CEN3GPS_Postcard_FNLBy Peggy Gruenke, Director, Practice Operations

The first week of October, I had the opportunity to attend the 8th Annual National Solo & Small Firm Conference of the ABA’s GP Solo/Small Firm Division in beautiful Lexington Kentucky.

The conference was top notch from the beautiful venue and food to the excellent speakers and wonderful attorneys, sponsors and ABA staff in attendance. It’s difficult to pick my favorite things about the conference, but I will mention I loved not having to open my wallet for the two days I was there. All food, drinks, and even live band was covered in the price of admission, plus the 12 hours of CLE.  A huge thanks to GP Solo Chair Honorable Jennifer A. Rymell and her committee.

I was also impressed that in attendance at this conference were two prominent ABA leaders.  Past President  (2011-2012) William T. Robinson III and ABA President-Elect, William Hubbard. I think this shows that the ABA is committed to helping this segment of attorneys, the fastest growing, to be successful in their practice and become leaders in the legal community.

As a first time attendee and a non-lawyer, I really didn’t know what to expect. However, the announcement of the Conference App did catch my attention. Once I saw the lineup of speakers and topics, I knew it was going to be a great learning and networking experience. So with the App downloaded on all my devices, I immediately began looking up the speakers and connecting with them on a Twitter and other social media sites. The App included all the speakers’ contact information, so it was easy to find them and introduce myself.  Why do I do this? Because it’s all part of my own business development plan – to meet and engage with solo attorneys and leaders in law practice management so I can learn from them and raise awareness about my business. If you have a business development plan or work with a coach, this should all sound very familiar.

Part of what made this conference stand out for me was the people. Such a friendly and collaborative group of professionals. Also, the number and variety of sessions was outstanding. Day one included a line-up of Bootcamps which included:

  • Law Practice Bootcamp with three sessions:
    • Ricky Parwani, conference co-chair, talked about the legal and ethical way to provide unbundled legal services to clients.
    • Jennifer Willen talked to a packed room about business development and presented a step-by-step plan to implement once everyone got back home. I’m looking forward to Jennifer’s upcoming ABA book.
    • In probably my favorite session, Chris Anderson did a fabulous and entertaining  presentation on how to run and develop a profitable law practice using law firm metrics. Chris’ presentation was done to the theme of the popular movie, Moneyball.
  • Technology Bootcamp, my favorite track, included sessions throughout the day.
    • I think Brett Burney and Jeff Allen may have convinced me that Macs are the best choice. At least, I now have a much better understanding of how to purchase and utilize them in a law practice.
    • Derrick Wilson presented on Google for Lawyers -how to run your practice the Google way. He gave us great tips and an overview of too many Google applications to list here.
    • Jack Newton from Clio, a sponsor of the conference, flew in from Vancouver after two busy weeks, including the inaugural Clio Conference in Chicago and the Clio Turns 5 birthday party. Jack removed the mystery behind cloud computing and discussed how solos can implement this technology to manage their practice, safely and ethically.
    • Ever been the recipient on a negative online review? Josh King from Avvo taught us how to respond to negative online reviews both ethically and effectively.
    • Ron Collins covered how to improve your business utilizing different practice management tools. He shared with us more good stuff on desktop vs. cloud options and ethics and security.
  • Trial Skills Bootcamp included two sessions which I could not attend but I was told they were well done and full of very relevant topics for the solo/small firm attorney:
    • Cost Effective E-Discovery for the solo/small firm, and
    • A very interactive litigation session based on a real case. Jury selection, opening statements and deciding the outcome. Sorry to, have missed this one, but I was in the Technology Track.

Additional days included tracks on Legal Hot Topics with CLE programs covering:

  • Employment Law: Use of contract attorneys and virtual workers,
  • Health Care and the Affordable Care Act,
  • Equine Law, since we were in thoroughbred country, and
  • Plus many more.

You can’t have too much technology these days, so the NSSFC track on technology included:

  • The ever popular 60 Tech Tips in 60 Minutes with ABA authors Jeff Allen and Ashley Hallene.
  • If you are going to be social on social media, then there are a few ethical considerations to keep in mind. Larry Rice reviewed the possible pitfalls in his session.
  • How to protect your client’s data: Illegal spying and hacking of client data.

Last, a shout out to the sponsors that make it possible to bring this training to you: Thomson Reuters, Wolters Kluwer, Tabs3 & PracticeMaster, Clio, MyCase, Minnesota Lawyers Mutual and the ABA Endowment.

I hope you’ll consider one of the next GP Solo/Small Firm conferences and take your practice to the next level. Mark your calendars for May 1-3, 2014 in Las Vegas or October 23-25, 2014 in San Antonia.

I met many new friends, amazing solo attorneys with a passion for their business and I am looking forward to being involved with the division and future conferences.