Headlong Toward the Future
For the past few years we have been riding a law practice roller coaster. First the uphill ride at breakneck speed. In rapid-fire staccato we had MDPs, MJPs, Andersen Legal, ancillary businesses and client investment funds. At the high point, it seemed the only question was, "How big a piece of the action will you give me?" Then, after a dizzying moment of weightlessness, the plunge back to reality. Layoffs, unbusy business partners, the return of the almighty billable hour and, of course, "Andersen who?" Has anything changed after this wild ride? Sure. But the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.
When visionaries like Roberta Ramo, Sam Smith, my former partner Warren Tomlinson and others formed the ABA Economics of Law Practice Section, they had a shared belief that legal professionals needed to better understand how to manage the business side of their practices. These leaders understood that the more we learned about "non-lawyerly" things such as marketing, management, technology and finance, the better off we——and our clients—would be.
Three decades later, legal professionals have the same needs. To succeed, we must still manage the business side of our practices, just as we must master our substantive legal fields. To be sure, the tools we use have changed. Remember yellow pads and No. 2 pencils? Today, it’s laptops, the Internet, e-mail and Blackberries. But while today’s techniques may be different, the core issues that brought us together in the first place—marketing, management, technology and financeÑare the same. It is still about the business of practicing law.
As Section Chair this year, my goal is to continue developing these basic themes. I hate it when a well-meaning colleague says, "I don’t see why LPM would be relevant to my practice. I’m not a managing partner." Somehow, that person isn’t getting our message. Our members know that you don’t need to be a managing partner to benefit from the Section. Heck, you don’t even need to be a partner. The issues we cover are important to every legal professional, from law student to senior counsel, marketing director to CEO and legal assistant to consultant. And the issues hit every kind of practice and specialty, from private to corporate, solo to mega firm, and litigation to real estate.
Delivering Our Core Strengths
We can, though, do a better job of getting out the word. Like our founders when they started ELP, we need to be Law Practice Management missionaries. The best missionaries begin their work at home. That’s why this year, in an effort to "walk the walk," we are reorganizing around the Section’s core themes with four new Core Groups: Management, Marketing, Technology and Finance.
Each Core Group is tasked with delivering cutting-edge information to members about their subject areas—new educational programs, articles, Web content and books about the business of practicing law. Our goal? Deliver more value to members through exciting new venues. These groups will work together under common leadership, and they will bring together key Section entities such as the Practice Management Advisors, Computer and Technology Division, Women Rainmakers, Law Practice Division, eLawyering and our Multilingual, Multicultural Task Force. In this way, we can both coordinate and energize the work of all, developing common projects and pushing to deliver more value to Section members. The whole will be greater than the parts that comprise it.
Core Group leaders are already hard at work planning stimulating programs for our quarterly meetings. This fall we join the Puerto Rico Bar for sessions on marketing to multicultural and multilingual clients. For the Midyear Meeting in Denver, we’re planning special programs for solo and small firm lawyers. And we’re planning a two-day Law Practice Summit for next spring in Austin.
Join The Ride, Get Active
Now is the perfect time for you to become more active in the Section. If you’re a marketing guru, we have an eager audience for you to teach. If you have questions about management or finance, we have people with answers. If you want to share thoughts on technology, come join us. Whatever your expertise or concern, you’ll find plenty of kindred spirits here.
I couldn't begin to predict what changes we will face over the next 30 years, but I know the roller coaster ride will be just as exciting as the last. What I will say is this: Whatever happens, lawyers will still need information about marketing, management, technology and finance. And they will still need help managing the business of practicing law. Put another way, lawyers will need LPM even more than before. The mission that drove our founders to create the Section is even more vital today. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
John C. Tredennick, Jr.
Chair, ABA Law Practice Management Section