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In the practicePRO Lending Library: How Good Lawyers Survive Bad Times

September 01, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Law Practice Management

GoodLawyersBadTimes

Worried about the economy? Are you a lawyer out of work? Are you afraid you will be laid off? Are you struggling to manage your firm through a down economy? In a single volume, How Good Lawyers Survive Bad Times, will provide you with a wealth of tips, resources, and tools to help you survive in bad times, as well as teach you management, finance, marketing and technology essentials necessary to succeed.

The weak economy and large number of firm layoffs have resulted in a flood of potential new solo and small firm lawyers starting their own practices in the wake of the exodus from “BigLaw”. Small practice lawyers, well seasoned or just starting out, can gain immeasurably by just applying even a few of the myriad tips within this book. The book is broken out into three parts:

  1. Afraid of Losing Your Job? Lost it Already?
  2. Managing and Marketing Your Firm In a Down Economy
  3. Do It Better, Cheaper, Faster with Technology: Using Technology to Boost the Bottom Line

A full review of this book from LAWPRO Magazine can be found here.

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: Technology Use Policies and Resources

August 29, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Law Practice Management, Legal technology

cybercrime_2D11-150x150

Written policies that clearly establish guidelines and requirements governing the acceptable use of firm technology can help reduce cyber exposures and give staff clear direction on what they are permitted and not permitted to do with law firm technology resources.

Use these resources and sample policies to create polices for your firm (These resources supplement the information in the Cybercrime and Law Firms issue of LAWPRO Magazine): The model policies are also available in Word and RTF formats.

Too experienced to use a checklist? Quite the opposite

August 28, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Practice aids

LAWPRO’s practicePRO program maintains an impressive online collection of law practice management resources, including precedents, sample retainers, business plan templates, and yes – checklists.

Our most popular checklists include:

These tools help lawyers organize, prioritize and track the steps they have taken and the issues they have covered when dealing with a matter, whether it be a client file or an office management task. They are designed to be saved separately for each use, and filled out and filed for future reference.

If you don’t already use checklists in your practice, your excuse may be that you’ve been practising so long that you know the necessary steps in your work better than you know your home phone number… or that you could do these tasks in your sleep. But that’s exactly why the longer you’re in practice, the more important it may become to use checklists.

When studying how memory works, and specifically, why we forget the things we do, researchers like J.A. Bergström have suggested that when we create multiple similar memories – for example, when we complete the same task over and over for different clients – the overlay of similar memories makes it more difficult for us to retrieve the details of any particular instance from the cache. This effect is called the “interference theory” of forgetting. A lawyer may assert that she always reviews any provisions in an equipment lease relating to early termination penalties with lessee clients; but if asked to recall the details (when? In person? Over the phone? Did the client have any questions?) of this particular conversation with a particular client represented four or five years ago, she may draw a blank. Unless, of course, she can retrieve an annotated checklist from the file.

If you could do something in your sleep, your memories of having done it may fade like a dream… but the client, for whom the transaction may be unique or rare, stands a much better chance of remembering very clearly. In the event of a claim arising from the transaction, the way our memories work puts experienced lawyers at a disadvantage. Use a checklist!

Be on the lookout for fraud as the Labour Day long weekend approaches

August 28, 2014 By: DanPinnington Category: Fraud prevention

On several occasions in the past, fraudsters have struck just before long weekends – a time when law firms are short-staffed and banks are closed an extra day. A long weekend creates circumstances that give the fraudsters a better chance of duping the lawyer and getting away before the fraud is discovered.

Please be extra vigilant as we approach the Labour Day long weekend – and be especially cautious if payment arrangements change and become more urgent at the last minute. Make sure you religiously follow all your internal controls. Never disburse funds from your trust account until you are sure the funds that were deposited are really there – and the only way to get funds into your account on an irrevocable basis is a wire transfer via the LVTS system. Certified cheques and bank drafts can’t be trusted.

There is a wealth of information on the various types of frauds and their red flags on our Fraud Fact Sheet

Commercial debt collection scam using the names Ian Mason and Electrocomponents PLC

August 27, 2014 By: FraudInfo Category: Confirmed frauds

Three Ontario firms notified us that they received an email from the purported Ian Mason of Electrocomponents PLC looking to 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 contact email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:


From: “Mr. Ian Mason”
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:21:48 +0200
To:
ReplyTo: ian.mason@3mail.ie
Subject: Your assistance is Needed

Dear Counsel,

My firm needs your assistance for a debt collection in your county.
Please get back to me at: ian.mason@3mail.ie for details to enable
you do your conflict check.

Mr. Ian Mason
Chairman/CEO
Electrocomponents plc
International Management Centre
8050 Oxford Business Park North
Oxford
OX4 2HW
United Kingdom

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

LAWPRO defends lawyers: Lawyer owed no duty of care to non-client intermediary that paid out funds against client’s forged instrument

August 26, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Errors and omissions coverage

LAWPRO defends a wide variety of cases in any given year. In almost 80 per cent of the claims files we handle, there is ultimately no finding of negligence against the lawyer that was the subject of a claim.

Occasionally, our work on a lawyer’s behalf is made easier by having compelling facts on our side. But even where the facts are more balanced, LAWPRO counsel strive to put forward rigorous and well supported defences on the part of our insured − not only to avoid a loss in any particular case, but also in the interest of creating precedents and standards of care that are fair to all lawyers. Here is one of the cases we successfully defended in 2013:

Lawyer owed no duty of care to non-client intermediary that paid out funds against client’s forged instrument

A lawyer represented a client, who turned out to be an impostor, in obtaining a mortgage.

After receiving the mortgage proceeds, the impostor client used them to purchase a bank draft. He forged an endorsement on the draft, and presented it to the claimant intermediary (a “payday loan” – type company). The intermediary paid the impostor cash on the note.

The forgery was discovered, and the issuing bank reversed the payment. The intermediary’s account was debited. The intermediary sued the impostor’s lawyer (among others). The court held that the lawyer, who acted for the mortgage lender and the purported mortgagor, owed no duty to the intermediary.

Justice Stinson rejected the intermediary’s contention that a lawyer in a mortgage transaction owes a duty of care to parties who subsequently negotiate a cheque or bank draft purchased with the proceeds of the mortgage to ensure that the transaction was legitimate and that the cheque or bank draft was valid and negotiable. Because the client’s endorsement was forged, and therefore entirely ineffective to convey title to the bank draft, the intermediary converted it. The courts have so far refused to import negligence considerations into the strict liability regime governing the conversion of bills of exchange.

This article was originally published in the “2013 Annual Review” issue of LAWPRO Magazine. All past issues of LAWPRO Magazine can be found at www.lawpro.ca/magazinearchives

Separation agreement scam using the name Paula Chue

August 26, 2014 By: FraudInfo Category: Confirmed frauds

Two Ontario firms notified us that they received an email from the purported Paula Chue 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: “Ms. Paula Chue”
Sent 8/21/2014 11:43:37 PM
To:
Subject: **SPAM** *Seeking assistance with my divorce separation/property settlement

Good day,

I am urgently seeking a legal assistance with my divorce separation/property agreement, I would appreciate your prompt response if this services can be provided by your firm.

Thank you,

Ms. Paula Chue

Replying to the email brought this response:

I thank you for your prompt response to my inquiry. I tried calling a couple of times but to no avail, and with the time difference(+13hrs EST) it is a little bit difficult to gauge the best time to reach you vice verse.

It is however worthy to note that I am currently in Japan with our children. My ex husband Jimmy Hitoshi and I were divorced in Japan but he has since relocated to Canada. he is a citizen.

The legal description of my case involved both of us agreeing under a Property and Settlement agreement incorporated, merged into and made part of the final judgement of dissolution of marriage for a settlement of child support, spousal/partner support, and medical support of $1,530,050.00, of which $580,430.00 has been remitted by him leaving a balance of $949,620.00 to be paid. This is the reason why I need your firm as there is already an agreement in place. I know for sure my ex husband has the financial means to pay for balance he owes me. If your firm is retained, my expectation of your services for now will be within the scenario of a Demand Letter to my ex husband Jimmy. It is my believe that this approach will trigger the much needed response from him towards amicable settlement with him to pay the balance due for sure this time.

If it becomes necessary your firm can request that the attached Divorce Decree be registered in Canada for enforcement. The Separation Agreement would also be registered as it contains the current balances due.

Please find attached to this email are the scanned copy of the Property settlement agreement, and the Court’s Decree for your perusal and I will be pleased to provide further information on this case on request.

I do expect this to be resolved amicably and in a timely manner. If you can to take up this case, kindly send me a copy of your retainer agreement and if the terms are acceptable I will sign so we can commence the process without delay.

Thank you for your anticipated cooperation and professionalism.

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

Commercial debt collection scam using the names Gareth Richardon and Tec Electric Motors

August 25, 2014 By: FraudInfo Category: Confirmed frauds

A California firm notified us that they received an email from the purported Gareth Richardon of Tec Electric Motors 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 contact email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:

From: Gareth Richardson [mailto:gareth.richardson007@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2014 6:31 AM
To:
Subject: Attention Counsel

Our company is soliciting for legal assistance (Attorney) to handle a breach of contract case,either through negotiation or litigation.

Yours Sincerely,
Gareth Richardson
Sales Director
Tec Electric Motors Ltd
www.tecmotors.co.uk

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

Business loan collection scam using the name Morgan Phillips

August 25, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Confirmed frauds

Two Ontario lawyers notified us that they received an email from the purported Morgan Phillips looking to retain them with regards to a breach of a business loan 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 other names associated with it , and our Fraud Fact Sheet for a list the red flags of a bogus legal matter that is really a fraud.

Here is the initial contact email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer’s intake site, and subsequent reply:

From: Morgan Phillips [mailto:morganphillips033@gmail.com]
Sent: August-21-14 10:29 PM
Subject: [SPAM] Hello

Dear Counsel,

I was wondering if your firm would be able to assist me on a litigation case, regarding a friend who has defaulted in paying back the money I loaned her?

Best Regards,

Morgan Phillips

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

Resolutions to avoid doing things that annoy clients the most

August 22, 2014 By: TimLemieux Category: Law Practice Management

annoy
Clients will, understandably, get upset if they are treated badly or confronted with surprises. Make sure you appreciate how your words, actions, or inactions can annoy or even distress your clients. Here are some resolutions you can make to avoid doing the most common things lawyers do that annoy clients:

  • I will promptly return phone calls: Unacknowledged or unreturned phone calls are some of the most common complaints about lawyers. To avoid these problems, set and control client expectations at the very start of the relationship. Establish a reasonable policy on how quickly calls will be returned (e.g., within 24 hours, by the end of the next business day, or whatever is appropriate for your area of law or clients). Inform the client of the policy, and abide by it. Set up a mechanism for staff to return calls within the established timeframe if you are not available.
  • I will promptly reply to e-mails: In like fashion, emails that go unanswered are also a common client complaint. Some clients expect virtually instant answers to e-mail messages. Control this expectation by setting a policy on email communications (e.g. how and whento communicate by email, how long replies will take, alternative contacts and alternatives to email).
  • I won’t make clients wait in reception: Do you remember how you felt the last time you were made to wait for an appointment when you had arrived on time? Don’t make your clients feel the same way. Get off the phone or stop whatever else you are doing if a client is waiting for a scheduled appointment.
  • I will deliver on promises of performance: When it comes to deadlines, you can guarantee a happy client if you under-promise and over-deliver. Be realistic and don’t make promises to deliver if you cannot keep those promises. Be realistic in your assessment of what you can accomplish and by when. In like vein, be careful not to promise an unlikely or impossible outcome or resolution on a matter. Extra caution is warranted here as clients will hear what they want to hear when it comes to a promised outcome. To protect yourself, clearly document your advice to clients on what the expected outcome will be.
  • I will be prepared for client meetings: Don’t kid yourself – clients can instantly tell when you are not prepared. Shuffling through papers, using the wrong names or facts, and other similar clues make clients think to themselves that they may have the wrong lawyer. Make sure you are properly prepared for client meetings.
  • I will keep my clients informed and will communicate with them during long periods of inactivity: Clients always want to feel their matter is moving toward a resolution. But in litigation and other areas of law there can be long periods of inactivity as a matter of course. Keep them informed of the status of a matter and when they can expect it to move forward. Send copies of all incoming and outgoing correspondence to the client.
  • I will not send large bills without warning or explanation: This scenario calls for an in-person meeting to explain the charges to the client. Better yet, avoid it altogether with a strict retainer policy.
  • I will apologize if I fall down on the level of service my clients deserve: If you fail to do any of the forgoing things or otherwise come below an acceptable level of client service, acknowledge it to them, sincerely apologize, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Click here to see the full list of resolutions taken from New Year’s resolutions for a healthier law practice and a new you, which appeared in the December 2012 issue of LAWPRO Magazine.