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June 2020

Florida on the ethical issues triggered by the remote practice of law

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Florida On The Ethical Issues Triggered by the Remote Practice of Law

Since the start of the pandemic I’ve covered how the effects of COVID-19 have drastically altered the ways in which lawyers get their work done. The majority of lawyers have worked remotely at some point over the last six months and some continue to do so, with many large and mid-sized firms announcing that work-from-home policies are in place until at least the end of the year. Similarly, because of COVID-19, courts are conducting jury trials and hearings via videoconferencing, and lawyers are using cloud-based legal software for document management, e-signatures, billing, invoicing, payment processing, communication and collaboration with clients and colleagues, and much more.

As result of these significant changes, it’s not surprising the regulatory landscape under which lawyers practice has likewise been affected. For example, last week I discussed one such case: an opinion handed down in March by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. In that Opinion, the Court concluded that an attorney who is not a member of the District of Columbia Bar may nevertheless practice law from the attorney’s residence in the District of Columbia under the “incidental and temporary practice” exception of Rule 49(c)(13).

The Florida State Bar Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law (Committee) also recently weighed in, handing down Advisory Opinion 2019-4. in August. At issue in this opinion was whether it is ethically permissible for lawyers to practice law remotely from their homes in Florida, where said lawyers are: 1) unlicensed in Florida, 2) employed by firms located in other states, and 3) working on matters unrelated to Florida laws.

During the ethics hearing, the attorney seeking the Committee’s ethical guidance testified about his remote technology set up as follows: “We’ve tried to set up and utilize the technology in a fashion that essentially places me virtually in New Jersey. But for the fact that I'm physically sitting in a chair in a bedroom in Florida, every other aspect of what I do is no different than where I'm physically sitting in a chair in Eatontown, New Jersey and that's the way I tried to and have structured it so that the public sees a presence in, in Eatontown, New Jersey and no other presence."

In reaching its decision, the Committee explained that of import was that the petitioning attorney had no plans to set up a law practice in the state: “It is clear from the facts in Petitioner’s request and his testimony at the public hearing that Petitioner and his law firm will not be establishing a law office in Florida. It is equally clear that Petitioner will not be establishing a regular presence in Florida for the practice of law; he will merely be living here."

Next, prior to reaching its conclusion, the Committee highlighted the hearing testimony of one witness, an attorney, noting that it was particularly persuasive on the issue at hand: “I believe the future, if not the present, will involve more and more attorneys and other professionals working remotely, whether from second homes or a primary residence. Technology has enabled this to occur, and this flexibility can contribute to an improved work/life balance. It is not a practice to discourage.”

Finally, the Committee concluded that it was permissible for the petitioning attorney to work remotely as proposed: “It is the opinion of the Standing Committee that the Petitioner who simply establishes a residence in Florida and continues to provide legal work to out-of-state clients from his private Florida residence under the circumstances described in this request does not establish a regular presence in Florida for the practice of law.”

In other words, the pandemic has ushered in a new normal for the legal profession, and technology  - and remote working - is here to stay. Practicing law from any location is becoming an accepted practice, and the technology to facilitate this is likewise no longer ethically problematic. So if you're still on the fence regarding the use of cloud computing, what are you waiting for? The tides have turned, and there’s no better time than now to make the transition to working remotely using cloud-based technology.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.


D.C. Bar weighs in on ethics of working remotely

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****


DC Bar Weighs in on the Ethics of Working Remotely During COVID-19

If your firm is like most law firms, some or all members of your firm’s workforce has been working remotely since the onset of the pandemic. In many cases, your firm’s employees may have chosen to stay close to home (and the office) during quarantine periods, while others chose to move to more remote locations for varying reasons.

If you’re one of the lawyers who chose the more remote option, your choice of location may well have unknowingly triggered ethical issues. For example, if you’re working for a prolonged period of time from a location in another state in which you’re not licensed, then by doing so you may be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

But, just as the pandemic has drastically affected the ways in which lawyers get their work done, so too has it had an effect on the regulatory landscape under which lawyers practice. This phenomenon is readily apparent when it comes to the ethics of remote working, as evidenced by two recent ethics opinions, one of which I’ll cover in today’s column.

This opinion was issued on March 23, 2020 by District of Columbia Court of Appeals in direct response to the issues presented by lawyers working remotely during the pandemic. At issue in Opinion 24-20. was whether an attorney who is not a member of the District of Columbia Bar may nevertheless practice law from the attorney’s residence in the District of Columbia under the “incidental and temporary practice” exception of Rule 49(c)(13).

In reaching its determination, the Chair of Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law (“Committee”) explained that pursuant to Rule 49(a) of the Rules of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, lawyers generally may not “engage in the practice of law in the District of Columbia…unless enrolled as an active member of the D.C. Bar.”

Next, the Committee acknowledged one exception to that Rule that allowed attorneys not admitted to the D.C. Bar to practice law in D.C. under certain circumstances. Namely, the Rule provides an exception “for ‘incidental and temporary practice’…if the person is authorized to practice law and in good standing in another state or territory or authorized to practice law in a foreign country, is not disbarred or suspended for disciplinary reasons, and has not resigned with charges pending in any jurisdiction or court.”

The Committee then reviewed the commentary to the Rule for additional insight. Notably the commentary explained that the “incidental and temporary practice” exception was intended to apply “where an attorney with a principal office outside the District of Columbia is incidentally and temporarily required to come into the District of Columbia to provide legal services to a client.”

Finally, the Committee turned to the likely factual scenario presented by lawyers working from D.C. during the pandemic and concluded that their remote work fell within the exception. Specifically the Committee determined that lawyers who are not licensed in D.C. “may practice law from the attorney’s residence in the District of Columbia under the ‘incidental and temporary practice’ exception of Rule 49(c)(13) if the attorney (1) is practicing from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) maintains a law office in a jurisdiction where the attorney is admitted to practice; (3) avoids using a District of Columbia address in any business document or otherwise holding out as authorized to practice law in the District of Columbia, and (4) does not regularly conduct in-person meetings with clients or third parties in the District of Columbia.”

The outcome of the opinion is not surprising given the unusual and unpredictable situation that we all find ourselves in. Of import is that is just one more example of how COVID-19 has affected - and continues to change - our profession. Check back next week for another example of this phenomenon at work. In that column I’ll take a look at a more recent opinion from Florida that addresses a similar issue, so stay tuned!

 

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.


Judges and social media use: Drawing the line in New York

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Judges and social media use: Drawing the line in New York

In 2020, it’s safe to say that I no longer need to convince lawyers that social media is here to stay, since nearly everyone - including lawyers - regularly interacts on least social media site. And by “lawyers” I’m referring to pretty much anyone with a law degree, including judges.

That being said, judges are unique. When they accept the position of a judgeship, they agree to walk a fine line in both their public and private lives in order to maintain the appearance of impropriety. As a result, given the very public nature of most social media interactions and the ease of accessing the same, this particular medium of communication can sometimes prove to be problematic for judges.

Case in point: a part-time judge who hoped to personally publish online decisions handed down by the judge. Specifically, in New York Judicial Ethics Opinion 20-58, which was handed down earlier this month, the enquiring judge sought input on whether it was permissible to “post his/her published judicial decisions on his/her personal social media website by listing the ‘case name, citation and link to the Official Reporter website’…(and also) comment on the decision either on social media or elsewhere.”

In reaching its decision, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics noted that it was limiting its opinion to items posted to judges’ personal social media websites and was not addressing the issue of whether judges’ campaign committees can post links to the judges’ published decisions as part of a judicial campaign.

The Committee explained that as it related to the question raised by the enquiring judge, there were two different issues under consideration: 1) whether there was a material, relevant difference between judges posting judicial decisions on personal social media websites as opposed to providing them to a third-party news entity for publication in print or online, and 2) whether part-time judges posting their judicial decisions on a personal social media website might create an impression that they were indirectly using their judicial status to promote their law practices.

In regard to the first issue, the Committee explained that although the publication of decisions online is not inherently inappropriate, the primary concern was that doing so could, in some situations, be seen as inviting or encouraging interaction with the judge. The Committee opined that “there is a material, relevant difference in a judge posting his/her own judicial decisions on his/her personal social media website, rather than providing them to a third-party news entity that may publish them in print or online.”

According to the Committee, in many cases, online postings by judges are rarely problematic if judges post solely about “hobbies, social events or milestones with friends or family, and a wide variety of other such ordinary, non-political topics unrelated to his/her judicial office.” But the Committee concluded that when judges post their judicial decisions online, it runs the risk that doing so “may be seen as implicitly inviting discussion, comment, or other input on it from friends, family, or other members of the public.” As such judges should refrain from doing so.

Next, the Committee turned to the second issue, and determined that if part-time judge  s who also practice law were to post their judicial decisions to personal social media sites, it could impermissibly create an impression the judge is indirectly using his/her judicial status to promote his/her law practice.”

Thus, the Committee concluded that for multiple reasons judges should refrain from posting their judicial decisions on their personal social media websites.

In an effort to provide additional guidance to judges regarding permissible online interactions and where to draw to the line, the Committee explained that “the more frequently and prominently a judge references his/her judicial position on his/her personal social media website, the greater the risk he/she will be seen as using that judicial position to advance his/her private interests.”

In other words, New York judges are not banned from interacting online. Instead, they should carefully consider the ways in which they’d like to interact, and then ensure that they walk that fine line between permissible interactions and those that either advance their private interests or invite impermissible online discussions related to their position as a judge.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.


The importance of planning for law firm resiliency during COVID-19

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

The importance of planning for law firm resiliency during COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in some parts of the country, you’re likely wondering about the future of your law firm and its book of business. One way to abate those concerns is to prioritize preparing your firm for whatever may come. Make sure you’re never caught flat-footed and take steps to ensure business resiliency no matter what happens. Why? Because that’s the only way to ensure future success and stability.

Prior to COVID-19,  you may have thought that this type of disaster was unlikely to happen to your law firm. But now that we’re in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, are you really willing to take that chance again? That’s why it makes sense to plan for the future disruption, whether due to the pandemic or otherwise. Because, if nothing else, this pandemic has shown us that it never hurts to prepare for the unexpected.

Part of preparing for uncertainty includes building business resiliency into your law firm.  Business resilience ensures that your law firm is able to quickly pivot and adapt to unexpected  disruptions, thus allowing it to continue to operate and represent your clients’ interests even in the face of uncertainty. A major part of resiliency planning includes assessing risks to your firm’s business in the event that different types of disruptions occur.

Business resiliency is more than simply an emergency response plan. The end goal is to ensure that not only does your firm get up and running quickly, but that it is also able to operate smoothly and efficiently in the weeks and months following a disaster without skipping a beat. While this may seem like an overwhelming – or even impossible – task, it’s actually more attainable than you might think, especially if your law firm has a solid plan in place that includes the necessary technology.

The very first task you’ll need to undertake in building business resiliency into your firm is to assess its technology arsenal and ensure that you have the cloud-based software tools in place that will allow everyone in your law firm to seamlessly communicate and collaborate from any location no matter what the circumstances. Once you’ve done that you’ll need to consider all critical business functions – such as operations, human resources, and public relations – and determine which ones will need to continue to function in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or other unplanned event.

Next, you’ll need to identify the top threats to its business continuity. Some of those threats are universal, such as a pandemic, cyberattack, or utility outages. Others will be more specific to the geographic regions in which your firm’s offices are located. For example, many potential natural disasters will vary greatly depending on location. So you’ll need to determine the natural disasters most likely to strike your offices and affect your firm’s operations and how to respond to them. Once you’ve done that, you’ll better able to determine your firm’s top goals and priorities, which will necessarily inform the process of creating your firm’s business resiliency plan.

As we’ve learned from the current pandemic, it’s impossible to predict when uncertainty will strike, whether because of a natural disaster or otherwise. That’s why it’s pivotal to have a business resiliency plan in place. You’ll be laying a foundation that will allow your firm to survive and thrive down the road, no matter what obstacles you encounter. So what are you waiting for? Invest in your firm’s future by creating a business resiliency plan today.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.


Covid-19 Survey: Lawyers Continue to Work Remotely and in the Cloud

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Covid-19 Survey: Lawyers Continue to Work Remotely and in the Cloud

It’s hard to believe that the pandemic has been with us for nearly 6 months  – and will likely be around for months - or even years - to come. As a result of COVID-19 and its effects, some firms are busier than ever, while others are finding that business has slowed down.

This newfound reality that we all find ourselves in makes it challenging to run a successful business, as many law firms are now unfortunately discovering. Because of the pandemic, lawyers and their employees have transitioned to remote working. As a result, according to a recent survey, law firms are increasingly relying on the cloud-based technology that makes remote work possible, since it’s the only way to ensure that law firms continue to be both functional and profitable.

The survey was conducted by MyCase in June (note that I am the Legal Technology Evangelist for MyCase) and was a follow up to a survey conducted in April. In the most recent survey, 56% of firms surveyed were working remotely in some capacity. 40% of respondents reported that their firms were operating in their physical office, 18% of firms were operating exclusively remotely, and another 38% of firms were partially open with a portion of staff operating remotely.The majority of those firms that were fully remote have no proposed timeline as to when they will return to their offices.

Compare this to the results of the April survey, which showed that 87% of firms were working remotely in some capacity. This 36% decrease in law firms working remotely suggests that some law firms have been able to reopen as states relaxed their orders on essential businesses. These numbers will undoubtedly continue to fluctuate based on geographical location and public policies.

Law firms reported that they were taking a number of approaches to future-proof their businesses against prolonged interruption, the most notable of which was adopting or continuing to use cloud-based technology. The use of cloud computing legal software by lawyers has steadily increased since the start of the pandemic, and the survey results showed that 90% of the law firms surveyed shared that cloud-based technology enabled their firm to work remotely at this time, an increase from 79% in April.

Also of import is that for many law firms, cloud-based software is the key to their continued profitability despite the pandemic. According to the survey results, 70% of the lawyers surveyed reported that cloud technology is paramount to their firm's financial stability.

For many law firms, the transition to remote work in the cloud was sudden, and in some cases, involuntary. Fortunately, the majority of lawyers surveyed indicated that although the change was unexpected, it was a positive one, with 52% strongly agreeing that the technology adoption by law firms due to the pandemic is a positive trend. Another 54% strongly agreed that the same was true of the courts.

So, in other words, as I’ve been saying for years now, technology is your friend, and change is good. I wish it hadn’t taken a pandemic to get lawyers to agree with me, but who am I to complain? I’ll take what I can get!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.


Zoom court hearing tips from the Boston Bar Association

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Zoom Court Hearing Tips From The Boston Bar Association

It’s the end of July 2020, and we’re months into the COVID-19 crisis with no end in sight. As surges occur across the country, working remotely has become commonplace for most members of the legal profession. Because of that, court appearances, hearings, and jury trials are also part of our newfound reality.

As lawyers increasingly appear in court proceedings via videoconferencing, concerns regarding this format have begun to crop up, ranging from proper attire and etiquette to ethical and confidentiality issues. Because it’s such a new method of interacting for the vast majority of lawyers and judges, it’s an experiment in progress and people have been making it up as they go along.

Fortunately, the experiment is well underway, and as a result, protocols are being established to help lawyers engage more successfully in this format. Most recently, the Boston Bar Association provided 4 virtual hearing guides that include lots of great advice for lawyers seeking to improve their videoconferencing skills. (Online: https://tinyurl.com/MAZoomTips).

Some of the tips revolved around preparation. For example, lawyers were advised to ensure full familiarity with the videoconferencing platform being used by the court. Here some of the best tips relating to preparing for an appearance:

  • Take online tutorials about Zoom so you become comfortable with all the technological capabilities Zoom has to offer.
  • Call into the hearing a few minutes prior to the designated time to ensure you will have time to resolve technical issues.
  • Make sure your necessary technology is ready to go without incident (e.g. internet is fully functioning, Zoom app is updated, cell phone charged).
  • If you are participating in a Zoom hearing, carefully set your camera so that it captures a good view of your face and upper torso. You don’t want the camera to cut off part of your face, for instance.
  • Ensure that you are in a quiet room away from potentially distracting noise.
  • Be aware of your background. Make sure that you are not in front of a window, which will make you backlit and hard to see. If your background is distracting, consider using a neutral digital background on Zoom. To practice you can start a new meeting in the Zoom application, and it will show, without other participants, how you will look in an actual meeting.

Videoconferencing etiquette is often a foreign concept to first-time users. To that end, the guides also include a variety of etiquette recommendations including the following:

  • Treat the hearing as if you were present in the judge’s courtroom.
  • At the start of any virtual hearing, make sure all attorneys and parties state on the record that they are alone and that no third parties are within earshot of the hearing proceedings. If a third party must be present for the hearing, identify that individual and the reasons why that individual must be present for the hearing.
  • Defer to the judge as to his or her preference on who should speak at a given time.
  • If a motion is being heard, expect the moving party to speak first and the responding/opposing party to speak second.
  • Do not talk over one another.
  • Mute yourself when you are not speaking

Finally, there was very useful advice provided regarding the practicalities of appearing via videoconference while maintaining client confidentiality and ensuring an open line of communication between attorneys and clients throughout the proceeding. Some of the most useful tips included:

  • Be sure to warn all witnesses that once they are on the call/meeting, anything they say can be heard by the clerk and anyone else present and it may even be recorded on the record. This is true even if the judge has not joined the hearing.
  • All participants should also be aware that if they are participating in a Zoom hearing, they can be seen even if they aren’t speaking so they should be careful to behave in the same way they would if they were in court.
  • The best practice is for you and your client to to be in the same room for the virtual hearing, following safety guidelines. However, if you and your client are appearing in separate locations, consider setting up a “back channel” for in-hearing communications such as e-mail, text message, Slack, Google Chat.
  • Be careful with your use of Zoom chat and make sure if you do use Zoom chat that you are directing your messages to the correct recipients.
  • Remember that hearings are recorded. You and your client should not speak to any third parties during a hearing.

Those are just some of the highlights, and there’s even more to be found in each guide. So make sure to download them and give them a read. Of course, the courts that you appear in may have videoconferencing rules or customs specific to your region so keep an eye out for similar guides that are unique to the courts in your jurisdiction, as well.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.


Round Up: Law Firm Reopening, Future-Proofing Law Firms, Legal Billing Software, and More

SpiralI often write articles and blog posts for other outlets and am going to post a round up here from time to time (but won't include my weekly Daily Record articles in the round up since I re-publish them to this blog in full). Apologize for the delay in posting this roundup, but in addition to my job with MyCase, I've been busy writing the annual update for the New York criminal law treatise I co-author for Thomson Reuters. In any event, here are my posts and articles published from late-June to the present:


New York judge weighs in on coaching witnesses during Zoom proceedings

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

New York Judge Weighs in on Coaching Witnesses During Zoom Proceedings

It’s hard to believe that in the span of just a few short months, lawyers across the country have suddenly become technologically adept and are using a host of remote technology tools, including videoconferencing software. In the blink of an eye, interacting via videoconference is now a daily occurrence for both attorneys and judges alike, whether it’s for for meetings, court appearances, or hearings.

This unexpectedly rapid rate of adaptation to technology has been impressive, and I would argue, unprecedented. I’ve been writing about legal technology for a decade now, urging lawyers to sit up and take notice of emerging technologies. And in the process, I’ve correctly predicted a lot of legal technology trends.

But this wave of adoption? I didn’t see it coming. It’s amazing the impact a pandemic can have on what had previously been a steadfast resistance to technology adoption by many members of the legal profession, isn’t it?

Of course, now that we’re all “zooming,” as I recently heard a judge refer to it, a host of issues are beginning to arise relating to the practicalities and the ethics of using videoconferencing tools in lieu of in-person appearances. It was the former that was recently addressed by a federal court judge in the Southern District of New York.

In Joffe v. King & Spalding LLP, No. 17-cv-3392-VEC-SDA, a motion was brought before Judge Valerie E. Caproni by plaintiff’s counsel. At issue was whether plaintiff’s counsel could insist that “the remote deponent…provide, while on the record, a recording or screen-share of the deponent’s monitor.”

According to the plaintiff’s motion, the goal behind this provision was to prevent coaching of the remote deponent by defense counsel: “(A)t an in-person deposition, it is virtually guaranteed that any notes or messages passed to the deponent during the testimony would immediately be seen by questioning counsel (and by the videographer); while, at…a remote deposition, in the absence of screen-sharing it is virtually guaranteed that, e.g., emails and instant messages sent to the witness’s computer mid-testimony, could never be seen by anyone else.”

In response the motion, the defendant asserted that the plaintiff’s request to view the remote deponent’s computer screen was unwarranted and unduly intrusive. Judge Caproni agreed.

She concluded that although it was within her powers to impose a monitoring mechanism, it was not needed in this case. She explained that there was no indication that defense counsel had behaved impermissibly in the past and she saw no reason to believe he would do so in the future. Accordingly she directed defense counsel to provide opposing counsel with notice if he intended to privately confer with a witness. Additionally she required both attorneys to, “for the duration of their respective depositions…close all Internet browsers, messaging applications, email clients, or any other Internet page or computer program that could enable the receipt or initiation of an electronic communication, other than the platform used for the deposition. Ms. Moss and Mr. Fine are further directed to close any other applications that could generate any pop-up notification or window during their respective depositions.”

A reasonable compromise, if you ask me, and an interesting outcome to an interesting issue of first impression. As COVID-19 cases surge in many parts of the United States, this motion was no doubt one of the first of many related to remote legal proceedings that will be raised in courts across the county in the coming months.

It’s a brave and strange new world out there, but fortunately we have the technology we need to conquer it and ensure that the wheels of justice can continue to turn. There will undoubtedly be bumps and bruises along the way, but our judicial system will adapt and, with a little help from technology and commonsense decisions like this one, justice will prevail.

 

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.


How to get paid during the COVID-19 pandemic

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

How to get paid during the COVID-19 pandemic

In March, life as we knew it ground to a halt as COVID-19 descended upon our country. For many law firms, this sudden departure from business as usual was an unexpected and unwelcome turn of events. As the virus quickly took hold, firms closed their doors and, to the extent that it was was possible, sent their employees home to work remotely.

With the unexpected and sudden transition to remote working came a host of challenges, not the least of which was getting paid by clients. Of course, ensuring that your firm has effective billing processes in place in the midst of a worldwide pandemic easier said than done. This is especially so if your firm isn’t already using legal billing software that is accessible remotely.

The good news is in 2020 there is easy-to-use and affordable remote billing software that is readily available and makes it easier than ever to get paid despite the pandemic. These cloud-based tools streamline the process of remotely invoicing clients and accepting online payments from clients. Here’s how and why your firms should make it a point to invest in this type of software in the near future, especially since there is no clear indication as to when life will return to some semblance of normal.

First, it goes without saying that if remote working is a necessity, then your firm needs to invest in billing tools that are easily accessed remotely, whether it’s legal billing software or law practice management software with billing capabilities. The simplest and most cost effective way to accomplish this is with cloud-based billing software or law practice management software with built in legal billing features. This software provides an out-of-the-box, streamlined billing process that makes it easier than ever to remotely track time, invoice clients, and accept online payments via credit card.

Next, simplify the invoice creation process. There are a host of ways to reduce legal billing inefficiencies, but one of the easiest is to reduce the number of steps needed to create and send out invoices. One way that most cloud-based legal billing tools accomplish this goal is by automatically providing necessary billing information, such as LEDES billing codes. Additionally, the built-in ability to customize invoices allows you to easily determine what information appears on your firm’s invoices, such as which time or expense entry columns you would like to appear on an invoice. You can create and edit those invoices from any location and then with the click of a button, send them to clients for payment.

Next, use cloud-based billing software that allows you to automate invoices reminders. With this built-in tool, you can schedule reminders when you send out the very first invoice to a client. If the invoice isn’t paid, a follow up invoice will automatically be sent to the client, reminding the client that the billed amount is still outstanding.

Finally, use make sure the cloud-based billing software allows clients to set up payment plans. By doing this you provide your clients with increased flexibility, making it easier to pay large legal bills - something that is especially important during a pandemic.

The bottom line: just because your law firm is operating virtually, doesn’t mean you can’t successfully collect payments from clients. With the right cloud-based software your law firm’s billing processes will be streamlined, and will include features that make it easier for clients to pay their legal bills. So what are you waiting for? Not only will investing in this software now make all the difference to your firm’s bottom line, it will likewise help to future-proof you law firm and ensure its continued success in the immediate future - whatever it may bring.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.