October 23, 2012

Thoughts on Change from LPM Section Chair

Law Practice Magazine

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Features | Frontlines | Technology | Business

December 2008 Issue | Volume 34 Number 8| Page 4


Thoughts on Change from LPM Section Chair

Given the political winds of change now sweeping across America, it seems only appropriate to spend some time thinking about how current sentiments might affect the leadership of our law firms. I'm not referring to a change in political parties, or even to the changes in policy that may result from the recent elections. Where one party wins today, another will undoubtedly win tomorrow. That's our system.

The change I am referring to is the changing demographic of those who run our country, and correspondingly, of those who run our law firms. As a group, today's partners are younger than their predecessors (in spirit, if not in actual years) and are more comfortable with technology. They are hungry for knowledge, and they gather the knowledge they seek in ways that would not have been possible just a few years ago. Long-distance learning and online publications are no longer just great ideas. They are part of our everyday lives.

But it's not just attitudes toward technology that have changed. Today's managing partners realize that the practice of law is more than a profession. It's also a business, and they want their firms to be prepared to compete. Unlike many of their predecessors, they recognize the value of practice management. They preach this to their attorneys and staff, and back it up by providing up-to-date practice management training and tools.

Firms also have increasingly begun to recognize that the "one-size-fits-all" approach to law firm management will no longer work.Today's managing partners must deal with issues such as alternative billing and legal outsourcing, either of which may affect their business differently than their competition's. Today law firm marketing involves much more than deciding where to place a Yellow Pages ad. It involves online and print strategies, with consideration of the firm's particular market position and desired client base. Firm management also must address increasingly important work-life balance issues-both lawyers and staff often place more value on professional growth and personal time than did their predecessors.

Today's managing partners must seek creative solutions to individual problems, and the best way to do so is to stay informed. This means reading more than just case summaries and recent court decisions. Today's managing partners also should read books and magazines and attend educational programming dedicated to improving their practice management skills. After all, they likely spend more than half their time running their firm.

This is an area where the Law Practice Management Section can help. Through our various publications and educational programs, we provide information related to the marketing, management, technology and finance of a law practice. The information is available in a variety of forms: books, articles, teleconferences, downloadable courses and in-person programming. We even take our programming on the road. If you are interested, please check out the LPM Section's Web site, contact our publication editors, and feel free to make topic suggestions using the online CLE program proposal form.

About the Author

Walt Karnstein, Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section, is a partner and an intellectual property attorney with Kolisch Hartwell PC in Portland, OR.