Looking Back, and Moving Forward
My year as LPM Section Chair has gone by more quickly than I ever thought possible. The Section actives have worked hard to make this an incredibly successful year in developing new educational resources, publishing best-selling books and award-winning periodicals, and overall making this year a great success for the Section. And from the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado to the BoardWalk Inn in Florida, we had a lot of fun doing it in some incredibly scenic and enjoyable places.
I want to thank all the volunteers and the Section’s staff, who have worked so hard to make this a great year for the entire Section.
Law Practice Then and Now
When I first started practicing law 30 years ago, firms were just starting to efficiently use hourly rate billing, leverage associates to increase partner profitability, and grow into the megafirms we see today. Then, about 10 years ago, a pronounced shift began away from growing profitability solely by increasing hourly rates or throwing more warm bodies (usually associates) at the client’s legal problems. We started to see a move toward working with technology, working smarter, and even using alternative billing structures that the more enlightened clients were demanding.
Today technology in law firms is driving much of the innovation in our practices and in the delivery of legal services.
So, if technology is so great, why aren’t more of us using more of it? Just because we are lawyers, does that give us an excuse to not use—or make us immune from the benefits of—technology? Thanks to technology, I can now set up a new corporation in an amazingly short time: I complete the needed documents in about 15 minutes and then go online and file the certificate of incorporation in about 2 minutes. It used to take me and a secretary several hours to do this when I started practicing in 1975.
The incorporation laws haven’t changed much over the past 30 years, but the technology has. Lawyers who still bill by the hour for this type of work just don’t get it—and either they or their clients are (unnecessarily) paying for it. With today’s tools, we can provide legal services to clients in a fraction of the time (and with fewer clerical errors) than ever before. Both the client and the lawyer can reap economic benefits from more and better use of technology.
Come On, Try Something New!
Here is a challenge for today. There are some great technology tips throughout this issue of Law Practice, on topics such as courtroom technology, password protection and the wide world of Weblogs. Jot down at least three tips to put to use in your practice today.
All of us have existing software that we are underutilizing. Make a point of learning one new function a day for the next week and see if it makes practicing law just a little easier, even a bit better, for you and your clients.
Again, thanks for the great year—and I hope you have gotten as much out of it as I have!
NEW Making the most of your membership
In this new column, we will help you get in touch with your LPM Section member benefits. In each issue, we’ll highlight a different benefit—and explain how you can make the most of it. For starters, here's a list of your core LPM Section membership benefits:
We’ll provide more details in the coming months. If you'd like more information about any of these benefits, please visit the LPM Section’s Web site at www.lawpractice.org/membership or contact Tina Belanger, Director of Marketing & Member Services, at email@example.com.
Mark A. Robertson ( firstname.lastname@example.org), Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section, is a member of the Oklahoma City law firm Robertson & Williams. He is also coeditor of Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies That Work, 2nd Ed. ( ABA, 2002).