Make retirement easier – plan now (part one)

We know, it’s likely that you haven’t practiced very long; maybe you plan to practice for another 20, or 30, years. Great! We hope you have a very long, productive and happy career. What we want to talk about today is taking steps even as you start out to make your ultimate retirement an easier process.

If you’ve talked to us at Practice 2.0, or checked out our materials at http://www.azbar.org/practice20, you’ve likely seen our information and sample language on file retention. So we realize that you are “on notice” that this is an important issue. So why are we talking about it again? and so specifically? It’s remarkable to us how many lawyers have not informed their clients about their file retention policy; even more remarkable is how many lawyers haven’t really considered it, and don’t until they start actually planning to retire.

If we had one dollar for every lawyer who calls us asking what to do with the (supply your own large three- or four- digit number here, we usually go for 1,000) boxes of client files they’ve accumulated and stored during their practice, well, we’d have lots and lots of dollars. If the first time you think about what to do with those files – and remember, they are the client’s files – a few months before you plan to wind down and close your practice, you are likely in for a rude shock when you hear your obligations. If you were foresighted early on, and put your file retention policy in your fee agreement or engagement letter and then again in your closing letter, you are way ahead of the crowd.

Hopefully you’ve abided by your own policy and first, have not retained any original documents or property belonging to the client; or second, have provided the client with their file during the representation with adequate advice that this was their file and they needed to safeguard it; or lastly, have provided the client’s file to them at the conclusion of the matter, or as a courtesy offered them the file at the close of the retention period, or just destroyed the file as appropriate after the close of the retention period. (Brief reminder – there may be case law, rules or statutes that require you to keep either the whole file or parts of it after the expiration of the retention period.)

But if you never formulated a retention policy, and/or never advised the clients of it, and still have your client files – well, you’ve got some work to do before you can close the doors, throw away the key and head into blissful retirement. First, if you haven’t maintained an inventory of the files, now is the time. Of course, we are going to suggest that you do this electronically (no sense in creating more paper) and an Excel spreadsheet is a great, searchable way to do it. If you have practice management software, you should be able to generate a client list as well, but we are going to assume that if you are looking at stacks and stacks of banker boxes, you’ll be doing this old-school.

Next, you’ll have to try to notify the clients of your impending retirement and give them the opportunity to take possession of their file(s). If you are thinking, but I don’t know where they are – they may have moved a dozen times since I last saw them, we do feel your pain. You’ll have to make a good-faith attempt to reach them – for example, mail to their last known address, then if it’s returned, some searching online to see if you can figure out their latest address. Do you have to hire a private investigator? Probably not. We have good imaginations and can think of some unusual scenarios under which that might be necessary – but here we are talking about the mainstream situation.

If you cannot find your former client, or if they do not get in touch with you or claim their file, do you get to destroy the file? Sorry, but no. If the file is not claimed by the client, it is now unclaimed property under the law and you’ll have to retain it for the statutory period which is usually somewhere between two and three years before considering it abandoned. Yup, that’s a long time when you are just chomping at the bit to get to your chosen retirement haven.

So, what is the moral of the story? If you have a fee agreement or engagement letter that does not recite your file retention policy in very plain English, it’s never too late to include it. It won’t help you with the old files you already have but it will prevent you from accumulating any more files you’ll have to safeguard for far longer than you wish. Need more information or want us to review your fee agreement? Contact us at Practice 2.0 at 602-340-7332, or Practice20@staff.azbar.org. We’re here to help.

Legal Research – free to AZBar members and easy to use

Last week at the ABA TECHSHOW, Ed Walters, Fastcase founder, announced yet another new release for Fastcase. If you are a member of the State Bar of Arizona, you get Fastcase for free as a member benefit – and not a scaled down version either.

Fastcase is easy to use and there’s lots of help available for you.

Fastcase offers free webinars on how to conduct legal research. See the links below to sign up for the March sessions. They also have trained law librarians at the ready to help you formulate your search if you need a little more hands-on help.

Introduction to Legal Research on Fastcase 7

Webinar Date: Thursday, March 7, 2019

Webinar Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Eastern

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/615321187016574211

Data Analytics: Fastcase and Docket Alarm

Webinar Date: Thursday, March 14, 2019

Webinar Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Eastern

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4911268147877281283

Introduction to Boolean (Keyword) Searches

Webinar Date: Thursday, March 21, 2019

Webinar Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Eastern

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5035942870877231874

Ethics and Legal Research

Webinar Date: Thursday, March 28, 2019

Webinar Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Eastern

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8769210358176822274

The Flexible Lawyer

Check out my newest article in Law Practice Magazine.

Intrigued?  Register for the ABA TECHSHOW, February 27 – March 2, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.  Use code EP1905 at checkout and save on the registration fee.  Three days of amazing sessions on all aspects of law-related technology and much more!!  Don’t miss it!

Arizona lawyers,  want to talk about improving your practice management or implementing technology, about making connections to benefit your practice or taking your practice to the next level?  Call us at Practice 2.0, 602-340-7332.

Have questions about your client trust account?  Call our Trust Account advice line at 602-340-7305.

Save the Date for TECHSHOW2019

It’s a magical time of year in Arizona.  The weather is cooling, sunsets are dramatic, and hope is renewed that 2019 will be the year for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  It’s also the time of year when we at Practice 2.0 allow our inner geek to flourish. Yes, it’s time, dust off the pocket protectors, polish up the walking shoes and air out the winter gear.  It’s time to “save the date” and register for the best technology show on earth.  TECHSHOW2019 registration is open!!  Put it on your calendars now: February 27 – March 2, 2019 in the Windy City (aka Chicago, IL).

Why are we so excited?  Three days of classes on technology and practice management by national experts . . . an expo hall with hundreds of legal technology exhibitors . . . and hundreds and hundreds of attendees who, like us, get excited about the next new product, app, software . . . you get the idea.  There are eight seminar tracks daily, so no matter your particular practice setting – solo, small firm, large firm, legal administrator – or interest – practice management, litigation, marketing or more – there is something for you.  If you haven’t been to TECHSHOW, it’s the perfect time to make it an annual event.

If you haven’t yet been to TECHSHOW you won’t have experienced the inspirational keynote speeches or the fun closing session where we learn about 60 tips, sites and apps in 60 minutes.  You won’t have been to a Taste of TECHSHOW dinner with faculty members and other legal tech enthusiasts from all over the country.  It’s not just a technology show – it’s an event.

Look for other announcements about TECHSHOW here and on our Twitter feed @AZPractice2_0.  And trust us, calendar the dates now, register using our special discount code ER1905 and you are sure to thank us when it’s done.

Password update

In the face of the most recent security incident involving Facebook’s “view as” feature, you may be wondering whether you need to (again) change your password(s).  Once upon a time, this wasn’t quite the ordeal it can now be.  Long ago, in a land not-so far, far away — OK, so we are ready for a new Star Wars movie – we might have had passwords on a dozen or so websites, apps, etc.  But nowadays, we have an ever-increasing number of passwords to remember – some may have dozens, or even hundreds, of log-ins to remember.  And yes, we know, never use the same password for every site, and that “password123” is an invitation to be hacked.

So, we’ve spent lots of time coming up with new, complex, longer passwords.  But how to remember all of them? Particularly when the convention wisdom has been that passwords should be changed every 60 to 90 days.  That is still the protocol in many companies, agencies and government offices.  ARGH!  People resort to re-using passwords, writing them down, storing them on their phones, flash drives, or creating other reminders that create their own security problems.

One solution is to use a password manager – one like Keeper Password Manager, Dashlane or LastPass.  When you use a password manager you have to remember only one password – the “key” to your password vault.  Make it a good one, of course, but at least it’s only one.  But if you are not inclined to use that kind of product, there’s still hope.

Recent thinking about password security is that passwords do not need to be changed as often.  Sure, lots of the other “make a complicated password” advice applies.  In fact, experts have suggested that a longer password is less likely to be hacked than a shorter one.  There are still some “musts,” of course.  In addition to making your passwords longer than before (closer to 20 characters), don’t have them start with a capital letter nor end with a special character, and please don’t use real names, dates of birth, address numbers or other information that can be ascertained through social engineering.  A passphrase is better than a word – something only you would remember – and then maybe use only the first letter of each word.

Current advice is that you should change your password only about once a year (and particularly if you aren’t using multifactor authentication),  if you believe it has been exposed in a breach or “security incident,” if there is evidence of malware on your computer, or – and should we really have to say this again?- you are using a password that can be easily socially engineered.

Still have questions about cybersecurity, law office technology, or other aspects of practice management?  Call us at Practice 2.0, 602-340-7332, for advice or resources.

Fall is finally here, at least on the calendar and Practice 2.0 is ready!

Labor Day and the equinox signalling the beginning of Fall have come and gone.  For those of us who grew up with four seasons that meant that the weather was cooling off, school had started and we had a  bag full of new school supplies.  Of course, in Arizona we haven’t quite cooled down (or not enough, at any rate) or seen the leaves beginning to change but school has started and summer vacations have come and gone.  The pace has picked up at the Bar – sections are meeting again, we are planning for the 2019 Convention, and notwithstanding the weather, it seems like a new year is on the way.

This is the perfect time to revisit your law practice management.  For some, maybe it’s your policies and procedures – maybe you have new associates joining the firm in the wake of the July Bar exam.  Preparing to onboard new staff, either lawyers or paraprofessionals, is a great time to see whether the way you’ve been doing business still works – or works as well as it should.  Maybe it’s time to put your procedures into writing for the first time, or maybe brush the dust off the procedures you’ve been using and revise.

It’s also a great time to do a practice technology check.  Are you using platforms that work for you?  Are you comfortable with your practice management software – or maybe you aren’t using any and should consider it. Maybe you are happy there, but you are considering (or should be) implementing the next step in automating your firm.  Whether it’s client relationship management software, or email encryption, or other technology tools to make your life easier better serve your clients, we have help for you.  Check out our Practice 2.0 practice management comparison chart, and our list of “cool tools” compiled to give you a place to start when considering law office technology.

It’s also a good time to think about making a telephone or in-person appointment to have a consultation on any of these issues.  Practice 2.0 practice management advisors are available to discuss procedures, technology, marketing, networking, and more.  Check us out at http://www.azbar.org/Practice20 or give us a call at 602-340-7332, if you think you need a reboot as the year gets ready to do the same.

Have you registered for the 2018 Bar Convention?

It’s June and the clock is ticking.  It’s almost convention time again for the State Bar of Arizona!  Maybe you are wondering “why should I go to the Bar convention?”  After all, it’s June, it’s hot (at least it is in Central and Southern Arizona – no gloating from you Northern Arizona lawyers!), and maybe you are thinking that three days at the beach might be better.

You couldn’t be more wrong.  There is no other event for lawyers in Arizona that pulls together as many lawyers, from as many areas of practice for three days of quality CLE and fun.  Yes, it is fun!

So, here is our short list of reasons you should attend the 2018 State Bar Convention (at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass — not the casino, the luxury hotel less than a mile past the casino).

  1.  Over 50 seminars to choose from on an amazing array of topics.  You can hone your knowledge in your current area, or learn about a new area of law.
  2. We’ll be showing a movie!  Have you seen Marshall?  It’s the movie about Thurgood Marshall’s early days in practice – before he became Justice Marshall.  Not only that, but we have one of the film’s writers coming to join in the discussion after the film.
  3. Do you wonder whether Lawyers Got Talent?  Come to the Thursday night party and see for yourself the other talents your colleagues have . . . there’ll be music, comedy and more.
  4. Puppies!!!  Need I say more?
  5. Network with lawyers from around the state.  You can never do enough networking these days and this is the perfect venue.
  6. Since we mentioned the heat, should we also mention that it’s cool and comfortable at the Sheraton.  Enjoy the inside – they have an amazing lobby – or the outside at the pool – after your sessions each day.
  7. Someone you know is probably a presenter.  Remember those 50+ seminars?  Most of them feature local speakers.  And the ones that don’t feature national speakers you’ll want to hear!
  8. It’s the 25th anniversary of the Ethics Game Show.  How can you miss that?
  9. Vendors – we have a great exhibit hall with all kinds of services and products you should know about.
  10. There’s free WiFi, there’s free coffee, and you can get a free head shot (isn’t it time to update?)  Learn about techniques to keep you happy and healthy in your practice and help to balance your life.

We know, we said a short list, but truly, it’s hard to keep it short.  We could go on and on.  If these reasons don’t convince you, well then come anyway.  You can get a year’s worth of CLE in one place, in three days, and have a bit of a staycation while you do.

 

It’s vacation (or vacation-planning) time again!

Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us, so it’s time to start thinking about vacation, if you haven’t already done so.  (As an aside, if you are wondering what vacations have to do with practice management, please see prior posts on lawyer wellness and think about how much you really need a break!!)

A few thoughts before turning to apps or sites that may help you have a better vacation:

First, you need to do some planning and preparation in your practice so that you’ll be able to turn off your cell phone (at least most of the time), stop continuously checking your email (maybe check it once a day?), and worrying about your clients, their cases and your practice.  Do you need to arrange court coverage?  Do you need to request continuances (if possible without harming your client) or deadline extensions?  Are you sufficiently organized to the point that you know what will be coming up on your return?  Do you have a sufficiently informative “out of office” message on your voicemail and email?  Do you have a contingency for emergencies if those are likely in your practice area?  Doing some advance planning will undoubtedly help you avoid a crisis or mess when you get home (yes, it may require some additional time, but you’ll be glad you did it).

Now that you’ve attended to your practice and made the appropriate plans, how about making some vacation plans?

One of our favorite (non-legal) technology blogs recently focused on travel/vacation apps.  Here are some of the sites they recommend when travel is on the agenda:

  • Expedia or Kayak for finding airfare, hotels, and last-minute “cheap” rates
  • Momondo’s Trip Finder or Skyscanner to search for lower prices in a variety of destinations – best used if your dates and locations are flexible
  • Airbnb (no explanation needed, right?) or BedandBreakfast.com (for reservations in more “traditional” B&B’s)
  • Hotels.com or Booking.com

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Tripadvisor.com for hotel reviews, ratings and remarkably illuminating photos taken by travelers (the ones of hotel rooms are usually so much more realistic than the promotional photos taken by the hotels).  You can also find restaurants, with ratings and comments.  We’ve gotten recommendations here that have led to truly amazing meals
  • Weather.com – really.  Check the weather; you don’t want to pack for sun when you’ll get rain; heat when you’ll get chilled; you get the drift
  • iExit is a great app if you are on a road trip because it gives you information about the amenities in coming exits.  It’s free in the App Store or Google Play and is worth its weight in gold, particularly if you are travelling with children
  • Gasbuddy.com (also has a free app) has gas prices and locations.  The only downside is that it is populated by information provided by other drivers, so if no one has been on your particular route in a while, it may not have the most current information.  (We also use it to find cheaper gas around home – you’d be surprised at the variation in prices locally!)
  • Do we even need to mention Google Maps, or Waze?

And one more, if you are going to the house(s) that Mickey built (aka Disneyland or DisneyWorld) be sure to download the respective apps and be sure to buy the Fastpass/free photo option (we get no kickbacks from them).  Nothing like getting on the shorter line, a little advance notice about which rides are closed, how long wait times are, and where all of the amenities are located to make the trip better.  And having Disney photographers pose you or your group in front of their most memorable locations will assure that no one’s head is cut off in the photo.

Bon voyage.

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