Law Firm Gift To Clients This Year: 2012 Legislative Update

Lawyers are kept apprised through their profession of a variety of legal and legislative updates passed through Congress.

This year, numerous changes in hiring laws and contract law may affect the business of your clients.

Instead of (or in addition to) end-of-the-year gifts to your clients, provide them, instead, with a newsletter that lists all relevant legal changes in their industry area. It will help your clients stay compliant, and, hopefully, prevent future lawsuits.

In addition to helping your clients, the information may very well aid your own law practice, as many of these new laws will affect business practice within your firm.

Independent Contractors (SB 459). This has been a topic for discussion for quite some time. The government is cracking down on employers who misclassify their employees as independent contractors.

Businesses face as much as $25,000 in fines for “willful misclassification.”

Over the past few years, law firms have been using an increasing number of independent contractors for lengthy doc reviews, for example, in addition to other traditionally in-house tasks.

Firms should carefully consider the status of these contractors before filing taxes this year.

Gender Identity and Expression (AB 887) and Genetic Information Discrimination (SB 559). Both of these laws work to end discrimination within hiring practices.

In the past, gender-identity laws prohibited discrimination and harassment in the workplace or during hiring based on gender. The new law now includes gender expression discrimination, which is discrimination based on how a person identifies him or herself, or how he or she expresses him or herself.

This law protects how an employee dresses, allowing them to dress in a manner consistent with their gender and identity.

For law firms, dress can be an important factor during a job interview. A candidate is often judged according to the length of his trousers or her hemline. In 2012, make sure all law firm administrators and hiring partners are aware of this new gender-specific law, and—like the necktie—consider loosening up your office dress code.

In addition to gender, companies are prohibited from discriminating based on genetic information. No, this law is not aimed at hair or eye color preference, rather individual genetic disorders or diseases.

A company cannot discriminate against a person who is potentially predisposed (based on a parent or sibling medical history) to cancer or psychotic diseases.

In this case, employers and employees may want to consider a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for medical history or any other genetic background information.

State-by-State Changes. Finally, check with your local government for other legal changes. The Association of Corporate Counsel listed a few more legislative bills here, for the states of Oregon, Washington, and California.

The most successful law firm management is like a group of the best physicians—professionals who focus on preventative measures of practice, and, only in the worst-case scenario, manage the fall-out for unexpected ailments.

So, this season, resolve to prevent lawsuits in 2012 with a newsletter for your clients (and your firm) outlining legal changes in 2010.

-WB

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