Volume 20, Number 6
September 2003

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It's the Members

By William T. Hogan III

Last Sunday I was sailing in Boston Harbor. It was the tail end of a holiday weekend. The sun was shining and the breeze was warm. There were many boats on the water, and the landscape of sails presented a pretty picture. It was a glorious day.

As I was sailing, I reflected upon the fact that within several weeks I would become Chair of the ABA's General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section. In the last four to six weeks there has been increased activity centered on "my year" as chair. The Section's staff, which I might add is excellent, has been in constant contact with me, assisting me with my plans for the upcoming bar year and prodding me to complete my appointments to various committees and positions within the Section. I have also been contacted by various publications, including Lawyers Weekly USA, inquiring about my plans for the Section.

While I was reflecting upon the sudden increase of importance and concern about my vision for the GPSSF Section, there was a wind shift. After I had the chance to adjust the sails and settle the boat down, it dawned on me. People are interested in our Section because of one thing-its members.

Our members are solos and small firm practitioners, and we are the largest group of lawyers in this country. The heritage of the best of the law profession is rooted in solo and small firm lawyers. John Adams, Abe Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson are examples. These solos and small firm lawyers were the founders of our nation and the guardians of our freedoms. While history is replete with prominent solos, the present is rich with its own examples of prominent GPSSF Section lawyers. In the ABA, President A.P. Carlton and President-Elect Dennis Archer are former chairs of this Section. Numerous lawyers within the ABA hierarchy are now or have been members of our Section.

When you think about it, every major law firm was once a small firm or had as its founder a brilliant solo. The GPSSF Section has longstanding, active members from large firms because these lawyers were solo practitioners or part of a small firm when they joined the Section. Although their firms may no longer be "small," the Section has remained relevant for these lawyers. It's a valuable association for its networking, publications, and the intangibles of staying in contact with other Section lawyers.

Our members are what distinguish the GPSSF Section from every other ABA Section. The bond for these other Sections is a common practice area. The bond for our Section is that it takes a unique, special, savvy person to be a GPSSF lawyer. And when GPSSF lawyers gather for a Section meeting or a social event, fun and productive things happen.

As I continued to sail through Boston Harbor, I thought about our membership-it truly is the reason why people are interested in this Section. My relationship with the members of our Section is the reason that I became involved with the ABA. It is also the reason that I stay active in the ABA.

I invite you to celebrate your heritage, to get in touch with the roots of your profession and your firm by spending time at a GPSSF event. The notion of a lawyer who can do it all effectively is alive and well in our Section. The freedom of being in a solo or small firm is preserved and the lessons needed to be successful as a small firm or solo lawyer are taught here.

When I am asked what the focus of my year as Chair will be, I quickly answer that the focus will be on our members. Please consider joining us. Together, we can look forward to smooth sailing.

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