by Daniel DeWoskin
As we roll into 2010, I thought it might be worth exploring how some of our members view New Year’s Resolutions. For me, the beginning of a new calendar year rarely feels like the perfect moment for a fresh start or the time to make a specific change. After all, the majority of my cases did not terminate arbitrarily at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, so any fundamental practice changes do not seem well-timed simply by virtue of the fact that I need to remember what calendar year to write on checks.
We all know folks who see January 1 as the perfect day to quit smoking, start exercising, or to otherwise better themselves. I wondered if such resolutions might apply to lawyers and how they conduct their business. I am always intrigued to hear about new developments and practices that other lawyers have explored and used to better their efficiency and the quality of their work. I may even try to incorporate some of these things into my own practice on a trial-and-error basis, but I find that very few may ultimately go the distance.
My habits aside, many people look to the New Year as an ideal time to leave old habits in the past and commit to self-improvement. I spoke to several of our members and learned that any improvements or changes they are making or intend to make are not scheduled to take place on a specified date. It is clear that as lawyers, when we see a need to take action, we generally see it as prudent to do so expeditiously.
The following statements from some of our members came in response to the question: “What, if any, changes do you intend to implement in your practice to make it bigger, faster, better, or smarter in 2010?”
“I thought I did a good job in 2009. This is especially true considering the economy. I’m always looking to improve my practice, but, all in all, 2009 was a banner year for Ross and Pines. I don’t want to fix something that isn’t broken.”
“One thing that I intend to implement in 2010 is better contact with my former clients, whose cases may be resolved, but who may find some comfort in the fact that their attorney continues to stay interested in their day-to-day lives and businesses. A good portion of my referral work comes from my former clients, who seem to contact me rather out of the blue, and I always feel guilty for losing touch with them in the interim. A simple check-in email to former clients should not only help my business grow, but remind people I’ve helped in the past that I’m available to help in the future. I intend to keep those lines of communication more open in 2010.”
“I’m going to make an effort to communicate more frequently with clients electronically to save time and keep better records.”
“I intend to make better use of technology, specifically my iPhone. With the LogMeIn app, you can now control your desktop from anywhere, without having to carry around any sort of laptop. It really is remarkable. You can now have a micro-computer in your pocket.”
“I intend to add some part-time help, do a better job delegating, and increase the number of staff meetings to become more efficient in my practice and continue to give my clients the service they have heard about. My business is strictly referral-based, so I want to give them the service they expect, and still devote a fair amount of time to running for office.”
A. Jack Fishman
“None. I am a retired IRS agent. I’ve been in active practice for 12 years. My practice is evolving. If I see a need for a change, I make that change right there on the spot. I utilize effective tax-planning. I plan ahead and get done what needs to get done. I don’t wait until the last minute.”
Although these responses do not suggest that many among us make professional resolutions in the traditional sense, they do show that we as lawyers are uniquely aware of the need to adapt to changes in technology and custom. Perhaps it is obvious. We all work with the law, which is always subject to change in language, application, and interpretation. It is only sensible that we should be amenable to similar adaptation to provide the best quality service to our clients and the community.