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Tag Archives: Practice Management

Coach’s Corner: Is a retainer really necessary? Maybe not

One of the first "wants" for lawyers opening a new firm is to get as many clients as possible on retainer basis, viewing the retainer's certainty as the Holy Grail for fee collection. Retainers set up a fixed-fee-per-time cycle (often monthly) in which client funds deposited in a trust account are drawn upon during a year or other designated period. Retainers can be a one-time payment to guarantee the future availability of the lawyer/firm, or as a deposit against future services.

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Coach’s Corner: Finder, grinder – or minder?

For law firms to be successful they must be more than a collection of single practitioners. Success in the law, like success at sports, is a team effort - if the team isn't firing on all cylinders, it gets away from what made it successful and people no longer play their true roles. No law firm can be profitable and growing without a range of skills and abilities. Not every player on a sports team is expected to be a star, and not every lawyer in a law firm should be expected to play similar roles in the life of the firm.

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Credit card payments, electronic deposits are legal ethics pitfall (access required)

The conveniences of technology abound for both lawyer and client, and lawyers like to make payment easy for clients. But those conveniences contain traps for both the wary and unwary, J. Cameron Halford told Lawyers Weekly. The state Supreme Court sanctioned the Fort Mill attorney last week over his handling of credit card payments and electronic deposits.

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Guest Commentary: Good waiters make good lawyers

Law firm managing partners are talent agents. They spend most of their day managing the talent they have and recruiting new talent. In my time in law firm management, I was constantly trying to create a template for a successful lawyer, and for me "successful" meant those who create, develop and nurture long-term client relationships. A strong understanding of the law itself was a baseline requirement, but not in any way a determinant of success. After all, how many really "good" lawyers can you think of who are not successful?

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Coach’s Corner: The lawyer as consultant – Should you charge?

Most law firms, whether large or small, begin a new client engagement with a consulting process: a stated period of time, such as an hour, that potential clients spend with an attorney to discuss their matter and explore whether to establish a client relationship. This consulting process is essentially a business-development effort, targeted to converting prospects into clients. It is marketing in its purest and most immediate sense - at the end of the hour, the lawyer either does or does not have a new client.

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Coach’s Corner: Billable hour: Going, going … still here

In a recent article, I asked whether the billable hour method of billing clients is dead or on life support. It turns out that there is a third option: Hibernation. A recent survey reported that almost 73 percent of 2009 outside counsel fees were based on arrangements other than the standard hourly rate, up from 66 percent the year before. It is clear that law firms are scrambling with deals to retain clients. But is it also an inescapable conclusion from the survey that law firms are moving away from the standard hourly rate?

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Coach’s Corner: You must define when payment is delinquent

If a lawyer fails to specify a "pay by" date for a client, at what point, if any, can the client legally be considered delinquent for failing to pay? This question is essential to "The Business of Law®." Every engagement should begin with an enforceable written agreement on services to be provided and fee to be charged. ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5 states that "the basis or rate of the fee and expenses for which the client will be responsible shall be communicated to the client, preferably in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation."

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Coach’s Corner: When does a prospect become a client?

When does someone visiting your website, blog or LinkedIn page become a prospective client? This does not seem to be a difficult issue. Everyone that a lawyer meets, including in cyberspace, is a prospective client! To think otherwise is to say you don't believe you have something of value that can help the person reading your material or who is standing in front of you. Of course, if your target audience is not focused on using the Internet and searching the Web on a regular basis, then you likely will not get many new prospects and clients that way.

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