Volume 20, Number 5 July/August 2003


Bring on the Rain!

By Jennifer J. Rose

It doesn't take the intellectual powers of a federal judge or an M.B.A. to figure out that a lawyer in private practice is nothing without clients. Finding and keeping clients-and the right kind of clients-is the bane of every lawyer's existence.

Whether it's called practice development, marketing, or rainmaking, it's more than simply drawing clients to the office. There's the not-so-minor matter of serving those clients. Who can't name a lawyer who was terrific at bringing in the business but who was too overwhelmed with work to adequately represent those clients? Or a great lawyer who just couldn't attract clients?

This issue of GPSolo brings together some of the best and brightest rainmakers, sharing their expertise in rainmaking-from developing websites to sharing office space, from dealing with too much work to using office staff to bring in business, and from partnering with other lawyers to partnering with the IRS.

Connecticut solo Karen Renzulli Lynch, reprising her Bumps in the Road (July/August 2001) success, took the helm as issue editor, shaping this issue with her usual diligence and aplomb. Goading, coaxing, prodding, and cajoling those in her domain and beyond, she has brought together a comprehensive array of experts.

Lawyers seldom credit bar associations-especially the American Bar Association-with bringing in business. Reasons for joining a state and local bar association often are obvious bread-and-butter issues such as insurance benefits, access to forms and libraries, discounts, licensing (especially if the bar is an integrated bar association), and continuing legal education. Reasons for joining the ABA are often wrapped up in loftier issues such as love of the law, professionalism, patriotism and the flag, collegiality, legislative advocacy, policy-making, and continuing important legal traditions. No one ever seems to address one of the real reasons for joining the ABA-making money.

A former General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division chair from two decades past, a solo of some no small measure of fame and repute in a large-enough Midwestern city, told me why it was important to become active in the ABA. "For the money," he said. I puzzled on his words for a long time. The purest love of the law, the pursuit of truth, liberty, and the American Way weren't important? In time, however, his words rang true as I discovered that the ABA did bring even a solo practitioner in a small rural burg connections and business. The ABA was the path to a world beyond the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, broadening horizons and introducing me to lawyers from all across the country and in practice specialties and settings that I'd only read about.

I never knew a single military lawyer until I became active in the Section. Nor had I ever been exposed to lawyers who practiced oil and gas law, represented tribal nations, or wrote books about land-use planning. Or who even practiced in places like Alaska and West Virginia. ABA involvement opened a network of opportunity and referrals that I would not have ever dreamed about had I limited my bar involvement to my state bar. I never returned from any ABA activity without some nugget or insight that paid for the meeting with ten days of my return.

Solo and small-firm lawyers need the ABA more than ever and more than anyone else. The rich and powerful of the profession, the megastars, the white-shoe and silkstocking lawyers, and the scions and old traditionals will survive with or without involvement in the ABA. But it's a lifeline for the rest of us.

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