If you call a small firm “home” like I do, I suspect that you spend your day juggling administrative and client priorities – discussing cases and delegating tasks to associates, reviewing options for new office equipment, taking a client call, answering questions from building management, conducting discovery conferral calls with opposing counsel, evaluating insurance renewal rates, revising article submissions, coordinating the production of documents, and finishing a brief… And while you’re at it, you can’t forget to create a steady flow of new business and enjoy the practice of law!
The point is that the practice of law in a small firm can include every aspect of business management and operations under the sun. You find yourself addressing far more issues than those you learned about in law school. When faced everyday with all of these responsibilities, you may start to question membership in a national organization like DRI. Your marketing and professional development budgets may be stretched, and you need to leverage all of your resources of time and money. Do you really want to be involved in a group with more than 21,000 members?
I’m writing this piece to answer that question with a resounding, YES! A substantial portion of DRI’s members practice in small firms – enough that DRI has the resources and commitment to help you succeed. In fact, the options to maximize your DRI membership now have never been better.
The Small Firm VRC
DRI will soon be rolling out a new Small Firm Virtual Resource Center on DRI’s new social media platform, The Community Pages. The website for the VRC pages will include a treasure trove of information for the small firm practitioner. You will find forms, articles, technology, and research regarding such things as: economic and billing practices; marketing ideas; client and case management forms and checklists; metric tracking measurements; recommendations and reports on hardware, software, and mobile devices; cloud computing; best practices for cyber security; links to additional resources; and more. The VRC content will also include blogs, videos, event information, and useful posts to communicate with other small firm practitioners.
The first set of topics to populate our new site will fall into three distinct areas: Law Practice Management (starting a small firm, alternative fee arrangements, succession planning, marketing, tracking metrics); Technology (cloud computing, paperless office practices, cybersecurity, and software for case management, billing, and document production); and Emerging Issues.
We will regularly be adding information to the VRC. Be certain to periodically check back for additional materials. This new platform will be tremendously beneficial to DRI members.
On-line Content from Substantive Law Committees
In addition to the legal practice resources, DRI’s substantive law committees have enormous amounts of content available on their dedicated DRI home pages. Did you know that DRI has 29 substantive law committees? The content developed by those committees helps me to access the information that I need to answer pressing questions for my practice. The committee structure also allows easy access to people who specialize in 29 substantive law areas. Our names and contact information are listed – give one of us a call!
The depth of DRI’s resources also includes newsletters, trial documents, articles, and expert witness databases. One member referred to DRI as “having a partnership with the largest law firm in the world.”
Local Educational Opportunities and Networking
Every once in a while, we all need to get out of our offices. The beautiful vistas, fascinating CLE, and exciting networking opportunities at DRI’s seminars provide a refuge from the everyday routine. For those in a small firm, time and money can be particularly precious and travel to a seminar is reserved for specific substantive law programs. That is one reason why DRI has developed a wide range of educational opportunities.
Within DRI’s resources, you will find webinars and webcasts to accommodate both tight schedules and tight budgets. The online offerings include both substantive topics and information and training necessary to run a law firm business. Teleconferences also have become increasingly popular within DRI. Such a platform permits a large group to gather, to hear from a notable speaker on substantive or management topics, and to participate in question-and-answer discussions. One recent lunchtime webinar brought a notable speaker to DRI members to discuss business development strategies. The teleconference drew a huge audience – and it was free! I heard from several firms that they developed an event around the presentation and engaged in follow-up discussions, all while eating lunch. Those offerings and resources make DRI truly valuable.
You also may be interested in meeting fellow lawyers with nearby travel, and DRI is increasing its regional programming and local networking opportunities. A few months ago, I developed a “small” local networking event for DRI members and a crowd of over 80 people joined in. Such a response demonstrates clearly the interest that we all have – firms both big and small – to connect and learn from colleagues in our neighborhoods and regions. Look for a program in your area, or work with colleagues to develop one.
Whether you take advantage of the substantive law seminars, webinars, webcasts, teleconferences, local programing, or networking opportunities, DRI has an array of activities to obtain CLE and increase your firm’s visibility. The newly formed Virtual Resource Center will be a powerhouse of advice and support on law firm management issues designed specifically for small firm practitioners like you and me. I encourage you to take advantage of all the varied opportunities that DRI offers to enhance your practice.
Marie E. Chafe – Cornell & Gollub, Boston, MA