April 2002

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Chair’s Message

What does "law practice management" mean to you? To me, as chair of the ABA Section of the same name, it means many different things. It means running a law practice on a day-to-day basis, figuring out where next year’s crop of clients will come from and making financial decisions to keep the ship afloat. It means keeping up on trends in the profession and keeping skills current and salable. It means knowing enough about technology to make intelligent decisions about what to buy.

Most importantly, law practice management means working with the people who really run your office—your staff. It means hiring the right people, helping them to be productive, giving them the right tools and training and compensating them fairly for their work.

If you are a law firm managing partner, your definition of law practice management may be different from that of a solo practitioner or a corporate law department manager—but only slightly different. Everyone I talk to in my travels as Section Chair has the same concerns—how to do more with less. Everyone is concerned about client demands for increased productivity. Everyone is concerned about the increasing costs of running a law office. Everything seems to cost more than it did just a few years ago, despite the fact that inflation remains low. Everyone is also concerned about competition. Firms that a decade ago refused to "audition" for new clients now do so regularly.

If you are a young lawyer, you are dealing with the same issues as experienced lawyers. But your definition of law practice management may be different. It likely focuses more on starting and building your practice, renting your first office, hiring your first secretary and getting your first cases. You perhaps focus on dealing with being "suddenly solo" as a result of layoffs at your former firm.

Those of us who manage the ABA Law Practice Management Section have a running debate about the definition of law practice management. Actually, we debate what is most important to our clients—our clients being our members. Some say that technology should receive more emphasis. Others say that marketing and practice development are why people join. Yet others say that financial issues, time and billing and other "numbers" topics are most important in attracting people to us.

The answer is that everyone is right. All these issues are most important to each of us at one time or another. In the end, it is just a matter of emphasis during a given time frame. So, if you are a member of our Section and you sometimes feel as though our definition of law practice management is not the same as yours, take heart. You may not be interested in every single thing we offer—and that is why we have such a wide range of offerings in our magazine, our books and our educational programs.

I want to assure you that when you are facing a new problem, or a new opportunity, we will have resources to help you. Those resources may have been around for a long time, but perhaps you didn’t notice some of them because you didn’t need them yet. When you need them, they will be there. The Section will be there for you, too.

K. William Gibson

Chair, ABA Law Practice Management Section