Of Complexity and Simpletons

By Keith B. McLennan

Hopefully, the title of this article caught your attention. It may sound odd. However, there is a point. We live in a complex society, unnecessarily so in my opinion. As a lawyer, I marvel at those who are able to reduce problems to their most basic elements. Like former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who once said about pornography, “I know it when I see it,” most of us in our daily practices don’t know good lawyering until we have witnessed it firsthand. Perhaps it was that “loser” case that you actually won or that arbitration where one of the lawyers exquisitely represented her client.

Such examples of great lawyering stem from one key skill: the ability to reduce a problem to its simplest form. Lawyers and other professionals who are able to simplify are successful. Many of us (particularly me) over-anticipate, over-analyze, and over-work a legal issue. We are simpletons. Those who can see through the sideshows, whether in their professional or personal lives, will succeed. Therefore, the theme for our 2007-2008 Bar Year will be “Simplify; Simplify Your Practice, Your Profession, and Your Life.”

The mission of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division here and always has been to provide you with the resources, tools, and network to help you achieve simplicity in your practice, your profession, and your life.

All too often, subtle and not-so-subtle competing interests dictate the results of dispute resolution. We are confronted by interest groups that demand what they perceive to be their entitlements. Our society makes the effort to accommodate interest groups—a noble goal—but we all have to realize that in this world of competing interests, we cannot satisfy everyone. Still, we try with such laws as:

In New York:

• A license is required before you can hang clothes on a clothesline.

• A fine of $25 can be imposed for flirting.

• During a concert, it is illegal to eat peanuts and walk backward on the sidewalks.

In Florida:

• It is unlawful for an unmarried woman to go parachuting on Sundays.

• One may not commit any “unnatural acts” with another person.

In Wyoming:

• It is illegal to wear a hat that obstructs people’s view in a public theater or place of amusement.

• It is unlawful to use a firearm to fish.

In Maine:

• You can be fined for having your Christmas decorations still up after January 14.

In Kennesaw, Georgia:

• All heads-of-household must own a gun unless they have some sort of moral objection to gun ownership.

In effect we attempt to legislate common sense in a society where simpletons are on the rise. We need to do away with the complexity and work things out without running to the legislature; we need to simplify things. One way to simplify is to be an active member of the GP|Solo Division and its lawyer network. Our division already provides extensive resources. For example, have you:

• Logged onto Solosez lately to review the threads on topics ranging from billing verbiage and increments, to how to talk to the press about a pending case (quick tip: you don’t), to accepting credit cards by phone, Internet, or PayPal?

• Read our monthly electronic newsletter The Buzz to gain insight on issues and activities being undertaken by the GP|Solo Division?

• Read and archived GPSolo magazine, with its many practical tips and how-to tricks?

• Researched GPSolo’s Technology and Practice Guide issues for the latest and greatest tools for the GP, solo, and small firm lawyer?

• Learned about developing trends in the law from other ABA Sections, Divisions, and Committees through the Best of ABA Sections issues of GPSolo?

• Retained our Solo newsletter of factoids and quick hits of information and resources for you to simplify your practice and survive the many demands upon your time?

• Reviewed our e-newsletters, such as GP|Solo Law Trends & News, GPSolo New Lawyer, and Technology eReport?

• Purchased any of our practical publications that provide forms and guidance to simplify your practice, such as Letters for Lawyers, Letters for Bankruptcy Lawyers, and Letters for Divorce Lawyers?

• Marketed your practice by employing the techniques in our downloadable publication How to Capture and Keep Clients?

• Attended our meetings to build your national network of helpful expert lawyers?

• Called upon our member lawyers from across the country to aid you in a case?

If you have not taken advantage of these and the many other resources of the Division, you are, in effect, leaving “money on the table.” Now is the time to act to Simplify Your Practice, Your Profession, and Your Life. Contact me with your interests, and I will get you started.

Keith B. McLennan, the guest author of this issue’s column, is Chair-Elect of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. He can be reached at .

Copyright 2007

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