The following post is a good reminder that your law degree can be used for more than practicing law.
If 2019 finds you evaluating your career options, read on. Follow-up by contacting the attorney counselors at the OAAP who can meet with you one-on-one or refer you to career resources, including CLEs.
Featured on NW Sidebar: Why Law School is an Investment in More than the Law.
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.
- Considering feedback from the Board of Governors;
- Ramping up information efforts among WSBA members, and obtaining and considering additional comments received;
- Detailing the recommended malpractice insurance mandate, including the specific
required coverage minimums;
- Identifying in detail the recommended exemptions from the professional liability
insurance requirement; and
- Drafting a proposed Court Rule for the Board of Governor’s consideration
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:
- Bend – Data Security/Data Breach – October 18, 2018 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. followed by a reception.
- Medford – Data Security/Data Breach – October 24, 2018 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m (check-in at 11:45 a.m.)
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 email@example.com. Register for the Medford CLE by emailing Eric B. Mitton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Rights Reserved – 2018 – Beverly Michaelis
With the success of the Washington Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) experiment, will Oregon finally dip its toe into paraprofessional licensing? The answer appears to be yes.
The task force recommended the BOG appoint a committee to develop a detailed implementation plan. The plan would include draft rules of admission, practice, and professional conduct for approval by the Supreme Court and adoption by the BOG. ORS Chapter 9 would be amended to provide for licensure of paraprofessionals who would be authorized to provide limited legal services, without attorney supervision, to self-represented litigants in family law and landlord-tenant proceedings. Consumer protection measures would also be enacted.
Why Do We Need LLLTs (Paraprofessionals)?
Short answer: access to justice. As detailed in the task force report, the number of self-represented litigants continues to grow. Legal Aid, pro bono services, and limited scope representation only meet a small part of the need.
Minimum Qualifications and Licensing
The task force report lays out a series of minimum qualifications for paraprofessionals or LLLTs. Licensing would include “liability insurance in an amount to be determined,” preferably through the Professional Liability Fund, and continuing legal education. To protect the public from confusion, LLLTs would be required to use written agreements with mandatory disclosures.
Scope of Services
“Licensees should be able to select, prepare, file, and serve forms
and other documents in an approved proceeding; provide information and advice relating to the proceeding; communicate and negotiate with another party; and provide emotional and administrative support to the client in court. Licensees should be prohibited from representing clients in depositions, in court, and in appeals.”
Proposed Expansion of Washington’s LLLT Program
BOG approval of a LLLT/paraprofessional program seems greater than 50-50. As we await the outcome in Oregon, Washington is seeking to update its program. Under draft amendments, the LLLT role would expand to permit:
- Accompanying and assisting clients in specific court proceedings, mediation, settlement conferences, and arbitration proceedings.
- Attending, but not participating in, depositions.
- Communicating with opposing counsel and parties on procedural matters and negotiations.
- Gathering information on the value and potential encumbrances on a home.
- Presenting agreed, uncontested, and default court orders.
- Assisting clients seeking nonparental custody or major modifications up to the point of the adequate cause hearing.
- Dividing single-family residential dwellings which have no more than twice the homestead exemption in equity.
Washington bar members have until July 17 to submit comments.
At its June meeting, the BOG accepted the OSB Futures Task Force report. As noted on the OSB website, “the board will be looking at those recommendations throughout the year and likely into 2018.” Comments are encouraged and may be submitted to email@example.com.
All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017
In late October, the Washington State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics issued Advisory Opinion 201601, “Ethical Practices of the Virtual Law Office.” What did they have to say? Let’s find out.
Physical Office Address? Pshaw!
Lawyers in Washington are not required to have a physical office address under association bylaws, admission and practice rules, the rules of civil procedure, or Washington Rules of Professional Conduct:
- Association bylaws require a principal office address, which need not be a physical office address.
- Admission and practice rules require a mailing address, which need not be a physical office address.
- Lawyers are not required to provide an address for service by hand delivery under the rules of civil procedure.
- Lawyers may use post office boxes, private mail boxes, or business service center addresses in advertising as long as they are not deceptive or misleading.
- Lawyers who work from home are not required to use their home address in advertising.
In other words: full steam ahead virtual law practitioners!
But Don’t Toss Ethics Out the Door
Virtual practitioners remain bound by standards of ethical conduct and must take care with the duties of supervision, confidentiality, avoiding misrepresentation, and avoiding conflicts of interest. Next week we’ll tackle practical advice in each of these areas.
What Does Oregon Have to Say?
Nothing. Or very little.
We don’t have an opinion specifically allowing virtual law practice, nor do we have an opinion disallowing it. And odds are, you won’t see anything on this front soon. If you have questions, contact OSB General Counsel.
In 2010 I gave a preview of my unbundling article, which included a discussion about virtual law offices. A bit has changed since then:
- For the latest on limited-scope representation, See Ethical Considerations in Limited-Scope Representations.
- As to lawyer referral, a physical office presence is no longer required. Lawyers may receive referrals statewide if they choose.
- The definition of what constitutes an “office” for professional liability coverage purposes is still controlled by PLF Policy 3.180. However, the policy itself has been updated. Oregon lawyers should visit the PLF website. Select Assessments & Exemptions > Exemptions and choose “PLF Bylaws & Policies” in the right-hand navigation column. Confused? Call PLF coverage staff 1-800-452-1639.
The other advice in this original post still applies. Oregon lawyers would do well to follow the guidance given our colleagues in Washington. Take care with supervision, confidentiality, avoiding misrepresentation, and conflicts of interest. Next week I’ll tackle each of these and provide practical pointers.
All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017
Whether you belong to the WSBA or not, I recommend you follow NW Sidebar – one of the best legal blogs out there.
Here is the NW Sidebar post:
WSBA has a new Web page about unbundled legal services, and we have five great reasons why you should check it out.