Advice for Oregon Lawyers Amid COVID19 Closures and Postponements

With COVID19 news changing daily here are some suggested guidelines for keeping clients informed. This list first appeared on March 17. Modify as needed to comply with Governor Brown’s anticipated Executive Order of March 23 and Chief Justice Walters’s coming update to CJO 20-006.

Keeping Clients Informed Amid COVID19

  • Post notices on your website.
  • Keep your outgoing voicemail message up-to-date.
  • Send an “all client” status email.
  • Post reduced hours or closures at your office.
  • Limit or suspend in-person client visits.
  • Conduct appointments by phone or video conference.
  • Work at home if you can. If you can’t, follow CDC recommended health practices like washing hands frequently and sanitizing surfaces.
  • Prioritize client files. Follow-up with clients whose matters are now postponed or those with upcoming court dates.
  • For specific client outreach, use your phone, not email. Why? Clients will have lots of questions. If you persist with email the likelihood is you’ll be bouncing back and forth for some time addressing all their concerns. You will save time by calling and clients will be reassured when they hear your voice. If calls are running long politely explain you have other clients anxious to hear from you.
  • Use staff to spread the load. They can be a huge help reaching out to and responding to clients.
  • Get virtual help if you need it. To avoid being overwhelmed by calls, consider services like Ruby Receptionist who can help you remotely.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, call the confidential Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. They are available to take your calls and emails.
  • If you are worried about potential legal malpractice claims, reach out to the PLF by email.
  • For ethics questions, see this FAQ. Bar counsel’s office is available by phone or email or you can reach out to private ethics counsel. Keep in mind this is a living document which bar counsel continues to update.
  • Practice patience and kindness – especially toward yourself

Staying On Top of the Latest News

Visit the Oregon State Bar home page frequently for what applies “today.” Current restrictions, closures, and postponements may change.

All rights reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Court Operations Restricted, Statewide Postponements, OSB and PLF Closures

Trials and hearings statewide are postponed, with a few exceptions. Visit the Oregon State Bar home page for full details. Here is the announcement:

Oregon State Bar and Professional Liability Fund

The OSB Center, including the Professional Liability Fund, is CLOSED to visitors until March 31 and operating with reduced staff.

Going Forward

Status of state offices, administrative hearings, etc. are changing daily. Plan for reduced hours, reduced staff, and likely closures. Do what you can online and call or visit websites frequently for updates.

Keeping Clients Informed

  • Post notices on your website.
  • Keep your outgoing voicemail message up-to-date.
  • Send an “all client” status email.
  • Post reduced hours or closures at your office.
  • Limit or suspend in-person client visits.
  • Conduct appointments by phone or video conference.
  • Work at home if you can. If you can’t, follow CDC recommended health practices like washing hands frequently and sanitizing surfaces.
  • Prioritize client files. Follow-up with clients whose matters are now postponed or those with upcoming court dates.
  • For specific client outreach, use your phone, not email. Why? Clients will have lots of questions. If you persist with email the likelihood is you’ll be bouncing back and forth for some time addressing all their concerns. You will save time by calling and clients will be reassured when they hear your voice. If calls are running long politely explain you have other clients anxious to hear from you.
  • Use staff to spread the load. They can be a huge help reaching out to and responding to clients.
  • Get virtual help if you need it. To avoid being overwhelmed by calls, consider services like Ruby Receptionist who can help you remotely.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, call the confidential Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. They are available to take your calls and emails.
  • If you are worried about potential legal malpractice claims, reach out to the PLF by email.
  • For ethics questions, see this FAQ. Bar counsel’s office is available by phone or email or you can reach out to private ethics counsel.
  • Practice patience and kindness – especially toward yourself.

All rights reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Save the date for “Getting Paid” – October 2 CLE

Join me for a CLE on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 and learn how to implement best practices for getting paid.

Topics include:

  • Communicating with clients about fees
  • Maintaining client relationships to avoid disputes
  • Modernizing billing and payment practices
  • Creating fee agreements to meet the needs of today’s clients
  • Collecting accounts – practical and ethical considerations

Date/Time/Location

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a live, online webinar.

Who Should Attend?

Lawyers, office administrators, and staff – anyone interested in exploring how to improve billing and collections.

How to Register

Registration will open soon. Watch this blog for the announcement. Cost: $25. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

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.

 

Legal Trends – 2019 ABA TECHSHOW

Curious about legal trends? Here are some interesting statistics and takeaways discussed at the 2019 ABA TECHSHOW:

When rating lawyers, people complain more about customer service issues than the cost of legal services.

When selecting a lawyer, clients value guidance, certainty, and clarity.

When assessing the emotional state of clients, lawyers chronically underestimate feelings of confusion, disbelief, frustration, and urgency.

Lawyers and clients are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to communication:

    • The majority of lawyers expect clients to send an email or visit the office in person when asking to schedule an appointment. In reality, clients shun both approaches and prefer overwhelmingly to call.
    • 70% of clients want to meet in person when sharing all the details or facts of a situation. 18% are willing to meet by phone. Similarly, clients want to hear lawyers explain the legal aspects of their case in person (55%) or by phone (23%) not by email or other means.
    • For getting quick questions answered, 46% of clients prefer the phone, 29% prefer email.
    • Lawyers strongly prefer to call with status updates (64%), but clients are split between phone (37%) and email (35%) in their preference.
    • Signing, viewing, or delivering documents? 64% of clients prefer to do this in person. 20% are okay with email. Interestingly, 35% of lawyers prefer to review documents with clients by phone – only 5% of clients preferred this method.
    • Websites and client portals only factored significantly into client preferences in two areas: checking the hours a lawyer is spending on a case (26% of clients) and making payments (31% of clients).

Key Takeaways

  1. Solicit feedback from clients.
  2. Consider using client surveys that measure your “net promoter” or client loyalty score. Survey Monkey is one example.
  3. Focus on in-person moments with clients and minimize interruptions.
  4. When deciding whether to call, email, or meet in person, put the client first. For the most part, clients want to talk – not read messages or correspondence.

For more information and a link to the complete legal trends report, see my story on Wakelet.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis