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Tag Archives: Practice Management

Technology has revolutionized the law, but apps marketed to lawyers mostly ignored (access required)

Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can teach him new ways to perform his old tricks. The practice of law has long been defined by large offices with documents spilling out from every available corner. But since the advent of cellular technology (and the laptop … and the BlackBerry … and the iPad), some law offices have reduced real estate, found the ability to work on airplanes and even gone completely paperless. As technology advances, lawyers find themselves on call 24/7 and can respond more quickly and efficiently to client requests. The tradeoff: a certain amount of personal freedom.

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Where is your office, and why is it there? (access required)

Some lawyers like to be close to the courthouse; others like to be as far away as possible from a necktie. Some want the prestige of a tall building in the middle of a city's commercial district; others prefer the practicality of easy parking. A law firm's building and location declare something eloquent about the firm's mission. But they also deliver a less legal message, one of personality. "A lot of thought goes into your nest," Davidson attorney Bob McIntosh (pictured) said. Of his office space which is located in the old Davidson Cotton Mill he said, "I spend most of my time here, and I love being here."

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Tripped up (access required)

In 1972, when he began practicing law, Michael Kemp drove a 1972 Monte Carlo, paid 35 cents a gallon for gas and felt like king of the hill. Today, the Mount Holly attorney gets around in a Honda Accord and pays at least $3.35 a gallon for gas. The rising price of fuel has taken its toll on attorneys, particularly those who must travel to multiple courthouses, and many have adjusted their driving habits and vehicles to compensate. "We all have cars that get a lot better gas mileage than they did when I started practicing law because nobody thought about it then," Kemp said.

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Coach’s Corner: Your lease is a strategic planning tool, make use of it

I received a call from a lawyer wanting to know what percentage of his gross revenue should be allocated to rent and whether his percentage was in line with other law firms. I cited one study that put the average at 9 percent, but his comeback was that another consultant said the average was 12 percent. Such generic numbers totally miss the point on two levels. First, they allow lawyers to think that they need not try to do better than the average. And second, they obscure the point that the cost of office space is a statement about the law firm itself, raising issues that should be addressed in a strategic plan.

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Drawing boundaries with clients (access required)

While many lawyers pride themselves on client service, few enjoy losing their nights and weekends to client calls and emails. Lawyers must balance their need for personal time with the importance of providing great client service, advises Erik Mazzone (pictured), director of the Center for Practice Management at the North Carolina Bar Association in Cary. That said, "being a lawyer is a hard job and having the time to recharge your batteries allows you to be better at your job," Mazzone says. "I'd go home and ask my spouse: ‘Do I need boundaries?'"

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Coach’s Corner: What makes a law firm a good place to work?

Every law firm is, or should be, a team, with lawyers, staff and support personnel committed to a team effort for providing the best possible service and work product for the benefit of clients. Involving everyone in the office so that they feel a sense of inclusiveness, understanding their roles and looking forward to exercising them, creates a better and more successful firm. At too many law firms, unfortunately, this does not exist.

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Guest Column: The greatest practice management tool ever … possibly

I am generally an early adopter of technology, and, admittedly, a bit of a gadget snob. I can't believe this little gem escaped my radar for almost two years. I've just purchased my first Livescribe Pulse Digital Smartpen. As a compulsive note-taker, this pen changed my life (sounds ridiculous, I know) and it will change the way you practice law. Professional note-takers like lawyers and paralegals know that organizing notes can be an insurmountable task. Not anymore.

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Coach’s Corner: Dissolution should not be a firm’s only contingency

Clients clamor for alternatives to hourly rate billing because they want lawyers to have an incentive stake in the outcome of a matter. This is the case with contingency fees, where lawyers get a flat percentage of the value earned for the client. Contingency fees are often used in litigation, from personal injury cases to high-stakes corporate disputes.

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Coach’s Corner: ‘They can’t replace ME with a computer’

We have frequently written about how computer technology is a two-edged sword that can offer cost-efficient advantages to the law firm that leverages it, or can be the death knell to the law firm that does not keep pace. Nowhere was this duality been better illustrated than in a recent story in The New York Times. Its headline alone should give any member of the profession pause: "Armies of Expensive Lawyers Replaced by Cheaper Software."

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