GPSolo Magazine - July/August 2006

Chairs' Corner
Promoting Diversity

The whirlwind that has been this year has reinforced for me just how fast time and life pass us by. The year that seemed like an eternity in our youth now passes by in a blinding flash. We’ve focused this year on Celebrating America’s Main Street Lawyers and recognizing their importance in the preservation and advancement of our society. Alexis de Tocqueville’s prescient observation of more than a century ago rings true today: “I cannot believe that a republic could subsist at the present time if the influence of lawyers in public business did not increase in proportion to the power of the people.”

This year I’ve discussed with you in this column critically important issues and the lawyer’s role therein, such as the preservation of judicial independence, our collective responses to natural disasters, and equal access to justice. And now I challenge you, our Division, and the profession to redouble our diversity efforts.

Goal IX of our Association is to “Promote the full and equal participation in the legal profession by minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.” Great strides have been made in recent years, but much remains to be done.

Review the most recent Goal IX Report Cards of the Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession at www.abanet.org/minorities/ publications/g9/GoalIX_0506.pdf; the Commission on Women in the Profession at www.abanet.org/women/goal_nine_report.pdf; and the Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law at www.abanet.org/disability/2006_goal_report_final_9.pdf.

Our Division should be proud of its diversity efforts and accomplishments. The report of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity notes that minority participation in the Division more than doubled from the 2004-2005 bar year to the 2005-2006 bar year; the report notes that this growth “is not simply happenstance. The Division continues to implement a well-considered outreach program, the components of which appear to be bearing fruit.” The Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity recognized the Division’s efforts with “Honor Roll” status, noting in particular the Division’s Diversity Fellows Program (details of which may be found at www.abanet.org/genpractice/diversity/ fellows.html).

Likewise, the Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law (which is chaired by a member of the Division’s Council) accorded the Division Honor Roll recognition for its “increased efforts in placing a renewed importance on reaching out to lawyers with disabilities,” including financial cosponsorship of the first-ever National Conference on the Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities (Washington, D.C., May 22-23, 2006).

The report of the Commission on Women in the Profession notes that although the Division has had four officer positions held by women since 2000 (which includes the President-Elect of the ABA), the Division and one other ABA Section are currently “the only entities without women officers.” The Division should be proud of the following: its 30-person Council includes eight women (including the next Chair of the Association’s House of Delegates); one of its four Directors is a woman; three of its four Diversity Fellows are women; two of the five members of this year’s Nominating Committee are women; two of the five individuals who will become the newest members of the Division’s Council this August are women (including the current President of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association); and the Editor-in-Chief of the Division’s flagship publication is a woman.

However, the challenge is appropriate, clear, and undeniable: The Division and its leadership must act now to recruit and encourage more women to enter its officer ranks.

The Division and its leadership are absolutely and without reservation committed to the continued advancement of all aspects of Goal IX. The theme of this issue of GPSolo and indeed all of Chair-Elect John Macy’s programs for the coming year is “Do Something.” As you contemplate what you will do for yourself, your community, and your profession in the coming year, I encourage you to redouble your personal support of Goal IX and the efforts of the ABA and the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division to “Promote the full and equal participation in the legal profession by minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.”

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Diversity matters. As lawyers and leaders of society, we have a duty to promote equality and diversity. Individually and collectively, we must not be silent.

Thank you for your support of the profession and for the privilege of having served as Chair of this magnificent Division, which I have full confidence that John Macy will lead ably and well.

 

Looking Ahead

When I first became involved in what’s now known as the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division more than 20 years ago, it was simply known as the General Practice Section. About ten years ago it changed its name to the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section, descriptive of its focus on solos and small firm lawyers. Little did I know when I embarked on the ladder of leadership that it would be a Division by the time I reached the Chair’s seat.

But one thing has become clear: The leadership of this Division does one hell of a lot. Each of its leaders—officers, directors, committee chairs, committee and board members, fellows, liaisons, authors, contributors, and rank-and-file members—spends countless hours contributing to the profession and to the general practice, solo, and small firm lawyer. Each is a volunteer, giving selflessly to the advancement of the bar. I don’t even want to contemplate what the bill would be for all of those lawyer hours if billed at even a tenth of the regular rates! GP|Solo Division members share a profound commitment to the Main Street lawyer—the women and men battling in the trenches day after day, trying in this increasingly competitive world to serve their clients. To each leader and member in this Division, I give my sincere and heartfelt thanks.

Over the year past, no one has done more than the first person to serve as Chair of this Division—the outgoing Chair, Dwight Smith. I honestly don’t know how he’s done it, but his leadership and judgment serve as a model for future leaders. Simply reading all of the Division’s publications is a daunting task, but Dwight’s always been the first to read them and send out thanks to our contributors. He is the first to review the staff’s e-mails and respond with comments. He is the first to notice a problem and correct the same. He could not have done all of this without great sacrifice to his personal time, his time with his family, and his solo practice. Please join me in thanking Dwight for all he has done.

The new bar year begins in August at the end of the Annual Meeting, this year in Honolulu. That’s when I’ll take over the mantle. During this coming bar year, I’m going to ask you to “Do Something”—for yourself, your profession, or your community. For those serving in leadership roles, this mandate may seem like “Do Something More,” because they are already doing so much for the profession and their communities. For them, perhaps the right direction is to focus on doing something for themselves; it’s all too easy for them to forget their own needs while they’re off spending hours and hours serving the profession.

Filling Dwight Smith’s shoes and following in his footsteps will not be easy. I will endeavor during this next year to remember, as Dwight has taught me, always to thank you for your good works for the profession—but also I remind you all to “Do Something” for yourselves and your families, too.

 

 

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