Why You Should Set Up a Rural Law Practice

Last week the American Bar Association reminded us about the lack of rural lawyers:

In 2017, NPR aired Lawyer Shortage In Some Rural Areas Reaches Epic Proportions

The “legal desert” in America’s rural areas is not going away. For the last eight years, Pacific Northwest legal publications have worked hard to encourage lawyers to consider a rural practice:

Ask Any Practice Management Expert

Practice management experts have been telling lawyers to consider rural law practices for over 25 years. Why?

  • Significantly lower overhead
  • Greater sense of belonging in the community
  • Less (or no) competition

Subjectively, rural lawyers seem to have greater overall job satisfaction. And clients prefer their presence – 71% of people looking for a lawyer think it is important to have a local attorney.

Read more about this issue in April Simpson’s article, Wanted: Lawyers for Rural America.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2019

How to Terminate an Employee the Right Way

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Let’s face it, no organization is immune from having to make the tough decision to terminate an employee. Of course no one likes to do it, but that still leaves the real question of how and when you should do it? This is especially true for lawyers beginning a new practice or expanding their existing practice…

via Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: How to Terminate an Employee the Right Way.

Assuming the employee has not committed an act that warrants immediate termination, consider these suggestions from the post referenced above:

  • Document, Document, Document: Scrupulously document disciplinary issues (if it’s not documented, it’s as if it didn’t happen).
  • Start with Warnings: When addressing performance issues, consider using a progressive disciplinary approach: For example, an escalating series of verbal, written, and other more serious notifications to the employee so they can attempt to improve their performance. However, this would not apply to serious performance breaches, nor for new employees who clearly don’t have the skills for the job.
  • Be Consistent: Take the same disciplinary approach for all employees—being mindful of each individual’s unique background and characteristics such as race; color; religion; pregnancy; gender identity; sexual orientation; national origin; age, 40 or older; disability, visible or invisible; or genetic information.
  • Document Some More: Always document the termination with a concise termination memo. If you do not provide the reason(s) for termination, the employee might assume the actual reason for their discharge was due to whatever protected category applies to them, such as race, gender, or age.
  • Don’t Waver: In the termination meeting, be professional but firm in your decision. The termination memo should do much of the talking for you.
  • Stick to the Script: Do NOT say anything different to the employee than what’s included in the termination memo—this is not the time to be overly reassuring and retreat from the true reasons for discharging the employee.
  • Go in as a Team: Try to have a manager who knows the employee present for the termination. A team approach—two management representatives, or a management representative and a human resources representative, or a management representative and a career counselor, etc.—is preferable because one person can take notes and there will be more than one witness to confirm what is said.

The Professional Liability Fund offers a Checklist for Departing Staff and sample office manuals, which may be helpful. From the home page, select Practice Management > Forms and peruse the “Staff” and “Office Manuals” categories.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

Why Young Lawyers Should Go Solo

I’m a young lawyer. I started law school in 2010, which was a scary time to be entering the profession. Jobs had disappeared and a scarcity mindset had taken root. I was relieved when I managed to find work, first as an appellate clerk, and then at several mid-size Seattle firms. But relief and satisfaction are two very different things and, after three years in private practice, I still wasn’t satisfied with my firm job.

So, just last August, I quit and started a solo practice[…]

via 4 Reasons Young Lawyers Should Consider Going Solo — NWSidebar

Post author Mark Tyson found that going solo was the right choice for him.  Why?

You can (and will) master the business of law

You’ll have to learn, by necessity, how to write a business plan, develop a marketing strategy, create key performance indicators, track conversion rates, and so much more. You’ll make lots of mistakes and learn from them along the way.

Being a solo allows you to lead with your values

I value organizations devoted to social and cultural enrichment. To support these organizations, I incorporated a sliding-scale fee model into my pricing structure, which allows me to offer reduced rates to those who need services but can’t necessarily pay market rates.

You are free to be creative

Writing interesting and useful content has been the creative outlet I hoped to find as a lawyer… I enjoy writing, so it rarely feels like a chore to blog, especially when a new prospect calls after reading my latest, or when one of my posts hits the first page on Google.

I only help clients I truly care about

When I opened my firm, I got some advice that’s shaped my approach to marketing: “Tell at least one person a day who your ideal client is.” The directive is to be bold, yes, but also targeted in your marketing. You’re not just looking for anyone who’s willing to pay your fee—you want someone who’s a good fit for you.

Mark’s main takeaway: Starting your own firm means battling insecurity every day, but the satisfaction is well worth it.

 

Streamline, Organize, and Improve Your Office

Be more productive

What if you could improve workflows? Leverage technology and automation to save time? Overcome procrastination? You can with Practical Time Management. This CLE offers over 30 ideas and strategies to help you take control of your workload, manage your busy schedule, focus on your priorities, and make your workday more productive. Accredited by the Oregon State Bar and available in audio and video format here.

Harness best practices

Not sure whether your firm is applying best practices to key office operations? Learn about automating client intake, documenting representation, modernizing the engagement process, and more in Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement & Workflow. Combine this program with Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement & File Retention to cover your bases.

Watch each CLE over lunch and earn 1.0 General/Practical Skills MCLE credits. Available now at On Demand CLE..

Get jiggy with eCourt

Understand common eCourt mistakes and master electronic service with eCourt Malpractice Traps and Oregon eService. Topics include: relation back of filings, UTCR amendments, upgrades to Odyssey eFile & Serve software, 12 common eFiling errors, key eCourt resources, using eService, service of process in the eFiling world, identifying eService exceptions, service contact issues, service by email, and courthouse dos and don’ts.

Trust Accounting – basic and advanced

From managing bank charges and avoiding impermissible cushions to reporting overdrafts and addressing client fee disputes, Trust Accounting Fundamentals covers all the basics of how to properly operate your lawyer trust account.

Want to delve deeper into the ethics of IOLTA? Advanced Trust Accounting will show you how to safely manage wire and EFT transfers, use layaway payment plans, collect “first and last month’s rent,” manage evergreen retainers and hybrid fee agreements, receive third party payments, barter legal services, pass on credit card transaction fees, handle unclaimed funds, respond to garnishments and liens, disburse settlement proceeds if your client is missing, and more – believe it or not!

Lucky 13

You’ll find 13 programs and a free eBook at on demand CLE. If it concerns law office operations, you’ll likely find it covered here.

Details for the detail minded

Q:  What does my on demand CLE purchase include?
A:  MP4 (video file), M4a (audio file), written program materials with presentation slides and resources, answers to polling questions addressed during the live CLE, MCLE Form 6 for self-reporting of MCLE credits.

Q:  How are the video and audio files delivered?
A:  Digital files are delivered instantly at checkout with your purchase confirmation email (look for the link). Download, stream, save to your Dropbox account, or send files to your mobile device or desktop computer.

Q:  How much do CLEs cost?
A:  On demand CLE programs are $25. The eBook, Tips for Improving Client Relationships, is free.  All transactions are handled by Selz and protected with industry standard security, including encryption. The Selz platform is also PCI compliant. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover accepted.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

Virtual Mailbox Services

Virtual mailboxes are useful for those who travel frequently or work from home and lack a business address. For others, online mail access is a question of convenience.

No matter which camp you fall into, or if you’re just now learning about virtual mailboxes, it pays to do your research. For example, some services only scan the exterior of your mail while others will open it, scan the contents, and store it in the cloud. Either way, you receive the results by email. To better understand the process, services, and fees involved, see this post.

As with any cloud-based service, always ensure that client information remains secure and confidential.

If you’re interested in the consumer equivalent of a virtual mailbox, check out USPS Informed Delivery. This free service allows users to digitally preview mail and manage packages from an online dashboard or app. Leave delivery instructions, reschedule deliveries, or set up text notifications.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis