Bar News - January 14, 2011
Three Practice Tips from the First Annual FirmFuture Conference
By: Patricia S. Gardner
Making the move from a large corporation to a small practice has become a lot easier with the help of "FirmFuture Practice Management and Legal Technology," a conference held recently by the Massachusetts Bar Association in cooperation with the NH Bar Association, the Rhode Island Bar Association, and other legal services providers. The event was free to members of the NH Bar Association, inclusive of breakfast and lunch.
Held at the Copley Marriott Hotel in Boston, the event included seminars, networking opportunities, and exhibiters from all aspects of the business side of law firm management, and paid particular attention to the solo and small firm models of practice.
Here is just a sample of what I learned from this program:
1. Creating a Paperless Office
"Creating the Paperless Office," explained the technology and equipment needed to engage in paperless court filings as well as paperless document storage.
For those such as myself, who are dinosaurs in this area, it was particularly helpful to have someone demonstrate how to use a scanner and to provide the names and model numbers of affordable equipment.
Recommendations included the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 which I have since purchased ($429, free shipping from COSTCO) for office use, which scans and also converts to PDF format, and the "Magic Wand Portable Scanner" ($99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond) for travelling, which may be used for document scans at a deposition to download later at your office.
2. Starting Your Firm on a Budget
"Starting Your Firm on a Budget" was next, which featured three different firms who recently started on budgets of $2000, $5000 and $10,000 respectively, with each providing a list of products and services included in these budgets.
The lowest start-up firm used a "virtual office" model, where the greatest savings were achieved by the new attorney working out of a home office, but meeting clients at a professional conference room suite with included receptionist services and office equipment, all leased on a per diem basis – thus, a prestigious Boston address invoked only when needed to meet clients.
All three models reduced overhead by accessing free services on the internet (e.g. free conference calls found at www.freeconference.com) and discounted products described in the seminar below. The second firm budget included a fixed office location with lease, but focused on reducing equipment costs through coupons/coupon codes found at www.retailmenot.com, purchasing multi-tasking equipment such as a scanner that also copies, faxes and prints documents rather than four separate pieces of equipment, and obtaining "wi-fi" to provide internet access for laptop use whether in the car or on the beach while vacationing, essentially creating a "mobile office."
The most expensive start-up firm also had a leased location, but focused its efforts on Internet marketing, the creation of a website and multiple blogs for high Internet visibility in potential client searches. Each model showed that success can be achieved on all three budgets.
3. 60 Websites to Bring Your Firm into the Future
This last seminar was particularly valuable because it featured the websites where law firms could obtain at no charge legal tips, technological assistance, and where to buy equipment over the Internet at affordable, discounted prices.
Here are just a few samples: SoloSez, at www.solosez.net, on the ABA website is a worldwide list-serv of over 3,000 solo and small firm subscribers discussing everything from tech tips and legal opinions to what to wear to court; www.ZamZar.com will convert HTML documents to PDF format; www.mtgprofessor.com is the "Mortgage Professor" that addresses all aspects of mortgages and related calculations; www.tinyurl.com will truncate a lengthy URL when sending a link; www.truecrypt.com provides free encryption software; www.retailmenot.com provides coupons/coupon codes for products and equipment, and www.keyxl.com which provides keyboard shortcuts in document creation.
Thank you to the NH Bar Association for providing this opportunity to its members at no cost. See you all at FirmFuture next year!
Patricia Gardner was formerly the executive vice president and corporate counsel for Sullivan Paper Company, Inc., in Massachusetts, and moved her practice, the Gardner Law Firm, to New Hampshire at One New Hampshire Ave, Suite 125, Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.