General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

American Bar Association
General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division
The Compleat Lawyer
Spring 1997
copyright American Bar Association. All rights reserved.

The Chair's Corner

by Robert R. Wright III

The theme of this issue is "dirt" or "earth." My contribution to that is to discuss the down-to-earth efforts being made to serve the general practitioner with particular regard to solo and small firm practitioners.

Our surveys show that general practitioners, including those in solo and small firm settings, normally have a practice that involves the basic areas of law. One of those basic areas is real property and probate law with particular regard to the transmission of wealth. This, of course, takes us into the area of estate planning and the impact of federal and state tax laws on inheritance, inter vivos transfers through gifts, the creation and operation of trusts, and so on.

Our Section has proposed a contract with the Equitable Life Assurance Society, one of America's great corporations, which was approved by the ABA Board of Governors at the 1997 Midyear Meeting in San Antonio. Under that contract, our Section and Equitable will work together to make the financial and estate planning capabilities of Equitable available to those attorneys who seek them. The particular aim is to provide such products and services for solo and small firm attorneys who have need for such assistance. Of course, these will be available to any law firm without regard to size, but it is believed by both Equitable and our Section that there is a particular need for these services and products in the solo and small firm setting and particularly in small- to medium-sized cities or in rural communities.

We have emphasized service during this bar year, and that is what is involved here - in providing a service to our Section membership and to ABA members in general, with a particular view toward serving the small firm or solo practitioner engaged in general practice.

In that regard, it should be pointed out that Equitable is far from being only a life insurance company. The services, products, and help that it can render go far beyond that, and in conjunction with the attorney or attorneys who seek its assistance, Equitable offers to forge a productive partnership to provide valuable, substantial benefit to individual clients. This type of venture has the potential to offer a client everything that a large firm with a separate department devoted to estate planning might itself offer - and perhaps more.

Also, as part of this arrangement, Equitable will provide our Section with quite substantial funding over a three-year period to invest in products that will provide assistance to our membership primarily in the areas of continuing education and publications. We are beginning a digest of leading articles from various ABA sections that will be of particular interest to general, solo, and small firm practitioners. Another publication is one dealing with technology on a basic level that will be beneficial in the operation of a law office and the effective functioning of an average law practice. The joint sponsorship with Equitable of various types of CLE programs involving both on-site presentations and satellite or electronic programming is also planned.

We believe, in short, that we will be able to provide many more services than we have been able to make available in the past operating on such a limited budget. Admittedly, this should help us in membership - and if we are to be the true home of general, solo, and small firm practitioners, it should help us to establish a stable and worthwhile home base that will be worthy and desirable to our present and future members.

We are also making an effort through cooperation with other sections to provide joint programs and products of use to general, solo, and small firm practitioners. This effort has only begun, but given our role within the ABA, it is only logical that we work jointly with other sections in their particular areas of expertise to provide greater quality in our endeavors.

You will be hearing more about all of this during the balance of this bar year and throughout 1997. When you begin to receive these products or make use of them, please do us a favor. Show them to your colleagues or friends in the Bar or call their attention to them. Help us make 1997 - our Section's thirtieth anniversary year - the year of the general practitioner in the ABA. And help us make this decade the one when the ABA began to address the needs of solo and small firm lawyers throughout our country.

That's it for now - down-to-earth, the real dirt.

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