by Jon. A. Dorf, Esq., Chair LPM Committee, Mamaroneck, NY. and Stephen P. Gallagher, Director, LPM Department, Albany, NY
Originally published in the New York State Bar News
The Law Practice Management Committee has spearheaded a partnership with Atticus®, one of the nation’s leading practice management education and training organizations for attorneys. Three hundred and fifty lawyers attended the first series of half-day workshops that took place in five cities in mid-March, and a two-day forum attracted forty-five individuals to New York City the weekend of April 26-27, 2002. Stephen P. Gallagher, Director of the Law Practice Management Department and I were pleased to participate in both of these valuable programs, and we would like to share some of the feedback we received from program participants.
I personally attended the half-day program, How to Grow Your Practice and Enhance Client Services in a Changing Economy, in Westchester and I can say the overwhelming reaction was quite positive. This program provided much more than just more “information”– in terms of another CLE seminar and printed materials. Mark Powers, president of Atticus® conducted all five New York programs, and he was able to effectively engage his audience in working through a series of hands-on exercises designed to help lawyers identify personal strengths and weaknesses regarding their own management skills. Other exercises helped individuals identify personal goals, and set priorities for balancing work and family life. Equally important, Mark provided program participants with a long-term structure of training and support that should be able to help attorneys translate those techniques into tangible RESULTS.
The half-day session, How to Grow Your Practice started with Mark Powers discussing the tension we all face between our roles as the Technician, the Entrepreneur, and the Manager. Mark convincingly demonstrated to us that for anyone to grow their business in these competitive times, a new model is needed so that the Entrepreneur, the Manager, and the Technician in each of us finds balance and satisfaction in a business model that works.
We then spent time exploring how we could go to work on the practice rather than in it. Working on the business rather than in the business was particularly important because process improvements and process innovations are needed in order to produce highest quality client services. To work on the business, we had to begin seeing the business of law as separate and apart from ourselves.
Mark identified five basic systems for owners to work on: Production Systems (how we move files through the office to completion), Productivity Systems (time management and calendaring processes), Client Development Systems, Staffing Systems, and Cash Flow Systems. The two-day forum provided participants with more time to develop strategies for each of these systems.
As we examined these business processes, we focused on trying to gain greater control of office routinesand of our lives in general. Improving the lives of lawyers and improving the practice of law was a constant theme throughout the program, and this did not go unnoticed by program participants:
“In the 26 years I have been practicing law, without question the Atticus® Forum and the half-day preview to the forum have been the most enlightening programs our Bar Association has offered, in my opinion. It is so gratifying to find the State Bar Association actively and successfully looking for ways to improve the lives of its members.”
Dean L. Gordon, Esq., New Hartford, NY
“The Atticus® Forum is unlike any other continuing legal education seminar I have attended. The Atticus® Forum featured professional speakers who were able to hold my attention through some 22 hours of presentation (this is no small feat!). The written materials provided by Atticus® were concise, and assisted me in following the presentation. Most importantly, the material presented at the Atticus® Forum filled what I see as a huge void in continuing legal education. The Atticus® program is not about providing information. The Atticus® Forum is about improving the lives of lawyers and improving the practice of law. Simply, the Atticus® Forum was an excellent experience, and it will help me, my family, and my clients.
Peter L. Burgess, Albany, NY
“I want to personally thank you for offering the Atticus® program through the Bar Association. I must say, that after being a member for about 20 years, this was the most directly helpful program the bar ever offered me. It was, for me, the first time I felt that my bar association understood MY problems, and tried to help me address them.”
Curt Meltzer, Esq., New York, NY
“The forum was eye opening to say the least. I have already implemented several new techniques into my firm and day to day operations. I do realize that change does not come quickly, but only one step at a time. I look forward to trying more re engineering recommendations from their forum as I put my new partnership in place from the ground up and in accordance with the principles that I learned at the forum.”
Chuck Rosenstein, Esq., Albany, NY.
We spent time examining time management, client development, staffing and profitability skills, and we became familiar with Mark’s terms for: “designated hitters”, “time cops,” and even a time management strategy for “time blocking.” Client selection and management was another important consideration in the Atticus® practice development program, so we discussed the importance of identified “A” and “B” clients as those clients that you want to build your business around, while “C” and “D” clients are those you need to learn to avoid. In the two-day forum we identified “C” and “D” clients, and we spent valuable time worked in teams to design strategies to eliminate the most troubling clients. We also explored how we might clone our “A” and “B” clients.
With the feedback we have received from the first series of programs, we have scheduled a second series of half-day workshops in five cities during the week of September 8, 2002. Please keep an eye out for this mailing, or e-mail Stephen P. Gallagher at the Bar Center firstname.lastname@example.org . I would like to end by sharing several other comments we received from Atticus® program participants:
Dear Mr. Gallagher:
“Now that I have had a chance to reflect back on the recent forum that we took, I think that it was a powerful, bold move on the part of the NYSBA to bring a program like Atticus® to New York attorneys. We finally have official recognition that there is a serious problem in the legal profession and an offer of help to improve things at the same time. After attending both the half day and two day forums, it appears that you have discovered a program that provides concrete solutions and methodologies to many of the issues that plague attorneys in their daily practices. Clearly, it is up to the attorney to make the first move and continue on a proactive course of action. However, this program offers the systems and structures to support the attorney along the way.
Many of us came to the program because of the endorsement by the NYSBA. In law school we are taught to get the job done. There is no instruction on how to develop a practice so that a balance is struck between professional and personal life. This mind-set has helped many of us lose the balance that we need to maintain in our lives so that we lose time with our families and friends and our communities lose the leadership that we could provide to help our overall quality of life. The service that Atticus® provides will hopefully give us the tools to provide balance and order in our lives.”
Andrea L. Goldman, Esq., Garden City, NY
“Thank you for having the foresight and experience to realize that lawyers are not always the best businessmen. I truly don’t believe it’s from lack of effort, but rather the misallocation of our prime resource — time. The Atticus® application, by definition, will structure the time to pay attention to legal production and the business aspects of the practice– the latter of which becomes all too easy to set aside. Most importantly, Atticus® reminds us all of our respective main priority — our personal lives. As a husband and father of three, this was crucial. Again, thank you and the Bar for this chance, which I highly recommend to any lawyer.
JAY A. SMITH, Esq., Latham, NY