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.

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

 

Revisiting eFiling Tips

Are you an eFiling expert? Even so, it never hurts to refresh your memory on the
“best of” eFiling tips. Here are some from our friends at Smokeball, purveyors of law practice management software:

Use a separate and distinct eFiling email address
This ensures that important court notices won’t get buried in your unread work or personal messages.

Check your spam and junk email folders
Court mail lands here more often than you might think.

Whitelist important senders
While not full proof, this step at least offers some assurance that messages are more likely to make it to your inbox. Learn more here.

Check the online court docket
This is a simple and effective way to verify that you’ve captured important court deadlines in your calendar.

Don’t wait until the last-minute
Last-minute filings are more likely to go wrong than right. Give yourself a cushion of time to do the job right – and recover from any mistakes.

Sound familiar? I’ve made these same points many times here, in CLEs, and elsewhere. See Nuts and Bolts of Oregon eCourt and Zero Tolerance for e-Filing Error.

Are you an eFiling novice?

If so, check out the “Oregon eFiling Checklist for First Time eFiler,” on the Professional Liability Fund website. From the homepage, select Practice Management > Forms > eCourt. For a thorough overview of eCourt malpractice traps, see my 2017 CLE.

The case for Oregon eService

Read the October issue of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin featuring “The Case for Oregon eService: An Underused Asset.” If you missed the Oregon eService CLE earlier this year, consider ordering the video or audio recording. Answers to frequently asked questions may be found here.

All Rights Reserved – 2018 – Beverly Michaelis

Legal News and Upcoming Events

Is Mandatory Malpractice Coverage Coming to Washington?

Mandatory malpractice coverage is well known by Oregon lawyers and may be coming soon to members of the Washington bar (WSBA).

In July, the WSBA Mandatory Malpractice Insurance Task Force presented a tentative recommendation to the Board of Governors (BOG) to mandate malpractice insurance for Washington-licensed lawyers. The task force expects to present a final report to the BOG in four short months.

Next steps include:

  1. Considering feedback from the Board of Governors;
  2. Ramping up information efforts among WSBA members, and obtaining and considering additional comments received;
  3. Detailing the recommended malpractice insurance mandate, including the specific
    required coverage minimums;
  4. Identifying in detail the recommended exemptions from the professional liability
    insurance requirement; and
  5. Drafting a proposed Court Rule for the Board of Governor’s consideration

Members may submit comments to insurancetaskforce@wsba.org. The task force continues to meet monthly through the end of the year. Read the interim report here.

Free Access to PACER

This past week, the ABA Journal reported a potential end to PACER fees:

A new bill before the U.S House of Representatives would prohibit the federal courts from charging for public documents. The Electronic Court Records Reform Act would require that documents downloaded from the PACER database be free. Currently, the repository for federal court documents charges up to 10 cents a page.

The article notes that PACER has become a reliable money-maker for federal courts, pulling in $150 million in fees in 2015 alone.

Of further interest to federal court practitioners, the proposed bill would require documents to be posted to PACER within five days of being filed in federal court in a manner that allows for easy searching and linking from external websites.

Additionally, it would require consolidation of the Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system, allowing for one-stop shopping when searching for federal court cases. Presently, each court operates its own separate CM/ECF system.

Free Data Breach CLEs in Bend and Medford

The Professional Liability Fund is offering two free data breach CLES in October:

These CLEs will explain data breach, what you can do to protect your client’s information, your ethical duties, and what to do if a breach occurs. For more information, follow the links above. Register for the Bend CLE by emailing DeAnna Shields at deannas@osbplf.org. Register for the Medford CLE by emailing Eric B. Mitton at eric.mitton@cityofmedford.org.

All Rights Reserved – 2018 – Beverly Michaelis