While in law school, I was very active with different groups and always found value in connecting with my peers and collaborating with my classmates. I liked studying in groups before exams, working toward common goals on committees, and helping others through volunteer efforts.
What I didn’t realize then was that these are the essential tools of team approach lawyering, good networking, and leadership within and outside of a law firm. I also now realize I could have developed those skills in law school even further with the tools of the ABA Law Practice Division. You’ll join after you graduate, you say? No need to wait. You’ll benefit in so many ways from participation that starts today.
It’s about connecting
When I graduated from law school, I immediately joined my local bar association and became active. Again, I was drawn to the team mentality of all things: legal events; continuing legal education offerings; community service; and good, old networking. I was getting a good feel for my amazing legal community and truly enjoyed the wraparound services, meaning the support, tools, and education that went beyond the pure practice of law that local and state bars provided. Since then, I’ve learned that it’s imperative to learn from and connect with lawyers within my firm and across my state—I thoroughly enjoy being an active participant in our profession.
While serving as president of my county bar’s young lawyers group, I had the opportunity to attend ABA conferences, where I immediately got involved with the ABA Young Lawyers Division. The networking, CLE, and leadership opportunities were fantastic, and the initiatives—such as Project Street Youth, Bullyproof, Wills for Heroes, and American Voter— were meaningful change agents.
Being an active member of the YLD heightened my personal obligation to do good deeds in my community, provided insight into career paths within my profession, empowered me to help others, and introduced me to the ABA Law Practice Division.
A focus on the practice
In 2013, I attended a YLD conference in Arizona. When I went to check in, I learned the YLD and LPD were holding a joint conference. The LPD provides all ABA members with the resources they need to improve their practice, focusing in the four areas of marketing, management, finance, and technology. I was hooked. As an attorney turned executive director, my career was all about marketing, management, finance, and technology—the four pillars of running a business, including a law firm. In law school and as an associate, I learned about the law, applying the law to situations, and legal research and writing—all very solid practice tools.
However, I was sorely in need of information and resources when it came to implementing new technology, selecting office vendors, overseeing recruitment and retention, identifying billing and collection techniques, and solidifying best practices for client service. The LPD is the authority on all things related to the business of law, and the resources and people involved are immensely helpful.
From law student to practicing attorney to managing partner, understanding the intersection between the practice of law and business is imperative. Of course, the further along you get in your career, the more necessary it is to obtain deeper comprehension, but the basics are extremely important.
Important topics to understand include things like:
- The economic waterfall between billings and collections
- Diversity and inclusion in the law
- Interoffice personal and firm politics
- Attorney wellness
- Ethical obligations
- Origination and billing credits, which is how people are paid and, therefore, generally motivated
- How technology is used and explored
- Marketing plans
- Networking goals
- Partner expectations, staff allocations, and internal workflow
And, fortunately, all of these types of practice management tools are part of the LPD. That knowledge is shared through:
- Law Practice Magazine
- Law Practice Today webzine
- Boards and committees
- CLE and webinars
In its most simple terms, the LPD’s mission is to share information with lawyers that will improve the delivery of legal services. The practice of law is changing more rapidly than ever before, which means the LPD has never been a more relevant resource to legal professionals than it is today.
TRACI RAY is the executive director at Barran Liebman LLP in Portland, Oregon. She serves as the ABA Law Practice Division secretary and acts as an issue editor for Law Practice Today. Ray was one of the 2014-2015 national LPD fellows and is a past chair of the ABA Women Rainmakers Committee. She was also appointed to the Commission on IOLTA for 2016-18 and is president of the Oregon Law Foundation.