MBA Annual Conference returns: Event to be held in Boston March 11-12

Issue March 2010 By Cassidy Norton

After a two-year hiatus from a comprehensive annual conference, this year the Massachusetts Bar Association is bringing back its spring conference on March 11 and 12 at the Westin Copley Place in Boston's Back Bay. MBA Annual Conference 2010 will feature two full days of educational programming tied to the conference's theme of "Achieving a Competitive Advantage in Changing Times."

In addition to the March 11 Gala Dinner and the March 12 Access to Justice Awards Luncheon, the conference will feature several plenary sessions, including one focused on compliance with the new Data Privacy Act. Two CLE tracks - law practice management and recent developments in the law - will include breakout sessions throughout the two days.

Lawyers Journal caught up with key conference faculty to get an idea of what to expect in their respective CLE programs at AC10.

Rodney Dowell
Compliance with the New Massachusetts Data Privacy Laws

New data privacy regulations will be enacted on March 1, 2010. This program will thoroughly analyze the regulations, including coverage of the data privacy statute (Mass. G.L. ch. 93H), the data privacy code provisions (Code of Massachusetts Regulations ch. 201, §17, as revised), released guidance from the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, and the tools necessary to comply with the new rules.

The panelists are drawn from government agencies, the courts, private industry, technology and nonprofit sectors, and will provide an array of opinions and tips for the institution of best practices.

Massachusetts has set its course for the strictest data privacy regulation in the country. Starting on March 1, protection of clients' data will become an attorney's affirmative duty. Lawyers shouldn't risk a breach later, and should be preparing to prevent breaches now by attending this seminar and learning the nutshell view of the Massachusetts Data Privacy Act: how the law will be enforced, tools for technical compliance with prevailing laws and regulations, and a panel discussion of key questions.

Alan Klevan
60 Sites in 60 Minutes

This action-packed presentation features 60 of the most practical, pertinent and sometimes just plain entertaining sites for the typical law practitioner, according to presenter Alan Klevan. Attorneys Ross Kodner, Bob Ambrogi, Rodney Dowell and Klevan have scanned the Internet for the hottest and most useful sites for attorneys and their staff, including technology, practice management tools, document management systems and time management tools. Two of the speakers, Kodner and Ambrogi, were at the forefront of developing the "60 Sites" format.

The Web is rife with useful sites for lawyers, and bookmarking these sites now will save both time and money later, Klevan said. The sites will be shown live, so attendees will actually see the pages being navigated during the presentation. Even if the attendee uses only a handful of the sites presented when they return to their practices, "he or she will earn back their conference registration fee immediately due to the advantage of having these pages handy," Klevan said.

Robert Ambrogi
Social Media for Lawyers: How to Boost Your Practices and Avoid Pitfalls

Social media are fueling the most significant changes in legal marketing since the advent of the Internet. Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and other tools empower lawyers to reach ever-broader audiences of potential clients, more effectively than ever before and at little or no cost. At the same time, these tools are radically changing how consumers shop for and buy legal services, according to Massachusetts attorney Robert Ambrogi.

The social media seminar will provide an overview of the social-media landscape for lawyers, and show them how they can use social-media tools to build their practices and enhance their reputations. The panelists will also review professional and ethical pitfalls to avoid in social media.

Serving on the panel will be James Bolan, Esq., author of the book "Ethical Lawyering in Massachusetts" and a nationally recognized authority on legal ethics and the Internet; David Harlow, Esq., author of the award-winning HealthBlawg and a frequent speaker and writer on blogging and social media; and Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks, a social-media research and consulting firm. Ambrogi, a lawyer and media consultant, is the chairman of the panel.

Ross Kodner
From Paper to Pixels: The Paper LESS Office Works; Paperless Doesn't

For more than 20 years, Ross Kodner has helped law firms and attorneys through the process of building a library of complete - and completely electronic - case files. That means every document, every receipt, every e-mail message and even every voicemail message related to the case is stored in a searchable database of PDF files. It sounds complicated, and daunting, but Kodner promises it's not.

"It's really a simpler, more common-sense concept" to have all the information stored electronically in a single database, "and it's a much greener approach than continuing to produce paper," he said.

Not that the paper goes away entirely. Kodner said he thinks the "mythical paperless office is the single greatest lie of the technology age," but that an office with less paper waste and consumption is easier to attain. And one it is attained, employees of the firm are "happier and richer people," he said.

Building a complete electric case file database is "a realistic way to turn wasted hours into billable hours," Kodner said. "It seems to be a universal truth that the more urgently you need a file, the less likely you are to find it. I've had firms tell me they spent half a day looking for a file, and that's insane." Those lost hours are the "industry shrinkage that affect every law practice," and that can be converted into profitable hours.

Kodner's seminar will explore, in a very specific and focused way, how to build, complete and maintain an electronic case file database at little or no cost to the firm.

Allison Shields
Avoiding Lawyer Meltdown

It can be overwhelming to organize both a solo practice and a personal life, practicing attorney and consultant Allison Shields said, but there are tools and strategies to help even the most frazzled lawyer avoid a meltdown.

Shields will address the basics of organizing your activities (not your time, because that is, unfortunately, a finite resource); the minutiae of delegating and outsourcing; prioritizing time spent with clients; and identifying the best use of your time. For example, she said, it's not enough to tell someone to do something - you have to show them how to do it. Investing the time to train a person brings better products that are more quickly produced.

By learning how to delegate, how to organize and how to prioritize, your practice will run more smoothly, allowing you more time to invest in your personal life, or back into the business.

Dustin Cole
Building Business in the Post-Crash Economy

This three-part seminar explores the dramatic change currently underway in the culture, economics and practice of law, attorney Dustin Cole said. "We can either prosper from this change, or we can fall under the bus."

The seminars will explore the changing ways of doing business, including the encroachment by other professions and by technology. Cole will also address the way customers have changed in response to the economic crash. Though the economy is looking up, he said, consumers have changed the way they approach law services. "It's subtle, but it's there," he said.

The other element of change is the influx of lawyers available to perform the services of law. Last year, 48,000 new attorneys graduated from law school, at the same time that mid-level attorneys have been unceremoniously booted from their firms, and older lawyers are finding that they don't have enough savings to retire. As a result, the pendulum has swung from a demand economy to a supply economy for lawyers - and though that presents challenges, it is also an opportunity to grow as a law practitioner, Cole said.

The seminars will help Massachusetts attorneys develop new skills in this new world, and reposition them away from providing commodity-level services by helping them move up the value level scale. They will help address "what's different now, how to grow new skills to cope with the changes, and how to be successful because of them," Cole said.