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How Legal Name Changes Affect the Patent Application Process

There are many reasons why an inventor might undergo a legal name change, whether as part of a marriage or divorce, as part of a gender transition, or out of a desire for a name that better reflects the inventor’s sense of self. Even though name changes are handed through state-level legal procedures, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has specific rules about using legal names that can result in costly delays or even an abandoned or invalidated patent if not followed. With the patent application process often taking several years, consistency of inventor naming and compliance with state-level rules about legal names is important to avoid issues down the road.

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ESG and Law Firms Part 2: Understanding Emissions and Where to Start

In the first part of this series, we explored Environmental Social, and Governance (ESG)—what ESG is and the basics of what lawyers and law firms need to know about ESG. After reading part 1, you may be thinking: How will ESG impact my practice and my firm? We will answer that question here by exploring one of the ways that ESG may impact your law firm operations: client requests for ESG metrics and, specifically, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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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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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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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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Hands holding crystal globe with ESG icons. Using technology of renewable resource to reduce pollution

Environmental, Social, and Governance: What Lawyers and Firms Need to Know About Accountability

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) is essentially an investing framework that brings a broad range of what have traditionally been considered nonfinancial factors into financial decision-making and risk analyses. ESG expands corporate accountability beyond shareholders to include external stakeholder expectations on a variety of factors such as climate change, use of consumer data, and racial justice (among many others), which we broadly group into the three buckets of environmental, social, and governance.

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Legal Technology and Practice Management, Part 1: Practice Management Software as a Hub for Your Practice

Making technological investments in a law firm is fundamental for planning for the life of the practice. According to the Thomson Reuters’ 2021 Report on the State of the Legal Market, 84 percent of surveyed partners expected their firms to increase investments in technology after the pandemic. The pandemic has forever changed the use of technology in law firms and altered consumer expectations. Firms who fail to adapt will be left behind.

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Washington Court of Appeals Addresses ‘Professional Judgment’ Rule in Legal Malpractice

Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals recently addressed the “professional judgment” rule in Angelo v. Kindinger, 2022 WL 1008314 (Wn. App. Apr. 4, 2022). The rationale of the rule, which is a long-standing part of the decisional law of legal malpractice, is that a lawyer should not be held liable for malpractice for a good faith judgment within a range of reasonable alternatives.

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New Advisory Opinion on ‘Reply All’ Emails

Is it OK to hit “Reply All” when responding to an email from another lawyer when that lawyer cc’d their own client on the initiating email? Have you just violated RPC 4.2? Or is including the other client permissible because they were already included in the initial email?
There’s a new advisory opinion which helps you answer this question. The Committee on Professional Ethics just posted Advisory Opinion 202201 on the WSBA website, which takes a comprehensive look at the issue.

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Legal Fee Tax Deduction Gets Easier

Since 2018, it’s been tough to deduct legal fees, and some plaintiffs in contingent fee cases are even taxed on their gross recoveries, not net after legal fees. Creativity is needed in this new age, since sometimes the rules seem to say you shouldn’t be deducting fees at all. Fortunately, the mechanics of deducting legal fees in employment, whistleblower, and civil rights cases have been improved, at long last.

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Why Legal Professionals Should Embrace a Legal Regulatory Lab

The Washington Supreme Court’s Practice of Law Board recently met with the Washington Supreme Court justices to update justices on the latest version of the Board’s Blueprint for a Legal Regulatory Lab, a new framework for regulating innovative legal services and business models. A legal regulatory lab is not a physical place; rather, it is a process that uses Supreme Court orders to define a set of customized regulations to allow legal professionals and entrepreneurs to safely test new services.

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The Ups and Downs of Starting Your Own Law Practice

For a lawyer who’s thinking about striking out on their own and starting a firm, there are naturally pros and cons. You gain more autonomy in how you practice, but lose the structure of an established firm. You get to choose how you run your business, but you also take on more risk.

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Legal Multitasking: The Advantages of Multiple Section Membership

More than 10,000 WSBA members are also members of the nearly 30 sections spread across the many diverse practice areas of the law. Through sections, these members band together to share knowledge, perfect their skills, and push the boundaries of the legal profession. Just as no single legal professional is limited to one area of law, a number of WSBA members are actually members of multiple sections. Nicholas Pleasants, for example, is one such lawyer. A solo practitioner and owner of Pleasants Law Firm, he participates in three WSBA sections. Read on to find out why he does it and what he gets out of it.

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