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On September 1, Andrea Stone Hartley takes the reins as the 2010-11 Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section. Former LPM Chair Bill Gibson sat down with Andrea at a recent Section meeting to discuss her involvement in LPM and her plans for the coming year.
You are about to take over the leadership of the LPM Section. What caused you to get involved in the first place?
AH: I was drawn to the Section because I wanted practical information to assist me in developing business and marketing my practice. I was particularly aware of the good work that the ABA Women Rainmakers had done to help lawyers understand the intricacies of marketing, so I began attending some of their programs and networking sessions. My first reaction was that every lawyer needs to have this information, so I became more involved to help spread the word. Before I knew it, I was asked to become the ABA Women Rainmakers Chair.
Had you been involved in other ABA groups before you came to LPM?
AH: Like a lot of lawyers just out of school, I got involved with the ABA Young Lawyers Division. From 1992 on, I chaired several committees and served on the YLD Council and as a District Representative from Florida. My most satisfying position, though, was serving as Chair of the YLD Disaster Recovery & Relief Committee. While a member of the YLD, I got to know former LPM Chairs Walt Karnstein and Tom Grella and eventually was asked to become the YLD Liaison to the LPM Section.
Should we read anything into the fact that the incoming Section Chair is a bankruptcy lawyer?
AH: I can’t imagine that anyone anticipated today’s economic environment when I started on the leadership track four years ago. But actually, what I love about practicing bankruptcy is the interaction between business and law. My cases often involve bankruptcy proceedings with up to 100 different interested parties and I work hard to help build a consensus that leads to the best business result for everyone. I plan to use those same skills of business sense and consensus building as LPM Chair.
What do you see as your main challenges for the coming year?
AH: The current economic climate has affected lawyers, law firms and businesses that work with lawyers, as well as lawyers’ organizations such as the ABA. We need to get the message out that membership in the ABA, and particularly in the LPM Section, is a smart move for those dealing with the results of the economic crisis. I cannot understand why every lawyer is not a member of the ABA and why every ABA member doesn’t belong to LPM. The information contained in Law Practice magazine alone makes it worth the investment, but joining makes even more sense when you add to that the opportunity to network with experts on marketing, management, technology and finance.
The organizational challenges are essentially the same as those that other professional organizations are facing, specifically membership and finances. But I am convinced that if we make the case for the value that membership in the Section will bring to lawyers across North America and beyond, they will join us and take advantage of what we have to offer.
How do you plan to take advantage of technology?
AH: We will be successful if we can connect with Section members and provide them with valuable information that they can’t get elsewhere. Since it’s difficult for most of our members to travel to our meetings, we need to continue to find new ways to communicate with them online without adding to their unread e-mail. I want to increase our use of video technology and virtual meetings so that people can attend events without leaving their offices. Also, we plan to expand our use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter and otherwise must continue to effectively adapt to changing technology.
So what do you most want to accomplish during your one year as LPM Chair?
AH: Most important is to strengthen our membership. Since the recession hit two years ago everyone has been in a reflective mood—a holding pattern, so to speak—unsure of what the future will bring and afraid to take action. This has resulted in lawyers joining fewer organizations, buying fewer books and attending fewer programs at a time when they need to be taking advantage of those kinds of resources to help them rebuild their practices. I want to encourage lawyers to move from reflection to action.
I am also greatly concerned about young lawyers and recent law school graduates who find themselves without jobs or working in jobs that may not be right for them. When I graduated, 85 percent of my graduating class had jobs waiting. That number has been trending down, but it took a steep decline when the recession hit. I want to do what I can to provide those young lawyers with resources to get the jobs they want or to start their own law practices.
The LPM Section is now 36 years old. What do you see as its most enduring accomplishments?AH: LPM continues to be the leading resource for marketing, management, technology and finance. This year the ABA Women Rainmakers is celebrating its 20th anniversary and ABA TECHSHOW is turning 25. I am proud that over the years we have been able to expand these programs while creating new programs such as the biannual ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference and ABA Women Rainmakers Mid-Career Workshop. LPM has and will continue to help lawyers practice law effectively and successfully for many years to come.
Andrea Hartley is a bankruptcy shareholder in the Miami office of the law firm Akerman Senterfitt, where she has practiced for 14 years. She specializes in complex business bankruptcy cases in which she primarily represents the interests of creditors. She first went into practice in 1990, working for a large firm that represented Chapter 11 debtors, then in 1993 she moved to a small firm representing mostly trustees in bankruptcy proceedings. She is a graduate of the University of Florida Law School and grew up in Ft. Lauderdale. In addition to keeping her clients happy and helping to lead the LPM Section, Andrea, together with her husband, keeps busy with their two children, a son (age 10) and daughter (age 6).