The following points are intended to facilitate a discussion about the mentor’s law office, how it is managed, and where to locate resources for learning more information about law office management issues. This section is designed to address issues beyond those relevant to either the mentor’s or the new lawyer’s current employment.
- Explain how client files in the mentor’s office are managed and discuss the best practices for at least the following related issues:
- Time records;
- Records of client-related expenses;
- Billing system;
- Client retainer and/or payment schedules;
- Fee agreements, including ethical considerations surrounding agreements; examples of improper provisions in fee agreements; and the importance of using engagement, non-engagement and disengagement letters;
- Escrow and trust accounts, including establishing a COLTAF, the how-to of account/auditing, use of interest proceeds, and proper procedures for handling funds and other property belonging to a client. Information on COLTAF accounts can be found at: http://www.coltaf.org/;
- Filing and e-filing systems, including procedures for opening and closing files, procedures for conflict checking, creating a checklist for new files, the importance of preparing a case memorandum and case plan, how to document the progress on cases, organizing both the file contents and the office filing system, and file inventory and review procedures;
- Document retention plan, e-files, and back-ups;
- Calendar and other reminder systems;
- Information technology systems, including docketing software; and
- Methods of keeping clients informed about the progress of their matters.
- Discuss staff, resources, and other administrative issues in the mentor’s office, including the best practices for at least the following matters:
- Mail distribution procedures;
- Procedures for handling telephone calls, including when they should be returned;
- Procedures for handling email communications, including when email should be used or avoided in favor of other methods of contact;
- Considerations in purchasing office furniture and where it can be purchased;
- Library and research systems;
- Considerations in purchasing office equipment and the types which are essential and/or most helpful;
- Other resources (publications, seminars, equipment, and the like) that a new lawyer might find particularly helpful in his or her work;
- Personnel, including identifying employees who are needed to run the office efficiently and the advantages and disadvantages to hiring different types of employees (i.e., traditional, independent contractor, temporary);
- Employee selection, including interviewing techniques, background investigations, extending offers, and maintaining personnel files;
- Employment and discrimination laws of which an employer must be aware;
- Supervising staff, handling employee discipline and preventing the unauthorized practice of law and the unethical practice by associates; and
- Considerations in purchasing liability insurance.
- Share with the new lawyer ethical and professional marketing and business development techniques, effective rainmaking tools, and how to create a marketing plan for a firm.
- Review and discuss the following articles:
- Dan Pinnington & David Bilinsky, Implement Appropriate Internal Controls, Law Practice Today, April 2006, http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/fin04061.shtml;
- Reid F. Trautz, Practice Management Systems and Procedures: What They Don’t Teach You in Law School; and
- Allison C. Shields, How to Take Control of Your Practice by Creating Vision and Mission Statements, GP/Solo Law Trends & News Business Law, Feb. 2006, http://legalease.blogs.com/visionstatementslawtrends0602.pdf.
American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_practice_management.html.
American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division E-Library: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/publications.html.
American Bar Association Lawyers’ Professional Liability, State List of Malpractice Insurance Coverage: http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lpl/directory/.
CLE, Colorado, Inc. “Successful Business Planning in Serving Moderate Means Clients,” http://cle.cobar.org/Seminars/eventinfo/sessionaltcd/GP111313V.aspx.
CLE Colorado, Inc. “Hanging Your Shingle,” http://cle.cobar.org/Seminars/EventInfo/sessionaltcd/LP081513L.aspx.
Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel Trust Account School at http://www.coloradosupremecourt.com/pdfs/Regulation/Trust%20Account%20Registration%20Form.pdf.