Treating Clients Well

In today’s legal economy, developing business and marketing to prospective clients is the centerpiece of nearly every lawyer’s existence. Whether you are a sole practitioner, an associate or a seasoned partner, you will most likely need or be expected to cultivate and grow your own clientele.

Some firms lean heavily on web design and search engine optimization to attract prospects. Others rely on referrals. Both approaches are effective, but incomplete. The next step is to deliver top-notch client service, starting with understanding and meeting client needs. Continue reading

In Defense of Lawyers Who Write Letters

Is there anything more “old-fashioned” than writing a letter?  I remember posting a Tweet a few years back in which I stressed the importance of documenting your file with a letter to the client if the client chooses to act against your advice.  I was chided by a few followers who asked what a “letter” was.  (In my defense, letters are easily attached to e-mail messages!)

After the virtual laughter died down, I didn’t give the letter vs. e-mail “controversy” any more thought.  Recently, I spoke to a lawyer who told me he purposely prepares letters for all client communication unless the question is very brief – a quick confirmation or yes/no answer.  His reasoning?  E-mail can lend itself to quick, knee-jerk responses that are often regretted after the fact.  This lawyer felt that by taking the time to compose a letter he treated matters more thoughtfully and professionally.  He often sends letters by e-mail, as a PDF attachment, but felt strongly that the process of composing a letter forced him – in a good way – to treat his client communication more formally.  An excellent point, I thought.  And clearly it worked best for him.

There is another reason why you might want to consider writing and mailing a letter via the US Postal Service.

In 2010, the Radicati Group estimated that 294 billion e-mails are sent per day.  If you’re like me, I suspect you have days when you wish e-mail would just go away.  Perhaps there is still a place for a good, old-fashioned letter:

envelope

Copyright 2013 Beverly Michaelis

2012 Oregon House of Delegates – What is at Stake?

The 2012 meeting of the Oregon State Bar House of Delegates is scheduled for November 2, 2012.  The deadline for submitting resolutions has passed, but all bar members are welcome to attend the meeting and participate.  Only delegates may vote, but if you feel strongly about a particular resolution, make your views known to your delegate.  A complete HOD roster is available here.  The following agenda items caught my eye:

  • Increase Inactive Membership dues to $125 per year (Resolution 7)
  • Amend the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct (Resolutions 9, 10, 15, 22, and 23; discussed further below)
  • Establish an “Online Computer Knowledge Base” incorporating all OSB materials that are not privileged or confidential (Resolution 12)
  • Create a Metropolitan Court District combining Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties (Resolution 13)
  • Amend the policies and procedures of the Lawyer Referral Service (regarding removal of referral panel members upon filing of a disciplinary proceeding) (Resolution 14)
  • Recommend to Council on Court Procedures an amendment to ORCP 54E permitting plaintiffs to file Offers of Judgment (Resolution 19)
  • Encourage BOG to study and consider a legislative proposal amending ORS 82.010(1) allowing accrual of prejudgment interest in non-contract cases (Resolution 20)
  • Seek legislative approval for a Centralized Legal Notice System (in lieu of the present system which requires legal notices to be published in a newspaper of general circulation) (Resolution 21)

Proposed Amendments to the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct

Resolution 9 would amend the rules relating to advancement of costs.  “The proposed new language comes from ABA Model Rule 1.8(e) which allows a lawyer to advance the costs of litigation to clients with repayment being contingent on the outcome of the case, and also to pay the costs of litigation for an indigent client…. The BOG believes that this proposed change furthers the bar’s commitment to access to justice. Lawyers routinely waive costs after an unsuccessful outcome.  Under the current rule, lawyers must state in their fee agreements that clients are responsible for costs and expenses of litigation regardless of the outcome of the case, then wait for the outcome to decide whether to waive the costs. The high cost of litigation can discourage clients from pursuing the legal remedies to which they are entitled.”

Roughly speaking, Resolution 10 permits fee-splitting with a “bar-sponsored” or “not-for-profit” lawyer referral service.  The specific proposal seeks to amend ORPC 5.4 allowing a lawyer to “pay the usual charges of a bar-sponsored or operated not-for-profit lawyer referral service, including fees calculated as a percentage of legal fees received by the lawyer from a referral.”

Resolution 15 would amend ORPC 1.1 to add the following language relating to competent representation:  “If a lawyer does not have sufficient learning and skill when the legal service is undertaken, the lawyer may nonetheless perform such services competently by 1) associating with or, where appropriate, professionally consulting another lawyer or expert in the subject matter reasonably believed to be competent, or 2) by acquiring sufficient learning and skill before performance is required.”

Resolution 22 seeks to amend ORPC 3.4 – Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel.  The background explains:  “The purpose of this proposed rule change is make the rule consistent with the prohibition of using criminal prosecution to gain a civil advantage by including the initiation of a bar complaint during the pendency of civil proceeding against a lawyer, thereby precluding any effort to extort a settlement or otherwise gain some other advantage in that proceeding.”

Lastly, Resolution 23 would prevent “runners” or “cappers” from soliciting prospective clients.  The background to this agenda item describes “A ‘runner’ or ‘capper’ (as) any person, firm, association or corporation acting for consideration in any manner or in any capacity as an agent for an attorney at law or law firm, in the solicitation or procurement of business for the attorney at law or law firm; or any person or entity acting for consideration as an agent of a lawyer or law firm.”  The Resolution seeks to amend ORPC 7.3 with language prohibiting use of “runners” and “cappers” in specified settings, such as prisons, jails, detention facilities, hospitals, courts, on public streets or highways, or on any private property.

Questions?

Members who have questions concerning the House of Delegates meeting should contact Camille Greene, Executive Assistant, by phone at 503-431-6386, by e-mail at cgreene@osbar.org, or toll free inside Oregon at 800-452-8260 ext 386.

Making Your Voice Heard

Attend the meeting, debate, and participate or contact your HOD delegate to make your views known. Review the complete Agenda here.

Why Professionalism Matters

Lawyers serving as mentors in the Oregon State Bar New Lawyer Mentoring Program are tasked with educating their mentees about the standards of professionalism and Rules of Professional Conduct.  Some might wonder about the former, since knowing how to comport oneself seems like a given.

Ah!  That’s where speaker Julia Hagan served up a fresh reminder in her recent talk, Professionalism: The Oregon Brand-Suggestions on Being an Effective Mentor:

Lesson 1:  Please Be Smarter than a Kindergartner

Theresa Morris, Wife of Bob Morris vs. Coker, Allis-Chalmers Corporation, et al., Case Nos. A-11-MC-712-SS (through A-11-MC-715-SS)

ORDER

Greetings and Salutations!

You are invited to a kindergarten party on THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER  1, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 2 of the United States Courthouse, 200 W. Eighth Street, Austin, Texas.

The party will feature many exciting and informative lessons, including:

  • How to telephone and communicate with a lawyer
  • How to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates
  • How to limit depositions to reasonable subject matter
  • Why it is neither cute nor clever to attempt to quash a subpoena for technical failures of service when notice is reasonably given; and
  • An advanced seminar on not wasting the time of a busy federal judge and his staff because you are unable to practice law at the level of a first year law student.

Invitation to this exclusive event is not RSVP. Please remember to bring a sack lunch! The United States Marshals have beds available if necessary, so you may wish to bring a toothbrush in case the party runs late.

Read Judge Sparks full Order here.  And if Texas smackdowns aren’t enough

Lesson 2:  “Rock, Paper, Scissors” Isn’t Fun When the Judge Orders You to Play

Avista Management, Inc., d/b/a/ Avista Plex, Inc. vs. Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company, Case No. 6:05-cv-1430-Orl-31JGG

ORDER

This matter comes  before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion to designate location of Rule 30(b)(6)  deposition  (Doc.  I 05).  Upon consideration of the Motion – the latest in a series of Gordian knots that the parties have been unable to untangle  without  enlisting  the assistance of the federal courts – it is

ORDERED that said Motion is DENIED.  Instead, the Court will fashion a new form of alternative  dispute resolution, to wit:  at 4:00P.M. on Friday, June 30, 2006, counsel shall convene at a neutral site agreeable to both parties.  If counsel cannot agree on a neutral site, they shall meet on the front steps of the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse, 801 North Florida Ave., Tampa, Florida 33602.  Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness.  At that time and location, counsel shall engage  in one (1) game of “rock, paper, scissors.”  The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during  the period July 11-12, 2006.  If either party disputes  the outcome of this engagement, an appeal may be filed and a hearing will be held at 8:30 A.M. on Friday, July 7, 2006 before the undersigned  in Courtroom  3, George C. Young United States Courthouse and Federal  Building, 80 North Hughey Avenue, Orlando,  Florida 32801.

DONE and ORDERED in Chambers,  Orlando,  Florida on June 6, 2006.

Judge Presnell’s full Order may be found here.

Five Keys to Being a Good Mentor

In September I spoke at Making a Difference: Mentoring New Lawyers for the Oregon State Bar.  The program was inspiring.  I especially enjoyed Julia Hagan’s remarks on professionalism.  If you are thinking about being a mentor, I hope you take Julia’s advice:

Five Keys to Being a Good Mentor

  • Share Your Own Stories
    • Your proud moments
    • Your-not-so-proud moments (We usually learn more from our mistakes than our successes!)
  • Help Your Mentee Make Connections with Other Lawyers
    • Invite your mentee to lunch with your colleagues
    • Introduce your mentee to judges and staff at the courthouse
    • Take your mentee to CLEs or bar social events
  • Be a Sounding Board
    • Share your wisdom
    • Be the “objective ear”
    • In some cases, you may be the sole source of advice if your mentee is uncomfortable approaching a member of his or her firm.  At a minimum, you offer a different perspective.
  • Serve as a Role Model for Professionalism and Best Practices
    • Connect your mentee to other bar leaders and role models
  • Enjoy Your Time as a Mentor
    • Enjoy teaching
    • Enjoy learning – you will get more than you give!