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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Register for the Medford CLE by emailing Eric B. Mitton at email@example.com.
If you’re an Oregon lawyer, the best legal research tools are only a mouse-click away on the OSB website. Best of all, they’re free thanks to the revamped BarBooks platform.
From the Member Login link on the OSB home page, select Enter BarBooks, and choose Explore. In addition to the familiar OSB Legal Publications – 44 books that cover everything from Administering Oregon Estates to Worker’s Compensation – you will also find:
Other OSB Publications
Disciplinary Board Reporter (1998 – 2015)
Oregon Formal Ethics Opinions (2016 rev.)
Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct Annotated (2016 edition)
Oregon Legislation Highlights (2005 – 2016)
UPL Advisory Opinions (2013-2014)
OSB Seminar Handbooks
A whopping 132 handbooks from OSB CLEs. Here are just a few of the topics covered:
Advanced Estate Planning
Advanced Topics in Nonprofit Law
Bankruptcy Basics: The ABCs of Filing Chapter 13
Basic Estate Planning and Administration
Defending DUII Cases in Oregon
Deposition Techniques and Strategy with David Markowitz
Drafting Family Law Documents
Evolving Issues of Labor and Employment Law in the Modern Workplace
Fundamentals of Oregon Civil Trial Procedure
Intellectual Property Review
Legal Ethics—Best Practices
Litigation Institute and Retreat
Northwest Bankruptcy Institute
Real Estate and Land Use Fall Forum
Click the nifty download button to save any of these publications or handbooks to your desktop.
While logged into BarBooks, you can also search the Oregon Statutory Time Limitations Handbook from the Professional Liability Fund (PLF). BUT, the best place to download PLF handbooks is still the PLF website, where you have four to choose from – all available at no cost to Oregon lawyers:
A Guide to Setting Up and Running Your Law Office
A Guide to Setting Up and Using Your Lawyer Trust Account
Oregon Statutory Time Limitations Handbook
Planning Ahead: A Guide to Protecting Your Clients’ Interests in the Event of Your Disability or Death
We communicate with clients along a continuum – using emails, texts, letters, phone calls, video conferences, and in-person meetings. When selecting a communication medium, what drives your choice?
When Your Convenience Determines How You Communicate
Choosing a communication medium that is most convenient for you is understandable. Odds are you’re busy, maybe overwhelmed. You have information to convey and want to pass it along to the client quickly and easily. More likely than not, you’ll fire off an email, maybe a text, or post a document and notify the client to login to your secure client portal.
This is perfectly fine if the information you have to convey is cut and dried: not controversial, unexpected, upsetting, or likely to provoke a series of questions.
For best results, prime clients at the first client meeting. Let them know to expect emails, texts, etc. when you have routine information to convey.
When Client Convenience Rules Communication
Some might argue this should be the gold standard 100% of the time: choose the communication method the client prefers or finds most convenient.
While I understand the spirit behind this point of view, it ignores some important realities. Consider this typical scenario: Client sends you a question by email or text, but is unclear in what she is asking or leaves out key details. In the name of letting the client control the means of communication, you can:
Begin an inefficient exchange of messages in an attempt to clarify the question.
Spend an inordinate amount of time “issue spotting,” then answer every conceivable variation of the client’s real question.
Have I made this mistake? Yes, indeed. But the goal here is to do better. Neither of these choices is a good way to go.
Client convenience/preference can rule when you have straightforward information to convey. [Spot a theme here?]
If the client is being murky, don’t text or email. Pick up the phone. You’ll get to bottom of the real question far more quickly. Send back a quick message: “Let me call you to discuss this. Is 2:00 p.m. a good time?”
Purposely Choosing a Communication Method that is Inconvenient for the Client
If we’re being truthful, most lawyers have done this at one time or the other. You leave a voicemail at home because you know the client is at work. You send an email late at night when the client is likely to be sleeping. You mail a letter instead of picking up the phone to talk.
If you occasionally choose a means of communication that avoids contact with your clients, don’t worry about it. You might legitimately go this route to simply get something done. [Your convenience is driving how you communicate.]
But if you find yourself avoiding clients (plural) repeatedly (chronically), stop and reflect. Most lawyers who choose an “avoidance” means of communication are doing it because:
They anticipate the client will be unhappy about whatever information it is they have to convey – or –
The client is already unhappy [which could be reasonable or unreasonable]
Chronic avoidance can become chronic procrastination, which is a no-win for everyone. Lawyers who repeatedly procrastinate are anxious, stressed, and sometimes depressed. They find it impossible to break the self-perpetuating cycle of avoidance: as clients become more and more unhappy because the lawyer isn’t communicating, the lawyer retreats even more – not checking email, not opening postal mail, allowing voicemail to fill up, not reading texts.
Talk about communication at your initial client meeting. Let the client know what to expect and set the tone.
My goal is to keep you informed at all times during your case. I will email (upload) routine updates and documents.
If you have a question, feel free to call (text, or email) me. I set aside (mornings) (afternoons) to return calls and messages.
If the answer to your question is complicated, or if I need more information to give you an answer, I may ask to set up a telephone or video conference.
I like to meet with clients in person to (talk about settlement offers, prepare for deposition, prepare for trial, etc.) If you want to meet in person, feel free to (call my assistant or me) any time to set up an appointment.
You are welcome to drop off documents (any time, after 1:00 p.m.). If you want to talk (leave me a note or speak to my assistant so we can schedule a time to meet).
Consider the information you need to convey and remember your goal in communicating: you’re trying to build and support a better client relationship.
Convey bad news in person, by video conference, or over the phone.
Discussing something complicated? Use the same approach.
Is your client prone to anxiety? Do you anticipate the client will have a host of questions? Ditto on the approach.
Potential Legal Malpractice
If you’re an Oregon lawyer, call the Professional Liability Fund at 1-800-452-1639 and ask to speak to an on-call claims attorney in any of the following circumstances:
You believe you committed malpractice
The client is threatening to sue or is asserting you malpracticed
The PLF offers discounts on cloud-based practice management software, including MyCase, conflict checking software (Client Conflict Check), and business productivity software (WordPerfect, PDF Fusion, and Perfect Authority).
WordRake, one of our newest offerings, is editing and proofreading software geared to the legal profession:
WordRake tightens, tones, and clarifies your writing. Just click the “rake” button and watch the in-line editor ripple through your document, suggesting edits to remove clutter and improve unclear phrasing, just like a live editor. Give your first drafts the polish of a second or third draft, quickly and painlessly.
Zama is a news, alerts, and content monitoring service:
Zama mines over 70,000 news, information, and social media sources so you don’t have to. Easily find the information to help grow your business and strengthen client relationships. Organizations that use Zama include Oregon law firms Ball Janik LLP and Karnopp Petersen LLP.