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 Client E-Mail

Three years ago I conducted a twtpoll asking for feedback on how law firms file client e-mail.  I wanted to know:

  • Who files the e-mail in your office – lawyers or staff?
  • How is it filed – electronically or in paper form?

The results were mixed.  Here are some of the comments I received:

  • “Attorneys are supposed to file (e-mails) in Time Matters, but they end up in folders in Outlook, junking up the e-mail memory.”
  • “Lawyer (solo) files e-mail in Clients’ Outlook folders.”
  • “We use Gmail … and use search to find (messages).”
  • “We label e-mails with appropriate matter/client name in Gmail and archive or backup as needed.”
  • “E-mails are printed and placed in the client’s file.”

These answers illustrate four common problems:

  • Law firms using Web mail are not filing client e-mail on their local hard drive or server.
  • Lawyers are treating Outlook and Gmail folders as a filing cabinet for e-mail.
  • No one is really addressing the issue of who should be filing client e-mail (if filed electronically).
  • Gasp!  Some people are still printing e-mail!

Three years later, I would love to report: problem solved!  But firms continue to struggle with this task.  Therefore, here is a reprise of my original post with additional suggestions on how to properly process and retain client e-mail.  (Spoiler: Keeping it in your inbox is not the answer.)

E-Mail Must Be Properly Filed

E-mail should be segregated by client and saved electronically in the same network or local folder where Pleadings, Correspondence, Research, etc. are stored.  Create a specific subfolder within the client’s main folder, or include e-mail in Correspondence.  Use inbox organizers, filing assistants, and other techniques to make the process easier.

Storing e-mail with other client documents allows you to have a complete electronic record that everyone in the firm can access.  When e-mail sits in your inbox, no one else working on the case can see it, and no one else will know what is going on.   As you accumulate more and more messages, your inbox becomes bloated.  Merely archiving or backing up e-mail is not an ideal solution for several reasons:

  1. E-mails may be archived in their original HTML format which typically consumes more space than e-mails preserved as .txt  or .pdf files.
  2. Attachments may or may not be captured by archiving.
  3. The archive may reside in the cloud – not the end of the world, but the whole idea here is to maintain a local copy of your client e-mail communications.
  4. If you need e-mails pertaining to a particular client, you will have to restore the entire archive or backup.  This is time-consuming, space-consuming, and will involve work on your part to sort, search, and identify the specific messages for which you are looking.

Decide Who Should File Messages

Solos with No Staff

If you are a solo practitioner with no staff, you will be filing your own e-mail.  I recommend the “file as you go” approach.  As you receive or send client e-mail, save it immediately into the client’s electronic folder on your hard drive or server and delete the copy in your inbox.  If this gives you pause, then create client folders in your e-mail program as a temporary holding place.  Let me repeat that:  temporary holding place.  I understand many attorneys like to leave e-mail in their e-mail program because they find it easier to work with.  I can live with that. For a time. But at some point you should create a routine to move e-mail messages out of your e-mail folders into the client’s electronic folder on your computer.  There are many ways to do this easily and efficiently.

Solos with Staff; Law Firms

If you have staff, or are in a firm, you have other choices.

Option 1:  Forward e-mail to your secretary or assistant for electronic filing

Pros:  Forwarding e-mail means you stay in control.  Private or confidential firm e-mails remain in your inbox.  Only client e-mail is forwarded, with the benefit of keeping your staff person in the communication loop.

Cons:  You remain in control of your inbox.  If you aren’t good about forwarding messages, it defeats the purpose of this approach.  In addition, your IT Department may not appreciate such a scheme.  Every time you forward an e-mail, three copies exist:  the original that hit your inbox, the copy you forwarded, and the forwarded message received by your secretary or assistant.  Unless you are diligent about deleting the first two, your firm will be storing all three.

Option 2:  Give your secretary or assistant full access to your inbox

Pros:  If you give staff access, the e-mail will get filed.  Staff and others will be in the communication loop.  If you don’t want to be bothered with filing your own e-mail or forwarding it, this may be the approach for you.

Cons:  Staff will have to wade through a lot of messages to tackle this task.  Firms who choose this option must refrain from sending sensitive information to attorneys via e-mail.  As an alternative, confidential documents such as employee evaluations or law firm financial statements can be posted in a secure place on the server accessible only to those who have permission rights.

No matter which approach you use, here are some additional tips to make the process go more smoothly:

Train Staff

Make sure staff understand their role in filing e-mail – whether they do so directly from your inbox, or upon receipt when you forward messages.  If the “people” part of this process fails, you may end up with no record of your electronic correspondence.

Keep Personal E-Mail Out Of Your Business Account

Many lawyers and staff are already overwhelmed by the amount of e-mail they must process.  Slogging through personal e-mail in addition to business e-mail makes it more difficult to find critical, time-sensitive messages.

Keep personal e-mail personal.  Doing so will save space on your business server, protect your privacy at work, and prevent business e-mail from bouncing back to the sender because your inbox is full of personal messages.

Zap the Spam

Use a spam filter to keep the garbage out of your inbox.  Postini, MailWasher, POPFile, Spamfence, Spamihilator, and K9 are all good products.  (Remember to check your quarantine summaries daily in case your spam filter is holding back a legitimate message.)

Take Back Your Inbox by Unsubscribing

If you order software or products online, you have probably acquired e-mail subscriptions you don’t want or need.  Sure, you can delete these messages from your work e-mail – just as you delete spam – but wouldn’t it be better if you never saw the messages at all?  The truth is that deleting e-mail means reading e-mail – or at least skimming through your inbox.  Talk about a time waster!  Get serious about unsubscribing!  “Constant contact” updates and broadcast e-mail product announcements have Unsubscribe links – usually at the bottom of the e-mail message.  Look for the link and click to get off these lists.  As you shop online in the future, use your personal e-mail (not your business e-mail) for purchases.  (Or better yet, set up a separate free e-mail account used exclusively for online shopping.)  The goal is to reduce your business e-mail to only those messages that relate to your law practice.

Don’t  Use (Outlook) Rules to “File” Client E-Mail

Don’t get me wrong.  Rules definitely serve a purpose.  I use rules (based on domain name) to direct Listserv messages to designated folders.  You can use rules to copy and forward all e-mail coming from a court domain to your assistant so he or she is copied on court notices.   What doesn’t work is relying on rules to “file” client e-mail.  Even if you were willing to suffer the tedium of creating a rule based on each client’s e-mail address, client’s don’t always use the same account to communicate with their lawyers.  And of course, trying to base a rule on a subject line is impossible.  How many times have you received (or sent) an e-mail with NO subject line?  Or continued an e-mail thread based on a subject line that ran its course?  Rules require consistency to work properly, and subjects lines don’t offer that security.  In addition, Rules created while you are connected to your office Network typically don’t run when using Outlook Web Access or similar remote access apps.

Get Your E-Mail Off the Web

I find it ironic that folks who are leery of cloud computing (SaaS) don’t give their Hotmail, GMail, or Yahoo!  accounts a second thought.

When you leave e-mail on a Web server, your confidential client data is not entirely under your control.  If your provider’s server is down, or you can’t get on the Internet, you can’t get to your information.  Macs and PCs both ship with e-mail programs.   Poke around.  I guarantee a preloaded program is available on your computer.  Set it up to download your Web mail.  This doesn’t cost you a dime.  Go to your Web mail’s Help page and search for instructions on how to download Web mail to your specific program.  For Google, log in to Gmail, click on Help, and click on POP under “Other Ways to Access Gmail.”  Google offers instructions for setting up Apple Mail, Outlook Express, Outlook 2002, 2003, and 2007, Thunderbird, Windows Mail, the iPhone, and other mail clients.

Once you are downloading e-mail to a local program on your computer, you can save it, print it to PDF, or at least archive it locally (my least preferred method of saving e-mail – see the issues discussed above).  Remember:  the idea is to sort e-mail by client, get it out of your inbox, and into the client’s file on your network or local hard drive.

If you absolutely, positively, cannot be persuaded to download your Web mail, then I strongly recommend you print messages to PDF.  If you don’t own and can’t afford Adobe Acrobat, then download a free PDF writer.   As you open and read each Web mail message, simply “print” it to your PDF printer and save it on your hard drive or server in the client’s electronic folder.

Copyright Beverly Michaelis 2012


I’m proud to say I took my own advice this past summer.  After “doing as I say,” I cut incoming e-mails in half.

Filing Fee Confusion Abounds

In December, I wrote about the new filing fee requirements under HB 2287.  Since that time Tanya Hanson and I have had the opportunity to work with staff at the Multnomah County Civil Department to hone the document that was first posted on our Web site

If you are confused or frustrated you are not alone. 

Here are four examples we hope will help:

For Actions With Fees Set Under ORS 21.110 (2) – Do Not Use The Calculator

If your case qualifies for the reduced filing fee provided by ORS 21.110 (2) – which applies to some specific types of claims for relief that involve recovery amounts of $10,000 or less – you are exempt from the additional party fee, and you do not need to use the fee calculator. The filing fee for civil actions which qualify under ORS 21.110 (2) is $137. There is no ORS 21.110 (1) (b) “additional party” fee; this exception to the additional party fee is provided by Chief Justice Order 09-052.

Another difference under HB 2287 for these “under $10,000” cases concerns multiple defendants.  If there are multiple defendants, the defendants appearing jointly in an action filed under ORS 21.110 (2) may pay only a single appearance fee.

For Actions With Fees Set Under ORS 21.110 (1) – Always Use The Calculator

For every other type of civil action, whether seeking recovery of a monetary amount or nonmonetary relief, the claim has a base fee of $197 for monetary claims up to $49,999, and, for monetary claims of $50,000 or more, there is a graduated fee scale depending on the total amount of the monetary claims in the case. There is also an “additional party” fee under ORS 21.110 (1) (b) for these cases; the additional party fee applies to every additional party beyond one plaintiff and one defendant and parties appearing jointly must each pay a filing or appearance fee. For all of these cases parties should use the Oregon Judicial Department’s Fee Calculator when filing or appearing in the action.

To learn more, read Understanding the New Filing Fee Requirements in Civil Cases (HB 2287).  (Also posted on the PLF Web site.  Select In Brief , then choose the December 2009 issue.)

Copyright Beverly Michaelis 2010

New Filing Fee Requirements

The new filing fee requirements imposed by HB 2287 have been a source of confusion and consternation to Oregon lawyers.  On December 9, 2009, the Multnomah Bar Association sponsored a CLE entitled “Fees – Clackamas, Multnomah & Washington County:  What, When, and How?”  The program provided useful tips and highlighted a number of potential traps for the unwary practitioner.  Here is a summary:

Civil Pleading Captions

ORS 21.110(7) now requires that civil pleading captions include a statement of the amount claimed.  This is a new requirement for cases with a claim of $50,000 or more.  If your complaint does not include this information in the caption, it can be rejected and you may miss a filing deadline. 

Using the Circuit Court Filing Fee and Additional Party Fee Calculator

Section 1 of the fee calculator is for the exclusive use of plaintiffs and petitioners.  Use Section 2 if you are a defendant or respondent.

Fees are based on the prayer amount, the total number of petitioners/plaintiffs, and the total number of defendants/respondents.  Here are three examples:

In the second example, the fees of plaintiff Smith are $867 calculated as follows: $335 for the first initiating party, $335 for the second initiating party, plus $197 for the additional defendant.  (There is no fee for the first defendant.) 

If plaintiff Jones is represented separately, plaintiff Jones also owes $867.  If plaintiffs Smith and Jones are jointly represented, Smith pays $867 as the first initiating party; Jones owes nothing.

The total due from each defendant is $335.  If defendants ABC and 123 Realty are jointly represented, the total first appearance fee is $670.  If the first appearance is a Motion (not an Answer), an additional fee is due. 

Note: Parties filing a third-party complaint will pay a separate fee from their original appearance as a plaintiff or defendant.

The Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) fee calculator does not recognize decimal places.  When calculating your fee, enter your prayer amount in round numbers. 

Chief Justice Order 09-052 establishes exemptions from certain statutory fees.  For example, a party may request a hardship exemption from the additional party fee when more than five parties are named in the pleading.  Exemptions are granted on an individual basis.  (Parties must apply separately for relief.)  When requesting an exemption, come to ex parte prepared: bring your initiating document or first appearance document and ex parte Order.  Pay the ex parte fee.  Appear at ex parte.  If relief is granted, take the signed ex parte Order to the cashier, file your initiating document or appearance, and pay the reduced fee.

If you are paying multiple fees on the same case or separate fees for multiple parties, consider issuing separate checks.  This will make it easier for the court clerk to properly apply your payments. 

Fee Schedules

Appellate court fees are available here.

Circuit court fees vary by county.  Use the “Select a Court” option on the OJD Web site to find the fee schedule for your specific jurisdiction.

Effective Date

The fee changes in HB 2287 apply to:

  • Civil actions, suits, and proceedings filed on or after October 1, 2009, and before July 1, 2011. 
  • Hearing and trial requests filed on or after October 1, 2009.
  • First and annual accountings filed in probate on or after October 1, 2009.

If a plaintiff filed an action before October 1, 2009, then the pre-October 1 fees apply if and when the defendant files an appearance.  However, third-party complaint fees apply to third-party complaints and appearances filed on or after October 1, 2009.

Check the language of HB 2287 if in doubt.

Overdue, Overpaid, Underpaid, Mistaken, or Missing Fees

Parties who did not pay a first appearance fee and are now appearing in court for the time on a post-judgment matter or at ex parte will be required to pay the applicable post-judgment or ex parte fees in addition to the applicable first appearance fee. 

All documents requiring a fee must be accompanied by the correct payment.

  • If you mail a complaint or first appearance to the court and underpay the fee, your document may be shredded without notice and you may miss a filing deadline. 
  • If a party pays a fee for which it is not responsible, it may not be refunded.
  • If a fee is overpaid, it may not be refunded. 
  • If no fee is paid, your document may be shredded without notice. 

Do not rely on the court to give you a courtesy call or return rejected documents by mail.  Courts are understaffed and underbudgeted, even with the new fee structure.  Instead, take initiative.  Check the fee schedule on the court’s Web site.  When filing remotely, always allow extra time to recover from possible errors – like submitting an incorrect fee – and enter a followup date on your calendar to verify that the filing was received and processed before the ultimate deadline.

Remember to be patient and courteous toward court staff.  The new filing fee requirements are a challenge for everyone.

Speed-pass and Form of Payment

Presently, courts cannot accept fees in advance or issue tickets, credits, or other proof of payment to be applied toward future filing fees.  All fees must be paid when they are incurred.  Multnomah County is considering the possibility of a speed-pass or other system that would allow advance payment.

The form of payment varies from court to court.  Some take credit cards; some do not.  For others, accepting credit cards is a work in progress.  If you are unsure what form of payment is acceptable in your jurisdiction, call the clerk’s office or check the court’s Web site.

Ex Parte

If you are appearing at ex parte in person, allow ample time to pay fees in advance.  Note:  ex parte times in Clackamas County have recently changed.  In Clackamas County, clerks are available in the courtroom to process ex parte payments.  In Multnomah County, all fees must be paid in advance at the cashier’s window.  Each court is different.  Check the court’s Web site or call beforehand if you are unsure of the payment procedure.

If you are submitting an ex parte Motion and Order by mail, your check must accompany the ex parte OrderIf no payment is received, your Order is subject to shredding without notice.  Although some courts have generously returned documents in the past, most can no longer afford to do so.

  • Come to ex parte with all copies you wish to be conformed. 
  • If you want the judge to have the court file available to him or her at the time of ex parte, make appropriate arrangements in advance.
  • Ex parte fees must be paid even if the court does not sign your Order. 
  • Ex parte fees must be paid even if the motion is stipulated.
  • Some matters are exempt from ex parte fees.

Motion Practice

Fees for Motions on civil proceedings are always due at the time of filing.  If the Motion is contested and results in an Order, there is no additional fee due at the time of signing.  If the Motion is contested and results in a Judgment, an additional fee will be due at the time of signing.


  • Trial fees are paid by the petitioner or plaintiff.
  • Settlement fees must be paid by in advance by each party attending a settlement conference.  “Party” includes the original plaintiff or petitioner, original defendant or respondent, third-party plaintiffs, third-party defendants, and trustees.  Guardians ad litem are not a “party” for settlement fee purposes.
  • It is unlikely that fees for ex parte Orders, Judgments, and similar documents are recoverable by the prevailing party. 
  • Pro Tem judges cannot sign the prevailing party’s Judgment on a Motion for Summary Judgment until the fee is paid.  In Multnomah County, attorneys are advised to take the Pro Tem Judge’s Letter Opinion to the cashier, pay the appropriate fee, then submit the Judgment for signature along with proof of payment. 

For those who missed it, “Fees – Clackamas, Multnomah & Washington County:  What, When, and How?” should be available shortly as a digital download on the MBA’s CLE Web site.

Copyright 2009 Beverly Michaelis

My sincere thanks to PLF Loss Prevention Attorney Tanya Hanson for her editing skills and contributions to this post.