Advice to help ensure that your family law practice runs efficiently.

Family Practice Management

Steady the Ship on Accounts Receivable Going into Year-End

Here are four tips to help you achieve your year-end collection goals:

  1. Meet with attorneys to determine what help they need getting their accounts collected. Schedule a meeting in advance to go over their A/R and find out how you can give them hands-on help.
  2. Put together a list of clients that are expected to pay by year-end, and the exact date of when payments are anticipated. Ensure each attorney receives a regular progress report and alert them if the commitment date has passed without receiving payment so they can make appropriate follow-up contact as year-end approaches.
  3. Provide the attorneys a checklist of items that will help ensure payments are made, such as: verifying clients have copies of all outstanding invoices, determining if client offices will be closed the last week of December (to ensure payments have been processed before closing), providing the attorneys routing instructions if payment is to be sent by wire, or an overnight express mail account number for quick delivery, etc.
  4. Take the time to walk the halls and check in with the attorneys on their progress during the last few weeks. Your visits will remind them of what they have to do.

– Jake Krocheski, President of Client Connection, www.clientci.com

Ensure Your Practice Runs Smoothly by Collaborating and Acknowledging Expectations

To grow and develop your family law practice, you must hire staff to assist you and get the work done. Your hiring decisions are some of the most important decisions you will make, so take the time to get them right. Once you have made these decisions, the next step is learning how to manage your staff. They will not be able to meet your expectations unless you provide some guidance regarding those expectations.

Daily meetings are essential. During this time, you have the opportunity to check in and make sure that the work is being done properly. It is also a time for your staff to have the chance to ask questions about assignments and inform you about developments in the cases. A daily meeting where this exchange takes place allows everyone to move forward with peace of mind, and prevents numerous disruptions during the work day.

In addition to daily meetings, it is important to keep staff apprised of what is happening in every case so they can better grasp how their particular assignments fit into an overall strategy for each one. Most importantly, you and your staff are a team, and you need each other to succeed. As such, working collaboratively and making sure expectations and concerns are acknowledged and addressed will ensure that your practice runs smoothly.

– Jennifer A. Brandt, Family Lawyer, Cozen O’Connor, www.cozen.com

Limit To Win It

As lawyers we can technically take on any legal matter that we feel (generally) competent about and proceed. But should we, when time, money, and sanity are an issue? When deciding what type of law to practice and what cases to take, especially when venturing into a new area of practice, think about your parameters. Limited-scope representation works well as a vehicle to test new waters as a professional, get to know your courts, build a client base, and keep your time/involvement a bit more confined and organized.

Narrowing client/case acceptance criteria also helps build confidence, with movement into more complicated cases later being more manageable should you want to do that. For limited scope, think about what you want to practice. What are the steps involved in the main type of proceeding? Are there specific parts or smaller types of cases that would work well in a limited-representation capacity? Could you conceivably charge a set amount for those specific parts and obtain the desired result for the client without having to get into some-thing terribly complicated? Good examples of this are modifications of child support orders (when the criteria are met) or litigating final divorce hearings (and preparation of decrees).

– Carrie Anne Hagan, Associate Professor, Robert H.McKinney School of Law, Indiana University

A Colleague or Associate Has Made a Mistake – What Do You Do?

Family Law PracticeFirst, decide how much impact this specific mistake has upon you or your clients, then ask yourself how likely it would be for this kind of mistake to occur again. Consider these three questions:

  1. How knowledgeable is the person? Is he or she aware that a mistake was made? What looks like a serious breach to you might not be perceived as a mistake by the other person.
  2. Why was the action taken? Try to understand not only what occurred, but also the reasoning and decision-making involved. This is an opportunity to learn how the other person thinks and perceives responsibilities. The ramifications of the action may not be clear to him or her.
  3. How clear was your initial explanation? Did the person fully understand what you expected? Mistakes occur in situations where “second-guessing” is the norm. To prevent this, explain exactly what you want and what level of authority the other person has. Outline where they can get required information, and what resources are available before problems arise.

Here are some guidelines for offering constructive criticism after a mistake has been made:

  • Do not judge or generalize. Be specific about the situation and what needs to occur to remedy the problem. Criticism should not be designed to hurt the other person or increase your stature or power. Be straightforward, direct, and objective. Be clear about why you are doing it and what outcome you desire.
  • Be prompt. Memories fade over time, so have the discussion while everything is fresh – but not so soon that emotions are still running high.
  • Support your comments. Rather than something vague like “you are never here on time,” provide facts and evidence.
  • Consider your location. Feedback is best done in private, and with enough time to assure that a meaningful conversation can take place. Select a time when both of you are calm and focused.
  • Plan the discussion. Rehearsing is helpful. Write down key points to help you clarify your thoughts. At the end of the discussion, the next steps to solve the problem should be clear.

– Odette Pollar, Workplace Consultant, Smart Ways to Work, www.smartwaystowork.com

Reclaim Your Hobbies, Interests, and Passions by Leveraging Them for Marketing

Your hobbies, passions, and interests keep life fresh and vibrant, but they are frequently set aside as you try to keep up with the demands of your law practice. Often, your “spare” time is taken up by marketing. If this describes your situation, why not combine the two and use your hobbies, interests, and passions to bring a renewed sense of fun to your marketing?

To begin, identify the hobbies, passions, and interests that you’ve set aside and miss the most. Consider reigniting your passion for sports, photography, animals, cooking, or travel – or consider joining a charitable organization that improves the community or helps the disadvantaged. Once this is done, think about how to not only engage in those activities, but also involve others. An energetic family lawyer from Canada, for example, leverages his love of cycling and cooking by organizing a cycling trip to Italy every year or so – complete with cooking lessons and meals at each stop. To reach those who can’t make the trip, he blogs about it.

What all of these efforts have in common is the idea that you can have fun doing what you love while building rapport with potential clients and referral sources. Taking your passion public can help raise your profile, create fun, and do good in the community. It’s a win-win scenario that’s hard to beat.

– Aaron Rothert, Practice Advisor, Atticus, www.atticusonline.com


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