Maryland Bar Bulletin


Publications : Bar Bulletin : April 2012

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If you read last month’s Bar Bulletin, you know that it was my annual “share what I’ve read in publications” piece.  However, I was so far behind and there was so much good information and not enough space, that I wanted to continue this month.

The theme of the December 2011 issue of the ABA GPSOLO magazine was “Turbo Charging Your Office”.

In the article “For $1000.00 Budget”, Rodney S. Dowell offers these tips:

  • Get a scanner and best choice is Fujitsus ScanSnap S1500 for both Mac and Windows which is packaged with Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard. He does recommend that you upgrade to Adobe Acrobat X Professional. 
  • Get a large monitor – 24 inches or larger. He believes that a large monitors make research and drafting more efficient which saves time and thus, money.
  • Get a Smartphone.  Can’t really believe that most solos do not have some type of Smartphone. 
  • Outsource some administrative functions such as accounting by using a virtual legal assistant.
  • Finally, he suggests that you get more from what you already have by utilizing online training.  MS Office (office.microsoft.com) and Adobe (Acrobat for Legal Professionals – http://blogs.adobe.com/acrolaw) offer great free online training.

In “On a $2500 Budget”, Andrew C. Simpson adds on to Dowell’s recommendations:

  • Get three (yes, three) monitors – one for word processing, one for the document you are working from, and the third for your practice management program. You will need UltraMon (www.realtimesoft.com) to manage the three screens.
  • Get Snagit, (www.techsmith.com) a screen capture program which is much more effective than the PrtScn in Windows. 
  • He also recommends getting a “duplex speakerphone” for your conference room because it “allows the transmission of conversations from both ends of the call at the same time so that your speaker doesn’t cut your voice out.” A recommended vendor is Polycom (www.polycom.com).
  • Finally, get an iPad. He recommends getting 3G rather than just with WiFi but can go with 16GB rather than 32GB.  (NOTE:  I agree that if you are going to use your iPad extensively for your practice, then 3G is the way to go although it adds to the cost.)
  • If there is money left in your budget he finally recommends a color laser jet.

Switching over to the September/October 2011 issue of ABA Law Practice, Marcia Pennington Shannon penned an article, “Cultivating the Art of Effective Communication”, that included a list of self assessment questions she calls “client communication quotient.”

These are questions you should consider asking yourself with each client or at least those with whom you may be having some issues.

The questions can be answered with one of four responses: always, often, sometimes, never. It should go without saying that most of your answers should be always or often.  These are really good questions, and I recommend that you keep them handy when dealing with clients.

The questions are:

  • Do I ask questions to ensure there is a clear understanding of the client’s expectation?
  • Do I understand the changes in my client’s business needs and priorities?
  • Do I demonstrate competence when communicating with clients?
  • Do I respond promptly to phone calls, emails and other communications?
  • Do I demonstrate that I care about the process, not just the end result?
  • Do I regularly update my clients on the progress of their matters?
  • Do I share reasons, not just conclusions?
  • Do I communicate a sincere desire to help clients solve their problems?
  • Do I translate legal issues into terms the client can understand?
  • Do I take the time to listen to and understand the client’s story?
  • Do I understand and respect any differences in point of view that I may have with my clients?
  • Do I keep clients involved in the decision-making process?
  • Do I ask the clients for their feedback on the services they have received?
  • Do I get new business referrals from my current and former clients?

Lastly, there is “Supervising Your Team Electronically: Email Do’s and Don’ts”, which is also by Marcia Pennington Shannon and appeared in the March/April 2011 ABA Law Practice.

Although most solo and small firm practitioners may not have “teams”, many do have staff or associates and use email for managing a matter. This article lists some techniques to ensure that supervision is effective while emails shoot back and forth constantly.

It is very easy to have mistakes made when using email to give directions and managing a case. Some helpful tips follow:

  • Write the messages effectively so the directions are clear. The subject line should be clear and as short as possible. 
  • Using “high priority” constantly diminishes its effectiveness. 
  • Only discuss one topic in an email and if the topic changes, make certain that the subject line reflects the change. 
  • Be very specific.

If you really look at these suggestions, the message is to have  good communication, which applies to every form of supervision.

More to Come

Although I receive fewer publications than in the past, there is still excellent information in many of those that I continue to receive, and as I try to catch up, I promise myself to not get so far behind. I will see how well that works. When I find something worth repeating, I will share it with you in either my twitter feed or in the Bar Bulletin

Next month, I am planning to revisit social media, and how it is changing the legal landscape. 

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Publications : Bar Bulletin : April 2012

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