Law Practice Management eNewsletter

Summer 2011

Section LinksContents
From the Chair
Incoming Chair
Site Watch
10 Employer Mistakes
Marketing 101

Section LinksSection Links
LPM Website
Officers and Council

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

NewsFrom the Chair

Hello Section Members!

I hope you are enjoying your summer. For me, it has flown by. Before we know it, the leaves will be falling!

Our annual meeting is coming up very soon, and I hope to see all of you there. We will be following the same format as last year, which was a great success. We will again be conducting round-table discussions with our members and guests. A brown bag lunch will be provided. We have some exciting guests who will be joining us for lunch.

At our last meeting, we discussed the report from the strategic planning committee that we developed at the Bar Leadership Forum in June. A big "thank you" to Vince for all his hard work in reducing our discussions to writing! It's sure to be an exciting and eventful year!

The Section plans to continue its involvement with the law school outreach program. We have received great interest in having our members speak to law students at every law school in Michigan now. Our presentations will begin this fall. Rebecca Simkins has done a wonderful job coordinating these events.

I have thoroughly enjoyed chairing our Section this year, and I thank you all for your help and support! As I pass the torch to Vince at the annual meeting, I am assured that our Section is in GREAT hands!

Stacey L. Dinser-Hohl
Chair

Stacey L. Dinser-Hohl has a practice in Hamburg and is the Section chair.

Section EventsFrom the Incoming Chair: Free Lunch & Priceless Practice Information
By Vincent A. Romano

Greetings Section Members!

Are you planning to attend this year's Law Practice Management & Legal Administrators Section Educational Program on Friday, September 16, 2011, from Noon to 2 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn? You should! All attendees will receive a free lunch.

The program is held in conjunction with the State Bar's Annual Meeting and ICLE's Solo & Small Firm Institute—but, you do not need to be a participant in either of those activities to attend this program. It's free to any member of the State Bar of Michigan.

And, yes—it really does include a free lunch (from the Hyatt Regency's kitchen no less).

The program's format is a proven winner. We used a similar format at last year's Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids and people with long standing experience involving Section programs thought it was among the best—if not THE best—they had ever experienced.

The format does not use speakers or formal presentations. Rather, it encourages the attendees to talk about what's on their minds, ask their questions, probe their practice management issues—and, most importantly—get relevant answers and solutions they can put to use immediately.

Section leaders help get the conversation started and facilitate the give and take —and, consistently—answers emerge from among the resource pool of hard working lawyers assembled in the room.

In addition, some of the "national speakers" from ICLE's Solo & Small Firm Institute will be joining us. At this writing, that includes Kevin O'Keefe, one of Friday's keynote presenters and a featured speaker. Kevin is the CEO and publisher of LexBlog, the leading provider of social media solutions and strategies for lawyers and law firms.

Another of Friday's featured speakers that will be joining us is Ann M. Guinn, a consultant to solo and small firm practitioners. Ann teaches attorneys how to build and maintain high-earning, client-centered, and satisfying law practices.

We anticipate that one or two other of the SSFI faculty will also join us.

Although pre-registration is not necessary, we request that you pre-register in order to make our lunch purchase more accurate. You can access online registration here.

This program is one of the best legal education bargains of the year. It flies under the radar because it's "only" a section event. But, if you're serious about achieving your practice management goals and increasing your practice efficiency and profitability, you do not want to miss this program.

And, besides, ya gotta eat!

Vincent Romano is president of Attorney Services Marketing, a full service marketing company specializing in the marketing needs of the legal profession, serving sole practitioners and firms of all sizes. He is also an adjunct professor of Law at Thomas Cooley Law School, teaching law office management. Mr. Romano is the long time treasurer, a past chair, and current chair-elect of the Law Practice Management & Legal Administrators Section.

Section EventsSite Watch
By Ernie Gifford

Quick Response codes, or as more commonly known as QR codes, seem to be everywhere. They appear in advertising material in magazines and newspapers as well as on signs and signboards. I have seen them recently as posters on the windows of a Royal Oak law firm.

QR codes are a variant of the more common barcodes and they have been in use for sometime now. They were created in the early 1990s by a subsidiary of Toyota and were used in Japan primarily for tracking materials during the manufacturing process. The advantage over common barcodes is the ability to contain more information and to provide a quicker reading of the code.

They have found more recent use as a substitute for common barcodes to be used with smart phones to enable text, photos, video music, and websites to be brought via the internet to the smart phone. Advertisers, including law firms, are using QR codes in brochures and letterheads to provide information to clients and to potential clients which can be captured by a smart phone.

Most smart phones come with applications which support QR codes so that all that is necessary to receive the information using the code is to take a picture of it with the built in camera of the smart phone. For those who don't have the necessary application several are available free on the internet. Use Google to search "QR code scanner" to find an application for your smart phone.

QR codes can be created using a code generator. There are sites that offer free generators. My favorite is www.beqrious.com but others can be found by conducting a Google search.

If you want to give it a try go to www.themobileindian.com where you will find step-by-step instructions to create a QR code for a business card which can be reached by a smart phone.

Ernest I. Gifford practices IP law in Troy and Venice, FL, and is the editor of the section's newsletter.

Other EventsTop 10 Mistakes Employers (Even Lawyers) Make
By Rebecca Simkins

1. Failing to have signed employment application with all the benefits of Michigan law such as at will status, reduced statute of limitation, ability to arbitrate, and disclosure of disability. Make sure signed application is in the employee's personnel file.

2. Failing to know the categories of people protected by Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (MCLA 37.2101 et seq.), Title VII (42 USC § 2000e et seq.), and related laws. Michigan law is unique since Michigan is the only state that includes height and weight as protected classes.

3. Failing to understand the laws and related employee rights regarding disabilities, illness, medical leaves of absence, and pregnancy. MCLA 37.1101 et seq.; 42 USC § 2000e(k).

4. Not considering the use of a (properly drafted) severance agreement when terminating certain employees.

5. Failing to have written policies, such as an employee handbook, with an employee's executed acknowledgement of receipt in that employee's personnel file.

6. Failing to timely deal with and document employee problems. Discipline is critical to an employee's success. If he or she are making errors or violating rules, you need to tell the employee that improvement is expected. Save all documentation and any evidence of errors (example: typos) and put those documents in the personnel file, after discussion with the employee.

7. Failing to remember the importance and dangers of written communication, including e-mail. Think and read before you hit "send." Likewise, maintain all e-mail communications received from employees.

8. Do not mix business and pleasure. You know what this means.

9. Lack of knowledge of wage and hours laws relative to your staff. Generally, all of your support staff is eligible to receive overtime for all time worked after 40 hours. All employers should be familiar with the Michigan Payment of Wages and Fringes Benefits Act (MCL 408.471 et seq.), along with the Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act (MCL 423.501 et seq.).

10. Forgetting the basics: Reward good work. Say please and thank you.

Rebecca Simkins is a member of Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, P.L.L.C. where she practices labor and employment law, representing management. She is a past chair of the Law Practice Management Section. She also taught law practice management and Detroit College of Law/Michigan State College of Law and Cooley Law School. If you have questions regarding this article or the topics discussed, please contact Ms. Simkins. She can be reached at (313) 596-9319, e-mail: rsimkins@bsdd.com, at 211 West Fort Street, 15th floor, Detroit, MI 48226.

Other EventsMarketing 101 for New Attorneys
By James G. Schmier

The July 17, 2011, Sunday New York Times had an article that discussed the ever-increasing number of students that graduate from law school each year. While the article highlighted a particular school in New York City, it also mentioned Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which graduates more new attorneys than any other school in the United States. This has significant implications for those of us who practice in Michigan because the number of attorneys competing for new clients or trying to land jobs in existing law firms becomes greater each year.

Given the ever-increasing competition for legal services, marketing your services becomes more important than ever. But how do you do it? If you are willing to spend hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, you can get create "Contact 1 (800) call James". Or like other well-known local attorneys, find yourself a controversial client who will get your name in the paper or on national TV. But what about the rest of us?

As a new attorney, in my second career (I formerly worked in automotive marketing), I realized that I needed some way to find clients. I was not going to get referrals from other clients—I didn't have other clients. I was not going to get referrals from other lawyers—they didn't know who I was and, in this economy, they are doing the work themselves, even if it is out of their comfort zone. And lastly, I didn't have the resources to spend on advertising.

So, I created a website myself and put in the time to make it work for me. Now, my website is generally listed on the first page by the search engines and receives about 700 clicks each month. From that, I am usually able to close two new clients each week.

The internet is one medium that can cost you very little and make a huge impact on your business. For instance, purchasing a domain name and getting a server to host your website can cost less than $200 per year. And while you can employ a company like FindLaw to create and monitor your website, costing upwards of $2,000 per month, you can also create your own website for pennies.

Besides the low cost, the other benefit of designing your own website is that you don't have to rely on your "friend" who has been promising to create your site for the last 5 months, but never seems to get around to it. You know the friend you didn't pay, making it difficult to fire him or pressure him to get the job done.

It can be simple to design your own website. Hosting companies often offer products like "Website Tonight" or "Do It Yourself Website" that are template-type programs that let you create your own website with little or no experience in website design. The programs walk you through picking out a pre-made graphic design and typing in content in the same way you use a word processing program. They will even make it easy to add a picture or two, add multiple pages, attach a contact form, and after you are satisfied with your creation, publish the site. After a couple of hours, you too can be on the web.

By using a book such as "SEO (search engine optimization) for Dummies", you should be able to write relevant content and employ key words that will get your site noticed by the search engines. And the greater the number of search engines finding your site, the more people who will know of your practice. If you can get your site to the first page of Google, you will realize a steady stream of new clients, just like I did.

The key is to do it yourself. Other than setting aside the time (and if you are a new attorney you probable have lots of extra time), it's an inexpensive and cost-effective way to market and advertise your business. And for new attorneys who are trying to establish their own practice, a well-thought website will pay off.

Jim.jpgJames Schmier is a 2007 Thomas M. Cooley graduate who, for 25 years prior to becoming a member of the Bar, owned and operated his own production and marketing communication company specializing in film, video, and web communications. Mr. Schmier now operates his own practice at the Law Office of James G. Schmier, PLLC. He can be contacted with any questions or suggestions at jschmier@schmierlaw.com or you can find his website at http://www.schmierlaw.com.

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