The Importance of Mentoring

As an owner or partner of a law firm, you most likely have used the word mentor to describe yourself.   Mentoring is a powerful and resourceful tool in today’s business world and is an effective way to foster growth and responsibility within your team.  By mentoring others, you are able to provide guidance and share your knowledge with others.

In the November 2010 edition of the Journal of Accountancy, Erik Thompson shares the following key characteristics of an effective mentor:

  1. An effective mentor asks challenging questions that help people expand their scope of responsibilities.
  2. An effective mentor is highly connected to the person being mentored.
  3. An effective mentor challenges others with penetrating insight.

As you interact with your staff and colleagues throughout the day, focus on the ways you can use these three characteristics to evolve your business relationships.

Click here to read the article.

Kelly O’Leary, CPA, MBA, Controller 

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Go to a “GO TO MEETING”!

 

Advocate Capital, Inc.  recently deployed the GoToMeeting® software/service and it is already making a profound impact on almost every aspect of our daily business operations.

 

GoToMeeting® is a web-based application that allows the initiator to share screen content from a computer with multiple end users via a web link.  To schedule a meeting, the initiator launches the application, enters the end user’s email address, and specifics of the meeting (date, time, etc.).   The recipient receives a meeting notification in their email which will contain the link to the meeting and will auto-populate their Microsoft Outlook calendar if desired.  The cost is very reasonable and the initial download of the software takes less than 5 minutes. 

 

We here at Advocate Capital, Inc. are already utilizing the application for conference calls, client training, and sales/marketing.  We envision many future additional uses including new employee training and development of self-service, on-demand informational sessions regarding our products and services.

 

This application would be a tremendous benefit for law firms to conduct conferences with clients, co-counsel and/or expert witnesses, etc.  A free 30 day trial is available and we encourage you to GO TO MEETING!

 

Donna A. Jones

Vice President, Operations

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Republicans Work to Repeal Health Care Law AND Reduce MedMal Suits

 

As you may know, the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to repeal the signature domestic policy achievement of the Obama administration.  However, the movement has largely been stifled by the still-Democratically controlled Senate.

 

That being said, the real threat to the plaintiff bar will remain.  Politico reported that the House voted on Thursday, 1/20 to instruct four committees to draft alternative legislation including, among other items, “…reducing medical malpractice lawsuits.”  This article can be seen here.

 

Regardless of how you might feel about the effectiveness and appropriateness of the health care reform, the possibility of having that effort parlayed into yet another attempt at national tort reform is troubling.

 

Paul B. Myers

Chief Credit Officer

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Consumer Confidence – January 2011:

 

What’s been your consumer confidence level recently?

 

The Consumer Confidence Index was slightly better than expected in January by most economists.   This has been generally moving higher, but is nowhere near pre-recession levels.  Some say there was a “paradigm shift” in consumer behavior and would not expect previously seen levels for a very long time.  Time will tell.

 

                                      

                                      Consumer Confidence (Ten Years)

 

Dan A. Taussig

Chairman

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Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson Joins TAJ Legislative Team

 

Wow! This seems like pretty big news.  Congratulations to President Phillip Miller and the rest of the team at the Tennessee Association for Justice.

 

The word just came out that Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson has joined the Tennessee Association for Justice legislative team this session. Senator Thompson will assist the TAJ in their efforts to ensure that Tennesseans maintain a full measure of justice in Tennessee courts.

 

For more information, visit the TAJ online by clicking here or read a PDF of the press release here.

 

Michael J. Swanson

President and CEO

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Retirement Plan Contribution Limits for 2011

 

Whether you’re an employer or an employee, the beginning of a new year is always a great time to verify retirement plan contribution limits and to make any changes to your current plan year contributions. 

 

 

The 2011 contribution limits for the most widely used employer plans are listed below:

 

 

 

 

These limits were obtained directly from the IRS Website.  For more information on these plan limits as well as other types of retirement plan limits, please visit the website. 

 

The IRS Retirement Plans Navigator is available on the IRS website and is an excellent source for educating small business owners about the various plan definitions, benefits and requirements.  The online brochure provides detailed information about the various plans as well as an easy to read plan comparison table. 

 

At Advocate Capital, Inc., we recommend you consult with your individual tax advisors for expert advice on retirement plan contribution amounts as well as on which plan might be best for your individual business.

 

Lisa Wagner

Vice President, Client Services

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Disaster Recovery – Plan for the Worst, Prepare for it All

We all know about it, hear about it, and hope we never face it.  From a national catastrophic event like the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings to localized calamities such as floods, earthquakes and fires, all business should have a plan in place.

By definition, disaster recovery is the process, policies and procedures related to preparing for recovery or continuation of technology infrastructure critical to an organization after a natural or human-induced disaster. Disaster recovery is a subset of business continuity. While business continuity involves planning for keeping all aspects of a business functioning in the midst of disruptive events, disaster recovery focuses on the IT or technology systems that support business functions.

As IT systems have become increasingly critical to the smooth operation of a company, and arguably the economy as a whole, the importance of ensuring the continued operation of those systems, or the rapid recovery of the systems, has increased.

The following is a list of the most common strategies for data protection.

  1. Backups made to tape and sent off-site at regular intervals
  2. Backups made to disk on-site and automatically copied to off-site disk, or made directly to off-site disk
  3. Replication of data to an off-site location, which overcomes the need to restore the data (only the systems then need to be restored or synchronized).
  4. High availability systems which keep both the data and system replicated off-site, enabling continuous access to systems and data.

In addition to preparing for the need to recover systems, organizations must also implement precautionary measures with an objective of preventing a disaster in the first place. These may include some of the following:

  1. Local mirrors of systems and/or data and use of disk protection technology
  2. Surge protectors — to minimize the effect of power surges on delicate  electronic equipment
  3. Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and/or backup generator to keep  systems going in the event of a power failure
  4. Fire preventions — alarms, fire extinguishers
  5. Anti-virus software and other security measures.

Advocate Capital, Inc. was tested on its disaster preparedness in May of 2010 when unprecedented floods paralyzed the city of Nashville and many of its businesses for weeks, even months.   We are delighted to report that our redundant backup systems and other IT security measures performed according to plan..  The day after we were barricaded out of our office park by police due to flooding, we were able to lease temporary office space, relocate all servers and get all customer services up and running with minimal interruption for our clients.

At Advocate Capital,Inc., we know and understand that business continuity is imperative to our law firm customers.

Donna A. Jones

Vice President, Operations

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Retaining Your Talent is a Key to Success

As the economy continually improves, many firms will experience a change in their staff.  One side of this will include the addition of employees as the firm grows and new positions are added to keep up with the growth.  Unfortunately, an improvement in the economy also means more jobs are available and you could find yourself staring at a resignation letter from a current employee.  No business owner wants to experience this loss during a time when so much energy is being focused on growth.  What can you do to encourage employee retention within your law firm?

  1. Understand what motivates your employees and be sure to use these motivators.
  2. Set goals and reward your employees for accomplishing these goals.
  3. As your firm grows, consider how your current employees can be an integral part of this growth.
  4. Consider implementing a development and training program.
  5. Offer a competitive benefits package.
  6. Allow employees to take on a sense of ownership of the changes occurring at your firm.
  7. Believe in your employees…and let them know that you believe in them!
  8. Provide small office perks, such as free drinks or dry-cleaning pickup.
  9. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your employees.

 

Employee turnover is expensive and a drain on your time.  By focusing on some key issues, employee retention can be improved.  For more information please check out these resources:

How to Improve Employee Retention by Josh Spiro

High Retention Workforce

Employee Retention – How to Retain Employees

HR Dilemma

-Kelly O’Leary, CPA, MBA

Controller

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Drug Company Influence in Health Care Continues

 

The reports of drug company influence in the health care field continue to proliferate.  A recent report in the Chicago Tribune states that although many health advocacy organizations rely on financial support from drug companies,  very few actually report the support on web sites, annual reports or corporate sponsorships.  The article reports that only 25% of organizations receiving funding from Eli Lilly actually disclose the funding on their websites, only 18% acknowledge the grants in their annual reports and only 1% list Lilly on a corporate sponsors page.

 

According to the article, many of these advocacy groups receiving funding from drug companies “…sit on important federal advisory boards and lobby lawmakers for greater funding for medical research, more generous reimbursement for brand-name drugs, and easy access to diagnostic test and medical devices for people afflicted by various illnesses.”

 

The need for greater accountability and transparency is apparent and needed, as the likelihood (if not certainty) of conflict exists.

 

Other media outlets, such as Reuters and the New York Times have also reported on this issue.

 

Paul B. Myers

Chief Credit Officer

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Glaxo sees $3.5B charge on Avandia

 

GlaxoSmithKlinePLC, the maker of the diabetes drug Avandia, announced on Monday that it is taking a $3.5 billion charge in the 4th quarter of 2010 to settle lawsuits associated with Avandia, along with costs relating to a U.S. government investigation of Glaxo’s marketing practices with anti-depressant drugs Paxil and Wellbutrin

 

In addition, Glaxo took a $2.5 billion charge in the 2nd quarter of 2010 to settle lawsuits involving Avandia, Paxil and a U.S government investigation of a Glaxo factory in Puerto Rico. 

 

See the following article in Business  Insurance.

 

Dan A. Taussig

Chairman

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