Another bar year has almost come and gone, and it is time to look forward, to plan ahead, and to think about what it means to be a member of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division of the ABA. I think that membership can be captured in the words “Success and Service.” This is the theme of the coming 2011–2012 Bar Year and, I hope, what we can look forward to: our members continuing along the path of success by receiving new and more visible benefits, participating in pro bono and public service programs, and receiving training and business opportunities to help increase diversity in the Division and the profession.
New and more visible Division benefits include practical and useful books, periodicals, and electronic publications, bundled for a better price and offered at a discount to our members; a host of free or low-cost services offered through the ABA Smart Soloing Center, such as links to websites, blog networks, SoloSez updates, hot-topic discussions, research, and practice area updates; and new options for discounted CLE, including real-time webcasts and on-demand video recordings of all CLE presentations at our Division meetings, so that our members can participate in our meetings virtually if not in person. I know that it is difficult for members to justify the cost of traveling to Division and ABA meetings—not to mention the cost of taking time away from the office. By webcasting and video recording all our CLE offerings, such as those at this year’s National Solo and Small Firm Conference in Denver, Colorado, October 21–22, we hope to bring the Division to you, even if you cannot come to us. This will mean access at the time you want, on your terms, when it is convenient, efficient, and helpful for you. The purpose of our Division is to help you provide quality service to your clients and to make your practice a success. This is our goal, and we will do everything we can to achieve it.
I am also excited about being involved with a pro bono project and annual public service programs concentrated in our meeting venues. We will adopt the KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) project over the next three years. KIND will conduct a training session at our Denver meeting to train members in immigration law and immigration court procedure so that they can provide pro bono representation of unaccompanied children in the immigration system. These are children, many as young as three, four, and five years old, who are currently representing themselves in immigration proceedings. The training will be videotaped and offered as an online program with the ability of our audience to take on a pro bono matter. There will also be mentors available to assist you in your community. This training will translate into skills that may become useful to you in your practice.
At our 2011 Fall Meeting in Denver and our 2012 Spring Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, we will create on-site public service programs focusing on literacy, working with both the National Literacy Coalition in Denver and the Trident Literacy Association in Charleston.
We will also provide training to our members to qualify for business opportunities to help increase diversity in the Division, the ABA, and the profession. At our National Solo and Small Firm Conference in , we will work closely with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and partner with the to provide training and certification to our members to become eligible to compete for business in their communities. We will also work with members of the Association of Corporate Counsel to develop resources and information about the use of solo and small firm practitioners by in-house corporate counsel as a business model. We are hopeful that with these efforts, we will serve all our members, attract members from diverse backgrounds, and integrate diversity as a goal and result of all our Division programs.
We will also be consolidating all our electronic newsletters into a single publication, GPSolo eReport, which will incorporate the Technology eReport, The Buzz, Law Trends and News, and Solo newsletters so that our members receive electronic information timely and more efficiently.
Also, in 2012 our Division will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Two former Chairs of the Division, who also happen to be former past ABA Presidents, Dennis W. Archer and Karen J. Mathis, have graciously agreed to serve as Honorary Co-Chairs of our 50th Anniversary Celebration. We look forward to celebrating our 50th throughout the entire year of 2012, which will include the 2011–2012 Bar Year and the 2012–2013 Bar Year.
I am particularly excited about all these programs and the support that Benes Z. Aldana, our Vice Chair, and Jennifer A. Rymell, our Secretary, have provided so that these programs can become institutionalized over the next three years.
Do you want to be a success? Are you interested in service to your clients? How about helping a child who can’t represent himself or herself in an immigration proceeding? Or helping to teach children and adults about how to talk to an attorney and how literacy will make a difference in their lives? If you answered yes to any of these questions, we have an offer you should not refuse. Come get involved in the GPSolo Division by applying for an appointment to one of the Division’s many committees. We have something for everyone. Whether it be a continuing legal education program committee, a substantive committee, one of our amazing magazine or electronic newsletters boards, our wonderful book publication board, our membership board, or our public service initiative, there are numerous opportunities for you to increase your profile and to improve your practice. I encourage you to visit our website at www.abanet.org/genpractice and click on the appointments link to find out what positions may be of interest to you. The only qualification is that you need to be a member of the Division to receive an appointment. The deadline for submitting your application is March 31, 2011.
If all goes as planned, the 2011–2012 Bar Year will be a year of Success and Service for all of our members. Please join me in working together to make this year—and the years that follow—meaningful and fulfilling for all solo, small firm, and general practitioners.