From the Editor
You’ve Been Swell, You’ve Been Great

By Joan M. Burda

With a nod to Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, I bid a fond adieu as Editor-in-Chief of GPSolo magazine. I return the reins to jennifer j. rose, from whom I took them a few years ago.

This has been a remarkable experience. When I took over for jennifer at the 2007 ABA Annual Meeting, I knew it would be temporary. I wanted the challenge of editing a premier publication put out on a national level. Little did I know that I was to get more than I bargained for. As a writer, I have gained greater respect and admiration for editors. I know what it’s like to have authors bail on an article at the last moment and scramble to find a replacement. “Oh, you’ll write a 2,500-word article for us? That’s great. Uh, did I mention we need it in five days? And, you’ll still do it?” Thank you is too lame a phrase to express my gratitude for the lawyers who stepped up when someone else bailed out.

I am most indebted to Rob Salkin, Editor in ABA Publishing, who has been patient and calm as he indoctrinated me into the ways of magazine publishing. Rob makes everyone who writes for this magazine look good. He edits our mistakes and reminds us of what we need to do . . . and when we need to do it. Yet he does it without histrionics. The best editors are those who leave no fingerprints. Rob is the one who, in his understated way, lets me know if I have stepped over the line—slightly or with a giant leap—in my rhetoric. As an aside, sometimes I did it just to see if he was paying attention. He is always paying attention. This column is an example of his gentle nudging. I had intended to have it done well before I received Rob’s “we need your column ASAP” e-mail.

I also want to acknowledge and thank Tamara Nowak, Senior Art Director in ABA Publishing. She’s another one of those “behind the screen” people you’ve heard tell about. Yet, her work hits you in the face every time you get the magazine. Tamara is responsible for the design and art in every issue of GPSolo. Tamara sends out the initial copy and asks for feedback. I have yet to see something I didn’t like. I marvel at her creativity. She gave me my favorite cover photo—from the July/August 2008 “Old” issue. I wanted to meet with and talk to that woman on the cover. Just the smile alone made me think she knew something important. That’s Tamara’s work—insightful and memorable.

The entire staff of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division has one primary goal: making the members’ lives easier. They are the first up at meetings and the last to turn in. If they don’t know the answers, they know where to get them. I shall always be grateful for the outstanding people this Division has working for us.

I learned a lot in this position. First, it’s much more work than I ever imagined. Editing a magazine of this caliber takes 20 to 25 hours a week. It’s a part-time job. I never realized how much goes into putting out a magazine. That part I will not miss.

The best part is working with so many talented lawyers who also write. GPSolo is blessed with a wealth of authors who understand how to write in an easy-going, non-lawyerly style, the kind that makes you want to turn the page to see what happens next. It is rewarding to read what these people write. I learn so much from the articles that come in. And as one of the perks of being Editor-in-Chief, I get to read the articles before the magazine is published. That part I’ll miss—unless I can prevail upon Mr. Salkin to keep me on that list.

One of those authors, Alan Inglis, died earlier this year. An avid cyclist, he died following an accident in which he suffered severe head trauma. Alan personified the complete person. He was an excellent lawyer who cared about his clients; a beloved husband, whose wife, Cathy, was with him when he died. The response on SoloSez to the news of this event has been overwhelming. Yet, the outpouring of sentiment reflects the impact that Alan had on so many people. We are fortunate to have his last article for GPSolo included in this issue.

Solo and small firm lawyers are the backbone of our profession. We are the ones who provide the bulk of pro bono work in our communities. Some may dispute that, but it can be verified. Some of our pro bono work is just a matter of doing what needs to be done—it isn’t anything that we report or brag about. Some pro bono work is planned; some isn’t. Still, we ensure that legal assistance is available to people at all levels of the economic continuum.

I like that about our niche of the legal profession. Over the course of my association with this Division, I have met so many talented and dedicated solos and small firm lawyers. I’ve learned from them all and I hope that education continues. I find that we like sharing what works and doesn’t work with each other. There is no threat involved. People who are not in solo practice or a small firm do not understand the positive and negative aspects of our practices.

As a solo, I’m responsible for marketing my practice, maintaining the books, doing the work, and, when necessary, figuring out why the toilet won’t stop running. T’ain’t no one else to do it. Because of that I look to other solos for advice and feedback. Solos and small firm lawyers are on the cutting edge of figuring out how to do things better, more efficiently, and with greater cost-effectiveness. If you haven’t done it, you can’t understand it.

The General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division itself stands alone in providing services to solos and small firm lawyers in the ABA. That is our mission—even if it isn’t written down anywhere. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as Editor-in-Chief of the Division’s flagship magazine. GPSolo is considered second only to the ABA Journal for excellence. That is owing to the dedication of our members and the lawyers who spend the time to write articles for publication.

If you’ve thought about writing, this magazine is one place to start. The issue topics are selected and set by the Editorial Board. Come to one of our meetings—but be careful, you may leave with an article to write.

And, one last time: If you have any questions or feedback on the magazine, let me know. You may reach me at jmburda@mac.com. I, in turn, shall forward your e-mail to jennifer j. rose—after reading and responding to it.

I hate to leave, I hate to leave, but I gotta go. In so doing, I leave the magazine in the capable hands of jennifer rose—who is most responsible for its continuing high quality of form and content.

 


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