General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

American Bar Association
General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division
The Compleat Lawyer
Fall 1997
copyright American Bar Association. All rights reserved.

The Chair's Corner / Michael E. Massie
Firm Agreement

Approximately 100,000 general practice, solo and small firm lawyers are members of the ABA. When we changed our name from the General Practice Section to the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division in August 1996, we confirmed to these 100,000 lawyers our commitment to helping them be more successful in their practices.

We hope we can expand our Section to include the more than 300,000 general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers who are not members of the ABA. Speaking of "The Firm," one way to look at our Section is that it's like a firm - made up of diverse members who share common goals and interests. We need to decide how to manage the business of our "firm" - including our periodicals, books, and programs - so that we can best serve our "clients" or members.

The Business of the Firm

Our surveys and practice experience tell us that the primary areas of focus of our Section members are the following: litigation, family law, real property, estate and financial planning, business law, and law practice management.

The Section is committed to developing core curriculums that focus our periodicals, books, and programs in these key areas. For example, our new magazine, Technology and Practice Guide, is designed to deliver helpful information, which is neither too basic nor too ad-vanced, about choosing and using technology. Another example is our new publication, The Best of ABA Sections. We have a unique opportunity to review, in digest form, the best articles published by other ABA sections within our core curriculum areas.

Our Section is committed to exploring opportunities to work with other ABA sections, divisions, and forums. Our experienced members find that the best value in the ABA is to belong to an average of 3.1 sections.

The Compleat Lawyer, our flagship publication, will continue to publish theme issues within our core curriculum. This past year, the magazine covered present and future issues confronting general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers; all of the substantive areas of law that lawyers are often asked about at cocktail parties; environmental and real estate law; and litigation. Upcoming issues will explore malpractice and ethics, elder law, and children in the law.

Our book publishing program remains strong. Recently published or soon-to-be-published books from our Section include: Fundamentals of Personal Investing, Financial Planning for Lawyers, Recent Trends in Trusts, Applications of Psychology in the Law Practice, Real Estate Closing Deskbook, ADA Made Understandable, Federal Consumer Law, The Complete Guide to Divorce Practice (2nd edition), and Family Law Guide.

This past year, CLE programs were offered in the areas of immigration law, technology, military and civil service family law; employment law; civil rights; estate planning; professionalism; family law; federal trial courts; bankruptcy; gaming; intellectual property law; and many other areas.

The following CLE programs were held for the Section's 1997 Fall Meeting in Rapid City, South Dakota: A Day of Discovery: Basic Nuts and Bolts of Discovery with Jim McElhaney; Litigation and the Use of Technology in the Law; and Engineering Animation Presentation.

Our Place of Business

Since more than 95 percent of our members do not attend any meetings or programs, and do not participate in committee or leadership positions, our "place of business" needs to be our members' homes and offices. Known as "distance information," the benefits traditionally include periodicals, and now also include teleconferences, fax blasts, fax retrievals, and access to our Section's Website (

We know that unless information is easy to access, digest, and apply, our members will not benefit. The programs with Edward D. Jones are an ideal example of "distance information." Edward D. Jones programs are available to General Practice, Solo and Small Firm members in the more than 3,000 communities where they practice. Also, we have expanded our periodicals program, so this year you will receive four issues of The Compleat Lawyer, four issues of Solo, two issues of Technology and Practice Guide, and two issues of The Best of ABA Sections.

Firm Contributions

Section membership dues are and will continue to be the foundation of our Section's operation. However, alliances made with Lexis Nexis and The Equitable Life Assurance Society are expected to contribute around $1 million in non-dues revenue during the next few years. Almost all of these funds have been committed to product development and delivery of products to our members' offices and homes.

Lexis Advantage is a solo and small firm online product that can provide access to state libraries along with information from many of the ABA sections for an affordable, fixed price. The Section played a role in encouraging Lexis to price its pro duct for solo and small firm lawyers. The alliance with Equitable allowed us to expand our periodicals program, and will be a valuable resource for lawyers serving clients with estate and financial planning needs.

Firm Succession

More than 300,000 general practice, solo, and small firm lawyers do not belong to the American Bar Association, let alone our Section. Our Section is committed to delivering valuable benefits to our members in the core curriculum areas. We hope that this approach will convince some of these 300,000 members to join the ABA and our Section, and better serve our current members. If our "firm" is not doing the job, please let us know what we can do to help you be more successful in our profession.

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