In this last of my Chair’s columns, it is appropriate that the magazine topic covers buying and selling/closing a law practice, essentially marking the beginning and the ending of a new endeavor. This fundamental, yet complicated subject, which for many is the start of a new career or a new practice setting or the moving on and transitioning into either a new career or retirement, is the kind of important topic that represents the challenges and opportunities that a solo or small firm practitioner faces. The General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division is here, has been here, and will continue to be here to provide tips, advice, and direction for our members. At this time of year, another transition takes place; we recognize the past, we celebrate our accomplishments, and we look forward to a bright future.
This Bar Year, our members, whether solo, small firm, or general practitioners, have struggled to be successful, struggled to serve their clients, and struggled to serve the profession. Our Division has provided tools, resources, networking opportunities, continuing legal education, and publications that have helped our members meet those challenges. We have done so for the past 50 years. It has been my pleasure serving as this Division’s 50th Chair.
We have accomplished much thanks to the amazing work of our Division volunteers and our dedicated, loyal, and hardworking staff. First, the officers this year, Immediate Past Chair Joseph A. DeWoskin, Chair-Elect Benes Z. Aldana, Vice Chair Jennifer A. Rymell, and Secretary Amy Lin Meyerson, have been unwavering in their leadership, support, dedication, and principles. There are no better co-officers to work with. Also, I want to thank Budget Officer Kathleen J. Hopkins, who wears many hats in this Division and has an amazing amount of energy, wisdom, savvy, and experience. Kathleen has guided our Division fiscally and has also made certain that our volunteer commitment to pro bono is strong and accessible. Our Division delegates, Dwight L. Smith, James M. Durant III, and William T. Hogan III (all former Chairs), have been active in making sure that our Division is well represented in the ABA House of Delegates.
Our Membership Director, Patricia A. Sexton, and our Revenue Development Director, Alan O. Olson, have done excellent work in making sure that our membership pilot project was successful. Trish also played an amazing role in developing and implementing our monthly virtual brown-bag lunches—a free benefit to our members that has attracted as many as 350 attendees per call.
Lynn A. Howell, our Program Chair, has been dedicated, innovative, and extremely productive in ensuring that we deliver monthly CLE teleconferences and in-person CLE at our Fall, Midyear, Spring, and Annual Meetings. Lynn has also developed an aftermarket for these programs by making them available to members in recorded form via webcast, video, audio, and slidecast; members can now get CLE as they want it, when they want it, whether they come to us or we come to them.
Our Diversity Director, Aurora Abella-Austriaco, has made certain that our Division has a thriving and relevant program to expand and enhance diversity.
Our representative to the Board of Governors, Michelle A. Behnke, has applied her strong voice, advocacy, advice, and extremely effective leadership on behalf of the Division.
I would also like to thank Jeffrey Allen for his fantastic energy in serving as our editor for both GPSolo magazine and the GPSolo eReport, as well as his tremendous contributions as a member of our Corporate Sponsors Committee. Jeff guided the magazine redesign that debuts this issue and the merging of four electronic newsletters into one consolidated monthly report with skill, style, and tenacity. He has been and will always be an amazing volunteer for our Division.
Finally, our Division directors, council members, board and committee chairs, vice chairs, and members, all part of the leadership team, have given their time, expertise, and support in making this Division strong and relevant.
We could not do anything without our vibrant and hard-working staff. Our Division staff, led by our wonderful Staff Director, Kimberly Anderson, the awesome and dedicated Program Specialist, Dee Lee, the innovative and resourceful Meeting Planner, Nicole Nikodem, and our newest staff member, energetic Program Assistant Steve Wildi, were all running a marathon this busy year. Because of their efforts, we were able to accomplish so much. We also had the wonderful and unwavering support of Richard Paszkiet and Kelly Keane for our book publications, Jennifer Weed for our CLE teleconferences, Tom Campbell for the GPSolo eReport, and Robert Salkin and Tamara Kowalski for GPSolo magazine (Tamara supplied the creative vision behind the new look of the magazine).
When I came into this position, I hoped to build on the strong foundation laid by the 49 past Chairs of this Division.
We had an exciting year that helped improve the lives of solo, small firm, and general practitioners. We are hopeful that in August, when the House of Delegates convenes, the name of our organization will become the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division so that it is easy for the world to see that we are the home of the solo and small firm lawyer and the portal in the ABA for these lawyers to access all the amazing resources the ABA and its Sections, Divisions, and Forums have to offer.
We continued to support SoloSez, our virtual law firm. We held virtual brown bags and monthly teleconferences. We engaged in a pro bono project with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), providing training in immigration law so that unaccompanied children in immigration court proceedings would have the assistance of lawyers. We gave our attorneys a public service opportunity to work with individuals who are struggling to become literate by sharing with them their legal rights. And we provided resources for our members to serve their clients, the public, and the profession.
We kept our promise that, should the demands of running a business, practicing law, community involvement, and family life prevent our members from coming to us, we would come to them. We offered virtual opportunities for CLE at the time, date, and location that worked for our members, including more than 50 hours of programming from the National Solo & Small Firm Conference made available on demand via the Internet for 18 months thereafter. We consolidated GPSolo magazine and made it available digitally to approximately 9,000 new members added this year who are solo, small firm, and general practitioners. We consolidated the GPSolo eReport and continued our fantastic work with excellent publications.
We brought business opportunities to our members by providing them access to bidding on government work and especially to help increase diversity in the Division and in our profession by supporting efforts of minority- and women-owned solo and small law firms to become certified to bid for legal work from corporate clients. We also created a LinkedIn listserve for members only, to serve as a business referral network.
We commenced the celebration of our 50th anniversary this year at the Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, followed by our party at the Spring Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, and shortly we will hold our Annual Meeting reception in Chicago, Illinois, where our Honorary Co-Chairs Dennis W. Archer and Karen J. Mathis, both former ABA Presidents and former Chairs of this Division, will share their words of wisdom with us. The anniversary celebration will culminate at the Fall Meeting in Seattle, Washington, with a fabulous black-tie-optional event.
I am also pleased to report that these projects will continue for several years to come, as our officers have worked closely together to build continuity and allocate resources in a fashion that will make a difference to our members.
It has been with great enthusiasm, excitement, and energy that I have enjoyed working with all of you this Bar Year. You have taught me what it means to be successful and how we can all serve our clients, our profession, our community, and our society in this year of Success and Service. I am honored to have had this opportunity and to have developed the amazing friendships that will last a lifetime. So, at this time of year, I am proud to transition and pass the gavel to Benes Aldana, who I know will lead this Division with dedication, enthusiasm, and a wonderful vision. I look forward to it and to the bright future of this Division.