General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

Volume 17, Number 5
July/August 2000

The Chair's Corner

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

BY Sharon C. Stevens

It is hard to believe that the 2000 ABA Annual Meeting has come and gone. The Annual Meeting was a little earlier than usual this year because the ABA celebrated the new millennium in not one but two of the world's most exciting cities. With the theme "Common Law, Common Bond," attorneys from the United States and foreign countries began to explore those common bonds in New York City. After several days of outstanding educational programs and cultural opportunities, renewing friendships, and making new friends in the Big Apple, the meeting moved across the sea to London. Both the New York and the London meetings were memorable, especially the Section's programs and activities in both cities.

At each Annual Meeting, the Section specifically celebrates the solo and small firm practitioner at the Section's annual Solo and Small Firm Day. This year was no exception. The Section's Solo and Small Firm Division labored for more than a year to ensure that this year's program was a highlight of the New York Meeting. The subject of Solo and Small Firm Day 2000 was one of universal interest: "99 Tips on How to Get Paid for the Work You Do." Solo and Small Firm Day, as usual, was co-sponsored by other ABA sections and divisions and the ABA Standing Committee on Solo and Small Firm Practitioners. In keeping with my emphasis this year on outreach to state and local general practice, solo and small firm entities, the Section also invited and secured the support of the New York State Bar Association and several local and specialty bar associations as program co-sponsors. The Solo and Small Firm Annual Awards Luncheon celebrated the Sole Practitioner of the Year as well as GP Link tributes to outstanding state and local bar association programs.

Other Section programs in New York explored multidisciplinary practice, facilitating the practice of law through use of emerging technologies, and the technological update of bankruptcy practices. At our Presidential Showcase program, forensic science met high-tech computer technology in a mock trial to determine if legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was assassinated in 1972, rather than suffering a heart attack.

Our Section was pleased to present one of the ABA's plenary programs in London. This program posed this question: "If "bigger" and "global" seem to characterize current organizational paradigms, how will solo and small firm practitioners compete in the coming era?" Attorneys from both America and England provided the tools that solos and small firms need to survive and flourish in the next century, both in cooperation and in competition with large global firms.

The Annual Meeting signaled the end of this bar year and the end of my term as chair of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. I have been pleased to lead the Section this year and am saddened to have it end. (I am not sure that my law partner-husband is sad at all!) I am looking forward, however, to the exciting things in store for the Section next year and the following years. Plans and programs initiated this year and in development for future years translate to enhanced programs, products, and benefits for Section members.

New and renewed relationships with corporate sponsors will facilitate the Section's endeavors. It was the sponsorship of AXA Advisors, our financial services sponsor, for example, that enabled the Section to double the number of issues of GPSolo and develop our special issues on technology and the best articles published by other ABA sections and entities. We have just renewed this relationship with AXA. Alumni Computer Group, our time billing and accounting software sponsor and maker of PCLaw, continues to support Section activities and provide specially priced products to our members.

This spring, the Section entered into a primary corporate sponsorship arrangement with West Group, a premier provider of legal information and practice enhancement products. West Group's vast resources and endless expertise in all legal subjects will be available to the Section, and the Section and West will cooperate to provide our members with new, improved and exciting programs, publications and products. West Group's commitment to the general, solo, and small firm practitioner is a key factor in the corporate sponsorship arrangement between West and the Section.

West Group's dedication to providing practice solutions for solos and small firms, for example, was demonstrated in a recent new product announcement: Westworks. Not yet launched, Section officers were privileged to view a demonstration of this new product that could revolutionize the office of solo and small firm practitioners. Composed of more features than could be explained here, I was amazed that attorneys' data would actually be stored at West. Given the frequency of my computer "glitches," my data would probably be a lot safer at West!

These and other corporate relationships share the Section's success this year, but this year would absolutely not have been possible without the tireless efforts and dedication of other Section officers, the volunteers, and the Section staff. It certainly would not have been possible without the support of you, our members. The Section has had a "good run" this year, but it is only going to get better and better.

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