CLE Series: Best Practices for Effective and Ethical Office Systems

Your office systems are the backbone of everything you do. Join me for CLEs on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 and April 11, 2018 and learn how to implement best practices for client intake, engagement, workflow, docketing, conflicts, disengagement, and file retention.

Register Now
$25 – Visit the Upcoming CLE page or choose one of the registration links below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement, and Workflow

Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement, and File Retention

Both programs are live, online webinars.

Who Should Attend?
Lawyers, office administrators, or staff – anyone interested in improving office systems.

Program Details
Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement, and Workflow
March 28, 2018 CLE – 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Pacific


  • Recognizing objectives and ethical traps
  • Implementing the 7 key elements of effective intake forms
  • Building in accountability to prevent mistakes
  • Automating intake with ease


  • Documenting representation: why bother?
  • Appreciating the ethical implications of engagement vs. nonengagement
  • Finding alternatives when a nonengagement letter can’t be sent
  • Modernizing the engagement process using forms, brochures, automation, and eSignatures


  • Identifying barriers to improving productivity: what’s stopping us?
  • Exploring the connection between bar complaints and poor workflow management
  • Setting objectives using automation, integration, and delegation
  • Using technology and staffing to improve workflow

Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement, and File Retention
April 11, 2018 CLE – 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Pacific


  • Learning the attributes of effective docketing systems
  • Appreciating the duty of due diligence
  • Docketing tips for eCourt practitioners: knowing where to go, forwarding notices, calculating deadlines, understanding the Register of Actions, enlisting proper email management


  • Recognizing ethical traps
  • Establishing system objectives: who to screen and when to screen
  • Comparing software applications
  • Streamlining conflict checking using forms, checklists, procedures, and letters
  • Recording conflict results

Disengagement and file retention

  • Meeting your ethical obligations under Oregon RPC 1.16
  • Simplifying disengagement with forms
  • Protecting clients and limiting liability exposure
  • Creating policies, procedures, and checklists
  • Accessing resources


Are group discounts available?
Discounts are available to firms who register 5 or more attendees. Contact me for a discount code before you register

Do the Programs Include Written Materials? 
Yes. Written materials are distributed electronically to attendees.

Are questions welcome?
Absolutely. Questions may be submitted any time during the live event or afterward via email. Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

MCLE Credits
1.0 practical skills pending for each program.

Can’t Attend?
Video and audio recordings of the March 28 and April 11 CLEs will be available to download along with the program materials shortly after the live program events.
Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store to place an order.

Save the date – March 28 CLE

Best Practices for Effective and Ethical Office Systems

Your office systems are the backbone of everything you do. Join me for a CLE on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 and learn how to implement best practices for client intake, engagement, conflicts, workflow, docketing, disengagement, and file retention.

Topics include:

  • Designing effective intake forms
  • Modernizing the engagement process
  • Creating ethical and reliable conflict systems
  • Improving workflow through automation
  • Protecting deadlines with proper docketing protocols
  • Ending the lawyer-client relationship efficiently and ethically
  • Retaining, closing, and destroying client files


Wednesday, March 28, 2018 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 improving law firm office systems.

How to Register

Registration will open by the end of the week. 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 [2018] Beverly Michaelis

How to Say No to Clients


Did you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions?  You are in good company!

As we discussed in 7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships, lawyers often feel pressured to practice “door law.”  The source of the pressure may be economic:  I don’t really have a choice because I need the money.  Or it can be emotional: Family, friends, or former clients are depending on me.

Either way, saying no can be incredibly difficult, so here is some sage advice that first appeared in In Sight.  These tips apply no matter who is doing the asking: clients, friends, family, or neighbors.

Five steps to saying “no”

  • Be respectful.  Listen to the asker and don’t interrupt. Respect the request, then respect your right to decline the request.
  • Keep it simple.  You have the right to say “no.”  Elaborate justifications aren’t necessary [and may lead to backsliding, since many of us say “yes” to avoid feeling guilty].
  • Assign responsibility elsewhere:  “That sounds very nice; unfortunately, my
    calendar is booked solid.” Now it’s your calendar’s fault. Stand firm. Avoid engaging in discussion or negotiation.
  • Refer to others who might fill the opening well.
  • Say yes when there is a good reason to do so, it will benefit you, or the cause is one you believe in.  [Life is too short to take on a case or client you find repugnant.]

I encourage you to read the full article here.

Still need persuading? Time for tough love

You are not the only lawyer who can help your clients.
If money is an issue, there are other lawyers who participate in the OSB modest means program, offer sliding fee services, or take pro bono referrals.  If you continually give your time away to nonpaying clients, your practice will decline and you may need to close your doors.  If you close your practice, you aren’t available to help anyone.

If the case can’t be won, are you doing a service or a disservice by taking it?
Once a lawyer commits to a case, many clients assume the case CAN BE WON, no matter how you qualify your representation.  Not all clients have a legal remedy, for a variety of reasons. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but the truth is better than false hope.  You can always suggest [and should suggest] a second opinion.

A good case and a paying client don’t necessarily mean the case is right for you.
Don’t let someone push you out of your comfort zone. Law is complex. Staying on top of your desired practice areas is hard enough. Straying into unfamiliar areas is stressful, time consuming, expensive (because of the learning curve), and more likely to result in a claim or bar complaint.

You are a lawyer, not a doctor.
Keeping clients who won’t follow your advice, don’t cooperate, and look to place blame anywhere but with themselves, is a pure misery.  This is not a situation you can cure, except by firing the client.

All Rights Reserved 2018 – Beverly Michaelis


Thanking Clients Should Be Part of Your Closing Ritual

When was the last time you thanked clients for their business?  Asked for their feedback?  Welcomed their referrals?  Invited them to call you with questions or concerns in other areas of your practice?

All of this can and should be part of your file closing ritual. The work may be done, but your client relationship doesn’t have to be.

Your closing letter should cover the essentials, show appreciation, and cross-market your services

  • Inform the client that work is now complete and your representation is over
  • Return original client documents
  • Establish responsibility for current or future tasks
  • Advise the client of your file retention and retrieval policies
  • Answer final questions
  • Thank the client for allowing you to be of service
  • Invite the client to subscribe to your blog, YouTube channel, or social media posts
  • Educate the client about your other areas of practice
  • Let the client know you welcome referrals (see below)
  • Ask the client for his or her feedback (see below)

Send out surveys

A well-designed client survey will give you insight about what you’re doing right and what needs improvement. Increase your chances of getting a timely response by delivering the survey in a format suited to the particular client: paper, fillable PDF, or online via Survey Monkey or a similar service. For a side-by-side comparison of online survey tools, see The Best Online Survey Tools of 2016 from PC Magazine.

Sample Survey Language

The ABC Law Firm is committed to providing high quality service to all of our clients.  To help us achieve that goal, we would like your feedback regarding our services.  Please let us know how we are doing by completing the survey below.  

New to the process?

If you’ve never done a client survey before, spend some time doing a little research. Here’s a great post by Sterling Miller with his patented “ten things” to consider when creating, distributing, and analyzing a client survey.

Like to see a survey in action? Check out this example. Still not clear on what you should ask in your survey? Here is a list of 27 questions to include from Lawyers Mutual. Sample client surveys are also available on the PLF Website.  From the home page, select Practice Management > Forms > Client Relations.

Invite clients back and welcome referrals

If you perceive this as “trolling” for work, I hope you change your mind.  Letting clients know about your other areas of practice or inviting their referrals is perfectly professional:

As you may know, ABC Law Firm provides business, real estate, and land use services to a wide variety of clients.  If you know of anyone in need of legal services, I hope you will keep us in mind. 

Again, I thank you for your business and appreciate the opportunity to work with you.  If I can be of any assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to call me at (phone number). 

Automate first, then personalize

Client closing letters are “one more thing to do” in a busy practice.  I get it.  But don’t let them slide: your clients need the information and you need the protection that written disengagement letters offer.

  • Make the process easier by creating forms or templates.
  • If you practice in an area where your clients often have numerous tasks to perform, consider moving those items to an attached checklist.  It will make your letter shorter and the process easier for the client to follow.
  • Start using a file closing checklist. It will remind you to send a closing letter and take you through all the other details that must be tended to when a client file is closed. You can find a sample on the PLF Website.  From the home page, select Practice Management > Forms > File Management.
  • When you are ready to close a file, bring up your boilerplate. Modify it in a two-step process. First, change the form as needed to fit the case. Second, and more critical to your relationship, take the time to personalize your parting words to the client.

Find time to send personalized closing letters by delegating routine file closing tasks to staff, such as reviewing the file for documents that should be added to the firm’s template directories, adding additional names from the file to your conflict system, or entering the file in your closed file inventory.

Make thanking clients part of your everyday

Small gestures can make a big difference in client relationships.  Don’t wait until it’s all over to say “thank you.”   Express appreciation often: after visiting a client’s office or facility, for any kindness the client shows, in your holiday greeting, as part of your open house invitation, or in recognition of a long-standing relationship.  Remember: getting and keeping good clients is substantially easier than courting new ones.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

I Wish I Never Represented that Client!

If this is you, consider attending “Client and Case Screening,” a live online CLE event scheduled for August 31, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Learn how to screen clients and cases effectively and efficiently by:

  • Honing your client assessment skills
  • Using a 7 step client screening checklist
  • Integrating screening into client intake
  • Probing clients with 5 must-ask questions
  • Learning how to make adjustments when you take a case beyond your areas of expertise
  • Debunking the top 10 excuses for taking a bad case
  • Building discipline into the case selection process
  • Declining the poorly-matched client
  • Preparing effective nonengagement and disengagement letters
  • Embracing the lawyer’s Bill of Rights

1.0 Practical Skills MCLE credits.


Eventbrite - Client and Case Screening for Lawyers