Camille Stell

Stell: Building a 21st Century Law Practice

On September 29, Duke Law School hosted North Carolina’s first Evolve Law Conference.

Evolve Law was co-founded by Mary Juetten and Jules Miller and bills itself as a community of entrepreneurs, law firms, attorneys, investors and academics working together to accelerate the adoption of new ideas and technology in the legal profession.

The program featured a series of Darwin Talks (five-minute thought leadership presentations) along with product pitches from North Carolina legal technology entrepreneurs presenting to a panel of judges Shark Tank style. Tom Boyle, owner and founder of TrustBooks, a trust accounting software platform designed and priced for solo and small firm practitioners, was the winner of the legal technology pitches.

I was excited to present a Darwin Talk on the topic of “Building a 21st Century Law Firm.”  I’d like to share my remarks with you.

21st century challenges

There are many challenges for 21st century law firms. Many of those challenges are beyond your control, such as increased costs and new methods of competition. But, not all of these things have to happen to you.  You can be a part of the changing marketplace.

For example, Legal Zoom is a reality. Most lawyers bemoan Legal Zoom, then talk about how their firm can step in to clean up the mess when a client is hurt by a Legal Zoom product.

Legal Zoom isn’t going away. However, I believe many of theiE clients are ordinary people in your community who would hire you if you would do 4 simple things:

  • Educate them about their legal needs
  • Show them how you can provide solutions to meet those needs
  • Market yourself so that they can find you
  • Present them with pricing they can understand – NOT discount pricing just transparent pricing

21st century lawyers want …

Recently, we ran an interview in the Lawyers Mutual newsletter with associate Chelsea Chapman of McIlveen Family Law Firm located in Gastonia, North Carolina.

In talking with Chelsea, a millennial lawyer, we were able to see first-hand how managing attorney Angela McIlveen’s forward-thinking approach has set their firm apart as innovators in the industry. From their transparent management style to their collaborative work space—they are constantly finding ways to move their firm forward.

As Chelsea says, “Innovative thinking is necessary in order to run a successful business.  I’m lucky to be part of a firm that not only embraces technology, but seeks out new ways to make our procedures as effective as possible for both employees and clients.  In my experience, a firm that fails to pay attention to technology advances is just asking for a bar complaint. On my first day at McIlveen, I remember being completely in awe of how organized client’s electronic “files” were kept. Personally, I think lack of organization is a problem that many solo firms need to address if they want to stay in business.  Additionally, I absolutely love my firm’s open office space.  The layout of the office enhances productivity and cultivates energy.  Working with a group of forward-thinkers makes me excited for the future of the legal world.”

Five things you can do today to build a law firm for the future

1. Start the conversation in your law firm – with your Long Range Planning Committee or Strategic Planning Committee, or your Marketing / Business Development Committee. Invite Lawyers Mutual over to be a part of these conversations or have coffee with Jeff Ward, organizer of the Evolve Law event and director of the Duke Law School’s Start-Up Ventures Clinic. Join Evolve Law (www.evolvelawnow.com), a community of entrepreneurs, law firms, attorneys, investors and academics working together to serve as a catalyst for legal innovation.

2. Collaborate with EVERYONE in your firm. Traditionally, lawyers believe the practice of law is unique among all professions and they resist the idea that a law practice can or should be managed like a business. I encourage you to continue to love and respect the law, but to recognize that there are those without a J.D. degree who can bring good ideas to better your firm. These conversations should extend beyond the partner meetings and include associates and other legal professionals who currently work with you. Also, as you make hiring decisions, hire for new skill sets. 21st century skills include cultural competency, leadership, project management, business acumen, high risk tolerance, technology, social networking, communication and presentation, teaming and problem solving that includes innovation.

3. Build a network outside of legal. Talk with your business friends or other professionals and ask what they are seeing and doing to address changes in their professions.

4. Think like an entrepreneur – Train yourself to think in a new way by exposing yourself to new ideas. Read the Divorce Discourse blog, subscribe to the Legal Talk Network or Startup podcast, read Seth Godin, Malcom Gladwell, Richard Susskind or Jordan Furlong. Hire professionals that enhance the skill set of your lawyers, not just mimic them.

5. Read, Attend, Study – Congratulations for showing up to an Evolve Law event. Just by being here, you show you are ready to consider a new future. Continue to show up where people are talking about things you don’t typically hear at the local bar meetings. Attend the 2017 Clio Conference Sept 25 & 26 in New Orleans, or join the Legal Marketing Association where you can attend local and national conferences on legal marketing and technology.

“It’s all happening” is a quote from one of my favorite movie characters, Penny Lane, in one of my favorite movies, Almost Famous. Penny seems to be saying that everything is falling into place, as if fate is bringing destiny to its ultimate fulfillment. You cannot be complacent, the tools are available and the future is here – it’s all happening.

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at camille@lawyersmutualnc.com or 800.662.8843.

Amanda Feder Receives GBA’s 2016 Pro Bono Award

Amanda Feder Receives GBA’s 2016 Pro Bono Award

The Greensboro Bar Association’s 2016 Pro Bono Award was presented to Amanda C. Feder at the October 20 member meeting. Amanda has represented multiple clients referred from Legal Aid with a wide variety of legal problems. She has accepted 20 cases from Legal Aid over the past year, providing more than 100 hours of pro bono service. She has handled four housing cases (including one jury trial), nine expungements, six powers of attorney, and one will preparation matter. Legal Aid went on to point out that six of the nine expungements our award recipient handled resulted in completely clean records, giving these persons a fresh start and significantly improving their chances of obtaining or maintaining employment, housing and other benefits. By any standard, these actions certainly qualify as outstanding pro bono service.

Amanda C. Feder

Amanda C. Feder

Amanda Feder Receives 2016 Pro Bono Award

The Greensboro Bar Association’s 2016 Pro Bono Award was presented to Amanda C. Feder at the October 20 member meeting. Amanda has represented multiple clients referred from Legal Aid with a wide variety of legal problems. She has accepted 20 cases from Legal Aid over the past year, providing more than 100 hours of pro bono service. She has handled four housing cases (including one jury trial), nine expungements, six powers of attorney, and one will preparation matter. Legal Aid went on to point out that six of the nine expungements our award recipient handled resulted in completely clean records, giving these persons a fresh start and significantly improving their chances of obtaining or maintaining employment, housing and other benefits. Read Pro Bono Award presentation in full.

Bob Cone Receives NCSB Distinguished Service Award

The North Carolina State Bar’s John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award was presented to Robert C. Cone at our October 20 member meeting, recognizing a lifetime of exemplary service to his clients, his profession and his community. The award was presented by NC State Bar President Margaret M. Hunt. View Ms. Hunt’s DSA Presentation.

Judicial Nominee Election Results

Election of nominees for District Court Judge, held September 29, 2016.

Results:

Jonathan G. Kreider: 119

Ronald P. Butler: 53

Randall Ross Howell: 45

Tom Kane

Cross-Selling: A Goal, but Very Difficult

By Tom Kane (Reprinted from Tom’s LegalMarketingBlog.com dated July 6, 2016)

Why is cross-selling difficult? First, because many corporate clients do not want to put all their eggs in one basket.  For political, financial and/or relationship reasons, they want to spread the work around.  Sure, a number of major corporations are reducing the number of outside law firms (often doing so to better manage administrative headaches).  However, rarely will they reduce the number of law firms to one.

Reasons within the law firm itself are just as likely to make cross-selling difficult to pull off. Since I have written on the topic numerous times in the past, I thought I would refer to just four of my posts.  Hopefully, they will shed light on why it is so difficult to cross-sell, and offer ideas on how to overcome the difficulties:

Why Your Partner Won’t Cross-Sell You!
After 25-plus years in marketing lawyers, it continues to amaze me that some lawyers do not understand why cross-selling so often doesn’t work.  The thinking seems to go, “I’m good at… (fill in the blank), we’re partners, and they should just refer ‘their’ clients to me so I’ll have more work.” The question is “why …Continue Reading

Is the Lack of Cross-Selling Your Fault?
Are you to blame for the failure of your partners to cross-sell you to their client contacts? Not necessarily, but you could be part of the problem. Clients select lawyers they know, like and trust. Referral sources, including your partners, send you clients for the same reason. Since they know, like and trust you, they …Continue Reading

Cross-selling By Any Other Name
Semantics sometimes get in the way of some good advice. When you try to convince clients (subtly or otherwise) to engage your law firm for additional services not previously rendered, I think it is silly to argue about whether you are cross-selling or cross-marketing clients. I’ve known and admired Bob Denney for many years. He’s …Continue Reading

Why Cross-selling Doesn’t Work, But Could
There are obstacles to cross-selling that explains why law firms are so bad at it. But with the right kind of leadership and incentives, the obstacles can be overcome. It isn’t easy though. When I was an in-house legal marketer, I actually saw cross-selling work – maybe 1% of the time. An article on Law360.com …Continue Reading

Cross-selling can work in law firms, but it isn’t easy.  It takes knowing, liking and trusting one another among partners, and… a client’s concurrence, of course.

Camille Stell

Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends

A new, landmark study conducted by the ABA and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation reveals substantial and widespread problems with addiction and mental health issues.

Of the 15,000 U.S. lawyers studied across the country, more than 1 in 3 practicing attorneys are problem drinkers. Lawyers report suffering from depression at a rate of four times the general U.S. population, with 28% suffering from depression, 19% from anxiety and 23% from stress.

I’m sure no one starts their legal career believing they will end up a statistic. So how does it happen?

Each story is different but probably shares many similarities. There were red flags that colleagues could have seen if they were looking. There were choices to make and decisions regretted.

Don’t become a discipline statistic. Here are a few red flags that are often symptoms of an underlying problem.

Relationship issues often show up as a symptom of an underlying problem. 

  • Complaints from clients     
  • Disagreements or inability to work with colleagues
  • Irritable, impatient
  • Angry outbursts, combative
  • Hostile attitude
  • Overreaction to criticism
  • Unpredictable, rapid mood swings
  • Non-responsive

Personal issues often show up as a symptom of an underlying problem. 

  • Legal separation or divorce; custody issues
  • No family support
  • Living outside financial means
  • Credit problems, judgments, tax liens, bankruptcy
  • Frequent illnesses or odd accidents
  • Arrests
  • Isolating from friends, family
  • Chaotic personal life/lots of drama

Performance issues often show up as a symptom of an underlying problem. 

  • Missed deadlines
  • Decreased efficiency
  • Inadequate follow through
  • Lack of attention
  • Poor judgment
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Blaming or making excuses for poor performance

Know who your friends are. There are many programs across the state to help lawyers in trouble. If you believe a colleague is in trouble, but you aren’t sure how to help, you can reach out to one of the many organizations in the state designed to meet these needs. They can provide guidance or will help with an intervention by someone who is trained in helping people in distress.

The NC State Bar Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) is a confidential resource for lawyers suffering from anxiety, stress and burnout, depression and suicide, anger management, compassion fatigue, alcohol or drug problems, process addictions, grief and loss and over-functioning. Visit www.nclap.org.

BarCARES is a confidential, short-term intervention program provided cost-free to members of participating judicial district bars, voluntary bar associations and law schools. BarCARES is a program of the NC Bar Association. Visit www.ncbar.org/members/barcares.

The Transitioning Lawyers Commission (TLC) provides support and resources to lawyers as they wind down their active career in the law. This project originated with the Senior Lawyers Division of the NC Bar Association. Visit www.ncbar.org/members/committees/transitioning-lawyers-commission.

The NC Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism was established in 1998 to enhance professionalism among NC lawyers. Executive Director Mel Wright is a North Carolina treasure. While his efforts are often big picture for maintaining professionalism and excellence among lawyers, he can step in to offer advice and counsel for lawyers who are concerned about a lack of professionalism in a particular situation. Visit www.nccourts.org/courts/crs/councils/professionalism.

Lawyers Mutual. Our Client Services Department and Claims Department have offered thousands of hours of advice and counsel to lawyers who are struggling with a specific case or with their practice in general. We have specialized programs to help firms in crisis such as our HELP team in case of lawyer death or disability, and claims repair when a case has slipped off the rails. You can reach us at 800.662.8843 or www.lawyersmutualnc.com.

A mental health hour on this topic will be included in the Lawyers Mutual CLE scheduled for Greensboro at the Grandover on Friday October 21. You can register here (free for insureds) – http://www.lawyersmutualnc.com/cle-schedule.

Practicing law is a privilege. Following these steps will help you do it for many years to come.

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at camille@lawyersmutualnc.com or 800.662.8843.

Lisa Arthur, President, Young Lawyers Section, Greensboro Bar Association

Young Lawyers Section: Connections, Oct 2016

YLS is off to a great start! In the month of September, we stuffed 87 backpacks for the comfort backpack program at Backpack Beginnings. Afterwards, we had our member kickoff party at Pig Pounder. Thank you to all YLS members who joined us. If you missed the opportunity to connect with YLS in September, we hope to see you at the Swearing-In Ceremony and/or reception on October 14, 2016.  More details on our upcoming events are included below.

Book Buddies

Book Buddies is a volunteer program that YLS created and supports every year.  The program pairs lawyers with classrooms at Hampton Elementary to read aloud to the class for thirty minutes to an hour.  The great thing about the program is that it’s flexible—once you’re paired with a classroom, you work with the teacher to schedule mutually agreeable reading times.  Our goal is to fully staff Hampton’s pre-K through second-grade classes and expand to another Guilford County school. To find out more about Book Buddies and how you can volunteer, please email Whit Pierce at whit.pierce@smithmoorelaw.com.

Swearing-In Ceremony/Bridge the Gap Program

Please mark your calendars for Friday, October 14, 2016.  We would love for GBA members to join us and support our newly licensed attorneys. Our Bridge the Gap Program starts at 9:00 a.m. and provides a great opportunity for new lawyers to tour the Federal, State, and Bankruptcy Courts.  If you are interested in signing up for the Bridge the Gap Program, please contact Grant Sigmon at gsigmon@bbflaw.com.  Our Swearing-In Ceremony will begin at 3:00 p.m. at the Commissioners’ Room located on the second floor of the Old Courthouse (301 W. Market Street) with a reception at Churchill’s to follow.  To access a PDF copy of the application, please click here.  Applications are due by October 7, 2016.

Website Launch

Do you want more information about upcoming YLS events or how you can get involved? Check out our new website:  http://www.greensboroyls.org/.  We look forward to connecting with you!

Jim Bryan Named Fellow in American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel

Nexsen Pruet lawyer Jim Bryan has been named a Fellow of The American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel in the practice area of insurance coverage.

The prestigious group is composed of about 300 preeminent coverage and extracontractual counsel in the United States and Canada, representing the interests of both insurers and policyholders.

“I believe in the goals and ideals of the American College, and look forward to contributing to this worthy group,” said Bryan. “I am honored by my selection as a Fellow, and humbled by this recognition.”

For a number of years, Bryan has been a leader at Nexsen Pruet in the insurance litigation practice and a leader in the Greensboro community. He believes in giving back – he was President of the Greensboro Bar Association (2014-2015) and is currently Secretary/Treasurer and a master in the Guilford Inn of Court.  He is a senior member of the firm’s Greensboro office, chairs the insurance litigation group, mentors younger attorneys and provides leadership for the office.

Kenneth R. Keller, President, Greensboro Bar Association

Message from the President, Oct 2016

At the September 14, 2016 meeting, the Board of Directors for the Greensboro Bar Association unanimously approved as a Greensboro Bar project the construction of a Habitat for Humanity house.  Our Bar has previously completed construction of seven houses (1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2010, and 2013), and we look forward to the eighth.

Our Habitat projects have afforded us a unique opportunity for positive interaction.  In addition to benefiting the homeowner family and community, these projects allow our members to work together and develop relationships totally removed from the stress and often adversarial nature of our professional lives.  During construction, we work on a common project involving senior and junior members of our Bar, members of the judiciary, clerk’s staff, and Elon law students.

The homeowner will be selected by Habitat for Humanity and will work with us in the construction of the house.  These homeowners are required to attend more than 30 hours of classes on budgeting, home maintenance, and finance to prepare them to be homeowners.  They work a minimum of 350 hours during construction and repay Habitat through interest free loans with a typical monthly payment of $650 to $800 (no more than 25% of their income).  These funds allow Habitat to acquire additional property and build additional homes.

This project will require both labor and funding in the amount of $75,000 to complete the house.  Of this amount, $60,000 has already been committed ($25,000 in anonymous contributions from your fellow Bar members, $25,000 in credit from Habitat for Humanity based on contribution of pro bono legal services from our Bar to the organization over the years, and $10,000 from the Greensboro Bar Association Foundation), leaving the sum of $15,000 to be raised from our membership.

We will kick off the project at our October 20, 2016 Bar lunch meeting, and plan to begin construction in the Spring of 2017.  Please indicate your willingness to contribute funding and/or labor to this project by e-mailing Diane Lowe at jd18gba@greensborobar.org.  Like most undertakings, you will get out of this project in proportion to what you put in – do take advantage of this project to enrich and expand your relationships with members of our Bar!