes.

In June 2017 the OSB Futures Task Force submitted its report to the OSB Board of Governors. Among the recommendations: implementation of a paraprofessional licensing (LLLT) program in Oregon.

The task force recommended the BOG appoint a committee to develop a detailed implementation plan. The plan would include draft rules of admission, practice, and professional conduct for approval by the Supreme Court and adoption by the BOG. ORS Chapter 9 would be amended to provide for licensure of paraprofessionals who would be authorized to provide limited legal services, without attorney supervision, to self-represented litigants in family law and landlord-tenant proceedings. Consumer protection measures would also be enacted.

Why Do We Need LLLTs (Paraprofessionals)?

Short answer: access to justice. As detailed in the task force report, the number of self-represented litigants continues to grow. Legal Aid, pro bono services, and limited scope representation only meet a small part of the need.

Minimum Qualifications and Licensing

The task force report lays out a series of minimum qualifications for paraprofessionals or LLLTs. Licensing would include “liability insurance in an amount to be determined,” preferably through the Professional Liability Fund, and continuing legal education. To protect the public from confusion, LLLTs would be required to use written agreements with mandatory disclosures.

Scope of Services

“Licensees should be able to select, prepare, file, and serve forms
and other documents in an approved proceeding; provide information and advice relating to the proceeding; communicate and negotiate with another party; and provide emotional and administrative support to the client in court. Licensees should be prohibited from representing clients in depositions, in court, and in appeals.”

Proposed Expansion of Washington’s LLLT Program

BOG approval of a LLLT/paraprofessional program seems greater than 50-50. As we await the outcome in Oregon, Washington is seeking to update its program. Under draft amendments, the LLLT role would expand to permit:

  • Accompanying and assisting clients in specific court proceedings, mediation, settlement conferences, and arbitration proceedings.
  • Attending, but not participating in, depositions.
  • Communicating with opposing counsel and parties on procedural matters and negotiations.
  • Gathering information on the value and potential encumbrances on a home.
  • Presenting agreed, uncontested, and default court orders.
  • Assisting clients seeking nonparental custody or major modifications up to the point of the adequate cause hearing.
  • Dividing single-family residential dwellings which have no more than twice the homestead exemption in equity.

Washington bar members have until July 17 to submit comments.

Parting Thoughts

At its June meeting, the BOG accepted the OSB Futures Task Force report. As noted on the OSB website, “the board will be looking at those recommendations throughout the year and likely into 2018.” Comments are encouraged and may be submitted to president@osbar.org.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

Learning the Ropes 2013

Are you new to private practice? Then I have just the ticket for you!

Attend our three day conference – Learning the Ropes: A Practical Skills & Ethics Workshop – for a mere $65.  Attendance at the full program satisfies the MCLE requirements for new admittees’ first reporting period.

Choose from these concurrent sessions:

  • Domestic Relations or Criminal Law
  • Tort Litigation or Estate Planning
  • Civil Motion Practice or Bankruptcy
  • Creating a Firm or Joining a Firm

Can’t decide?  All tracks are recorded for later viewing at no charge.

Plenary sessions include:

  • How to Develop a Successful Practice and Avoid Legal Malpractice
  • Client Communication and Other Practice Management Survival Tips
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • The Ethics of Practice Management
  • Recognizing Child Abuse and Fulfilling Your Duty to Report
  • Negotiation Tips, Tricks, Traps, and Tools
  • Courtroom Do’s and Don’ts
  • Employment Law and Conscientious Communication
  • Bridging the Cultural Gap

Day 1 includes a “Meet the Judges” luncheon.  Day 2 features a networking luncheon with bar leaders and respected practitioners in the fields of Appeals, Criminal Law, Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Business Litigation, Debtor/Creditor Law, Estate Planning, Litigation, Business Transactions, Elder Law, Family Law, and Real Estate.

All meals, including the luncheons, are included in your $65 workshop fee.  The program is at the Oregon Convention Center November 6-8, 2013.  Register here or visit the PLF Web site > Upcoming Seminars (under the heading Loss Prevention – CLE).  Sign up early.  Space is limited!

Copyright 2013 Beverly Michaelis