Lawyers Boost Their Business Sense at Practice 360°

By Jeffery Leon and John Murph

June 4, 2019

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Attorneys gathered at the D.C. Bar on May 17 for the fifth annual
Practice 360°: A Day for Lawyers & Law Firms.

To gain the latest tips on firm management, wellness, marketing, and technology, more than 100 attorneys gathered for the D.C. Bar’s Practice 360°: A Day for Lawyers & Law Firms on May 17. The daylong event, now in its fifth year, provided valuable insights into topics ranging from leveraging data and technology to dealing with difficult clients and choosing expert witnesses. Here are some highlights from the event.

Nicole “Niki” Black of MyCase presented “Practicing With the Machines,” a session focused on how to best use tech to augment your practice. Black provided an overview of tech options that can handle billing, case to-dos, and document assembly and addressed the topic of robots replacing lawyers.

Black believes AI will not replace attorneys, but it can assist in the realms of legal research, contract analysis, and data analytics, streamlining time-consuming tasks around the office. “Automation is your friend; don’t fear the robot!” Black told attendees.

In her morning session, Niki Irish, senior counselor with the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program, explained the Impostor Syndrome, advising attorneys on how to identify and deal with the feelings of not being good enough. Irish provided constructive tips on managing the critical self-voice, including exercises to foster confidence and circumspection regarding social media.

During the lunch session, Jack Newton, CEO of Clio, presented the Legal Trends Report, detailing how lawyers can leverage data and technology to assist their clients more efficiently. One example Newton pointed to was Net Performer Score, which uses online analytics to determine the impact of marketing.

 

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Clio CEO Jack Newton presenting the 2019 Legal Trends Report.

Bonnie Prober hosted “It’s Stressful Being a Lawyer! Identifying Stress and Managing It,” reporting that 28 percent of lawyers suffer from depression, 19 percent suffer from anxiety, and one out of five lawyers report problematic alcohol abuse. It’s a pressure-cooker situation that can have far-reaching implications for mental health and wellness. Prober mentioned that self-care is necessary: “You’re never too busy to take care of yourself.”

Claude E. Ducloux of LawPay led the presentation “Unconscious Bias: The Biology and Psychology of Decision Making,” giving insights into how litigators’ formative years, circle of friends, and political affiliations, among other factors, can seep into the language used in the courtroom. In particular, Ducloux explained the role of heuristics — mental shortcuts that help people make quick decisions — and how they can negatively impact the decision-making process in litigation, especially when it influences how one describes situations or people to a jury.

“Whenever you need to present a situation to someone, remember to think about it in a way that might resonate with a particular group,” Ducloux advised. “If you use partisan cues or bias language, you are going to sway [the jury] from coming to the right conclusion and [those partisan cues or bias language will] probably impede justice,” said Ducloux.

David Kaplan and Jeff Klenk, two economic experts at Berkeley Research Group, gave some sage advice regarding how to choose the right experts and strategically use them in litigation. Experts who can explain complex subjects, have substantial credentials, and have prior testifying experience are ideal. Experts are excellent for drafting deposition questions for fact witnesses and providing insights into pleadings, but they are not extensions of your legal team or advocates of a particular argument or theory. The presenters also warned that experts often like to live in the world of theory and that many are often uncomfortable when confronted with actual facts that might challenge their beliefs.

Hope Todd and Erika Stillabower of the D.C. Bar’s Legal Ethics Program provided tips on dealing with difficult clients and the ethics of managing them. They warned of clients who argue with alternative facts and those who are rule breakers and attention seekers. When working with a difficult client, Todd and Stillabower strongly recommend that lawyers discuss in full detail the benefits of telling the truth that they involve these clients in solving their legal issues.

 

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The event also featured an exhibit hall showcasing product and service vendors.