Practice Resources


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Note from Law Practice Management leadership

Welcome to the January 2011 issue of the Law Practice Management Section newsletter.

As 2010 just closed and we all look forward to a prosperous 2011, this would be a good time to share some of the Law Practice Management Tips of yesteryear to put to use in 2011. Some tips are listed below that are worth a second look. The current and past tips can all be found here.

It's been too long since we have been reminded to track our firm's revenues by referral source, a prior tip from Leanna Hamill. Knowing how your clients are locating you, whether it be word of mouth, former clients, or various marketing media, will make it easier to decide where to focus your marketing efforts. If you are not tracking your referral sources already it is not too late to start.

It is everyone's goal to work more efficiently. Efficiency leads to productivity. There are many tips focused on these objectives. If you practice in the superior courts you have no excuse not to have already signed up for access to the Superior Court docket. Many telephone calls to the Clerk-Magistrate's Office can be avoided by checking the docket at your office first. You can check on upcoming hearing dates, filings, and even get a list of all or your appearances in cases. If you have not signed up the instructions for doing so are here.

Using your software programs to their fullest capacity can be a great time savings. There have been many tips about different software programs and their use. Adobe's Acrobat is a popular and useful program. Adobe Acrobat's typewriter tool may finally render that old IBM Selectric you have been holding onto obsolete. Adobe Acrobat has many other features that may help your practice depending on whether you have the Standard or Professional version. You can use it to redact sensitive information documents, add Bates numbering, stamps, or even highlight and comment documents during review without altering the original. Back in April we told you about a great resource for lawyers using Adobe Acrobat: Adobe's Acrobat for Legal Professionals Blog.

If you are looking for small ideas that may have a big impact on improving your practice check out the Law Practice Management Tips of the past and present. If you have a tip to share with others send it in to the LPM section chair or vice chair for consideration.

Andrea Goldman, chair
Phil Taylor, vice chair
Law Practice Management Section Council

Law Practice Management January open meeting

The LPM Section will be holding at open meeting on fee agreements on Thursday, Jan. 13 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the MBA, 20 West St., Boston. Audrey Heidt, a co-chair of the Solo & Small Firm Committee of the Women's Bar Association will moderate a discussion on fee agreements. The Women's Bar Association recently hosted a number of fee "circles" and Heidt will be providing us with the results. All section members are invited to attend, bring copies of their fee agreements and participate in this informal discussion of fee agreements and fee structures.

Click here to R.S.V.P.

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How to manage your malpractice insurance costs

by Terry Welsh, president, Massachusetts Bar Association Insurance Agency

When looking at ways to manage your malpractice premiums, firms should consider ways to understand both the financial exposure to loss that they face and balance that with the premium that needs to be paid. The goal of the insurance policy is to transfer the financial risk, excluding the deductible selected, to the insurance company. So, what are some ways to help firms manage their premium costs? Here are some simple but effective steps that can guide you to manageable insurance premiums:

  1. What is your deductible? The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Think about what you can reasonably afford to pay out of pocket if an allegation is made against you.
  2. What are your internal controls? Insurance companies want to see that you are helping minimize your risk by attending CLE's in your areas of practice. They also want to see that you have an effective two types of docket system that are cross-checked regularly against each other. Both of these risk management tools will have a positive effect on your premium. Historically, 25 percent of all claims occur because someone failed to do something on a timely basis. Clearly that type of loss is preventable.
  3. Should you sue your client for your fee? Again, historical data says that in nearly 100 percent of the cases where a firm sues for fees, they get a malpractice claim right back at them. Keep your retainers up to an appropriate level, stay on top of your billings and communicate with your client on a regular basis. These simple steps help you stay engaged with your client and helps them to understand how their case is progressing. Being sued for a fee can increase your premium so balance the amount you are owed against your deductible and weigh that against the impact to your practice.
  4. Do you send your client an engagement letter and when you decline to take a case do you send a disengagement letter? Suits from both of these will cost you your deductible and can increase your premiums. Setting expectations in an engagement letter help reduce claims. Disengaging properly helps to also limit your exposure to suits where a potential client "thinks" that you are their lawyer.
  5. Are your areas of practice reflected properly in application? There are areas of practice that generate more losses and thus produce higher premiums. Take a few minutes when completing your renewal application and really look at your practice to make sure that if your practice has changed that you reflect those changes in your application.
  6. Do you change insurance companies every few years? The insurance company wants to see stability and changing your company every year or so can cause them to increase the premium due to this perceived instability.

Be timely with the submission of your application, pay the premium when due and then focus on building a law practice that utilizes the premium management strategies above. These few steps will help you minimize your risk of a claim and make your firm more attractive to an insurance underwriter.

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Interested in learning more about another MBA section?

Check out upcoming section open meetings


Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section open meeting

What's Bullying? Emerging Trends in Civil And Criminal Law as to the Anti-Bullying Law

Wednesday, Feb. 9, 4-6 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

The Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section Council is sponsoring an open meeting for MBA members on Wednesday, Feb. 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the MBA, 20 West St., Boston, on the topic of bullying. What's Bullying? Emerging Trends in Civil And Criminal Law as to the Anti-Bullying Law is designed to educate lawyers on the recently passed anti-bullying legislation and how it will affect victims and potential clients, including individuals, schools and municipalities. Attendees will learn how individuals and others are affected. Frank A. Smith III, Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section vice chair, will moderate the discussion. Guest speakers include: Hon. Bettina Borders, first justice, Bristol County Juvenile Court, Hon. Mary Dacey White, associate justice, Lynn District Court, attorney Richard Cole, attorney John Davis and Arline Isaacson, co-chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

Discussion topics will include:

  • Model bullying prevention and intervention plans;
  • Academic and non-academic activities and who is affected;
  • Practices and procedures for reporting and responding to bullying and retaliation; and
  • Role of the court and lawyer.

To R.S.V.P., click here.


Save the date: Immigration Section Council open meeting

Ask the Experts: Legal Ethics For Immigration Practitioners

Thursday, Feb. 10, 5:15-6:45 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

Tentative speakers: Anne S.J. Kaufman, Esq., director of the Attorney Client Assistance Program and Stacey Best, assistant Bar Counsel of the BBO.

The topics will include: Who is the client? Issues and cautions in joint representations in family and business matters; Use of IOLTA for costs and filing fees due to the Immigration Service, retainers, co-mingling funds for fees and costs; Mandatory reporting of alleged ethical violations; Any other matters that the BBO sees as an issue; and Current cases regarding issues in immigration practice.

To R.S.V.P., click here.

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The MBA is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

Join the conversation today

The Massachusetts Bar Association now has a presence on three social networking platforms, including Facebook, launched in October 2010, LinkedIn, launched in January 2010, and Twitter, launched in July 2009. All three social media platforms feature information about the MBA including CLE, events and news.

As an MBA member, we encourage you to both post items of interest to you, and the greater legal community, on these pages and comment on items already posted.

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Put your name out there

The goal of section councils is to offer members opportunities for professional growth and development through participation in section activities. One opportunity available to section members is publishing articles which are of interest to fellow practitioners. The MBA provides several forums for articles by section members - Lawyers Journal and the Massachusetts Law Review.  

If you are interested in writing an article for any of these publications or if you have seen articles which you think may be of interest to other Law Practice Management Section members, please contact Jean Stevens for more information regarding this opportunity.

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Save the date: 2011 MBA Centennial Conference

Mark your calendars to join us on May 18-19

The Massachusetts Bar Association's 2011 Centennial Conference will be held at the Boston Sheraton on Wednesday, May 18 and Thursday, May 19 and will feature:

  • House of Delegates meeting;
  • Access to Justice Luncheon;
  • Centennial Ball;
  • Continuing Legal Education programming; and
  • Bench/Bar panel and more.

Look for additional information in e-Journal, eBlasts, Lawyers Journal and on the MBA's Web site.

©2017 Massachusetts Bar Association