General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionTechnology & Practice Guide

The Compleat Lawyer, Summer 1996, Vol. 13, No. 3

From the Editor
Taxes, Caries, and Sharing

jennifer j. rose

jennifer j. rose, a sole practitioner in Shenandoah, Iowa, is editor-in-chief of The Compleat Lawyer. She can be reached by e-mail at

If you think you're going to read about taxes in this column, stop right now. Many lawyers would rather face a root canal than deal with taxes. Like routine dental care, taxes are the inevitable price of civilized society. While nitrous oxide, lasers, and faster drills can dull dental pain, there's not much that can numb the tax bite. This issue's authors have some good advice for you and your clients.

Instead, let's talk about sharing. After all, taxes are merely an involuntary sharing mechanism, aren't they? Somewhere in our metamorphosis into lawyers, memories of those kindergarten lessons about sharing faded. Law school didn't encourage cooperative ventures. Our justice system doesn't encourage litigants to share in their search for truth and fairness. While the profession articulates lofty concepts, in day-to-day practice lawyers really don't share very much. We're hesitant to share our problems and deepest fears, and we're reluctant to share the secrets for our success. If we'd only share our time, troubles, toys, and talents, we'd all be richer.

All I Wanna Do
This job as editor-in-chief of The Compleat Lawyer is the best one I've ever held. Because it's unpaid, I no longer need to look for offshore tax shelters in the Isles of Langerhans to shield filthy lucre. Instead, I'm free and independently impoverished.

The Compleat Lawyer, now on-line at, can be accessed by anyone with a modem and the desire to leap onto the Internet. This means that ordinary lawyers who don't belong to the ABA or the General Practice Section can read it...of course they'll get it long after you've read the print version. The general public can access The Compleat Lawyer, just as they can any part of the constantly growing ABA Website. It's about sharing.

You'll still receive The Compleat Lawyer in print, with your name right on the front cover, just as you always did. You'll get it two months before the experimental on-line version appears, and yours will be the complete, unexpurgated version in its full splendor and glory...down to the artwork. Your issue will have all the extras, such as Law Notes, Tear It Out, and articles that we dare not let anyone read except dues-paying, full-fledged General Practice Section members in good standing. Plus, the issue will be yours for all eternity, unlike the on-line version that may be zapped into oblivion sometime around the millennium.

E-mail to the Editor
The Compleat Lawyer, on-line and in print, has generated some interesting reader comments:

  • "I appreciated the Dylan references in The Compleat Lawyer. I enjoy the magazine." David P. Jones,
  • "Thanks for your good work." Fritz Knaak,
  • "Your approach to The Compleat Lawyer seems like a good way to go. Gives an incentive to subscribe/join the section, but still makes it web-available." Mike Riddle,
  • "Good work. This is the most useful thing I've seen the ABA do. I liked the issue and have passed it on to the Human Resources Department. I'm general counsel/sole lawyer for a 208-bed children's hospital in Seattle, and I'll check this site from time to time since it looks like it could help me in my practice." Jeff Sconyers,
  • "Impressive magazine!!!!!!!! Very creative!!!!!!!!!" Jim Twedt,
  • "Great job getting The Compleat Lawyer online. The magazine is easily readable and sets a high standard." Randy Krbechek,
  • "I'm not a lawyer, and I couldn't join the ABA even if I wanted to, but I have found the information in online Compleat Lawyer invaluable to me. Thank you for making legal information accessible to the general public. This is a tremendous service." Jeff Liebling,

We Better Talk This Over
The image of the General Practice Section is morphing from technology-averse to technology-competent. Isolated solos and small firm lawyers are using the Internet to reach out and touch someone and to be touched.

List-servs are all about sharing. Just this week, a lawyer wrote to Net-Lawyers, asking if anyone knew about Law of the Sea. And sure enough, folks responded, telling him just where to find Law of the Sea. Just when we thought it went out with the Dead Sea Scrolls, sharing's well and alive.

The ABA sponsors an interesting on-line open discussion group, SOLOSEZ, for lawyers who practice alone or in small firms. Started the first week of May, SOLOSEZ promises lawyers a chance to pose questions, offer advice, and share information. While discussion group participants steer the course, content is geared toward practice management, rainmaking, and technology issues. Sign up now at It won't cost you a dime. Think of it as the electronic water cooler.

Forever Young
When I started practice more than 20 years ago, a judge gave me two rules of advice:

  • Always be nice to the clerk of court.
  • One judge's signature is as good as another one's.

Of course, it took a decade for this wisdom to hit home. Stephen W. Comiskey, a General Practice Section member, has published The Good Lawyer: Secrets Good Lawyers (and their best clients) Already Know on-line at as shareware. Crusty old lawyers as well as novices can learn plenty from this missal of client relations, professional conduct, and even computer maintenance, and clients can gain greater appreciation for the lawyer's lot. From "don't complain and don't whine" to "life is what's happening while you're trying cases," Comiskey's book is about sharing.

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