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Posts published in “Retirement and Future Changes”

Holiday Tips for Solo or Small Firm Lawyers (Before Closing Office for Holidays)

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The holiday season should be relaxing, worry-free and most of all, safe. That's why it is a good idea to prepare your office before you close for the holidays. Below are a few tips from the Practice Management Assistance Program to help you get started.

Several Weeks Prior to the Holiday

  1. If at all possible, ask another lawyer to be your back up or successor in case of emergencies. You can execute an authorization and consent to enter the law firm offices or adapt the Bar’s “Agreement to Close a Law Practice” to formalize your agreement with the emergency attorney. The agreement includes Power of Attorney language and a section on specific powers granted to the backup lawyer. (The Bar strongly recommends solos have a full agreement regardless of whether you are going on vacation. Also, you can designate a successor on the Bar’s website.) When you are out of the office for vacation or other reasons, and you are unable to find another lawyer to be your backup, you may choose to entrust a trusted staff member or family member. (The book, “Being Prepared: A Lawyer’s Guide for Dealing with Disability or Unexpected Events” by Cohen and Cohen is recommended for forms and checklists.)
  2. Let your backup know how to reach you and set expectations as to what constitutes an emergency warranting your intervention.
  3. Prepare an envelope to be opened by your backup with information to be used in emergencies. Include crucial passwords, the key to your mailbox, locked office/file cabinets, and information about bank accounts/trusts. Put this envelope in a safe location or give to your backup.
  4. Plan your schedule carefully. Share your plans with coworkers or with your successor. Make sure any office personnel have all the information they need to assist clients and reach you.
  5. Notify current clients in writing of your holiday schedule and emergency contact person.
  6. Post a holiday office hours schedule in your office, on your website, or in your email signature line so clients know in advance when you plan to be closed.
  7. Request protection from all courts you may be called before while you are away.
  8. Set clear goals for what you need to accomplish before you leave and what remains unfinished for when you return.
  9. Make sure security software and backups are working properly.

 

One Week Prior to the Holiday

  1. Review all client files and prepare a client summary of each matter.
  2. Attempt to resolve any potential issues or questions with clients or other counsel early. Talk to your back up lawyer about on-going matters and any potential problems to be aware of.
  3. Monitor your email inbox and physical mail and categorize high priority messages.
  4. Set automatic payments for operating expenses if necessary.
  5. Send outstanding invoices.
  6. Test your data backups and make sure all your data is backed up to an external location.
  7. Check physical locks to all windows, doors, access points.
  8. Test locks to client files, file closets, and office.
  9. Clean off your desk.

 

Last Day at Work

  1. Set an out of office greeting on voicemail and email. Include contact information for your emergency contact.
  2. Remove perishable food items from refrigerator and cabinets.
  3. Organize desk and prepare a checklist so you’ll know what you need to do when you return.
  4. Remind staff where you would like your mail and messages to go while you are out.
  5. Be sure your back up lawyer has all the information they need before you leave.
  6. Remind staff to set out of office greetings if they are on vacation too.
  7. Lock up client files, file closets, and your office

 

When You Return from Holiday

  1. Turn off holiday voicemail greeting/email out of office (if not automatic).
  2. Talk to your back-up lawyer to determine if you need to resolve any issues.
  3. Meet with staff to see what issues have come up while they were out and work to answer questions, solve problems, and delegate.
  4. Set aside 1-2 hours to sort through urgent messages, priorities, etc.
  5. Return calls and emails promptly and open snail mail and respond.

Contact pmap@scbar.org with any questions or if you need additional assistance.

Do You Have a Contingency Plan?

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There’s no time like the present to think about your contingency plan.

Sometimes, it’s hard to write a succession plan because you don't like to think about being dead or disabled. However, it is imperativechanging and something all lawyers can do per Law Practice.orgManaging Law Firm Transition and Rule 1.19 of the S.C. Rules of Professional Conduct.

At a minimum, write a letter to your paralegal or the attorney who would mind your office explaining to them what they would need to know if you were outside of service on a long vacation. Then, make an emergency plan should you become disabled, incapacitated or not able to act inside your practice again. Print the Preparation Checklist to plan accordingly. Fill out this form to add your successor(s) to the registry maintained by the Bar. Finally, use this Agreement to Close a Law Practice as a model agreement between you and your successor(s).

There’s no better time to plan than now!

If you have questions or would like more information on succession planning, contact the Practice Management Assistance Program.

9 PMAP Website Resources to Help You Manage your Law Firm

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In recognition of National Small Business Week, check out a few of our favorite practice management and technology website resources to help you manage your small firm (or large firm):

  1. Start a Practice - Are you planning to start a practice? Navigate these resources to find tools to help you develop a business plan, create a budget, decide on an entity and firm name, find the right location, get the proper licenses/insurance, market, prepare for emergencies, choose technology, plus much more!
  2. Close a Practice - You're thinking about winding down your practice...but you have no clue where to begin. Check out the PMA's guide to close your office plus how to transition out of practice based on a variety of situations. We even have resources for succession planning!
  3. Firm or Law Partner Changes - Things happen: Lawyers decide to leave in order to form new partnerships, go solo, or dissolve practices. Our lawyers in transition section will help you navigate through a variety of situations. If you cannot locate a particular situation, contact pmap@scbar.org for assistance.
  4. Build Your Practice - Whether you want to explore client development or learn how to build your business, our business development resources provide a variety of tips from a variety of marketing resources.
  5. Prepare for the Worst - With Atlantic Hurricane Season kicking off officially June 1st and manmade or natural disasters happening every day, it is important for law firms to create a disaster and emergency preparedness plan. Check out our Prepare page for tips and also request a free copy of our disaster handbook, if you do not one.
  6. Time and Business Management - How should you manage your time and stay organized in your business? Check out a few great tips here. (P.S. Don't forget to check out our SC Small Firm blog for more organization/time management tips and the PMAP Forms Bank for correspondence, checklists, plus more.)
  7. Technology Tips - Whether you are interested in learning more about technology or looking for a specific tech topic (software, security, consultants, etc.), our tech tips section will help you navigate through some of the most important decisions in managing your practice.
  8. Legal Research (for South Carolina Bar members) - Looking to conduct research for a particular case or cases? Check out the South Carolina Bar's free legal research member benefit Fastcase by logging into the Bar's website. Our FAQ's page will help show you how.
  9. Resources- Can't find a specific resource you're looking for? Don't forget the South Carolina Bar has over 160 resources available to active Bar members in good standing via the Lending Library. Also, check out the PMAP Videos Bank and the FAQ Bank for helpful tips and information.

Contact the Practice Management Assistance Program for further assistance in managing your law practice.

Have you checked out the SC Bar Lending Library?

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Are you looking for helpful hints to help you grow your practice?

Want to learn more about how to incorporate technology in your office?

Is it time to prepare for retirement?

The SC Bar Lending Library has over 170+ practice management and technology books available to bar members in good standing on these topics and more!

Bar members can check up to two books per a three-week period. If additional time is needed to finish reviewing the item(s), bar members may email the Lending Library Manager to request a three-week extension of time from the original due date. Material extensions of time are only granted if there is not a waiting list for that particular item.

To check out a book, bar members can visit the Lending Library located on the second floor of the South Carolina Bar at 950 Taylor Street, Columbia, SC. Out of town members who are unable to come in person may mail this checkout form with a $5 check for shipping/handling.

Learn more about the Lending Library here or check out the newest resources and overall inventory. Do you have questions about checking out a book or about the Lending Library, in general? Email eworley@scbar.org or pmap@scbar.org.

Succession Planning

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If you were to become incapacitated or pass away suddenly, do you know today who your back up to your law practice would be? If this is something you have not reflected on, you should think about creating a succession plan. Don’t know where to start? Contact PMAP Director Courtney Kennaday at pmap@scbar.org for more information