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New in the practicePRO Lending Library: Flying Solo, 5th Edition

July 21, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Law Practice Management

Solo

Newly revised and updated to meet the needs of today’s legal professionals, Flying Solo is a comprehensive guide to establishing and maintaining a successful solo law practice. The Fifth Edition of this ABA classic includes practical information gathered from a wide range of contributors, including successful solo practitioners, law firm consultants, state and local bar practice management advisors, and law school professors. Whether you’re thinking of going solo, new to the solo life, or a seasoned practitioner, Flying Solo provides time-tested answers to real-life questions. This book will help you:

  • Make the decision to open your own law firm
  • Choose the right practice area(s)
  • Create a business plan and determine your fees
  • Leave your current firm—without burning bridges
  • Set up an office space
  • Work with traditional and alternative billing arrangements
  • Use technology to manage your finances
  • Develop and execute a marketing plan
  • Gain clients through social media
  • Plan strategically for the future

The practicePRO Lending Library is a free resource for Ontario lawyers of more than 100 books on a wide variety of law practice management related topics. You can see a full listing of our books here. You may borrow a book in person or via e-mail.

The practicePRO Library is located in our office at 250 Yonge Street, Suite 3101 in Toronto and can be visited during our regular business hours (Mon to Fri, 8:30 to 5:00). We invite you to come by anytime (please email in advance)to peruse our selection. All titles in the practicePRO Lending Library can be shipped to Ontario lawyers at our expense, and returned at yours after three weeks.

If you would like to borrow this or any other book please email us. Most of our titles are also available from the American Bar Association Web Store or the major booksellers here in Canada.

Commercial debt collection scam using the names Ugo Grondelli and Alteco Medical

July 18, 2014 By: FraudInfo Category: Confirmed frauds

A Washington state firm notified us that they received an email from the purported Ugo Grondelli of Alteco Medical looking to retain them with regards to a commercial debt collection.

This is a classic bad cheque scam that presents as legal matter requiring the assistance of a lawyer. In this scam lawyers will be duped into wiring real funds from their trust accounts after depositing a fake cheque received as payment from the debtor (who is part of the fraud). See our Confirmed Fraud Page for more of an explanation of how these frauds work and to see other names associated with it. Our Fraud Fact Sheet lists the red flags of a bogus legal matter that is really a fraud.

Here is the initial email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:

From: Ugo Grondelli [mailto: info@altcomedical.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:21 AM
To:
Subject: Breach Of Contract

Our company is soliciting for legal assistance (Attorney) to handle a
breach of contract case,either through negotiation or litigation. Yours
Sincerely, Ugo Grondelli Board Member. Alteco Medical AB
www.altecomedical.com

How to handle a real or suspected fraud Read the rest of this entry →

Want a challenge-proof will? Think like a (wannabe) beneficiary

July 17, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Wills/Estates

As a lawyer, you have likely been trained to maintain a laser focus on your client’s interests and how to express and defend them. Being a fierce advocate is usually a good thing.

But when preparing a will for a client, it can be a useful exercise, once you have a good first draft, to intentionally play devil’s advocate.

At the Law Society of Upper Canada Solo and Small Firm Practice Conference in June 2014, estates lawyer Lisa Barazzutti suggested that when reviewing a newly-drafted will, it’s useful to read the will from the perspective of the beneficiaries. “Ask yourself,” says Barazzutti, “if I were a beneficiary, would I challenge this, and how?”

Putting yourself in the shoes of your client’s beneficiaries (or others who expect to benefit – but won’t) is a good way to remind yourself that a testator’s family may have expectations – valid or otherwise – about how assets will be distributed. To the extent that you can anticipate those expectations, you can identify potential areas of disappointment. The provisions in which the client’s instructions diverge from beneficiary expectations are the “stress points” where the will is vulnerable to challenge. Once you have identified those stress points, you can take steps to reinforce them.

For example, where a testator’s adult children are expecting to share equally in the ownership and management of an income property – and the testator would prefer to leave that asset to just one of the children − the will can include an explanation of the testator’s reasons: for example, that she thought it would be impractical for the children to make the necessary business decisions jointly. This explanation might limit the arguments that the “disappointed” beneficiaries can make in support of a claim for equal shares of the asset.

Provisions that explain the testator’s reasons for will decisions can also help counter challenges based on lack of testamentary capacity, because they can serve as evidence that the testator applied his or her reasoning to the implications of the particular bequests and devises. The chances of a successful capacity challenge can be further minimized by making notes in the file about discussions with the testator about his or her reasons. The lawyer can also describe, in file notes, his or her impressions of the testator’s capacity; as well as any inquiries made to ensure that the testator was not subject to undue influence.

Often, the parties most likely to challenge a will are not beneficiaries at all, but rather, non-beneficiaries: those individuals who expect to receive an inheritance, but who will not. Would-be beneficiaries who were dependent on the testator while he or she was alive will generally be able to rely on the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act (or comparable legislation in your jurisdiction) for a remedy. The trickier question is whether other, non-dependent parties may attempt to challenge the will based on the content of pre-existing wills, verbal promises, business contracts, trust doctrine, or other analyses.

To anticipate these arguments, the lawyer will need a detailed understanding of the client’s past and present relationships, marriage and/or business history, and living arrangements. Using a will interview checklist can help a lawyer remember to ask particular questions and to make notes in the file.

After reviewing those notes, read the draft will, considering the provisions from the perspective of former spouses, business partners, caregivers, and housemates. If anyone were to challenge the will, who would it be, and what would he or she argue? Once you’ve identified potential stress points, consider clarifying provisions to limit challenge arguments. Being devil’s advocate can mean being your client’s best advocate too.

Commercial debt collection scam using the names Chung Steven and Barrett Steel

July 17, 2014 By: FraudInfo Category: Confirmed frauds

Five Ontario firms notified us that they received an email from the purported Chung Steven of Barrett Steel looking to retain them with regards to a commercial debt collection.

This is a classic bad cheque scam that presents as legal matter requiring the assistance of a lawyer. In this scam lawyers will be duped into wiring real funds from their trust accounts after depositing a fake cheque received as payment from the debtor (who is part of the fraud). See our Confirmed Fraud Page for more of an explanation of how these frauds work and to see other names associated with it. Our Fraud Fact Sheet lists the red flags of a bogus legal matter that is really a fraud.

Here is the initial email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:

From: dchorn190@students.ecsu.edu [mailto:dchorn190@students.ecsu.edu] On Behalf Of Barrett Steel
Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 6:07 PM
Subject: breach of contract

I want to inquire if your firm handles breach of contract cases. A referral will be welcomed if this is not your area of practice.

Regards
Chung Steven
Barrett Steel
Barrett House
Cutler Heights Lane
Dudley Hill
Bradford
West Yorkshire
BD4 9HU

How to handle a real or suspected fraud Read the rest of this entry →

Commercial debt collection scam using the names Yoshika Joya and New Japan Chemical Company

July 16, 2014 By: FraudInfo Category: Confirmed frauds

An Ontario firm notified us that they received an email from the purported Yoshika Joya and New Japan Chemical Company looking to retain them with regards to a commercial debt collection.

This is a classic bad cheque scam that presents as legal matter requiring the assistance of a lawyer. In this scam lawyers will be duped into wiring real funds from their trust accounts after depositing a fake cheque received as payment from the debtor (who is part of the fraud). See our Confirmed Fraud Page for more of an explanation of how these frauds work and to see other names associated with it. Our Fraud Fact Sheet lists the red flags of a bogus legal matter that is really a fraud.

Here is the initial email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:

From: Yoshika Joya
Date: July 1, 2014 at 4:22:33 PM EDT
To:
Subject: Debt collection/ Representation

My name is Yoshika Joya, the Director of overseas operations of New Japan Chemical Company Limited of Japan.

I have been directed by management to engage your firm to assist our company in debt collection matters.

This is coming after a careful review of your profile.

Please, confirm asap, the receipt of this email if you are in a position to represent our company in matters of delinquent accounts collections.

Management is of the opinion that a reputable debt collection firm like yours is required to represent us in Canada in order for us to recover monies due to our organization by our customers within your jurisdiction.

Once more thank you so much for your kind attention and expected co-operation.

I remain,

Yours sincerely,

YOSHIKA JOYA
Dir: Overseas Division

New Japan Chemical Company Ltd
2-1-8, Bingomachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka
www.nj-chem.co.jp

How to handle a real or suspected fraud Read the rest of this entry →

Malpractice insurance in foreign jurisdictions: An update

July 15, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Errors and omissions coverage

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In the Fall 2011 issue of LAWPRO Magazine LAWPRO Magazine articles we highlighted malpractice insurance issues in other countries around the world. In the June 2014 issue we provide an overview of the recent experiences in England, Wales and Ireland, where a transition from mandatory programs to the open commercial market occurred. Click here (or on the image above) to read the article.

Separation agreement scam using the name Jinghua Su

July 15, 2014 By: FraudInfo Category: Confirmed frauds

An Ontario firm notified us that they received an email from the purported Jinghua Su looking to retain them with regards to a collecting overdue payments resulting from a separation agreement.

This is a classic bad cheque scam that presents as legal matter requiring the assistance of a lawyer. In this scam lawyers will be duped into wiring real funds from their trust accounts after depositing a fake cheque received as payment from the debtor (who is part of the fraud). See our Confirmed Fraud Page for more of an explanation of how these frauds work and to see other names associated with it. Our Fraud Fact Sheet lists the red flags of a bogus legal matter that is really a fraud.

Here is the initial email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:

From: Jinghua Su [mailto:jinghua435@gmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, July 12, 2014 12:29 PM
Subject: Please i need your legal advice

Dear Counsel,

I am seeking legal representation from your law firm regarding a breach of divorce settlement agreement I had with my ex husband who now reside in your jurisdiction. We had an out of court agreement for him to pay me
$779,550.00 plus legal fees. He has only paid me $79,000 ever since this agreement was reached. He has agreed already to pay me the balance yet he kept turning me around with numerous excuses. So it is my belief that a Law firm like yours is needed to help me collect my due settlement from my ex-husband or litigate this matter if need be.

I need proper legal advice and assistance to know the best way to handle this issue. If this is your area of practice, please contact me via my private email:
jinghua.su@yahoo.com.hk to provide you with further Information.

Regards,

Jinghua Su

How to handle a real or suspected fraud Read the rest of this entry →

New in the practicePRO Lending Library: Internet Branding for Lawyers

July 14, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Legal technology

Internet Branding

An effective law firm brand and a compelling website are two of the most critical aspects of law firm marketing, as they can have a tremendous impact on new client development and revenue. How can lawyers create an effective brand and website that will deliver new clients? What works well, and what aspects of the “traditional” website approach used by most firms should be avoided? Internet Branding for Lawyers: Building the Client-Centered Website provides step-by-step direction on how to develop a solid brand and website that will attract the clients your firm desires. You’ll learn how to:

  • Create a unique brand that identifies and addresses client needs.
  • Differentiate from competitors so that your firm will be seen as the right firm by prospective clients for their legal needs.
  • Develop a compelling client-centered website with messages that resonate and lead to new clients.
  • Create powerful lawyer profiles and practice area pages that convey the information that prospective clients are seeking.

The practicePRO Lending Library is a free resource for Ontario lawyers of more than 100 books on a wide variety of law practice management related topics. You can see a full listing of our books here. You may borrow a book in person or via e-mail.

The practicePRO Library is located in our office at 250 Yonge Street, Suite 3101 in Toronto and can be visited during our regular business hours (Mon to Fri, 8:30 to 5:00). We invite you to come by anytime (please email in advance)to peruse our selection. All titles in the practicePRO Lending Library can be shipped to Ontario lawyers at our expense, and returned at yours after three weeks.

If you would like to borrow this or any other book please email us. Most of our titles are also available from the American Bar Association Web Store or the major booksellers here in Canada.

practicePRO Resource: Sample budget spreadsheet

July 11, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Law Practice Management

budgeting-askinc-2-home

One of the most downloaded resources each year on practicePRO.ca is our Sample Budget Spreadsheet for law firms. It was created as a supplement to our Managing the Finances of your Practice booklet. A budget is an essential part of any business financial plan, but many lawyers going into business on their own for the first time find that this isn’t something that law school prepared them for.

Your budget should include all expenses that you know of and/or can anticipate, and when they must be paid. Include an amount for unexpected expenses, since it is Murphy’s Law that costs will always be greater than you expect, particularly as the volume of work increases. Build in marketing time and expenses. Most of all, build in your draw: If you don’t look after yourself, no one else will. Compare the total expenses to your anticipated revenue.

If you do not have an historical basis to forecast income, make an educated estimate based on your marketing plan.

There are also several books that cover law firm financial management in the practicePRO lending library.

LAWPRO Magazine archives: Cross border selection of lawyers – issues to consider

July 09, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Errors and omissions coverage

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When you shop for a contractor for a home renovation, you are often reminded about the need to ensure your contractor has third party liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance – just in case.

Do you ask that same question when you shop for a lawyer outside of Ontario? Do you remember to ask if the foreign lawyer carries professional liability insurance? And do you know what his/her coverage is? Imagine this. A 40-year-old client’s husband dies in a plane crash in the United States, the result of alleged negligence by air traffic controllers who fail to identify a storm and instruct the pilot to fly into an extreme thunderstorm.

All on board are killed. The client is left a widow with two young children. Because the widow resides in Ontario, she comes to you – an Ontario lawyer – for help. You find out that liability is not an issue as another individual in the United States successfully filed a claim through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for negligence against the air traffic controllers. Clearly the case needs to be commenced in Michigan; but because you are not licensed to practise in Michigan, you cannot act for your client as it would be a breach of the Rules of Professional Conduct. As well you would not have E&O coverage under your LAWPRO policy, pursuant to the territoriality exclusion.

Recognizing the importance of proportionality and professionalism by taking into consideration the complexity of the matter and significant damages claim (about $7 million), this case would justify that you assist the client as legal advisor. Your client instructs you to find the best possible Michigan lawyer to carry out the litigation on her behalf; you are to assist her in liaising with that lawyer. A thorough search leads you to a lawyer who will take the case on a contingency arrangement, with you and the lawyer taking a share of the proceeds of any settlement or judgment.

Initially things move smoothly – until the day the lawyer informs you the limitation period was missed to file a notice to the FAA regarding the claim against it. Your client’s lawsuit is now one in negligence against the lawyer in Michigan for missing the limitation period – but discover his errors and omission insurance only provides coverage with diminishing insurance limits of $250,000 – nowhere close to covering your client’s $7 million claim.

A claim for negligent referral

While the concept of negligent referral has received minimal consideration in Canada, the topic has been widely discussed in the United States and recognized as an issue by the courts in the United States. Generally, the U.S. courts have been reluctant to impose liability on a referring counsel for the negligence of a recipient lawyer if the referring counsel has taken minimal care in his/her selection. There are policy reasons for this. We live in a world of legal complexity, and it is ethically responsible (and a lawyers’ obligation under our Rules of Professional Conduct) for a lawyer to seek out specialists and refer clients to the appropriate counsel, particularly in a foreign jurisdiction.

However, the factors examined in the discussion of whether a referring lawyer should be found responsible for the negligence of the recipient lawyer include the following:

  • the due diligence of the referring lawyer in selecting the recipient lawyer including investigating the background of the receiving lawyer;
  • the fee arrangement, if any, in place for the referring lawyer;
  • whether the referring lawyer maintained a joint responsibility with the recipient lawyer such that the referring lawyer was in a “general counsel” or supervisory role;
  • whether an indemnity agreement was in place; and
  • whether there were any conflicts of interest arising because of some relationship between the referring lawyer with the recipient lawyer.

While the courts in the United States generally swing in favor of the referring lawyer, referring lawyers are not immune to the claims made against them for negligent referral and at least one court, in Florida, has imposed liability on a referring lawyer.

One factor that can tip the scales against a referring lawyer is whether the innocent lay victim will be compensated for the damages to which he or she is entitled. In other words, did the recipient lawyer have professional liability insurance to cover the damages sustained by the client?

This consideration is especially important to practising lawyers in jurisdictions such as Ontario that have a mandatory error and omission insurance program with minimum limits. Many countries require practising lawyers to carry E&O insurance, but the limits vary from one jurisdiction to the next. In the United States, only Oregon has a mandatory errors and omissions program. Some jurisdictions in the United States may have a mandatory requirement to be insured if lawyers work in a large corporation. It’s therefore important for Ontario lawyers to ask if lawyers in foreign jurisdictions have professional liability insurance with sufficient coverage for their client’s case.

A referring lawyer may not be able to avoid a claim simply because he does have insurance coverage and the recipient lawyer does not or has only limited insurance coverage. If you’re in a situation where you are selecting counsel in a foreign jurisdiction – do your due diligence: Evaluate the foreign lawyer’s credentials diligently. And make sure the recipient lawyer carries up-to-date errors and omissions insurance with limits sufficient for the client’s case.

This article by Jennifer Ip, Unit Director & Counsel at LAWPRO, originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of LAWPRO Magazine. All past issues of LAWPRO Magazine can be found at www.lawpro.ca/magazinearchives