Renewed energy…

As summer was coming to a close some weeks ago, I realized that I had not taken a full week’s vacation yet this summer. I had 2 days in New York City in early summer, and two days with Claire in Boston tacked on to the ABA meeting. But not a single week along the way. So several weeks ago I decided to take the last week of August going into Labor Day for some downtime. With no travel plans, I decided I was going to enjoy a “stay-cation” at home. It was lovely and I recommend everyone try it. I had a long list of projects I was going to attempt — some gardening (which really translates to weeding in my yard), painting my front door, repainting the window in my bathroom, taking a drive into the country for some antiquing, etc. But we all know how that goes!

Mary's Porch

This is actually how the week played out. The mornings began early, because I have never been a late sleeper, on the porch with coffee. Several mornings I actually was able to watch the sunrise which made it even better. Around 7, I would sign on and check email from the day before, and try to be off again by the time the office was open. I know, we are not supposed to work on vacation, but we had quite a bit underway, and honestly, it helped me avoid the email glut upon my return.

The rest of the day was spent at the gym, running a few errands, reading, napping, and once the friends found out I was home, hosting a few happy hours and dinners on the porch as well. It was great but as you can see from above, not really the plan I had laid out. That was fine because I really enjoyed it. By Monday of Labor Day night, I was really ready to head back to the MCBA and looking forward to seeing everyone.

My first meeting of the day was also a great way to return. The Solo & Small Firm Committee, chaired by the very dedicated and creative Brad Kammholz, of Kammholz Messina, LLP. The Nixon Board Room was packed.

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Brad opened the meeting with introductions, and asked the 25+ people in the room to go around the room and share their name, where they work, and in the event someone has a referral to send, what would be their ideal case?

There was a lot of laughter throughout the meeting, but the best laugh came when Deborah Field, MCBA Trustee Liaison to the Committee, stated that she would take any case that you were going to refer to Brad.  The group found this exercise extremely valuable, and it was agreed that we would create a roster with this information in order that committee members would be able to refer to this resource when necessary. This is an example of a value-added member benefit — direct referrals. But in order to participate, you need to sign up with the Solo & Small Committee.

Brad then steered the dialogue to discussion around his proposed goals for the committee.

Goal #1 — How do we grow and develop our client base?

Second #2 — What practice management issues do you need assistance with?

On Goal #1, the discussion was about the philosophy behind referrals to colleagues. Do attorneys have “short lists” that they refer to based on reputation of work product, friendship, trust, etc.? But how do we build a “longer lists” as a referral source, giving those interested in growing their practice, or young attorneys (hungry for the experience) the opportunity to gain some experience. There was some friendly debate on this point, but my thinking was, with some willing counsel through our Mentor for a Moment Program, it seems to me that this is a great opportunity.

The suggestion was made that we need to improve communication between the various committees and sections, and to be certain that the sections know about the talent that also exists on the Solo & Small Firm Committee.

We then began talking about potential CLE’s. One suggestion made was the potential collaboration between attorneys that do criminal defense and those that handle immigration matters. One attendee stated that this is type of example is very real and more attorneys need to understand all aspects of a immigration matter that involves a potential criminal component.

Also on the table for discussion. What businesses do the members want to do business networking with? There were a number of banks mentioned, and the suggestion was made that we reach out to the banks and brokers to explore networking opportunities. Everyone was reminded that the MCBA BarSTOP’s are also a great place to network with colleagues, friends, and underwriters that attend.

On Goal #2 Brad asked about the types of issues that members were facing in managing their practices. The number #1 issue around the table was technology. This is not the first time I have heard this issue, and I guarantee, this will be for the rest of eternity as technology is changing at warp speed.

So, how do we help in this area? One new step we are taking this fall is by providing some “free” social media training sessions in the Nixon Board Room. Now before you declare you are not interested in social media, I would strongly urge you to read the following short post with a wealth of good information attached to it.

http://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources/resources/social_media.html

So please plan to join our very talented Dajaneé Parrish in the Nixon Board Room on Friday, September 26 at 12:15 p.m. to learn first hand why LinkedIn is important for attorneys; how to set up your own LinkedIn profile; and best of all, how to utilize it to your advantage. Dajaneé will also be presenting programs on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the coming months. Come and learn! What do you have to lose. Contact Dajaneé at dparrish@mcba.org if you’re interested in attending. It is more fun to learn with a room full of fun people.

Back to the meeting discussion. Other questions asked that Brad assured everyone we would address in this bar year:

How do we help members manage their cases?

What practice management issue bugs us the most?

What are the human resource challenges?

What happens when you go on vacation? Some responded that they just don’t go on vacation. That’s not good!

One of Brad’s suggestions, do we establish an “Angie’s List” type service for the bar members? All agreed a great idea but that some of this is already occurring with the Listserv.

Budgeting and accounting? Billing and collecting?

Retirement planning?

Succession planning? We reminded folks that we have in place a Lawyer Succession Registry. I spoke for a few minutes about the importance of having someone designated in the event you are suddenly unable to practice anymore either from illness or death. The MCBA handles inquiries from the courts, local and out of town attorneys every week. Email Kathy Fico at kfico@mcba.org to learn more about the Registry. You do have a responsibility to your clients and your families not to leave this question unanswered.

It was a great meeting and the energy was just what I needed for my first day back in. I was listening intently to the discussion and to what our solo and small firm attorneys need. I then ask myself: What can the MCBA do to provide more of these types of resources and services to not only our solo and small firms, but to mid and large firm members as well? Government attorneys?

Our membership is diverse and comprised of attorneys of all ages, genders and practice settings. So the question is — how can the MCBA better serve you in this new bar year? I really want to know.

And as I close, I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to Eileen Buholtz, past Chair, for almost 3 years, to the Solo & Small Firm Committee. Eileen started this party, and worked so very hard at it bringing it to the great success that it is today.

Thanks for checking in and a very BIG thank you for always keeping me energized,

Mary

 

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