Where are your go to resources?

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)   by Sheila Blackford   ©2012

What is the best trust accounting software I should adopt for my firm?
When should I run a conflicts search?
How long I should keep closed client files – if my client has a copy already?
Where should I open my office to get more business?
Which networking events may be helpful to me as a new attorney?
Who can help me figure out what I need to do to open my own office?

These are all questions that get asked over and over by lawyers. The big question behind all of them is one: where are your go to resources? Today, I’d like to tell you about where you can find a variety of valuable of go to resources.

Ask a Practice Management Advisor
I work for the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund as a practice management advisor. If you are an Oregon lawyer or member of an Oregon lawyer’s firm, then you know the PLF is the mandatory malpractice insurance carrier for the basic coverage required of Oregon lawyers in private practice. If you are not an Oregon attorney, you may have a practice management advisor associated with your state bar association. To see a list of practice management advisors in North American, see here ABA Law Practice Management Section Practice Management Advisors/State & Local Bar Outreach Committee. Call your practice management advisor! We are a resource to getting you the answers to your questions.

Practice Aids & Forms
What you may not realize is that the PLF has a huge variety of free practice aids and forms that can be downloaded from www.osbplf.org. See Loss Prevention on the menu and select the last item, practice aids and forms. Download all of them in Word or WordPerfect and you can customize them. You find a variety of checklists to help you to tackle various substantive practice areas – adoptions to workers’ compensation– plus topics that cut across all practice areas like conflicts of interest, calendaring and docketing, engagement, nonengagement, disengagement, file management, opening your law office, closing your law office, trust accounting, and technology. Lawyers are surprised by the number of practice aids and forms that are available.

You want to open your own law office? The PLF has free guides which you can download in PDF format from the PLF website, on the menu under Loss Prevention, select Books from the PLF: A Guide to Setting Up & Running Your Law Office, A Guide to Setting Up & Managing Your Lawyer Trust Account, Planning Ahead: A Guide to Protecting Your Clients’ Interests in the Event of Your Disability or Death, and Oregon Statutory Time Limitations Handbook.

Books from the OSB: BarBooks is a resource you simply must take advantage of because you are entitled to free access to excellent books specific to your desired practice area, such as the helpful five volume Advising Oregon Businesses. If you want to look at what publications the OSB offers, see the Legal Publications Catalog. Don’t overlook valuable publications that are associated with CLEs.

CLE Seminars
You want to learn about practicing in different areas?
CLEs from the PLF:You can find CLEs geared to avoiding malpractice traps in family law or how to set up a conflict system or handling your trust account or improving your understanding of financial considerations about managing your law office plus a great variety of other practice management at the PLF. See PLF website then on menu under Loss Prevention select CLE to review on-demand programs, access programs available on DVD of a CLE you might have missed and download the CLE’s handouts, or learn about an upcoming in-person CLE.

CLEs from the OSB:You can find CLEs specific to your desired practice area plus other CLEs – find out what CLEs are available in a variety of formats, QuickCalls, CLE On Demand learn about upcoming live seminars you can attend in person or by webinar by accessing the OSB CLE and Seminars catalog at OSBCLE.org.

CLEs from the Oregon Law Institute (OLI):You can find CLE offerings that fit your needs at OLI. Don’t overlook the OLI resources, whether in person seminars, webinars, MP3 courses, or review their product catalog.

American Bar Law Practice Management Section CLEs: The LPM Section offers CLEs produced by the American Law Institute (ALI). You do not have to be a member of the ABA LPM Section, though you may want to join. See information about the LPM CLEs here.

Attention, Innovators Using the Internet to Deliver Legal Services

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)  by Sheila Blackford   ©2009   The Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association awards the James I Keane Memorial Award in Excellence in eLawyering, annually at the ABA TechShow in Chicago. Nominations are now open for the Award to be in March, 2010. Candidates can self-nominate. Full details and requirements of this award can be found here. Do you want to nominate a colleague or yourself, there is an on-line nomination form that can be found here.

A brief summary of the James I. Keane Award criteria:
• The project or law firm must demonstrate the use of the Internet to deliver legal services.
• It must be unique. It should be an on-line legal service that has never been done before, or not quite this way before.
• Absence of precedent – Never been done or done quite this way before.
• There should be some measurable outcome that would indicate that the innovation is accomplishing what it was intended to do.
• Action must have taken place no more than three years prior to this entry, and the legal service must be operating for at least one year prior to submission of the Application.
• Additional consideration will be given to projects that focus on the delivery of legal services to individuals of moderate means.
• The nomination should describe how the service was developed, how it is managed, and how it has been evaluated.
• The nomination should describe how the service can be replicated by other law firms in terms of development costs, required technology, people requirements, and ongoing maintenance costs.

Virtually Yours – welcome to the new world of lawyering

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)  By Sheila Blackford   ©2009  The eLawyering Taskforce of the ABA Law Practice Management Section has a draft proposed set of guidelines for lawyers establishing virtual offices on the internet: Suggested Minimum Requirements for Law Firms Delivering Legal Services Online. The guidelines should prove useful for lawyers who wish to operate a web-based office, whether the lawyer has a traditional physical office and wants to expand law services state-wide on the web– the ultimate second office– or wants to establish the only office as a web-based office. I say state-wide, because you need to be very clear on the world wide web where you are authorized to practice law. Otherwise, you may find yourself in trouble with another state’s bar disciplinary board for unauthorized practice of law. If you are a member of the Oregon State Bar – only – then you must only serve clients who are Oregon residents or who have a matter within Oregon. Besides the Unauthorized Practice of Law issue, other critical ethical issues such as client confidentiality, the formal establishment of the lawyer/client relations, scope of representation, written fee agreements, advertising, legal fees, direct contact with prospective clients, and conflicts of interest issues needing to be considered are addressed in this draft Suggested Minimum Requirements for Law Firms Delivering Legal Services Online.

What is very important: the structure of the website of the law firm that is offering legal services online should require a secure client web space that is accessible only with a user name and secure password – much like the security of your online banking forum.

This is the new world of lawyering. Lawyers will need to address the best practices for their websites and then some. In 2003, the ABA approved the Best Practice Guidelines for Legal Information Web Site Providers. They are very helpful to review before creating your law firms website or checking to see if your existing website could be improved. A virtual office on the web should be very cautious. Sample disclaimers that make UPL limitations clear are being worked on by the eLawyering Task Force. The PLF provides sample disclaimers for e-mail and websites on the PLF website at www.osbplf.org under Loss Prevention > Practice Aids and Forms > Technology.

Last year, Stephanie Kimbro won the 2009 ABA Law Practice Management Sections James I. Keene Award for Excellence in eLawyering. Read about this Stephanie’s innovative firm that is a mouseclick away on the internet in the Law Practice Magazine article, Innovative Solo E-Practice Receives 2009 Keane Award.

It is important that even early trailblazers are diligent in making sure that their online practice meets best practices for the the delivery of legal services online to clients. The eLawyering Task Force with input from bar leaders across the U.S. and Canada will hopefully have a best practices document that the American Bar Association House of Delegates will adopt in the future. Guidelines so approved will give lawyers confidence that they are addressing essential issues, crossing all t’s and dotting all i’s.

If you are on LinkedIn, there is an ELawyering discussion group that you can join. If you are a member of the ABA, you can sign up to join the eLawyering email discussion list. I am a member of the eLawyering Taskforce and will be happy to forward any comments or input regarding this proposed Suggested Minimum Requirements for Law Firms Delivering Legal Services Online.

Welcome to the new world of lawyering where lawyer deliver legal services directly to clients from secure websites. Will it impact your firm and your clients? Very likely.