I have been asserting that PA should provide full CLE credit for practice management education since I joined the PA Bar Association in 1999. Here’s just a bit more proof of why. Take a look at this recent blog post by highly-respected marketing consultant Dustin Cole, entitled “Of the Top 10 Causes of Malpractice & Grievances — 8 Are Sloppy Housekeeping!” From his post, here are the top 8 of 10 reasons for malpractice / grievance claims in Florida:
1. Failure to manage time/procrastination
2. Failure to docket – identify/document deadlines
3. Failure to manage information
4. Failure to obtain client consent
5. Failure to file documents timely
6. Missed or unresolved Conflict of Interest
7. Poor communications with client
8. Failure to follow client instructions
Any of this look familiar? Yep, if you look at the top causes of claims in PA, you will see the same causes, perhaps labeled slightly differently, or in different order. The truth is that most attorneys and law firms get themselves in trouble because of poor business practices, including disorganization, lack of follow-up, absence of codified procedures, inadequate internal training and oversight, and often an absence of any semblance of good customer service practices.
Really smart and talented lawyers can look like fools to clients, when they lack savvy on the business side of the practice. Really smart and talented lawyers lose clients when they fail to provide high-quality customer service. What is that? Responding to telephone calls and emails promptly. Keeping the client informed. Letting the client know what’s happening before they have to pick up the phone and ask.
Right now, most states will provide CLE credit for any education which improves an attorney’s legal skills OR practice management skills. But in PA, the only way to obtain CLE credit is for substantive practice skill education, or ethical / malpractice avoidance training. I have managed to create a wealth of seminars over the years which qualify for ethics credit, but I can’t say it’s not difficult and very limiting in terms of the content I can present. How I long to present a seminar for CLE credit which is about nothing more than nuts and bolts of how to properly manage aspects of ones practice.
I guarantee that lawyers would enjoy their practice more, be more profitable, and most importantly, avoid getting themselves in disciplinary trouble inadvertently. I know that “some day” the CLE rules in PA will change. It’s inevitable. I just had to let off a little steam about this, because I’ve been waiting for 14 years, and there is still no change in sight. Do you agree with my perspective?