Ontario Solo and Small Firm Lawyers All A’buzz…

♫ What’s the buzz?
Tell me what’s a-happening…♫

Lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, from Jesus Christ Superstar.

What makes a successful legal conference?

• An uplifting opening event, which sets the stage for the conference.

• Engaging speakers and a highly participative audience.

• A wonderful setting.

• Great organization from the conference staff and organizers.

• And not the least of all, a positive ‘buzz’ that permeates the entire conference.

Well, the 4th Annual Solo and Small Firm Conference, sponsored by the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Ontario Bar Association, held at the Donald Lamont Learning Center on May 7, 2009 had all of this and more. It was preceded by the Treasurer’s Dinner on May 6 featuring a brilliant welcome by the President of the OBA and a heartfelt one on behalf of the Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada highlighting the importance of the solo and small firm lawyers to the citizens of Ontario. Both events were a complete success. Co-Chairs Donna S.M. Neff T.E.F. and Daniel E. Pinnington presided over the proceedings, which were typically well organized by the Law Society staff.

Distinguished speakers included: Catherine Sanders-Reach, the Director of the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center, Reid Trautz Esq., the Practice Management Advisor for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Richard Ferguson Esq., Sheila Blackford, Donna Neff, Dan Pinnington, the eminent Garry Wise and many others…

The sessions included:

• 60 Tips in 60 Minutes! What’s New in 2009?
• The Top Ten Legal Technologies – What Every Solo and Small Law Firm Should Be Using
• Collaborating and Communicating with Clients in a Web 2.0 World
• Speech Recognition Software and Digital Dictation – Talk to Your Computer – it will listen
• Moving to a Paperless Office – It’s Easier Than You Think
• Your Bottom Line and PCLaw – How it Can Make Your Life Easier and Your Firm More Profitable
• Identity Theft and Fraud – Protecting Client, Firm and Personal Data in a Wired World
• Adobe Acrobat and PDF Files – The New (and only) Standard for Sharing Information
• Microsoft Office – Word, Excel and PowerPoint – Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most Out of These Essential Tools
• Surviving and Thriving in Tough Economic Times – How to Buld and Maintain a Better Clientele and a Successful Practice
• Productivity Tools to Help You Attain Work-Life Balance in Trying Times
• Hiring, Evaluating, Retaining, Firing – Managing Human Resource Issues in Small Firm
• E-Discovery for the Rest of Us – Dealing With Electronic Information on Smaller Matter
• Email Emancipation – How to Cut the Time that Email Takes Out of Your Day
• Mobile Lawyers and the Remote Office – Maintaining Productivity from Home, the Cottage, and Overseas
• Succession Planning and Retirement – Preparing for the Day You Stop Lawyering

The audience was highly participative, asking direct and practical questions that kept the speakers on their toes. Canadian lawyers are shedding their patina of demurely sitting during a presentation – perhaps it is the financial times but it seems that they are ensuring that their expectations are being not only met but also exceeded by the speakers.

The Donald Lamont Learning Center at the Law Society of Upper Canada is a state of the art facility and should be the envy of every CLE provider across Canada, with its technological capabilities and physical set up which allowed fully wired plenary as well as concurrent sessions.

The organizers and staff ensured that all flowed smoothly once some inevitable initial technological gremlins were solved.

Most importantly, despite the challenging financial times, not only was this conference a complete sell-out (which runs counter to every other recent legal conference across North America to which the writer is aware) it had a very strong, upbeat ‘buzz’. Congratulations are due to all who were involved for a first-class result! This conference delivered the tips, technologies and solutions on what was happening to solo and small firm lawyers to help them practice better.

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