Solo and Small Firm Conference 2013

Course Date: February 15, 2013

Welcome and Introduction

So You Want to Go Solo: The Nuts and Bolts of Going Out on Your Own—Your Business Plan and Practice, On Paper

There are many aspects to running your own practice. Many of them have nothing to do with going to court, writing opinions, or drafting agreements. As a sole practitioner, you will be spending a good portion of your day on business “stuff”. The Boy Scouts say “Be Prepared!” Accordingly, before you open your doors it is vital that you plan out your business —its systems, finances, marketing, and management—in order to be prepared for the challenges in running your own business. You are in charge of—and responsible for—meeting government remittances, salaries, rent payments, and the like. You have to make decisions—in many cases quickly—and learn to recover from small mistakes before they become big ones. This session will lay the groundwork for the rest of the day, and outline what should go into your business plan before you open your doors and welcome in your first client.

David J. Bilinsky — Practice Management Advisor, Law Society of BC, Vancouver
Elizabeth Mah — Paperclip Law Corporation, North Vancouver

Networking Break

Management: The Nuts and Bolts of Staffing, Systems, and Running Your Practice Efficiently and Effectively

You need to wear many hats when you are running a solo or small practice. What are the things that must be done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually to run your office properly? You need to find the right people—and keep them happy—to have your office run efficiently and effectively. What systems, technological and otherwise, do you need to keep things from falling through the cracks? You need to be firm on retainers and trust fund replenishment to maintain your cash flow and billing. How do you provide cost-effective HR benefits to attract good staff? What about marketing? Ultimately you are the one who is responsible and accountable for the success and happiness of your firm. This session will delve deeply into the nuts and bolts of how to keep your practice humming! 

S. Esther Chung — Sung Esther Chung Law Corporation, Burnaby
Paula Kiess — Firm Manager, McCullough O'Connor Irwin LLP, Vancouver

J. Robert Waterman — Director of Administration, Richards Buell Sutton LLP, Vancouver

Finance and Cash Flow: Understanding the Nuts and Bolts of Finance For a Small Firm

Today’s accounting and bookkeeping software for law firms can provide an unlimited array of reports and metrics for lawyers to monitor and manage their financial results. Unfortunately, many lawyers spend too much time reviewing the wrong reports and trying to manage the wrong economic levers. This session will provide busy lawyers with practical tools and techniques to help them maximize both the profit and cash flow related to their law practice. We’ll provide examples of the key financial metrics and reports that small firm lawyers can use to measure and monitor their financial performance and provide insight into the key profit and cash flow drivers or levers that lawyers can use to get better control over their financial results. This will help lawyers increase both profitability and cash flow—without working more hours. We’ll also talk about some of the most common pitfalls that get firms into financial trouble and how to avoid them. These issues are particularly relevant to any lawyers just starting out or “stepping out”. Attend this session to find out how to get the maximum financial results from your law practice with the minimum amount of administration time.

Caren Cook — Klein Lyons, Vancouver
Gordon Holley, CA, CPB — President, BeanKeepers, West Vancouver

Networking Lunch

Ethical Marketing: The Nuts and Bolts of Attracting and Keeping Good Clients

Solo and small firms often don’t have dedicated marketing and business development professionals on staff. It's therefore up to the lawyer(s) or the administrator to decide how to market the firm's services in an impactful, yet ethical manner, in order to create a sustainable practice. Competition has increased, business strategies are savvier than ever, and client expectations and knowledge has improved. So while you practice law, you also must develop a business that attracts and retains profitable clients. This session will cover how a solo or small firm can gain an edge on competitors. You’ll learn: what the essential must-haves are and where you can cut corners without compromising your reputation or brand; how to avoid orphan marketing activities that lead to a dead end; and where can you best apply your limited resources. Join us for a spirited conversation about what works, presented by those who bring to this panel decades of legal marketing.

Blair Lill — Director, Marketing & Business Development, Fasken Martineau & DuMoulin LLP, Vancouver
usan Van Dyke — Van Dyke Marketing & Communications, Vancouver
Allison Wolf — Certified Executive Coach, Shift Works Strategic Inc., Vancouver

Networking Break

Technology: The Nuts and Bolts of a Small Firm’s Infrastructure

Today’s law firms use technology more than ever. To enable their people to be productive and efficient, and give them a competitive advantage, sole practitioners and small firms need to be aware of what technologies are available to them.  They also need to know how to plan for and implement these technologies. This session will discuss the technological building blocks that small firms require: infrastructure, hardware, software, Internet, security, and backup.

Lawrence Cofield, PMP — Woodland Technology Group Inc., Vancouver
Mark Cohen — 3rd Stone Consulting, Vancouver
Brian Mauch — President, BMC Networks Inc., Vancouver

How Things Go Wrong: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Out of Trouble in a Smaller Practice

A disproportionate number of the discipline complaints investigated by the Law Society emanate from small practices. It is not that lawyers from that milieu are inherently less responsible. Rather, the many diverse demands of a small practice, in combination with the relative inaccessibility of experienced colleagues and other resources, can lead to difficulties that are often resolved in an earlier and more effective manner in larger practice settings, if not avoided altogether. This presentation will identify the more common types of conduct that generate Law Society scrutiny and provide some useful guidelines for dealing with those complaints should that become necessary. It will also outline the prudent steps and resources that each sole or small firm practitioner should be mindful of in order to avoid or mitigate similar trouble.

Henry C. Wood, QC — Beach Avenue Barristers, Vancouver

Closing Remarks

David J. Bilinsky — Practice Management Advisor, Law Society of BC, Vancouver