GPSolo Magazine - July/August 2004
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Practice management advisors can serve as a great source information on a number of law office management and technology topics. But there are some things you just don’t want to ask of your PMA. Below are my top eight.
1. Don’t ask your PMA to babysit your children. But you might ask your PMA about time-saving techniques and methods to improve your office operations so you can spend more time with your children.
2. Don’t ask your PMA for law practice management assistance if you don’t really intend for things to change. Change can sometimes be painful. There’s a saying that you have to spend money to make money. Well, you often have to spend time and money to improve your practice. Lawyers are busy people, often incredibly busy. So prepare yourself for a challenge if you really want to move your firm forward. We can help, but you must shoulder the largest share of the effort.
3. Don’t ask for dating or marital advice. You’d think this would be pretty obvious. True, PMAs have a broad range of knowledge, but there are still some areas where you are just on your own.
4. Don’t tell us where the bodies are buried. The confidentiality of information you disclose to your PMA varies from state to state. Some states have enacted a confidentiality rule that equates with attorney-client privilege. Others have not. A PMA’s job is to help you, not to create problems for you. Before you begin to unburden yourself of all your past sins, give your PMA a chance to explain the ground rules of your jurisdiction. Confidential client information disclosed to a PMA should be protected under the same rationale that needed disclosure to law office staff is protected.
5. Don’t try to force us into a one-size-fits-all solution for your software needs. One of our most common questions is which software is “best.” Buying software that you and your staff will use every single day is a personal decision and dependent on your specific needs, desires, skills, and even tastes. We can help you arrive at a decision, but that will be through a process that involves your participation. You may need to “try on” more than one software package before you find one that fits. We can no more dictate your software solution than we should tell you which shoes go best with that outfit or if those pants make your . . . well, never mind.
6. Don’t treat us as your opportunity to complain about the bar association. Not all PMAs work for bar associations. Some work for malpractice insurers or other entities. But most of us work for the bar. In large states there may be hundreds of bar staff. We don’t always keep up with everything that the bar association is doing. There’s so much that we have to keep up with in law office management and technology. We’ll always know where to refer you for other bar services, but we may not be informed about bar politics or new bar policies. So if you want to critique our co-workers, our executive director, or our elected leadership and officers, we really won’t have a reaction or opinion to share. In the words of Jimmy Buffett, that’s our story and we are sticking to it.
7. Don’t ask us why a lot of current software won’t run on your four-year-old computer or why you have to reboot it several times a day. We gave up wondering about such things long ago. Law offices process lots of information and, for the most part, lots of paper. They need to operate on reasonably up-to-date hardware. Having your staff operate in constant frustration with bad equipment is a poor way to save money. You need to buy new hardware fairly often, whether it is your automobile or your computers.
8. Don’t ask us why you don’t have a PMA program in your area. A planning guide to assist in setting up a PMA program is available online at www.abanet.org/barserv/content/pma.pdf. You can download it, read it, and then ask around yourself.
Jim Calloway is the Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He can be reached at Jimc@okbar.org.