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Cover Story: Law Practice Management: Bar Association Offers Innovative Help to Better Serve Your Clients

By Daniel J. Siegel

Fall 2006, Vol. 69, No. 3

For bar associations to retain and attract new members, they must devise new services and benefits to differentiate themselves from similar groups and to provide added value for the membership dollar. With the creation of the Law Practice Management (“LPM”) Division, and the Law Practice Management Service, the Philadelphia Bar Association has done just that—providing a broad range of new benefits unique to any local bar association in the country. As a result of these initiatives, members can now turn to the Association for assistance in building and improving the business aspects of their practices.

The brainchild of Chancellor Alan M. Feldman, the LPM Division is an umbrella for the existing Large Firm Management, Mid-Sized Firm Management and Solo and Small Firm Committees, as well as the home for the newly created Practice Technology, Financial Management, Business Management, and Law Firm Marketing Committees. In addition, through the LPM service, which can be reached at (215) 238-6314, Association members can speak with the LPM program counselor and receive a referral to an expert who will provide a free one-hour consultation in a wide range of practice management subjects, including:

  • Accounting Software Implementation
  • Advertising & Media Relations
  • Bookkeeping & Payroll
  • Business & Management Skills
  • Client Development
  • Communications Management
  • Development of Employee Manuals & Policies
  • Employee Benefit & Insurance Program Design
  • Ethical Guidance
  • Financial Management
  • Hardware & Software Purchasing Assistance
  • Human Resources Consulting
  • Law Firm Marketing
  • Network Design & Maintenance
  • Newsletter Design
  • Practice Technology
  • Retirement Planning
  • Security Audits
  • Software Reviews, Implementation & Training
  • Staff Sourcing Management
  • Strategic Business Planning
  • Tax & Financial Planning
  • Web Site Design & Maintenance
  • Workforce Issues
After receiving the free LPM consultation, a member may obtain additional services from the consultant at a fee agreeable to the parties. There is no limit to the number of free consultations a Bar Association member may receive.

“Law school taught us how to prepare contracts, conduct legal research and argue principles of law,” says Feldman. “But no one told us how to handle personnel problems, develop marketing plans or make general business decisions to improve the profitability of our practices. That is why I wanted to create the Law Practice Management Division, so that our membership can easily get answers to these questions, and more.”

The benefits and services of the LPM Division will be available to all of the Association’s nearly 13,000 members. Unlike membership in the Association’s sections, there is no additional charge to access the LPM services, which are included in the basic membership dues.

The Law Practice Management Division is the product of a task force—co-chaired by Deborah Weinstein and Joseph A. Prim—which has been empowered to create the structure for and manner of implementation of the LPM program. The Association’s Bylaws have also been amended to include the LPM Division. Attorneys comprising the task force membership, working in conjunction with the Association staff, have done much of the task force’s behind-the-scenes legwork.

“I am very pleased with how far we have progressed in a relatively short time,” says Deborah Weinstein. “The Law Practice Management Division has the potential to be the largest and most highly utilized program for the Bar, and we have been able to call upon members to assist us in creating a framework. These volunteers have devoted literally hundreds of hours in order to make sure that when the Division is fully up and running, members will want to utilize the many services we will offer.”

“Our goal is to make the Philadelphia Bar Association, and the Law Practice Management Section in particular, the go-to place for all practice management issues,” says Joseph A. Prim. Members have already received a brochure touting the LPM Service, which has been operational since the late spring. To provide this service, the Association compiled a list of individuals and businesses willing to provide free expert management consultations to Association members. After receiving information about these consultants, the Association obtained and checked references so that members could feel comfortable that they were receiving assistance from qualified entities.

“One of the things I like about the referral service,” says Prim, “is that if a firm is not satisfied with the free consultation, or discovers that it needs a consultation in a different practice management area, it will receive another referral. In many respects, the service is run like the Lawyer Referral Service, except this time it’s the lawyers who are receiving the referrals.”

Like any Bar Association activity, the LPM Division needs member participation to be a success. Ken Shear, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Bar Association, envisions that the various LPM committees will be among the Bar’s most popular. “These committees will provide ongoing information and resources,” says Shear. “In addition to the inquiry-specific management consulting benefit, we expect that the Law Practice Management Division committees will be able to answer members’ frequently asked questions and provide forms, materials and data to support the business side of their practices.” All of the LPM information will also be accessible on the Association’s Web site, “If members need advice on marketing their law firms, we plan to have a packet of useful tips they can download,” says Shear. “We also hope to have the latest software and hardware reviews. In short, we want the Division to be a member’s first choice when seeking any practice management information.”

No other city bar association has a comprehensive law practice management division. Consequently, the Association’s leadership acknowledges that this is a “work in progress.” “We realize that, in many respects, this is uncharted ground,” says Chancellor Feldman. “But simply because it hasn’t been done in the past is no reason not to try.”
The American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section, chaired by Carl Roberts of Ballard Spahr, sponsors ABA TECHSHOW®, a highly popular annual trade show about law practice technology. Roberts, who is a member of the LPM Task Force, has provided valuable guidance to the Philadelphia Bar Task Force. “The ABA’s Law Practice Management Section delivers law practice management services nationally in many ways and through many outlets. We have found that a strong presence in the community is vital if services are to be provided locally on a consistently effective basis. I applaud the Philadelphia Bar for creating this program on the local level; it certainly has the talent and skills to make the Division a success,” says Roberts.

“We have encouraged the new LPM committees to think creatively in developing and offering programs that will benefit the Association’s members in the efficient, effective and successful management of their law practices,” says Weinstein. As a result, the LPM Division will encourage participation by vendors, law firm non-attorney professional staff and other law-related professional organizations, who will be invited to join the Association as associate members and to actively participate and collaborate in LPM activities, including committee activities.

LPM committees will be responsible for identifying and developing valuable, creative programs, activities and benefits for members of the Association relating to their particular areas of interest and/or concern in law practice management. LPM Division leadership will coordinate the LPM committees, programs and budgetary support; provide programmatic guidance and encouragement; and serve as a liaison between the LPM and the Association’s Board of Governors and support staff. In addition, the LPM will develop a set of ethical guidelines or a “Code of Conduct” to prevent conflicts of interest with vendors, avoid non-lawful participation in committee leadership and deliberations, and address other ethical issues that may arise.

“It’s exciting to be at the threshold of a new project that offers so much promise,” concludes Chancellor Feldman. “The Bar Association is committed to doing whatever it can to support these efforts.”