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Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Friday, June 30, 2006

A nugget on collections

A nugget from Trey Ryder's, Lawyer Marketing Alert:

A READER WRITES In response to last week’s article about collecting receivables, Lisa Derr offers this suggestion:

I have a suggestion for collection. Every month on the bottom of every single bill, the attorney in our firm writes a short note on each bill to the client. This may include a reminder for when we are next meeting, what we’re waiting for, or if the bill has not been paid a reminder to pay. We do not bill for these notes. It is a great way to force each attorney to review each case once a month and see if something was missed so that nothing falls through the cracks. In addition, the client is used to seeing our handwritten comments as positive communication about the case. In difficult cases, we may finally say in that note that if they do not send payment by "X" date that we will be forced to send to collections, etc. but it is rare for us to get to that point and our receivables are overall extremely low.

Lisa Derr Derr, Doyle & Villarreal, LLC
Beaver Dam, Wisconsin

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Association of Legal Administrators

Just wanted to share a small nuggest re. the above here. I read a blurb about it in an article I was reading. I'm not a member...they exist to support law firm administrators. But just doing some brief poking around, they have a whole library of free law firm managment documents accessible for free...worth a look.

ISBA law management conferences coming up

For you non-IL Bar Assn. members out there I wanted to point out a couple of programs coming up that deal with small firm management issues that might be of interest.

1. Rainmaking: Becoming a Trusted Advisor to Your Clients. To me this is a convenient time slot (for those of us with no children or no life) at 6pm to 830pm, July 18th.

2. Shine up your Shingle. This is ISBA's second attempt at this major effort for CLE to I think in essence take care of most of your year's worth of MCLE in one full weekend...it's out at Pheasant Run in St. Charles. I personally missed it last year but heard good things. And your's truly and Bryan Sims, James, Gustafson, and Thompson, Ltd. are doing a panel on electronic communication.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Be a problem solver

Attended a decent marketing event recently and thought I'd just put a nugget out there.

The speaker's main point was to cut to the essence of lawyering:

Understanding someone's problem and helping them find a solution.

So the next time you're with a prospective client, forget about trying to figure out how to get them to hire you. Rather, relax and focus your attention on understanding the person's problem in all its dimensions. If you can layout a solution...great! If not, it surely doesn't hurt you to cultivate a Referral Source by includling their services in your solution to a problem.

Professionalism rant

Here are three experiences I've had in the last 10 days:

Chicago paternity court, 32 W. Randolph. I represent a mother and there's a visitation dispute. My client alleges "serious endangerment" to the child and won't allow visitation with the father. So father petitions court for visitation. The result is sort of a judge-brokered compromise to allow visitation with no overnights and then send the parties to mediation for longer-term resolution. Fine, my client was satisfied with this result. Father is represented by a pregnant, female attorney. So the judge gives us this compromise and we get out of the courtroom to draft the orders. Father's lawyer just starts yelling at my client regarding how dispicable it is of her to deny this father visitation and goes on and on. And "as a mother...." yada, yada, yada.

Real estate deal #1. There's no contract in place and parties are negotiating a deal. I send out my first modification letter to seller's lawyer. I get a call from a furious real estate agent saying we had a deal, the parties had already agreed to everything (despite the fact this letter was my first communication). And asorted other personal attacks. And of course this is my first phone conversation with this gentleman.

Real estate deal #2. I represent a potential buyer in a deal. So we're in the attorney modification period. We make some modification requests that seller denies. I think the case law says this rejection terminates deal because our request is a counteroffer. My rant isn't tied to the legal disagreement, reasonable people can disagree. However, seller's attorney and I do disagree, which is fine. But then lawyer sends a letter to me with language directly saying I'm "negligent" and have no experience in real estate.

Whatever happened to the concept of the "detached professional?" Are these instances above the norm out there? Am I too detached? How does this kind of behavior help clients? Is it driven by clients?

My position is that the great professional zealously advocates for his client but also remains independent in his judgment so that he can tell his client if the client is wrong if he needs to. Are these lawyers above just running up fees for themselves or what? Should these people be "professionals" or bouncers at bars?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Accenture...er ah...my law firm?

One other thought stemming from the WSJ.

It had a nice overview about Accenture recently and its CEO, Bill Green. As you might know, Accenture has some 129,000 employees worldwide and no headquarters. It's a true virtual company. And it's certainly not just Accenture, the piece mentions Google, Boeing, and Earthlink as other high profile companies managing large parts of thier companies from multiple locations.

Can't us lawyers do what Accenture does? We're counselors (lawyer-speak for consultants), right? There's a large savings on overhead. Obviously in-person time is still important when things get dicey or perhaps in dealing with personel issues. But who really wants to pay for the oak-paneled office on the 90th floor of the downtown skyskraper any more? I wouldn't.

Creat a bottom-up culture

Saw an informative interview with the AirAsia's head Tony Fernandes in the WSJ last week. His tips on creating a bottom-up culture:

1. Dress down-no suits. Overdressing creates a superiority complex. Agree, how comfortable do you feel with a male with a gold bracelet...come on?

2. No private offices-everyone sits in an open floor plan. I think this is the only one probably not applicable to lawyers. Some privacy/confidentiality is needed.

3. Lots of parties-social occasions break down invisible walls.

4. Honor and reward individuality.

5. Spend time with front-line workers; get suggestions and act on them.

Federal judge resigns to be general counsel at Boeing

Just saw this item from June's Chicago Lawyer as very curious. J. Michael Luttig, 15-year veteran of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, resigned his place on the bench to become general counsel at Boeing.

That general counsel's spot at Boeing must be pretty nice to give up a $200,000+ lifetime appointment.

Help Wanted...work from home!

Legal Assistant – work from home!

Chicago (Loop) law firm with satellite offices in Oakbrook Terrace and Schaumburg is looking for a meticulous legal assistant. This position will be 10-12 hours per week over three mornings…work-from-home. We are looking for someone with QuickBooks experience and general technology savvy such as blogging and/or Web design. Specific legal support is desired primarily related to real estate transactional work and some general dictation. Candidates must have Internet and fax access from home. Pay range is $10 to $12 per hour. Please send letters of interest or resumes to Mr. Peter Olson: petero@olsonlawfirm.net.

(Just in case anyone knows of anybody).

Blogging fever

More evidence that those of you not blogging are ignoring its influence at your peril.

Two blog pieces here and here from the NYTimes recently about a blogfest the Democratic Party held and how job seekers are being scrutinized via their blogs, Myspace.com listings, ect.

Law firm marketing - case study

Take a look here at a post from Larry Bodine's Professional Services Marketing blog. It's about a mid-sized Illinois firm and some pretty innovative and successful marketing techniques they use...good stuff.

I know the Firm was profiled in the Law Bulletin within the last couple years too, but this gives more specifics.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Paperless - a how-to

Saw this post here from PDF for Lawyers. Note that the post includes a PDF document (how fitting) with a great point-by-point breakdown of how this lawyer has gone paperless and how he manages client files without paper. Very useful!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Good old litigation at the Daley Center

A fun day at Daley this week:

You have a court order saying your trial is set for 915 a.m. So you appear there and at 940 your case gets assigned to another courtroom...not great, but somewhat expected.

Next, you go to the new courtroom and new judge and have a short pretrial but trial is inevitable. However, in the meantime another case has been sent to this same court/judge for hearing (despite the fact we've had this trial date for some seven weeks). So the judge says to come back at 2 p.m. for the trial. That said, as we're heading out after the pretrial the judge is following us down on the elevator...hmmmm.

So trial happens at 2pm and we do get it done by 430pm or so. Granted, my angst is somewhat tied to the fact that my wife and I were trying to get an early start on some time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but don't litigants/citizens/taxpayers deserve a bit more efficiency? Seriously, why not have a consultant come in to analyze how our court system is functioning? Why do we have status hearings (at least in-person)? Thoughts on other wasteful pieces of our "system"?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

But alas a short breather...

Well, at least today we have our monthly golf tournament with NIMAGA.org. Just became a member this year...monthly tournaments for the semi-serious yet mediocore golfers out there.

The reality of solo practice

Hey gang just wanted to post something this summer Saturday morning because I've been falling behind on my blogging. But it's been an educational experience and hopefully I can highlight a couple of learning points.

First, my situation has not been unusual, but it is eye-opening to note how little "rocking-of-the-boat" in my life it can take to getting me over my head in legal and life stuff. I have a rare dissolution of marriage trial this coming week that is taking a lot of preparation time. Then, we got pulled into court on an Emergency Motion on Thursday. Next, my wife is a new flight attendant with United so she's on call rather than having a schedule which typically means getting a call at 3 a.m. telling her to be at O'Hare by 5am or so (we do live close to the airport thankfully). And lastly, very positively, we've gotten a handful of new clients recently.

So what's going to happen:

--A new employee is in the pipeline. We've changed our technology setup to have a static IP address so we're going to add someone who can work from home and share our network.

--I need to have a more formal network of other lawyers to handle stuff for me. This does exist informally right now and really has developed a great deal through this blog, but this needs to be a more formal arrangement of people we can call spur of the moment. Can you help me?