Last time, we told you to return phone calls, respond to texts and emails; be candid and realistic with clients; and to be diligent in your work. But, to make the previous post even more meaningful and effective, we wanted to share some specific tools and additional tips you might employ to help avoid ethics complaints in Georgia.
1. Tools to help you return phone calls; respond to texts and emails.
Use a written phone call policy given to clients as part of or alongside the fee agreement. For a basic sample, use the one from the State Bar’s Law Practice Management Program Resource library to develop your own. It’s here: Phone Call Policy.
Use the phone tracking features of practice management software programs to keep track of incoming and outgoing calls and phone messages left with the firm.
Don’t go it alone, and employ the use of a virtual receptionist service if you don’t have your own receptionist. Consider service from Ruby Receptionists, Answer1 and LexHelper. We like that Ruby now provides services in Spanish; and that LexHelper is a local company. Text messaging from the business line can be managed through services like ZipWhip.
Remind clients they can also use client portal services found in your practice management systems like CaseFleet, CaseOne, CenterBase, Clio, CosmoLex, MyCase, Practice Panther, RocketMatter, SmokeBall, Zola, and many, many more to securely upload and access documents, bills, calendar event entries, and other file-related items. As with all on-line case activities, clients should be counseled up front about guarding against unauthorized access to or sharing by family members, friends, co-workers or others who shouldn’t be privy to it. Be sensitive, too, to the fact that there may be some clients who are “tech phobic,” or who do not have ready access to the Internet. For them, computer based systems could risk impeding rather than facilitating communication, so old school methods may be necessary.
As is true for contracted services generally, you should satisfy yourself through inquiry and/or research that the Internet-based functions and cloud services you use are secure, as part of your obligation to avoid inadvertently disclosing information about your clients’ cases. See GRPC Rules 1.6 and 4.4(b). For added protection, you should look at encryption. Encryption and encryption services can be applied to your data at the file level, across entire folders, across full networks, or even online. Likewise, there can be encryption within applications like encryption for email. Check out Microsoft’s general file encryption for its programs, and for Outlook specifically look at Absio’s Dispatch program. Using Google services instead? Look at the cloud-based program Virtru with solutions for both Microsoft and Google. Citrix ShareFile and Box are other programs providing end-user options for encryption. Firms can also employ services like Symantec Endpoint Encryption, Microsoft BitLocker Drive Encryption, or BoxCryptor to encrypt valuable resources and data.
2. Tools to help you be candid and realistic with your clients.
Technology tools may not directly help with this suggestion beyond assisting in drafting written policies and procedures to ensure the message to clients is delivered consistently about firm “rules of engagement.” You can also manage expectations by keeping clients informed via practice management system client portals, and effective calendaring techniques – also within practice management systems. So, you are probably beginning to see we think practice management software is a big deal. You’re right. It’s truly a “super tech” for law firms.
3. Tools to help you be diligent.
Staying on track is made simpler by using the “super tech” practice management software, too. Calendaring and automated workflows allow lawyers to put their existing checklists and to-do items online. Workflow templates for triggering or firing off the next task – think of automatically generating a “welcome to the firm” letter once the to-do item for “open a new case” is checked off for a particular matter. These checklist “workflows” can make consistent work out of routine tasks for lawyers and staff.
To get started, see the laundry list of practice management programs listed above and reference their individual help and support files and training videos for assistance with automated workflows, document management, and document assembly functions.
Stay tuned for even more guidance on ethics complaints avoidance.
Natalie & Bill