keeping your quality of life & your sanity by: elisabeth m. edwards w anzer e dwards, pc running a...
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Post on 24-Dec-2015
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- KEEPING YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE & YOUR SANITY BY: ELISABETH M. EDWARDS W ANZER E DWARDS, PC Running a Family Law Practice:
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- The A-B-Cs of Success
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- A-B-Cs of Success Not quite as easy as 1-2- 3, D0-Re-Mi, baby you and me...
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- A is for Accessibility Providing accessibility to clients and opposing counsel can help you solve problems before they spiral out of control Frequently the #1 complaint re: prior attorneys is he never returns my calls, or I never got a copy of the Order/letter/email. It means a dedicated email address, phone number, voicemail and fax number Response time to emails and phone calls should be ASAP and preferably within 1 business day even if just checking in
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- B is for Boundaries Be accessible, but keep client-related work within business hours Have a work-only cell phone Do NOT answer the phone in the evening or on weekends unless in very rare circumstances Be present for the important people who are waiting at home for you
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- C is for Credibility The 3 Cs Clients, Opposing Counsel and the Court You cannot believe everything a client tells you Remain neutral in your framing of the situation to your opposing counsel and to the Court NO ONE CLIENT IS WORTH LOSING YOUR LICENSE OR RESPECT WTIHIN THE LEGAL COMMUNITY
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- D is for Drama Your job as an family law attorney is to try to diffuse the difficult emotions, not add to them Bring your clients off the ledge and remind them of the end game Rather than filing a scathing pleading, ask yourself how can I solve this with 3 phone calls? Your Mantra: Is this moving the file forward? If its not actually a legal issue, diffuse and move on
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- E is for Efficient & Economical Streamlining necessary evils of the practice whenever possible, e.g. web-based billing software, cloud storage, emailing communications & invoices What will make me better, faster & more efficient? Smart phone usage is a must for avoiding email build-up and calendaring Billing on the go Check scanning Getting bang for your buck with products and advertising; how do clients reach you? Providing steak service on a hamburger budget
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- F is for Fiscally Responsible Requirement #1: Written budget Review budget as you enter Q4 How did we do? Where do we need to adjust? Book-keeping software Starting small and working up to where you want to be without going broke Need someone to audit your books, need a tax preparer, need good corporate documents
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- G is for GETTING PAID No free consultations! Start the conversation in the initial consultation and keep having it throughout the representation, e.g. do you want to spend your attorney fees for a hearing on this when we already have a hearing scheduled? Billing twice a month keeps clients more engaged with where they are; dont get in the hole as often Billing via email, payments over web / body of emails, accepting credit cards Old retainer a/k/a advanced fee system versus credit card authorizations Detailed invoices show value to clients, e.g. where did my money go? Clients will not value work they get for free; need skin in the game
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- H is for Help Ask for, pay for, hire help when you need it Get smart about knowing what you dont know You will pay for it later if you dont pay for it now Folks to consider: Assistant / Receptionist Tax preparer Accountant Website designer Marketing / Advertising / Art The computer guy When you really need an Associate Think outside the box Who do you know? Just ask!
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- I is for Insurance & IOLTA Malpractice insurance is a requirement Not as expensive as you might think Often a requirement to be part of a referral network, such as Indy Lawyer Finder Consider premises liability insurance as well Health insurance? PEO vs. Individual plan IOLTA account for client trust funds may cause accounting headaches, but its a requirement Must have an IOLTA account for unearned fees plus an operating account for fees earned; cannot have clients paying directly into an IOLTA But need to move funds quickly upon payment, etc.
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- J is for JLAP Judges & Lawyers Assistance Program Not just for attorneys with alcohol & substance abuse problems Depression, burnout Winding up a practice Assistance with ethical dilemmas Surrogate attorney issues
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- K is for Knowledge Get a mentor, a let me ask / tell you this off the record person IBA Senior Lawyer Safe Ask program Listserv member Stay current on CLEs one of the best ways to learn is to do and to teach Difference between law, strategy and human element Call ahead before getting involved out of county
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- L is for Location Location, location, location! Where you are can impact your bottom line these are fixed expenses Where do you need to be? If you are a part-time PD, need to be close to the courthouse If you serve the indigent or elderly, perhaps a bus route Who is your client and how often do they need to see you? Do you want free parking or accessible parking? You really can get more than you think in this market
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- M is for Marketing How do your clients find you? When in doubt, do something for free; if people want you to join a network or have you pay THEM for you to speak or provide content, think twice Cross-marketing opportunities Anything but the yellow pages You MUST have a presence on the internet Quality of website can have a direct correlation to how clients and opposing counsel see YOU and your work Word-of-mouth is your very best resource! Thank Aunt Sally and Neighbor Bob for suggesting you, even if the client doesnt retain Track your referral sources if you havent received a client from it that will pay for the service/referral network/advertising, dont do it again
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- N is for NO Dont take every client Watch out for some red flags And dont stay in on every case maintain credibility by getting out if clients lie, dont follow your advice, etc. Dont accept every appointment to a board, to teach a seminar, speak to a class, or have a student shadow Dont feel compelled to volunteer for everything, whether legal or non-legal We cant stop taking charge Let people who are not running a business do the heavy lifting
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- O is for Office Space Versus Location Do not need to start with $1M What feelings are you trying to invoke? Inviting and comfortable Very high-end Thrift vs. just plain old What activities will you be doing at the office? What will clients be doing? Client areas vs. Employee only areas Do you need a decorator?
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- P is for Professionalism As a follow-up to credibility... It is possible to advocate for your client and maintain collegiality and friendship with your opposing counsel NO SNEAK ATTACKS! Act like youve been here before, even if you havent Handling yourself in a friendly, approachable way with opposing parties, staff, court personnel goes farther than your expensive suit You never get a second chance to make a first impression Keep your cool when in doubt, breathe! Learn to respectfully disagree; but tell me why you advised your client to do X Respond when opposing counsel asks for something, even if its to say you cant respond Also need to handle delicate and sensitive information very carefully with clients; they are telling you secrets they havent told anyone else Remember that people are watching Consider your audience There is a right way and a very wrong way to relay delicate information Think What if the other party were my sister? Would I want this in a public document?
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- Q is for Quality Do quality work, all the time These documents can be public; your name is on them for all time Your clients are paying for hours of your time; they deserve to have a good quality document Spellcheck and re-read before sending; all credibility will be lost if you have misspellings and incorrect words Your clients can be impacted if you go too fast deadlines missed, more attorney fees, amendments needed
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- R is for Research Tools The listserv is not for research You must have an electronic research tool available to you Old standbys Lexis, Westlaw Discounts on ISBA Casemaker, IBA forms online Not only for statutes and caselaw, but other sourcebooks for forms Helpful to maintain your own documents in searchable format so you dont reinvent the wheel every single time
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- S is for Service Service to the profession Bar association seminars, committees Community law school/students, organizations that need legal advisors Does it help someone and make you feel good at the end of the day? How can you show what you know, help others AND everyone goes home happy? Service to your customers, your clients Most of your referrals will come in some way from former clients who had great experiences There are many choices in this area, and not every personality is compatible; of those that are, what stands out is quality work and customer service The client is not always right, but they dont have to be wrong
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- T is for Time Track it, bill it, guard it Your time is the service you are providing; do not shortchange yourself You cannot do free consultations How am I going to track my time?
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