Oklahoma City attorney Elaine M. Dowling has recently started the Consumer Law Updates blawg.
For 100 weeks now, law-related bloggers (or blawgers, if you prefer) have been volunteering a few hours of their time each week to do a round-up of that week's blawg postings with lots of careful attention and lots of links. I can't say for sure that I've read a majority of them, but I've read quite a few. Some have been great and some forgettable. I'm proud to have hosted Blawg Review #49 exactly one year ago today.
Blawg Review #100 is a trip down memory lane. Ye Old Blawg Review Editor handles the task herself this week. (Well, being anonymous it could be "himself," but I have my opinions.) The Editor posts a link to each of the prior ninety-nine Blawg Review posts, if available, and also included links to any interesting content which that blawgger had posted last week. Check out Blawg Review #100. It is worth a quick scroll, even if you don't have time to read about them all. The number of different law-related blogs will certainly get your attention. Even if you are not really into following blogs, you could learn of one you could really use next month.
And, of course, Blawg Review, with its "hundredth" birthday so near my own, has to be our Website of the Week!
Near the end of January two great magazines focusing on solo and small firm law practice showed up on my desk. Both magazines had several personal connections to me (and several friends and colleagues) along with lots of material I wanted to highlight for you. In my prior post I noted that the American Bar Association's differing intramural Web posting policies made it difficult to cover on my blog what was so simple when it happened.
So the subject of the first post, Law Practice magazine, is freely available on the web, but may go behind the password shield in a few weeks. Today's subject is GPSolo magazine and the January/February issue of that publication has yet to be posted online. You should be able to find it here soon. And later, like all of the prior issues of GPSolo back to 1995, you should be able to find it here. It is great that the GPSSF Division leaves all this content available online for members and non-member lawyers alike.
So what got me so excited about this GPSolo issue? It focused on the Best of the Solo and Small Firm Conferences, a topic near and dear to my heart. So forgive the lack of links in this post, but with ABA TECHSHOW next week, it is do this now or probably not at all. In this GPSolo Editor-in-chief jennifer rose noted that my colleague with the Missouri Bar, Linda M. Oligschlaeger, is known as the mother of the solo and small firm conference movement. I know when I started our Oklahoma SSF conference calling Linda was the first thing on my list. The Missouri SSF conference still has the largest attendance.
These are really great events and great opportunities to meet other lawyers in similar practice settings. Most conferences mix substantive presentations with practice management and technology programs suited to the small firm market. Some smaller firm lawyers have often felt underserved by some bar associations. These conferences demonstrate a commitment to these lawyers.
For this issue of GPSolo magazine, the editors reviewed materials from numerous SSF conferences for reprinting. The titles should spark your interest. They include Foonberg's Favorite 70 Rules of Good Client Relations, Keeping 'Em Happy: Secrets of Client Satisfaction, Representing Non-English Speaking Clients, Sample Engagement Letters and Fee Agreements, two articles on Setting Up a Home Office, The Lawyer as Employer and "Pay Less in Taxes, Sleep Better at Night and Enjoy Life More." So does that sound like a line-up for a great Solo and Small Firm Conference or what? Both the Missouri and Oklahoma conferences were well represented in the articles selected.
Hopefully this great content will be posted online here soon. The good news is that it will be online thereafter without being hidden behind a password.
Several of these conferences are scheduled this summer, including a brand new one in Nebraska, where they've invited me to speak. If you are a solo or small firm lawyer, consider attending your local SSF conference or, if you don't have one, maybe you should do a scouting trip to a nearby conference on behalf of your bar association.
I'd love to point you to three great collections of materials for Solo and Small Firm lawyers, all from the American Bar Association. (Well, two graded great and one "needs improvement.") But, due to inconsistent ABA policies, the explanation of what is available, when and to whom, is a bit complex. So I'll cover these three potential gold mines in my next three blog posts.
The current good news should be first. The first issue of Law Practice magazine under the able leadership of new editor-in-chief David J. Bilinsky came out several weeks back and much of its contents is now available on the ABA web page. This great issue is called SOLOS, Rising to the Challenge and is all about solo lawyers. Here's the link to the table of contents. If you are not an ABA Law Practice Management Section member, you should go there soon and read/save/print what you deem important as the LPM section may soon lock up this content behind a member's only password. (Hopefully there appears to be movement within the LPM Section to reevaluate this policy.)
But what an issue! A newly launched section is described by Bilinsky as "our new Law Practice Case Study feature, which looks at a lawyer facing a complex real-life decision and asks the experts to provide forward, context-relevant advice." The first one is Wide Open Spaces: Advice for Starting Up a Solo Practice. Here, a fictional lawyer contemplates moving from a large firm to solo practice. Offering advice are practice management advisors Jim Calloway and Reba J. Nance, law firm administrator Lori J. Kannenberg and two well-known small firm lawyers—Stephen J. Harhai and Cory Furman.
Other articles include Going Solo: Rising to the Challenge, How to Set Up a Law Library: Solutions for Solos and Small Firms, A Financial Checklist for the New Solo Firm by David Bilinsky and Laura Calloway and Locking the Doors and the Windows: Security in the Solo World by Catherine Sanders Reach.
As I said, there's a lot of great content in this issue and I have not mentioned it all. Go. Read. Don't delay, especially if you are not an ABA LPM Section member. (And if you are already an ABA member, why aren't you?)
The ABA Journal for March, 2007 has a feature Fantasy life, Real Law. it is about lawyers who participate in the virtual community Second Life. I became interested in Second Life several months ago when I read that some people werre actually supporting themselves in the real world by their business activities in this virtual world. They design clothes for avatars or provide other goods and services and receive compensation in the local script, Linden dollars.
The article quotes several lawyers who are active Second Life participants, with online characters who are legal professionals. “ 'Many people have active fantasy lives in which they want to pretend to be things they are not because it makes their real life more bearable,' says Benjamin D. Cushman, the lawyer behind [online character] Beathan Vale. 'This really is a tool to enhance the daydreaming experience.”
Another lawyer reported generating real life clients and income via Second life
My son and I tried Second Life a few months ago. We had fun designing a character, but lost interest as a basic skill tutorial, moving a beach ball around, didn't perform as we thought it should. We complained to a few others who were there having the same problem and left. That was just as well because neither of us really has time for any new hobbies right now. (Learning to fly was fun, though.)
But Second Life clearly is not a second class operation. According to the website there are 4,558,662 residents with 1,629,589 having logged in during the last 60 days. The assertion that $1.770,716 in U.S. dollars was spent or exchanged there in the last 24 hours is attention-getting. Setting up a virtual law practice in the context of a game has many ethical and practical concerns. Read the ABA Journal article. You never know whether you might need a Second Life sometime.
I have been known to talk about lawyers delivering information to clients in the manner in which serves the client best. This means talking with the client about whether they prefer e-mail or hard copies, how frequently they wish to receive status reports, how your billing works into their payment cycle and lines of organizational communication. I do think, in many instances, communicating with clients via reports and copies in PDF format will prove to be increasingly popular.
The Law Practice Tips Blog serves information in several formats. The reader can peruse the blog website, or subscribe to receive the posts by e-mail. RSS Newsfeeds allow many to read the posts in their newsreader, even if not all of them recognize MyYahoo as a newsreader. RSS is used in other ways. The Wisconsin Bar uses the technology to republish (with permission) all of this blog's content at Practice411 Advice Alerts. My blog posts are frequently featured as a part of the such diverse places as the Vermont Bar News or the Stark County (OH) Law Library. And it is a given within the blogosphere that other bloggers link to and comment on your posts.
Well, in recently trying a couple of new things, I did sort of forget about some of the e-mail subscribers and others. So a couple of the last two posts may have been cryptic to some. One was about a YouTube Video, The Machine is Us/ing Us. This graphic representation of the evolution of the WWW to Web 2.0 became one of the most popular videos on YouTube and was the first video I ever wanted to feature on my blog. Embedding a visual link to the video was something new to learn. It looked good. But I should have also included the normal link to the video for the e-mail subscribers and Web republishers' audiences.
Live and learn. Here it is: http://youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE
Then a couple of days ago, I used a new Google application to create Oklahoma Law Practice Tips Search. There was a little interface called a gadget that I posted right into a blog post that let readers do searches. Of course the gadget didn't go out via e-mail or all other methods. (And to my fristration, it sometimes didn't even appear when one first looked at the blog post on the site and you had to hit refresh.)
That's OK because I wanted to mention Oklahoma Law Practice Tips Search again anyway. Check it out. Search for law practice management questions or terms (e.g. staff, management scanners) and you may find some interesting results. Basically I have created a Google subset of sites geared to law practice advice, with some Oklahoma law sites thrown in.
Heres the link to the page: http://tinyurl.com/33ts4l
As I said, live and learn.
We are having ABA TECHSHOW 2007 Chair Dan Pinnington as a speaker at our OBA Solo and Small Firm Conference June 21-23. (Oklahoma lawyers, look for information on the Conference in the March 10th Oklahoma Bar Journal.) One of his topics will be "Accounting for Lawyers: Excel with Excel."
ABA members recently received the following link in their MyABA e-mail. But for the rest of you, (or for those who didn't pay attention the first time) this should be of interest. At ABA Midyear meeting in Miami a few weeks ago, the Young Lawyers Division and the Law Practice Management Section co-sponsored a program on retainers, fees and billing. The presentation materials are available online. Viewing PowerPoint slides without seeing the oral presentation often loses a lot in translation, and some of these are pretty sparse. Nevertheless, here is a great opportunity for a 15 to 20 minute refresher course on retainers and billing. Most readers should take advantage of this opportunity. Read the summary here and then download the PDF file with the materials. Priya Harjani's nine points about billing at the end are definitely worth your effort.