Helping Members Boost Their Practice IQ with 'Practice HQ'

Alexa Giacomini
State Bar of Illinois

For some time our association has struggled with how to provide practical, comprehensive, and user-friendly practice management and technology resources to our members – most of whom are solo or small firm lawyers spread out over 102 counties. While we had developed numerous CLEs, articles, and other consumables covering ‘the business of law,’ members had to go searching for content across multiple areas of our website. Additionally, no one person in our office was responsible for the oversight of all these combined resources, making sure dated materials were taken down and looking at the big picture to see what new content needed to be added.

A couple of years ago we decided to do something about it.

We initially spent some time researching our options…was a traditional full-time practice management advisor our best bet? Or maybe two part-time experts, one overseeing management and the other technology? What about hiring a consulting firm with a roster of experts to spearhead our efforts?

Over time it became clear to us that the last option was, for us, the right choice. Not only did we already have a great relationship with a legal management and technology consulting firm that was eager to strike out into new waters with us, but it fit our budget and need to provide scalable content for our state-wide membership.

Thus began a new phase of our relationship with Affinity Consulting Group (‘Affinity’), and the development of Practice HQ.

After nearly a year of planning and development, we launched Practice HQ in July 2017. A microsite that houses all our collective in-house and Affinity-produced practice management and technology resources, Practice HQ is organized by the life cycle of a practice, making it easy for members to find help relevant to their needs. It includes videos (CLE and non-CLE), checklists, whitepapers, software comparison charts, articles, ethics opinions, product/service discounts, and more. Here our members can compare features of practice management software programs (5 of which they can access with a member discount), download a new firm technology checklist, read how to convert prospects in to paying clients, complete a preparedness evaluation form to assess their continuity planning, review an advisory opinion about using cloud technology, learn how to create a succession plan, and so much more.

But this is not where our story ends.

  • With a dedicated rep (Jenn Ramovs) from Affinity serving as the lead, new content is
    regularly added to the site and outdated content is removed.

  • A new monthly column, Pointers from Practice HQ, was added to our monthly Illinois Bar Journal; written by either Jenn or Barron Henley, the column covers timely topics related to Practice HQ. For example, the October 2017 column covered creating PDF files for e-filing, ending with a link to a new ‘PDF Programs Comparison Chart’ added to Practice HQ.

  • Though pre-dating the launch of Practice HQ, our Practice Toolbox CLE Series produces monthly live webinars – produced by ISBA and presented by Affinity – on topics related to practice management and technology. Once archived, members can access these for free via our free on-demand CLE benefit. Individual programs, both upcoming and archived, are added under the appropriate section(s) of Practice HQ.

  • Periodically, we also provide opportunities for members to get 1-on-1 practice management and technology guidance from an expert at Affinity. Usually tied to our Member Appreciation Month in May, we’re able to scale this activity by creating a podcast with the experts after the sessions where they touch upon best practices they shared with the participants.

  • Individual items within Practice HQ are regularly featured in our association’s weekly membership e-newsletter, The Featured Five, constantly reminding members of the new benefit and highlighting the many resources. One surprise hit? An email etiquette checklist to share with members’ staff.

With the initial success of our program – over 21,000 visits to Practice HQ to date! – Affinity is now also working with other bar associations to help them flesh-out and manage their practice management and technology resources. To date, the Colorado Bar Association and Columbus Bar Association (Ohio) have signed on, and a handful of others are in discussions. If you think working with a stable of consultants might be a good fit for your organization, we highly recommend looking to Affinity as a potential partner.

What’s down the road for us? Wellness will be a major initiative for us in the coming years, and we’ve already built out a place for it under ‘Work-Life Balance’ in Practice HQ. More checklists, based on member feedback (voting via clicks). More sharable content aimed at training law firm staff. Video introductions for each area of the website that are open to non-members to help with membership marketing efforts. Along with whatever new (related) topics come along in 2018.

If you have any questions about Practice HQ, feel free to reach out to Tim Slating or me.