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For new and seasoned Virginia lawyers with concerns or questions about the day-to-day practice of law, ranging from office sharing to appellate issues and everything in between, the VSB and ALPS sponsor the free and confidential "Risk Management Hotline." It is operated by John J. Brandt, a senior Virginia lawyer, who has been answering Virginia lawyers' questions and solving their problems for 20 of his 60 years in private practice.
Call: John J. Brandt
Toll free: (800) 215-7854
Brandt works with Nolan & Mroz, PLC in Fairfax County and has litigated countless cases over his career, including legal malpractice, medical malpractice, personal injury, and contracts. He is a Fellow of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers and also has considerable transactional experience. Brandt holds both a JD (1961) and an LL.M (1963) from the Georgetown University Law School, and he will answer your concerns and help you solve whatever problems you face. There are no limits to the topics you can discuss with him.
Example Topics Include:
- Starting a law practice
- Obtaining legal malpractice insurance
- Fee arrangements
- Types of ownership entities, i.e., sole proprietorship and limited liability co.
- Sharing office space
- Leaving law practice (and either joining another firm or retiring)
- Substantive/procedural legal questions dealing with transactional, trial, and appellate issues.
- Dealing with a difficult client
- Withdrawing from representation
- Fee dispute
Brandt's Risk Management Suggestions:
- Be pleasant and courteous to office staff, clients, and adversaries. It's contagious.
- Use the comprehensive online legal research tool Fastcase—a $1,900 annual value that is free to VSB members. Access through your VSB Portal (Sign in).
- Use engagement letters in your representations, understanding that this creates a written contract with a five-year statute of limitations.
- Carefully evaluate a potential client on the first visit just as you would have the client evaluate you. Remember, you do not have to accept the representation of every potential client you meet.
- Never accept a representation that is beyond your own expertise; do not be afraid to refer the potential client to other lawyers or consider associating yourself with an attorney who does have the necessary expertise.
- Communication. Communication. Communication. Year after year, one of the most common Bar complaints in Virginia is failure to communicate. Return telephone calls as soon as possible; give a potential client information about yourself, on the first visit, in the form of a brochure or simply a curriculum vitae. The first visit with a potential client is a great marketing opportunity, so take advantage of it.
- Since trust accounting is so important in your law practice, and unfortunately trust account rule violations serve as the basis for many disciplinary complaints, keep abreast of the rules governing trust accounts.
- When referring clients or potential clients to other lawyers or third-party service providers, attempt to present a selection of two or three, if possible, and document your referral advice in writing.
- Beware of conflicts of interest and create a "conflicts database" or a manual "conflicts check system" of some kind.
- Join your local bar association; it is a marvelous way to meet wonderful lawyers like you, form mentoring relationships, and begin to market yourself.
- If you are a sole proprietor or in a small law firm, there are numerous online resources to help you, as well as one-stop small businesses like yourself that can assist with websites, SEO, social media, logo design, and other necessities for smaller law firms.
- Seriously consider what will happen to your clients in case of your death or disability, particularly if you are a solo practitioner; and then consult the publication "Planning Ahead: Protecting Your Client's Interests in the Event of Your Disability or Death."
- The American Bar Association maintains a comprehensive list of resources for practice management that may be found here.
- Questions? That's what I am here for, and it's FREE and CONFIDENTIAL.