General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

Volume 17, Number 6
September 2000

The Chair's Corner

Relevancy: A Bridge to the Profession

BY Wynn A. Gunderson

The year 2000 is truly an exciting and challenging time to become Chair of the Section. During the new millennium we will continue our dialogue on such controversial issues as multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional practices. We will also face massive technological advances, the erosion of the rule of law, and continued attacks upon our profession, to name just a few. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that the leadership of this Section be strongly committed to addressing these complex issues and finding workable solutions. If the Section is going to remain relevant to its members, it must remain at the forefront of these challenges.

Planning for this Section year began in earnest more than two years ago with the theme, "Relevancy—A Bridge to the Profession." The theme developed as a result of my conversations with practicing lawyers "in the trenches," many of whom were uncertain of the benefits of being a member. The viewpoints of these lawyers encouraged me to try and make at least a small difference as chair of the Section, both in how the Section is perceived and in how it performs in terms of relevance to its members. My commitment is not intended to imply that prior leadership has failed in any way. Quite the contrary, in my years with the Section I have seen firsthand the incredible dedication of the Section leadership as they continue to unselfishly offer their time, talent, and money in order to improve the profession. Many times their only reward was the satisfaction of having made a contribution, albeit limited at times.

The General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division has always provided useful products and beneficial services to help its members build strong law practices. A case in point: this issue of GPSolo, with its "Best of ABA Sections" special theme, as always showcases the efforts of many and puts valuable information in a concise, usable format for busy lawyers. Like most organizations, however, the Section still has room for improvement. This year’s planning efforts have been aimed at setting goals that would not only continue the high quality of service the Section has rendered to its members in the past, but if met would also move the Section forward in the new millennium.

My first step toward this end was to seek to join two sections, a historic first, for a conference dedicated to finding effective ways to meet our challenges and deal with critical issues before us. With high hopes, I extended an invitation to Dixie Lee Peterson, chair of the Law Practice Management Section, to have her section join with us for a common meeting in Lake Tahoe, and Dixie accepted with great enthusiasm. The joint conference became a reality, and the first-ever joint Fall Meeting was held on September 7-10, 2000, at the Resort at Squaw Creek near Lake Tahoe. The conference included not only the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm and Law Practice Management Sections, but also two standing committees—the Standing Committee on Solo and Small Firm Practitioners and the Standing Committee on Judicial Independence.

The meeting’s theme was "Beyond Surviving: Thriving in the New Millennium," and included a roundtable CLE addressing multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional practices and other timely issues for lawyers. The roundtable featured a very distinguished panel of speakers. The highlights of the meeting were the addresses at the opening ceremonies by both ABA President Martha Barnett and ABA Executive Director Robert Stein. The joint meeting provided an ideal setting for the exchange of ideas between the two sections; a cross-fertilization that will enable us to move in the right direction for our members in the days and months ahead.

In our planning process, Section leadership identified a need for a structured plan for diversity of our membership to ensure that the Section accurately reflects the composition of our profession and society in general. It is imperative that people of color, both genders, and the disabled are all appropriately represented in the leadership of the Section. In response to that need, Pamila Brown, a long-time Section leader, prepared an outstanding Diversity Plan, and the Section’s Council has already adopted the plan. Implementing this plan during the coming year is one of my major goals, so that we not only "talk the talk" but also "walk the walk."

The Section will also focus on making our members’ practices more efficient and cost-effective. To that end, I have appointed a Relevancy Committee to identify projects that will contribute to streamlining the practice of law. For example, under consideration is the development of a clear and less onerous standard on the retention of client files. If adopted, such a standard could alleviate the cost of maintaining certain files for the entire life of a practice. The Relevancy Committee will explore this proposal and work on similar projects as the bar year unfolds.

It is intimidating when contemplating the many challenges our profession faces in the new millennium, but together we can meet them. Please let me know how your Section can be more relevant to you. I welcome your thoughts and ideas; you can send them to me at Working together, we will make a difference.

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