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.

Resolve to Improve Your Practice in the New Year

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

 

You don’t really have to choose, because in 2020 you’ll see posts on all these topics and more!

STREAMLINE YOUR PRACTICE IN THE NEW YEAR

We begin the year with a Fresh Start.  If you’ve ever felt disorganized or overwhelmed, this post is for you.  No habit or office system is written in stone.  You can make adjustments, update your practices, or create new procedures. For a kickstart, visit this blog next Monday.

BETTER CLIENT MANAGEMENT

Recommitting to marketing and client retention begins with understanding how to control and relate to clients.  Download my free eBook, Tips for Improving Client Relationships.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Collecting fees is a battle every lawyer fights. We’ll start the new year with a deeper understanding of fee agreements, billing, and collections.

BETTER TECH FOR EVERYONE

Every year brings new tech tips, gadgets, and websites worth your time and investment. If you just can’t wait, check out 2019’s Technology Tips for Busy Legal Professionalsfeaturing workflow automation, the importance of practice management integration, better email management and document drafting with apps, ink-to-digital notebooks, specialty legal keypads, smart conference room cameras, how to create a free online business profile, ethically-compliant business texting, online contract lawyering resources, AI-powered legal research, and more.

Happy New Year!

Tumalo River

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis 2020

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