P R O B A T E   &   P R O P E R T Y
July/August 2005
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Articles from other issues of Probate and Property


Practice Pointers—Probate

Practice Pointers—Probate Editor: Diane Hubbard Kennedy, 4911 E. 56th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46220, d_kennedy@iquest.net.

  Practice Pointers—Probate offers suggestions for improving estate planning and probate practice. The editors of Probate & Property welcome suggestions and contributions from readers.

  Giving Back Is Good Business

Trite as it may sound, an attorney can do well by doing good. Bar association activity is not only a means of developing resources for young or solo practitioners. Giving back to the community through bar association and other volunteerism can also be good for business. Continuing business comes through relationships with current clients. New business must come from new relationships or referrals from existing relationships. Simply stated, the more relationships an attorney has, the more potential for new business. Nevertheless, the generation of business contacts should not be the primary reason for engaging in volunteer work. The work itself should be satisfying and give the volunteer a sense of virtue.

Of course, superficial acquaintance is not likely to bring many new clients. An attorney must be perceived as capable, knowledgeable, and reliable. Establishing those credentials need not be difficult. Volunteer for committees, undertake projects. Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it, and you will quickly become a star in whatever organization you join.

Bar association activities can result in referrals from firms with conflicts and attorneys who practice in another area. The other area may be geographic (state, county, or even country), substantive (divorce, personal injury, corporate), or special practice (probate litigation, Medicaid appeals). Geographic referrals are more likely to occur for attorneys active in state or national bar associations. Substantive referrals arise from activity in broad range committees such as strategic planning, membership, and the like. To establish the credibility necessary for special practice referrals, volunteering to make continuing legal education presentations and write articles is useful.

Rotary International, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, has four avenues of service: vocational, community, international, and club. Bar associations, estate planning councils, planned giving groups, and similar organizations are areas for vocational service. International service opportunities can take the form of church or service club projects. Club service parallels service within a law firm.

Community service opportunities abound—religious institutions, service clubs, children’s athletic leagues. How can you join your professional expertise with community service? Perhaps your church needs lay speakers occasionally. Service clubs often have speakers. A presentation on advance directives may be of great interest to other members of the congregation or club. Athletic leagues may need medical powers of attorney for coaches to obtain emergency medical treatment for injured players. A parent-teacher organization may appreciate a presentation regarding HIPAA and school records.

The presentation of truly useful information to the public can also be a wonderful marketing opportunity. The Alzheimer’s Association conducts informational meetings to help educate caregivers about legal issues relating to diminished capacity. Senior citizens centers have similar programs. Some nursing homes have educational outreach programs organized by admissions directors or other marketing personnel.

Aside from purely economic motives, doing good for others is gratifying in and of itself. Community service helps provide balance for busy lawyers who might otherwise become increasingly narrow and isolated. As Emerson said, “It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”