Management Assistance Program on www.OKbar.org

Management Assistance Program

Great Resources Abound, but Time Does Not

by Jim Calloway

This “Opening a Law Practice” Issue of the Oklahoma Bar Journal is an important resource for me personally, as it provides a set of resources that I will be able to provide to new lawyers for years into the future. Although I have not yet read the other articles, I’m pleased to have more articles available on this important topic written with an Oklahoma point of view. In the two weeks leading up to this publication I will have taught the fall Opening Your Law Practice to Oklahoma lawyers twice, in Oklahoma City and in Tulsa. Brand new lawyers with the ink still drying on their licenses and more experienced lawyers were enrolled for these programs, underwritten by Oklahoma Attorneys Mutual Insurance Company.

As always, I made sure that they were aware of the OBA Management Assistance Program webpage and, in particular, our starting a Law Practice Web Directory, along with the MAP articles section which is the archive of most of these Law Practice Tips columns. But there are a lot of places online for advice on setting up and running a law practice. Some are good and some are not so good.

Opening a law practice means connecting with people. The lawyer will have advisors as well as clients. Those opening a practice in a new city are well advised to get involved in local bar activities and meetings so they can meet other local lawyers. Many new lawyers become involved in the OBA Young Lawyers Division. Lawyers who are new to a particular location should not hesitate to go introduce themselves around the local courthouse before they have a pending matter. So I want to stress that people connections should come before Internet connections.

Since there are a wide variety of online resources to help lawyers open a law practice and manage their practices, the intent of this article will be to point out some of the most valuable. I extend my apologies in advance to the writers and publishers of great content that I will inadvertently omit.

HOW TO BUILD A LAW PRACTICE MANAGEMENT NEWSFEED

“A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade” is the often-repeated quote about law practice from Abraham Lincoln. Even with all of the common labor-saving devices that we now have and with the huge amount of information available within seconds on the Internet, we all still find that time is our most precious and finite resource. So if you are going to benefit from the wealth of information flowing online, you really have to invest in 1) figuring out what information is valuable to you and 2) setting up a system where your desired information comes to you effortlessly, ideally on a mobile device, so you can make use of unexpected opportunities to read it.

There has been a lot of information written about RSS newsfeeds, but the concept often seems too technical for busy lawyers to embrace. Most are now familiar with the concept of “streaming news services” of different sources selected by the user. Two of the most popular “streaming news services” are Twitter and Facebook. These two services look very different when you log into a computer, but when accessed by a smart phone, they look remarkably the same.

Anyone who has looked at Facebook or Twitter with a mobile app can appreciate that you can scan/read a lot of items really quickly that way. So that is the best way to take advantage of the resources noted below that offer RSS feeds, in my opinion. Set up a way to pull them all together into one “feed” that you can check from your phone or other device when you have the time. Many use the magazine-style news readers like Zite, Flipboard or Pulse News. My current thinking is that the easiest way to do this is use Google Reader and then couple that with a phone app that displays the feeds well on your mobile device of choice. Based on the advice of Tom Mighell, I direct you to Reeder for the iPhone and Mr. Reader for the iPad. (See Glowing ZDnet review)  Based on the advice of Droid Lawyer Jeffrey Taylor, I’d recommend the Google Reader app which is free from Google Play or gReader, which is an unofficial Google Reader client. Mr. Taylor also reminds us to organize the specific resources in Google Reader by folders (Feed settings > New folder) This will save time locating items as Google Reader will organize them by the topic (folder) selected.

ONLINE MAGAZINES AND E-ZINES

I’ll discuss podcasts more in a moment, but I have to note that Sharon Nelson and I recently recorded the 60th edition of our podcast, The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. Five years of regular podcasting is quite a stretch. You can find the archives of the podcast here: www.tinyurl.com/8q72ybe

I wanted to mention the podcast because it is hosted on the free webzine Law Practice Today and LPT leads my “must subscribe” list. It has great free content from the ABA Law Practice Management Section. You can sign up to subscribe via email, which actually works a little better than the RSS feed for many, since subscribers receive the entire issue when it is published online at mid-month.

One of the features previously published on Law Practice Today is 50 Web Resources for the Suddenly Solo Lawyer by Jim Calloway and Allison C. Shields at. This was originally published in 2009 and republished again this past spring. There are a number of articles there about coping with change and economic uncertainty as well as links to other resources. We hope you can take the time to visit the page. Ms. Shields blogs about law practice management at the Legal Ease Blog.

Of course I have to note other resources I publish. My blog Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips and OBA MAP has launched a Law Practice Tips YouTube Channel. You can subscribe to my blog and receive the posts either by email or RSS feeds.

The sister print publication to Law Practice Today is Law Practice Magazine, online. Those who are not ABA members may pay a $64 subscription and have the traditional slick-cover magazine delivered to your door.

This magazine now has a really nifty phone app, which I have mentioned here before. Available at iTunes or Google Play. At $19.95 per year or $4.99 for a single issue, this is a real value.

The ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division maintains a Solo and Small Firm Resource Center. Also from the ABA, the Legal Technology Resource Center brings us the recently re-launched blog, Law Technology Today. All of the articles of GPSolo Magazine are also published online. But you can read them a bit sooner in the print edition by joining the GPSolo division if you are an ABA member or by subscribing to the magazine for $135 per year.

My fellow practice management advisors working at other state bars and Canadian law Societies are great sources of law practice management information. We aggregate all of their posts at the OKNEWS BAR feature, the PMA Alert. These are my go-to team when I need advice, and they should be your go-to online team. To allow you to visit each blog and subscribe, I have included the individual blog names and addresses in this PDF file, along with all of the other links in this article, so that readers can easily locate them and incorporate them into Google Reader.

I want to single out one of PMA’s blogs because it is relatively new. Catherine Sanders Reach started a new PMA program at the beginning of the year with the Chicago Bar Association, and her CBA Law Practice Management & Technology blog is a “must subscribe.” Our attendees at the 2012 OBA Solo and Small Firm Conference enjoyed Catherine’s presentations and so I wanted to make special note of her blog.

Probably the longest-running and best-known blog focused on solo and small firm practice is My Shingle by Carolyn Elefant. Many people follow her posts and she is known nationwide (make that worldwide) as an advocate for solo and small firm lawyers.

Carolyn Elefant has put together her own “Start a Law Firm Guide.” Another resource that she has published is Soloformania with links to many resources to many forms provided mainly by bar associations and courts, including several checklists for starting a new law office.

I tend to focus on law practice management and law office technology blogs. But there are great substantive law blogs as well. Each year the ABA Journal singles out 100 law blogs (aka blawgs) for its Blawg 100. The journal also maintains a massive Blawg Directory. These are great starting points to add new blogs to your Google Reader.

I feel like I have barely scratched the surface and yet you already have enough resources here for someone to spend an alarming number of billable hours reading advice about running your law practice. That is why I began this feature with the idea that the only realistic way to learn from these resources is to subscribe to them in Google Reader (or your RSS reader tool of choice) and then set up a phone app for your personalized news stream. The term “stream” is really a good analogy. As I have told several groups, it is good to think of these resources as a stream. Sometime when you need a drink or have time, you can kneel down at the stream and take a drink. When you get busy, you do not worry about what flowed by in your absence. But if you do not set up the stream, you will just miss most all of this content.

But before we move on to podcasts, I want to note a few other interesting law practice blogs: “3 Geeks and a Law Blog” covers issues about the future of law and law librarians. One of the three geeks is Greg Lambert, who was with www.oscn.net during its early days. Robert Ambrogi’s “Law Sites,” is where Mr. Ambrogi has been blogging for about 10 years now and he covers a lot more than just law websites. At “Law21,” Jordan Furlong writes deep thoughts on the future of law practice.

PODCASTS

Most of the above resources are text-based. Podcasts, as readers know, are audio files. They are, in effect, Internet radio shows. You cannot listen to a podcast while waiting in court or the judge’s chambers. But you also shouldn’t be trying to read your newsfeeds on your phone while driving or jogging. There are quite a few law-related podcasts. But there are a lot of podcasts on all sorts of interesting topics.

Many law-related podcasts are hosted by the Legal Talk Network. Among my favorite podcasts there are the Kennedy-Mighell Report featuring Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell, the Legal Toolkit featuring Jared Correia and the Un-Billable Hour featuring Rodney Dowell. I just discovered a podcast called New Solo, so I will have to check that one out.

There are a variety of smartphone apps for organizing your podcasts in both the Android and iOS world. You can install products like Downcast or Instacast for iOS to allow you to easily manage this content on your Apple mobile devices. In the Droid world, there are mobile apps like DoggCatcher, BeyondPod and Pocket Casts. Stitcher Radio has an app for both platforms.

Many iPhone users just subscribe to podcasts using iTunes and do not bother with other tools.

CONCLUSION

If you are opening a new law practice, reading the articles in this issue of the Oklahoma Bar Journal and the resources listed above may seem to represent a greater investment of time than you may think you have. Time is money, as the saying goes. But learning to do things the right way can ultimately save both time and money.

Mr. Calloway is director of the OBA Management Assistance Program. Need a quick answer to a tech problem or help resolving a management dilemma? Contact him at 405-416-7008, 800-522-8065 or jimc@okbar.org. It’s a free member benefit!

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, October 6, 2012 - Volume 83, No. 26