Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : July 2010

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SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER

As some of you may know, the idea of the Law Office Management Assistance Department (LOMA) was introduced in 1992, when then-MSBA President Roger Perkins created a Task Force to determine the needs of solo and small firm practitioners and how the MSBA could help meet some of those needs. (In addition being LOMA's 17th year, this year also marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Solo and Small Firm Practice Section, originally called the General Practice Section.)

In the beginning, the main goal for LOMA was to serve as a resource for solo and small firm practitioners, though no one was really sure what that meant at the time. In addition, we would work closely with the Solo and Small Firm Practice Section.

There have been many changes since we started, and hopefully even more to come. However, it is important to sometimes remind members of the services that LOMA and other departments at the MSBA provide. 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 (and pay attention – there is going to be a quiz at the end).

Also, welcome to all new June admittees who are receiving their first MSBA Bar Bulletin.

Law Office Management Assistance:

More Than Just Another Pretty Face

Before the Internet (yes, there was a time when there was no Internet), we kept information and reviews of many software applications. We kept a small library of reviews and articles describing various software packages.

Technology is changing so quickly that most reviews and information do not come through traditional magazines but rather via online publications. Effective this month, we will begin continuously linking to many of these reviews and information. We will update these regularly and delete out-of-date information more quickly. You will be able to see this information on the LOMA website at www.msba.org/departments/loma.

The LOMA website contains much information, including:

  • links to office management videos
  • information packets on starting a practice, marketing and client development, office management and characteristics of an efficient practice
  • weekly technology and practice management tips
  • an Economic Resource Guide
  • links to practice management software information for solo and small firms
  • links to other services and resources for solo and small firm practitioners.

Who You Gonna Call (or E-mail or Follow or Friend)?

Our office receives many calls and e-mails each week from new and experienced practitioners about such topics as equipment, accounting, technology, etc. We have created many information links that assist solo practitioners with these requests. Much of the information is available online. For online articles, go to www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/articles.htm, where we have information on Closing a Practice, How to Leave a Practice and File Retention that can be viewed and downloaded from the website. Again, this is available to MSBA Members only.

We have also become the telephone help desk for law practice management and technology for solo and small firm practitioners throughout the state. If you have any questions and do not know where to start, call our office. We may not be able to answer all of your questions, but we can find someone who can. If you are not sure where to turn, call us.

LOMA also has a Twitter account where we share links and information on up-to-the-minute tips related to the legal community and office management and technology. Follow us at www.twitter.com/msbaloma.

We also make available to our members ABA publications that relate to technology or law practice management issues. They are available at a discount on our website at www.msba.org/departments/membership/discounts.htm.

Education Programs

LOMA, in conjunction with the Solo and Small Firm Practice Section, sponsors a Solo and Small Firm Conference each November. The dates for 2010 are November 12–13 at the BWI Hilton. Find more information or register now online at www.msbasoloconference.org. Do not wait. We have sold out in the past.

This is an all-day program featuring as many as 30 different sessions, and topics include technology, profitability, employees, marketing, client development, stress and time management and other issues for solo and small firm practitioners. In addition, the MSBA's new CLE Department will sponsor a track with legal topics. Also in attendance are many vendors with services and products specifically for solo and small firm practitioners.

Also, in conjunction with the Solo and Small Firm Practice Section, we have two annual "How to Start a Solo Practice" programs to assist new practitioners in setting up a law practice. The programs are usually the last Saturdays in February and July and are usually held in Laurel. The topics covered include marketing, business aspects of starting a practice, how to avoid malpractice and attorney/client relationships. All of the presenters are experienced members of the bar who give practical advice for new practitioners.

Each year, the Solo and Small Firm Section sponsors Solo Day @ the  MSBA Annual Meeting. This is specifically designed to give solo and small firm practitioners the opportunity to come to the MSBA Annual meeting for one day of educational programs specifically geared toward solo and small firm practitioners. The 2011 Solo Day @ the Annual Meeting is on Friday, June 10, 2011. It is not too early to put it on your calendar.

Connecting with Other Solo and Small Firm Practitioners

If you are not currently a member of the Solo and Small Firm Practice Section, then you are missing out on the opportunity to ask questions and get almost immediate responses 24/7 through the Section e-mail discussion list. I never cease to be amazed at the questions and helpful responses that are posted daily on the e-mail list. This is also true of many of the other Sections and their e-mail lists.

There is a great deal of information to help solo and small firm practitioners on the MSBA website. 

  • Member Directory: All MSBA members are listed on the website (unless they request to not be listed). The directory is available to the general public, who 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.
  • ID Badges: Applications for Court House ID badges can be found at www.msba.org/departments/administration/idbadge.htm. They can be printed and mailed to the MSBA for your ID Badge.
  • Calendar: All MSBA (and many local bar) programs/meetings are listed on the calendar. There are also directions to all MSBA-approved restaurants on the calendar page. Visit www.msba.org/calendar/default.asp.
  • Member Benefits: There are many items listed on the member benefits page (www.msba.org/departments/membership/benefit.htm). Information on all the vendor benefits that the MSBA offers and contact information is available. 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.

Some of the many offered benefits that can really help you and your practice and save you money include:

  • MSBA members can receive a discount off all ABA Publications, including podcasts.
  • Credit card processing through Law Firm Merchant Accounts allows you to take credit card payments for both retainer and operating account fees.
  • Office supplies from Office Depot are available to MSBA members at additional discounts.
  • Online backup through our newest benefit, Corevault.
  • Cost-effective web design with ESQSites 123.
  • Postini® anti-virus software, which we also use at the MSBA.
  • Free online legal research with Fastcase.

Additional members-only benefits include:

  • Electronic Bar Briefs (EBB). This is a service that will e-mail you a daily synopsis of Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals opinions. It is free and for members only. You can choose from a list of 15 practice areas. (www.msba.org/members/ebb/index.htm)
  • Ethics Opinions. A searchable list of all MSBA Ethic Opinions is available online and can be printed. (www.msba.org/members/default.asp)
  • Mentoring Program. This is a list of 250 MSBA members who have volunteered to answer questions on a variety of topics. They are listed by county and have practice area information.  (www.msba.org/members/default.asp)
  • Publications. The Maryland State Bar Association offers a series of 24 easy-to-read guides designed to inform the public about common legal problems; a complete list of these titles as well as the text of all the brochures is available online. These brochures are free to the public, and attorneys may purchase copies for 25 cents each. This can be a great help for new solo practitioners. There is also information on ordering the brochures. (www.msba.org/departments/commpubl/publications/brochures/index.htm)

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

  • 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. (www.msba.org/links/emall/default.asp)
  • Legal Links. This list of links is specific to members of the legal profession. In addition to the usual government and court sites, we have links and information about all local and specialty bar associations in Maryland. We also 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. (www.msba.org/links/index.htm)

This is just a snapshot of all the services provided through LOMA and the MSBA website. There is so much more. For more information, visit www.msba.org, or contact Pat Yevics at (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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