The Architecture of Trees, The Arcitecture of Your Law Practice

Here in Portland, Oregon we’ve been having snow and freezing rain. When warm inside, this freezing weather allows you to appreciate the architecture of trees. The stark relief of branches covered in snow and ice is beautiful, especially some of the more fragile-branched trees. The rest of the year, you might not even notice the branches because when the tree is fully leafed-out or showing off hundreds of blossoms, it’s easy to miss seeing the hidden small branches. Winter lets us know they were always there.

Can you say the same looking at your law practice or career in the legal field during a time when there may been less work to  distract you from really seeing how things are, the architecture of your law practice or career?

Any review of a situation by a trained lawyer is going to reveal areas that could benefit from making changes.  By nature we lawyers have a good eye for details and critical evaluation. Usually. Or do we? This may be a prime time to assess skills and embark upon a program of personal and prof sessional development. Don’t pass up an opportunity to change. A couple of sites I’d propose looking at are and MindTools. Be prepared to be amazed!, a LinkedIn Company. This site is more than software training and tutorials. But the extensive offering of training on software programs is wonderful. Wondering about switching over to using FreshBooks instead of QuickBooks? Check out “FreshBooks Essential Training.”

Learning topics under each general topic are exhaustive, see the example just for 3D Animation. Yes, those numbers in parentheses are how many tutorials are available. Think how your courtroom presentations and websites might be improved! And if not, maybe there is a whole new career waiting, a talented new you to be unleashed!

3D + Animation.


Animation (74)
BIM (1)
Character Animation (60)
Compositing (16)
Creative Spark (2)
Documentaries (13)
Game Design (24)
Game Development (10)
Lighting (27)
Materials (58)
Modeling (82)
Particles + Dynamics (15)
Post Production (2)
Previsualization (6)
Projects (19)
Rendering (70)
Rigging (21)
Textures (61)
Visual Effects (73)

3-D Animation Software:

123D Catch (1)
3ds Max (51)
ActionScript (1)
Adobe (66)
After Effects (20)
Alias (1)
Allegorithmic (4)
Amorphium Pro (1)
Animate (2)
Apple (1)
AutoCAD (2)
Autodesk (137)
Avid (1)
Backburner (1)
Blender (12)
Bongo (1)
Carrara (1)
Chaos Group (7)
CINEMA 4D (43)
Dassault (1)
Digital Anarchy (1)
e-on Software (3)                                                                                                    Edge Animate (4)
eFrontier (1)
EI Technology Group (1)
Eovia (1)
epic (1)
Final Cut Pro (1)
Fireworks (1)
Flash (1)
Flash Professional (13)
Harmony (2)
Houdini (2)
Hype (1)
Illustrator (2)
Imagineer Systems (1)
Insydium (1)
Jawset (1)
jQuery (1)
LightWave (1)
Makerbot (1)
MARI (1)

How about something more useful?

Business Courses and Training.


Accounting (34)
Analytics (3)
Business Intelligence (30)
Business Skills (236)
Career Development (72)
Charts + Graphs (20)
Cloud Computing (1)
Collaboration (45)
Communication (105)
Computer Skills (Mac) (38)
Computer Skills (Windows) (46)
Creative Spark (2)
Data Analysis (42)
Databases (47)
Elearning (10)
Email (30)
Email Marketing (3)
Finance (44)
Forms (13)
Freelancing (24)
Home + Small Office (104)
iPhone, iPod, iPad (35)
Leadership (71)
Management (96)
Note Taking (12)
Online Marketing (18)
Operating Systems (55)
PDF (26)
Presentations (75)
Productivity (151)
Project Management (57)
Projects (9)
SEO (5)
Servers (4)
Social Media Marketing (14)
Social Networks (26)
Spreadsheets (70)
Time Management (15)
Web Conferencing (6)
Word Processing (54)
Writing (14)

Business Software Tutorials:

1Password (2)
2Do (1)
37signals (1)
Access (22)
AccountRight (2)
AccountRight Live (1)
Acrobat (24)
ACT! (1)
Adobe (39)
Adobe Document Cloud (1)
AirBnB (1)
Amazon (4)
Android (10)
Android Wear (1)
Antivirus (1) (1)
Apple (83)
Apple Music (1)
Apple Watch (3)
ArcGIS (1)
Articulate (1)
Asana (1)
Barnes & Noble (2)
Basecamp (1)
Bento (3)
Box (2)
Business Catalyst (1)
CareerBuilder (1)
CARROT To-Do (1)
Chrome OS (1)
Chromebook (1)
Chromebox (1)
Cisco (2)
Citrix (1)
Clear (2)
Commerce (1)
Connect (1)
Contribute (1)
Corel (5)
Crystal Reports (2)
CSS (2)
Digg (1)
Dragon Dictation (1)
Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home (1)
Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium (1)
Dreamweaver (2)
Dropbox (3)
Drupal (1)
Drupal Commerce (1)
Dynamics GP (1)
eBay (2)
Entourage (3)
Esri (1)
Etsy (1)
Eventbrite (1)
Evernote (4)
Excel (93)
Excel for Mac (9)
Expensify (1)
Facebook (6)
Facebook Messenger (1)
FBA (1)
Feedly (1)
FileMaker (26)
FileMaker Go (2)
FileMaker Pro (23)
Fire Phone (1)
Flash Professional (2)
Flickr (1)
FrameMaker (1)
FreshBooks (1)
FrontPage (1)
Fulfilled by Amazon (1)
G2 (2)
Galaxy (5)
Galaxy Note (4)
Galaxy S5 (2)
Gear (1)
GIS (1)
Glass (2)
Gmail (4)
Google (30)
Google Apps (2)
Google Calendar (3)
Google Docs (4)
Google Drive (5)
Google Forms (1)
Google Photos (1)
Google Sites (1)
Google Voice (1)
Google+ (2)
GoToMeeting (1)
Groups (1)
Handy (1)
Homejoy (1)
HootSuite (1)
HTC (2)
HTC One (2)
HTML (2)
HulloMail (1)
IBM (1)
iBooks Author (1)
iCloud (3)
Illustrator (1)
iMovie (2)
Indeed (1)
InDesign (9)
InfoPath (3)
Instagram (1)
Internet Explorer (2)
Intuit (12)
iOS (13)
iPad (10)
iPhone (9)
iTunes (2)
iWork (5)
JavaScript (1)
jQuery (2)
Keynote (16)
Kickstarter (1)
Kickstarter Inc. (1)
Kindle (2)
Kobo (1)
Kobobooks (1)
LastPass (3)
LG (2)
LinkedIn (10)
LinkedIn Job Seeker (1)
Lotus Notes (1)
Lyft (1)
Lync (1)
Mac OS X (24)
Mac OS X Server (3)
Marketplace (1)
McAfee (1)
Meetup (1)
Microsoft (318)
Monster (1)
MYOB (3)
MySQL (1)
Nexus 5 (2)
NOOK (2)
Norton 360 (2)
Norton AntiVirus (1)
Norton Internet Security (1)
Norton Mobile Security (1)
Norton Studio (1)
Norton Zone (1)
Nuance (1)
Numbers (5)
Office (106)
Office 365 (53)
Office for Mac (22)
Office Mix (1)
Office Online (1)
Office Sway (2)
Omni (3)
OmniFocus (1)
OmniGraffle (2)
OneDrive (3)
OneNote (12)
Open Source (15)
OpenOffice (5)
Outlook (31)
Outlook for Mac (9) (1)
Pages (7)
PayPal (2)
Photoshop (1)
PHP (1)
Pinterest (3)
PostgreSQL (1)
Power BI for Office 365 (1)
PowerPoint (37)
PowerPoint for Mac (5)
Presenter (1)
Prezi (1)
Project (11)
Publisher (9)
Qlik (1)
QlikView (1)
QuestionPro (1)
QuickBooks (9)
QuickBooks Online (1)
QuickBooks Payroll (1)
QuickBooks Pro (1)
Quicken (2)
Reader (1)
RealMac (1)
Recruiter (1)
Recruiter Lite (1)
reddit (2)
RoboHelp (1)
Samsung (7)
SAP (2)
Seller Central (1)
SharePoint (16)
SharePoint Designer (1)
Sheets (1)
Simply Hired (1)
Skype (2)
Skype for Business (1)
SlideShare (1)
Smashwords (1)
Snapchat (1)
Sony (2)
SQL Server (3)
SQLite (1)
Square (1)
Square Register (1)
Storyline (1)
StumbleUpon (1)
Survey Monkey (1)
SurveyGizmo (1)
Swiftpage (1)
Symantec (2)
Tableau (2)
Tableau Software (2)
TaskRabbit (1)
Technorati (1)
Todoist (1)
TweetDeck (1)
Twitter (5)
Twitteriffic (1)
Uber (1)
Vine (1)
Visio (5)
Visual Basic for Applications (2)
VRBO (1)
WebEx (2)
Week Calendar (1)
Windows (25)
Word (50)
Word for Mac (7)
WordPerfect (5)
WordPress (1)
Xperia (2)
Yahoo! (1)
Yammer (1)
YouTube (2)
Zoomerang (1)

Others well covered areas are Audio & Music; CAD, Design, Developer, Education & eLearning, IT, Marketing, Photography, Video, and Web. And maybe just looking at all these courses and trainings brings on a double chocolate chip cookie slump. How could you afford this? Easy! Basic Membership is $24.99 charged monthly or Annual billing rate $239.88 drops the monthly rate down to $19.99. There are also plans for you to sign up a group so that you can share the professional development in your firm. Rates and plans here.


I really like MindTool. Be prepared to spend a lot of time here especially if you have expanded to the role of boss. You need to become the very best boss because staff turn-over is costly.

How costly? What is your billable rate? How long does it take to run an employment ad, review job applications, schedule interviews, conduct interviews, bring back a smaller pool of candidates for additional interviews, and thoroughly check references. And then all the time invested in training staff.  This adds up quickly!

You cannot afford to do hiring and staff development poorly or be a pitifully unskilled boss who can’t hang onto good people. Ouch! Not wanting to be harsh, but I want you to take the right attitude toward this neglected area of law firm success.

There is always room for improvement  and MindTools is a website where you can begin.  And let me say there are excellent self-assessment tests throughout the site so that you can hone in on what skills you need to develop further the fastest. Take a look at the skill areas. Yes, 330 ways to become a better team  builder and manager.

Skill Areas:

Leadership Skills (129)
Team Management (330)
Strategy Tools (207)
Problem Solving (54)
Decision Making (71)
Project Management (82)
Time Management (99)
Stress Management (72)
Communication Skills (194)
Creativity Tools (46)
Learning Skills (53)
Career Skills (262)

Membership is for you alone – Standard Membership$19/month or Premium Membership $27/month. Check out Join on the MindTools Home Page.  If you are in a bigger firm likely you’ll want to contact MindTools to learn about Corporate or Group Membership. You will definitely want to explore all the resources available to you, for example the MindTools store and there usually are membership specials so that you only have to pay $1 for the first month. A really good deal. What are you waiting for? 2016 just may become your very best year!

Happy New Year!








Posted in Business Planning, Professional Development, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Gift of Time

The 2015 holiday season is in full swing. This time of year, many lawyers question if they should leave their law firm and go solo or start up their own multi-attorney firm or just hang it up and retire or switch careers. These are all things that are best to think about. I just question whether this might not be the best time to be making such life changing decisions. It’s a bit like deciding whether to get a divorce. Good to consider but with the stress of the holidays and busy pace of visiting family and friends, this may not be the time when you can do your best thinking. Can you give yourself the gift of time?  Why, you ask? To give yourself time to consult with a good lawyer: yourself.

Take the time to think things through.

  • Can you see where this decision leads?
  • Do you need to sit down with a financial advisor to crunch numbers?
  • What about covering health insurance for you and any family members?
  • What practical considerations are needed in place to help you in the first six-month transition period?
  • Do you have the stomach for flying solo or weathering difficult relationship issues involving sharing control and maintaining trust?
  • If employees will be involved, do you have all the human resources areas taken care of before you create a BOLI complaint or lawsuit?
  • Do you need to sit down with a CPA and your tax returns and financial projections to determine your right choice of entity?
  • Should you and your prospective law partners do Myers Briggs, Strengthfinders, or some other psychological testing to determine if you really will bring compatibility and balance to the planning table?

Know your resources.

Oregon State Bar Economic Survey.

Oregon Attorney Assistance Program Attorney Counselors. For assistance with career planning and counseling.  503-226-1057  or 1-800-321-6227

  1. Shari Gregory, LCSW, JD on Ext. 14.
  2. Kyra Hazilla, JD, MSW on Ext. 13.
  3. Mike Long, JD, MSW, CEAP on Ext. 11.
  4. Douglas Querin, JD,LPC, CADCI on Ext.  12.
  5. Bryan Welch, JD counseling intern on Ext. 19.

Oregon State Bar General Counsel’s Office for assistance with ethics questions arising in the practice of  law. 503-620-0222 or 1-800-452-8260

  1. Helen Hierschbiel, General Counsel on Ext. 361. Will become Executive Director of OSB January 2016.
  2. Amber Hollister, Deputy General Counsel on Ext. 312. Will become General Counsel of OSB January 2016.

Oregon State Bar Client Assistance Office for assistance with initial screening of ethics complaints about lawyer conduct. 503-620-0222 or 1-800-452-8260

PLF Attorney Practice Management Advisors for assistance with the business of practicing law, including closing a law practice, departing from a  law firm, retiring or selling a law practice, or opening a new law practice.  503-639-6911 or 1-800-452-1639

  1. Sheila Blackford, JD on Ext. 421.
  2. Hong Dao,  JD on Ext. 412.
  3. Jennifer Meisberger, JD on Ext. 411.
  4. Beverly Michaelis, JD on Ext. 415.

PLF Claims Attorneys for assistance with handling situations where there is a concern of a potential malpractice claim. The receptionist will connect you to an available claims attorney.  503-639-6911 or 1-800-452-1639

PLF Practice Aids and Forms


Posted in Business Planning, Ethics, Law Practice Management, Lawyer Assistance, Professionalism, Quality of life, Resources, Technology, Time Management and Productivity | Leave a comment

Guarding against Inadvertent Disclosure: Properly Remove Metadata and Redact Before Transmitting Digital Docs.

Guard against inadvertent disclosures by properly removing metadata and redact confidential information before transmitting those digital documents.

Some lessons are so important, they bear repeating. For years the Practice Management Advisors at the PLF and through out the USA and Canada have cautioned lawyers about scrubbing metadata from documents.

Here is a brief snippet from my May 2006 Oregon State Bar Bulletin Managing Your Practice article, Metadata: danger or delight?

“…Much hype has surrounded metadata ever since the March 4, 2004, CNET disclosure that SCO Group’s lawsuit against defendant DaimlerChrysler for alleged violation of their Unix software agreement was initially prepped as a lawsuit against Bank of America for copyright infringement. You may have enjoyed the benefit of using a suite of programs like Microsoft Office, especially because it is easy to pull data from one program into another, such as copying part of an Excel worksheet into a Word document. However, if you do this from the Edit menu using the “Paste Special” feature and selecting “Microsoft Excel Worksheet Object,” you may be in for a surprise. Double-click on the Excel worksheet object in your Word document and you’ll discover that the entire worksheet document is visible, including other worksheet tabs that may contain sensitive information. The entire Excel worksheet is known as an embedded object and is metadata that travels with the Word document. Thus, the full Excel worksheet can be viewed by the receiver of the Word document, even though you didn’t intend that result. The detriment of exposing more that a select portion of an Excel spreadsheet may be exponential if the additional figures pertain to your negotiation strategy on settlement offers or disclose profit projections for complex financing plans.

In complying with discovery requests, you are required to provide only the documents and data set out in the discovery demand. Beware — if supplying electronic versions of your documents — that you are not providing more information than required by inadvertent disclosures in document metadata.”

And a year later, then OSB General Counsel now Executive Director Sylvia Stevens warned lawyers about the perils of being unaware of metadata and referenced the August 2006 ABA Formal Opinion 06-442 Review and Use of Metadata in her April 2007 OSB Bulletin Bar Counsel article, Metadata: Guarding Against the Disclosure of Embedded Information.

“The ABA opinion stands as an important reminder that it behooves lawyers to learn and understand technological advances that are integral to their practice so that they do not inadvertently send information that they might later wish they had not.”

And a few years ago, OSB General Counsel Helen Hierschbiel cautioned lawyers about the perils of inadvertent disclosures when sending documents electronically in the June 2012 OSB Bulletin Bar Counsel article, Revealing Bits & Bytes:
Guarding (and Exploiting) Metadata

“Two rules inform a lawyer’s duties when sending documents electronically. Oregon RPC 1.1 requires a lawyer to provide competent representation to a client, meaning the lawyer must possess the “legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” In addition, RPC 1.6(a) requires a lawyer to “not reveal information relating to the representation of a client.” “Information relating to the representation” is a defined phrase under RPC 1.0(f) and includes both information that is subject to the attorney-client privilege and other information gained during the course of the representation that the client has asked be kept secret or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing or likely to be detrimental to the client. With these two rules as a backdrop, the OSB Legal Ethics Committee concludes that competency in relation to metadata requires a lawyer who uses electronic communications to maintain at least a basic understanding of the technology and the risks of revealing metadata or to use adequate technology support. OSB Formal Op. No. 2011-187.”

To safely redact confidential and/or protected information when producing discovery or eFiling, be sure to use Adobe Acrobat XI Pro and follow the easy steps I shared in my June 2012 OSB Bulletin On Professionalism article, Easier Acrobatics: New Adobe Features Especially Appreciated by Attorneys.

“How to Remove Visible Data or Do Redaction from PDF Files in Four Easy Steps:

This can be done in Acrobat XI Pro only.

1. In Acrobat XI, choose Tools > Protection.

2. Click Mark for Redaction.

3. Go through your PDF and highlight the text or images you want to redact.

4. Click Apply Redactions. Acrobat permanently deletes the selected information from the file, replacing it with black blocks or other formatting of your choice.”

Why all the concern? Lawyers are continuing to trip when they should be treading carefully, as stressed in this Law360 post: E-Filing Error Can Destroy Trade Secret Status that you can read in its entirety with a free 7-day subscription.

 “First rule of thumb in trade secrets litigation? A trade secret must be kept secret. It is painfully obvious, but modern practitioners must not grow complacent due to the convenience of electronic filing. Although trade secrets law does not command absolute secrecy, a recent e-filing snafu in HMS Holdings Corp. v. Arendt offers a cautionary tale from New York on how one botched upload could jeopardize a client’s most prized possession.”

Make no mistake, ABA Model Rule 1.1 specifically addresses the need to be competent when using technology, see the December 2013 Your ABA article Duty of Competence in the 21st Century

Model Rule 1.1:

Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.1 Competence

“A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”

Comment 8:

Maintaining Competence

[8] “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.”

Be safe out there!

Posted in Ethics, Law Practice Management, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Just Say, “No.”

One of the most important things you may need to tell your existing and potential clients is, “no.” When to say no can be difficult for some lawyers to determine. With memories of the 2008 economic climate and awareness of overhead, many lawyers struggle with turning away business. If there is a person with a problem, the lawyer says yes quickly without consideration of anything but the lawyer’s need for revenue or gratitude. If the scenario sounds familiar, consider for a minute, that you may be turning away a malpractice claim or an ethics complaint. Then saying no isn’t so hard, is it?

Lawyers have a duty of competence. If you aren’t competent, then you are supposed to get competent or associate with someone who is competent. You may find yourself in a situation where neither seems to be an option. I talked with a lawyer who was relatively young in law practice experience and did not have the level of experience, knowledge, or adequate capital to handle a medical malpractice case. A pro bono one! Happily, the lawyer was able to say no and get the case off to someone with the current skills and resources to help.

Lawyers have a duty to communicate with their clients. Sometimes, what needs to be communicated isn’t good news, such as communicating that upon review you have discovered that the case has no merit and not a chance of prevailing at court. One lawyer found this out after saying yes and engaging in a lot of puffery about being able to get the client money. Understandably, the lawyer was reluctant to say, no. No case. No ethical way to pursue this. That was a hard no. Likely, the lawyer toned down enthusiasm with the next potential case until investigating the facts revealed worth pursuing.

Lawyers have a duty to safeguard client property. Some clients  push for their check to be cut now. But if the funds for the client are not actually in the trust account, because the issuing bank of the check has not transmitted funds to the Lawyer Trust Account, then there are no client funds to be disbursed yet. You otherwise are robbing Peter to pay Paul. Best to say, no, the funds are not yet available and they will be disbursed to the client just as soon as they are available.

Lawyers have a duty to not take on a case, or if engaged to withdraw from representing a client, if the lawyer’s physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer’s ability to represent the client. What if the lawyer has represented the client for a long time and the client wants the lawyer to continue to finish up the matter? What if the lawyer cannot see or even concentrate because of the pain of treatment for terminal cancer? What if the lawyer has been admitted to a drug and alcohol treatment facility for detoxing or in a lock down for mental illness? The client may want the lawyer to continue but if the lawyer’s physical or mental condition render the lawyer incapacitated, then the lawyer must say no, not now. Hopefully the lawyer’s cell phone has been collected at the hospital door, but I have heard of clients calling and calling and calling, despite being told that the law office is temporarily closed.

What about those clients who are friends? How easy it is to get into a situation where you continue to do legal work for free because it is your friend. Some lawyers get themselves too busy helping friends, and friends of friends, with myriad legal matters that are beyond the lawyer’s ability to properly attend to with the competence and diligence required. You don’t get a pass on ethics violations or acts of malpractice just because it is a friend who is not paying for legal services. You undertake providing legal services, you need to provide the services ethically and without committing malpractice.

Comment 5 to ABA Model Rule 1.4 (Communication) states “…The guiding principle is  that the lawyer should fulfill reasonable client expectations for information consistent with the duty to act in the client’s best interests, and the client’s overall requirements as to the character of representation.” Make sure your clients are being given reasonable expectations. Hold the client’s best interest foremost in mind and you will do the right thing, even if the right thing is to say, “no.”

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Lawyers in Distress

The practice of law can be very stressful, and for lawyers who suffer from depression, it can be deadly.

Oregon like many states across the nation has lost a number of good attorneys to suicide. The Oregon State Bar Bulletin February/March 2015 issue had an excellent article, “From Stigma to Safety Net Attorney Suicides Initiate Nationwide Conversation About Mental Health and Prevention,” by Melody Finnemore. In it, she states that depression often takes root during law school. As a former high school and middle school teacher, I can say that it takes root far sooner than law school.

What pushes people? For some, there is an inner hole that cannot be filled. No acquisition, no achievement is good enough to take away the pain of not being enough. Some turn to self medicating with alcohol and drugs. But sooner or later, without some intervention by mental health care professionals, including drug and alcohol counselors, something terrible is going to happen.

What can we do? We can pay better attention to our colleagues – and to our families and friends. Put down the iPhone and iPad and look at the person while listening. We each give a great gift when we are truly present to others. If you need to shore up these skills, consider mindfulness meditation training. You will notice a difference in your relationship. If being heard is becoming a rarity in your office and home, do some mindful listening, which is listening without waiting for the pauses to interject your agenda or well-intentioned advice. There is time for both later. First, just listen.

Are there signs to watch for that may signal trouble? There are resources available nationally and locally. The article mentioned above has a helpful sidebar, “Signs to Look for Ways to Help.”  The American Association of Suicidology has an entire page devoted to warning signs and a mnemonic IS PATH WARM? Ideation; Substance Abuse; Purposelessness; Anxiety; Trapped; Hopelessness; Withdrawal; Anger; Recklessness; Mood Changes.

Here in Oregon, we are fortunate to have the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) with four caring attorney counselors, Shari Gregory, Kyra Hazilla, Mike Long, and Doug Querin. If you are struggling or concerned that someone you care about is struggling, their services are confidential and free. It doesn’t get much better than that! Nationally, the American Bar Association has the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (COLAP)where you can find resources and links to programs available in other states and provinces.

And how about yourself? Are you headed for becoming a lawyer in distress? You can and should Knock Out Burnout!   You and your friends and family will be glad that you did!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Departing a firm ethically with grace

I get a lot of calls from associates and partners wanting to leave their current firm to pursue the opportunity of moving to another firm or to pursue the dream of opening their own law office. The PLF has a variety of helpful materials on this topic “Departing a Firm” including checklists, sample letters for notifying clients and getting the direction of what the client wishes to do, instructions for setting up email bouce-back notices and articles from our Oregon Bar Counsel Helen Hierschbiel, General Counsel, and Amber Hollister, Deputy GC. There are many good CLEs held on this topic. This past week I attended a CLE from Bloomberg BNA on this topic called, “Lawyer Mobility: Ethical Issues Arising From Lateral Hires, Partner Withdrawals and Law Firm Dissolutions.” You may be able to watch this 90 minute on-demand by contacting Bloomberg BNA Professional Learning.

Here are some of the issues you need to consider before acting: you have a duty to your clients to communicate. Oregon RPC 1.4 Communication (a) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information. (b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation. The fact that you will be leaving the firm impacts your clients. They came to you for help in solving a legal problem. No matter your personal feelings of disenchantment with your firm, do not drag your clients into the middle of any conflicts.

Here are some frequent questions that cause anxiety:

“When can I ethically tell my clients I am planning to leave?” The common sense answer: “Tell your clients after you tell your firm.” That’s right, after. You get this one wrong and your relationship with your present firm is damaged. If you are a partner, you have a duty to your fellow partners and to the firm. If you are an associate, you have a contractual relationship with your employer.

“When do you need to tell your firm you are planning to leave?” If you are a partner, look to your partnership agreement. Remember you are withdrawing from the partnership. If you are an associate, look to your employment contract or personnel manual.

“What if my firm does not have anything in writing?” If there is nothing in writing to guide you, most professionals provide at least 30 days notice if not 60 days notice. You don’t want to damage your firm, merely move on. If you are in a general partnership, see the Oregon Revised Partnership Act, ORS 67 for governing provisions. If you are in a Limited Liability Partnership, LLP, see the Uniform Limited Partnership Act, ORS 70 for governing provisions.

“What about getting information for my conflicts of interest database?” If you have billed on a client matter, you have knowledge of client information that means a potential conflict of interest going forward.Some firms supply year-end and month-end reports of your billing matters. If not, you will want to ask your firm for this information.

“What about when I tell my firm about my plans?” Take the time to plan how this event will take place. Preparing an annotated status report of client maters you are responsible for or have been working on is important and appreciated. Additionally, you may want to have a packet of materials with you when you notify your firm: client status report, proposed letter to clients, copy of article addressing ethical guidelines, proposed timeline of your exit and transition of remaining clients to another attorney in the firm. Be sure to make a copy for yourself which will be important if the firm tells you to leave immediately or by the end of the day or week.

“What about forms and sample documents I’ve used or even created while at the firm?” Consult a lawyer about this. Generally speaking, if something was created during your employment by a firm, it belongs to the firm. Most firms have monitoring provisions in place, or the ability to do so. Your efforts to download documents from your firm’s server is not under the radar. There are records of this and there may be consequences if you help yourself to property of the firm with the intention of converting it to your own use at your next firm. You wouldn’t dream of collecting office supplies. Consider that the firm’s form bank is far more valuable than post-it notes and paper clips!

Finally, to ensure that you are going to exit your firm ethically and gracefully, consider seeking ethics advice from the Oregon State Bar Ethic Counsel or hire outside ethics counsel to guide you through your situation. Whether you are a partner or an associate, you are an Oregon attorney-at-law, a professional. Conduct yourself accordingly. Good luck in your future endeavor.

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15 Resolutions for a More Rewarding Law Practice in 2015

15 resolutions you may want to adopt for your own:

1. Check email in the morning and sort into three folders: Do, Delegate, Delete; you want to use email as a tool not get swallowed up by it.

2. Unless urgent, return calls at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily; you’ll save time batch calling.

3. Have a Work in Process (WIP) meeting Monday mornings for reviewing and updating status of all open matters; you will catch what would otherwise slip through the cracks.

4. Call a different client each day off the clock to check in about how the client is doing; you’ll be rewarded from this simple action.

5. Plan time for a health break daily for a brisk walk, meditation, or yoga session; you’ll perform better if well-balanced.

6. Learn to say “no” to cases that you don’t want to do; your time is a valuable resource to invest wisely.

7. Send a handwritten thank you note when a matter is finished and enclose two business cards; appreciation is contagious.

8.  Monitor your financials: receivables, expenses, profitability; your clients need you to succeed.

9. Dust off your business plan and review quarterly; make it dynamic.

10. Plan regular networking breakfasts with colleagues and potential referral sources; don’t become isolated or overlooked.

11. Pick up the phone if a client is 45 days late in paying the bill; find out if there a problem tobe solved.

12. Use clearly written fee agreements; keep your client relationships positive.

13. Do an office audit to identify any inefficiencies and potential sources of malpractice claims and ethics complaints; call a PMA for help.

14. Focus on improving service to clients and increasing job satisfaction; don’t settle for mediocrity.

15. Create a case timeline, case budget, and scope of representation for clients before beginning work; keep the focus sharp.

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