Tiplet: Bank Holds on IOLTA Deposits

Most lawyers are aware that funds held in trust cannot be disbursed until they are fully cleared. Deposits submitted electronically or by wire speed up the process, as does cash. Credit card payments are generally settled and in your account within one to three business days. Checks are usually the slowest to process and are not “cleared” until they are collected and paid by the issuing bank, even if the lawyer’s bank has a policy of making funds available in a shorter period of time. See Sylvia Stevens, Waiting for ‘Go’ Dough: A primer on disbursing client funds, OSB Bulletin 21 (June 2006).

The Professional Liability Fund recommends:

For an ordinary transaction with an established client or known third party, wait three banking days for locally written checks, five banking days for checks written within Oregon, but outside your local area, and ten or more banking days for out-of-state checks. Note, that checks for
$5,000 and over may be held by banks for seven banking days, whether drawn on a local, instate, or out-of-state bank, therefore allow sufficient time for these checks.

To avoid the growing problem of check scams, wait at least ten banking days before disbursing funds in the following circumstances: (1) the transaction is with a new client or a client you are unsure about; (2) the check is very large; (especially compared with the extent of legal services
provided, if the check is a retainer); (3) the check is from an unknown third party; or (4) any aspect of the transaction raises (or should raise) your suspicions. Remember that drafts or other instruments may take longer than ten days to process. To verify that funds have been collected, ask your bank to contact the issuing bank.

Source: “Frequently Asked Trust Account Questions.” From the PLF website, select Practice Management > Forms > Trust Accounting.

How to shorten bank holds

When are holds applied?

Holds may be applied by your local branch at the time of deposit or overnight during processing. Since checks over $5,000 are the most likely to present problems, review your accounts carefully. If in doubt, contact your bank.

 

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

Should MCLE Requirements Follow Emerging Trends?

The Washington Supreme Court Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Board says yes.

As reported by NW Sidebar, the board voted to send such an amendment to the Washington BOG for its approval. The proposed changes would require one credit hour each of:

  • Equity, inclusion, and anti-bias,
  • Mental health and addiction, and
  • Technology education focusing on digital security

per MCLE reporting period. The three credit hours would be part of WSBA’s ethics requirement (six credits overall).

Where Oregon Stands

Equity, inclusion, and anti-bias

Presently, Oregon requires three introductory Access to Justice (AJ) credits per reporting period. Equity, inclusion, and anti-bias are often folded into Access to Justice programming. For examples of AJ CLEs, visit the PLF Website.

Mental health and addiction

Beginning January 1, 2019, all Oregon State Bar members are required to obtain one credit hour per reporting period on the subject of mental health, substance use and cognitive impairment (MHSU). You can learn more about MHSU credit here.

The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) has a wide variety of past CLE programs that qualify for MHSU credit. To find MHSU programming, visit the PLF website. Under “Credit Type,” choose Mental Health and Substance Use, then click the blue SEARCH button.

On October 17, 2019 in Bend, Oregon the OAAP will present “Supporting Lawyer Well-Being: What is Your Role?” The program includes an optional reception and social with fellow Deschutes County attorneys and the Professional Liability Fund Board of Directors. For more information, or to register, click here. The CLE and social are free.

Technology education – Digital Security

Oregon does not yet require explicit training on issues of digital security, but don’t be surprised if this is added to our curriculum.

Oregon and Washington seem to follow each other in tandem when it comes to policy changes, such as MCLE requirements. Further, the Oregon bar has already made clear that competent representation includes competent use of technology and protection of clients’ digital information. Can a new MCLE credit be far behind?

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

Last Call for Getting Paid – October 2 CLE Event

Don’t miss out on the chance to attend “Getting Paid” on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.  Learn how to talk to clients about money, incentivize clients to pay, collect accounts receivable, and modernize billing and payment practices. Designed for lawyers, legal staff, and office administrators – anyone interested in improving billing and collection practices.

When and Where

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a live, online webinar.

How to Register

Click herechoose the image above, or visit the Upcoming CLE page. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the $25 registration price. Group discounts available to firms who wish to register 5 or more attendees. Contact me for more information.

Topics include

  • Identifying your fee strategy
  • Ensuring the client is invested in the case
  • Documenting and reinforcing fee discussions
  • Exploring the advantages of automated billing systems
  • Using billing descriptions clients understand
  • Making it easy for clients to pay
  • Sourcing the latest options in credit card processing and click-to-pay invoicing
  • Unbundling services to meet marketplace demands
  • Offering hybrid fee agreements
  • Getting practical about collection

Can’t Attend?

Video and audio recordings will be available to download along with the program materials shortly after the live program event.  Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store to place an order.

Don’t Miss Out!

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

Cybercrime: An Ongoing Threat to Law Firms

In the most recent issue of Law Practice Today Sheri Davidoff describes how hackers exploit weak security measures to steal from you and your clients. The most common targets: your email, logins, and files.

Email hacks

Once a hacker gains access to your email, he or she may download your entire mailbox, set up a rule to forward your messages to their account, or use email content to begin victimizing clients.

Preventive steps

Use proper passwords

Pass phrases (sentences) are the best. Otherwise, choose passwords at least 14 characters in length which contain symbols and numbers. It is critical to create unique pass phrases or words for each login to limit the scope of a security breach. Do not share them. Do not write them on sticky notes posted to your monitor. A password manager can make the job easier.

Turn on two-factor authentication

This sounds fancy, and if you’re not familiar with it, intimidating. It is neither. Login as usual, have your smartphone or cell phone handy, and enter the code texted to you to complete your login. It’s that easy.

Biometrics

You can use your face or your fingerprint to login if your device or software supports it. A quick Google search generates pages of “pros and cons” posts, which I will avoid repeating here.

Limit substantive content in email

Consider limiting what you say by email when the information is sensitive. Pick up the phone or send the client a message prompting them to login to your secure client portal instead. As Davidoff points out in her post, “Hackers commonly search your correspondence for ongoing conversations of interest—such as a real estate purchase or other upcoming financial transaction. Then, they actively monitor these conversations to maximize their ability to intercept a payment.”

Malware and ransomware abound

The most likely way to get infected with malware or ransomware is to click on a suspicious attachment or link. Use common sense before you click and if in doubt: don’t! Even if the message appears to come from a trusted source. Pick up the phone or compose a new message and ask the sender if he/she sent the email. (Don’t ask by forwarding the suspicious message – you are only spreading the threat.)

The US Department of Homeland Security has valuable tips on combating malware and ransomware. Also, take a few minutes and peruse the resources available at the ABA Law Practice Division (search: “malware”) or checkout the Professional Liability Fund CLE, Data Security/Data Breach: What Every Lawyer Needs to Know to Protect Client Information.  

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis