In my role as a risk manager, I’ve heard all kinds of crazy comments from lawyers over the years. For example, during a CLE event with ethics counsel sitting next to me on a speaker’s panel, two lawyer attendees tried to convince others in attendance that the panel’s position on conflict of interest resolution was clearly wrong. In short, they boldly declared there is no such thing as a nonconsentable conflict. All it takes is some creative lawyering and problem solved. The panel and I were almost speechless. We were looking at each other and asking ourselves how in the world could the same lawyer ever represent adverse parties in a litigated matter, just for starters. My response to the panel was “wow, just wow.” I was also thinking to myself “I sure hope we don’t insure these guys.” Read on.
With the release of Formal Ethics Opinion 482 in September of 2018, the ABA finally made it quite clear. Lawyers do indeed have an ethical duty to develop a disaster recovery plan. Do you have yours?
Julie and I were working together to develop a comprehensive accounts receivable aging process for her firm and when we finally got to the end of the project and were ready to pull the trigger, she started to hesitate. We were on a video meeting so I could see her sit back in her chair and rest her hand over her chin. I could tell her wheels were spinning. “I can’t believe I have to do this, why won’t my clients just take me seriously and pay on time”? “Julie”, I paused. “People will take paying your invoices seriously when you take getting your invoices paid seriously”. The hard truth is, your clients need to see that you expect them to follow through with compensating you for the valuable services you have taken the time to carry out for them.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock of late, I suspect you are well aware of the rise of the attorney wellness movement within our profession. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to challenge the importance and value of all that’s going on. While I will admit I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this mindfulness thing, and when it comes to yoga, well let’s just say I’m more comfortable in the weight room, I do deeply believe our profession is in a crisis, in part, for want of attorney wellness.
For years so many, myself included, have talked about the importance of trying to find a healthy balance between one’s work life and one’s personal life as part of the answer to this crisis. Those who tried and succeeded did so believing that, once there, all would be good with the world. I’m not buying it anymore, and with this post, I am publicly stating I will never encourage anyone to try to find a healthy work-life balance again!
Time and money are so interchangeable these days. We started exchanging time for money at our first few jobs where we clocked in to start getting paid and when we clocked out, the money stopped. Now that you own a law practice you have access to this new way to view time as it relates to money because you now have residual power. Residual money is not money you clock in and out for, it’s the money you receive because you have created a service supported by systems and aided by people (that are not you) that removes your money’s dependency on your hours. But the quest to discovering your residual money formula is more complex than just clocking in and out. Learn more.
Lawyers and those in their employ can and will make a mistake from time to time. It happens. Should a significant misstep ever occur on one of your matters, what might the fallout be? Think about this as a member of our learned and honorable profession. Clearly the client will be harmed in some fashion. Now, put yourself in your client’s shoes and ask who should be held responsible, particularly if a financial loss is part of the equation? You know darn well what the answer is. After all, if a lawyer representing you on a personal injury matter blew a statute that resulted in a lost opportunity for any kind of recovery, you would expect to be made whole and you know it. This is why I don’t get the excuses. Purchasing malpractice insurance isn’t about protecting lawyers. It’s about protecting clients should something go wrong, which makes it, at least in my mind, the right thing to do.
Getting real with your numbers can be a difficult journey. What you think is going on financially in your firm can come into question very quickly once you crunch the numbers and they’re staring you in the face. We love the numbers because they don’t lie. There is no opinion and no bias, if the numbers don’t add up they simply don’t add up. The first step to understanding your firms’ profit is to figure out where it’s coming from.
An attorney never gets an accountability pass just because the representation is framed as a favor. One can’t casually look into a legal matter, pass along a little advice and expect there to be no fallout if something goes wrong later on. An attorney is either in or out. There is no middle ground here.
When you look at your financials you should quickly see the picture they paint of your legal business’s performance. Your financials should serve as a confirmation of your financial positioning, a tool in which to measure your goal progression, and a compass guiding you into your financial future. Do yours?
Common reasons lawyers close their practices include a medical disability, wanting to retire, a move out-of-state, or a career change. While the specific steps that need to be taken and the time frame involved can vary significantly depending upon the reasons driving the closure and the type of practice being closed, the following checklist covers the basics of what most lawyers will need to think about.