Law Practice Management eNewsletter

Summer 2009

Section LinksContents
Ann. Mtg /Edu. Prog.
From the Chair
Social Networking
Staffing Your Firm
ABA Techshow 09
Young Lawyers

Section LinksSection Links
LPM Website
Officers and Council

Bar LinksBar Links
SBM Website
PMRC
Calendar of Events
Public Policy Updates

News2009 Law Practice Management Annual Meeting and Education Program

September 16, 2009, 12:00–4:30 p.m., Dearborn Hyatt Regency, Dearborn.

There will be a drawing for 3 ICLE partnerships during this program. You must be present to win.

Business Meeting: 12:00 to 12:30 pm
Educational Program: Tips for Success and Survival During Tough Economic Times

12:35–1:10 pm Strategies for Law Firm Survival During a Recession/Depression

    The Executive Director of a very large law firm will share his knowledge for methods for law firms to cope with the economic downturn and will share skills and strategies to insure survival, achievement of ongoing success. Presented by John J. Peterburs, executive director, Quarles & Brady, LLP, Milwaukee, WI

1:15–1:40 Successful E-Filing—A Required Tool That Saves Time and Money

    In order to successfully use e-filing, attorneys are required to have certain types of equipment, e-mail addresses, software, and training. This presentation will provide an overview of e-filings and show how this system can make litigators more efficient. Presented by Barry L. Brickner, Law Office of Barry L. Brickner.

1:45 -2:10 A "Road Map" for Positive Billings To Achieve Greater Collections

    One may view the billing process in either a positive or negative fashion. The process kept "positive" will result in the client paying your bill, returning in the future, and referring other potential clients to you. Presented by Wesley P. Hackett, Jr., Law Office of Wesley P. Hackett, Jr..

2:15 - 2:25 BREAK

2:30–2:55 Dealing With Employee Issues During Tough Economic Times

    This presentation will include a discussion of downsizing and consolidating positions. It will also focus on cost effective strategies for compensating employees and boosting employee morale. Presented by Rebecca Simkins, Member, Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, PLLC.

3:00–3:25 Five Cost Effective Power Tools for Your Personal Marketing Plan

    Lawyers will acquire five simple and effective low-cost tools they can start using immediately to get better results from their individual marketing efforts, presented by Elizabeth Jolliffe.

3:25–4:00 Breakout sessions with individual speakers to discuss topics presented.

4:00–5:00 Networking Session

NewsFrom the Chair

What a great year it has been to serve as Chair of this very practical Section of the State Bar. As my term is coming to an end, I am very grateful to have had the support of a wonderful council and very dedicated officers. We have had a successful year with many accomplishments.

On August 3, 2009, the State Bar of Michigan approved the merger of the Law Practice Management and Legal Administrators Sections. It has taken approximately three years to accomplish this merger. We look forward to the benefits of this merger, including an expanded knowledge and membership base for the educational programming that our Section offers to the rest of the State Bar.

Our Section will also be working with law schools this fall to offer support and assistance to students and to reach out to these potential Section members. A panel of lawyers will be going to the Thomas Cooley Law School and Michigan State College of Law to offer support and suggestions for survival in law school, successful job interviewing, and to provide an overview of the various career paths a lawyer can take. We are very excited about working directly with law students. We will be in Auburn Hills on September 29 from 12:00-2:00 p.m. and at Cooley's Ann Arbor campus on October 7, 2009, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. We will also be participating in a State Bar Section fair at Cooley in Grand Rapids on October 21 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. We need volunteers for the Grand Rapids event and please contact me if you are interested.

This year's Annual Meeting for our Section will take place on September 16, 2009, and will include educational programming relative to attorneys surviving in these economic times. The Annual Meeting will take place from 12:00-12:30 p.m. with the educational program to follow. There will be excellent presentations on the topics of skills and strategies for lawyers and law firms to cope with the economic downturn. There will be a speaker from a national law firm, Quarles & Brady, LLP, who will talk on proven strategies for survival in these economic times. There will also be positive, upbeat presentations that will focus on substance and the economic challenges of our time, including the benefits of e-filing; a roadmap for positive billings; dealing with employee issues; creating your personal marketing plan; and breakout sessions to discuss each of these topics. Attendance at this session is free to all State Bar members and we look forward to seeing you at the program and also at the networking session to follow. For attendees, there will also be a drawing during the program for three free ICLE partnerships, a powerful tool and resource for practitioners. The ICLE partnership is a cornerstone of efficient law practice management given its powerful research capabilities, training opportunities, and endless samples of legal documents and instructional outlines.

If there are any individuals who are interested in serving in the Section's Council, particularly those from the Legal Administrators Section, we would very much appreciate and welcome your participation. If you are interested in serving on the Council, please contact me at rsimkins@bsdd.com.

I have had a wonderful year as chair of this Section and hope that I made my mark, like the past chairs of this Section. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this great Section.

As always if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.


Rebecca Simkins
Chair, Law Practice Management and Legal Administrators Section

Section EventsOnline Social Networking
By Elizabeth Jolliffe

Before you rule out online networking sites like LinkedIn, LawLink, Naymz, and FaceBook as a waste of time, consider the following to help increase the benefits from such sites.

First, consider your purpose for signing up on an online networking site. For sites like LinkedIn, "online social networking" might be a misnomer that discourages potential users from exploring the opportunity to expand their network of professional contacts.

Second, being active, not merely present, on an online networking site improves your chances of getting results. It is no different than joining traditional groups for networking purposes. You meet people by reaching out, getting involved, and becoming known. As the saying goes, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Putting up a simple profile is not likely to be enough.

Being active on an online networking site can include joining or forming groups, answering questions in your area of specialty, and starting relevant, valuable discussions for the benefit of others. It also includes using features like the update feature on LinkedIn where you can indicate what you are currently working on. Appropriate use of these features impacts your visibility and credibility and is an easy, no-cost way to stay in the minds of your contacts.

Third, consider whether online networking sites give you an opportunity to market yourself more fully or a little differently than your limited biography on your firm's website. If so, consider how you can take advantage of this opportunity. For example, it may be easier for lawyers in larger firms to seek and post recommendations on LinkedIn than they can on their firm website. Also, consider what impression an exchange of recommendations conveys. Are you and your co-workers or friends simply recommending each other in order to have recommendations? Watch out for transparency.

Fourth, lawyers can improve the effectiveness of their online presence by identifying their practice area or specialty in their title. Many lawyers simply identify themselves as partner, owner, associate, attorney, etc. in XYZ Law Firm. Lawyers should make it easy for people to immediately see what the lawyer does when they scan a list of contact names. You can also improve your visibility by changing your LinkedIn public profile URL to delete the numbers and include your name, specifying the name of your website instead of using the default "Other", and changing the settings for your Public Profile to Full View so that searchers can see your entire profile. Linking your blog, website and posting documents, articles or other resources to the networking sites can affect your credibility and visibility and enhance your search engine results.

Finally, lawyers, like everyone else, should always consider the impression they convey online and how the information they post may be used or interpreted. Look at the posts on your personal and/or professional FaceBook page. What impressions do they convey? What message do typos send? How will potential future clients or employers view you? What if you want to become a judge someday? Be smart and selective about your online presence and monitor it. A lawyer's reputation is everything and once tarnished it is difficult to repair.


Elizabeth Jolliffe is a career management and business development coach for lawyers and other professionals. She was a business litigator for 19 years at Clark Hill PLC in Detroit. Elizabeth helps her clients build their practices, take charge of their careers, and reach their full professional potential.

Section EventsDon't Screw It Up: Effectively Staffing Your Law Firm
By David C. Sarnacki

"Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes."
--Oscar Wilde

If you practice as a sole practitioner or in a small firm, you have special powers that transcend the limits of a license to practice law. At any moment, you may be called upon to function as the firm's visionary leader, chief financial officer, employee relations specialist, human resource manager, or office administrator. You may be called upon to make choices that will affect your professional life for years to come: whether to hire, whether to outsource, how to hire, how to train, how to manage, how to evaluate, how to fire, etc. There is a limitless potential for making mistakes. In the words of my friend Chip Chamberlain, "You're in charge—don't screw it up."

You have these special powers, but do you have any meaningful training, education, or experience with the issues? Rather than face a series of unfortunate events in your law practice, why not learn from the experience (and perhaps the mistakes) of others?

Jennifer Rose—a family law attorney, a sole practitioner, the 2010-2011 chair of the ABA General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division—has collected the wisdom of 21 solo and small firm practitioners and one law office administrator and prepared a 220-page blueprint for not screwing up your law practice. Whether you seek to do it all yourself or to delegate to an effective and profitable staff, Effectively Staffing Your Law Firm will help you avoid mistakes that can lead to the loss of clients, harm to your reputation, and less money in your pocket.

Rose has shaped her 22 experts into six broad categories: going it alone; finding the right fit for law office staff; your staff, your team; paralegal and legal assistants; rules of engagement; and knowledge of employment law never hurts. Each category has two to six chapters, each written by someone with extensive experience in the area.

Rose's book will help you make your office more effective, efficient, and enjoyable. The chapters offer advice and guidance on issues like:

  1. Whether to staff or not to staff.
  2. How to manage time and resources more efficiently.
  3. How to evaluate alternatives to full-time employees, such as executive office suites and outsourcing.
  4. How to successfully recruit skilled staff.
  5. How to motivate and lead your staff.
  6. How to avoid and manage disputes involving your staff.
  7. How to evaluate your staff.
  8. How to complement your competence and abilities with those of your staff, especially in the area of technology.
  9. How to delegate and supervise your staff while maintaining high ethical standards.
  10. How to develop an employee manual, security precautions and internet/email/computer policies.
  11. How to comply with discrimination, civil rights, and employment laws.
  12. How to fire an employee.

When I made the jump and started my own firm, I turned to Jay Foonberg's How to Start and Build a Law Practice. There is no substitute for that 700-page resource which spans the range from location to letterhead to marketing to making money. Still, Rose's book goes into more depth in how to actually staff and properly run your office. You will find solid advice and useful checklists and even a few forms. Most importantly, you will have immediate access to 22 experts who understand your looming crisis and the potential for an ugly, deflating, time-consuming, and costly mistake.

Surely, there is more to be said on each of the topics covered, and there are books in print on most every issue. But you became an attorney in order to practice law. This book will give you enough guidance to move your practice through many of the most common issues. You can turn to a chapter or two, think through the challenge or conflict you are facing, and avert a disastrous result. Over time, you will make mistakes. Everyone does. Let's just try to limit those mistakes to little mistakes, not big ones.

Learn from Rose's 220-page blueprint for success. Use the 22 experts and their collective wisdom. And avoid the mistakes that otherwise would add to your "experience." Effectively Staffing Your Law Firm will help you to be in charge, to be effective, and to not screw it up.

Jennifer J. Rose, ed., EFFECTIVELY STAFFING YOUR LAW FIRM (2009, American Bar Association). $89.95.


David C. Sarnacki practices family law, mediation, and collaborative divorce in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is a past chairperson of three State Bar Sections: Family Law, Litigation, and Law Practice Management Section. He is listed in Best Lawyers in America.

Other Events2009 ABA Techshow
By Ernie Gifford

The ABA Tech Show has been offered, usually in late March or early April in Chicago, every year for 23 years. I've attended the last 4 years. It is the foremost show for learning about the latest developments in hardware and software for the practice of law. The 2010 show is scheduled for the Chicago Hilton April 2-5, 2010.

Even though the show includes programs on a wide range of topics, each year that I have attended there has seemed to be a central theme, usually the latest advancement or the hottest new law practice tool. One year that seemed to be in the form of a number of programs directed to practicing law on the road. The necessary hardware and software for continuing to conduct a law practice while out of the office at a client's offices or in a hotel room or even in your automobile was the subject of a number of programs that year.

Another year the central theme seemed to be blogs and blogging or as the speakers used the term "blawgs" or "blawging" for blogs directed to legal topics. I haven't heard those terms lately but clearly the use of blogs by lawyers has grown exponentially since that introduction to many of us at the ABA Tech show that year. Now you can find a "blawg" on nearly every conceivable legal topic.

The use of podcasts by lawyers has become commonplace and their use also was the main topic of a past ABA Tech Show.

This year there seemed to have been no central theme but instead several themes were provided. I am not sure this means that new technology for lawyers is diminishing so that it is hard to find an important topic or that, and this is more likely, it is increasing at such a pace that it is difficult to pick one as the most important development of the year.

The keynote speaker this year was Richard Susskind and the topic of his talk was a discussion of the theme of his book "The End of Lawyers". Susskind is a law professor who has written a number of books relating to the practice of law. He is also the IT adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England. He believes that the practice of law is moving toward "commoditization" in which the lawyer's function will be to put together packages of documents for clients and where there will be very little interaction with the client. The lawyer's work will be in creating the necessary documents for the packages and written standard directions as to their completion and use. He cites web sites such as legalzoom.com as an example of where the practice of law is going. His talk can be downloaded at www.abanet.org/techshow.

A topic that received considerable attention at the show this year was the development of social and professional on line networks such as Facebook, Linkedin, and even Twitter and how lawyers are using these networks to increase contacts and build their practice. Elizabeth Jollife of our Section has an excellent article in the Summer Issue of the State Bar LPMS Newsletter directed to this topic.

A second topic that was addressed by a number of programs was the use of virtual offices as opposed to physical offices to conduct a law practice. Attorneys who want to work from their home to either be nearer their families or to reduce overhead are using this concept today. Attorneys who have been laid off or discharged from their job have found this to be a way of carrying on their practice. This it seems to me is an indication of the movement of the practice of law as sales of a commodity.

The annual James I. Keane award for the "individual or law office that has developed innovative legal services delivered over the internet" was given this year to Stephanie Kimbro of Kimbro Services LLC for her development and use of a virtual office to practice law through the internet and from her home.

Materials from the 2009 ABA Tech Show can be downloaded from the ABA LPMS website. You will find information there regarding the 2010 show. I hope to be there again next year and I hope to see some of you there.

Ernest I. Gifford practices IP law in Troy, Michigan and Venice, Florida, and is the editor of the Section's Newsletter.


Other EventsYoung Lawyers and Law Students Can Help Your Practice
By Rebecca Simkins

This year several representatives of our section attended the State Bar's Leadership Conference, which focused on leadership skills for section leaders. There were many helpful sessions, including a session that dealt with increasing section membership by recruiting law students and young attorneys. This topic made me think not only of section membership but also the practice of law. Many of our section members are small firm practitioners, who struggle with the economic factors and also the increasing to keep up with technology. Many experienced lawyers could really benefit from having input from younger lawyers and/or law students into their practice, particularly on legal technology.

Just 20 years ago when I graduated from law school, there were two computers at the law school; one was labeled Lexis and the other labeled Westlaw. The machines themselves were enormous and made a lot of noise and took a long time. It is overwhelming to think of how quickly and far the technological world has advanced in the law firm in the past twenty years.

In discussions I have had with various section members throughout my year as chair, I have learned that many of you still struggle with the increasing standardized use of technology in practice. While the topic of technology is second nature to many of our members—there are some who find the use of technology "sickening" as one very experienced lawyer recently mentioned to me. The young lawyers and law students are currently very much available to share their knowledge in exchange for legal experience. Many young lawyers that I have met have indicated that they would even be willing to volunteer their services in order to get some experience to help them get started in their legal career. The negatives of the economy can turn into a win-win situation for lawyers who are willing to look to this valuable resource to better their practice.

Therefore, using the knowledge and services of a young lawyer or law student who has learned about technology throughout their education can really benefit the small or solo practitioner. For this reason, I suggest that if you are at a firm that needs some technological assistance or legal research projects or anything that a young lawyer could do, that you consider taking advantage of this resource even if that means coming up with a creative method of compensating that person if you are unable to pay them traditionally. For many young lawyers, the value of experience is priceless. For many seasoned practitioners, technology remains a difficult area which must be implemented and understood in order to remain competitive, particularly with e-filing at courts on the rise. The understanding and use of technology is more vital than ever to the practice of law and young lawyers and law students can prove to be a valuable resource in this regard.


Rebecca Simkins
Chair, Law Practice Management and Legal Administrators Section