practice management advice
taking the lead
memoranda. Every law firm should have regular, short training
sessions highlighting word processing tips and techniques.
Everyone should be forced to attend. The lawyer who does not
want to attend because he already knows it all should be assigned
to teach a class.
While it may be a good business model for legal assistants
to format a federal court brief for filing, all lawyers should also
know what to do. Today’s lawyer should understand word processing tools such as Microsoft Word Quick Parts, macros and
templates. If needed, ask your staff for some training help.
The traditional lawyer met with a client, took the client’s relevant information in handwritten form on a legal pad and then
used that information. Most law firms are now past the point
where basic client information, such as the mailing address, is
typed multiple times to open a file and set up billing. Now law
firms need to learn to enter all client information into a system
where it can generate documents as the need arises. We live in
the age of data. Getting the client’s data input into your system
so it can be easily reused is key for today’s law firm. There are a
wide range of document assembly tools available now. Is your
firm using document assembly well?
We live in a world of rapid-fire change. Lawyers have always
grumbled about changes in laws or regulations, but now business
practices and tools are evolving rapidly. Read publications such
as Law Practice magazine, Law Practice Today, the Law Practice
Management Section blog ( lawtechnologytoday.org) and the
New Normal column in the ABA Journal to stay on top of our
BE BOTH EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE.
Management guru Peter F. Drucker’s often-quoted statement
on this topic is: “Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is
doing the right thing.”
Recently, Ron Baker of the VeraSage Institute posted on
LinkedIn an essay titled “Big Idea 2013: Stop Worrying About
Efficiency.” This was supplemented by a follow-up piece with
numerous comments from a diverse group. Both are recom-
Baker’s primary point is that improving efficiency today
in business is often too focused on cost cutting. He quotes
from Drucker’s People and Performance:
“Effectiveness focuses on opportunities to produce revenue, to
GROWTH CANNOT BE INFINITE.
create markets, and to change the economic characteristics of
existing products and markets. It asks not, How do we do this
or that better? It asks, Which of the products really produce
extraordinary economic results or are capable of producing
Setting up new tools to capture every stray tenth of an hour so
that it can be billed may be efficient, but it is not very effective if
the client is already pressuring the firm to reduce the fees it pays.
One thing that appears to be certain is that the legal
profession cannot look to continued growth to solve its systemic
issues. Yes, we can all look back on several decades of impressive
growth in law firm revenues. Yet there is little evidence today that
the future will look like the past where revenues are concerned.
Bruce MacEwen recently completed a 12-part series entitled
“Growth Is Dead” on his blog ( adamsmithesq.com) and has also
compiled all of the posts into an $8.49 Kindle e-book you can
purchase from Amazon. This is more required reading—at least
for the law firm management team.
IMAGE ISN’T EVERYTHING, BUT IT IS
Your future success is based on the number of people who
believe your advice and services are valuable commodities—
something worth paying for. While referrals are still the very
best way to obtain new business, an increasing number of people
learn about their potential lawyer from information garnered
online. Every law firm—even a solo practice—needs a website
with biographical information and a photograph of each lawyer.
Your email address should reflect your website domain. Writing
for publications that publish articles online is a good way to
demonstrate your expertise.
Your best marketing tool remains what it always has been. Do
great work for clients and build a reputation that causes others
to refer your legal work.
We do not know everything the future holds, nor can we guarantee future success. “Future-proofing” your law firm is really
an exercise in improving your business practices and determining your priorities. That is something every professional practice
should be doing for today and for tomorrow. LP
BY JIM CALLOWAY
Jim Calloway is director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He
publishes the blog Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips ( jimcalloway.typepad.com) and also produces,
with Sharon D. Nelson, the monthly podcast, The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. His Twitter
handle is @jimcalloway.