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A blog by members of the Wake County Bar Association/Tenth Judicial District Bar's Professionalism Committee members.

 

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Disconnect: A Matter of Professionalism and Respect

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Monday, July 22, 2013

By Douglas J. Brocker, Chair of the WCBA/Tenth JD Professionalism Committee, The Brocker Law Firm, P.A.  

Modern communication technology enables lawyers to accomplish things in a much more timely, efficient and effective manner in many instances. Utilized properly, digital communications also can assist a lawyer or law firm in reducing overhead and providing representation to clients more economically. E-mails and other electronic medium allow lawyers and law firms to operate in ways that would not have been imaginable less than a decade ago.

However, use of these relatively new communication mediums can become as addictive as some substances and their overuse can cause a myriad professional and personal problems and issues. As lawyers, we all have times where it seems that there is no possible way we can accomplish everything in the limited time given. It is during those times that we run the greatest risk of overusing or misusing electronic communications.

I am constantly reminded of the importance of disconnecting from them on occasion for both personal and professional reasons. One recent experience reinforced the importance of disconnecting. The Wake County Bar Association had the privilege of having one of the Fourth Circuit judges from North Carolina speak at a recent monthly luncheon. During a fascinating speech from one of the most interesting and accomplished persons in the State, I looked around the room and repeatedly saw fellow attorneys using their phones to read and respond to emails and texts, browse, among other things. I was hoping that our speaker was looking from a different perspective and did not observe what I saw.

I completely understand the temptation during a busy time to catch up on a few emails or deal with some other pressing matters. I'm confident that I have been guilty of doing so in the past. However, as a past president of the organization, I was dismayed that our esteemed speaker might be observing the same thing I was and believing that our local Bar members were not interested in her very insightful remarks.

We all have been involved in situations where we are talking or meeting with somebody in person and they interrupt the personal conversation to take a phone call or respond to an e-mail or text. When you are on the receiving end of this behavior, it unmistakably projects the impression that your discussions, and by extension you, are not important. Although that probably was not the intent, it leaves a very bad impression.

They are many important reasons, in my opinion, that all of us should disconnect at times. When attending a speech or in meeting with a client, witness or other person, in my opinion, it's simply a matter of professionalism and good form to turn off your own phone and focus on the matter at hand. If you are truly that busy, you should probably not attend or reschedule. In these types of situations, disconnect; it’s a matter of professionalism and respect.

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Turning Out the Lights Without Leaving Clients in the Dark

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Monday, July 1, 2013

By Brooke Ottesen,  Associate, The Brocker Law Firm, P.A.

Exit planning is a hot topic in North Carolina although we are certainly not the first state to tackle these issues. Keith Kapp, President of the North Carolina State Bar, called for the Bar to re-examine and improve our approach to both the beginning and the end of law practice. Despite this call to arms and recognition of a need for change in the legal profession, Warren Savage, a claims attorney with Lawyers Mutual, finds it surprising "how many lawyers avoid preparing for the inevitable end of their careers until after that end arrives at an unexpected time.” He says, "While legal careers will almost certainly end because of a career change, retirement, health, or death, a surprising number of lawyers reach that end without having considered and prepared for the recurring issues common to winding down a law practice.”[1] Therefore, exit planning appears to be both a big challenge for attorneys, as well as, an opportunity for improvement in the legal profession.

Exit strategies can encompass any one of a number of different scenarios:

(1) Winding down and closing the doors of the practice;

(2) Selling or merging the law practice; or

(3) Internally transitioning the law practice to another attorney in the firm.

Each strategy comes with its own challenges, and it takes time and commitment to successfully implement. Regardless of the road you choose, the key is to start early in developing your plan so your clients, your employees, and your family are protected.

Beginning in July and over the next few months, we will post a series of articles related to this issue. Each subsequent article will tackle a specific aspect of exit planning and succession such as practical checklists for winding down a practice, the ethics of turning out the lights, the sale or merger of a law practice, and expecting the unexpected. In the meantime, a great resource for attorneys interested in creating such a strategy is Turning out the Lights: Planning for Closing Your Law Practice, a publication of the North Carolina Bar Association. The Association published the procedural guidebook to help lawyers plan for untimely events that might necessitate the closing of a law practice. The publication is $27 and you can order online at http://www.ncbar.org/cle/bookstore/tol12.



[1] The Senior Lawyer Division of the NCBA Newsletter. "What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Retire,” Section Vol. 21, No. 2 (March 2013).

Tags:  Exit Planning 

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