Sometimes, we get so caught up in our daily professional and personal lives that we fail to take notice of some helpful services and aids that are available to us. Often, we feel so overwhelmed that we think we do not have time to take an inventory of how we are practicing or living.
This month, I offer a few reminders about some of the benefits and services that can help solo and small firm practitioners be more productive and efficient. Hopefully, some of the benefits will help you save – and even make – some money.
Some Outside Vendor Benefits to Help Your Practice
The MSBA endorses a number of benefits that can be of real value to solo and small firm practitioners. All of the MSBA member benefits are listed online at www.msba.org/departments/membership/benefit.asp. You will need to sign in using your MSBA member number to obtain the special member codes you need in order to receive discounts.
Some of the many benefits offered can really help you practice and save you money. Some of the benefits most useful for solo and small firm practitioners include:
- Credit Card Processing through Law Firm Merchant Account allows you to take credit card payments for both retainer and operating account fees. As this is a legal and ethical issue, we have some resources to help clarify things, including an entire packet of information that includes some of the MSBA opinions on the accepting credit cards. All of these materials, available only to members, can be downloaded at www.msba.org/departments/loma/docs/.
Accepting credit cards for BOTH operating and retainer fee accounts is a real advantage. Law Firm Merchant Account allows you to take money for retainers, but all fees come directly out of your operating account.
- More and more practitioners are moving to online backups. MSBA, along with many other state bar associations throughout the country, endorse CoreVault. Starting in February, we will begin hosting online webinars on the use online backups; watch the website for further details. The following articles will also help with issues related to security and ethics of online backup: “Ethics of Online Backup”, from ABA (http://tinyurl.com/lx3yhs) and “Dangerous Curves Ahead: Crossroads of Legal Ethics and Technology”(http://tinyurl.com/yaugzd9).
- The free online legal research from Fastcase is immensely beneficial, especially to many solo and small firm practitioners. Fastcase has continued to improve its product, and many practitioners use it exclusively or as a starting point.
Fastcase offers online webinars for both beginners and advanced users. There are also webinars that focus specifically on Maryland. Fastcase webinars for 2010
- MSBA members can receive a discount off all ABA Publications (including podcasts). Some of the publications offered through the ABA Law Practice Management Section or the GP Solo Section are extremely valuable and practical for solo practitioners.
- Office Depot offers additional discounts on office supplies to MSBA members.
- Even solo and small firm practitioners should now have some type of Internet presence if for no other reason as to include contact information. Web pages are becoming as important as telephone listings. Many people look to the Internet not only to find services but also to determine a firm’s technology level. Many potential clients expect a certain level of technical expertise.
ESQSites123.com offers a variety of plans to help create a simple, cost-effective website, enabling you to start with something easy and move forward as needed.
- MSBA itself uses the same Postini Anti-Virus/Spam Filter software it offers its members. If you are not using some type of anti-virus software, you are wasting too much time deleting spam.
- Despite all the misery most people have experiences from their retirement funds or plans in the past few years, it is still critical to have some type of retirement plan, regardless of your age. In fact, the younger you are, the better you will ultimately be if you plan early. Through ABA Retirement Funds, the MSBA offers members a low-cost 401(k) geared specifically for the legal community.
Online, Downloadable Office Management Documents and Information
The Law Office Management Department (LOMA) regularly posts a great deal of information for members (especially solo and small firm practitioners) on the LOMA website at www.msba.org/departments/loma/index.htm. These packets - which include information on “Accepting Credit Cards”; “Avoiding Problems”; “Choosing an Entity for Your Practice”; “Client Development”; “Closing a Practice”; “Document Retention”; “Financial Management”; “Firm Dissolution”; “Of Counsel Relationships”; “Starting a Solo Practice” and “Working with Consultants” – are available exclusively to MSBA members. Additional links and other important information are added to the site regularly.
Also, many articles that have appeared in the Bar Bulletin – including John Anderson’s “Technology Talk” – are also available on the site, as are videos on “Social Networking” and “Tips for Managing Your Practice” from past “Solo Day @ the Annual Meeting” programs.
Electronic Bar Briefs
The free, members-only Electronic Bar Brief e-mails you daily a synopsis of Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals opinions. You can choose from a list of 15 practice areas. With these messages going directly to your inbox, there is no reason not to use this service. Learn more at www.msba.org/members/ebb/index.htm.
Never Too Much Information
In an effort to keep members as up to date as possible on many issues related to the law, technology and office management, you can follow me on Twitter (http://twitter.com/MSBALOMA). I tweet nearly every weekday with links to those items and articles that I think our members will find most helpful. Even if you are hesitant to “follow” me, take a few minutes to check it out at http://twitter.com/MSBALOMA.
As always, if I can ever be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. I hope to see all of you at the Annual Meeting and the 10th Annual Solo Day@ the Annual Meeting on June 11, 2010. You will not be disappointed.