General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

by jennifer j. rose

© American Bar Association. All rights reserved.

jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of The Complete Lawyer, is a lawyer and writer living in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. She can be reached at


At age 15, the magazine formerly known as The Compleat Lawyer has finally grown up, marrying into the family now known as The GP, Solo & Small Firm Lawyer and changing her name. Casting aside her long-held affection for that philosophical English fisherman Isaak Walton, surrendering to spellcheck, she's become all-American and modern, taking the name The Complete Lawyer. Joining her under the unified masthead will be Best of ABA Sections and Technology and Practice Guide.

Not to be outdone, the section of the magazine you've known as "Solo/News for Sole Practitioners" has changed its name to "Making ¢ents," to avoid confusion with its sibling, SOLO, the popular and unique blue and white newsletter that originated as the Section's Sole Practitioners and Small Firms Committee newsletter and grew to Sectionwide distribution.

Times change and we change. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. Behind the facelifts and new names, The Complete Lawyer and "Making ¢ents" will continue an editorial policy of bringing readers practical, down-to-earth content. From its inception, The Complete Lawyer has been my favorite legal magazine. I want it to be yours, too.

Reprising his Cocktail Party Lawyer success, Wisconsin lawyer John Macy took the reigns of this issue to deliver everything you always wanted to know about major federal laws. Charged with the Sisyphean task of selecting which of the 312,739 major federal laws most commonly affected our readers' practices, Macy forged ahead in a race to complete this issue before Congress did something foolish like repeal all federal laws except for the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Tucker Act Shuttle Relief Act of 1997.

A Roadmap to Chaos

Landmines for the unwary, federal laws can ambush the savviest practitioners. Sure, it's possible to know by heart every book, chapter, and verse of state law, and perhaps have committed to memory a few favorite federal laws, but the sheer breadth and complexity of federal legislation, snarling its tentacles into every aspect of our practice and our clients' lives, boggle and frustrate even the most astute and learned of lawyers. Federal laws touch even parochial areas of practice. Thirty years ago, federal involvement in family law was negligible; today, even a simple divorce case requires an understanding of COBRA. There's too much to know, and so little time to learn it. Many of us are lucky if we can manage to recognize our limitations.

Sprinkled with far more semicolons, brackets, dangling participles, double negatives, and negative pregnants than ordinary garden-variety state law, many federal laws seem abstruse and obtuse. When was the last time you managed to digest one of those federal statues without reading at least one sentence over twice, and out loud, to grasp its meaning? Clearly, obfuscation's purpose is to prevent users from willy-nilly pretending to understand, much less invoke, those federal laws unmatched in fecundity by even toadstools after a summer rain. Fancy language and codswollop are there for your own protection. After all, if archaisms were good enough for our forefathers, they should be good enough for us.

Speaking of forebears and protecting innocents, in the usual and expected consequence of The Complete Lawyer's maturity, this fall's issue takes a look at children from perspectives not usually addressed in the usual context of family and juvenile law. Just like federal laws, they're everywhere. CL      

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