Bar Bulletin

July, 2004

 SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER:

BY PAT YEVICS  

"What Have We Done for You Lately?"
~Help for solos and other member benefits~

By Pat Yevics

Sometimes it is important to remind members of the services provided by our department (LOMA, as well as others at the MSBA). It is often difficult to remember what services we offer. So get ready because we are going to let you know how we can help you. (Pay attention; there will be a quiz at the end.)

A Little History
The Department of Law Office Management Assistance (LOMA) was created as a result of a report presented by the Task Force on Solo and Small Firm Practitioners to the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA). The Task Force was created in June 1992 by then MSBA President Roger Perkins. Perkins was the MSBA’s first president who was a solo practitioner. He believed that needs of this large segment of the membership were not being met. In October 1993, I was hired to assist solo and small firm practitioners, although I was not sure at the time what that meant.

In talking with the few state bar associations that had similar programs at the time, we started to formulate some ideas.

Now that we again have a solo practitioner as President of the MSBA, I think it is important to remind members about the services we provide.

Resources and Information
Through LOMA we provide information on many software applications. We have a small library of reviews and articles describing various software packages. We try to keep the reviews as up-to-date as possible. We will forward that information to any member who requests it. For a list of the reviews we have available, please go to www.msba.org/departments/loma/infopacks.htm.

Our office receives many calls each week from new and experienced practitioners alike about such areas as equipment, accounting, technology, etc. We have created many information packets that assist solo practitioners with these requests. Some of the information is located directly on our website and others will need to be requested and mailed to you. For articles on the website, go to www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/articles.htm; for a list of other articles, visit www.msba.org/departments/loma/infopacks.htm. There is information on such topics as starting a practice, marketing and client development, office management, characteristics of an efficient practice and technology tips.

We have become the telephone help desk for law practice management and technology for solo and small firm practitioners throughout the state. We receive over 50 calls a week for advice or information. If you have any questions and do not know where to start, please call our office. If we can’t answer your question, we will help find someone who can.

We make available to our members American Bar Association (ABA) publications that relate to technology or law practice management issues. They are available for a discount at our website at www.msba.org/departments/membership/discounts.htm.

Our “How to Start a Solo Packet” includes items which must be considered when starting a solo practice. We also have an audio tape of one of our most popular programs, “How to Start a Solo Practice.”

Every month, the MSBA’s Bar Bulletin features a Solo/Small Firm Practitioner column (you’re looking at this month’s) on topics of interest to solo/small firm practitioners, written by either a solo practitioner or myself. The column is practical and offers tips and suggestions on managing a small law office. Each of the articles offers free additional information on a variety of topics.

Educational Programs
We co-sponsor programs with local bar associations on issues relating to efficiently managing a solo practice. These programs have been designed for experienced practitioners as well as new practitioners. Almost all of our programs are scheduled on Saturdays or evenings to make it easier for solo and small firm practitioners to attend. In addition to the law practice management programs with local bars, we present a Solo and Small Firm Conference each November. This is an all-day program with as many as 30 different sessions. The topics deal with technology, profitability, employees, marketing, client development, stress and time management and other issues for solo and small firm practitioners. In addition, MICPEL sponsors a track with legal topics. Also in attendance are many vendors with services and products specifically for solo and small firm practitioners.

In conjunction with the Solo and Small Firm Practice Section, we feature two “How to Start a Solo Practice” programs each year to assist new practitioners in setting up a law practice. The programs are always the last Saturdays in January and June and are usually held in Laurel, Maryland. The next program will be at the Holiday Inn in Laurel on January 29, 2005. The topics covered will include marketing, business aspects of starting a practice, how to avoid malpractice, attorney/client relationships, etc. All of the presenters are experienced members of the bar who gave practical advice for new practitioners.

In 1999, the Solo and Small Firm Section was able to sponsor Solo Day at the MSBA Annual Meeting. This was created specifically to give solo and small firm practitioners the opportunity to come to the MSBA Annual meeting for one day of educational programs specifically for solo and small firm practitioners. It is on a Friday and there is a one-day registration fee.

This year’s Solo Day was conducted on June 18, 2004, and there were sessions on billing and fees, great Internet sites, personnel issues and enjoying the practice of law. It was great success. Next year’s Solo Day is Friday, June 17, 2005.

We sponsor at least one technology program each year and co-sponsor a program with MICPEL called “Practice Perfect,” designed to help experienced practitioners avoid problems. The speakers are Mel Hirshman and Al Frederick. The next Practice Perfect is Friday, July 9, 2004, in Shady Grove, Maryland.

We also speak at local bar associations throughout the state on a variety of law office management and technology issues. Starting in September, we are planning a series of law office management topics on “Writing Your Own Marketing Plan” and “Billing and Collections” that we will present throughout the state.

www.msba.org
Although LOMA was initially instrumental in developing the website, all departments contribute to it. Listed below are some of the information and services on the website.

  Member Directory: All MSBA members are listed on the website (unless they requested to not be listed). It is possible to search on a variety of ways to find a lawyer. The directory is available to the general public. Members of the public can search on last name, law firm, county, practice area, section membership and state. For example, a member of the public could find a family law lawyer from Baltimore County who is licensed in both Maryland and Pennsylvania.

  Change of Address/Membership Data: It is possible to change your membership data online by going to the Member Directory.

  Departments: A list of all MSBA staff members and their responsibilities is listed on the site. This will help you get the right person in the beginning.

  Sections/Committees: There is a list of all Section Council and Committee members. In addition, each Section has a website featuring information specific to its practice area. Section newsletters are available online for its members only. There is a description of all committees and the work that they do.

In addition, you can join all section Email Lists at this site. All Sections have Email Lists where you can post questions and get answers.

The Real Property, Planning & Zoning Section will be testing a new method of communication with a Forum. This will allow members to have discussions on just topics of interest to the participants. You will also be able to search topics and messages. We will make these forums available to all Sections very shortly.

Many of the sections include minutes from council meetings as well links appropriate for Section members.

  ID Badges: Applications for Court House ID badges can also be found online. They can be printed and mailed to the MSBA for your ID Badge.

  Calendar: A listing of all MSBA, MICPEL and many local bar programs/meetings is featured on the MSBA Calendar of Events. There are also directions to all MSBA-approved restaurants on the calendar page.

  Member Benefits: There are many items listed on the member benefits page. This is where you can find the monthly list of members on the Ethics Hotline. You can also get information on all the vendor benefits that the MSBA offers and contact information. There is a link to the LOMA page, which has many articles on office management and technology and lists of information packets that are available for members.

There is also a list of many ABA publications that can be purchased at a 30 percent discount off non-ABA member prices for MSBA members.

  For Members Only:

  • Electronic Bar Briefs (EBB): This is a free, members-only service that will e-mail you a daily synopsis of Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals opinions. You can choose from a list of 15 practice areas.

  • Ethics Opinions: This is a searchable list of all MSBA Ethics Opinions that are available online and can be printed.

  • Mentoring Program: This is a list of 250 members of the MSBA who have volunteered to answer questions on a variety of topics. They are listed by county and have practice-area information.

  Publications: The Table of Contents of each edition of the Maryland Bar Journal is listed here. The complete Annual Report is online, as are many of the articles from the Bar Bulletin.

A list of all legal brochures and the text of all the brochures are available online. There is also information on ordering the brochures.

In addition, many other publications, such as the “Gender Equality Report” and the “Code of Civility,” are also available.

  Career Center: The Young Lawyers Section sponsors the Legal Career Center where attorneys and employers can go to find or list jobs. This is a national search engine, and it can be found at the Legal Career Center/.

  Legal Vendor E-Mall: This is the place to go to find vendors that provide services and products specific to the legal community in Maryland. This should be the first place you look to find what your firm needs.

  Legal Links: This list of links is specific for members of the legal profession. In addition to the usual government and court sites, we also have links and information about all local and specialty bar associations in Maryland. We have links to many of the agencies listed in the White Pages of the Maryland Lawyers’ Manual.
This should be a bookmark on your computer.

This is just a snapshot of all the services that we provide through LOMA and the MSBA website, but there is so much more. For more information, visit www.msba.org, or call Pat Yevics (800) 492-1964, ext. 3039, or pyevics@msba.org. If I do not have the answer, I will help you find it.

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