To be clear, law practice management is not the same as being part of law firm management. All types of lawyers can benefit from law practice management skills, be it in a private firm, legal aid clinic, in-house counsel, government lawyers, etc. It also encompasses the type of aptitudes needed on how to start-up and run your own private practice as a sole practitioner.
"The management of a law practice has evolved and is much broader than just about managing the rights of your clients, it encompasses managing human resources whether it is the development of internal policies, elaborating pay and remuneration structure, finances and accounting, business development, technology and software ranging from clients and case management systems, document management, conflict management, communications with the client and follow up, management of client expectations, firm management expectations, timekeeping habits and billing, [...] it's extremely large; it can even be knowing when to reach out to external consultants when you're aware of the limits of your current capabilities" says Caroline Etter, Executive Director and Professional Partner of Power Law in Ottawa.
Awareness of multiple business priorities, keeping up with the latest tech trends, all the while juggling professional obligations while still attempting to perfect your mastery of law doesn't come naturally for all. Add into the mix the elusive goals like "making a difference," "finding meaning," and "having a life" as a young (or transitioning) adult can be enough to push new lawyers over the edge at the realities of practice management.
It's important for every lawyer and team member to have knowledge of best legal practices, as opposed to simply relying on the managing partner to communicate this knowledge. "Good practice management is a characteristic of successful law firms. Training lawyers at the business of law and all it encompasses is not only an requirement in the highly competitive legal market but also an expectation from clients," adds Christiane Saad, Director of the Ottawa Law Practice Program. "Lawyers need to understand the business language and consistently provide excellent client service and not only rely on the managing partner. Lawyers and support staff members must recognize these expectations and take the leadership to meet them."
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