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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes! Check Out Our New Look and Feel!!!

So, as with many things these days, we are focused on changes.  Well, obviously you’ve noticed our new layout and style.  Let me know what you think of our new digs here at the Georgia Practice Advisor.  We are looking forward to offering you a cleaner experience with more content and more helpful practice resources and information.

Next, there has been a change in our authorship, as Tina Petrig has moved on from the Office of General Counsel.  We wish her the best and look forward to her replacement.  In the meantime, you get to hear from me – Natalie Kelly- with a lone view from the law practice management angle for now.

Stay tuned for a wrap-up post from this year’s Solo and Small Firm Institute.  I wasn’t able to attend this year, but you will see for yourself why I’m sad for having to miss it.

Natalie Robinson Kelly

Day 2 and Post TECHSHOW Thoughts

TECHSHOW 2016  seemed to pass by in an almost blur.  It was quick and fun!  So what were some activities for Day 2 and the final day of the conference you ask.  Well for starters, there were still plenty of opportunities to meet new attendees – there seemed a good number from what I could surmise – and to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances.

While working as a volunteer at the show’s Concierge Booth, I learned that many new attendees were at this year’s event, and that the show’s app for the iPad was not listed as an iPad -only app, and iPad users needed to look for the app differently in the Apple App Store.  Also, there were only a few slots left for people to sign up for Taste of TECHSHOW – a dutch treat event created around general legal technology topics and hosted by a related vendor and current year ABA TECHSHOW speakers.

After the Concierge Booth, the first femaleTECHSHOW keynoter, Cindy Cohn, kept the audience intrigued with her tales of data privacy and security.  I bumped into her before her presentation, and it was a nice way to start TECHSHOW and its apparent theme of data security.

I selected dinner hosted by Heidi Alexander, who is a Practice Management Advisor  from Massachusetts.  The dinner was sponsored by CosmoLex, a great practice management system available in the cloud.  Even though we were at dinner to discuss practice management systems, the focus of much of the conversation had to do with Heidi’s new initiative on Women in Technology with the Legal Technology Resource Center.  There were no specific details that Heidi could immediately share, but I can assure you we will watch out for programming along these lines soon.

The final session on which I served as moderator was well executed and offered up the best in apps for iOS and Android developers, and a lot of laughs and oohs and aahs, too!

Overall, TECHSHOW 2016 packed a lot of powerful information on cyber risk and data security sorely needed for practitioners in this new normal where a lot of work happens online!

– Natalie

DAY 1 at ABA TECHSHOW 2016

Day 1 was a whirlwind of activity. Here’s a quick snapshot:

After a great meeting the day before with the Bar Leader Institute attendees – I presented on a panel on Managing Technology with Catherine Sanders Reach, Danielle Hall, and Jim Calloway at a pre-session – I started the day attending the TECHSHOW Opening Session that directed attendees to educational sessions, the Expo Hall and the James Keane Award Luncheon.

At the Keane Award Luncheon, we were presented with the winning automated services vendor forms service for a Colorado program, and the numbers behind the most recent ABA Legal Technology Survey from my fellow LTRC (Legal Technology Resource Center) Board members.

Later, in the day was able to then look for and prepare for my 4:00 session with Joseph Bahgat — Effective Practice Management Systems Yield Focused Lawyering. This session was packed with attendees and started rocky with me, Joe and the conference hotel’s A/V guy fighting with the presentation technology. After our apologies though, the session went smoothly and based on the great comments afterwards, I was comfortable calling it a success!

The evening ended with my attending the 30th Anniversary celebration of TECHSHOW, where I was introduced as one of the former TECHSHOW Chairs (2014) by fellow Atlanta consultant, Steve Best, of Affinity Consulting, who is this year’s Chair.

Day 1 was exciting! Stay tuned for the snapshot of Day 2’s activities.

– Natalie

‘Tis the Season

Happy Holidays to you and yours from Tina & Natalie!

With the official season of good will closing in, many lawyers and firms will be thinking about appropriate gifts to give clients, other firms, courthouse personnel, and other professional contacts.  While this is a genuine expression of your appreciation and also effective marketing, we have just a couple of words of caution.

When giving gifts to those who regularly refer clients to you, be mindful of Rule 7.3(c) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct:  A lawyer shall not compensate or give anything of value to a person or organization to recommend or secure the lawyer’s employment by a client, or as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in the lawyer’s employment by a client.  So, for example, if you want to give a gift to the real estate broker who refers closing business, or a medical provider who refers personal injury clients, a therapist who refers family law matters, or another lawyer who refers cases outside her area of practice, it is best to keep the gift modest.  It should be a general token of appreciation that does not carry the appearance or reality of compensation for any particular referrals.  The value of the gift should not reflect that you have had a particularly good year from the referrals from the recipient.

So, what are some good gift ideas for lawyers?  Despite bottles of wine, game tickets,  fruit and gift baskets still being popular choices, some traditional gifts are now being supplanted by donations to charities in the recipient lawyer’s or firm’s name.   You can select charities on sites like Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.com.  Also, the number of online sources for gift ideas for lawyers has burgeoned.   Check out some of the long-running gift suggestion providers like Reid Trautz’s Holiday Gift Guide on his blog, Reid My Blog! at http://reidtrautz.typepad.com/ or the shopping site, Café Press, with their  lawyer gift ideas at http://www.cafepress.com/+lawyer+gifts.  Want to see what else there is out there, try Amazon’s Gifts for Lawyers at http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000998291 or even the American Bar Association’s Great Gifts for Lawyers page under their Special Collections at http://www.americanbar.org/content/ebus/collections.html.

Finding ideas for thanking those who have referred business or just celebrating by extending Seasons’ Greetings is relatively easy, but don’t forget that you should always be mindful of the gift you are giving to ensure it reaches its purpose without going beyond the limits of your ethical duties.

Tina & Natalie

Rules of Endorsement

How do you get the required signatures from your client on settlement checks and other documents?  When and how can you sign for your client?    How do you get the proper signature when the check or document’s here and the client’s there?  Clients sometimes ask to avoid two visits to your office, first to sign the settlement waiver, then to receive disbursed proceeds after the settlement check has cleared.  Many attorneys believe that a power of attorney provision in the representation agreement is sufficient to:  1. Settle the client’s case, and 2. Authorize the attorney to sign the client’s name to settlement documents and to endorse checks received.  This is a very dangerous belief.

General provisions in a representation agreement do not supplant an attorney’s ethical duties under the Rules of Professional Conduct.  Rule 1.2 requires that the lawyer abide by the client’s decision whether to settle a matter and requires that the lawyer must consult with the client and abide by the client’s decisions concerning the scope and objectives of representation.  Rule 1.4 sets forth the lawyer’s duty to communicate with the client regarding the status of the matter, to inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent is required, and to explain a matter to the client to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

While a client may provide the lawyer with a settlement range that is acceptable to the client for negotiation, the lawyer generally should not commit the client to a settlement without the client’s express agreement to the exact terms of the proposed settlement.

Assuming that the client has expressly approved specific terms of settlement, can the lawyer execute settlement documents and endorse settlement checks as a convenience to the client?  It is the better practice to have the client sign all documents requiring the client’s signature.  If there is a compelling reason why the client cannot sign herself, the lawyer should first obtain written authorization to sign on behalf of the client.  When the lawyer does sign documents in place of the client, she must clearly indicate that the signature is by the lawyer on behalf of the client.  Simply signing the client’s name, even with authorization, is a false act and a violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4).  See In the Matter of Dock H. Davis, 291 Ga. 169 (2012).  And if you don’t make the mistake of signing your client’s name without so indicating, you will surely not make the mistake of then notarizing the client’s signature as if she had signed it herself!  If the bank will not accept the endorsement indicating that the lawyer signed for the client, then you will have to obtain the client’s signature.  It is never acceptable to simply sign the client’s name as if the client signed the document herself.

In a future post, we may go into the many digital signature situations that arise in practice, but for now, make sure you understand and comply with the proper rules of endorsement!

Tina and Natalie