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THE MAGAZINE      May/June 2002
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Your Future

News, Ideas and Opportunities from the Law Practice Management Section

The ABA Law Practice Management Section is the place to go for both innovative and practical information on finance, technology, management and marketing, enabling legal professionals to better serve clients, achieve career goals and balance their lives.

www.abanet.org/lpm

Quick Tips

How-to Advice for Solos and Small Firms, Managing Partners, Experienced Lawyers and Young Lawyers

Solos & Small Firm Practitioners

Refreshments are served. You might increase your client bonding and prevent peckish behavior by having a supply of grub in your office. Consider installing a 10-foot-long shelf, about table height, on which you can place pretzels, candy and other treats. A bottled-water dispenser also alleviates the need for you or clients to take valuable time to walk out of the office. Clients greatly appreciate these intangibles—they recognize that you have planned and shopped for their comfort as well as yours.

Adapted from Unbundling Legal Services: A Guide to Delivering Legal Services a la Carte by Forrest S. Mosten. ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2001.

Start your day by updating your to-do list. Keep a running list of pending tasks in your computer. Prioritize tasks, but don’t allow low-priority tasks to stay on the list too long. Too many lawyers are so busy putting out fires, they don’t attend to important practice improvements.

Adapted from Running a Law Practice on a Shoestring by Theda C. Snyder. ABA Law Practice Management Section, 1997.

Six Key Elements of High-Performance Ads Strong headlines that command attention and engage readers

  • A laser-sharp focus, with a willingness to ignore most readers
  • Arresting, eye-captivating illustrations or photographs
  • Relevant copy that covers less than 50 percent of the ad space
  • Clearly identifiable differences
  • Professional-looking, clutter-free layouts

Adapted from Effective Yellow Pages Advertising for Lawyers: The Complete Guide to Creating Winning Ads by Kerry Randall. ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2002.

Young Lawyers

Say, and make it, so. Communicate clearly and consistently with your clients. Discuss in advance the scope, cost and strategy of all work. Then manage the client’s work effectively. Seek feedback so you know the client’s level of satisfaction with your work and service—and respond to the expressed concerns.

Adapted from The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Law Practice, edited by Hollis Hatfield Weishar and James A. Durham. ABA Law Practice Management Section, 1999.

How will the firm teach you? Dissatisfaction with training is the biggest complaint voiced by junior lawyers. Before you sign on, you want to know what constitutes the organization’s training program and how it tracks a lawyer’s progress and responds to the need for improvement in certain areas. In addition, you’ll want to learn how the training program has evolved over time and how other junior lawyers have graded their training.

Adapted from Changing Jobs: A Handbook for Lawyers in the New Millennium, edited by Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier. ABA Law Practice Management Section, 1999.

Experienced Lawyers

Help them keep track. A nice touch to conclude the initial meeting with clients is to give them an empty file folder in which you suggest they keep all correspondence and documents pertaining to their matter. The file should be a distinctive color, with the firm’s name, address and phone number printed on the outside. On the inside flap, you might print a list of all the services provided by the firm, with contact information for all its offices. Include your firm brochure. Thus, the client leaves the meeting with more information on the firm and its services, all of which assists in building the relationship.

Adapted from Through the Client’s Eyes: New Approaches to Get Clients to Hire You Again and Again, 2nd edition, by Henry W. Ewalt. ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2002.

It’s no gimmick. Client satisfaction is not a buzzword: It is a guideline for successful law practice. If you make the effort to know your client and that client’s expectations, you will be able to anticipate the waves you cause by your action or inaction. Knowing this, you can be assured that your conduct will not rock your client’s boat, but will advance yours.

Adapted from Through the Client’s Eyes: New Approaches to Get Clients to Hire You Again and Again, 2nd edition, by Henry W. Ewalt. ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2002.

Managing Partners

Be an achievement leader. Encourage appropriate goal setting by individual lawyers and by the firm. Every lawyer should have a five-year plan that focuses on wishes, regardless of perceived obstacles or support. Also, make sure lawyers have opportunities for challenging and rewarding work. Share intrinsically rewarding firm goals and encourage all lawyers to participate in achieving them. Then, provide feedback and acknowledge the goals that have been achieved.

Adapted from Keeping Good Lawyers: Best Practices to Create Career Satisfaction by M. Diane Vogt and Lori-Ann Rickard. ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2001.

What keeps lawyers in the fold? Read management magazines such as Fast Company to learn what businesses are doing to retain employees. Talk with colleagues who manage other firms to learn about techniques they are using to keep lawyers on board. Use your time to discover what your lawyers want and offer it before they have to ask. If you don’t, you can be sure a headhunter will offer it first. Join an organization such as People Wealth’s Leading Lawyers, designed to share best practice strategies and solutions.

Adapted from Keeping Good Lawyers: Best Practices to Create Career Satisfaction by M. Diane Vogt and Lori-Ann Rickard. ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2001.

New Edition: Win-Win Billing Strategies

Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour, 2nd Edition. Whether it’s called alternative billing, value billing, fixed-fee billing or task-based billing, the time has come to examine how to fairly charge for legal services. Edited by James A. Calloway and Mark A. Robertson, this new edition of the best-selling Win-Win Billing Strategies (edited by Richard C. Reed) provides a firm foundation for the understanding and implementation of alternative billing methods. The book first explains the underpinnings of law firm billing and how it relates to client value. Then you’ll learn what alternative billing methods are available and how to implement them at your firm. Finally, you’ll see how to evaluate your systems and make adjustments as you go. The book is written for firms of all sizes and provides valuable examples, practical tools and tips throughout. Included with the book is a diskette containing useful forms and agreements found in the appendices. Visit www.abanet.org/lpm/catalog for details.