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THE MAGAZINE      October 2002
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Fresh Air

The July/August Law Practice Management, "The Innovation Issue," was not only innovative, but I found it provocative. The magazine has been cutting-edge. It has been very stimulating and, in my judgment, makes a great contribution to the profession.

—Lowell Rothschild, Mesch Clark & Rothschild, Tucson, AZ

Reading your article ["Take It to the Next Level," by Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, July/August 2002] was a breath of fresh air. Thank you. I would like to learn more about creative, out-of-the-box exercises I could present to staff to enhance and promote creativity.

—Meredith L. Margolis, Business Communications Manager,

Dow, Lohnes & Albertson, PLLC

Editor’s Response: Get your hands on a copy of Creativity Games for Trainers: A Handbook of Group Activities for Jumpstarting Workplace Creativity by Dr. Robert Epstein (McGraw-Hill, 1995).

Task-Based Billing

The articles in the April 2002 issue on task billing and automated document assembly did not have a balanced perspective. The focus was on practices where the production of automated documents constitutes a major part of the practice and legal services can readily be divided into discrete tasks.

But there are many legal services that are not capable of being classified as "tasks" for which one size fits all. [D]ocuments often constitute only a small part of the representation. There may be difficult tax issues to consider. There may be potential conflicts among related clients and troublesome ethical considerations. Many legal services by their nature involve a range of factors that appear to be virtually infinite. It is often not possible at the outset of a representation to foresee all the issues that might arise in the course of the representation and the need to spend many hours unearthing the facts and researching complex issues and advising a client about alternative approaches. Automation and expert systems can help, but they can only go so far.

The lack of perspective might cause a lawyer to believe that task billing is the only answer; that selling legal services as "legal Big Macs" is the key to increased profitability and the easy way to practice law. The practice of law is not that easy.

I do not minimize the benefits of a well-organized document assembly program and an expert system. They have their place and can improve the quality of the services. Neither do I minimize the value of task billing for services that can be readily classified as discrete tasks. However, I resist the implication that they are substitutes for professional judgment and flexibility in billing fairly for services rendered.

I prefer to practice law the old-fashioned way—using automation as support for professional representation and then using time as one factor in billing clients fairly. Getting the job done right comes first—not the method of billing. Task billing demeans the lawyer by turning him or her into a merchant who sells a product. I am not ready for that transition.

—Melvin J. Jacobowitz, Jacobowitz & Ostroff, P.A., Miami, FL

Product Reviews

I enjoy reading the revised magazine, though I admit missing Burgess Allison’s Tech Update column. He provided real product reviews, which helps fill the blanks for small firms that may not have large personnel management problems.

Your publication would be much more valuable if it had a report, once per issue, on large-dollar items in a Consumer Reports style—that is, copiers, fax machines, telephones, long-distance plans, telephone headsets and laptops.

—Michael J. Gelfand, Gelfand & Arpe, P.A., West Palm Beach, FL

ReActions?

Write to: Law Practice Management, c/o Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, 1114 12th St., Golden, CO 80401; lpm-editor@abanet.org. Include your full name, address and phone number. We reserve the right to edit letters for clarity and space.