Georgia’s Solo & Small Firm Institute is in the Works

Take Charge is a special event.  It’s Georgia’s Solo and Small Firm Institute and it is scheduled for July 14 & 15 at the State Bar Headquarters.  You can see the agenda, register at the early bird rate, and more at the official conference website, www.gabarsolo.org.

Stay tuned for conference updates!

– Natalie & Bill

Take Charge – What a Successful Solo and Small Firm Conference Looks Like

Well, I wasn’t in attendance this year, as I was out on a leave of absence.  Bummer!  But, if what I have heard since my return to work is any indication of what the attendees at this year’s Solo and Small Firm Institute enjoyed, this was a successful solo and small firm conference!  Because pictures can speak louder than words, here’s what you missed if you didn’t attend this year.

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From the bustling Exhibit Hall area to the sometimes standing-room only sessions, attendees are still talking to me about this year’s conference and telling me they are looking forward to attending next year.  You can also check out  the conference as it was featured in the Daily Report, here.

With help from the General Practice and Trial Section and other key sponsors, the Law Practice Management Program and the event’s Chair, Kathleen Womack, were able to showcase presentations from national experts – Sharon Nelson, John Simek and James “Jim” Calloway; and our very own high-profile local experts on all things solo and small firm practice! You can see all of the sessions presented and wonderful presenters listed here.  Thanks everyone for all of your dedication and hard work!

We can’t wait for you to join us next year!  Save the date. July 14th & 15th, 2017!

– Natalie

 

 

3 Holiday Tips to Get You Organized and Ready for 2013

Getting ready for a new year can be daunting for many law firms.  This is especially true for those that are unorganzied or think they are too busy to get organized.  Here are 3 tips to help get your firm up, moving and shaking before the new year starts.

1) Enter your billing and accounting information for the year!  With tax season just around the corner, you need to make sure you’ve sent out your final billing, recorded all payments, closed your accounting months through at least November, and planned to finish your account reconciliations before the end of the first week of 2013.  Of course, this may mean you’ll have to reach out to your Accountant for last-minute help with bookkeeping tasks you are not able to manage or to get advice on how to take advantage of some additional tax breaks before December comes to a close.

2) Clean off your desk! Even if you are busy, start (or end) each day for the rest of December with a 10 minute desk review.  This may mean creating a reading file for things that you want to get to but don’t have time right now, or simply putting files back where they belong in your office.  We are huge fans of centralized file storage, so if you are in a firm you won’t be keeping a physical file that others may be looking for, and you are clearing your desk of files you are not actively (right now) working on.  This cleaning might even inspire you to think of going paperless in the new yeare!  (Practice Note:   You can contact the State Bar’s Law Practice Management Program and/or Ethics Hotline for more detailed information on file retention.)

3) Go shopping!  Who would think you’d hear anyone advising you to go shopping?  What does this have to do with getting organized?  Well, the exercise of you making lists or just mentally checking for item you need or want can help create some momentum in your practice that can carry over all the way into the new year.    Shopping therapy can arguably be as good for firms as it can be for individuals.  At any rate, planning to shop forces you to assess the physical needs or your practice, but also forces you to reflect on areas in your practice that may need changing, too.    Dont’ have any idea where to begin in thinking about shopping?  Even though you’ve missed some of the sales already, it’s never too late to check out the annual lawyer shopping list from Reid Trautz at his blog, ReidMyBlog, to get started!  See his 8th Annual Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers at http://reidtrautz.typepad.com/.

Happy Holidays and Organizing!!!!

Natalie & Tina

Bonuses – “The Remix”

What?  Who’s giving out bonuses in this down economy?  Despite the economic climate that has affected pretty much every law office in the country, bonuses are still being given out.  Sounds a little odd, but in fact, bonuses can be great firm marketing and retention tools, and there are several ways to structure them so that they become a win-win proposition for the awarder and the recipient. Be sure that you are not fee-splitting when doing so, and only reward based on overall firm revenue amounts.   (See further explanation from the Office of General Counsel below.)

Associate bonuses can enhance the offer you make to new associates and might even give some wiggle room in terms of starting salaries.  You can deliver bonuses based on production (hours worked, billed and collected); origination (bringing in new business to the firm); and even general work (hours worked beyond the general amount for certain matters.)  Percentage bonuses are easily calculated when using a good tracking system and having procedures that force consistent time entry, regular billing, and current financial reporting.

Another general consideration with paying bonuses is to watch the timing.  For instance, traditional firms would give out bonuses at year’s end near holiday periods.  If you are on top of your office’s cash flow though, consider staggering the bonus over certain periods whether they come during holiday periods or not.  It’s always nice to have not only an extra day off to celebrate a holiday, but to have a little extra cash during this time might also be a great perk! For retention purposes, think about calculating bonuses over a certain period, but rewarding them later or over staggered periods. 

Set thresholds for production or realization before rewarding bonuses.  Only after a staff person has worked X number of hours (don’t forget to pay overtime where required), and shown X type of work behavior (think merit increase) should you reward with a bonus.

 From the Office of General Counsel

Rule 5.4 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct generally prohibits lawyers from sharing fees with nonlawyers.  However, Rule 5.4(a)(3) provides that a lawyer or law firm may include nonlawyer employees in a compensation or retirement plan, even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement.  Formal Advisory Opinion 05-4 explains that Rule 5.4(a)(3) allows a lawyer to pay a monthly bonus to nonlawyer employees, in addition to their regular monthly salary, if the bonus is based on the gross receipts of the law office.  The same reasoning would apply to an annual bonus.  However, such bonuses should not be based on income from a specific matter standing alone.

Natalie & Tina  

Seasonal CLEs for Solos and Small Firms Begin

Beginning August 16th, the Law Practice Management Program will begin sponsoring seasonal CLE programs geared toward the latest topics on practice management, ethics, technology and finance for solo and small firm practitioners.  The 1st Summer program will highlight these general topics.

Ultimately, if you are in solo or small firm practice, you recognize the many important practice and business hats you are required wear; and if you don’t, these programs are designed to help you learn what you need to be paying attention to and doing in your office, and how to better manage in your specific practice setting. 

If you have some war stories or practice knowledge you’d like to share,  let us know.  In fact, the organizers – made up of key leaders from solo and small firm entities within local and specialty Bar groups – are looking for tailored content for future programs, and you can be a part of this at any time of the year. 

The program agenda for the Summer session is online at ICLE’s website at http://iclega.org/programs/8022.html

 Hope to see you there!

– Natalie