GPSOLO December 2010
THE CHAIR’S CORNER
By Joseph A. DeWoskin
T he Greening of America turned 40 this fall. When Yale Law School professor Charles A. Reich wrote that book the same year as the first Earth Day, he wasn’t thinking about environmental law, global warming, or carbon credits. He was focused on a changing society, stretching toward Consciousness III, a worldview of the 1960s counterculture transforming America in revolution. Names and titles can be deceptive. After all, green can refer to inexperience, immaturity, camouflage, prosperity, money, luck, safety, sickness, health, life, growth, renewal, jealousy, envy, fertility, ecology, peace, nationality, and religion.
What is it about being green? Well, you’ve got the green-eyed monster, Mr. Green Jeans, the Jolly Green Giant (singing “Ho ho ho”), the Vietnam-era helicopter, the Incredible Hulk (the Not-So-Jolly Green Giant), the Green Lantern, the Green Party, the Green Bay Packers, green tea, Greenpeace, the Emerald Isle, the Emerald City, Green Day, Green Berets, the song “Bitter Green,” Green Eggs and Ham, and living green. Green can mean whatever you want it to mean. Can you name any other color as versatile—and contradictory?
The General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division, which was known simply as the General Practice Section until 1996 and then became a Division in 2005, is a lot like the color green. Originally intended as a home base for general practitioners who were primarily solo and small firm lawyers within the American Bar Association (ABA), it grew to identify itself as a home for the military lawyer, a home for the immigration lawyer, a home for the gaming lawyer, and other practice specialties whose needs were not currently addressed anyplace else within the ABA. When we became a Division, there was significant discussion as to whether the “General Practice” part of our name should remain or if we should become the Solo and Small Firm Division. Even though the ABA has a Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division and a Judicial Administration Division, government lawyers and judges have always been a welcome component of the Division. The Division’s current officers include a career military lawyer, a military judge, a state court judge, and a sole practitioner who is in the Army Reserves—unprecedented in the history of the Division.
Lawyers who practice in large and midsize firms, as well as government and military lawyers and judges, may view their practices as the same as any general practitioner, solo, or small firm lawyer because the scope of their practice draws on a variety of practice areas, because they feel like they’re practicing like a solo or small firm lawyer, or because they might someday become a general, solo, or small firm practitioner. Are these lawyers really general, solo, or small firm lawyers? Just like the color green, our Division is both versatile and contradictory. What are we? I am not going to answer that question in this column but want to give you something to think about while drinking green tea or eating a green apple.
What does the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division signify to you? Is its mission just as confusing and ambiguous to you as the color green? The Division delivers valuable and robust periodicals and publications focused on general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers, it sponsors SoloSez and produces the National Solo and Small Firm Conference, and it fosters a strong relationship with other ABA entities, but how does it advocate for its constituency: the general practice, solo, and small firm lawyer? Is it as relevant to you and your practice as it should be? Does it give you what you want? If it falls short in its relevancy to your practice, how can we make it more relevant?
The answers are not easy, so that’s why these questions must be asked. You have the answers. I’m inviting each one of you to share your thoughts and give us the answers to these hard questions. What are we doing right—and what are we doing wrong? This is your Division, and we need to make sure we are working hard for you, our constituency. We may not get it right all the time, but we sure as heck will try our hardest.
Like Kermit the Frog said, “It’s not easy bein’ green.”