Welcome to the Special Committee on Solo and Small Firm Practice
The NYSBA has created a Special Committee on Solo and Small Firm Practice to study the issues and challenges currently confronting attorneys who work in solo practices and small firms. The Special Committee is chaired by Past Association President Robert L. Ostertag (Ostertag O’Leary and Barrett) of Poughkeepsie.
“Solo and small practice firms represent nearly 60 percent of the Association’s membership, and we are always looking to provide new ways to help these firms succeed,” New York State Bar Association President Bernice K. Leber (Arent Fox, LLP) said. “Coupled with the recently created Solo/Small Firm Practitioner Resource Center on NYSBA’s Web site, this new special committee will be a tremendous asset that provides even more opportunities for solo and small practice firms to grow and thrive.”
The Committee will undertake a comprehensive study of specific issues and challenges facing solo practices and small firms, and recommend ways in which bar associations, the Courts, and other entities can assist them in meeting these challenges. The Committee also will recommend new programs, benefits, resources, and services that should be developed in the future, with an eye toward achieving successful law practices and balanced lives for the attorneys working in these firms.
Special focus will also be paid to the report of Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye’s Commission to Examine Solo and Small Firm Practice, issued in 2006. Committee members will report on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of that report, while making additional recommendations regarding further steps that may be needed to fully achieve the report’s goals.
Starting Your Own Practice
On April 21, 2009 The Committee on Law Practice Management presented a full day CLE program called "Starting Your Own Practice." Professor Gary S. Munneke (White Plains) introduced speakers Peter Giuliani (Weston, CT), David C. Wilkes (NYC), Marian Rice, Esq. (NYC), Jude Travers-Frazier, Esq. (NYC) and Nancy Schess, Esq. (NYC). The program offered instruction on a variety of issues including "Do You Have What it Takes to Start a Practice?", Organizing Your Practice, Financial Management, Human Resources, Ethical Issues and Leveraging Technology. The course materials included a checklist for starting your own practice and participants received a free copy of the ABA book "How to Start and Build a Law Practice, Fifth Edition." The course is now available for purchase by going to www.nysba.org/cle or by calling 1-800-852-2452.
Best Practices in Legal Management
NYSBA’s Law Practice Management Committee, in collaboration with the New York City Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators, has launched a major publication – Best Practices in Legal Management. Professor Gary Munneke, Chair of the LPM Committee, wrote the preface for the publication. "I found it to be a perfect description of the publication and how critical legal management is to a successful law firm." LPM is thrilled to be part of the project. The Committee is putting together a series of articles on best practices. Professor Munneke’s preface seems the perfect introduction to the series
Best Practices in Legal Management Preface by Professor Gary Munneke:
For some people, the term Best Practices conjures up notions efficiency experts armed with charts and research studies telling embattled managers how to make their lives easier. For others, the words suggest an idealized set of expectations that can never be attained in the real world. Still others think of Best Practices in terms of standards below which managers may not fall without the risk of professional failure and possible sanction or liability.
In one sense, those who perceive Best Practices in these ways are correct; in another sense, they have it all wrong. Yes, Best Practices rely on research studies, practice management surveys, and other forms of empirical data to identify what practices are “best.” Yes, perfection is a state that is always just beyond the reach of even the “best” practitioners, although its cousin, “excellence,” is not. And, yes, behavior that does not target achievement of “best” practices often risks failing to achieve “adequate” practices.
In a larger sense, however, Best Practices represent the collective experience of managers who have learned, often by trial and error, how to accomplish organizational objectives in the “best” way. If these experiences could be collected, culled, dissected and organized in a rational way, they would provide a gold mine for those aspiring to excellence who seek to accomplish trial without error. When I was a kid, I frequently disregarded the advice of my parents about how to do something the easy way. Fill your gas tank up when it gets down to a quarter of a tank; don’t wait to see how long you can drive with the Low Fuel light on.” It took running out of gas on a lonely road miles from a gas station (in the days before cell phones) to teach me that I did not have to test my car’s capacity for gas consumption with every tank.
Lawyers and law firm managers now have such a resource
for managing a law practice. Best Practices etc., edited by Barry
Jackson and Kim Swetland with contributions from numerous experienced
law firm managers, provides a blueprint for achieving excellence and
avoiding error in running a modern law practice. The editors, all
leaders in the
The final product is comprehensive, informative and amazingly for the serious nature of the subject matter fun to read. The various chapters of the book address every aspect of managing a law practice, including some most lawyers and law firm administrators may not have even thought about. The chapters cover the following topics:
Each chapter includes both a checklist of Best Practices and recommendations on how to achieve the levels of excellence articulated in the Practices. The text also includes resources that law firms can turn to in order to improve their Practices. Best Practices: etc was written for individuals with management responsibilities in law firms, including managing partners, management committee members, solo practitioners who manage their offices by default, law firm managers, and support staff with management responsibilities. This book will also be useful for those who do not have line management responsibility but want to know more about how the organization where they work operates. This group includes partners who are not actively involved in management but who nevertheless have an interest in how the firm is managed, associates who aspire to partnership and/or management status, support staff members who see a path or career mobility in law firm management, law students who want to know how the firms where they will be working someday are run, and those who study the practice of law in order to contribute the Best Practices principles upon which this book is based.
A word for the lawyers who read this book: Most of us did not go to business school and may have even eschewed learning about business, because we were going to law school, not business school. At some point, we all come to realize that a law firm is a business; it requires capital to start up, income to cover operating expenses, and enough profit to compensate the owners of the business. Some lawyers argue that law is a profession and not a business, but this is a false dichotomy, because the practice of law is a professional business, which means that professional standards often govern the way we conduct our business. In fact, it would not be inaccurate to say that if we do a better job of running our business we are likely to be more professional. In any event, lawyers owe it to themselves, their clients, their peers and the profession to become good business people, even if they never got a BBA or MBA or even took a business course in college. This book is a primer on how to get ahead in the practice of law without compromising professional responsibilities along the way.
A word for the law firm administrators and support staff managers who read this book: You may possess training and experience in management, but it does not take long to learn that managing a law firm is different from managing a business outside the law. First of all, you have to deal with all of the quirky lawyers with their professional rules and seemingly genetic inability to delegate managerial responsibilities, even when they do not have a background in management. Second, you probably have learned that the practice of law is a fast-paced, client-driven enterprise. When clients need something done, they almost always need it now, unless of course they needed it yesterday. Third, you have probably learned that change comes slow to the legal profession. In a world where precedent is a central principle in the analysis of legal cases, it is easy to look backward to find answers to management questions, than to proactively and creatively address problems. This book provides a model to follow to help deal with the impediments to progress in law firms
For all readers: This book is not intended to create minimum standards below which lawyers and law firms should not fall. It rather establishes aspirational goals that are both achievable and laudable. If law firms elect to implement a Best Practices program, they will see an improvement in client satisfaction, in the quality of services provided, in the reduction of mistakes and professional error, and in the financial bottom line.
As a teacher in the field of Law Practice Management and Professional Responsibility for over a quarter century, I can tell you that a book like this has been needed for a long time. As an author of an American Bar Association compendium of essential management forms (The Essential Formbook: Comprehensive Management Tools for Lawyers), I can state unequivocally that Best Practices etc fills an important niche in the practice management literature. I encourage you not just to read this book, but to use it, to internalize it, and to teach it to those around you. In the end, practice management is intrinsic to the effective delivery of legal services, which in turn improves the integrity of the justice system and the confidence of citizens in a society governed by the rule of law.
Order Your Copy Now at: http://www.nysba.org/BestPracticesGuide
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charge is to make a comprehensive study of particular issues and
challenges which confront solo practices and small firms, and to
recommend ways is which the bar associations, the Courts, and other
entities can assist them in meeting those challenges and in achieving
successful practices and balanced lives. In
doing so, the Committee shall review programs already undertaken by the
New York State Bar Association to assist solos and small firms, and
recommend ways in which those programs can be expanded or improved, and
shall recommend new programs, benefits, resources, and services that
should be developed to help such practitioners and their
firms. The Committee shall review the report
of Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye’s Commission to Examine Solo and
Small Firm Practice, issued in 2006, and report on progress made in
implementing the recommendations of that Report, and shall make
recommendations regarding further steps that may be needed to achieve
particular goals set forth in that Report. In pursuing its work, the Committee shall consult and
collaborate with other appropriate entities within the New York State
Bar Association, with local and specialty bar associations in
Articles of Interest
September 5, 2008
Committee Targets Small Firm Challenges, NY Law
A newly-formed New York State Bar Association committee held its inaugural meeting last month in Manhattan to begin a "comprehensive study" of "specific issues and challenges" faced by solo and small firm practitioners, according to a news release from the Albany-based bar group.
by Robert L. Ostertag, a former state bar president and partner at
Included among the report recommendations were uniform statewide court rules, the serving of court orders via fax rather than personal appearances by attorneys, uniformity of court forms, elimination of preliminary court conferences when parties agree on discovery issues and staggered court appearances to avoid "cattle call" motion calendars.
Committee member Florence M. Fass, a partner in the Garden City family law boutique Fass & Greenberg, said a "large number of the recommendations in the 2006 report either have not been implemented, or implemented sporadically" around the state.
Ms. Fass said "there is urgency in these tight economic times" for the courts to better manage time.
"That's the biggest issue in the litigation environment, wasting time," said Ms. Fass, who said clients had a perfect right to gripe about a typical fee of $1,000 merely for a consent adjournment.
State Bar President Bernice K. Leber said the new committee, along with the new Solo/Small Firm Practitioner Resource Center on the association's Web site [www.nysba.org], "will be a tremendous asset that provides even more opportunities for solo and small firm practices to grow and thrive."
In addition to
court procedure issues, Ms. Leber, a partner at Arent Fox, said the
committee would "recommend new programs, benefits, resources and
services" aimed at "achieving successful law practices and balanced
lives" for solo and small firm practitioners.
September 18, 2008
New Committee Targets Small-Firm Challenges,
National Law Journal