Jim Calloway. I’m the director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. I am a practice management advisor, which is a label used by those who provide management and technology advice to lawyers who are members of our organizations. Most PMA’s work for bar associations as full-time employees.
What is your firms’ specialty/niche?
Some of your readers may not be aware that there are two types of state bar associations: the unified and the voluntary. Unified means the bar is both the lead organization of lawyers in the state and the discipline and regulatory body for lawyers, which is the type of state bar Oklahoma is. A voluntary bar means there is a separate licensing and regulatory body.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the legal technology industry now and in the upcoming year?
It is hard to pick the biggest challenge as there are so many. Courts and counsel still have to figure out how to accomplish electronic discovery in a fair and-cost effective manner. Cloud computing holds a lot of promise for the future, particularly for small firm lawyers, but the technology has to be virtually perfect to be accepted. Also we need a better framework of substantive law and legal ethics opinions to allow for wide-spread adoption of cloud computing. What happens if a cloud vendor goes bankrupt and the trustee wants to sell the data as an asset, to cite just one example.
How can the legal vendor community work with you best?
Legal vendors have traditionally worked with bar associations in many ways. Practice management advisors appreciate review copies of software so we can be familiar with many products so we can better serve our members. We also like to have a vendor contact who knows us. Sometimes I have found myself mediating problems between a vendor and a lawyer. This can be good for both parties.
What advice would you have for legal vendors trying to compete in this crowded marketplace?
First, I’d suggest they take a lesson from YouTube and other video-sharing sites. A complete, free package of short training videos should be available online. It is hard to get lawyers to sit for hours or days of software training. If they could easily find a five minute video to demonstrate how to do one task whenever they want to learn that function, it could give your product a huge edge in the marketplace. Secondly, we hear a lot about the need for transparency in government and vendors need more transparency as well. Playing “hide the price” on your website so potential customers have to talk to a salesperson to get information is an antiquated practice. If your pricing model is so complex that it cannot be explained in a few words, then you need a Twenty-First Century model. Vendors already know the other challenges. Time-challenged lawyers want on-demand 7-24 service. Mobile apps are revolutionizing the way people use the Internet. Upgrades that are either too frequent or not frequent enough can cause end user frustration. Security concerns are paramount. If a law firm’s client data is compromised via your product, you could be out of business next year.
What associations are you active in?
The American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section and GP/SOLO Division. The Association of Legal Administrators. The College of Law Practice Management. The National Association of Bar Executives. The Practice Management Advisors of North America.
What online resource (website, blog, etc.) is most useful to you (i.e., you use it everyday)?
Google is still my daily “go to” site. If you can construct a strong query you can find most any kind of information. I get great tips and links via Twitter. I’m just starting to use Evernote, but is it clearly going to be an MVP for me. And I must mention the PMA pipe, a compilation of the RSS feeds from many of the practice management advisors. Many bar associations are incorporating the PMA Pipe into their websites to provide frequently updated practice management tips.
What are you speaking about at ABA TECHSHOW?
I’m very excited to be doing a presentation called “The Traveling Lawyer.” From mobile phones to remote access to security on the road, this is a topic of great interest to many lawyers. I’m also doing a program on Alternative Billing. I was a co-author of the book from ABA, Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour (3rd ed.). There is a renewed interest in this subject and Alternative Fees Arrangements, as they are now called, are becoming more common. Clients are greatly interested in improved predictability of fees for legal services. I’m also doing a panel with Ross Kodner and Sharon Nelson with highlights from some of the new practice management books they/we have co-authored: The 2010 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide and How Good Lawyers Survive Bad Times.