Category: Technology

eLawyeringLaw Practice ManagementTechnology

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.

ResourcesTechnology

Cell phones – when is a smart phone too smart??

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)   by Sheila Blackford   ©2009   I went to Saint Maarten with the ABA LPM section last week. I took my cell phone, a nice little LG Chocolate from Verizon. I turned it off because I didn’t want to spend international rates. But I happily snapped pictures to bring back. The day that I had reserved to be “my day” was Saturday. I signed up for a trail ride along the beach that would culminate in a “dip” in the ocean with the horses! What a horse fix! It was just me and the trail guide at Lucky Stables. He took a picture of me on my horse. I took a picture of a big Iguana. That was the last picture. The dip was a bit deeper than I thought and my cell phone soaked in the wonderful warm Caribbean waters which are very, very salty. No rescue on that battery!

Today I have a Blackberry Tour. Wow! It’s a very smart phone. I need to read the “Tips, Hints, and Shortcuts” so I can figure out all the smart things it promises to do like let me access my email at the PLF wherever I am and the VZ Navigator which will enable my phone to become a GPS device so I can find my way to lawyer offices all around Oregon. I did find the Sudoku game which came in handy while waiting for an appointment. Hope to get everything set up so it’s worth the monthly charges! Guess I am glad my less smart phone drowned, but I’d have liked to see that Iguana picture! I could’ve uploaded for you. I’ll be taking better care of my Blackberry.

Should you ever get your phone wet, take out the battery immediately. Some even advise drying the battery compartment and the battery with a hair blow-dryer turned on low. However, salt water is highly corrosive to electronics. Buy a cell phone dry pack at REI. I’ll be heading over there after work!