Working to Serve You Better

By Kimberly Anderson

In 1997 Best of ABA Sections was initiated by the ABA and the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division (then a Section) to save you time and money by providing you with a synopsis of articles published by other ABA sections. You are able to access a wide range of information and learn where to find more about it.

We also offer the Best of ABA Sections at a significantly reduced cost to all ABA Sections, Divisions, and Forums, as well as all state bar associations. The Massachusetts Bar Association and the Louisiana State Bar Association already have taken advantage of this offer. We would be pleased to have your organization join in the distribution of the Best of ABA Sections magazine biannually (every March and September). All you need to do is inform us, and you can send the magazines as another “touch” or contact with your members. If you have any questions or would like additional information on how to get involved, please contact Robert Salkin, GPSolo Staff Editor, at 312/988-6076 or by e-mail at salkinr@staff.abanet.org.

Thinking Small

There is a perception that the American Bar Association is not focused on solos and small firm lawyers. I believe the saying is that perception is reality. Well, this perception is not a reality. The ABA is committed to learning more about solos and small firm lawyers and serving their unique needs. One example: The Membership and Marketing Division recently hired Kevin Henderson to be Director of Solo Segment Recruitment and Retention, a new position focused solely on this target market. I am giving Kevin the rest of the Division News column this month so he can tell you more about his plans to help us better serve solos and small firm lawyers. Please contact him if you have any questions or ideas.

Getting to Know You

First, I would like to thank Kim for the opportunity to introduce myself to all of you. My name is Kevin Henderson, and I have been with the ABA for a little over six months. In my short time here, I have had the opportunity to learn quite a bit about your Division. I have had extensive conversations with GP|Solo’s terrific staff, and I had the pleasure of meeting many of you at your Spring Meeting in New Orleans in May. After spending a few days with solos and small firm practitioners like you, I knew I made a good decision coming to the ABA. I came here from Roosevelt University in Chicago, where I spent 12 years administering an ABA-approved paralegal program. Prior to working in higher education, I was a litigation paralegal with a midsized law firm focused on toxic tort litigation and environmental law cases.

As an educator I became very familiar with solos and small firm lawyers, as most of our adjunct paralegal instructors had their own law practices. Many had made the decision to go it alone because they sought a balance between their work and home life, or because they wanted to have an opportunity to teach. Without the flexibility that a solo or small practice afforded them, they might not have been able to do something they loved—sharing their legal knowledge with future paralegals and lawyers. Working with these lawyers also gave me some insight into the unique challenges and needs that came as a natural consequence of the size of their practices. Normally a solo or small firm lawyer employs only a very small staff, if any, on a full-time basis. Therefore, anything the ABA can offer to help you run your practice more efficiently and effectively is a benefit that justifies paying your membership dues.

Within the past few years, the ABA’s Membership and Marketing Division has partnered with GP|Solo in conducting two phases of market research to learn more about sole practitioners. There were several key findings:

1. Most solos decide to start their own practice out of a desire to manage their own schedule.

2. The most common sources of frustration for solos are income fluctuation and managing all aspects of their practice.

3. Products and services of most interest to solos include free CLE, sample forms, and discounts on office supplies.

4. Most non-ABA member solos mention cost as the reason they do not join the ABA and say that they do not find value in an ABA membership.

5. An opportunity exists in streamlining benefits, especially with new solos and ten- to 15-year solos.

In response to this research, and with a goal of establishing sole practitioners as a major member segment within the ABA, we are working to act on many of these findings. Recently, Office Depot was added to the ABA’s roster of Member Advantage companies. ABA members now can receive up to 35 percent off Office Depot’s already low commercial web prices. We have been testing reduced pricing structures that recognize the fact that solos pay their own membership dues. And we are seeking to work with ABA entities to develop new products and services for solos that provide added value in an ABA membership. Along those lines, I am currently conducting an internal audit of existing ABA products and services that are relevant to solos. Once this audit is completed, a “road map” of these products and services will be developed to simplify the process of identifying what the ABA has to offer you. The next step will be to discover which combinations of these products and services resonate best with solos. We then will seek to bundle products and services together and offer them to members through the GP|Solo Division. I would very much appreciate your feedback as we move through this process.

Finally, in an effort to spread the message that the ABA values sole practitioners, I plan to attend state bar association solo and small firm conferences throughout the year. In July I attended the Washington State Bar Association’s Third Annual Solo and Small Firm Conference. This fall I will be attending similar conferences in Illinois and Wisconsin, and in October I will be at your Third Annual National Solo & Small Firm Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I look forward to meeting you if you are able to attend any of these conferences, and I would very much appreciate your stopping by my booth and introducing yourself as an ABA and GP|Solo member. If we are not able to speak in person, I still would welcome any advice, feedback, suggestions, or good humor you would like to share with me as I strive to learn all there is to know about solos and small firm practitioners. You can reach me by phone at 312/988-5729 and by e-mail at hendersk@staff.abanet.org. Thank you for being a valued member of the ABA and GP|Solo Division.

Kimberly Anderson is Staff Director of the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. She may be reached at 312/988-5636 or .

Copyright 2008

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