Practice Aid Guide: The Essentials of Law Office Management


Published by the Louisiana State Bar Association and underwritten by Gilsbar, Inc. (now known as Gilsbar, LLC) and CNA Insurance Company

The Practice Aid Guide Subcommittee of the LSBA Practice Assistance and Improvement Committee developed the guide to help attorneys with basic systems and forms to manage a law office.

The committee members who compiled this little book are grateful to the Bar members who took the time to give us feedback. We have tried to incorporate all your suggestions in this revision.

Our purpose in writing the first edition in 2004 was to distill the subject to its essentials, primarily for the use of attorneys in solo and small-firm practices. We have kept things as simple as possible in this revision. This book is an outline of the key procedures and forms, the irreducible minimum below which a lawyer will usually find malpractice, unethical behavior, degradation and despair — or at least a bad day at the office.

The chapters are keyed to what you must do with each case or transaction that comes into your offices. You must get off to a good start with the client, which includes avoiding conflicts of interest. You must handle fees, billing and trust accounts, at the peril of a serious disciplinary complaint. Maintaining client relationships and file management can be irksome but necessary parts of your work, so we have chapters that show how the best lawyers do those tasks. Calendar control can ease the tension of a busy practice and make you an exemplar of promptitude — or at least an exception to the cliché that lawyers are always late. Both danger and opportunity lurk in the termination of a client relationship, and the suggestions we provide will help you steer clear of the dark side. Failure to do these essentials will often lead to a malpractice suit against you. So in addition to implementing the tips found in this guide, it’s a good idea to have professional liability insurance, which can be obtained through the Bar-sponsored carrier or any other carrier licensed to sell malpractice insurance in the state.

In this version of the guide, we provide you with more sample forms that can be adapted to your practice. We also give you easy access to the ethical rules and point the way to more comprehensive information on law office management with lists of other resources.

Many changes here were driven by technological change. We tried to provide ideas that work with the newest tools, but also attempted to avoid recommendations so specific that they would be obsolete by the time you need them. New features for this 2016 edition include:

  1. A Chapter on Disaster Planning in the wake of Katrina and other possible disasters. 
  2. In Section 6, Calendar Control, we’ve added recommendations for cloud calendars, often free, that work on computers or smartphones and allow you to schedule a court date or appointment on the fly.
  3. A Chapter on the proper ways of closing your practice.
  4. A section on lawyer advertising and solicitation since the Rules of Professional Conduct were amended in 2008.

We request that you judge our work by the standard of whether our presentation on the subject of law office management is necessary to competent law practice. If something is missing, or is included but should be omitted, please give us your feedback, and the next edition will be better.

Any corrections or other updates over the next few years will be available on the Louisiana State Bar Association’s website, www.lsba.org.

The Practice Assistance and Improvement Committee
of the Louisiana State Bar Association


Download Entire Practice Aid Guide with Sections and Forms
Practice Aid Guide Sections and Form Depository
Download templates, chapters and sections of the Practice Aid Guide below
Section 1 - Establishing the Attorney-Client Relationship

Section 2 - Conflicts of Interest

Section 3 - Fees, Billing and Trust Accounts

Section 4 - Maintaining the Attorney-Client Relationship and Law Office Procedure

Section 5 - File Management

Section 6 - Calendar Control

Section 7 - Termination of the Representation

    Section 8 - Ethics and Professionalism

    Section 9 - Lawyer Advertising & Solicitation Rules

      Section 10 - Disaster Planning

        Section 11 - Closing Your Practice

        Section 12 - Additional Resources for Louisiana Lawyers

          Acknowledgments 

          Louisiana State Bar Association
          601 St. Charles Avenue
          New Orleans, LA 70130
          (800) 421-LSBA(5722) / (504) 566-1600