GPSolo Magazine - September 2005
Your Road Map to the ABA
Lawyers are by nature helpful people. Recently I was struggling with the intricacies of the application of local rule of the bankruptcy court in my jurisdiction as it applies to the Bankruptcy Code. The relatively new electronic filing requirements of my local court exacerbated my problem. Mine is a commercial practice and of necessity I know my way around the bankruptcy court, code, and rules, but I also know (and the issue that had me stymied proved) that I’m no bankruptcy expert.
So I did what sole practitioners everywhere do every day. I picked up the phone and called a local lawyer who is an expert. He’s an acquaintance of mine—not a close personal friend or someone with whom I even have much regular interaction and certainly no one who has any obligation to help me. But he took my call and gladly spent about half an hour of his day discussing the issue with me. The result: problem solved.
For sole practitioners across our country, this is a situation replicated many times every day. As solos, we are “the firm,” and we have no group or section within our firm to which we can refer a problem or turn for help. Naturally, we rely upon each other and upon other lawyers.
And so it is with the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division of the American Bar Association. We’re here to provide advice, guidance, and (we hope) wise counsel to one another. And this Best of ABA Sections issue of GPSolo magazine exemplifies what our Disivion is all about: helping our members provide exemplary legal services to their clients and be the best lawyers they can be.
This issue of Best of ABA Sections further exemplifies why our Division is a portal to the entire ABA and—for the solo or small firm practitioner—the Division of first resort within the ABA. I’d like to give you some background information about Best of ABA Sections and why it exists.
The very first issue of Best of ABA Sections appeared in the spring of 1997. At that time, our publications were called The Compleat Lawyer, Technology & Practice Guide, and Best of ABA Sections. In 1998-1999 the magazines were rolled into The GP Solo & Small Firm Lawyer, and in 2000 the name was changed to GPSolo.
The Best of ABA Sections’ editorial board selects the articles to be digested for each issue, choosing articles from the flagship publications of sister ABA entities. The board seeks to provide GP|Solo Division members with articles that cover the “core” subject areas most important to solos, small firms, and general practitioners.
In the very first issue of Best of ABA Sections, then-chair Robert R. Wright III of Little Rock, Arkansas, wrote:
We believe that we are the umbrella under which all substantive law sections within the ABA are sheltered. We believe that specialization starts with us. We believe also that the sections within the ABA do not exist to compete with one another but to service their members cooperatively and completely.
We still believe these things today, and I couldn’t say it better myself. During my tenure as an officer of your General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division, I have seen a renaissance of this collaborative effort throughout the ABA seeking to address the needs of solos and small firm practitioners—who, of course, constitute the vast majority of all practitioners in this country. The ABA is a marvelous but sometimes Byzantine organization, serving an unimaginably diverse membership. Quite literally, there is something for every lawyer within the ABA. Our goal is to guide our members to those particular resources they need and seek.
Another great resource our Division offers solos and small firm practitioners is Solosez, a worldwide electronic mail discussion list of more than 1,500 solos and small firm practitioners. Solosez is an online resource for lawyers to share and obtain information on a wide range of personal and professional subjects: legal questions, client referrals, topical issues, practice technology problems and solutions, travel information, and jokes—it’s even used as a place just to gloat about a court victory or vent about a local judge. There are participants from almost every U.S. jurisdiction, Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, Korea, Germany, Israel, and Japan. Participants include a wide array of lawyers—big-city lawyers, country lawyers, new lawyers, senior lawyers, all kinds of lawyers. Most importantly, this online community has solos and small firm lawyers willing to generously share their thoughts and expertise with their colleagues. And we offer Solosez to all who wish to participate— ABA membership is encouraged, but not required. If you’ve never taken a look at Solosez, I encourage you to visit www.abanet.org/soloseznet/home.html and see all it has to offer.
Best of ABA Sections and Solosez are just two examples of how our Division strives to synthesize the resources of the entire ABA for the benefit of the unique needs of general practice, solo, and small firm practitioners. It is a daunting challenge, but one we gladly embrace for the good of all our members.
I know that you will find information in this issue and on Solosez that will improve your skills, practice, and client services. Then, I hope that you, like other great lawyers everywhere, will gladly share your skills, talents, and abilities with your fellow practitioners when they call upon you for guidance. This is what makes us members of a great profession.