Popular “How to Start and Run” conference draws record attendance

Issue March 2010 By Tricia M. Oliver

Nearly 150 Massachusetts attorneys attended "How to Start and Run a Successful Solo or Small-Firm Practice" on Jan. 28 at Lombardo's in Randolph. The MBA last presented this popular full-day conference in 2007.

The nuts and bolts of launching one's own firm were covered. Participants learned the mechanics of setting up a firm or solo practice, the logistics of running it and best practices to successfully market it.

The program faculty was led by conference co-chairs Marc L. Breakstone and David W. White Jr. of Boston's Breakstone, White and Gluck. White, a past president of the MBA, described attendees as "enthusiastic" and mentioned that the conference was covered on Twitter (#startandrun2010) as it took place.

Other featured faculty included attorneys William Bogaert, Gabriel Cheong, Rodney Dowell, Andrea Goldman, Alan Klevan, B.J. Krintzman and Denise Murphy, as well as MBA Insurance Agency President Terence Welsh.

Following the day's educational offerings, attendees took advantage of a reception sponsored by the MBA's General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section.

Cheong was an audience member when "How to Start and Run" was offered in 2006. "I still have the book," he said. When preparing for the 2010 conference as a member of its faculty, Cheong noted that those three years have brought drastic changes.

"It's different," said Cheong, noting that it's increasingly cheaper to establish one's own firm. "You can definitely open a firm on a shoestring budget," unlike before. "If you want to start a solo practice, anyone can do it; but, it is not for everybody," he added. Cheong was sworn in to the bar in 2007. On the day of his admittance ceremony, he started his law practice.

Many less tech-savvy conference goers gained much from Cheong and the other presenters. A variety of circumstances led them to the conference.

The "How to Start and Run" conference came highly recommended to John Morrissey from past participants. After 17 years in a Boston-based firm, Morrissey and three colleagues are opening a small firm in Braintree. With his "fresh start," he thought it was best to learn from the conference and "do it right."

Morrissey has found technology the hardest obstacle as he plans for his small firm's opening in the coming months. So, he paid close attention to the recommendations presented by Cheong, Breakstone, White and others.

Morrissey, who lives in Hingham, cited work-life issues as the driving force for the professional change. He is looking forward to soon shedding his three-hour round-trip commute to and from Boston in exchange for more time spent with his daughters, including coaching his 11-year-old's softball team.

In addition to those attendees from the Boston area, the conference drew participants from well beyond the Route 128 belt. One such attorney was Vittorio Coppa, now with Coppa Law Group in Holyoke. Coppa used to work for WestLaw and was interested in attending this program to learn how to best continue to grow his recently launched "virtual office." Coppa found the conference to be a "very professional program that covered all areas in which I had concerns or questions."

Specifically, Coppa paid close attention to the marketing aspects of the program. He will be enlisting suggestions gained at the conference as he applies his customer service skills honed at WestLaw to build his law firm's client base in Western Massachusetts.

In addition to practitioners, the event drew law students eager to obtain a competitive advantage over their peers following graduation. One such student was Sakib Khan, a third-year law student at Boston College Law School, who will take the bar exam in July.

Khan explained that the conference addressed the "big mysteries" of establishing one's own firm. Khan took careful notes on the policy and regulatory portions of the conference, including the segment that covered the new data privacy regulations. "I now know what I need to be thinking about," said Khan.

Law student Ryan Menard also found the program to be "very helpful, informative and practical." Menard attends Northeastern University School of Law and will receive his law degree in 2011.