SETTING UP A LAW PRACTICE: LAW OFFICE MANAGEMENT ISSUES. and THE IMPACT OF ILLINOIS RULES OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY ON YOUR PRACTICE

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1 SETTING UP A LAW PRACTICE: LAW OFFICE MANAGEMENT ISSUES and THE IMPACT OF ILLINOIS RULES OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY ON YOUR PRACTICE Lisa M. Nyuli, Esq. Ariano, Hardy, Nyuli, Johnson, Richmond & Goettel, P.C McDONALD ROAD, SUITE 200 SOUTH Elgin, IL

2 Congratulations! You ve got your law license. Now what? I. Am I going to practice alone, or with other people? Once you choose the structure of your firm, and your role in the organization, remember the rules. Throughout this presentation, I will refer to the Illinois Supreme Court Rules, and the Illinois Rules of Professional Responsibility. A. Supreme Court Rule 721 Professional Service Corporations, Professional Associations and Limited Liability Corporations B. Supreme Court Rule 730 Group Legal Services C. Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) 5.4 Professional Independence of a lawyer II. What s the name of my practice? RPC 7.5 Firm Names and Letterheads III. What and where will I practice? A. RPC 1.1 Competence B. Location IV. How will people know what I do, and where to find me? A. RPC 7.2 Advertising B. RPC 7.3 Direct Contact with Prospective Clients YOU MAY NOT: Solicit a client who you reasonably should know is in a physical or mental state that prohibits the client from exercising reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer Solicit a client the lawyer knows does not desire to receive communication from the lawyer or Use coercion, duress or harassment to solicit a client. C. RPC 7.4 Communication of Fields of Practice V. What do I need to have to open the doors? A. At least two bank accounts Operating and Trust Account 2

3 B. Operating/general business account C. Trust account 1. Type 2. Location 3. Selecting Checks 4. Expenses 5. Settlement Checks 6. Real estate closing 7. Nonclient and third party claims 8. Disputed amounts 9. Fees 10. Bank charges 11. No Commingling! D. Staffing 1. RPC 5.3 Responsibilities regarding nonlawyer assistants 2. Tips for maintaining confidentiality E. Organize! Computer and software: 1. Word processing program Word, Wordperfect 2. Case management software is helpful, but can also use Outlook to manage tasks and calendars - Amicus 3. Phoneslips for messaging 4. Billing software and timesheets Timeslips, TimeMatters, TABS 5. PDA Palm, Blackberry, iphone etc. 6. Calendaring system F. Malpractice Insurance 1. Required to report to Supreme Court on admission application each year 2. ISBA Mutual Insurance VI. A guy walks into a law office. A. Turn away a paying client?!! 1. If it walks like a dog 2. And smells like a dog (high risk clients) 3. It is a dog! 3

4 a. RPC 1.16 Declining or Terminating Representation Sample declination letter: Dear Client: As we discussed, or after further review of your case, I have decided that I cannot accept this engagement. B. Rules Conflicts of Interest In declining to represent VII. I have a client! Now what do I do? you in this matter, I do not express an opinion of the A. RPC 1.2 Scope of merits of your case or its Representation potential success B. RPC or failure. 1.3 Diligence Act promptly You should C. seek RPC legal 1.4 Communication assistance from another attorney. Show me the money!! My records D. indicate RPC 1.5 that & RPC 1.15 Fees and Retainers: you did not provide me with any documents. Brian Dowling v. Chicago Options Associates, Inc. et al. (DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary (US), LLP), No , 2007 WL Sincerely, , 226 Ill.2d. 277, 875 N.E.2d 1012, 314 Ill.Dec. 725 (Ill. 2007) Attorney i. Classic Retainer paid by a client to a lawyer in order to secure the lawyer s availability during a specified period of time or for a specified matter. It is earned when paid and immediately becomes property of the lawyer. ii. Security Retainer Funds paid to the lawyer are not considered present payment for future services but are intended to secure payment of fees for the future services the lawyer is expected to perform. Remains the property of the client, and must be deposited in a trust account and kept separate from the lawyer s own property until the lawyer applies it to charges for services that are actually rendered. Unused portions are refunded to the client. iii. Advance Payment Retainer Present payment to the lawyer in exchange for the commitment to provide legal services in the future. Ownership passes to the lawyer upon payment. Must be in writing. Must disclose the nature of the retainer, where it will be deposited and how the lawyer will handle withdrawals from the retainer for payment for services rendered. E. When the client stops paying: 4

5 VIII. All this paper do I have to keep it? A. Train yourself to keep what s important. Everything! 1. Phone messages of substance from the client 2. Contemporaneous notes while talking to client, opposing counsel, other individuals associated with the file, 3. Copies of correspondence you send, including letters, s, faxes 4. Copies of correspondence received in a matter, including letters, s and faxes 5. File-stamped pleadings 6. Court orders 7. Judgments 8. Copies of contracts, deeds, settlement statements 9. Draft documents when necessary 10. Copies of bills 11. Settlement offers and counteroffers B. Return to the client: Original documents at the end of the case, or obtain written, itemized permission to destroy records after designated time. C. Rule Maintenance of Records 1. You must maintain records of identity and last known address of each client and reflect whether the representation is ongoing or concluded 2. You must maintain all financial records related to the practice for at least 7 years 3. Retention of client files a. Minors b. Estates c. Original documents d. Generally IX. How do I get more clients? A. Referrals B. Write, get published, speak C. Newsletter D. Website 5

6 E. Bar associations/other organizations F. Internet X. CONCLUSION A. Resources 1. Buy How to Start and Build a Law Practice (5 th Edition), Jay Foonberg 2. Buy How to Get and Keep Good Clients(2 nd Edition), Jay Foonberg 3. ARDC website: a. Client Trust Account Handbook b. Ethics Inquiry Program c. Rules and Decisions 4. ISBA membership a. Get a mentor b. Join a practice section c. Get newsletters d. Fastcase free online research for members e. EClips keep current on everything legal, every day! 5. Local Bar Associations B. MCLE 1. Keep current on the law 2. Basic Skills covers you for now 3. Don t stop learning C. HAVE FUN, BE HAPPY AND BE PROUD TO BE A LAWYER! 6

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