How to Terminate an Employee the Right Way

Quote

Let’s face it, no organization is immune from having to make the tough decision to terminate an employee. Of course no one likes to do it, but that still leaves the real question of how and when you should do it? This is especially true for lawyers beginning a new practice or expanding their existing practice…

via Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: How to Terminate an Employee the Right Way.

Assuming the employee has not committed an act that warrants immediate termination, consider these suggestions from the post referenced above:

  • Document, Document, Document: Scrupulously document disciplinary issues (if it’s not documented, it’s as if it didn’t happen).
  • Start with Warnings: When addressing performance issues, consider using a progressive disciplinary approach: For example, an escalating series of verbal, written, and other more serious notifications to the employee so they can attempt to improve their performance. However, this would not apply to serious performance breaches, nor for new employees who clearly don’t have the skills for the job.
  • Be Consistent: Take the same disciplinary approach for all employees—being mindful of each individual’s unique background and characteristics such as race; color; religion; pregnancy; gender identity; sexual orientation; national origin; age, 40 or older; disability, visible or invisible; or genetic information.
  • Document Some More: Always document the termination with a concise termination memo. If you do not provide the reason(s) for termination, the employee might assume the actual reason for their discharge was due to whatever protected category applies to them, such as race, gender, or age.
  • Don’t Waver: In the termination meeting, be professional but firm in your decision. The termination memo should do much of the talking for you.
  • Stick to the Script: Do NOT say anything different to the employee than what’s included in the termination memo—this is not the time to be overly reassuring and retreat from the true reasons for discharging the employee.
  • Go in as a Team: Try to have a manager who knows the employee present for the termination. A team approach—two management representatives, or a management representative and a human resources representative, or a management representative and a career counselor, etc.—is preferable because one person can take notes and there will be more than one witness to confirm what is said.

The Professional Liability Fund offers a Checklist for Departing Staff and sample office manuals, which may be helpful. From the home page, select Practice Management > Forms and peruse the “Staff” and “Office Manuals” categories.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

Quadripartite Relationships

Quote

The Washington State Bar Committee on Professional Ethics recently released advisory opinion No. 201802 addressing “quadripartite” relationships.

As Mark Fucile writes on NW Sidebar:

Tripartite relationships among an insurer, the insured, and defense counsel have been delineated extensively in both court decisions and advisory opinions. “Quadripartite” relationships, by contrast, are a fairly new development and remain comparatively unplumbed.

While the addition of a fourth party to the insurer/insured/defense counsel relationship is rare, it can occur. This raises the question: can defense counsel share confidential information with the fourth party?

The answer under advisory opinion no. 201802 is yes – if the client consents and if doing so is in client’s interest and does not jeopardize attorney/client or work product privilege.

Oregon has no opinion on quadripartite relationships.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

Six Steps to Reduce Stress

Quote

Practicing law can be stressful. Lawyers are under constant pressure to meet deadlines and client demands, and law-practice environments can be highly competitive. If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious fairly often, it’s time to take action. Chronic stress causes chemical imbalances in the body and can weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to serious medical conditions such as heart disease and cancer […]

In How to Reduce Stress in the Legal Profession,” posted on NWSidebarJohn Allison shares six steps to avoid chronic stress:

  • Choose a Legal Career that is Meaningful for You
  • Don’t Suffer in Silence
  • Set Boundaries Around Your Time
  • Give Back to the Community
  • Practice Mindfulness
  • Make Time for an Avocation You Enjoy

For each step, Allison offers sage advice. For example:

If you start to dread coming to work, take steps to identify the source of your discomfort. A conversation with a colleague or a supervisor might improve the situation. If you feel a disconnect between the culture of the organization and your personal values, accept the fact that you will not be able to change the organization’s culture. You might decide it’s time to start looking for another job. Whatever course you take, don’t simply hunker down and try to ride it out.

This post is a good read. Check it out. If you’re motivated to make some changes, free and confidential support is available from the attorney counselors at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

When Opposing Counsel Doesn’t Respond

Quote

A recent post in NW Sidebar posed this interesting question.

While it is rare for opposing counsel to go MIA, it does happen. What steps should you take? Can you contact the adverse party directly?

Cut and dried rule

Oregon RPC 4.2 and Washington RPC 4.2 make no bones on this point. Direct contact with an adverse party is not permitted if you know the party is represented.  Exceptions are made in the case of consent, court order, if “authorized by law,” or when a notice must be sent directly to a party pursuant to a written agreement.

What to do

Post author Sandra Schilling makes some excellent recommendations:

  • Remember that non-communication from opposing counsel may be a deliberate strategy or delaying tactic. While lawyers have ethical duties of communication and due diligence toward clients, there is no specific rule requiring lawyers to respond to one another.
  • Make repeated efforts at contact. Warn opposing counsel of the consequence of continued nonresponse (you will contact the adverse party directly). Document your efforts.
  • Wait a reasonable amount of time.
  • Seek a court order if possible.
  • Otherwise, consider if the circumstances have abrogated your initial knowledge of representation. As Schilling points out, to “know” is to have “actual knowledge” under the rules. Your “actual knowledge” may be inferred from the changed circumstances (repeated attempts to contact, warnings to opposing counsel, and counsel’s nonresponse).
  • If you make direct contact with the adverse party, make sure you tell them to refer the communication to their attorney if they are still represented, and ask for documentation of termination if they say they aren’t.

I would add: at any point along the way feel free to use the Oregon Ethics Hotline: 
1-503-431-6475 or 1-800-452-8260.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis