May 31, 2019 | News

LegalFuel: The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar

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By: Christine Bilbrey
Senior Practice Management Advisor at The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar

The Florida Bar is aware that the majority of its members practice as solos or in small firms of five attorneys or less.[1] Because of this, and the fact that law schools do not generally teach students how to run a business, the Bar has long sought to provide practice management resources for members who are starting or running a business while they are also engaged in the practice of law.

LOMAS

Beginning in 1980, The Florida Bar launched the Law Office Management Assistance Service (LOMAS). This department responded to members’ inquiries regarding the tasks of running a firm that did not involve the actual practice of law. This is an important point for members to understand. The department cannot give legal advice. We can’t tell you what you need to file in your case, nor can we provide templates for pleadings. We are happy to assist with the business aspects of running a small firm, such as trust accounting, cybersecurity, obtaining liability insurance, or marketing. (If you need advice in a specific area of law, we will direct you to The Florida Bar’s Lawyers Advising Lawyers program to be matched with a volunteer attorney advisor.[2])

The Practice Resource Center

In 2014, legal technology innovations were exploding right along with threats from online hackers and the damage that could be done to a practice if an attorney did not understand how to properly redact or remove metadata from a document. Sensing a growing need, 2014 Bar President Greg Coleman initiated an update to LOMAS with a strong focus on technology. This effort resulted in the creation of The Practice Resource Institute (PRI). Longtime Florida Bar employee Jonathon Israel, with an impressive background in information technology, was brought on as director. As of this past year, as a joint project by The Florida Bar Board of Governors and the Communications Committee, PRI has been rebranded as The Practice Resource Center with a new, refreshed website, LegalFuel.com.

Practice Management Advisors and Resources

You can reach the practice management advisors (PMAs) by phone, live chat, or email to discuss topics such as setting up a virtual practice, three-way trust account reconciliation, or where to find and download a particular administrative form or template within our free, online document library.[3] We encourage you to take advantage of our helpful checklists for opening a new office, e-filing, or retiring from the practice of law. Stay up to date by listening to our monthly Florida Bar podcast[4]on Legal Talk Network where my fellow PMA, Karla Eckardt, and I interview experts on a wide range of legal topics. You can subscribe to the podcast with the Apple Podcasts app or the Google Play app. Check our event calendar[5] to register for live webinars and earn free CLE credit.

The Practice Resource Center is still a department within the programs division of The Florida Bar, is still staffed by full-time Bar employees, and you can still call us at 850-561-5616 or toll free at 866-730-2020 and be greeted by the charming voice of Debbie Ferrell, who joined the LOMAS staff in 1997. I remember chatting with Debbie back when I was a new law firm administrator and reached out to LOMAS for guidance on several occasions. So many resources have been added since then, and all of The Practice Resource Center offerings, including our many online CLE courses[6] and LegalFuel.com website resources, are completely free of charge to members.

Florida Bar members should also take advantage of the Member Benefits page[7] to score discounts on products and services, such as professional liability insurance; practice resources,[8] including several excellent practice management software programs; free incorporation through Corporate Creations; and even free legal research with Fastcase. Running a small business and practicing law can be very stressful, so the Bar has added two new mental health and wellness services[9] and maintains a mental health and wellness page[10] on the Bar’s main website.

In a speech to the Board of Governors in 1978, the late Sam Smith, former president of The Florida Bar, stated that the Bar “should offer an ounce of prevention that potentially prevents this costly pound of cure.”[11] This is as true now as it was then. Contact The Practice Resource Center today and let us help you avoid mistakes when reconciling your trust account, dealing with closed files, or notifying clients before you depart your current firm. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

[1] The Florida Bar, Results of the 2017 Membership Opinion Survey at 6 (Dec. 2017), available at https://www-media.floridabar.org/uploads/2018/01/2017-Membership-Opinion-Survey-Results.pdf.

[2] The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division, Lawyers Advising Lawyers, https://lawyersadvisinglawyers.com/.

[3] The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar, Document Library, https://www.legalfuel.com/document-library/

[4] The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar, The Florida Bar Podcast, https://www.legalfuel.com/podcast/.

[5] The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar, Events, https://www.legalfuel.com/events/.

[6] The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar, Free CLE, https://www.legalfuel.com/free-cle/.

[7] The Florida Bar, Member Benefits, https://www.floridabar.org/member/benefits/.

[8] The Florida Bar, Member Benefits: Practice Resources, https://www.floridabar.org/member/benefits/practice-resources/.

[9] The Florida Bar, Member Benefits: Mental Health and Wellness, https://www.floridabar.org/member/benefits/mentalhealthwellness/.

[10] The Florida Bar, Mental Health and Wellness Center, https://www.floridabar.org/member/healthandwellnesscenter/.

[11] Mark D. Killian, LOMAS Program Going Strong at 30, Fla. B. News, Sept. 15, 2010, available at https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/lomas-program-going-strong-at-30/.