How often have you looked at the stack of management and administrative matters on your desk and said under your breath "Man, they didn't teach us about this in law school!" Whether it is management of trust accounts, upgrading technology, improving client service, or a host of other critical matters, lawyers are often unprepared to handle the business side of practicing law. Even if these tasks are delegated to staff, the supervising lawyer must have an adequate knowledge of the matters to properly oversee the business. Thanks to an innovative type of program at state, provincial and local bars nationwide, this knowledge is often just a phone call away.
These bar programs, generically known as "practice management assistance programs" (PMAPs), are now at over 20 state bars and law societies in the U.S. and Canada. The programs are staffed by individuals known as Practice Management Advisors (PMAs) who are engaged or employed by state and local bar associations or law societies to help lawyers to manage their practices more effectively. Although the exact role of practice management advisors differs from state to state and province to province, all the advisors are committed to the process of increasing the quality of legal services by helping lawyers and law firms better manage their offices.
Most PMAPs share these common objectives:
- Assisting lawyers in improving efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of legal services;
- Assisting lawyers in implementing systems and controls to reduce risk and improve quality in the delivery of legal services;
- Assisting lawyers in client relations; and
- Assisting lawyers and their office personnel in using emerging technologies to improve the delivery of legal services.
The practice management advisors are dedicated to helping lawyers help themselves, by providing resource materials and telephone consultations, offering educational programs and, in some states, conducting in-office management audits. The services are usually free, although many programs charge a small fee for in-office visits or management audits.
Although practice management advisors serve the needs of lawyers who work in all practice settings-including legal services providers--many practice management advisors provide special assistance to solo practitioners and small firm lawyers. Larger law firms can hire administrative employees and outside management consultants to free up their lawyers to concentrate more on the delivery of legal services. Solos and small firms-including many legal services offices-share the same objectives to assure quality services and to operate efficiently, but they often lack the resources to dedicate personnel or hire outside assistance to help them do a better job.