“The measure of a country's greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis.”

Thurgood Marshall

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Bar News Focuses on Family Law

According to the BBC, divorce applications and break-ups skyrocketed around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One leading U.K. law firm noted a 122 percent increase in inquiries for divorce, while in the U.S. a legal form template provider reported that divorce agreements increased 34 percent in the first half of 2020.

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Farmer shaking hands with a lawyer in front of tractor in field

The State of Rural Practice in Washington: Urgent Needs for Moderate Means Program

Finding affordable legal services in Washington state is challenging, the problem only intensifies in Washington’s rural counties. Consider the WSBA’s Moderate Means Program (MMP), a statewide program that matches moderate income clients with a network of legal professionals for assistance on issues of family, housing, consumer, and unemployment law cases at reduced fees. The scarcity of attorneys creates a significant challenge in finding meaningful referrals for this program. As a result, Washingtonians in need of lower-cost legal help often receive no successful or meaningful referral, leaving them without affordable help and rendering the MMP mission nearly impossible to accomplish.

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Close up of an attorney's hand holding a pen and using a laptop to calculate taxes.

How the IRS Views Structured Legal Fees

All lawyers pay taxes and know that legal fees are income. They are ordinary income and even subject to self-employment taxes. But what about timing? Much in the tax law is about timing. A classic tenet of tax-planning is to try to defer income and to accelerate deductions. For generations, tax lawyers have explored all manner of tax-deferral strategies. According to the IRS, you have income for tax purposes when you have an unqualified, vested right to receive it. Asking for payment later doesn’t change that. The idea is to prevent taxpayers from deliberately manipulating their income. A classic example is a bonus check available in December, where the employee asks to have the employer hold it until Jan. 1. Normal cash accounting suggests that the bonus is not income until paid, but the employer tried to pay in December and made the check available. To the IRS, that makes the bonus income in December, even though it is not collected until January.

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A summer day in front of the US Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC.

Important Supreme Court Cases That Could Be Impacted by Overturning Roe v. Wade

As the end of the Supreme Court’s 2021-2022 term is fast approaching, possibly one of the most anticipated decisions of the term will be the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In this case, Jackson Women’s Health Organization sued the state of Mississippi to stop the implementation of a 2018 law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The justices heard arguments over the state’s law last year and the Court is expected to issue its ruling by June or early July. A leaked draft opinion suggests that the court is likely to rule in favor of Mississippi and overturn years of precedent established in Roe v. Wade, which would give lawmakers the ability to ban or restrict abortions. The draft is not final; however, questions remain as to what a reversal of the Court’s abortion rights precedents would mean and how it may affect other critical rulings.

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Cove of June 2022 Bar News

Status, History of Bar Structure Examined in Latest Bar News

This August, the WSBA Board of Governors is scheduled to wrap up its eight-month discussion about the very foundation of Washington’s mandatory, integrated bar and whether it should remain the same or undergo a structural change. The Board’s study process, ETHOS (Examining the Historical Organization and Structure of the Bar), is reaching the end of its mission from the Washington Supreme Court to answer three key questions about the Bar’s structure and the potential impact of federal litigation.

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A gavel on gray background, retro toned

Court of Appeals: New Management Entitled to Law Firm File

Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals in Seattle recently held that new management of an entity is entitled to a law firm’s file involving work prepared for the entity under prior management. Although the case does not plow any new conceptual ground, it offers Washington support for this general proposition with specific reference […]

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Books

What You Need to Know About Washington’s Silenced No More Act

On March 24, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law the Silenced No More Act, greatly restricting the scope of nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions that employers may enter into with employees who either work or reside in Washington state. Effective June 9, the new law prohibits employers from requiring or requesting that an employment agreement contain a provision: “Not to disclose or discuss conduct, or the existence of a settlement involving conduct, that the employee reasonably believed under Washington state, federal or common law to be illegal discrimination, illegal harassment, illegal retaliation, a wage and hour violation, or sexual assault, or that is recognized as against a clear mandate of public policy….” However, employers will still be able to enter into agreements that (1) prohibit the disclosure of the amount paid in a settlement agreement; and (2) protect “trade secrets, proprietary information, or confidential information that does not involve illegal acts.” An employer that violates the law can be found liable in a civil action for “actual damages or statutory damages of $10,000, whichever is more, as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”

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Legal Tech & Practice Management Part 2: Transform Solo- and Small-Firm Billing with Software

During a recent consultation, a lawyer shared that they regularly did not bill the clients until the end of representation. Fortunately, most clients paid after their case had concluded. Unfortunately, one client stiffed the firm on a $50,000 bill for a multiyear-long matter that even proceeded to trial. To make matters worse, the firm had not sent any bills until the matter concluded, and the large outstanding balance enraged the client. After multiple failed efforts to collect the fees, and not wanting to risk a bar complaint, the firm elected to accept its losses and walk away from the fees. The lawyer I consulted with was seeking practice management help to learn about billing software solutions and best practices. I further learned that the firm was struggling to get bills out on a regular schedule, which delayed its own timekeeping and contributed to an overall time-consuming billing process.

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