April 2003  Volume 29, Issue 3
April 2003 Issue
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Editor's Page
The Ups and Downs of Legal Tender
by Merrilyn Astin Tarlton

I spent the morning over a long cup of coffee with a friend and colleague I've known for years. He's reached that point where he's wondering, as he told me with a shrug, "what I want to be when I grow up." (He turns 50 this month.) Now, on the brink of sending two kids to college, getting serious about retirement planning and just trying to keep the day-to-day afloat, he's been presented with two very intriguing merger opportunities.

After 20 years of leading his own highly successful and entrepreneurial practice, he's wondering if now is the time to become part of something bigger. Could he function as part of a national firm? Are there hidden risks in joining his practice with another? Is this the opportunity to create an effective exit strategy? What are the upsides and downsides of staying independent versus signing on with someone else's firm?

It was a great conversation. It's always fun to explore the possibilities. And I have to smile: The focus of this guy's practice is law practice mergers and valuations. If you saw his resume, you'd think he was the wizard of practice merger evaluations. And he is. But he's also smart enough to know that you never know enough, particularly when it comes to giving yourself business advice. Sometimes, for the really important issues, you have to reexamine the basics.

I think you'll agree with me that money, indeed, falls into that "really important issue" category. Regardless of the hard-won experience you've gained making all the columns add up at year's end, there's always something you forget. Some angle you're missing. Some clarity you've lost.

That's why this month, in Law Practice Management's "Financial Management" issue, we invite you to step back and reexamine the basics of the law practice financial model. Dave Bilinsky, practice management advisor for the Law Society of British Columbia, takes us back to school for a fresh look at key financial concepts-and strategic ways to increase the financial performance of your firm. And in another article, Bilinsky teams with Washington, D.C., practice management advisor Reid Trautz to lay out 10 surefire ways to make financial trouble in a law practice. It's a tour de force. If you'll get yourself off to a quiet place with these two articles, I guarantee you'll come out the other side with renewed fiscal vigilance and a happier bottom line.

You'll also find this issue includes a lot more about your practice and your money for you to consider: tips for surviving turbulent economic times, using part-time schedules to build loyalty and tend the bottom line, streamlining charitable giving … it's all here.

I hope this issue gives you some great ideas. Maybe they're ideas you've had once or twice before. But even the experts know good advice when they hear it-and you can't hear good advice often enough!

Merrilyn Astin Tarlton,