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Ed Poll
  Week of June 10, 2008

Make Sure You Get What
You Pay For

The prompt return of calls is part of the practice management skill package that every lawyer should have. Sound practice management will prevent the client service problems that are at the root of the majority of disciplinary complaints against lawyers. Yet for far too many years, lawyers have been unable to get CLE credit for courses that help them improve practice management skills. A while back I learned of a situation in which the Bar Association of the State Bar of Washington rejected MCLE credit for a program focusing on "Managing Client Expectations." In their words, the intent of the program was to teach marketing skills to lawyers—and marketing, as an aspect of practice management, did not qualify as professional education. And this of course isn't covered in law schools, where the horrified professors would regard themselves as akin to high school shop teachers for dwelling on such topics.
Fortunately, the pendulum is swinging against such shortsightedness, but this is bringing its own set of problems. In a recent post on his web site,, law firm technology and marketing consultant Ron Friedman observed that the number of practice management conferences offered by professional legal associations like ALA and ABA, as well as legal publications, has "exploded." Yet Ron wonders about the quality of many such proliferating conferences, and I quote his concern here:
Conference organizers should clearly distinguish between "here's what you will learn" sessions driven by a speaker plus PowerPoint and real panel discussions. I find being talked to—whether by a single speaker or seriatim by 3 to 5 panelists—less useful than a truly interactive panel...On the commercial side, let's hope for a shake-out. I've heard too many stories of sessions or whole conferences with just a handful of non-speaker / non-vendor attendees. As a marketing person now, I see way too many opportunities to sponsor conferences or pay-to-meet-buyer events.
Fortunately, lawyers are increasingly becoming aware that we are living in a world of "duality." That is, we are blessed to be performing a function that is regarded as a profession, the law, and that this profession is a loving and care-giving profession. At the same time, we are also in a service business, a function that has economic consequences for both the lawyer and the client. Thus, we must operate in a business-like way. We must deliver our legal services in a way that is reasonably cost-effective for the client as well as provides us with reasonable value for our time, expertise and contribution to the client.
Best wishes,
Ed Poll

Ed Poll

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-AL, Northern California

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