When Opposing Counsel Doesn’t Respond

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A recent post in NW Sidebar posed this interesting question.

While it is rare for opposing counsel to go MIA, it does happen. What steps should you take? Can you contact the adverse party directly?

Cut and dried rule

Oregon RPC 4.2 and Washington RPC 4.2 make no bones on this point. Direct contact with an adverse party is not permitted if you know the party is represented.  Exceptions are made in the case of consent, court order, if “authorized by law,” or when a notice must be sent directly to a party pursuant to a written agreement.

What to do

Post author Sandra Schilling makes some excellent recommendations:

  • Remember that non-communication from opposing counsel may be a deliberate strategy or delaying tactic. While lawyers have ethical duties of communication and due diligence toward clients, there is no specific rule requiring lawyers to respond to one another.
  • Make repeated efforts at contact. Warn opposing counsel of the consequence of continued nonresponse (you will contact the adverse party directly). Document your efforts.
  • Wait a reasonable amount of time.
  • Seek a court order if possible.
  • Otherwise, consider if the circumstances have abrogated your initial knowledge of representation. As Schilling points out, to “know” is to have “actual knowledge” under the rules. Your “actual knowledge” may be inferred from the changed circumstances (repeated attempts to contact, warnings to opposing counsel, and counsel’s nonresponse).
  • If you make direct contact with the adverse party, make sure you tell them to refer the communication to their attorney if they are still represented, and ask for documentation of termination if they say they aren’t.

I would add: at any point along the way feel free to use the Oregon Ethics Hotline: 
1-503-431-6475 or 1-800-452-8260.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

An Oldie and a Goodie: Empowering Law Practice Management Tips

Whilst strolling through the Internet one day, I came across this post by Peggy Gruenke at Attorney at Work. Twenty simple ideas that are timeless and critically important if you want your law firm to succeed. Here are a few of my financial-themed favorites with thoughts of my own.

Peggy’s five financial tips – greatly condensed

  • Write a business plan
  • Create a budget
  • Know your overhead costs
  • State your fee with authority
  • Bill early, often, and strategically

Money and goals

As the business owner, your goal is to see the big picture.  Who are you? Why are you unique? Who are you best equipped to serve? This is the purpose of a business plan, according to Peggy Gruenke.

My input? Don’t be intimated! Your business plan does not have to be a magnum opus. You can get it done in a few pages. Creating a business plan will give you:

  • Clarity about what you want to do
  • Control over your own fate
  • A strategy for staying organized and on track
  • Accountability
  • A way to measure and monitor your progress
  • A path to help you move forward

Want help? See my business plan checklist – originally designed for law students, but easily conformed to active law practices.

Budgeting and costs

Budgeting can be as simple as a basic spreadsheet. Track what comes in and what goes out. Don’t bother with incorporating prior years (unless you have a driving reason to do so). Just start now. Toward year-end use your 2018 data to create projections for 2019.

As Peggy says, “You should know (by heart) how much money you need to make to keep the doors open.”

To get started, revisit this article by yours truly, Dee Crocker and Sheila Blackford.  As motivation, consider this excerpt:

Every law office should have a budget. Without one, it’s easy to overspend and hard to plan for future purchases. Knowing your overhead costs will help you decide how much revenue you need to make and how much you need to charge to bring in that amount. Failure to budget can cause financial problems. Lawyers with financial problems may take on new clients who have money in hand, leaving the work for existing clients unfinished. This can lead to disciplinary complaints from clients whose work is not completed.

I guarantee that your monthly “budget to actual” report, which compares actual spending against budget projections, will become your new best friend.

Stating your fee with authority

When a prospective client tells you that Lawyer Smith is willing to do the same work for $2,000 less, tell the person kindly that he can then retain Lawyer Smith. When you reduce your fee, you will have lost the trust of your prospective client. Odds are, in time, that client will leave Lawyer Smith and retain you to handle the mess that Lawyer Smith made.

Set a fee and stick to it! I know this can be hard, especially if you’re new to solo practice. Know in advance what you propose to charge, don’t make it up on the fly. Be matter-of-fact, business-like, and deliver the number without hesitation. You’re always free to make adjustments with the next case, but don’t waiver with the client sitting in front of you. For help in getting started, see this post.

Bill early and often

When you are ready to bill, issue invoices as soon after the event as possible: “As each day passes after an event, the perception of your value is diminished. If you send out the bill even two weeks afterward, the client won’t perceive the value to be as high.” (Peggy’s words of wisdom.)

There is no reason you can’t deliver your final bill with transactional documents. Take advantage of the arc of client gratitude while it is still in your favor!

Looking for more billing tips? Check out this resource.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Collaboration Tools in Microsoft Word

Did you know that Microsoft Word has built-in collaboration tools? 

Word supports real-time chat and co-editing of documents online. Ready to start?  All you need is Microsoft OneDrive and Word 2016

Follow these steps:

  1. Save your document to OneDrive.
  2. Open your document in Word.
  3. Select Share on the ribbon (top right).
  4. Choose a contact to collaborate with by entering a name, email address, or searching your address book.
  5. Can edit permissions will be selected automatically in the drop-down. If desired, change to Can view instead.
  6. Add a message (optional).
  7. Click Share.

The “share” navigation pane in Word will display who owns the document, who can edit the document, and who can view the document.

On the receiving end, the person invited to edit your document will receive an email with the subject line, “I shared [name of document] with you in OneDrive.”  (A piece of advice: we live in an age of malware, so let your collaborator know the document is coming.)

Co-editing in Word

After you share your document, you can collaborate on that file at the same time with others.  Microsoft recommends working together in Word Online to see real-time changes. Colored flags will show you exactly where in the document each person is working.

Color flag in Word Online as you co-edit

Chat in Word

When editing together online, select Chat to open a chat window.  Type your message and press Enter to send.

Chat history is not saved when you close a document.  If the chat conversations are important, use copy and paste to preserve them: click in the Chat box, hit <Ctrl A> to select all, followed by <Ctrl C> to copy.  Open a new Word Document, paste the chat history using <Ctrl V>, save, and close.

Using Chat vs. Comments

Microsoft suggests using Chat when you want to communicate with others immediately, for example, to ask a quick question or divide sections among the co-editors.

Use Comments (on the Review tab on the ribbon) when you want to attach a comment to a specific selection within the document, such as when you need to ask if a word or phrase should be changed. Comments are saved with the document and can be replied to, marked as done or deleted.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Tiplet: Proposed Judgments and Orders

Questions about submitting proposed judgments and orders under UTCR 5.100? Wondering what notice you have to give to the other side?  Here is a handy-dandy reference from Multnomah County’s Family Law Court, published by the Professional Liability Fund.

While this was written with family law practitioners in mind, it’s a useful resource for any practitioner.  Here are a few highlights:

What does UTCR 5.100 require?

With few exceptions, you must provide notice to the other party before submitting a proposed order or judgment. If the other party is self-represented, you must also include notice of the timeframe that party has to object. If you receive objections, you must attempt to resolve them.  Additionally, every proposed order and judgment must contain a Certificate of Readiness telling the Judge why the document is ready for judicial signature and setting out the status of any objections received.

Why do we need UTCR 5.100?

There are three main reasons why proposed orders and judgments must be processed according to this rule:

  1. Documents requiring judicial signature are routed separately through the court’s electronic case management system.  Segregating proposed orders and judgments is efficient and speeds up the signing process.
  2. There is no system which allows the court to “hold” documents waiting for time periods to pass prior to judicial signature.
  3. Pro se litigants need proper notice.

What is the notice period under UTCR 5.100?

“When the other side is represented, the drafter must wait 3 days, plus an additional 3, before submitting the document to court. When the other side is self-represented, the drafter must wait 7 days, plus an additional 3. The “3 extra days” requirement derives from ORCP 10B, which was modified by the 2015 Oregon Legislature to apply the 3-day extension to service by email, fax, and electronic service instead of just posted mail. UTCR 1.130 applies ORCP 10 to time periods set by the UTCRs.”

Other FAQs

Four pages of answers await here for practitioners.  Get answers to questions like:

  • What are the situations where a statute or rule authorizes submission [of a proposed order] without notice?
  • Can I combine my Certificate of Readiness with a Certificate of Service?
  • Is the Certificate of Readiness filed as a separate document, or somehow incorporated into my proposed order of judgment?
  • Does my Certificate of Readiness have to set out the address at which I served the other party with the copy of the proposed order/judgment?
  • Does this rule apply to Motions to Postpone?

Keep in mind that in some instances UTCR 5.100 is either unclear or does not explicitly address all situations.  This makes the FAQ re UTCR 5.100 in Multnomah County Family Court a very valuable reference.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2018

 

 

Asked and Answered: Oregon eService Questions

Last Wednesday’s Oregon eService CLE generated a lively discussion and some interesting questions. Here are a few that might interest you:

What is my date of filing?

  • The court considers a document submitted for an electronic filing when the electronic filing system receives the document.
  • If the court accepts the document for filing, the date and time of filing entered in the register relate back to the date and time the electronic filing system received the document. When the court accepts the document, the electronic filing system will affix the date and time of submission on the document.

For example: Assume you have a statute of limitations that runs on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.  You eFile on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.  Your document is received by the system on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.  On Monday, June 11, 2018 the court clerk reviews your filing and ACCEPTS it.  Your filing date is June 6, 2018.  The delay in processing your filing is disregarded.  Thanks to relation back, your filing is timely under UTCR 21.080(3)-(4).

Where do I find the entry date in the Register of Actions?

When interpreting the Register of Actions, refer to UTCR 21.060(3):

The following apply whether or not a document is electronically filed with the court:

(a) For the purpose of ORS 7.020(1) and (2), the date that a document was filed displays in the date column of the register of actions for the case in the court’s electronic case management system.

(b) For the purpose of ORS 7.020(2), entry occurs on the date an event is created in the register of actions. (Emphasis supplied.)

The entry date is what matters.  Always refer to the CREATED DATE field.

How does the 3-day rule in ORCP 10 apply to eCourt cases?

Thanks to Donna Van Eaton, paralegal extraordinaire with the Law Offices of Melinda M. Brown, we know that nothing has changed.

The 3-day count should start on the date your document was eFiled or submitted, i.e., the date on your Certificate of Service.  Here is the background:

ORCP 10 was last updated by the Council on Court Procedures (CCP) in 2014. The first draft of the amended rule did not refer to electronic service (January 29, 2014).  Five versions later, it was explicitly added (September 6, 2014).  The drafts and final amended rule are available to view here.

The CCP staff comments accompanying this change point out the intention – which was to treat all forms of service equally and continue current practices:

The amendment of section C continues the allowance of three additional days in computing the time in which to respond following service of a document by mail or by facsimile service without the intention to change the previous practice under Rule 9 F (facsimile service) and this section.  The same three-day extension is now made applicable to documents served by e‐mail and by the newly available electronic service, providing equal treatment of these forms of service and specifying that treatment in one provision.  The description of the additional time in section C is amended to improve clarity without the intention to change the rule’s meaning or operation.  With the establishment of eCourt, the word “paper,” appearing twice in section C, is replaced with “document.”

The 3-day computation starts on the date of submission (date of filing), not the court clerk’s acceptance date.  Keep in mind the goal of the amendment: to equalize the methods of service, preserve operation of the rule, and maintain existing practices. Historically, the 3-day extension provided by ORCP 10 was meant to compensate for possible delays when serving by mail. Extending the same benefit to service by email, fax, or eService may not be necessary, but the rule provides for it explicitly.

Withdrawing as attorney of record in the eCourt era

If you withdraw or the party you represent is dismissed from an action, UTCR 21.100(2)(a) states you “must remove (your) name and service email address as a designated service contact for a party.”  Obtaining a court order permitting your withdrawal will not automatically remove you as a service contact in the Odyssey eFileandServe system.

If you are unsure how to remove yourself as a service contact, get in touch withTyler Technologies:

If you weren’t able to attend Oregon eService, a copy of the program is available to purchase here at a cost of $25 (same as the registration fee).  Your purchase includes a video recording, audio recording, program and supplemental materials, and answers to poll questions. Apply for MCLE credit of 1.25 PS/general MCLE credits by submitting the providing MCLE 6 form.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2018

With a special thank you Donna Van Eaton at the Law Offices of Melinda M. Brown.  As Stacy D. Fawver said, “right on.”