On-line Holiday Shopping Tips For Busy Solos

Shopping online can be extremely helpful for some gifts but it can also be time consuming and outright exasperating if you are using a dial up modem and it is going slowly. On the other hand, if you know what you want and do not want to fight the malls, then it can be a great way to shop. I would much rather be annoyed by a slow modem than a slow and often rude sales clerk. Here are a few tips to make on-line shopping a good alternative to the crowded malls and long lines:

1. You should never shop at a site that does not give an address or phone

2. If you don't know exactly where to start and do not know which site to visit directly, you should start with some sites that provide assistance with 1) categorizing shopping sites and /or 2) doing comparison of sites for prices.

Price comparison services, known collectively as "shopping bots," can dig through dozens of stores in just a few seconds returning not only price but in-stock information, total shipped price and a host of other information, total shipped price and a host of other consumer service-related information. A bot-short for robot- is a software tool for sorting through data. You give a bot directions and it brings back answers.

Some shopping bots are: Mysimon.com, bestwebbuys.com. In addition, this year I recommend an excellent article on shopping bots with descriptions and evaluations of the best shopping bots at http://www.botspot.com/dailybot/shopping_99.html. (Yes, Virginia, there is a website devoted to shopping bots!)

3. Use only secure sites and there are two ways to know that its is a secure site. When you start to purchase a product, a screen will pop up and say that that you are about to enter a secure site. In addition there will be a small icon on the left (Netscape) or right (Explorer) that will show a lock. This indicates this is a secure site and all information sent to is encrypted.

4. Start with a list the same as you would if you were going to the mall.

5. Since you can shop at any time, you should schedule your shopping trip at off-hours because like the mall, there are times that are more busy than others.

6. Check to see if there is a customer service number with a real person at the end of the line in case you have difficulties.

7. Check the company's return and exchange policy. Find out if purchases done on line can be exchanged at the bricks and mortar retail store. In many cases the answer is no.

8. Check to see what happens if the gift is not delivered in the time promised. Do you get a refund? Do you simply have to accept it late?

9. Always print your order information once you have made your purchase and keep it in a folder. Check them against your credit card bills when they arrive. This is similar to keeping your credit card receipts.

10. Do not give the e-tailers permission to keep your credit card number on file. If it is required, shop elsewhere.

11.In order to avoid having your mailbox deluged with future notices and ads, open a free e-mail account with Hotmail or Juno and give that address for any information that you do not want cluttering up your regular e-mail account.

Have fun!

You have most likely heard the saying, "perception is reality". In the case of office sharing, this can be particularly true.

When sharing an office with another attorney, certain ethical and practical issues must be addressed. First, avoid creating a false perception of the type of entity in which you are practicing. Your office signage and printed materials may give the impression that those with whom you share office space are your partners. Check your office signage and be sure it includes an explicit designation of you as a "sole practitioner" or "not a partnership".

In addition, your printed materials such as letterhead, business cards, invoices and brochures should be separate for each practitioner. Separate telephone lines with different telephone numbers is preferable. Include in your engagement letters language stating you are not affiliated with or responsible for other lawyers. Explain to your clients the difference between a partnership and an office sharing arrangement.

When making referrals to an office sharer, include a disclaimer that states the office sharer is not a partner or an associate. Include other attorneys on the referral list. Other issues such as client confidentiality and conflicts of interest should be considered.

Finally, be aware that you could be included in malpractice claims arising from the negligence of another office sharer by virtue of your office sharing arrangement. Be sure you have taken the necessary steps to inform your clients and the public that you are a separate entity.

During this week of Thanksgiving, take the time to thank your co-workers and employees for their effort and work on your behalf this year. Pay a visit to your clients between now and the end of the year to thank them for their business and trust. Thank your partners for their support of your practice. Thank your family for their love and support throughout the year. Call your parents, sisters, brothers and other extended family members to thank them for what they have meant and continue to mean in your life. Tell your friends what their friendship means to you. If it is your policy to only take Thanksgiving day as a holiday, take Friday, too. Spend Thanksgiving with those who mean the most to you - make the effort - you’ll be glad you did. Make the office "off-limits" this holiday. Though life can be trying and sometimes tragic, be thankful for its joys and triumphs even in the face of adversity. Have a happy Thanksgiving holiday and keep the memory of those who are not here to celebrate it with us close.

As an associate, you also play a significant role in the performance evaluation process. Associate attorneys must take responsibility for the development of their practice. In doing so, you must establish your own goals and objectives for practice development and evaluate whether or not the opportunity at your present firm is allowing you to reach your goals.

You should approach the formal evaluation meeting as an opportunity to ask questions or raise issues you feel are important to your career satisfaction with the firm. When presenting issues you feel the firm is failing to address, you should be prepared to state how you intend to help resolve the issue as well. There is an excellent book which addresses the role of the law firm and the lawyer in creating career satisfaction. It is entitled, Keeping Good Lawyers, Best Practices to Create Career Satisfaction by M. Diane Vogt and Lori-Ann Rickard. It is available for purchase through the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section. Go to http://www.abanet.org/lpm or call 1-800-285-2221.

Year-end is upon us and it may be time for associate evaluations in your firm. Are you ready?

The process of evaluating associate performance should not be a one-time event. Hopefully, you have been communicating with your associates as to their strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures throughout the year. But, if you have not, be sure to be prepared to do so during a formal evaluation meeting with the associate and make a new year’s resolution to provide informal feedback to your associates throughout the year beginning January 1.

Be sure that your year-end evaluation is based upon performance criteria that has been established and communicated to the associates. An evaluation form which enumerates these criteria and provides a scale for rating performance might be a helpful aid to focus the evaluation on the established criteria. Associates should be evaluated only by those partners who have had significant direct contact and experience with the associate. The evaluation meeting should include those same partners.

Finally, it might be wise to separate the formal evaluation meeting from the meeting where salary raises and bonuses are communicated. You don’t want the associate to fail to hear your constructive criticisms because he or she is focused on the amount of raise and bonus they have received.