Practice Management Advisory Service

Successful Small Firm Practice

How Small Firm Lawyers Can Compete, Thrive, and Be Ethical in the 21st Century

The Fall 2017 course is now complete.  Please stayed tuned for more information about the Fall 2018 course.

Slides and other Program Materials (2017)

The Practice Management Advisory Service of the D.C. Bar annually presents an in-depth program for its members on starting, managing, and growing the small law firm in the District of Columbia. This unique program is designed to assist the lawyer who is considering or already has launched a small firm practice.

From core concepts such as understanding the legal service market, office management, ethics issues, and money management to advanced techniques in marketing, client–relations and cloud–based case management systems, this multi–week program will lay out the ground work for starting your own law practice as well as help you reach the efficiency, productivity and work–life balance that is possible in the small firm practice.

Attendees at this program are encouraged to actively participate in the sessions, and create work product during and between sessions which may include a detailed law firm business plan, extensive marketing program, newsletter series, website content, social media program, law firm manual, risk management analysis, fee agreements, standardized client communication procedures, law firm account management systems, and a law firm backup and security plan.

Course Highlights:

  • Choosing a practice that is best for you and determining your ideal clients: Analyzing what kind of problem solving fits best with your personality, interests, and, ultimately, what will make you as successful as you can be in the legal profession. Identifying Bar resources available to members.
  • Business plan/Back-up plan: You will be provided with the tools to create a unique, detailed, and functional business plan during this course to guide your growth. You will learn how to create a system to manage your firm in the event you are unavailable for the short or long term. Lawyer v. Entrepreneur: Helping you to determine if you have the characteristics to venture out as a small firm lawyer by providing guided reflection on personal strengths and weaknesses in light of the characteristics needed to be a successful small firm lawyer.
  • The Basics: Helping you get started. Discussion of firm name, business–entity, tax ID number, tax issues, office space, and cloud versus server based computing as well as identifying any ethical considerations in the start–up and growth process.
  • Ethics and Small Firm Management/Employee Relations: How to avoid problems though the establishment and implementation of systems and how to conduct a law firm assessment and risk analysis. How to effectively manage a growing office and create a firm manual.
  • Banking/Money Management/Billing: From paper ledgers to cloud computing—simple steps that will help you stay organized, profitable, and in compliance with the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct.
  • Fee Setting/Fee Agreements: How to determine the value of a productive hour, setting the reasonable fee, and the “must have” provisions for fee agreements.
  • Creating Client Relationships: How to attract your ideal client, identify the problem client, and how to build relationships with clients that will be productive, avoid problems, establish referral source, and allow for an enjoyable professional practice.
  • Smart Marketing: Discussion of various marketing outlets and styles. Learn and create working, functional marketing actions that bring you your best clients.
  • Disciplinary Process: Overview of the ethical obligations and pitfalls associated with small firm practice, applicable statistics, and review the complaint process.
  • Maintaining maximum productivity in a digital world. Tips to be as productive as you can be with the use of available technology.

Successful Small Firm Practice Preliminary Course Syllabus 2017
This is a three–page, PDF document:  Download here

You may register for the entire eight-week course or individual sessions. You may attend a mix of day and evening sessions.  An excellent book to read in preparation for the course is Brian Tannebaum's, The Practice.

The Course was awarded the ABA Gambrell Award in 2015.

This program will be presented by Daniel M. Mills, assistant director of the Practice Management Advisory Service and Rochelle D. Washington, senior staff attorney of the D.C. Practice Management Advisory Service. Mills and Washington combined have over 35 years of experience managing a small firm practice. Mills has nine years of experience leading the D.C. Bar’s Basic Training and Beyond program and D.C. Bar Continuing Legal Education sessions on trust accounts and fee agreements.  Washington has taught Basic Training and Beyond and the Course since 2013 and is the organizer of the annual Practice 360º program at the D.C. Bar.