548 California Ave, Reno, NV Ph 775-324-7979 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Content below this line is information for staff.
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“There is nothing so powerful in business as actually having principles that you hold on to passionately and require those around you to believe. One way or another, all my research conclusions, consulting advice, and speeches in my professional career as a global consultant, business author, and former Harvard Business School professor come down to passion, people, and principles.” davidmaister.com
¶1. Building and Grounds
|¶19. Pre-signing Stipulations and Orders
¶20. Bar Dues
¶21. Cell Phone Reimbursement
¶22. Retainer Agreement
¶23. Abusive Clients or Others
¶24. Office Sex
¶25. Law Dogs
¶26. Legal Staff Pay
¶29. Working as a Team
¶30. Lawyers and Paralegals Teamwork
¶31. Our Reputation with Courts
¶32. Dress Code
¶36. Advantages of Working Here
¶37. Harassment and Client Relations Policy
Marilyn owns the building and her aim is to provide a nice building environment for the Law Office and she hopes and expects that all employees and guests will generally be cordial, cooperative, and respectful of each other – like the best of Camelot.
The building is a no-smoking building and no one is to smoke anywhere in the building or near the entry doors. Clients should always use the front door and check-in and wait at reception before being invited to enter other parts of the building.
One parking spot is reserved for Marilyn. The other spots are on a first-come basis. Nearby street parking is also available. Please understand parking rules may change.
Summer building shut down: All evenings before departure, at all (3) Thermostats, turn “Heat – Cool” to OFF!!! Turn all fans to “AUTO”!!! A/C is expensive, especially if it is left on inadvertently overnight or worse yet over the weekend. The Office Manager will let offenders know and encourage compliance. During hot summer days, the building gets too hot and stuffy overnight and especially over the weekends. To air it out and to cool it off for nice air in the mornings: Chantel, please ensure that every weekday evening and especially on Fridays that –
1. The 2 windows in Wes’s old office are both propped open for the night;
2. His office door near the steps is open (a sign on this door would help);
3. The Basement door in the kitchen is open (a sign on this door would help);
4. Three or so skylight windows upstairs are open a few inches;
5. The midget door near the upstairs northmost desk is open.
Please shut down your computer and monitor every night for many reasons including helping to protect them from power outages or surges, saving power costs (green is good), saving wear on computer components and expensive operating system replacement do to hackers as far away as Russia* who can take over your computer causing it to slow down (the less hours a day your computer is on, the more secure it is and the longer it will operate between failures).
Shutting down each person’s computer and office (turn lights off) is each person’s own responsibility but everyone is responsible every evening before departure, at all (3) Thermostats, to turn “Heat – Cool” to OFF and turn all fans to “AUTO”, setting alarm and locking windows and doors. Yet when “everyone” is in charge, often no one follows through. Because Marilyn pays for the utilities and because security breaches would likely affect her the most, it is imperative that one person on her staff is responsible. Chantel is the chosen one. Please cooperate with her in leaving the building properly and if you are the last, follow good shut down procedures.
On or shortly after Daylight Savings time begins –
1. change the clock on all thermostats to local time; and
2. check schedule to ensure that:
upstairs is programmed for weekdays 6:00 a.m. 70°; 8:00 a.m. 70°; 6:00 p.m. 55°;
10:00 p.m. 50°; weekends all at 55°
downstairs is programmed for weekdays 6:00 a.m. 68°; 8:00 a.m. 68°; 6:00 p.m. 55°;
10:00 p.m. 55°; weekends all at 55°
3. replace all (4) AA batteries whether they need replaced or not.
On or shortly after Daylight Savings time ends –
1. change the clock on all thermostats to local time; and
2. check the schedule to ensure that
upstairs is programmed for weekdays 6:00 a.m. 70°; 8:00 a.m. 70°; 6:00 p.m. 55°;
10:00 p.m. 50°; weekends all at 55°
downstairs is programmed for weekdays 6:00 a.m. 68°; 8:00 a.m. 68°;
6:00 p.m. 55°; 10:00 p.m. 55°; weekends all at 55°
¶2 ABOUT MARILYN
¶3 Why a Lawyer?
Marilyn has always been fascinated with argumentation and relationships. Her parents were united in child issues and it took a lot of persuasion and persistence on her part to modify or influence their decisions. Expressing her positions, arguing her case, and lobbying toward future decisions were all learned at an early age. She has always loved a good argument and winning one is a natural “high” for her. She decided to become a lawyer when she was 12 years old.
¶4 Why family law?
Family and personal relationships have always intrigued and at times plagued Marilyn. She has been awe-struck by some of her own relationships and by those of her family, friends, and clients. Marilyn believes that relationships are as intricate and varied as anything else in nature – sometimes powerful, sometimes weak but always complicated and interesting.
A traditional family is generally thought of as a married couple raising their own children under one roof. Many families start out traditional but become fractured and modified and many never were traditional. These nontraditional families can often lead to satisfying lifestyles with loving and safe relationships with the children and new partners.
It is this belief and the strong desire to be a protector of the children that motivate Marilyn as a family law specialist. She has always been blessed with a wonderful relationship with her Mother and Father and they have always had a close loving relationship and a powerfully strong marriage. Marilyn’s father’s first wife was destroyed by an unhealthy relationship with her father that led to her death. Marilyn’s father realized the profound effect fathers have on daughters and studied the subject. Marilyn’s understanding of this and the rewards of the fabulous relationship she has with her Dad drives her to help others get a second chance. Usually, the “others” are estranged Fathers who are striving to get more visitation or custody to improve the relationship they want with their children.
Marilyn also represents women clients that need legal protection for themselves and their children from abuser or loser partners. This type of case also creates that strong desire to be a protector of the children and she works equally hard for such women. This has caused Marilyn to understand that protecting the children is her main concern and cases where she can improve a child’s life are always her highest priority.
¶5 Why Men’s Rights?
Love’em and leave’em has been a male-dominated act since the original one-celled animals began to involve into sexual beings. Modern human society in all races and in all parts of the world is filled with examples of male humans following the familiar role of loving and leaving. Everybody knows this including family court judges, many of whom are women, and some of them divorced. Some men give all men a bad reputation.
Even though laws are written unbiased, interpreting them and applying them can seem biased and good men often “shoot themselves in the foot” by giving up their rights and their children suffer. Marilyn’s representation of men is often her best way of helping the children.
¶6 Why No Partnerships?
Attorney Marilyn D. York, Inc. is a corporation with sole stock owned by Marilyn. However, she views her relationship with lawyers who work with her as “Law Partners” in a joint interest sense concerning client cases. Such Law Partners or Partners-in-Law share no business or ownership interest and therefore no business responsibility, risks, or rewards. Yet there is a joint interest in the outcome of each case for each client hiring this law office. In practice, Lawyers at this law office collaborate, associate, participate, encourage and support each other in cases thereby forming this one-for-all, all-for-one relationship that benefits each client and each lawyer.
Marilyn employs Legal and Business Staff personnel without offering business ownership partnerships. This concept benefits those employees because a couple of high-paid business partners are not creating a “sweatshop” for others as is often done in large pyramid structured law offices. Governing by committee and working for multiple owners can also be frustrating and detrimental. One of Marilyn’s main business goals and policies is to provide meaningful and well-paid jobs and a workplace that is uniquely great in all respects. At Marilyn’s Office, employees enjoy being a team member of a well-respected and successful Family Law Office. Profit-sharing for Legal Staff is available through a bonus program that pays generously after reaching a low threshold of billable hours. The bonus program allows each Legal Staff member a choice of lifestyle or income – their own balance of each. In order to attain these goals, business ownership partnerships are not being offered.
Business partners in a Law Firm have many responsibilities, risks, duties, and moral dilemmas. In order to become a business partner in most large firms, one must work very long hours for many years and then hope fate shines upon them so that they actually become one. During this time, the current business partners enjoy profits from the might-become partner’s work. It behooves the current partners to drag out this process or deny might-becomes. If you eventually became a partner would you be comfortable exploiting might-becomes for your own gain? Could you put a business before your family and yourself to be a major contributor to the business side by being a Rainmaker and Executive while also practicing law?
Other Questions to ask yourself –
1. Do you want to sell your soul and work long and hard enough for many years to maybe become a partner in a large law firm for the long term possibility of easier money? If the answer is yes, you should not work for Marilyn because time is wasting.
2. Do you want to start your own law firm instead of worrying about becoming a partner or working for someone? If the answer is yes, you should not work for Marilyn or anyone else but get started now. The sooner you begin starving the sooner you might get profitable and someday you might make as much as Marilyn would pay you.
3. Do you want to work long-term for Marilyn where pay, benefits, and the working environment are great with no business responsibilities, duties, or risks – where you can have a life and good pay too?
¶7 THE LEGAL SIDE, THE BUSINESS SIDE
The legal side and business side of this law office are heavily interrelated and often inseparable. If the business side is not run properly, coworker morale becomes low, money is tight, clients misbehave and it becomes difficult for good efficient legal work to be done. It is important to carefully screen would-be clients and insist they remain respectful and prepay work to be done.
Please be aware this office is not like the military. Orders are rarely given. Staff members must work as a team and communications are to be polite and request-oriented as opposed to command-oriented. Yet everyone must realize Marilyn has the final word in all legal and business decisions. Cooperation and mutual respect make work more enjoyable and efficient. Remembering that everyone is on the same team and working together accomplishes the best work and therefore also the most pay and benefits. A nice office means that all staff members are held to a high standard of behavior. Mutual loyalty, courtesy, thoughtfulness, and genuine caring from each staff member are regarded highly and encouraged.
It is critical for Staff to work only for clients that have a retainer credit shown on their Statements. Clients without such credit should be reminded payment is needed before any more work or case discussions can happen. In this regard, treat Marilyn’s money like your own. If you won’t work for free, why would you expect Marilyn to pay you while you work for clients without retainer credit? The only legitimate reason to violate this office policy is if a Court orders otherwise.
¶8 LAWYERS AND BUSINESS
Our Lawyers are well-educated, brilliant, and capable people. As such, they are called upon to contribute to the proper running of the business side of this organization in ways that they can directly influence:
(1) screening out would-be-clients who cannot afford us
(2) convincing would-be-clients who can afford us to hire us;
(3) getting timely retainer payments from clients or firing them;
(4) billing high dollar amounts to clients each month
(5) supervising and delegating work to paralegals
(6) networking to encourage new client referrals.
When lawyers are effective in the above business disciplines, Marilyn can have 3 or 4 lawyers with support staff without losing money, control and sanity. Everyone wins because there is money to share and a fine place to work is assured. It is each Lawyer’s responsibility to collect from her Clients and to stop or slow down work on bad-paying Clients – as necessary to control her own % Collections. A Lawyer should be involved in screening out potentially bad paying clients during the Icon. Each Lawyer should always be aware of each of her client’s current balance and ask the Paralegals and Business Staff to help collect. Maintaining 95% collections or more is each Lawyer’s responsibility. Lawyers should be comfortable about asking Clients to pay and do so as necessary.
One of the Business Staff’s main functions is to help with collections and they are further incentivized by having their pay adjusted by the Group % collections divided by 95 (although they are protected from losses). The Business Staff has an excellent record of being proactive with collections but they need Lawyers’ cooperation and feedback, especially when clients pay no attention to their duns. Paralegals have been encouraged to make collection attempts by having their pay adjusted by the Group % collections divided by 95 (but they are protected from losses if they make 24 collection attempts per each 6 months look-back period). Everyone is on the Collections Team and everyone should help each other keep winning this never-ending battle and earn more pay for helping.
Lawyer pay guidelines:
Only rarely could fixed salaries for Lawyers be fair to the Lawyer and to the Employer. There are too many interrelated and fast-changing variables to allow a fixed salary system to work properly. When fixed salaries with annual raises and year-end bonuses are all done arbitrarily, what is the chance that they are perceived as fair by all coworkers? Should a more experienced employee be paid more than a younger one when the younger one is working harder, billing more, and making clients happier? Should an employee that has been with the firm for many years continue to get cost of living raises when her work production and quality have dropped off and her billed hourly rate cannot be increased? If an employee works reasonably hard one year by billing 1300 hours, should she be paid the same the next year if she bills 1100 hours? What if she bills 1500 hours? If the employer pays salaries and benefits that are too high to allow for reasonable corporate profits, won’t the employer resent the employees? If the employees perceive that the employer is paying low salaries and benefits, won’t the employees resent the employer? These and other such problems arise when fixed salaries with annual raises and year-end bonuses are done arbitrarily.
Pay for Lawyers at Marilyn’s law office is based upon fee sharing and is thereby proportional to how much gross income each lawyer generates for the corporation. Lawyer intangibles such as being brilliant, energetic, friendly, effective, liked; doing great legal work; winning many cases and pleasing clients are all valuable and effective in getting clients, keeping clients, and generating gross income for the corporation. Therefore excellence is encouraged each Lawyer’s Pay is linked to her generated gross income for the corporation which depends upon this excellence. Doing prolific and great work earns great pay and longevity.
It is likely more difficult to bill as many hours in a given period of time doing family law with 40 active clients compared to litigation with 5 clients. Self-discipline in practicing family law can help overcome the following family law disadvantages.
1. excessive chatting to coworkers can take up a lot of the workday.
2. there are times of high client stress which makes it hard to concentrate and to do billable work.
3. there are many interruptions which makes it easy to forget to bill each client that you worked for.
Scheduling some hours each day as “noninterrupt periods” or working “non-interrupt periods” from home may help. Working early or late may help.
In an effort to ensure fair pay to each lawyer while being fair to the corporation and allowing lawyers to select their own work level and lifestyle, a Performance-Based Pay formula has been developed. A lawyer’s pay will change every six months which is good because they control their own destiny and can improve their work and pay. However since pay will fluctuate every six months, a personal budget that recognizes this is important.
In the formula, there are built-in cost of living and incentive pay raises as well as bonuses for lawyers. Billing hours beyond 600 for a Period creates a “time and a half” situation where the Lawyer earns 150% more for those hours billed compared to the first 600 hours.
Because the ability to pay high salaries, overhead and have a reasonable profit margin is predicated on Lawyers billing at least 1200 hours a year, there is an overhead deduction built into the pay formula when lawyers bill less than 600 hours in a 6 month pay period.
Each lawyer has some control over her average billed hourly rate by bumping old client rates up, finishing up those old cases, and earning higher rates for new clients by pleasing all clients to the point of staying busy at a higher rate. A lawyer may set her own hourly rates within an established law office range.
It behooves the Firm to keep its Lawyers happy and well paid. This formula is even more generous than past ones and has been working well. It encourages the symbiotic relationship between Lawyers and the Firm.
1. Lawyers may make their own work schedule and may work from home unless problems are noticed by Marilyn that create a need for change.
2. If clients complain about billed hours or dollars and/or Marilyn thinks over-billing has occurred, Marilyn will adjust or credit clients which affects Lawyer’s numbers and pay too.
4. Holidays, vacations, sick leave, and personal time off may be determined by the Lawyer, but a total of 27 days per year is recommended. If such time off being decided by the Lawyer creates problems, Marilyn may change this policy for that lawyer.
¶9 Office Honesty
Like the Cadet Honor Code at West Point, our office staff “will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do”. In professions such as the military and the legal profession where lives are compromised or endangered by non-virtuous behavior, trust becomes sacred and integrity becomes a requisite quality for each professional.
¶10. Office Gossip
Morale can be killed quicker by gossip than by almost anything else. Gossiping wastes productive time and is very harmful when directed at “sisters”. Should we allow office gossip to erode office morale, fellow coworkers’ well-being, self-confidence, and self-esteem? NO WAY! Perhaps one loophole is reasonable that would allow some gossip between the first two team members who become perfect.
We all want or have a need to talk trash at times but let’s not direct it towards our own team members. Please. Venting pent-up emotions are healthy and worthy if they are not also doing damage to coworkers. It’s uncomfortable and annoying for some of us walking past hallway gossipers.
Good and bad relationships happen at work too. Good relationships can reduce stress and boost the immune system. Saying mean things about a team member and intra-office gossip can victimize someone on your own team – why would anyone do such a dumb thing?
Intra-office Gossip is defined as petty destructive talk about a coworker. We are all different which is good. Many differences should be encouraged and celebrated. If a coworker is continually falling down on the job or taking advantage of others, something should be done. Talking directly to that person could help. Talking to management should help. When a team is strong and successful, a new weak employee is often driven out by dedicated team members because the new hire doesn’t fit. This can be a good thing. However, a completely different situation can exist where targeted coworkers suffer unfairly from unworthy or petty gossip which can be mean. Please avoid hurting your “sisters” by gossiping about them. This will also help you avoid an embarrassing confrontational visit from management.
¶11 Office Morale
Good office morale is everyone’s concern and everyone’s responsibility. Please avoid: bringing in personal problems, insulting words or behavior, annoying habits or practices, and poor housekeeping or personal hygiene. Be friendly and kind to men, women, and law dogs. Good morale is a group effort but can be shattered by one person. Any person consistently degrading office morale should be called out by anyone else willing to help by taking a stand. Good manners among coworkers help immensely – be polite, say “thanks”, show appreciation, apologize when wrong, give others a break when they are over-stressed or misbehaving, don’t overreact too much or too often. Great office morale is probably our best defense against burnout and work-related unhappiness.
Multi-lateral Interactive Staff Morale has become our 4th Critical Number to watch and such numbers appear on our monthly Awards Report to help us all ensure that our morale & our co-workers’ morale are good. Publishing Guidelines:
It is nice to have a casual, comfortable office environment, but there are some no-brainers that should always be in place.
1. Always be punctual for appointments with Clients and Icons – especially Icons, especially Clients. If lawyers cannot meet a commitment by being on time for the initial Icon, what will the Icon conclude about the lawyer, about Marilyn, and about the office? BAD THINGS. Later if things go south, the client will remember such a mistake and berate himself for being dumb enough to hire us who seemed incompetent on his first encounter. Do we want that? I have witnessed Icons sitting in the waiting room well past their appointment times and it makes me sick to think most of them show up early as a courtesy to us and sometimes we let them down on the first meeting – ugh. The best business practice is starting the Icon appointment as soon as he completes his Intake sheets and is available – starting early whenever possible shows how important he is to this office. Arbitrarily waiting till the appointment time when there is no advantage by the end of your day is not good business.
2. Be mindful of clients or other visitors in the office and behave accordingly – (no name dropping, yelling, loud cursing, stomping, slamming of doors),
3. Dress classy even when casual. Designer Jeans with nice shoes and top can be classy. Avoid sweatshirts, sweat pants, and other clothing that is too sloppy or casual.
4. Dress formally sometimes, especially when meeting with Clients – mix it up with the classy casual.
5. Wear a smile when making eye contact with Clients and when on the phone with Clients.
At first glance we may not appear professional because we do not practice law at the expense of being friendly, courteous, using humor, being relaxed, having office Law Dogs, using colorful language, and sometimes going barefooted. We are not formal, stuffy, pompous, stern, and aloof but we closely follow the actual definition of professional (being skilled trained, and prepared for work by extended study or practice). Our clients appreciate our relaxed atmosphere but not as much as our experience, dedication, preparedness, courtroom demeanor and rapport, tenacity, methods, and results.
¶13 PAY PERIODS, WORK HOURS, AND BREAKS
For simplicity of accounting, pay periods are bimonthly. Paydays are on the 15th and last day of each month.
Office Business hours are 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Doors will be unlocked during those business hours except in emergency or crisis mode. The Business Staff will answer office phones continuously from 8:30 to 5:30 and by special arrangement other hours including weekends for potential new clients.
Office work hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (9 hours per day) to allow at least 7-1/2 hours of smart and hard work furthering cases, plus a 1-hour break for lunch, and two 15 minute personal breaks. Since it is unreasonable to work a whole day without some personal time, personal phone calls, and sharing personal stories with coworkers, it is expected that the two paid 15-minute breaks will be taken at will and in increments as needed and average out in fairness to employee and employer.
Because this law office is a small independently owned business, it is imperative that all employees work hard and smart for at least 7-1/2 hours each day to keep efficiency and profitability high enough to run a good business and therefore a good law practice. Although wasting time and working inefficiently is a national curse in many big businesses and many government offices, it cannot be a part of a successful small long-term business nor this law office. Leave your drama and personal problems at home; solve them at home with your personal friends and family on your own time.
¶14 HOLIDAYS AND VACATION TIME
Holiday days… (14 of them) –
Day before New Years or Friday before if New Years is on Sat, Sun or Mon (Family Day);
New Year’s Day;
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday;
Nevada Day (in lieu of Columbus Day);
Friday after Thanksgiving (Family Day)
The day before Christmas or Friday before if Christmas is on Sat, Sun or Mon (Family Day);
Your own birthday (Personal Day).
5.4 weeks (27 days) off for holidays, vacation, sick, and personal time less 14 holiday days leaves 13 additional days for vacation, sick, and personal.
For Awards, the minimum billing requirement of 95 hours per month assumes it can be done on a yearly basis by taking 5.4 weeks (27 days) of vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days off in a year. This 1140 hours billing per year is lower than most law offices and was lowered twice at this office. Working 46.6 weeks x 5 days a week = 233 workdays per year. 1140 hours billing / 233 days = 4.9 hours per day for the 233 days one could be working.
If a Legal Staffer wanted to take off 1 extra week a year and still bill 1140 hours/year: working 45.6 weeks x 5 days a week = 228 workdays a year. 1140 hours billing / 228 days = 5.0 hours per day for the 228 days one could be working.
If a Legal Staffer wanted to take off 2 extra weeks a year and still bill 1140 hours/year: working 44.6 weeks x 5 days a week = 223 workdays a year. 1140 hours billing / 223 days = 5.1 hours per day for the 223 days one could be working.
For Performance Pay, to benefit from “time and a half” bonus pay, that minimum remains at 600 hours per semester (average of 100 hours per month) as it has been since ~ 2009. Examples follow:
Billing 660 hours in a semester (average of 110 hours per month) and taking 5.4 weeks (27 days) of vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days off in a year requires 1,320 hours/233 workdays per year = 5.7 billed hours per day worked, and you get paid for 60 extra hours/year.
Billing 660 hours in a semester (average of 110 hours per month) and taking 6.4 weeks (32 days) of vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days off in a year requires 1,320 hours/228 workdays per year = 5.8 billed hours per day worked, and you get paid for 60 extra hours/year.
Billing 660 hours in a semester (average of 110 hours per month) and taking 7.4 weeks (37 days) of vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days off in a year requires 1,320 hours/223 workdays per year = 5.9 billed hours per day worked, and you get paid for 60 extra hours/year.
¶15 AVOIDING VACATION CONFLICTS (Vacation is defined as any day or days off from work.)
It is each vacationer’s responsibility to anticipate and avoid vacation conflicts and follow the guidelines below. All vacation schedules must be made on Mollie’s master office Vacation Calendar to ensure there are no conflicts. Such vacation schedules should also appear on the vacationer’s own calendar. Ensure that all days are blanked out – not just first and last. This must be done manually on our current Google calendars. Mollie will double-check for conflicts and report them immediately to Marilyn so they can be worked out. Mollie will email out a master office Vacation Schedule Report by the end of each month listing everyone’s scheduled days off. When a vacation conflict arises, one or more employee’s vacations may be canceled. Which one gets canceled will be a judgment call by Marilyn depending on standing, merit, and the situation. It behooves each employee to schedule vacations early, ensure it is on Mollie’s Monthly Reports, and guard against another employee causing a conflict.
Marilyn requests that if you do not have children in school, please avoid if possible Spring and Fall school breaks (2 weeks each).
Three or Four Lawyer Office Vacation Scheduling –
Any of our Lawyers may schedule vacation time or take impromptu days off most anytime they want when no other Lawyer has previously scheduled some of the same days or unless a case they are working on is scheduled for a hearing or trial. Mollie’s calendar is the master for vacations. Check your own calendar for conflicts with Hearings or Trials. Ideally, there should be no more than one Lawyer gone from our office on any given workday. Three days in a row is the maximum allowed that up to two Lawyers can be out of the office at the same time. Exceptions must be approved by Marilyn and they may or may not be allowed. Poorly planned non-conforming vacation schedules could be canceled. Please be mindful that your cooperation will be appreciated by the many people your important work as a Lawyer affects. Scheduling responsibly will help you get the most out of your vacation and still treat your clients and coworkers well.
Paralegals Vacation Scheduling –
Any of our Paralegals may schedule vacation time or take impromptu days off most anytime they want when no other Paralegal has previously scheduled some of the same days or unless a case they are working on is scheduled for a hearing or trial. Mollie’s calendar is the master for vacations. Check your own calendar for conflicts with Hearings or Trials. Ideally, there should be no more than one Paralegal gone from our office on any given workday. Three days in a row is the maximum allowed that up to two Paralegals can be out of the office at the same time. Exceptions must be approved by Marilyn and they may or may not be allowed. Poorly planned non-conforming vacation schedules could be canceled. Please be mindful that your cooperation will be appreciated by the many people your important work as a Paralegal affects. Scheduling responsibly will help you get the most out of your vacation and still treat your clients and coworkers well.
Business Staff Vacation Scheduling –
Any of our Business Staff may schedule vacation time or take impromptu days off when no other Business Staffer has previously scheduled some of the same days or unless a case they are working on is scheduled for a hearing or trial. Mollie’s calendar is the master for vacations, and all vacations must be approved by Mollie for calendaring conflicts. Ideally, there should be no more than one Business Staffer gone from our office on any given workday. One day is the maximum allowed that up to two Business Staffers can be out of the office at the same time and must be approved by Mollie in advance unless there is an emergency or illness. Poorly planned, non-conforming vacation schedules could be canceled. Please be mindful that your cooperation will be appreciated by the many people your important work as a Business Staff affects. Scheduling responsibly will help you get the most out of your vacation and still treat clients and coworkers well.
¶16 MATERNITY LEAVES
There are no paid Maternity leave benefits until after employees have worked here for at least two years. There is no office-published Maternity leave and/or benefit policy that keeps evolving. Precedents are not necessarily followed. Details and mutual expectations need to be worked out with each pregnancy. Good communications between the new Mom and Marilyn during this process are important. However, no maternity leave, paid or unpaid, is expected to last more than 30 days because this small fast-paced office suffers the temporary loss of key Staff immeasurably. Employees who are anticipating getting pregnant are advised to take out personal disability insurance ahead of getting pregnant. The gain can be substantial.
¶17 WORK ETHICS EXPECTATIONS
Lawyer Work Ethic Expectations: actually working for clients 7.5 hours per day is expected; billing time gets lost but when working that 7.5 hours for clients, lawyers should bill 6.0 hours or more. For the days the lawyers work, billing an average of 5.15 hours per day will generally yield 1,200 hours per year. Deadlines need anticipated and met even if time off has been scheduled or sickness occurs. Getting work done in advance before vacations start or arranging for another lawyer to cover during your vacation is acceptable. Forgetting or ignoring commitments is not. Lawyers should work hard and smart for their clients. They should work efficiently and not overwork or overbill a case. However when a lawyer is working to further a case, generally she should also always bill all of her time.
Paralegal Work Ethic Expectations: actually working for clients 7.5 hours per day is expected; billing time gets lost but when working that 7.5 hours for clients, lawyers should bill 6.0 hours or more. For the days the lawyers work, billing an average of 5.15 hours per day will generally yield 1,200 hours per year. Deadlines need anticipated and met even if time off has been scheduled or sickness occurs. Getting work done in advance before vacations start or arranging for another to cover during your vacation is acceptable. Forgetting or ignoring commitments is not. Paralegals should work hard and smart for their lawyers and clients. They should work efficiently and not overwork or overbill a case. However when a Paralegal is working to further a case, generally she should also always bill all of her time. When a Lawyer is at a hearing or trial the Paralegal working the case is responsible to be in the office an hour before the hearing or trial starts each day and all the time while the hearing or trial is going on so she can support the case. Anticipating the Lawyers needs and helping in all ways possible and especially during hearings and trials are very important parts of a Paralegal’s job.
Business Staff Work Ethic Expectations: actual work 7.5 hours per day. Deadlines need anticipated and met even if time off has been scheduled or sickness occurs. Getting work done in advance before vacations start or arranging for another to cover during your vacation is acceptable. Forgetting or ignoring commitments is not. Business Staff should work hard and smart for clients, Lawyers, and Paralegals. They should work efficiently. When a Lawyer is at a hearing or trial the Business Staff needs to be especially alert about answering all phone calls and ready to help should the Lawyer call. Anticipating the Lawyers, Paralegals, and Clients’ needs and helping in all ways possible and especially during hearings and trials are very important parts of the Business Staff jobs.
Word Perfect is used as the word processing software. Modelaw is used as the web-based application to manage the business. High-speed DSL connects each computer to the Web and email. Westlaw is used for research at a fixed cost per month for basic charges. Westlaw research for each Client must have Client I.D. (or Clients first and last name) for billing purposes. Each personal computer is connected to the fileserver where much of the software resides. Ray supports Modelaw so questions or problems with Modelaw are best directed to him. Wes fixes and programs ML per Ray’s requests. Tim supports the file servers and connections and questions or problems with Web connections, email, and calendar are best handled by him. PC’s need updates on the virus protection software regularly and is being done automatically.
¶19 PRE-SIGNING STIPULATIONS AND ORDERS
All clients – new and old – must pre-sign Stipulations and Orders to be their own attorney. When we are retained, the Business Staff will have the Clients sign these only if there is a Caption in existence. If not, it then becomes the Paralegal’s job to get it signed with the first pleading filed. Paralegals can charge for this.
¶20 BAR DUES
The Corporation pays for Nevada Bar dues, Washoe County Bar dues, and California Bar dues for Associate Lawyers.
¶21 CELL PHONE REIMBURSEMENT
The Corporation buys each Lawyer one smartphone. The phone account will be in each Lawyers’ name and the corporation will reimburse monthly bills up to $90. No credit forward will be given. If anyone should leave employment, the phone must remain with the Corporation long enough to be reprogrammed (Calendar, internet access, etc.).
¶22 RETAINER AGREEMENT
The Retainer Agreement is lengthy and detailed in describing Client obligations and Office policy. Please read it carefully as part of this Office Procedure Manual.
¶23 ABUSIVE CLIENTS AND OTHERS
Treat Clients with the utmost courtesy, friendliness, and respect. However, in return, some clients will be abusive in nature and say and do unkind things. This behavior is not acceptable and should be stopped as soon as any Staff member feels uncomfortable. Get other Staff members involved especially if there is a face-to-face confrontation. Call police, fire the Client, do whatever is necessary to protect yourself. Marilyn will understand, support you, and wants you to be treated properly.
The same is true for dealing with others while you are on the job.
¶24 OFFICE SEX
It is a very serious conflict of interest for Legal Staff or Business Staff to have a sexual relationship or a personal business relationship with a Client, opposing Client, opposing counsel, or with another Staffer. This Office will not tolerate such relationships and upon such knowledge, the employment of one or more parties would likely be terminated.
¶25 LAW DOGS
Marilyn brings her dog to work regularly, as does Chantel. Clients for the most part are calmed and enjoy the friendly doggy greetings. Clients that do not appreciate dogs should be shielded from them. There is an upper limit to how many dogs these premises can reasonably handle and that limit is currently three.
¶26 LEGAL STAFF PAY
Performance-based pay for the Legal Staff means extra pay when billing Clients above minimum levels and keeping % Collections high (above 95%). The bonus structure was set up to help Marilyn reward extra work by sharing some of the extra income from that work. It is not an entitlement. Bonuses and pay do not come from trees, coffee breaks, errands, lost time due to personal reasons including sick time or maternity, lost time due to acts of God, power failure, computer failures, continuing education or virtually any other un-billable time.
However, Legal Staff from time to time may be required to do Admin or other type of work at Marilyn’s discretion where the Corporation gets no direct income because Clients are not billed.
Examples of such work where Legal Staff will normally not be paid:
meetings, training, brainstorming, social networking.
Examples of such work where Legal Staff will normally be paid something:
1. Client pro bono work that Marilyn accepts and assigns; or
2. Work on legal forms, websites, Office Manual, Retainer Agreement, training; or
3. Defending the Corporation, Marilyn or people Marilyn chooses in legal matters (such as: Bar complaints; Clients suing Marilyn; employees’, friends’ or relatives’ personal problems).
Such time worked is normally fully billed or credited, but the hourly rate is normally 1/2 to 2/3 the regular rate charged to clients. This seems fair and more like contract rates, wholesale rates, or courtesy corporation rates. Such hours help Staff exceed 100 hours in a month where each hour after 100 counts as 1.5 hours.
4. Associates attending Court at Marilyn’s request to help the case –
Associates who attend court with Marilyn on their own accord shall not bill for any court time nor be paid. Assigned Associates to Marilyn’s clients attending Court because of the Client’s request or Marilyn’s request may usually bill 1/2 of their Court Time and Marilyn will bill 1/2 of hers. For such Clients, Marilyn does the Icons, sells the clients and makes appropriate promises to them that she will be there for them, go to court as necessary and oversee all work done by Associates and Paralegals. That is how she leverages her own time and resources and that has been working very well for the business and for the community. The community enjoys way more great family law representation than if Marilyn were solo. The assigned Associates to such Clients enjoy (1) skipping the Icons to get extra work, thereby keeping their own average Billable Rate higher; (2) being busier and hopefully more easily surpassing 100 billed hours a month where their hourly pay goes up by 50%; and (3) the fact that most of these Clients need little or no Court time, making the down side of this issue limited. In the long run the above (3) considerations are about a wash. When Associates bill 1/2 normal Court hours and they exceed 100 hours for the month, they get 1/2 x 1.5 = 3/4 normal which is about what they average when they bill 6.0 hours in a day that they work 8.0 hours.
Our billed rates are high for the area and by belonging to a well-run law office, you are commanding such high rates by doing exceptionally good work for the clients. Your contributions in doing good work helps everyone and everyone’s pay, especially your own; and your contributions are appreciated by everyone.
Everyone likes to complain, no one likes hearing it. It is rare that any given day at the office will be perfect; however, remember that for each business and personal transaction, we must ultimately accept each situation and each other person as a package deal. We don’t always like each detail but overall we are all winning and need to cooperate and be thankful. If you can avoid petty complaining, you will add to office morale and be more fun to be around. If you can avoid creating an atmosphere of stress and making coworkers uncomfortable when you are around – you will also avoid retribution.
Some coworker fighting is inevitable. Sometimes it is a valid way of communicating, getting rid of excess stress or a means for improving a situation. Sometimes good people are pitted against each other and fights are unfortunate. Please observe proper etiquette when picking a fight with a coworker –
Rule #1: DON’T FIGHT – especially if the situation is where the other person has become pitted against you or your wishes at no fault of the other person.
Rule #2: If you do fight –
(a) pick your fights carefully – often there are better ways to solve a problem.
(b) don’t wait until you “blow up” – open up dialog early while you are still rational.
(c) if others try to pick a fight with you, try to be polite and understanding and suggest or insist on talking about it later when cooler heads prevail.
(d) don’t fight unfair; don’t make it personal; don’t say evil ugly words that can’t ever be forgotten or taken back.
(e) don’t lobby Marilyn or Ray to take your side; instead, call in another coworker as a referee; if a resolution is impossible and important, call in Ray or Marilyn to mediate. Marilyn rarely wants to get involved.
¶29 WORKING AS A TEAM
(Law Business Success Formula)
1. Advertise and network enough to keep an excess supply of Client Applicants wanting to hire us.
2. Screen and select the most worthy Applicants (those who can pay).
3. Set legal hourly rates and initial Retainer fees optimally.
4. Do efficient, productive and effective legal work to keep Clients happy so they refer others to us.
5. Get out of cases quickly when it is apparent that the Client will not be able to pay us.
6. Legal Staff Members consistently meet minimum hourly billing requirements per year.
7. Lawyers each consistently exceed 95% Collections per year.
8. Lawyers maintaining an Icon Conversion Rate > 50%.
9. Don’t become complacent or satisfied that the Office or your work is good enough.
The Law Office Team, like a dogsled team, must work together, have a specific destination, work smart, know when to change course, avoid pitfalls to accomplish mutual goals. This Law Office does not need baby sitters so don’t be one. Be a Business Mother instead – a business cannot have too many Mothers who nurture it, care for it and keep it healthy. Continuing to make small improvements pays off big! Keep up the good work.
¶30 LAWYERS AND PARALEGALS TEAMWORK
There exists a mutual kind of a partnership between the lawyer and her paralegals because they make up a team with high continuous expectations that affect the lawyer’s reputation:
1. The lawyer’s client and his family, his loved ones and his friends; Marilyn and her employees; and the courts all expect great legal quality, effort, efficiency and results from mostly the lawyer but partially from the paralegals.
2. Marilyn and her business staff expect each legal team member to bill minimum required hours and keep % Collections at 95% or more.
For a lawyer to have her own exclusive paralegal, is a great opportunity but one with great responsibility. For the above high expectations to be realized on a continuous basis – both team members must be highly intelligent, skillful, trained, motivated, have mutually strong team members, and be action-oriented.
In order to accomplish this greatness, the lawyer must accept the leadership role and responsibility for her team. By accepting the paralegal into her team, the lawyer becomes obligated to delegate sufficient work to her paralegal and insure that her paralegal is performing and accomplishing team goals and is given the opportunity and necessities to do so. The personal growth of the paralegal should be a concern. If the lawyer does not have enough clients to support minimum billing for herself and her paralegal, it is the lawyer’s responsibility to go to the business department and request more initial consults.
The lawyer and her paralegal are more than a legal team. They are also a business team with business expectations such as making minimum billing, % Collections, and pleasing the Client when he compares his legal team’s effort to how much money he spent. This means that the lawyer as team leader must consider many business decisions as well as legal ones (and become a good business person of sorts in addition to being a good lawyer). Common business decisions follow:
1. Deciding when to stop working for a client that is not paying; is abusive; is uncooperative, or is stoned all the time.
2. How to conduct initial consultations to best screen would-be clients so that unwanted ones are discouraged and desired ones want to hire you.
3. Anticipate current and future workloads and react by encouraging or restricting initial consults in hiring you.
4. How and when to delegate work to the paralegal from business-driven decisions. Such business decisions will not be detrimental to the legal work if the work is properly supervised and checked.
The paralegal must perform at a high enough level to earn the lawyer’s trust and respect so that the lawyer finds it advantageous to delegate work to the paralegal. If the paralegal makes too many errors and her work quality does not generally please the lawyer, the ideal relationship described here may never exist.
If the lawyer prefers to have no paralegal on her team or to use a paralegal part-time as needed (subject to availability) where the lawyer has significantly less responsibility to the paralegal, that alternative should be open for discussion.
These are very high expectations indeed, but Marilyn has high expectations for herself and for others. Being part of her law office requires high standards with hopefully high rewards such as being paid well, feeling good about your work ethics, personal growth, work quality and results in helping others.
For a lawyer to become a good delegator she must over delegate, push the paralegal’s limits, delegate beyond reason and be daring until the optimum level is discovered. Then next week or maybe next month shoot for a higher delegating level. By over delegating, it will cause the lawyer some extra work in training more and consulting more with the paralegal, but there should be a benefit to the team’s ability to be flexible and effective. (Don’t law schools push law students? Isn’t a paralegal a law student of sorts?) When your paralegal becomes highly trained and effective, she will be proud of her skills and be appreciative of your efforts.
As a matter of good practice, Lawyers should delegate work to no more than 2 paralegals and Paralegals should not work for more than 2 lawyers.
¶31 OUR REPUTATION WITH THE COURTS
Meeting Legal Deadlines
Family Courts are lenient on meeting legal deadlines. However, this should not be an excuse or invitation for our Lawyers to be unconcerned. We want a good reputation with the courts in all matters including the ability to meet deadlines. Marilyn likes hiring Litigation Lawyers because they are accustomed to meeting court deadlines. Marilyn also likes to be able to point out to the courts that opposing counsels have not met deadlines (without being hypocritical).
Court Demeanor and Preparedness
Be punctual. Be well prepared in all aspects. Have a good strategy and plan. Hold your head high, your voice confident, and have the excellent posture of a winner. Dress appropriately; prepare and control your client.
Try to properly screen would-be Clients so you can mostly represent good Clients with good cases. Don’t lie to the Court or exaggerate or let your Client do so. Don’t ask for Court continuances except as necessary. Never lie to get a Court date extended.
¶32 Office Dress Code
Dress in a business-like manner somewhat commensurate with our reputation and hourly rates. Jeans are occasionally okay if they are dressier in their cut – like trouser jeans or dark washed jeans, but they need to be adorned with dressy shoes (perhaps heals or nice flats – no flip flops ever) and blouses or embellished tops (no casual T-shirts, sweatpants or sweatshirts ever). Our Receptionist needs to consistently dress well. Whenever we are meeting with clients we should be cognizant of our attire. We all walk through the front a lot as well – so even when we are not personally meeting with clients, other firm clients see most of us. Lawyers always need to be able to run to court without notice, but paralegals and business staff sometimes do as well (at least to drop things off and sometimes to stay or testify), so make sure you dress in a way that enhances our firm’s image. Take the high road.
“Meet the Team” Bios should be interesting, promote what we do and be a little personal without encouraging stalkers. It is ideal when Bios can be a determining factor in whether someone needing help hires us or another firm. In your own Bio, if you can promote the firm by saying what you like about it from the below list or from your own experience and tell why you love living in Reno to show your long-term commitment to the Firm and to the area, readers will be impressed. If you are from Nevada, stating where you went to High School can help connect to local Clients. Stating your passions about a hobby, worthy cause or career is always good.
This Law Office carries many kinds of insurance: Malpractice (O & E); Building; Business Liability; Workers Comp; Auto; Health (Hospital, Doctor, Prescription, Contraceptives); Dental and Vision. Individuals generally may change plans at end of the contract period or when they have a life event change such as:
1. Change in legal marital status – marriage, divorce, legal separation, annulment, or death of a spouse
2. Change in number of dependents – birth, death, adoption, placement for adoption, award of legal guardianship
3. Change in employment status of the employee’s spouse or employee’s dependent – switching from part-time to full-time employment status or from full-time to part-time, termination or commencement of employment, a strike or lockout, commencement of or return from an unpaid leave of absence which results in employee/dependent becoming ineligible for coverage
4. Dependent satisfies or ceases to satisfy eligibility requirement – marriage of a dependent or change in student status.
Health insurance costs have been rising rapidly and there is a trend for companies to shift some of the burden to employees by having them pay for part of their own health insurance costs. Because health insurance and premiums are so unpredictable, change is inevitable and each year must be taken one at a time.
Because insurance is expensive, complicated, ever-changing and this office pays for some employee premiums and nothing for dependents of employees, all corporate decisions and all communications have been and will continue to be made only with employees in mind. Employees may take advantage of any available opportunities to ensure their dependents under any plan the corporation subscribes to at their own peril and benefit. When employees elect to have their dependents covered under the company’s plan those employees are responsible for all extra costs such as premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs. The corporation is not a middleman and dependent coverage costs and benefits are between the carrier and the employee.
¶36 ADVANTAGES OF WORKING HERE
There is a focus on employee quality of life at this office – legal staff gets to pick their own lifestyle with their own emphasis on balancing work production and efficiency with their pay. There is also a lot of freedom to choose your own work style.
1. Great quality people work here with good attitudes.
2. Employees are required to be nice, get along and be cooperative.
3. Clients are treated Royally and few complain about Office Staff or Policy.
4. Abusive Clients are quickly set straight or fired.
5. High Office Morale.
6. High Office Achievements.
7. This Office strives to keep a very good reputation with Clients, the Courts, and everyone else.
8. The Office is casual in spirit and pretenses, a sensible dress code exists.
9. On-the-job training is ever available.
10. Everyone does important high-level work.
11. Good working (nonsmoking) environment.
12. High technology office – good computer system and services.
13. Good downtown location and building.
14. Good pay for you and your coworkers.
15. Attorneys get iPhones and monthly allowance paid by the corporation.
16. Medical insurance benefits including Health, Dental, and Vision.
17. Malpractice insurance paid by Corporation.
18. Annual Nevada Bar fees paid by Corporation
19. 401K Plan
¶37 HARASSMENT AND CLIENT RELATIONS POLICY
Purpose: Attorney Marilyn D. York, Inc. is committed to providing an environment for its employees, its clients and its service providers that is comfortable, safe and free from harassment of any kind. Any type of harassment is a violation of this policy and may be illegal.
Attorney Marilyn D. York, Inc. is likewise committed to providing the best possible service and representation to its clients, free of any conflict of interests and consistent with the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct.
Harassment Defined: Harassment can take many forms. It may be, but is not limited to, the following: words, signs, jokes, pranks, intimidation, physical contact, or violence. Harassment does not have to be sexual in nature. Sexual harassment may include unwelcome sexual advances: requests for sexual favors; or other verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature when such conduct creates an intimidating environment or prevents an individual from effectively performing the duties of his or her position, or when such conduct is made a condition of employment or compensation, either implicitly or explicitly. It is not the intent of the behavior by the offender that determines if harassment has occurred but whether the behavior is welcome by the receiver.
Staff/Client Relations: Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.8. Conflict of Interest: Current Clients: Specific Rules provides: (j) A lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced. This paragraph does not apply when the client is an organization.
It is the office policy of Attorney Marilyn D. York, Inc. to enforce this rule not just for the attorneys of the firm, but for all employees of the firm.
Responsibility: All employees, clients and service providers are both responsible for ensuring our work environment is free of harassment as well as entitled to that same assurance and protection for themselves. If you become aware of an incident of harassment or an inappropriate relationship between a client and a member of the staff, whether by witnessing the incident or evidence of it, overhearing the incident or talk about it or being told of it, you must report it to Marilyn York directly. If, however, you are uncomfortable doing so for any reason, you may instead or also report it to Mollie Gittens and/or Chantel Garcia. When the Company becomes aware of harassment or an inappropriate relationship between a staff member and client, it is obligated by law to take prompt and appropriate action, regardless of whether the victim or participant wants the company to do so.
Complaint Procedure: Any covered person, who believes that he or she has suffered harassment in violation of the Harassment Policy, should take the following action:
- If you are able to do so without conflict or danger, tell the harasser in writing and as clearly as possible that the behavior is unwelcome and will be reported;
- Report it to Marilyn, Mollie or Chantel as provided herein-above immediately;
- If the behavior continues, advise Marilyn, Mollie or Chantel immediately and explain the details of the complaint. Provide all proof or documentation with your complaint, if such exists.
Confidentiality: Attorney Marilyn D. York, Inc., including all persons to whom a violation of this Harassment Policy has been reported and persons who have become aware of a complaint, must maintain confidentiality, to the extent possible given the need to investigate. All complaints shall be considered confidential, to the maximum extent possible.
However, if an attorney has a sexual relationship with a client, that attorney is hereby put on notice that that attorney may be reported to the State Bar as said act is a violation of the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct.
Retaliation: Attorney Marilyn D. York, Inc., any employee, client or service provider, may not retaliate against any victim, who reports a violation of the Harassment Policy. Similarly, should a staff member have an inappropriate relationship with a client, which is reported by another staff member, that attorney many not retaliate against the reporting party. Any person who believes he or she has been retaliated against should consult with Marilyn directly unless the complaint is about Marilyn, in which case that person should consult with Mollie and/or Chantel.
Declaration: I, ___________________, have read, understand, and acknowledge receipt of this section titled Harassment and Client Relations. I will comply with the guidelines set out in this policy and understand that a failure to do so might result in disciplinary action including termination of employment and potential legal action.
By: _____________________________ Date: ___________________
Charities We Support
Nevada Youth Empowerment Project (NYEP) – http://nyep.org
Truckee Meadows Housing Solutions (TMHS) – https:// truckeemeadowshousingsolutions .org/
Nevada Humane Society – https://nevadahumanesociety. org/
Good Shepherd Clothing Closet – http://www.gsccreno.org/
Res-que – https://res-que.rescuegroups. org/
Lexie’s Gift – https://www.lexiesgift.com/
Solace Tree – http://www.solacetree.org/
The family law and divorce information on this Reno-Sparks, Nevada (NV) website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The receipt or viewing of this information does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. We are child custody, visitation, spousal support, and, men’s and fathers’ rights lawyers. We serve Reno, Sparks, Fernley, Fallon, Carson City, Minden, Gardnerville, Lovelock, Winnemucca, Yerington, and Incline Village.