Balance time in the office with time enjoying the outdoors.
by Sheila Blackford ©2009 In Oregon, Portland is the biggest city in the state and Mount Hood looms large. With Nature in your backyard, how can you ignore the many opportunities to get outside? You want to practice law for the long haul. Get out to enjoy the beauty and get exercise at the same time.
by Sheila Blackford ©2009 I spoke with an Oregon attorney who closely monitors the law firm’s trust account. This attorney was unpleasantly surprized to find an additional transaction posted to the trust account. A copy of the check showed an out-of-sequence check number and a poor approximation of the lawyer’s signature. Other details on the fraudulent check were accurate-name and address. Chilling! Though scams of pulling a box of newly printed checks out of a mailbox have happened, this is the first time I’ve heard this particular scam. How did it happen? Obviously someone had access to the attorney’s trust account number and the name on the account. Because it was a small amount of money, it is believed that the fraudster was sending up a trial balloon to see if it would be noticed. Happily, it was.
The lawyer promptly contacted the bank and subsequently closed the trust account and contacted the PLF, reaching me. As a precaution, the lawyer also called the Bar’s General Counsel office and was referred to an attorney on call in Discipline. Since there was no overdraft, there was no need to make a formal report according the Disciplinary Counsel. The bank replaced the money in the trust account.
However, the next day, the bank sent a notification that the transfer instrument was presented against insufficient funds. Yes– the funds were already transferred to the new trust account so they were no longer in the former trust account. There must have been some delay in the bank’s system to account for this unusual situation which prompts a lot of head scratching. Nonetheless, to be safe and in compliance with Oregon Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15-2 IOLTA Accounts and Trust Account Overdraft Notification (i) the lawyer made the written notification to the Disciplinary Counsel talked to the previous day. I repeat the rule segment here: “Every lawyer who receives notification from a financial institution that any instrument presented against his or her lawyer trust account was presented against insufficient funds, whether or not the instrument was honored, shall promptly notify Disciplinary Counsel in writing of the same information required by paragraph (i). The lawyer shall include a full explanation of the cause of the overdraft.”
On a similar note, in tougher economic times, more attorneys catch acts of embezzlement. According to those in the forensic accounting business, incidents aren’t so much increasing as greater awareness of incidents. When you think how long an embezzler usually embezzles, this makes sense. To protect yourself, read this article I wrote with David Debenham a partner with Lang Michener in Ottawa in the June 2009 issue of Law Practice Magazine: “Thinking About the Unthinkable: How to Guard Against Fraud and Embezzlement in Your Firm” and see the accompanying checklist: “How to Prevent Fraud and Embezzlement: A Checklist” Or catch the great article in Law Practice Today July 2009 Your Practice Management Advisor column, “Protect Yourself from Fraud” by Deborah E. Gillis, Q.C.
You’ll also find a helpful practice aid and form, “25 Ways to Protect Your Firm from Embezzlement” on the PLF website in the Trust Accounting group of aids.
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!
by Sheila Blackford ©2009 “Do you have any marketing tips?” is a frequent question. Marketing is more than advertising. There are many great resources for getting marketing tips.
The ABA Law Practice Management Section webZine called Law Practice Today is a popular resource. The current issue for October 2009 is “Lost in the Crowd? Marketing Strategies You Can Use.” I had a good time writing a article for the popular “Ask Your PMA” column that is a monthly feature: “Marketing Tune-Up to Keep Business Coming.” Who would think that inspiration could come from a visit to the oral surgeon? I won’t spoil the article for you – read it yourself. You might want to remember that you can subscribe the Law Practice Today webzine without being a member of the Law Practice Management Section or even the ABA.
For that matter, you can go ahead and become a subscriber to the Law Practice Magazine even if you are not a member of the ABA LPM. Of course, if you’re a member, you get other benefits. The current issue of Law Practice Magazine is also on the theme of advertising: “Differentiate! The Law Firm Marketing Strategies Issue.” I may be biased, I am on the Law Practice Magazine Board. But then, I wanted to be on the board because I love the magazine!
Sheila M. Blackford, Attorney, Practice Management Advisor at Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund
by Sheila Blackford ©2009 Law Practice Management. Not a course covered in law school. Although, I must plug Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College for their program for 2009 grads: Lewis & Clark Law School Graduate Fellows Program. It’s a two-hour session that has been running about three nights a week for six weeks and broadcast on a webinar for graduates out-of-the Portland area. I covering “Calendaring, Docketing and File Tickler Systems” on Monday October 19th and “Avoiding Conflicts and Ethical Pitfalls” on Tuwesday October 27th. Topics are on a variety of law practice management issues.
Law practice management is especially difficult for the solo and small firm attorneys finding themselves needing to wear different hats requiring different skills –finance, management, marketing, and technology. Can one person be both entrepreneur and financial officer, addressing big picture and small detail? Unique to Oregon, lawyers in private practice must be members of the Oregon State Bar and carry professional malpractice insurance from the OSB Professional Liability Fund. The PLF provides free access to practice aids and forms and three practice management advisors. As a lawyer and practice management advisor, I work for Oregon attorneys throughout the beautiful state of Oregon. There are 13,500 Oregon attorneys and there are 7,000 attorneys in private practice. The services of the PLF practice management advisors are free and confidential. As a supplement to that fine program, I hope this blog can be a resource to the lawyer in Oregon.