General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

Volume 17, Number 4
June 2000

General Practice, Solo and Small Firm MDP UPDATE

ABA Webcast on Multidisciplinary Practice Now Online. Multidisciplinary practices, or fee-sharing partnerships between lawyers and non-lawyer professionals, represent one of the most profound and controversial issues facing the legal profession today.

A webcast of a lively "Town Hall" discussion of MDP held during the recent American Bar Association Midyear Meeting in Dallas can now be viewed on the Internet at The three-hour program is indexed so that viewers can readily access those portions of the program of interest to them.

ABA Commission Renews Proposal. The ABA Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice has again recommended that the association amend its Model Rules of Professional Conduct to allow lawyers to share fees and join with nonlawyer professionals in practices offering both legal and nonlegal services. The recommendation and an explanatory report are posted at The recommendation will be voted upon during the ABA Annual Meeting in July in New York City.

The draft proposal says regulatory authorities should enforce all rules of professional conduct, but also adopt additional procedures as needed to implement the principles identified in the recommendation. It leaves to state discretion what those procedures should be. The new recommendation takes a more general approach to amending ethics rules to permit MDPs than did a proposal that was presented to the 1999 ABA Annual Meeting last August in Atlanta. The ABA House of Delegates declined then to support any rules change that would allow MDPs.


How do you establish effective and simple systems for getting paid for the services you provide? How do you maintain good client relations while avoiding collection problems? Find out at Solo & Small Firm Day 2000, sponsored by the Solo & Small Firm Practitioners Division of the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division.

The program, "99 Tips on How to Get Paid for the Work You Do," will be held on Thursday, July 6, 2000, at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, 42 West 44th Street. This program is free to ABA Annual Meeting attendees! If you are not registered for the ABA Annual Meeting, the cost is $75 for lawyers, $50 for legal assistants, and $25 for law students.

  • Welcome and Opening Remarks.
  • Client Selection to Enhance Fee Collection: How to Weed Out Deadbeats Before They Become Clients. This presentation addresses techniques the lawyer can use in the first telephone call and the first meeting to screen out potential clients who are looking for something for nothing. Many of these people will reveal themselves if given an opportunity. By asking a few questions and paying attention to the answers, the lawyer can weed out the wrong clients before they become clients.
  • Talking Money: The Art of Getting Paid. Why don't clients pay their legal bills? A simple question, perhaps, but one without a simple answer. Getting clients to pay your bills starts long before the day you send out your bill. Learn how to apply proven communication techniques to reduce, if not eliminate, your accounts receivable.
  • Don't Go There: Ethical Tips. This session will discuss ethics for the solo and small firm practitioner. You will learn the ethical traps of practicing law including financial musts, how to ethically protect your fee, when to run and hide, the art of communication and ethical requirements in your personal life.
  • Luncheon & Awards Ceremony (ticketed, $35 per person). Finding the time to network with your peers is often difficult. Solo & Small Firm Day 2000 provides an excellent opportunity to meet and share ideas with colleagues in an open and relaxed atmosphere. Awards such as the prestigious Donald C. Rikli Solo Lifetime Achievement Award, Solo Practitioner of the Year Award, GP Link Bar Leader Award and GP Link Project Award will be announced at this luncheon.
  • Fee Facts and Figures-A Survey of Lawyer Fees Across the U.S.. Fees and billing rates require a careful balancing act between internal economics and external marketplace factors. Economic considerations in setting hourly rates can be reduced to a fundamental formula. Marketplace considerations influencing rates include lawyer experience, firm size, community size, region, and specialty. Alternative pricing presents opportunities to break out of the hourly rate syndrome. Fixed or flat fees, a common pricing alternative, can be set either prospectively based on matter budgets, retrospectively based on experience in comparable matters, or both. Methodologies for accomplishing all of this will be discussed during this session.
  • It's Not How Much You Bill, It's How Much You Collect: You Cannot Afford to Be Inefficient. It is unrealistic to think that client selection, client service, communications, billing, and collections exist in a vacuum. Each one of these issues is connected to all the others. However, there are some methods and procedures that firms of all sizes need to establish to make certain they collect the fees they bill. You will be given practical examples of how to use these procedures in solo and small firms. There will be a short demonstration on how to use technology to make certain you stay on top of your account receivables before it becomes uncollectable. In addition there will be a sample collection policy and sample letters that you can use.
  • 99 Practical Tips on Getting Paid. Panel of speakers from various minority bars.
  • Closing Remarks.

In addition to Solo & Small Firm Day 2000, the Section is offering the following educational programs, which will be held at the Presidential CLE Centre-Sheraton New York:

ABA Multidisciplinary Practice: Charting a New Course in the Legal Profession, Friday, July 7, 9:30-11:30 a.m. This seminar explores the biggest challenge to face lawyers going into the next century, "What will your practice look like in the new millennium?" This nationally acclaimed panel presents the issue of lawyers and nonlawyer professionals joining forces to provide service to clients. Will this type of practice best serve your clients' needs or are lawyers compromising core values to retain market share?

Law Practice in the Digital Age: Emerging Technologies that Facilitate the Effective Practice of Law, Friday, July 7, 2000, 9:30-11:30 a.m. Experts in legal technology will survey the emerging technologies available to your law practice and the trends from which they developed. Panelists will discuss the technology trends and solutions in the following areas: law practice management, client billing, document management, legal research, electronic filing, and law practice marketing. Discover the efficiencies that emerging technologies can provide your practice and client base.

Bankruptcy 2000, Version 3.0, Friday, July 7, 2:00-5:00 p.m. Is your solo or small firm practice freezing up in bankruptcy? Upgrade the "software" you are running by getting the latest version of court decisions, updates to the Bankruptcy Code and Rules, and form updates to keep your practice running smoothly without bugs. Also, find out how the Internet is changing the bankruptcy courts with electronic filings, web access to files, and methods of certifying electronic documents. The bankruptcy courts' cutting edge movement to electronic filings and the Internet are the "guinea pigs" for setting the stage for the entire federal court system.

Assassination of J. Edgar Hoover? A High-Tech Hearing (Presidential Showcase Program), Saturday, July 8, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Was legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover really assassinated? When Hoover died at his Washington, D.C., home in 1972, the medical examiner ruled that the death was a heart attack. There was no investigation and no autopsy. Today, some prominent forensic scientists suspect foul play. Scientific sleuth James Starrs, professor of law and forensic science at George Washington University thinks the media and the public have a right to know more. Opponents argue that an in-depth review threatens national security and other interests. Forensic science meets high-tech computer technology in this mock action under the Freedom of Information Act.


The following social events are planned for Section members in New York:

  • Thursday, July 6: Section Reception and Dinner, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Tavern on the Green. Ticketed: $100 adults; $50 for children 12 or under. Join the Section for a reception and dinner at one of New York's most famous restaurants in the heart of Central Park. Tavern on the Green is located at Central Park West at 67th. Transportation will not be provided.
  • Friday, July 7: Joint Reception with the Family Law Section, New York Waterway Harbor Cruise, 7:00-10:00 p.m. Ticketed: $65 adults; $30 for children 12 and under. Enjoy a different way of seeing New York during this evening cruise. This casual affair will highlight the main attractions of New York City while you enjoy a Ballpark Buffet dinner and relaxed networking with friends from the Family Law Section and General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division. Bring your family and friends-children are encouraged to come along! Transportation provided.
  • Saturday, July 8: Incoming Chair's Dinner, 8:00-10:30 p.m., Brasserie Bit. Ticketed: $85 adults; $40 for children 12 or under. Meet and greet the new chair of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division for the 2000-2001 bar year. Enjoy Brasserie Bit, a charming French bistro with a casual atmosphere in the heart of Times Square. Brasserie Bit is located at 258 West 44th Street. Transportation will not be provided.

After the meeting in New York, the 2000 Annual Meeting moves to London from July 15-20. The Section is sponsoring a CLE program, "David vs. Goliath: Solo and Small Firm Practitioners among Global Law Firms." The program will address how solo and small firm practitioners can compete in the era of bigger and global law firms. In addition, the London meeting will feature a wide variety of outstanding CLE programs on topics ranging from "The Marital Woes of King Henry the VIII," which will delve into six different family law issues, to "Biotechnology and Law in the New Millennium," which will examine the challenges and opportunities of genetic testing and manipulation in the future.

Plus, you'll have the opportunity to attend a wide variety of cultural events, including entry to private Inns of Court and seats of British government, the Opening Assembly at Royal Albert Hall, a reception at the U.S. ambassador's residence, and much more. The Section is sponsoring a Welcome Reception at the Cabinet War Rooms, where Winston Churchill directed World War II.

For more information on the Annual Meeting, visit our website at or call 312/988-5640.


Join us on September 6-10 in picturesque Lake Tahoe for an opportunity to network with members from our Section, the Law Practice Management Section, the Standing Committee on Solo & Small Firm Practitioners, and the Standing Committee on Judical Independence. Hear what ABA President Martha Barnett has to say about "Beyond Surviving: Thriving in the Millennium," the theme for this year's Fall Meeting. This first-ever joint meeting will also feature an informative discussion on multijurisdictional practice issues, a CLE program, business meetings, and exciting social events! For more information, visit our website at or call 312/988-5640.


AXA Advisors, LLC and the ABA General Practice Solo and Small Firm Division are pleased to announce the renewal of their Corporate Sponsorship Agreement.

During the last three years, Equitable helped Section members offer clients the added value of estate, retirement and small-business owner planning. Going forward, AXA Advisors and the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division will explore new ways to make members indispensable resources in planning their clients' financial futures.

Sharon Stevens, chair of the Section, is "delighted to be able to work with AXA to bring members a wide range of services that will help them in their careers."

For more information, call AXA Advisors' special ABA program consultants at 800/992-0790.


Going to Trial: A Step-by-Step Guide to Trial Practice and Procedure, Second Edition, edited by Daniel I. Small, is an authoritative, real-world guide to mastering every step of the trial process, from the initial client interview to the closing argument, including:

  • The best methods for opening a file and organizing a case.
  • The many legal theories of recovery and other issues that can arise in the course of litigation.
  • Why skillful motion practice can win or lose a case before trial.
  • Designing voir dire questions to get the jurors you want and maintain rapport with that jury.
  • The four goals of every phase of the trial-from opening statement to final argument.
  • The three C's of a good witness notebook: confidence, control, credibility.
  • How an effective rebuttal begins with good planning of the case.

The book includes a diskette and is available for $99.95 ($89.95 for ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division members). To order, call the ABA Service Center at 800/285-2221.


To bring added value and new programming opportunities to the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division membership, the Section and West Group have announced a new corporate sponsorship arrangement.

As part of this agreement, West Group will provide financial and research-related support to Section members. "West Group was selected as the GP sponsor because they share our vision of how to best support our membership: through added value, educational programming and technological innovation," said Sharon Stevens, GP chair.

Howard Zack, executive vice president, information and product development, West Group, said the agreement underscores the importance of GP practitioners to the company. "The arrangement will focus on the practical tools that GP members use every day, plus educational programs that can help members in their professional development," said Zack. "We look forward to working with the GP section to continue the production and distribution of vital information for members through publications, CLE sessions and Web and online sources."


Section member N. Kay Bridger-Riley was recently selected as one of this year's eight Pinnacle Award winners, given by the Tulsa Women's Foundation and the Mayor's Commission on the Status of Women to women who have displayed exemplary public service in the area. She received the award for public service-advocate.

Bridger-Riley credited her family, who enabled her to be a lawyer who advocates for underprivileged clients in the face of an unpopular cause. Her perseverance has been key in assuring individuals' rights without regard to her own personal financial security. "It's fun to get an award for doing what you love to do," she said.

Source: Tulsa World, April 3, 2000.

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