Back to Basics: The Year Ahead

By Joseph A. DeWoskin

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when? — Rabbi Hillel

The General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division exists for one purpose: to serve its members, America’s Main Street Lawyers. The Main Street Lawyer is the last bastion for those individuals and small businesses in search of legal help. The Main Street Lawyer may be a general practitioner, but that lawyer is almost always a solo or small firm practitioner. Main Streets exist in the Manhattans of Kansas and New York City, and in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The halcyon days when a law license was a ticket to high earnings, respect, job security, and advancement have come to an end—or at least are on hiatus. Our members are in greater need than ever of what the GPSolo Division can offer, and we owe them a responsibility to help them through these difficult times by offering them tools such as high-quality periodicals and books, reasonably priced continuing legal education programs, networking opportunities, and advocacy for issues facing solos and small firm lawyers. We’re here to help lawyers help themselves, help their practices, find a balance between work and life, and serve their clients. That’s why the theme of the 2010–2011 GPSolo Division Bar Year is Back to Basics.

Next August, I’ll assume the helm of the GPSolo Division as its 49th chair—the first from Kansas and the second to hail from the Show-Me State of Missouri. Practicing in Kansas City, Missouri, I’m admitted to both states and live in Kansas. I practice as a solo in an office-share situation with an associate and a legal assistant. I grew up with the American Bar Association as part of my life.

Let me give you a preview of what’s in store during our Back to Basicsyear. Next October, GPSolo will hold its fall meeting in a place where we’ve never met: Austin, Texas. This meeting will feature the Fourth National Solo & Small Firm Conference, which is shaping up with dynamic and interesting national speakers, fascinating local topics, and three hours’ worth of ethics credit. The ABA 2011 Midyear Meeting will be held in Atlanta, Georgia. In the spring we will return to St. Louis, Missouri, where GPSolo held its first Spring Meeting 25 years ago when my father chaired the General Practice Section. In selecting meeting venues, affordability and accessibility have been polestar considerations. The Bar Year will end when the American Bar Association holds its Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada, in August 2011.

Because public service at our meeting sites has become a GPSolo tradition, the Division’s project during its Fall and Spring Meetings will assist those living with HIV/AIDS. In Austin we will be collecting items from the wish list for Project Transitions (, which provides hospice, housing, and support. In St. Louis we will participate in a hands-on service project with Food Outreach (, the only St. Louis–area organization whose mission is to provide nutritional support and enhance the quality of life of men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS or cancer.

Many of you know me. Many of you don’t know me. I want each and every one of you to be part of our team by becoming involved in the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. Don’t ask to become involved only because you are looking at participation in the Division as a stepping-stone to higher prestige, to future positions of importance, or simply to pad your résumé. We will not be successful if we are only concerned about ourselves and building fiefdoms. Many of our leaders with the longest tenure started out in the trenches of the Division, and through that work they became intimately knowledgeable about how the bar works and how best to serve its members.

Do ask to become involved because you care about helping our members improve their lives, their practices, and those whom they serve. GPSolo’s members rely on its leaders to focus on their constituency, championing the cause of those who pay its dues, and its leaders have an obligation to serve them now—not off in the future.

This is your General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. It’s not mine. I’ll only be Chair for a single year, but our careers serving other lawyers will continue long beyond that. I want you to be part of that dynamic. We’re in this together.

Please write me at and tell me how you want to help other general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers.


  • Joseph A. DeWoskin, the guest author of this issue’s column, is Chair-Elect of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. He may be reached at

    Copyright 2010

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