No U Turn: The tried-and-true law practice techniques are not up to 2014's challenges.

The tried-and-true law practice techniques are not up to 2014’s challenges.

Last week, I mentioned NextLaw, our effort at Arizona Attorney Magazine to explore innovations in the legal profession.

The focus of that 2014 coverage will range among different niches of law practice. To help you understand what we’re looking for, I share here my editor’s column from the December issue.

I would appreciate it greatly if you would share this (and/or reblog it) with those who might have a great and innovative story to tell about their law firm, law practice or courthouse. Here’s the column:

What’s next? is something we all wonder. Here at a law magazine, that’s how we describe our job.

You may catch me talking quite a bit about the future of law in the coming year. We’re very interested (and pretty invested) in the topic. And as we considered the way forward in a profession as complex as the law, we realized we had to break it down—way down.

That is why we will cover the topic category by category next year. After all, what is going to transform large firm practice is not the same thing that will make law school education a compelling draw once again. Sole and small practitioners have their own challenges, as do our courts.

That’s why we’re engaged in the NextLaw Project. In it, we want to help portray the best practices available in those (and perhaps other) categories.

How could you, your law office or court get involved? I’m glad you asked.

Let's try forward (image courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

Let’s try forward (image courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

It’s possible that you’re aware of a remarkable tool or strategy that has made your work more competitive. Perhaps you’re developing a killer practice area, or your small law practice is suddenly benefiting from a resource—human or otherwise—that you hadn’t anticipated. Or maybe you know about your local courthouse that has made service to all its constituents better through initiative and imagination.

So we’re interested in your stories, which we’ve broadly grouped into the following categories:

  • The Emerging Law Firm
  • The Emerging Solo Practitioner
  • The Emerging Law School
  • The Emerging Courthouse

Why do I say “emerging”? Because we all feel we’re peering out of a dark recession, not sure if the light we see is sunrise or sunset. If experience is any guide, those who deem it sunrise will have some compelling stories to tell. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Lynda Shely speaks on the ethical rules

This week, I posted some more photos from a great past event—the State Bar of Arizona Solo and Small-Firm Conference. And then I read a story in the New York Times that got me thinking about law school and law practice, which reminded me of the conference all over again.

The conference was last November 18 and 19, and it brought together presenters who could speak best to issues that affected those lawyers.

It kicked off with co-chair Paul Ulrich describing the conference goals:

  • “To help us all in our practice in these changing times.”
  • “To achieve a more focused, profitable practice.”

 

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch at the conference

Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch also spoke at the conference opening. She talked eloquently about the dire economy the nation faces, in the face of which many new lawyers decide to open up their own shop.

“I encourage all of you with experience to take these new folks under your wing. Times are tough, and they’ll need your help.”

This weekend’s New York Times told a sad tale of the legal marketplace. Titled “Is Law School a Losing Game?” the story explained how “Since 2008, some 15,000 attorney and legal-staff jobs at large firms have vanished, according to a Northwestern Law study. Associates have been laid off, partners nudged out the door and recruitment programs have been scaled back or eliminated.”

In the face of these facts, any conference dedicated to solo lawyers is especially well timed.

Slide from the Solo and Small-Firm Conference

Based on other data, Chief Justice Berch noted that most people who require a lawyer’s services will likely hire a solo lawyer or small firm. And that comes with a responsibility.

“Arizona citizens must depend on you for the bulk of legal services. Their image of the justice system is formed by their interactions with you.”

Presenters at the two-day conference included lawyer Lynda Shely, law firm marketer Jeff Lantz, the State Bar’s Susan Traylor, and Catherine Sanders-Reach of the American Bar Association. They headed up panels on topics as diverse as ethical marketing tips, fee agreements. Going paperless, and even a program titled 61 Tips in 60 Minutes. And Tucson lawyer Kathleen McCarthy gave a variety of ergonomic and exercise tips to improve your day (and your posture).

Here’s hoping that this becomes an annual event.

Kathleen McCarthy gives the audience her all

More photos are here.