GPSolo Magazine - December 2005

Chairs' Corner

Why Become a Division?

By Dwight L. Smith

Not too long ago, Spencer Johnson, M.D., caused a stir among organizations throughout the country with Who Moved My Cheese?, his simple, easily read, and enormously popular book about dealing with change. Among the primary tenets of the book are these:

  • Change happens—they keep moving the cheese.
  • We must adapt to change quickly—the quicker we let go of the old cheese, the sooner we can enjoy the new cheese.
  • We should enjoy change—savor the adventure and taste of the new cheese.
  • We should be ready to quickly change again and again—because they keep moving the cheese.

I’m reminded of this book as I consider the ABA House of Delegate’s recent unanimous approval of our historic transformation from a Section to the newest Division of the ABA. I am sure that many of our members must be wondering: What is a Division anyway, and why did we change?

To be sure, there are differences between ABA Sections and Divisions. Sections are focused primarily on substantive interests (e.g., litigation, real property, family law, individual rights and responsibilities). Divisions, on the other hand, have a broader and more general concentration, driven primarily by practice setting (e.g., young lawyers, senior lawyers, government and public sector lawyers).

The key reason driving our transformation to Division status is to better serve our members—and the Association. As a Division, we will be better able to bring the vast and outstanding resources of all substantive sections of the ABA to general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers.

The dominant presence and vital importance of general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers in the legal profession are undeniable. We comprise nearly two-thirds of America’s lawyers. But even more important than our sheer number is the fact that general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers— America’s Main Street Lawyers define the profession for so many Americans. The vast majority of our fellow citizens think of someone just like us when they think of a lawyer. The resulting responsibilities are enormous, and with them comes the equally important responsibility of the entire ABA to understand and better serve the needs of general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers.

As a Division, we wholeheartedly embrace our responsibilities to understand and translate the needs and preferences of the lawyers we serve, and to bring the substantive and practice-specific strengths of the ABA to our members. To accomplish these ends, we have identified six critical tasks for our new Division:

  • To be the ABA’s knowledge center about general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers.
  • To share the knowledge we develop with everyone in the ABA who aspires to serve these lawyers.
  • To bring the full panoply of ABA services and products to general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers in ways that are easily accessible, easy to use, and focused on their needs.
  • To bring the Division’s expertise to the creation, packaging, sale, and support of our products and services for members.
  • To be the portal for general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers to the entire ABA and all its diverse resources.
  • To be the voice of general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers so that the views of this large, vital, and important segment of our profession are well represented and heard.

The tasks may appear daunting, but we are energized by the importance of the challenges before us and we are ready for the adventure. We will make the Division the home for all general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers. The Division has the resources to transform these aspirations into reality.

Our members are tremendously talented and diverse. Our membership includes lawyers who work in general practice as well as in highly specialized areas of the law. Geographically we draw our members from all areas of the country and all types of environments and practice settings—urban, suburban, ex-urban, and rural. We are diverse in our ages and life experiences, and we want to be especially diligent to encourage membership among younger lawyers who can sample the entire ABA through our Division. We long have been the home for lawyers in the military and those moving from the military to private practice. We are a great place for law students who are making important decisions about their future in our profession and can benefit from meaningful association with experienced practitioners. And our Division celebrates racial and ethnic diversity and is a recognized leader in promoting opportunities within the profession and the Association for women, minorities, and physically challenged lawyers.

We also offer to all our members the highest-quality continuing education, whether it consists of programs, books, outstanding periodicals like this one, our website (among the most visited in the ABA), and many other cutting-edge knowledge tools. No matter how you look at it, a general practice, solo, or small firm lawyer can access virtually any educational or practice-assisting resource through the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division.

We are here to help lawyers be successful in their careers, and we take this mission very seriously.

These are times of great change for our Division. Our days as one of the ABA’s premier Sections are history. We are now committed to (1) better serving our Division members; (2) better serving all ABA members who are general practice, solo, or small firm practitioners; and (3) attracting to membership more and more of this nation’s Main Street Lawyers who do not currently enjoy all that the ABA and our Division have to offer.

We embrace and savor the challenge.




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