THE CHAIRS’ CORNER

Trail’s End

By Robert A. Zupkus

There are so many wonderful aphorisms. “A stitch in time…” “You attract more bees…” I often wonder where they originated. After serving as GP|Solo Division Chair for a year, I now know the answer for at least one aphorism: “Life is the reality that happens unnoticed while you are busy planning for it.” Such was this Bar Year, 2008-2009.

In advance of my term as Chair, there was long and detailed planning of Division programs, events, and meetings. There is a traditional template for a GP|Solo Bar Year, which, like an annual garden, still needs careful planting, watering, and weeding. For example, each Chair typically selects a theme, a short series of carefully chosen words, to symbolize the Division’s goals for the year. The theme is selected in consultation with more than one planning committee. The theme this year has been “Bar None: Inclusivity of People and Ideas.” It symbolizes human diversity and a melting pot of philosophies, even if discordant. It anticipated four pleasant and exciting meetings to match the seasons. It anticipated increased Division assets, an interactive web-based Solo Resource Center, a Diversity Committee poised to mentor Division Diversity Fellows and merge their talents into long-term, valued service to the Division, and so much more. Such glorious planning.

And then life seemed to direct the planned brilliance into the reality of a dark alley. Revenue dropped. The Midyear Boston meeting was scaled back to a minimum. Division investment reserves dropped with the stock market. Concerns about swine flu led to cancellation of the Los Cabos Spring Meeting, which was to be held in conjunction with the ABA Judicial Division. This was to be a meeting gem. Speakers committed to participate included the President of the Mexico Bar Association and the Chief Judge of Sinaloa State. CLE programming included sessions with Mexican and U.S. attorneys on topics of cross-border practice and the difference in legal lifestyles. A beach fundraiser was set for a local day care center. The children had agreed to sing at a plenary session of both Divisions. Then the wicked H1N1 surf swept away countless hours of staff and member planning, organizing, and coordinating.

And guess what? The sun still rises and shines over GP|Solo. There is no grumbling that this was a year that never was. Work on Division goals continues despite challenges. With the help of Kim Anderson, Steve Beam, and Jeff Allen, the Solo Resource Center is alive and moving forward. They are assisted by senior staff member Sarina Butler and by Kevin Henderson of Membership and Marketing. The GP|Solo financial knights Stan Riffle (Budget Officer plus), John Macy (Revenue Director), and Joe DeWoskin (Corporate Sponsors Committee Chair) drove the fiscal dragons from the gate. Marc Stern and the Bankruptcy Committee offered a pro bono Chapter 7 to GP|Solo, but that was made unnecessary by the efforts of so many of the Division’s active members and special friends. I will highlight a few active members here, with full respect and thanks to the many, many others who also worked so hard for GP|Solo.

GP|Solo membership remained solid despite the economic downturns because Tony Alvarado and the Membership Committee continue to remain sensitive to the economic and product needs of solos and small firm lawyers.

Publications continue with great success, led by Mike Hurley. CLE programs have solid content and quality because David Lefton and Brian Hermanson never left the field. Brian also performed heavy lifting on behalf of Corporate Sponsors. Joan Burda, Jeff Allen, Jennifer Ator, Chuck Driebe, and Jim Schwartz continue to make our magazine and newsletters dazzle. Laura Farber and the Council push themselves to think, debate, and decide issues to support solos and small firm lawyers across the country. jennifer rose and Bruce Dorner keep the SoloSez lamp lit despite the huff and puff of those who would darken it.

The Division held a fabulous fall meeting in Sante Fe. The New Mexico Bar proved to be wonderful hosts, as we knew they would. The Third Annual National Solo & Small Firm Conference was a wonderful success because of the effort and dedication of Deb Mathews and Vicki Levy Eskin. ABA staff members Kim Anderson, Laura Ramirez, Nicole Nikodem, and Dee Lee were the glue that held together the many, many moving pieces of this meeting (and the whole year, for that matter).

Tom Johnson, Marvin Dang, and Ignacio Pinto-Leon are perfect models for the Division’s own Three Musketeers. They truly were all for one, one for all—the one being the Division. Each gave far beyond their job descriptions and did so selflessly. Behind them ride the rest of the Bar None posse: Betty Adams, Pamila Brown, Larry Ramirez, Bryan Spencer, and the Committee Chairs. Thank you so much, each of you, for watching the back of GP|Solo.

The Division Directors, Jennifer Rymell, Elio Martinez, Joe DeWoskin, and David Lefton, were each the star of every quarter. They mentored, nurtured, and inspired their constituent groups.

The Division is also blessed to have “Home Office” representatives who are dedicated and tireless. Kathleen Hopkins, our Board of Governors liaison, rolls up her sleeves and works so hard that we need to remind her she has already “arrived” as a “trusted advisor.” Lee Kolczun, Bill Hogan, Dwight Smith, and Sharon Stevens always answer the 3:00 am phone call on behalf of the Division. Past chair Keith McLennan continues to earn new laurels for the Division. He does not rest on any past laurels.

For any disappointment brought to the Division by outside events, please know that it is in solid shape and careful hands. It continued to measure the year in successes. And those successes are best reflected in the examples of uncomplaining, unwavering service given by the above Division members and ABA staff. Because of them, I would do the year all over again in a second. But that adrenaline rush of excitement now belongs to Lieutenant Colonel James Durant. And he will pilot the Division with full dedication.

So, Marc Stern, keep asking the relevant questions. jennifer rose, hasta la vista. John Macy and Keith McLennan, keep the good cheer alive in us. And to my wife Donna, thank you for infinite patience with me, your insight, and your caring for me and this hardy band of lawyers.

 

Service to Others

By James M. Durant III

S ervice to Others defines what we do as legal professionals—and for the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division, it establishes our core value statement for the 2009-2010 Bar Year. My oldest son, Jimmy, once asked me, “Dad, what do you do?” Carefully responding to a then-four-year-old child, I concisely said, “Daddy helps people.” Now, I could have told him about my job as an active-duty Air Force officer and judge advocate. I could have given him details about being a prosecutor trying courts-martial, about helping legal assistance clients, about advising generals as a NATO lawyer, and about all the many other legal matters I deal with on a daily basis. However, I decided to keep it simple, in a way that he would understand. Similarly, his brother, Jonathan, now five, will tell you that “Daddy is a wawyer who helps people and I want to be a wawyer when I grow up.”

Little did I realize that my brief comments to Jimmy and Jonathan would actually help me encapsulate the theme for my term as Chair: Service to Others. The 30,000 members of GP|Solo are the collective voice for more than 60 percent of all lawyers across the United States, and Service to Others is an appropriate mantra articulating what we do as lawyers. Of course, this single goal is not new. On the contrary, it is a culmination and continuation of many service-related visions carefully shaped by past GP|Solo Division chairs ( Renaissance: Rethink, Renew, Retool by Karen Mathis; Who Are We? by Bill Hogan; Team GP|Solo by Lee Kolczun; Celebrating America’s Main Street Lawyer by Dwight Smith; Do Something by John Macy; Simplify by Keith McLennan; and most recently, Bar None by Bob Zupkus.)

How does this core value, Service to Others, actually translate to our everyday practice? Simple: It is the overarching principle upon which we base our lives as lawyers. Like Jonathan said, “ wawyers help people.” We cannot forget this essential principle—and paraphrasing famed civil rights attorney and former dean of Howard University School of Law, Charles Hamilton Houston, we mustn’t settle for just being lawyers, but must strive to be “social engineers.” It is indisputable that our calling provides us with a remarkable opportunity to truly serve others.

I like to think that I make a difference every day in the lives of others. Moreover, I like to think that it is not only about remuneration. Don’t get me wrong, we all live on a budget. The character Reggie Love in John Grisham’s The Client best epitomizes service to others when she endures personal and professional sacrifice to represent her client, 11-year-old Mark Sway, for a mere $1 retainer. We, too, endure personal and professional sacrifice as ABA volunteers representing more than 600,000 solo, small firm, and general practice lawyers across the United States. As volunteers in the ABA, we are charged with enabling those in the legal profession to serve others.

Through a focused effort to Simplify our practice by Rethinking, Renewing, and Retooling our Team approach to the great work of our substantive committees, I have appointed committee chairs who have pledged (1) to publish record numbers of written products that assist the Main Street Lawyer in daily practice; (2) to Do Something by producing greater numbers of quality CLEs in conjunction with other ABA entities and with state and local bar associations and to serve as ambassadors to these other bar entities; (3) to Bar None by opening the doors of opportunity for bar leadership through a concentrated membership drive, recruiting talent germane to specific substantive areas of the law to further answer the question of Who Are We; and (4) to identify viable resources targeted for partnering with the Division to help us truly Serve Others during trying economic times.

This edition of GPSolo magazine is dedicated to raising the awareness of animal law. Our family dog during our childhood, Duke, was a de facto member of the family with rights and privileges, albeit some limited. Yet, all too often we witness dogs left restrained in the elements with insufficient nourishment. And for those who abuse animals, the deterrent often is limited to a misdemeanor or infraction. Although a few jurisdictions have successfully dealt with this issue head on, we have witnessed few legal efforts to protect animals from abuse.

Fortunately, some jurisdictions have successfully challenged this cause with great returns. I direct your attention to Scruffy’s Law, a bill introduced by Kansas State Senator David Haley and passed in March 2006 by votes of 116 to 7 in the Kansas State House and 40 to 0 in the Kansas State Senate. The law, which makes it a felony to deliberately neglect, torture, or kill animals in Kansas, was named for Scruffy, a Yorkshire Terrier that was beaten and burned by four men who also videotaped his killing. The penalties for torturing and maiming of animals under this law are stiff—up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $5,000. In a recent conversation with me, Senator Haley noted that several animal abusers have been prosecuted since the enactment of Scruffy’s Law, and that the state has seen a marked reduction in reported animal abuse cases. Although it took more than nine years to pass the bill, Senator Haley is very pleased with the final result. He told me that his research for Scruffy’s Law revealed that the intentional abuse of animals is a gateway action for many who later engage in spousal abuse, assault, and even murder. Moreover, following his testimony to members of the U.S. Congress, he was excited about the national attention Scruffy’s Law garnered. Several states across the country are now pursuing similar legislation. Senator Haley is a friend of GP|Solo Division and my cousin. We had the pleasure of his company during the Kansas City Fall meeting in 2006. I applaud Senator Haley for curbing animal abuse, and for truly Serving Others through the passage of Scruffy’s Law. For more information on Scruffy’s Law, I recommend you contact Senator Haley (785/296-7376, david.haley@senate.ks.gov).

 

Copyright 2009

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