Change Your View and Broaden Your Horizons

By Cindy Eichmuller

Wa-a-ay back at the PLAA’s 2017 Holiday Luncheon, I was fortunate enough to win a free registration to attend the 2018 PLAA Education Conference to be held at The Wisp Resort in Deep Creek MD. Fast forward to 2018, an early September morning, 4 colleagues driving to Deep Creek through very dense fog eventually into sunlight and blue skies to The Wisp. By the time we reached our destination, we were in full conference and networking mode that included a lot of stories and laughs along the way.

Steve Gilliand was the keynote speaker, and his leadership skills presentation “Follow Me” was riveting and very humorous. Steve is an outstanding teller of many of his everyday life experiences that we could all relate to in one way or another. The stories charted the “growth path” of his life and how he created positive changes along the way. Amanda Ellis Cuban – yes, Mark Cuban’s sister-in-law – and a former attorney was up next with “Leading With Social Media”. She stated that “80% of Millennial attorneys use social media and 90% use Instagram”. Amanda explained different types of social media formats such as Linkedin, Twitter, (how many raised their hands when asked “Who has a Twitter account?” – not many!), Instagram and the use of hashtags. You do not need to be on every social media venue as it is not a one size fits all but try to find one that fits you.

Jennifer Ramovs, Esq. with Affinity Consulting conducted two sessions, “How to Map and Fix Law Firm Processes” and “Moneyball”. The Processes session detailed how to identify a breakdown in a system. By mapping each step of the process, to locate the point(s) where it’s “broken”, you can come up with a fix. “Moneyball” (remember the baseball movie “Moneyball”?) focused on why it’s important to use statistics to run the firm and not simply getting by with a hunch or “gut instinct”. Understand the numbers!

Dinner, cocktails and networking held in a “yurt” (The Wisp has many sizes of yurts on the property) concluded the first day of the conference.

Our old friend, Pam Cochenouer, Esq., returned to start off Friday with a “What Would You Do” session regarding handling certain human resources situations. Medical marijuana is an up and coming workplace issue due to the recent legalization in Pennsylvania. Harassment issues loom large – sexual and otherwise – especially since the #MeToo Movement has formed. The last hot button topic was about transgender employees. Pam offered several real life cases on each topic. Alicia Slade and David Recker spoke about “Cybersecurity”. Alicia went over the basics on how to secure your network and work stations. Keep those patches on the network up to date! David spoke about the importance of having Cybersecurity insurance just in case your system would crash due to a virus, a hacker, etc. Alicia offered a real life scenario of a law firm’s files held for “ransom” until the firm made payment in virtual currency.
The firm could not even do billing until the files were released.

It was time to break for lunch and the mini Business Partner Show showcasing items for the “Law Firm of the Future”. The Show was held in a very large yurt. Standing desks, network security, a virtual receptionist and the flavor water machine were among some of the “future” offerings. It’s always fun to connect with the business partners, see what they have to offer and see what’s new! Thank you, Business Partners – we could not do what we do without YOU.

Mike Wasco, from Kinol Shari, presented information on the 2017 Tax Reform that was passed into law late 2017. There are a host of changes starting in 2018 that will affect us personally and also affect our firms’ tax status. Bill Acheson’s session “Nonverbal Communication: The Hidden Message” was all about body language. Body language accounts for more than half of the meaning in any face to face encounter. The adage “First impressions are important” is very true. Your body language can make you more powerful or can weaken what you say!

The reception dinner was held Friday evening which provided for lots of networking time with other members and business partners. Virtual reality gaming – the future! – was present along with some – old fashioned! – board games and a jigsaw puzzle. I took the opportunity to try out the virtual gaming and selected the “Gourmet Kitchen” module. After donning the headgear and receiving instructions on how to use the handhelds, I stepped into the “kitchen”. Let me just say that it is harder to master than it may look; I kept burning the bacon!

Before we knew it the conference was over and the four colleagues were back in the vehicle headed home. I have to say that a lot of the conversation was about the conference -the fantastic education we experienced, how good the speakers were, how valuable the networking was and how much fun we had. And already wondering where the next education conference will be held …. ?

Thank you to Tracy Pape, Chair, and the Education Conference Committee for a job well done!