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Reviewed By Austin G. Anderson
Law Office Procedures Manual for Solos and Small Firms, 3rd Edition
Demetrios Dimitriou. ABA LPM Section, 2005. 152 pages. $79.95; LPM Section members: $69.95. ISBN: 1-59031535-9. www.ababooks.org.
The third edition of Law Office Procedures Manual for Solos and Small Firms is a publication that should be included in every solo practitioner’s office and in all small law firms. This loose-leaf manual is replete with information that is vital to the successful organization of a productive law office.
The author, Demetrios Dimitriou, knows his subject well. He currently practices as a solo (having previously practiced with a small firm) and acts as counsel to individual lawyers and law firms concerning their documentation, attorney fees, professional liability, and ethical and internal professional practice management issues. He has lectured and written extensively on law practice management issues, including ethical rules concerning fees, engagement agreements and conflicts issues.
As he explains in the author’s note at the beginning, this publication describes—for both lawyers and staff—the proper procedures, expectations, protocols and other information that constitute the effective operation of a law office.
The volume provides a wonderful inventory of subjects that should be contained in all law offices’ procedure manuals. However, the reader must remember that the application of each subject needs to reflect the specific policies and practices of the given office in which the manual will be used. To enable each office to best develop and apply the practices covered in the book, the complete text is provided (in Microsoft Word) on an accompanying CD-ROM. This enables users to customize the elements to meet the needs of their offices.
Dimitriou has organized the publication into four sections, with each section organized into parts that cover the discrete elements of the section’s subject. This organization enables readers to easily locate and use the specific information that meets their immediate needs.
Section One focuses on “Personnel” and is broken into seven parts. Part 1 sets forth general policies. The next part covers the issues of employee classifications, the probation period, evaluations and termination. The third part, on “Personal Conduct,” deals with personnel management issues that many firms have difficulty addressing—such as office attire, office dating, and personal cell phones, audio equipment and e-mail. Parts 4 through 6 discuss, in order, the hours of work and policies affecting the subject; compensation as it relates to office polices governing law firm compensation; and the important and expensive element of employee benefits. Wrapping up the section, Part 7 addresses organized absences from the office, including holidays, vacations and sick leave.
In Section Two, Dimitriou takes the reader through the topic of “Office Structure” in three distinct parts, including job descriptions, the office makeup, and supplies and equipment.
Then, in Section Three on “Office Procedures,” Dimitriou uses eight parts to identify and describe best practices in this important area. These parts cover security; injury, emergency or disaster; representing the firm; representing clients; office filing systems; the docket control system; communications; and finance. Several parts include appendices that provide the forms necessary to implement the procedures. This section is an outstanding tool for training a novice legal secretary or office manager.
The student of effective law firm management arrives at the conclusion of Dimitriou’s lessons in Section Four, “Office Format and Sample Forms.” In two parts, it provides information vital to successfully drafting various legal documents and communications pieces.Law Office Procedures Manual for Solos and Small Firms provides the opportunity for every law office to develop and implement systems that will ensure a well-managed firm that effectively delivers legal products in a timely manner. I recommend that it be read from beginning to end by the lawyer and by anyone else who is responsible for the firm’s management.