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Posts published in “Checklists”

Holiday Tips for Solo or Small Firm Lawyers (Before Closing Office for Holidays)

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The holiday season should be relaxing, worry-free and most of all, safe. That's why it is a good idea to prepare your office before you close for the holidays. Below are a few tips from the Practice Management Assistance Program to help you get started.

Several Weeks Prior to the Holiday

  1. If at all possible, ask another lawyer to be your back up or successor in case of emergencies. You can execute an authorization and consent to enter the law firm offices or adapt the Bar’s “Agreement to Close a Law Practice” to formalize your agreement with the emergency attorney. The agreement includes Power of Attorney language and a section on specific powers granted to the backup lawyer. (The Bar strongly recommends solos have a full agreement regardless of whether you are going on vacation. Also, you can designate a successor on the Bar’s website.) When you are out of the office for vacation or other reasons, and you are unable to find another lawyer to be your backup, you may choose to entrust a trusted staff member or family member. (The book, “Being Prepared: A Lawyer’s Guide for Dealing with Disability or Unexpected Events” by Cohen and Cohen is recommended for forms and checklists.)
  2. Let your backup know how to reach you and set expectations as to what constitutes an emergency warranting your intervention.
  3. Prepare an envelope to be opened by your backup with information to be used in emergencies. Include crucial passwords, the key to your mailbox, locked office/file cabinets, and information about bank accounts/trusts. Put this envelope in a safe location or give to your backup.
  4. Plan your schedule carefully. Share your plans with coworkers or with your successor. Make sure any office personnel have all the information they need to assist clients and reach you.
  5. Notify current clients in writing of your holiday schedule and emergency contact person.
  6. Post a holiday office hours schedule in your office, on your website, or in your email signature line so clients know in advance when you plan to be closed.
  7. Request protection from all courts you may be called before while you are away.
  8. Set clear goals for what you need to accomplish before you leave and what remains unfinished for when you return.
  9. Make sure security software and backups are working properly.

 

One Week Prior to the Holiday

  1. Review all client files and prepare a client summary of each matter.
  2. Attempt to resolve any potential issues or questions with clients or other counsel early. Talk to your back up lawyer about on-going matters and any potential problems to be aware of.
  3. Monitor your email inbox and physical mail and categorize high priority messages.
  4. Set automatic payments for operating expenses if necessary.
  5. Send outstanding invoices.
  6. Test your data backups and make sure all your data is backed up to an external location.
  7. Check physical locks to all windows, doors, access points.
  8. Test locks to client files, file closets, and office.
  9. Clean off your desk.

 

Last Day at Work

  1. Set an out of office greeting on voicemail and email. Include contact information for your emergency contact.
  2. Remove perishable food items from refrigerator and cabinets.
  3. Organize desk and prepare a checklist so you’ll know what you need to do when you return.
  4. Remind staff where you would like your mail and messages to go while you are out.
  5. Be sure your back up lawyer has all the information they need before you leave.
  6. Remind staff to set out of office greetings if they are on vacation too.
  7. Lock up client files, file closets, and your office

 

When You Return from Holiday

  1. Turn off holiday voicemail greeting/email out of office (if not automatic).
  2. Talk to your back-up lawyer to determine if you need to resolve any issues.
  3. Meet with staff to see what issues have come up while they were out and work to answer questions, solve problems, and delegate.
  4. Set aside 1-2 hours to sort through urgent messages, priorities, etc.
  5. Return calls and emails promptly and open snail mail and respond.

Contact pmap@scbar.org with any questions or if you need additional assistance.

How Safe are your Mobile Apps?

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Did you know there are over two million apps to choose from in the iPhone app and Google Play stores?

With that many options, it can be difficult for you to pick which apps are worth your time. Time.com shares the 25 Best Apps of the Year and PC Mag provides their 100 best Android and iPhone picks.

But, wait a minute! Before you download any of those apps (or apps that may be on your checklist to download), make sure to follow these tips to test whether each app is trustworthy and secure:

  1. Have you downloaded a security app that scans new apps for safety? If not, check out Sophos Mobile Security, Trend Micro, or Lookout.
  2. Make sure the "marketplace" is trustworthy. How do you know?
    1. Terms of Service are well written and developed.
    2. The marketplace/developer includes clear contact information and a troubleshooting frequently asked questions (FAQs) list if there is a problem.
    3. The marketplace follows strict app criteria.
    4. The developer provides regular updates to outdated apps.
    5. The marketplace removes vendors who do not meet this criterion in numbers one through four.
  3. Know the source. Never download an app outside of the iPhone or Google play store. Double check the "maker" is the trusted source. Third party apps from websites (outside of the iPhone or Google Play store) may contain hidden links or hijacking code.
  4. ALWAYS read the terms of service to see what rights and permissions you give the app.
  5. Pay attention to app ratings and the number of times the app has been downloaded.
  6. Check user reviews or comments to discover if there are any red flags or issues to be aware of.
  7. If an app offers a paid version, consider buying that version over the "free" version. The paid version is less likely to contain malware and phishing code behind it AND the terms of service (that you check or sign) may allow the company to access your data (photos, text messages, contacts, phone calls, location, etc.)
  8. Once the app is downloaded, click on the app settings to evaluate privacy, security, and general settings. Always change privacy and security settings from the default setting. Also, turn off any permissions you do not want the app to have access to (like photos, phone messages, text messages, location, contacts, etc.)
  9. Regularly re-evaluate apps you have downloaded on your phone. It is a best practice to minimize the number of apps that you download and regularly ask yourself, "have I used this app in the last week or month?" If the answer is no, delete it right away. Mobile apps that you do not open or pay attention to are likely to be targeted by hackers and cyber phishers.
  10.   Be careful downloading games and fun apps (coders love to hide some of the most malicious code where they know people will go for downtime/fun).

Remember your smartphone stores data like all your other devices. "Care" what you "Share!" Email pmap@scbar.org if you need assistance.

Do You Have a Succession Plan?

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There’s no time like the present for solos to think about their contingency plan. Sometimes, it’s hard to write a succession plan because you don’t like to think about being dead or disabled. At a minimum, start with a letter to your secretary or someone else who would mind your office. Write the letter as if you were going on a long vacation, letting them know what they need to know if you were outside of cell phone reach. If you’re ready for a real form to designate a successor, go here and print the Preparation Checklist for Planning Attorney. You can also model a Succession Agreement by using this one as an example. Go ahead, there’s no better time than now. PMAP is free help for lawyers. E-mail pmap@scbar.org.

Master Checklists

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A good checklist can really ramp up your productivity and reduce oversights. Evernote makes creating checklistsevernote logo quick and easy. Even better, this article from Attorney at Work explains how you can easily create a notebook for “Master Checklists” to help you zip right through routine tasks such as opening a new client file or drafting a motion. You can even link your notes to your checklist for an even bigger productivity boost!