Which Firms are Subject to Healthcare Reform’s Employer “Play or Pay” Mandate?

The Employer Mandate (http://www.uschamber.com/health-reform/employer-mandate) applies to so called “large employers” that employed an average of at least 50 full-time employees (taking into account “full-time equivalents” or “FTEs”) on business days during the preceding calendar year. Therefore, with the Employer Mandate taking effect January 1, 2015, whether or not a firm is subject to the Mandate in 2015 will be determined by the firm’s 2014 employee count.

For the purpose of the “50 or more” analysis, it will be necessary to determine the number of full-time employees and FTEs for each calendar month in 2014 and use these numbers to determine the average number of such employees on business days during that year. An employee is considered a full-time employee for a particular month if he or she is employed for at least 130 hours of service for the month and will accordingly be treated as a full-time employee for each business day of the month. For those employees who do not meet the 130 service hour threshold for a particular month, their total hours of service for the month will be added up and divided by 120 to determine a number of FTEs for the month.

After a firm determines the number of full-time employees and FTEs employed on each business day of 2014, it must then determine the average number of full-time employees and FTEs employed on business days during 2014. If this average number is 50 or more, then the Employer Mandate will apply for all of 2015. If not, the Employer Mandate will not apply during 2015. In either event, the firm will need to perform the same analysis for 2015 to determine whether the Employer Mandate will apply in 2016.

The following is an example of the “50 or more” calculation for a fictional firm called ABC Firm:

For each month during 2014, ABC Firm employs 45 full-time employees (i.e. all 45 are employed for a minimum of 130 hours of service for each month) and 20 part-time employees, each of whom is employed for 60 service hour per month. The 20 part-time employees are treated as 10 FTEs for each month (20 employees x 60 hours = 1,200 total hours / 120 = 10 FTEs). Adding these 10 FTEs to the 45 full-time employees for each month results in an average of 55 full-time employees and FTEs on business days during 2014, which means the Employer Mandate will apply to ABC Firm in 2015.

For more information on how your firm may be impacted by Healthcare Reform’s Employer “Play or Pay” Mandate, attend the educational session “Your Prescription for Healthcare Reform Headaches” from 3:45 to 5:00 PM on Friday, November 1, 2013.

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Sheldon J. Blumling, Esq. is a partner with Fisher & Phillips LLP (http://www.laborlawyers.com/) and is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits Practice Group. He advises clients with respect to all aspects of employee benefits and executive compensation, including qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, health and other welfare benefit plans, cafeteria plans, severance plans and equity-based compensation plans. He also advises employers on compliance issues involving the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and all types of federal and state employment taxes, and he has had extensive experience advising clients on the employee benefits and executive compensation aspects of mergers and acquisitions. Sheldon has been listed in Chambers USA, America’s Leading Business Lawyers since 2009.

Making your iPad more than an iToy!

You’ve made some birds angry and crushed your fair share of candy but it’s time to learn how to use that iPad to get some real work done!

First step, start thinking of your iPad as an electronic folder for carrying your digital documents. If you have a lot of Microsoft Word documents, PDF files, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations that you need to take with you to a meeting, why not just send them all to the iPad instead of printing them?

Even the smallest iPad can carry several thousand documents and apps like GoodReader that let you sort and organize documents just like you do on a computer. When you need a document, just bring it up on your iPad’s screen to view and “flip” pages. Need to show a document to everyone? Don’t print out 20 copies, just connect your iPad to a projector or TV and bring it up on the big screen.

The iPad can also serve as the nerve center for your tasks and appointments. There are a myriad of apps that can replace your bulky planner, allowing you to prioritize tasks and keep your calendar updated. When you’re out of the office, the iPad can help you stay on top of projects through e-mail, text messaging and even web meetings with services like Skype and GoToMeeting.

Lastly, you might find that the iPad will start to replace your trusty ol’ yellow legal pad for scribbling notes. While pairing your iPad with an external keyboard creates a functional mini-laptop, you should also consider handwriting your notes directly on the screen with a stylus. When you’re done composing your notes, you can send them from the iPad as a PDF file that can be saved with other related documents on your computer or other device.

If you’re intrigued, then make sure you attend “The Gold Standard for Working with iPads” session on Friday, November 1 at 11:00 am. You’ll learn how to share documents with other iPad-totin’ colleagues and effectively incorporate the iPad into your everyday workflow.

If you’ve been promising yourself you will learn more about using an iPad, then we will see you on November 1!

Burney_Brett_2012_08.small Brett Burney, J.D., Principal, Burney Consultants LLC, focuses his time on bridging the chasm between the legal and technology frontiers of electronic discovery. He is also very active in the Mac-using lawyer community, working with law firms who want to integrate Mac and iOS devices into their practices. Prior to establishing Burney Consultants LLC, he spent more than five years at Thompson Hine LLP. He is a frequent contributor to Law.com and speaks around the country on litigation support, e-discovery and Mac-related topics.

What’s All the Buzz About?

One of several new offerings at this year’s Region 6 conference is the Bee Hive Booth. The Bee Hive will provide you with an opportunity to talk with knowledgeable people who can help answer your burning questions related to Twitter (what exactly is a “Hash tag”, anyway?), LinkedIn, AND the ALA Region 6 Conference App! The Bee Hive will be open on Friday, located near registration. Tech savvy volunteers will be on-hand at the Hive to help you make the most of the conference app, and to answer questions regarding how to make the most of using LinkedIn for yourself and for your firm. You can also learn the difference between Flagging articles versus Liking articles in LinkedIn and Liking versus Sharing in Facebook. And, yes, they can explain what a Hash Tag is. Speaking of, the Twitter conference tag is #ALARegion6.

This Bee Hive is a great opportunity to learn more about social media and perhaps to share some of your own social media tips and tricks. So, please stop on by The Bee Hive and pass the word along to your fellow attendees about this new conference offering!

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Lisa Neitzel, CLM, PHR-CA is the current Region 6 Education Officer. She is the Executive Director at Newmeyer & Dillion LLP. She has been in legal management for over 20 years and is a strong advocate of life-long learning. She has served in a variety of leadership positions within the Association of Legal Administrators, including serving as Region 3 officer, President of the Wisconsin Association of Legal Administrators, and as Director of the San Diego Association of Legal Administrators.

Time to Explore the Brave New World of Technology

2013 has turned out to be another blockbuster year in terms of new technology. This fall, we are seeing a flurry of new product announcements and enhancements. It is easy to get overwhelmed, and actually quite complacent in the face of so much technological advancement. Most of us really don’t like change too much. Furthermore, we get really comfortable using the same tools that we have been using for years. The old mantra, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” has become the rallying cry for many tech users who cling to their Windows XP PCs running Microsoft Office 2003, complete with their customized toolbars that they slaved over back in aught-5.

But technology doesn’t stand still; and neither does the rest of the world. To remain relevant, competitive and effective; it is imperative that we adapt, upgrade, try new tools and methods…even when the process takes us out of our comfort zone.

The Bill & Phil Show began 10 years ago as an effort to de-mystify technology for legal professionals, and to make technology a “cool” topic of discussion (and, of course, to make us look “cool” in the process…you can let us know if that is working or not). Yeah, we’re a couple of geeks; but we live in the real world and work with many people who do not share our zealous passion for technology. However, regardless of one’s technical background or aptitude, just about everyone is open to ways to make their jobs easier, more efficient, and, quite frankly, more enjoyable. We can’t think of a better way to address this universal desire than to incorporate the right kind of technology into the workplace, and to make it work for you, rather than being your master.

Our session “60 Apps and 30 Devices in 75 Minutes” will be a very fast-paced review of some of today’s hottest technology gadgets and apps that many people are using to solve problems, to create opportunities, to collaborate with colleagues and to put some spice back into our work-a-day world. Are you open for any of that? We thought so.

This year’s theme for our presentation is “Smart and Smarter or Dumb and Dumber” (we’ll let you guess which of us represents which side of the equation). In the age of smart-everything (smartphones, smart watches, smart refrigerators, you name it), it’s time we become smart in choosing the right tech gadgets and apps that will save us time, energy and money. We’ll also explore ways to avoid dumb technology mistakes that cost us.

If you are a techno freak who stood in line for 5 hours to pick up the new iPhone 5s last week, or if you are that one who is secretly still hording your Windows XP PC; come on out to hear what we have to say. We dare you. You will leave at least much “smarter” about what technology you (yes, even you) can use today. We’ll see you in Reno.

–Bill & Phil

Phillip Hampton is the Founder and President of LogicForce Consulting, LLC, a legal-technology consulting firm in Nashville. He has more than 20 years of experience in information technology. He is a computer forensic expert, practice management specialist, litigation technologist and frequent speaker on the use of technology in the practice of law.

William T. Ramsey, J.D., Partner, Neal & Harwell, PLC in Nashville, is responsible for the firm’s computer, telecommunications and technical equipment in addition to his practice on complex civil and criminal litigation. Ramsey has lectured extensively on the use of technology and the impact of the Internet on litigation and the practice of law in general.

Culture: Your Secret Weapon or Silent Destroyer?

Culture is the heart of a firm. It’s what pumps the blood of success throughout the organization. It can be either the silent destroyer of a firm or the silent glue that keeps a firm together—making it your secret weapon for success.

But what is culture? And how do you cultivate it? And, even more daunting of a question, how do you change it if need be?

Culture in a nutshell is basically this: what’s allowed, what’s accepted, and what’s celebrated in a firm. Sounds simple, but as you know, it’s really not that simple. Culture must also embody the firm’s mission, values, ethics, expectations, goals, and more importantly, must be bought into by every single associate and partner for it to work the way it’s supposed to. That’s where the not so simple part comes in.

Culture is about team work, and unity; it’s a unified approach to delivering value to a client, while maximizing profit by eliminating barriers to that value—I call these barriers waste. Everyone in the firm has to be committed to the same goal in order for the team to win. So, as leaders of a firm, how do we make this happen?

There are key cultural ingredients that are necessary to lead developmentally to increase value while eliminating inefficiencies. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Acknowledge the importance of culture
Make culture a part of the discussion in your firm’s business decisions and planning. By doing this, you’re sending the message that the culture of the firm is important and will be adhered to.

2. Have periodic discussions and trainings around topics of culture
Include the firm’s expectations of culture, so they’re always clear. Get feedback from associates and partners regarding their perception of culture, and work together to identify cultural improvement initiatives.

3. Reinforce cultural expectations
You can do this by establishing policies, procedures, and standards that exemplify what the firm stands for. But remember to be careful what you plant, and be careful what you nurture, because once it gets established, it’s going to spread across the firm.

4. Do not opt out
Developing and maintaining culture is challenging but the benefits are rewarding and can make your firm successful. When culture is challenging, don’t run. Stick with it. Remember culture can sustain your firm for true success from the inside out.

When your culture is strong, your firm can respond to change. You can respond to the ever-changing needs of your clients while still increasing value along the way. In my session, I’ll talk about more tools to help establish and develop culture, including seven key commitments that will help you implement cultural standards and guarantee the firm is planting the right cultural seeds.

How about you? What are the woes and wins of your firm’s culture?

Michael E. Parker, MBA, is CEO and Founder of Value-Centered Solutions, Inc., and author of Who Said So? After working for Toyota, Parker used his experiences in lean management and his passion for excellence to create his own management philosophy: Value Centered Management. This philosophy gave birth to over 10 businesses in various industries across four states. When many of his most lucrative companies were hit hard by the real estate and investment market downturn, he strengthened his existing businesses and created innovative new technology products and services, launching You Are a CEO and 2DOLife to help people live the life they desire and achieve their greatest potential.

“Mining Your Education” at Conference–ALA Exposition

There is no debating that the educational program and networking opportunities are key reasons for attending ALA’s Regional Conferences. However, another essential part of “Mining your Education” at conference is the ALA Exposition.

This year’s Region 6 Conference & Exposition in Reno, Nevada, (Thursday and Friday) will feature over 70 exhibiting companies who will be on hand to showcase the latest in legal management products and services. Make the most out of your conference experience by visiting the exhibit hall often to learn about:

• New and improved technology, services and products
• Emerging trends
• Solutions to business issues
• Improving office efficiency and profitability
• Resources and business partners for current and future projects

Our business partners are not just salespeople gathering leads; they are key thought leaders (many who have been in the trenches themselves) who are eager to provide education, insights and pearls of wisdom to help you make your job easier.

In addition to providing demonstrations and information at their booths, many business partners are also presenting Business Matters! Sessions. These 30-minute sessions, scheduled during exhibit hall hours, allow our business partners to showcase a solution, discuss a recent whitepaper or present a panel discussion. I encourage you to take advantage of these valuable educational opportunities, and bring the information you glean back to your firm.

This year’s exposition will include a new feature that we are very excited about. “Ask the Expert” will give attendees the opportunity to meet with experts within the legal field. This is a great opportunity to seek out advice or problem solve in an intimate one-on-one setting. Make sure you sign up at registration to take advantage of this great resource.

In closing, I’d like to stress the important role that our business partners play in making this conference the premier educational and networking event of its kind. When visiting with them, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their support of ALA and the profession.

We’re extremely excited about this year’s exposition, and we hope you are too! What are you looking forward to most?

Stacy E. Morrison, CLM
Region 6 Business Partner Relations Officer

First, a little background on how Ask the Expert came to be…during the planning of the 2013 ALA Region 6 Conference & Expo, we were presented with a unique business partner expo hall. In the hall, there is a small intimate stage which was just begging to be used for a unique and innovative offering to the conference attendees. I’m not sure whose idea it was, but someone on the team said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could set up small intimate one-on-one areas where the attendee could sit and have a private conversation with an expert in a certain field, such as succession planning or financial planning?” So let it be said, so let it be done.

The Region 6 Conference Planning Committee is proud to offer for the first time during the business partner expo (cue the drum roll please) – Ask the Expert!! Ask the Expert will be one-on-one private sessions, conducted in a small living room type of setting, with various experts in the different areas of legal management. Some examples include Timothy Corcoran as he will discuss areas in the field of client relationships, budgeting, project management and not to mention, ideas on doing more with less. Alan Olsen will be available to talk about various financial topics. Brett Burney is making time to meet with people on the use of iPads/tablets. Also some of our business partners have generously donated their time to meet one-on-one such as, Bellefield (timekeeping and time management ideas and solutions), Gunlocke (facilities management) and WorldDox (document management ideas and solutions). We will have seasoned administrators from various firm sizes.

Are you an expert and attending the conference? We’d love for you to volunteer! Just reach out to a Region 6 team member if interested!

So hopefully by now you are asking when will this be and how can I sign up? Ask the Expert will be offered during the business partner expo hours on Friday, November 1. Each session with an expert will be up to 15 minutes long. Watch your email for Region 6, “Need to Know” information to sign up prior to the conference. You can also sign up at the onsite registration desk, if there are still slots available. Don’t miss this unique and likely highly sought after opportunity!!

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Katie J. Bryant, CLM
ALA Region 6 Communications Officer