LSUC Solo & Small Firm Conference and Expo 2013

Guest Blog Post: LSUC Solo & Small Firm Conference 2013

I’m a new face around here so I’ll start with a quick introduction. My name is Ricardo Golec and I’m going to be Adam’s new articling student starting this August. I am (or rather, very soon will be) a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, though right now I’m in the middle of studying for the Law Society of Upper Canada’s (LSUC) bar exams in June.

While I haven’t started working with Adam just yet, he thought it would be a good experience for me to come with him to LSUC’s 8th annual Solo & Small Firm Conference on May 23-24. As a not-quite-yet articling student, most of the sessions covered topics that don’t apply to me just yet, but I actually saw that as an added feature of the conference – almost everything was a learning experience.

Law school has a decidedly substantive lean. Most of the courses focus on what the law is, how it has developed over the years, and how it’s applied. Outside of a few of the Career Development Office’s seminars on the topic, there is usually very little discussion about how the actual practice of law is done. This Conference, however, had this sort of information in spades: everyone there had blazed their own trail through the legal profession. As the youngest and greenest attendee (to my knowledge), literally everyone I spoke to had plenty of great stories about how they had struck out on their own and established their law practices.

With that in mind, here are some of my highlights from the conference.

 

Day 1

The Conference kicked off with an opening plenary that saw a whirlwind of tips and advice coming from 6 different “lawyers on the leading edge.” I thought it did a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the Conference – giving attendees advice about how to bring new technologies and services into their practices to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their client service.

This segued well into the first breakout session we attended – “Technology Tools for Your Law Practice.” Bjorn “Barney” Christianson and Richard Ferguson discussed all sorts of hardware and software that they recommended for the solo or small firm practitioner. They also introduced what would become a recurring debate at the conference: PC vs. Mac (a debate which would come to a head at a later session featuring Conference Co-Chairs Susan Elliott and Daniel Pinnington, and the lone Android defender, Michael Seto). As a self-professed tech geek, I was very excited when discussions combined my interest in the law with my interest in gadgets and software that I hadn’t heard of before.

The next session was about cloud-based practice management, and again I was very excited to see what was on offer. In law school, I had sworn by the usefulness of Dropbox and Google Docs, so it was great to see how lawyers were making use of the cloud for collaboration and file storage. I was particularly interested in the discussion about privacy that came out of this session. Under the Conference’s #solosmall hashtag on Twitter, a group of us attendees had a very open and interesting debate about the different programs we all use for encryption and data storage (Spideroak was a standout recommendation). It was particularly exciting when the discussion showed up on the Conference’s Twitter wall, allowing the presenters a chance to continue that same debate themselves.

Once that session was over, we were given free rein to explore the Exhibitors’ Hall over lunch. I met a lot of very interesting people who run all sorts of services and products that are available to lawyers. On top of all of the usual conference swag (pens, notepads, and pamphlets about products like Quicklaw or LawyerLocate), there was also a contest for those who managed to visit all of the exhibitors’ booths. I was lucky enough to win a prize package that included a cool little USB drive shaped like a judge. Thank you to LSUC for that!

After lunch was the famous “50 Apps in 50 Minutes” session – a useful if inaccurately named panel, to be sure. Large conferences like this are perfect for creating a sort of hivemind of ideas, where everyone shares their experiences (either as panelists or via Twitter commentary) with certain apps and even recommends others not on the slate yet. I won’t go through all the apps I downloaded here, but suffice it to say that my credit card was glad that many of them were free.

Day 1 ended with a very nice dinner at Joe Badali’s Ristorante nearby. Each table had a conference speaker there to guide the conversation and I had a great time learning about how small firms can make the jump to a “paperless office.” After seeing all the piles and piles of paper that law school can eat up, it was refreshing to see and hear about so many lawyers pushing to eliminate all that waste from their actual practices.

 

Day 2

The second day was a little bit more low-key, starting with a very interesting “Stump the Experts” panel. From what I remember, I don’t think any of the experts were stumped, so we will have to try harder next year.

The highlight for me (avid Twitter user that I am) was definitely the social media panel in the morning. Hosted by some of the most prolific and effective social media users in the business (like Sara Cohen), it was great to see how some solo and small firms were putting their names out there for clients to see. I’m a big believer in how useful social media can be in terms of community engagement, so this panel really piqued my interest.

The conference closed out with what I believe is a yearly tradition – the “60 Tips You Can’t Do Without” panel. It covered everything from reviewing technologies that we should be using to apps that can help us be more effective at our jobs. Some standouts for me included the many new encryption and backup tools I learned about and a fancy new golf app that I think my dad will be getting for Father’s Day.

All in all, the Conference was a great experience – even for an articling student like me – and I can see why Adam goes back every year. It opened my eyes to a lot of issues that I had actually never thought about and has given me a lot of tools and advice for when I do start practicing soon; I am actually very excited to get started in August. It also gave me a chance to meet lots of incredibly interesting lawyer-entrepreneurs – people with a lot of independence, initiative, and very open to new ideas about how to introduce new technologies and services into their practices. As I join a profession that’s at times infamous for its traditionalism, meeting those people was a refreshing experience. I would definitely recommend other articling students to try to attend it in the future.

This blog post was written by Ricardo Golec.  Ricardo will be a student-at-law for Adam Goodman beginning in the summer of 2013.

2 Responses to “LSUC Solo & Small Firm Conference and Expo 2013”

  1. Mark C. Robins June 6, 2013 6:28 pm #

    Thanks for this perspective, I am curious if you will view the archived Web Cast? as the Exclusive sponsor of the Web cast I am quite interested in any feed back.

  2. Ricardo June 7, 2013 4:24 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    I actually referred back to a couple of the webcast portions when writing this post as a way to refresh my memory of a few sessions. I found the bookmarking incredibly useful for skipping ahead to the session I wanted to re-watch.

    I also plan on taking a look at some of the sessions that I missed out of necessity (I stayed mostly in Track A) once I finish up with the bar exams.

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