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March 01, 2018 GPSolo

THE CHAIR’S CORNER: Tradition Meets Innovation

By Melanie Bragg

Each year the Chair-Elect of the GPSolo Division gets to pick a theme that represents the focus of the upcoming bar year. I am very excited to share what the Division has planned for the 2018–2019 Bar Year in the hopes of expanding our reach to the many solos and small firm practitioners across the country who look to us for leadership and member benefits.

GPSolo gears its delivered content to the busy lawyer who needs the nuts and bolts about how to run a law business and how to generate ideal clients. In recent years, we have focused on “who we are” to the 76 percent of American lawyers who fall within the GPSolo umbrella; this focus is embodied in our tagline, “Your Success. Our Mission.” The results have been amazing: Our membership is up, our meetings are well attended and fiscally sound, and we have found new and better ways to achieve our goals. My predecessors in the past few years have left us in a great position. I want to acknowledge their leadership as I enter the new year because, without them, the Division would not be in the shape it is in now to keep moving onward and upward in the focus of service to the public and service to the bar.

Our Theme for the Year Ahead

The theme for 2018–2019 will be Tradition Meets Innovation. We are at a crossroads where everything that makes the practice of law a respected and noble profession, with centuries of tradition and culture attached, is colliding with the fast-paced technological world we live in, where everyone wants quality work faster and cheaper. We are faced with issues such as:

Can our profession be broken down into something that can be done by filling in online forms, or does the public still need an esteemed and experienced lawyer to guide them?

We lawyers must stay on top of the game in determining what course our profession takes in the future. Will we stay in charge of the practice of law, or will corporations and regulators get hold of it and water it down? By staying vigilant and celebrating the best of who we are as lawyers, from our first roots to now, we will ensure that the road to technological progress will only result in the more optimum delivery of legal services and that the lawyer and counselor at law will always have an esteemed place in society and in the halls of justice.

This upcoming year, you will hear me say, “Lawyers are the conduit to justice: If the conduit is broken, justice is broken.” We will work on providing ideas and information to lawyers about how to stay in the best possible shape—mentally, physically, and spiritually—to do the jobs at hand. Well-rounded, happy, and fulfilled lawyers mean the public gets more justice. It’s a win-win for everyone.

As your Chair-Elect, I say, “Let’s merge the best of the old with the new and really create a positive and vibrant future for our profession!” We want to see a world filled with happy and prosperous lawyers who are empathetic to their clients, who give them great advice for a fair price, and where justice for all prevails.

Division Meetings in 2018–2019

We will celebrate the theme of Tradition Meets Innovation all year long but will really do a deep dive during our joint meeting with the ABA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) in Charleston, South Carolina, October 24–28, 2018. Tommy Preston Jr. is my counterpart in the YLD, and it is a huge honor to be working with him and his other young lawyer leaders to fashion a new type of joint meeting. Tommy and I hope that the 2018 YLD & GPSolo Fall Conference: Tradition Meets Innovation will attract new members and attendees from both groups who will come and experience what we plan to teach lawyers about trial strategies and substantive areas of the law. Our goal is for the attendees to gain relevant information about how to start and run their own practices, as well as learn how to create a successful and satisfying life and profession for themselves as lawyers in today’s challenging times.

Charleston is a great place to explore these ideas. We will be at the Francis Marion Hotel, right in the heart of the historic district and on the edge of the new trendy part of downtown. What better way to illustrate our theme of Tradition Meets Innovation than to be in the first hotel that had restrooms in the individual rooms? We will celebrate and dine at an old plantation, Lowndes Grove, and will host many other fun activities.

Our 2019 Midyear Meeting will be in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will include the third annual GPSolo W.I.N. (Women’s Initiative Network) event, which promises to be even better than the first two very successful years. At the last two Midyear Meetings, GPSolo has partnered with the Law Practice Division Women Rainmakers and other ABA entities to bring the Present and Powerful Speaker Series to life. We were blessed to have all our first-year sponsors and more in year two, where Thomson West became a major sponsor.

The 2019 Joint Spring Meeting will be a busy meeting in the heart of Times Square, New York, at the Marriott Marquis, May 1 to 4, 2019, where we are partnering with Gene Vance, an old ABA Young Lawyers Division friend of mine, to hold the premier Section of Litigation/GPSolo Division joint meeting. We want to bring our unique brand of cooperation and innovation to the Joint Spring Meeting such that both groups will make new friends and build productive and mutually beneficial relationships that last many years.

Cooperation and collaboration are my buzzwords for the year. And they are the two things I think GPSolo really excels at within the ABA. We are at a time in the history of the ABA where these qualities are most needed. We want to be the go-to group when you think of cutting-edge ideas in the practice of law. And we want to be the ones who have figured out how to run a successful business, take care of ourselves, our families, and our staff while still feeling like the practice of law is the world’s greatest profession.

The path to becoming Chair is the culmination of many years of work in the ABA. How did I form all these ideas and beliefs about the ever-changing practice of law? My future columns will outline it in more detail, but generally: I am from Dallas, Texas, and went to the University of Texas at Austin as an undergraduate and then moved to Houston for law school. My first job was as a briefing attorney for the 14th Court of Appeals, where I hung out all year with the judges and learned about the court system. I opened my own practice the Monday morning after I left the court—August 15, 1983—and got my first felony criminal appointment that day. Since then, I have practiced in all of the Harris County Courts, and all these years later I still love the courthouse, the practice of law, and my clients.

Tradition Meets Innovation

Get ready for a year of hard work and fun during the 2018–2019 Bar Year. We are the group that values the time-honored traditions of the law combined with the newest and the greatest in technology. We aren’t afraid to try new things. As our recent former Chairs envisioned in their themes: We will work hard, do good, and have fun (Stephen B. Rosales). We will be all the attorney we can be (David H. Lefton). And, in keeping with the theme of our current Chair, we will be building all relationships (Stephen D. Williams). Thank you for all your support and hard work in making this Division the stellar representative of our nation’s military lawyers, government lawyers, and the nation’s solo and small firm lawyers. I am honored to serve as your Chair for the upcoming year, and I want this year to be “our” year more than anything in the world!

Melanie Bragg

Melanie Bragg, the guest contributor of this issue’s column, is Chair-Elect of the GPSolo Division. She is the principal of Bragg Law PC, a general civil firm in Houston, Texas.