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

 

When Former Client Conflicts are Disqualifying

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Division 1 of the Washington Court of Appeals recently issued a significant decision applying a new standard for former client conflicts in the disqualification context. In Plein v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company, the plaintiff homeowners filed an insurance “bad faith” claim against their property insurance carrier, defendant USAA, over coverage for a fire and subsequent…

via Court of Appeals: New Standard in Disqualification for Former Client Conflicts — NWSidebar

How to Terminate an Employee the Right Way

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Let’s face it, no organization is immune from having to make the tough decision to terminate an employee. Of course no one likes to do it, but that still leaves the real question of how and when you should do it? This is especially true for lawyers beginning a new practice or expanding their existing practice…

via Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: How to Terminate an Employee the Right Way.

Assuming the employee has not committed an act that warrants immediate termination, consider these suggestions from the post referenced above:

  • Document, Document, Document: Scrupulously document disciplinary issues (if it’s not documented, it’s as if it didn’t happen).
  • Start with Warnings: When addressing performance issues, consider using a progressive disciplinary approach: For example, an escalating series of verbal, written, and other more serious notifications to the employee so they can attempt to improve their performance. However, this would not apply to serious performance breaches, nor for new employees who clearly don’t have the skills for the job.
  • Be Consistent: Take the same disciplinary approach for all employees—being mindful of each individual’s unique background and characteristics such as race; color; religion; pregnancy; gender identity; sexual orientation; national origin; age, 40 or older; disability, visible or invisible; or genetic information.
  • Document Some More: Always document the termination with a concise termination memo. If you do not provide the reason(s) for termination, the employee might assume the actual reason for their discharge was due to whatever protected category applies to them, such as race, gender, or age.
  • Don’t Waver: In the termination meeting, be professional but firm in your decision. The termination memo should do much of the talking for you.
  • Stick to the Script: Do NOT say anything different to the employee than what’s included in the termination memo—this is not the time to be overly reassuring and retreat from the true reasons for discharging the employee.
  • Go in as a Team: Try to have a manager who knows the employee present for the termination. A team approach—two management representatives, or a management representative and a human resources representative, or a management representative and a career counselor, etc.—is preferable because one person can take notes and there will be more than one witness to confirm what is said.

The Professional Liability Fund offers a Checklist for Departing Staff and sample office manuals, which may be helpful. From the home page, select Practice Management > Forms and peruse the “Staff” and “Office Manuals” categories.

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.

 

Six Steps to Reduce Stress

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Practicing law can be stressful. Lawyers are under constant pressure to meet deadlines and client demands, and law-practice environments can be highly competitive. If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious fairly often, it’s time to take action. Chronic stress causes chemical imbalances in the body and can weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to serious medical conditions such as heart disease and cancer […]

In How to Reduce Stress in the Legal Profession,” posted on NWSidebarJohn Allison shares six steps to avoid chronic stress:

  • Choose a Legal Career that is Meaningful for You
  • Don’t Suffer in Silence
  • Set Boundaries Around Your Time
  • Give Back to the Community
  • Practice Mindfulness
  • Make Time for an Avocation You Enjoy

For each step, Allison offers sage advice. For example:

If you start to dread coming to work, take steps to identify the source of your discomfort. A conversation with a colleague or a supervisor might improve the situation. If you feel a disconnect between the culture of the organization and your personal values, accept the fact that you will not be able to change the organization’s culture. You might decide it’s time to start looking for another job. Whatever course you take, don’t simply hunker down and try to ride it out.

This post is a good read. Check it out. If you’re motivated to make some changes, free and confidential support is available from the attorney counselors at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis