January 01, 2018 GPSolo

THE CHAIR'S CORNER: Resolutions for 2018

Stephen D. Williams

Another holiday season has come and gone, and I am sure that most of us have begun 2018 with some self-analysis and made resolutions to change or better the way we live and act both personally and professionally. Did you make any resolutions? Have you kept them so far? If not, why?

Each year we are provided with the opportunity to sit back, evaluate our lives and our businesses, and see what we can do to better ourselves. Did you resolve to cut those extra pounds or attempt to get healthier by exercising? Resolve to spend more quality time with the family and less at the office, or did you decide it was time to work in the office to increase your revenues and caseloads? No matter what you elected to do, I am sure that it will affect the relationships that you have with your family, co-workers, and clients. I mention this because my theme this bar year is Building All Relationships.

I’m sure you recall that my initial Chair’s Corner column in the March/April 2017 issue dealt with this theme, and I pointed out how important relationships are to both our personal and professional lives. The beginning of a new year allows us to examine these relationships and provides us all with the opportunity to resolve to better those that may be lacking. How is your relationship with yourself? Are you happy with your life? Are you happy with the state of your relationships with those who are important to you? Are you stressed because of a failed relationship with someone close or because you are having problems making ends meet? This is a good time to evaluate things and takes steps to make yourself better. Do not hesitate to take action to improve your day-to-day life because your relationship with yourself is often overlooked and is arguably the most important relationship you can have. If you are overwhelmed, each state bar association has a lawyers assistance program there to assist you. Reach out if you need to; it will make you a better person and a better lawyer. (Links to these programs can be found at the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs website: https://ambar.org/colap.)

Veterans Law, Military Lawyers

The theme of this issue of GPSolo is “Veterans Law.” This is an issue that should be important to all of us—not only because it is our duty to assist those who have served and protected us in the military, but also because, if you did not know it, our Division is the “home of the military lawyer.” Several past Chairs were active military during their Chair year, were in the reserves, or were retired officers. In the last ten years, two of our Chairs were active Judge Advocate General’s Corp (JAG) members: James M. Durant III, who served in the Air Force, and Benes Z. Aldana, who served in the Coast Guard.

I have had the privilege as an officer of the Division over the past four years of attending the meetings of the Division’s Military Law Committee. If you did not know, this committee meets twice a year at the ABA Annual and Midyear Meetings. The Committee is made up of The Judge Advocates General (TJAGs) of the five branches of the military, and the meetings often have the TJAGs from all five branches as well as staff members and other officers who are doing legal work for the services. There is no more impressive meeting with top-notch individuals anywhere in the ABA, and we are proud and privileged to host this impressive, professional group as part of our Division.

The current commanding officers who often attend these meetings are Rear Admiral Steven J. Anderson of the Coast Guard, Lieutenant General Christopher F. Burne of the Air Force, Vice Admiral James W. Crawford III of the Navy, Staff Judge Advocate Major General John R. Ewers Jr. of the Marines, and Lieutenant General Charles N. Pede of the Army. These individuals oversee the hard-working attorneys who serve our country and practice law in the various military branches. Why are military lawyers a part of our Division? Because on a daily basis they handle a wide variety of matters, and as such are really general practice attorneys—a perfect fit with us.

In addition to the meetings of the Military Law Committee, the Division at the Annual and Midyear Meetings also hosts the Keithe E. Nelson Memorial Military Law Luncheon at the conclusion of the Committee’s meetings. General Nelson, who passed away in 2002, had been an active participant in the ABA and in what was then called the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section; we honor him twice a year at these luncheons. When you are at the Midyear or Annual Meeting, I encourage you to join us for this lunch—I promise you will be impressed and feel the pride I feel in having as a part of the Division these men and women protecting our freedoms.

Explore the Division App—and New Orleans!

In the previous issue of GPSolo, I informed you that the Division now has our own app that you can download to your smartphones and tablets: ABA GPSolo 365. Our Solo & Small Firm Summit in St. Paul was a “soft premiere” of the app, and many of those in attendance downloaded the ABA GPSolo 365 App and used it as a guide for the meeting. The app has had its official kickoff as of the first of the year. Since St. Paul, the app has been upgraded to include new content that will be continually updated as it becomes available. I urge all our members to download the app to find out the latest that is going on within the Division and to receive content that will be exclusive to the app. This content includes copies of our award-winning GPSolo magazine, as well as the GPSolo eReport and the Division Directory of leadership and general membership. In addition, as we get closer to the 2018 Joint Spring Meeting in New Orleans this April, we will have a special meeting section on the app that will not only show you a schedule of meeting events but also a New Orleans city guide with places you can go and things you can see while at our meeting.

If you have never been to a Division meeting before, the 2018 Joint Spring Meeting is the one to attend. In addition to the many fine CLE programs we will be presenting with our friends from Group Legal Services Association (GLSA), we have a number of fun events for you to participate in, ranging from a group dinner on Wednesday night at the famous Bourbon Street restaurant Galatoire’s, where we will have balcony access after dinner to throw beads to those on the street; to a welcome reception at Pat O’Brien’s Mississippi riverfront location with food, drink, and entertainment; to a luncheon crawfish boil and our annual awards luncheon. Lest you think we are all business, we have planned that our meetings and CLE end early on Friday and Saturday to allow you to experience the famous New Orleans Jazz Fest. Unfortunately, the calendar of performers has not yet been released, but I can guarantee there will be world-famous performers from every musical genre playing while we are there. Registration for the 2018 Joint Spring Meeting is now open (https://ambar.org/gpsolospringmeeting), and I encourage you to join us in New Orleans.

Outreach Programs

Finally, one of the things we do at nearly every meeting is to host an outreach program at a local law school, where we often discuss with second- and third-year law students how to get a job at a small firm and also answer questions about hanging a shingle and starting your own firm. These programs are generally well received by the students, and they allow the students to interact with panel members not only in the group setting but often on a one-on-one basis after the program concludes.

One of my goals for this year is to hold at least one law school outreach program in each of the 50 states. This is where I need you, our members, to step up and assist the Division. We have put together an easy-to-use “Tool Kit” for hosting these programs. If you contact the Division staff in Chicago (Membership and Marketing Associate Molly Hesse at molly.hesse@americanbar.org or Division Director Kimberly Kocian at kimberly.kocian@americanbar.org), they can send you all the information you need to host a program and answer any of your questions. In addition, there is a limited budget to be reimbursed for food and beverage at the outreach event; however, you must receive a confirmation from Molly prior to your event that the funds are still available.

In conclusion, if any member has anything they would like to discuss regarding the Division, please do not hesitate to contact me via phone at 908/284-0074 or e-mail at steve@sdwilliamslaw.com.

Stephen D. Williams is Chair of the GPSolo Division. He is a sole practitioner in Flemington, New Jersey, focusing on family and criminal law.