“Everything you’ve been told about building
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How to Define Your Secretary’s Responsibilities: Our Position Contract

Do you ever wonder why your new secretary doesn’t know what to do?  You just assume she knows what she is supposed to do.  Big mistake!  The reason your secretary doesn’t know what to do is simple: you never told her!

A Position Contract is a written agreement that you ask your new employee to review and sign (and keep by her desk at all times).  Now, there are no excuses: with a Position Contract, you are crystal clear about your expectations and your new secretary/paralegal knows exactly what she is supposed to do.

This is the actual Position Contract that we use for our new Happiness Creator/Problem Solver (a/k/a receptionist) at our law firm. You have my permission to copy and use as much of our Position Contract as you wish.

Position Contract for New Employee

Alyssa, we are excited about working with you!

To help clarify your responsibilities, we prepared this “Position Contract” to describe the basic duties and tasks you will have as our Master of First Impressions (a/k/a Problem Solver and Happiness Maker).  Our paralegal, Corina Skidmore, will always be available to answer your questions and concerns and if she’s not available, please don’t hesitate to ask me (Corina will always be better answering your questions than me!)

Your job is to provide our clients and referral partners with an amazing, “WOW!!!” experience that they’ve never had at any other law firm.  We want our clients to love you and tell us how wonderful you are.

YOUR THREE MAJOR RESPONSIBILITIES

You will have three major responsibilities:

Responsibility #1:        Answering the phones;

Responsibility #2:        Getting medical records; and

Responsibility #3:        Opening, scanning and emailing new correspondence

In this Position Contract, I’ve set forth your responsibilities in detail so you have a clear understanding of what we expect from you.  Our office manual (“Our Team’s Playbook”), provide the best guidance of our policies and procedures.  You should keep Our Team’s Playbook by your desk and refer to it whenever you are not sure what to do.

RESPONSIBILITY #1

ANSWERING THE PHONE

You will be the front-line for answering our phones and scheduling appointments.  The phone calls to our law firm generally consist of three types of phone calls and for purposes of clarity, the three types of phone calls are divided by category as follow:

Phone Call #1:  Calls from New Clients

“New clients” are persons calling about a potential case or attorneys referring a new case.

Phone Call #2:  Calls from Existing Clients

“Existing clients” are our clients who typically call to get a report from us about the status of their case.

Phone Call #3:  Scheduling Depositions

These are phone calls from secretaries at defense law firms to schedule the deposition of a party or non-party witness.

PHONE CALL #1

Phone Calls From New Clients

There are two kinds of new case calls: (1) new cases that are NOT referred by an attorney; and (2) new cases that are referred by an attorney.  The handling of the new case call will vary depending on whether the case is referred by an attorney.

When a new client calls our law firm, the first question you should ask is: “How were you referred to us?”

If the new client was not referred by a lawyer, then follow the steps set forth in the category, “New Cases that are NOT Referred by Attorneys”.

If the new client was referred by a lawyer, then follow the steps set forth in the category called, “New Cases that are Referred by Attorneys”.

New Cases that are NOT Referred by Attorneys

When a new client calls with a potential case, the phone call should be transferred to our intake service company, Legal Intake Professionals.  On the right-hand side of your phone, there is a button labeled, “Intake”, that you can press to send the new client directly to Legal Intake Professionals.

Once you determine that the client is calling with a new case, and was not referred by a lawyer, you should explain to the new client: “Will you mind holding for a moment while I transfer you to our Intake Specialist?”  You should then press the button on your phone to transfer the client to Legal Intake Professionals. Your job is done after transferring the phone call.

New Cases that are Referred by Attorneys

When a case is referred by an attorney (what I call our “Referral Partners”), the call should be transferred to me. If I am not available to take the phone call, you should transfer the call to Corina.

I place the highest value on new cases referred by lawyers and I always want to speak directly with the lawyer when a new case is referred to us.

If I am not available, and Corina is not available, then you should schedule a time for me to speak with the Referral Partner by phone or face-to-face.  When scheduling an appointment, please check our Calendar in Microsoft Outlook to determine if I am available for the phone conference or meeting.  I generally prefer to schedule phone appointments and meetings between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

There is no need to ask for my permission to schedule an appointment for me.  If the Calendar has an opening for me, this means that I’m free and you can schedule the appointment.

When you schedule an appointment, please send me an email (jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com) confirming that you scheduled an appointment for me.

If Corina and I are not available to speak with the client, you should enter all of the client’s contact information in the Intake Wizard in Trialworks (click the middle box in the upper right corner of Trialworks).  The information fromevery new client should be entered into the Intake Wizard in Trialworks.

PHONE CALL #2

Phone Calls from Existing Clients

When an existing client calls to ask for information about the status of their case, you should try to answer their question.  At first, this will be impossible since you are not familiar with our cases, but as you get familiar with the cases and our civil case management software program called Trialworks, you will be able to answer most of their questions.

The typical questions asked by clients vary and can range from: “What is the date of my deposition?  When can I meet with John to prepare for my deposition? Have you received my settlement check?”

Our clients are typically severely disabled or handicapped.  The most important thing is to express compassion and understanding.  Our clients are sometimes difficult to handle and may be unreasonable, but you should treat them as though they are “always right”. By the time our clients’ case is over, you want to have a strong, lasting friendship with them.

If you can’t answer the clients’ questions, you should feel free to transfer the call to Corina.  However, keep in mind that you should try to answer any questions whenever you can—so Corina is not interrupted by phone calls throughout her workday.

PHONE CALL #3

Scheduling Depositions

The procedure for scheduling depositions is contained in Chapter 11 of Our Team’s Playbook.  Please don’t hesitate to ask questions of Corina or I about these procedures.

Corina will give you a list of cases where you will be asked to schedule dates for depositions with the secretaries of defendants’ attorneys.  As of today (May 11, 2015), the top priority is scheduling depositions for the following cases:

We place the highest priority on our “A” cases, since they will have the highest monetary value.  Every case has a “Priority Code” of either an “A”, “B”, “C” or “D” case and you can find the Priority Code in the “Case/Retainer” tab of Trialworks for every client with an Active Case.

  • “A” cases have a settlement value over $1 million (our highest value cases that make the most $ for us);
  • “B” cases have a settlement value between $500k and $1 million;
  • “C” cases have a settlement value between $300k and $500k; and
  • “D” cases have a settlement value less than $300k.

Of all of the duties you will have at our law firm, the scheduling of depositions is the top priority. Our cases will not progress to trial until the depositions have been scheduled and completed and hence, we always want to avoid delays and adjournments of depositions.

I strongly recommend that you confirm dates for depositions with a letter to defense counsel, i.e., “Per our telephone conversation, the deposition of our client, Ms. Jones, will be held on June 15, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at Valley Reporting Service in Kingston.”

When confirming defendants’ depositions confirm by phone and in writing that the original medical record will be at the deposition.

Call Forwarding When You’re Not in the Office

When you leave the office to do an errand, phone calls will be answered by our answering service, Call Ruby.  There is a button on your phone that you can press to send all incoming phone calls to Call Ruby, so the calls will be answered while you are out of the office.  Corina will show you how to transfer the calls to Call Ruby when you are out of the office.

When you leave the office at the end of the day, you should press a button your phone that directs all incoming phone calls to Call Ruby.  When you leave the office, Call Ruby will answer the phone calls for you.

Ruby will take messages for us.  The messages are sent to our office by e-mail.  Please return all of these calls.

Unscheduled Phone Calls for JHF

Unless the caller is on my “VIP List”, I do NOT accept unscheduled phone calls.

My VIP List includes:

  • Lawyers referring a new case (our “Referral Partners”),
  • Claims adjusters with whom I am discussing a settlement,
  • Judges, and
  • My family members.

If the caller is not on my VIP List, you should tell them that I am unavailable and ask them to schedule a time to speak with me between 4:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.  You should then enter the appointment in Google Calendar and send me an email informing me of the new phone appointment.

If a caller is not on my VIP List, ask them to send an email to me (jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com) that specifies the purpose of the phone call.

If the caller is not on my VIP List and does not want to schedule an appointment to speak with me, you can always refer their call to Corina.  However, I will not accept the phone call.

You should try to handle all calls that come into the office for me or Corina.  Most times callers have a simple question that you can answer.

RESPONSIBILITY #2

GETTING MEDICAL RECORDS

You will be responsible for requesting medical records.  Our procedures for getting medical records are set forth in Chapter 10 of Our Team’s Playbook, entitled “Medical Records” (page 96).

Requesting Medical Records

In all of our cases, our clients sign a power of attorney that allows me to sign a release authorization on their behalf.  A copy of the Power of Attorney is located in the Miscellaneous tab in Trialworks.  With this Power of Attorney, our clients do not need to sign a release authorization since I am authorized to sign the release authorizations for them.

When I request medical records, I will send you an email that reads, “Please get Mr. Jones’s updated medical records from Dr. Smith from February 1, 2013 to the present”.  It will be your job to prepare the release authorization for my signature and send the release authorization with the Power of Attorney to the treating physician or hospital.  The request for the medical records should be mailed within 24 hours of the time that I ask you to get the medical records.

Follow-Up with Doctors and Hospitals

Most importantly, it will be your job to make sure that we receive the requested medical records form the physician or hospital.  Oftentimes, the doctor or hospital will ignore our request for medical records for months.

Under section 18 of New York’s Public Health Law, the physician or hospital has ten (10) days to send the medical records to us.  You should follow up with phone calls and letters to the physician or hospital if we have not received the medical records within ten days of our request. I suggest that you follow up with the physician or hospital about the medical records within the following timeframes from the date of our initial request:

  • 10 days
  • 21 days
  • 31 days

If we do not have the medical records within 31 days of our initial request to the physician or hospital, please notify Corina and I by email, i.e., “it has been more than 31 days since our request for Dr. Smith’s updated medical records and he has not responded.”

When we receive new medical records, you should scan the new medical records into the Medical Records tab in Trialworks.  See page 96 (Chapter 10) of  Our Team’s Playbook for additional procedures when receiving new medical records.

RESPONSIBILITY #3

OPENING AND SCANNING MAIL

When you get the mail from the mailbox (mail arrives between 12:30 and 2:00), your top priority should be to:

  • Sort mail before opening
  • All non-client related mail goes to Corina (Rondout Savings, CDPHP, Credit Card bills…)
  • Open the mail
  • All invoices go to Corina
  • Date-stamp when appropriate (items that are not stamped: original documents such as wills, death certificates, official court documents, original documents signed by clients like POAs – always ask if unsure)
  • Scan the mail to the appropriate tab in Trialworks (see pages 126-130 of Our Team’s Playbook for the tabs in Trialworks where documents should be electronically filed)
  • Email the correspondence to the intended recipient (JHF, Corina or both of us)
  • No original mail goes to JHF.

This procedure for mail has the highest priority and everything else is second in priority.  It is never acceptable to postpone the opening and scanning of new mail because you are busy doing something else. Mail should not be left sitting on your desk after it is received.

When we receive a fax, scan the fax to the appropriate tab in Trialworks and email the correspondence to the intended recipient.

We are a paperless office.  If a document is not scanned into Trialworks AS SOON AS IT IS RECEIVED, our paperless office will not function.

All outgoing mail must be delivered to the Post Office on Main Street by 4:30 pm every day.

A FEW EXTRA ODDS AND ENDS RE: OFFICE PROTOCOLS

Random Acts of Kindness

Our clients and prospective referral partners will get their first impression of our law firm from you.  A friendly smile and a nice personal touch (i.e., “It’s great to hear from you.”) make all the difference. You should smile every time you answer the phone—a warm smile guarantees that you’re happy to speak with our clients.

You should do at least one “random act of kindness” every day that will conveys a warm, personal touch.  The warm touch might be a handwritten “thank you” letter or a box of chocolates or flowers; your “random act of kindness” can be anything—use your imagination and be creative.  You have my complete permission to perform “random acts of kindness” as often and whenever you see a chance to “WOW” our clients and referral partners.

Wowing our clients and referral partners is the #1 priority for you as our Master of First Impressions.

John’s Email Policy

I only review email twice a day—once at noon and again at 4:00 p.m. (some days I do not open Microsoft Outlook at all).   I cannot be effective unless I have large blocks of uninterrupted work time and email is a constant annoyance and a deterrent to uninterrupted work.

If you have an urgent matter that requires my immediate attention, you should buzz my phone or come back to my office to tell me.  Email is not an effective way to communicate urgent information to me.

Corina’s Executive Assistant

Whenever Corina asks for help, please do whatever she asks.  The errands consist of getting the mail, delivering a document to another lawyer’s office, or just about anything.  Corina may need you to copy or scan documents—please do whatever Corina asks.

If the errand involves travel with your car, please keep track of your miles and tolls and you will be reimbursed for your travel expenses.  Corina will provide you with an “Expense Reimbursement” sheet, which you can complete and get reimbursed by our bookkeeper.

Please sign each page of this Position Contract, return one original to me and keep one original for yourself. If the Position Contract is unclear, please let me know so it can be corrected before it is signed.

We look forward to working with you!

 

___________________________________ Dated: August 31, 2015

Alyssa Marcella

 

___________________________________ Dated: August 31, 2015

John H. Fisher

 

 

 

 

photo credit: GearUP Sessions 5+6: Legal, Financing & Fundraising via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.
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