ABA Blueprint: What Is it and Why Should I Care?

ABA Blueprint.combp is a new tool designed to help solo and small firm lawyers find what
they need to run their firm.  Any lawyer may browse the website for resources and information.  Technology, marketing, insurance, retirement, and practice management services are available to ABA members only.  Here’s an overview:

Services for ABA Members at Blueprint.com

  • Discounts on products and services
  • Access to free practice management consultants
  • Firm Builder (see below)
  • Ability to save solutions to your Blueprint account so you don‘t lose your research

If this sounds good to you, check out ABA membership here.  Dues are pro-rated based on your date of original bar admission.  Membership is free for 2016 and 2017 admittees.

Resources Non-ABA Members Can Access at Blueprint.com

Informative BLOG Posts

At ABA Blueprint, click the logo (upper left) to visit the Home page.  Scroll to the bottom to find a feed of the latest posts from the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center blog. Examples include using email newsletters, trends in legal technology, website costsgetting the most out of online forms, and state data breach notification laws.

Universal Solutions

Anyone can visit the Universal Solutions page to look at the curated list of products for starting a firm, growing a firm, getting paid, building a team, mastering eDiscovery, and insuring your family and future.  Keep in mind the listed discounts are for ABA members only.  The ABA expects to add more products in the future.  Here are the highlights:

Universal Solution Category Discount Offered
to ABA Members
Projected
Annual Savings
Start a Firm Now Office 365

Clio

$222.00-$363.84
Help Me Get Paid Clio

LawPay

QuickBooks Online

$361.60-$595.00
Help Me Grow Lexicata

MailChimp

LexBlog

$169.90-$578.80
Help Me Build a Team Ruby Receptionists

Fancy Hands

$833.28-$1440.88
Help Me With eDiscovery eDiscovery Assistant

PageVault

 

$714.00-$1394.00
Help Me Insure My Future ABA Insurance

ABA Retirement Program

No data available

What is Firm Builder?

Firm Builder is available to ABA members only. Online modules provide help for technology basics, virtual assistance, and marketing.  This is also the place where ABA members can connect to a practice management consultant.  Here’s how the modules work:

  1. Select a Firm Builder topic (technology, virtual assistance or marketing).
  2. Answer a series of questions.  (Don’t worry, there are plenty of options for “I don’t know, or I’ve done some research, but tell me more.)
  3. Once you’ve answered all the questions, Firm Builder proposes a set of solutions, i.e., products that fit your needs.  The product list is curated from the Universal Solutions page of ABA Blueprint.

Long story short

Firm Builder is a fancy tool that ends up replicating the information already available under Universal Solutions.  While this is redundant, don’t let it dissuade you from using the tool as it may help you focus more specifically on the products that fit your needs. In addition, Firm Builder gives you the option of contacting a live practice management consultant.  Thirty minute consultations are available at no charge via phone or email, and users are promised a 24-hour turnaround time. Live chat is available for quick questions from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, presumably 7 days a week as no limitation is noted on the website.

Who are these consultants?  For now, most or all of them will come from CuroLegal, a private consulting firm working with the ABA.  In the future, the expectation is that practice management advisors – like those associated with your bar or liability coverage provider – will sign on as ABA Blueprint consultants.

Endorsements and Ethics

Does the ABA endorse the products listed on their site?

No, as a matter of ABA policy.  Products featured on the site were selected based on “suitability for solo/small firm practitioners, the stability of the vendor, the availability of integrations, and the standing of the product in the market.”

Do the products on the ABA site meet ethical requirements for all states?

The ABA does not certify the ethical suitability of a given product or service.  The website recommends consulting your local ethics body for advice or guidance. Oregon lawyers can speak to private ethics counsel or contact the Oregon State Bar General Counsel’s office.

Speaking of Oregon Lawyers

If you need help, please take advantage of the abundance of resources available to you through the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund, including access to free and confidential practice management advisors.  You are also welcome to call or email me. I dedicated the last 20+ years of my professional career to helping Oregon lawyers. Thirty minute emails and calls are always free.  Turnaround time is next business day.

On the CLE front, it’s not too late to sign up for Unclaimed Client Funds this Wednesday. Or start the new year off right with “Fee Agreements – Ethical Dos and Don’ts.”  This live, online webinar is scheduled for January 18, 2017. Registration is open now.

All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis

Kick-Start Your New Year

new year.jpgIf you are among the 45% who typically make a New Year’s Resolution, I genuinely wish you the best of luck.

If your goals for 2013 include any of the following:

  • Reducing your stress level
  • Improving your office routines
  • Increasing productivity
  • Streamlining office systems
  • Balancing the demands of work and home

then resolve to get a head start by “spring cleaning” your office systems and work habits.  Remember, you can always contact the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program if you are feeling overwhelmed.  The OAAP can give you guidance on how to develop your own stress management program using deep relaxation, meditation, time management, and other proven stress-reducing techniques.  Best of all, OAAP services are free and confidential.  Similarly, the Professional Liability Fund Practice Management Advisors provide free and confidential assistance with office systems.  Give us a call!  800-452-1639 Toll-Free in Oregon or 503-639-6911.

My Friend Carol Wilson

On Friday, March 18 we lost a special person — friend and colleague Carol Wilson.

Carol created the Professional Liability Fund’s practice management advisor program and was one of the first practice management advisors in the United States.  In 1986 she wrote the first PLF handbook, Law Office Procedures to Avoid Malpractice, now known as A Guide to Setting Up and Running Your Law Practice.  In 2001 she attacked the arduous task of writing a comprehensive book on IOLTA: A Guide to Setting Up and Using Your Lawyer Trust Account. Both handbooks continue to be used by lawyers and law office staff throughout the state. 

Carol also started our collection of practice aids and forms, wrote countless articles, served as newsletter editor, presented numerous CLEs, and volunteered her time and energy to many committees and associations.  In short, if it weren’t for Carol, there would not be a PLF law practice management program.

When Carol retired in 2004, we were sad to see her go, but knew she was looking forward to traveling and spending time with her family.  For a retiree, she was one of the busiest people I knew.  She cheerfully continued her volunteerism, spending many hours helping seniors.

If you had the pleasure of knowing Carol, then you can begin to get a sense of how many people she touched.  She was happy, pleasant, and upbeat.  She always had a smile on her face and a joke wasn’t far behind.  On her last birthday, she alternately told people she was “45” and “29.”  I once said to her on Facebook, “Hi Carol. Geez, we gotta get your picture up here!”  (Meaning a profile picture).  To which she replied: “Ha, Ha! I don’t get my picture taken any more.”  I’ll have you know, Carol was a pretty cute retiree.  If I didn’t think she’d come back and get me, I’d post a picture to prove it!

There are three of us who work now as Practice Management Advisors for the PLF.  Carol trained each of us.  (Notice it took THREE of us to replace her?)  If we are at all successful in what we do, we owe it to Carol.  She was an inspiration, a mentor, and a friend.  I will miss her.

Greening Your Law Practice

treePursuing sustainability through green business practices is not only good for the environment – it can literally mean more green in your pocket.  Getting started is easy.  Review the tips below, take a fresh look around your office, and pick one or two ideas you can implement now.  Bookmark others for the next time you need to replace a monitor or printer. 

How Green is Your Internet?

  • Green your Web site by offering intake forms online.  Clients will appreciate the convenience and so will you and your staff.  Electronically filled intake forms are easy to read and easy to process – design the form to match the information gathered by your practice management software.  Filling out the form in advance means more time to spend with the client when he or she comes into your office, and the money saved in printing and paper costs will add up.  Caveat:  E-mail intake forms directly to prospective clients or use a secure https:// connection.  Proper disclaimers will prevent creation of a lawyer-client relationship where none is intended.  See “Disclaimers for E-mail, ListServes, Usenets, Web Sites, and Newsletters,” www.osbplf.org, then Practice Aids and Forms, then Technology.  Practice tip: Using Acrobat to extend features in Adobe Reader allows clients with Version 7 or later to use your online forms and save a local copy.  In Acrobat, choose Advanced > Extend Features in Adobe Reader…
  • Online collaboration, document sharing, web, and video conferencing are increasingly popular.  You and the client stay put – reducing your mutual carbon footprint – and meeting becomes convenient again.  Read more about this practice at the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/fyidocs/ (see Web and Communication Technology).
  • Put the ultimate power of the Internet to work by accessing your office from home.  Work remotely using www.LogMeIn.com, www.GoToMyPC.com, www.PCAnyWhere.com, Windows Desktop, or a Virtual Private Network.  If your daily commute is 20 miles or more, you can easily save 1,000 miles in a year by telecommuting one day a week.

Make the Most of Your Monitor

  • Consider converting your old-style monitor to an energy-efficient flat screen LCD.  Don’t worry if the purchase is not within your budget now.  When your old monitor needs to be replaced, the newer models will be waiting.  Check the Web sites of PC World and PC Magazine for reviews when you are ready to buy, www.pcworld.com and www.pcmag.com.  If you are a Mac aficionado, use Google® to search the latest discussion threads and forums.
  • Install dual or oversize computer monitors to reduce printing costs.  Nothing beats the convenience (or saves unnecessary print jobs) like being able to compare documents side-by-side.  Dual monitors also mean you can keep a working document up on one screen while your calendar – or time and billing program – sits ready-to-use on the other screen. 

Print Smart and Save Money

Greening your printing practices is one of the best moves you can make.  Fewer print jobs means less paper, ink, chemicals, and plastics consumed.  Consider these possibilities:

  • Share resources by networking your laser printers.  Dedicated printers for each employee make it too easy to hit the “print” button.
  • Require employees to enter a security code before printing a job.  Many printers have this feature, and it is widely used in financial and legal departments of companies where confidentiality must be protected.  The “walk-to” feature eliminates waste in two ways – it makes employees think twice about whether they need to print and whether they want to walk to pick it up. 
  • Use recycled paper.  The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year, according to the Federal Network for Sustainability.  No statistics exist for the average worker in a law office, but suffice to say the numbers are likely to be much higher.  Start printing on recycled paper, reuse it, and recycle it again.  (Be careful to protect confidentiality at the end-point of this process.)  
  • Mandate double-sided printing, which Hewlett-Packard estimates can cut paper waste by 25 percent.
  • If a document flows slightly over to a second page, use the “shrink to fit” setting in your word processor’s Print Preview mode to shorten the document to one page.  Note:  Shrink to fit works by reducing font size, which may make reading difficult for some clients.  If this is an issue, adjust margin settings instead.
  • Download free utilities like www.printgreener.com  or www.fineprint.com that print to PDF and remove extra pages from print jobs.
  • Take advantage of the return and recycle programs for laser cartridges offered by manufacturers.  See the directions printing on or inside the box of your new replacement cartridge. 
  • Ditch your paper fax machine and use an e-fax service instead.

Or Just Don’t Print at All – Put the Power of Your Scanner to Work

  • For truly big savings, move toward going paperless.  See “Is It Time To Go Paper-Less?” at www.osbplf.org, In Brief, then February 2009.  Read more about this practice at the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/fyidocs/ (see Law Office Technology:  Software).
  • If feasible, add desktop scanners to supplement networked or centralized scanners.
  • Once you’ve integrated scanning into the work you do for clients, look for other ways to use this technology.  For example, save a trip to the bank by scanning your checks straight into your business account using a service like www.DepositNow.com.

Other Tips

The Future

Compiled from Eco-Friendly Printing:  However small at first glance, these seven changes really add up, http://biztechmagazine.com/article.asp?item_id=542; Going Green, ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/fyidocs/; Going Green to Stay in the Black, http://www.abanet.org/lpm/magazine/articles/v35/is5/pg09.shtml; Ecopreneurist, http://ecopreneurist.com/; and GreenBiz, http://www.greenbiz.com/.   See also, Oregon Sustainability Resources, http://www.deq.state.or.us/programs/sustainability/ and US Government Sustainability Resources, http://epa.gov/sustainability/.

Copyright Beverly Michaelis 2009