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.

Filing Fees and Other News

Filing Fees, Courthouse Staffing, Courthouse Projects, and Legal Aid

The July 2 edition of Capitol Insider included this announcement regarding filing fees, which increase effective October 1, 2019:

Increase in Filing Fees – HB 3447 increases most civil filing fees by six percent. Examples include filing, motion, settlement conference, trial, document, and marriage solemnization fees. The increase in filing fees will go into effect on October 1, 2019. Almost $300,000 of the increase will be directed to the State Court Technology Fund this biennium with the remainder deposited into the state’s General Fund.

In addition, public bodies and local governments will contribute to eCourt funding via “case initiation fees” effective immediately. Other good news includes increased revenue allocation for Legal Aid, courthouse staffing, and courthouse projects.

Approved Changes to the UTCR Effective August 1

The latest changes to the Uniform Trial Court Rules are now available online. The updates address the Certificate of Document Preparation, streamlined civil jury cases, consumer debt collection cases, family law procedures, exhibits in juvenile cases, filing of the DMV record, extreme risk protection orders, notice of filing expedited matters, and statewide post-conviction relief (PCR) rules.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

 

21 Key Takeaways of Electronic Storage

When it comes to eDiscovery, the guru is Craig Ball.

Craig recently posted about the upcoming 2019 Georgetown eDiscovery Training Academy, a week-long, immersive boot camp in electronically stored information (ESI).

The technology of e-discovery is its centerpiece, and I’ve lately added a 21-point synopsis of the storage concepts, technical takeaways and vocabulary covered.

Here is Craig’s synopsis verbatim:

  1. Common law imposes a duty to preserve potentially-relevant information in anticipation of litigation
  2. Most information is electronically-stored information (ESI)
  3. Understanding ESI entails knowledge of information storage media, encodings and formats
  4. There are many types of e-storage media of differing capacities, form factors and formats:a) analog (phonograph record) or digital (hard drive, thumb drive, optical media)b) mechanical (electromagnetic hard drive, tape, etc.) or solid-state (thumb drive, SIM card, etc.)
  5. Computers don’t store “text,” “documents,” “pictures,” “sounds.” They only store bits (ones or zeroes)a) ASCII or Unicode for alphanumeric characters;b) JPG for photos, DOCX for Word files, MP3 for sound files, etc.
  6. Digital information is encoded as numbers by applying various encoding schemes:
  7. We express these numbers in a base or radix (base 2 binary, 10 decimal, 16 hexadecimal, 60 sexagesimal). E-mail messages encode attachments in base 64.
  8. The bigger the base, the smaller the space required to notate and convey the information
  9. Digitally encoded information is stored (written):a) physically as bytes (8-bit blocks) in sectors and partitionsb) logically as clusters, files, folders and volumes
  10. Files use binary header signatures to identify file formats (type and structure) of data
  11. Operating systems use file systems to group information as files and manage filenames and metadata
  12. File systems employ filename extensions (e.g., .txt, .jpg, .exe) to flag formats
  13. All ESI includes a component of metadata (data about data) even if no more than needed to locate it
  14. A file’s metadata may be greater in volume or utility than the contents of the file it describes
  15. File tables hold system metadata about the file (e.g., name, locations on disk, MAC dates): it’s CONTEXT
  16. Files hold application metadata (e.g., EXIF geolocation data in photos, comments in docs): it’s CONTENT
  17. File systems allocate clusters for file storage; deleting files releases cluster allocations for reuse
  18. If unallocated clusters aren’t reused, deleted files may be recovered (“carved”) via computer forensics
  19. Forensic (“bitstream”) imaging is a method to preserve both allocated and unallocated clusters
  20. Because data are numbers, data can be digitally “fingerprinted” using one-way hash algorithms (MD5, SHA1)
  21. Hashing facilitates identification, deduplication and de-NISTing of ESI in e-discovery

If you don’t follow Ball in Your Court, you should.

All Rights Reserved 2019 – Beverly Michaelis

Mastering Motions to Compel

Celia C. Elwell, the Researching Paralegal, recently pointed to an excellent article in the ABA Journal entitled “6 Keys to Acing Discovery.” The article focuses on preparing for and arguing motions to compel. Post author, Katherine A. Hopkins, cites the following as keys to success:

  1. Avoid canned briefs
  2. Research the court procedures
  3. Research the judge hearing your motion
  4. Research opposing counsel
  5. Make the judge’s life easy
  6. Finally, don’t be a jerk

Read the full article here.

Your first reaction may be: this sounds like a lot of work for a “simple” motion to compel. Perhaps it is. On the other hand, research is something you only need to do once. If you’re in a firm or have a network of fellow practitioners, it should be easy to make a few phone calls about an unfamiliar judge or opposing counsel.

Knowing the court procedures? You better know the court procedures! If it’s been a while or you are new to a particular judicial district in Oregon, start with the OJD Rules Center. Scroll the page to find UTCRs, SLRs, and “other rules,” including the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure. If you are a Multnomah County practitioner, the new updated 2018 Attorney Reference Manual is now available on the Multnomah Bar Association website. Get it toot sweet!

I can heartily vouch for the tips about making the judge’s life easy and not being a jerk. No one likes the latter. Don’t take the bait if the other side is contentious. Keep your cool and your reputation intact.

As for the judge, put yourself in his/her position. A straightforward, well-organized motion with clearly marked exhibits is a great start. Your argument should be the same.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis