GP|Solo: Practical Resources and Leadership Opportunities
Scott D. Laufenberg is editor-in-chief of The Affiliate and practices with the firm of Kerrick, Stivers, Coyle & Van Zant, P.L.C. in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He also serves as deputy co-chair of the GP|Solo Young Lawyers Committee.
On its webpage, the General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division (GP|Solo) touts itself as “the only ABA group exclusively dedicated to the needs of general practitioners, solo and small law firm lawyers.” It has also become the home of many young lawyers as they age out of the ABA YLD or elect to join other entities offering resources beneficial to their practices.
The Division offers its members outstanding benefits, including print publications like GPSolo and electronic publications such as Technology eReport and New Lawyer. In addition, its Solosez list serve has over 2,500 subscribers who either hang around to observe posts or actively participate in discussions. The discussions range from substantive legal issues to “water-cooler” issues like homemade pet food recipes, the worst TV show opening of all time, redecorating tips, and everything in between.
John D. Macy, who practices with the firm of Arenz, Molter, Macy & Riffle, S.C. in Waukesha, Wisconsin, is serving as chair of GP|Solo during the 2006–07 bar year and has been a member of the Division since 1980. Reflecting on the beginning of his involvement in GP|Solo, Macy said, “As with many who are active in the Division, I was introduced to the Division by friends Brian Herr-mannson and Stan Riffle. Through them I met many active members of the Division. I started at the entry level being a substantive committee chair for a number of years.” Macy’s career in the Division has taken him through a variety of leadership roles—from serving on a variety of committees to the editorial board of the division’s GPSolo magazine. Before becoming chair, he began serving on the entity’s board in 1999.
Macy believes that young lawyers should feel welcome within the ranks of GP|Solo. He noted, “On a personal level I would feel that young lawyer members would have an opportunity, if they became active in the Division, to meet and become friends with many active members. Although the membership of the Division is large, the leadership core is relatively small. It is a great group of people who are always willing to listen and help each other out. The major advantages professionally, of course, lie in the benefits that we offer, most notably the GPSolo magazine and other publications and Solosez. If one is looking for the basics, the Division is the place to find the same, in my opinion.”
Jay Ray, Chair of the ABA YLD and chair of the GP|Solo New Lawyers Committee, believes that GP|Solo offers many advantages to its members that are not necessarily found in other entities. “All ABA sections offer substantial benefits to their members,” he noted, “but for me GP|Solo offers a broader spectrum of information and services. It is not limited to business law or litigation. Rather, GP is for individuals with a general practice. So, it has to be something for everyone. For me, given that I do not have a limited practice in one practice area—for example, antitrust or bankruptcy law—GP|Solo, with its broad topic and high quality publications, offers me much more for my money than do the other sections,” he noted.
According to Macy, GP|Solo provides a natural home for a current trend in the practice of law. Many people are leaving firms to hang up their own shingles for quality of life reasons and need resources that benefit them as they develop their niches as solo or general practitioners. Macy noted that membership in GP|Solo is very beneficial because it offers opportunities for involvement on committees relating to practice settings and practice areas. “The practice setting committees can aid a young lawyer in helping them determine how, where, and what areas of law they will eventually gravitate to. The practice area committees are where a young lawyer will go once they have determined their interests and opportunities,” he explained.
Besides the tangible benefits of joining, Ray gravitated towards GP|Solo because of the numerous leadership opportunities for young lawyers. “GP|Solo is an entity that you do not have to wait twenty years for a leadership role within the Division like some other ABA entities. Many of my friends from the YLD who have aged out in the last four years already hold significant leadership positions. Although a person should understand that they have to work their way up to leadership roles and prove themselves, at least there are numerous opportunities for individuals who are willing to work for them,” he noted. He also felt that the Division values having young lawyers among its membership. “GP is a place that welcomes young lawyers with open arms and includes them in its operations. GP also offers a good mix of substantive, educational, and networking opportunities, which are very important to young lawyers in small firm settings such as mine,” he stated.
Even for attorneys who have a specialized practice, Macy believes that membership in GP|Solo can be beneficial on a practical level. “[I]t is advantageous to belong to the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division because we attempt to educate lawyers in many areas of law, at least at an entry level or, as I like to say, so they will survive a ‘cocktail party.’ What I mean by this is, as a lawyer, and probably especially as a young lawyer, it is expected when you attend social functions, church activities, etc., that you will have a general understanding of many areas of the law,” he explained. “The Division can help you have this understanding. I have always felt that as a lawyer you should know enough about topics to know when you are in over your head and need to call in an expert.”
As you look to expand your current involvement in the ABA or age out of the ABA YLD, GP|Solo may be the right place for you and your practice. For more information about GP|Solo, visit www.abanet.org/genpractice/home.html.
To learn about its Young Lawyers Committee, visit the Committee’s webpage at www.abanet.org/genpractice/younglawyers/index.html,
and for information about Solosez, visit www.abanet.org/soloseznet/index.html.