Volume 18, Number 6
September 2001


Change We Must

George R. Ripplinger, Jr.

Another bar year begins and a new chair of the Section assumes the helm. CHANGE. Most people resist change. Some hate it. Lawyers may be the most resistant to change of any profession. That's probably because our profession is rooted in the past for its answers to the future. Stare Decisis. Res Judicata. Even our discourse is peppered with phrases from Latin, a language no longer spoken.

Solo and small firm lawyers may be the most resistant to change. After all, most of us practice alone or in small groups because we like to do things our own way. Change means we have to do something another way. Yet, change we must to meet the needs of our clients in a world that, if anything, is defined by change. Change we must to continue to make an adequate living.

Perhaps the greatest change is that lawyers are no longer the principal repository and source of information about the law. Sure, most people could read and books were available to read if a lay person wanted to, but the books were generally owned by lawyers and universities. Even if you had a book, only lawyers were skilled in the archaic search techniques necessary to find the law applicable to a particular problem. Lawyers are about the only people who knew how to search the indexes, digests, and key numbers to find the answers to legal questions. We were the web browsers of the pre-Internet age.

Now all that has changed. Web browsers have replaced lawyers as a search engine. A single boolean search on the web from everyman's ubiquitous computer gathers a plethora of legal information, cases, statutes, and treatises on a potential problem. A veritable potpourri of detail is available in a matter of seconds. Remember the Herculean task of a search in The Dicennial Digest? Not if you're under 35. Even if you do, that change should be embraced. It gives us more time to use the law to help our clients.

Even the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division changes. I thought I'd be able to preside over the Section's business without change because everything seemed to be running smoothly at the time I appeared before the nominating committee four years ago. Now that the time has come to lead the Section, change in the Section's budget and new technology has required the Section to change its structure and the means of delivering the Section's products to its members.

In the coming year, I expect there to be more Web delivery of the Section's products. We are moving some of our publications to electronic format. Don't worry, GPSolo will still be a traditional magazine, but our newsletters, with the assistance of our sponsor, West, will be coming to you on the Web and should be better than ever. Solo will become an E-zine. We plan to establish Web discussion groups in each of our five core curricular areas of practice. We plan to expand the use of the Web to allow you, our members, access to our programs and seminars, hopefully 24/7. We've established a new Internet board to assist us in our move toward the use of the Web.

So if you're not connected, get there and get your e-mail address to the Section so that, embracing change, you too can benefit from coming change in the way we practice law and the way the Section operates. If we don't already have your e-mail address, please send it to us at genpractice@abanet.org.

Let me know how we're doing as the year progresses. Electronically share with me and the other officers and committee chairs your ideas and comments on the job we're doing serving you, our members. My e-mail is ripplinger@prodigy.net. Please, no jokes and no chain letters. See you in Santa Barbara!

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