November 01, 2015

Defining Moments: Be Part of the Solution

Melanie Bragg

Are you a part of the problem? Or are you a part of the solution?

In the past two months I have attended four ABA meetings: Annual in Chicago, SOC (Section Officers Conference) in Chicago, Fall GP Solo in Boston, and David Lefton’s 2016–17 Leadership Planning meeting in Las Vegas. My mind has been inundated with the problems that the ABA and our sections and divisions are facing in today’s economic climate, as well as what lawyers face in their practices with all of the new technology and other changes. Other associations nationwide face the same challenges. Our National Speakers Association Houston Chapter struggles with membership and meaning too.

The big question is how can GP Solo stay relevant to our members? What do our potential members, our ideal members, want? Need?

People are saying that Millennials “don’t do associations” and that things are “different now.” Gone are the days that you would make the ABA Annual Meeting your vacation and bring your children and extend the trip. Talk to someone like Christy Albano, one of GP Solo’s Directors, and ask her how much fun it was growing up in the ABA. Her father is a prominent lawyer in Kansas City. She was in all of her childhood “children of lawyers” weddings. They maintain their friendships today. What do you think?

Can we bring those “good old days” back or are they gone forever?

My experience is a bit different than Christy’s. I have always been one of those joiner/organizer types. It probably won’t surprise you that my house wrapping activities were organized into a club called the Circle N’s. We were the “Neutrals.” We were not affiliated with any one group—like the jocks, the populars, or the nerds. We prided ourselves on liking everyone. I liked being nice to everyone—even that dorky guy in the science class (who is probably a millionaire a million times over by now!). The gal who rang the doorbells was the cheerleader/track star and her title was “Doorbell Ringer.”

I think people naturally like to affiliate with groups that have like values, and like preferences, and like to do the same kind of fun things.

My first ABA YLD meeting was in 1986 in Montreal. Our chair, Steve Rosales, was there with me, and I think it was the experience, especially in that Chinese restaurant, that made us say—SIGN ME UP!!! I was completely blown away. I got active fast and have never looked back. For me, the friendships we have, the great places we go, and what we do to improve ourselves in the law is amazing. We just have to think of how to translate that to other lawyers. I don’t think it is the CLE anymore. I think it is the engagement, the community, the fun tax-write-off trips we can take, and how much we learn, give, and enjoy.

We are going to be in the process of rebranding the GP Solo Division in the coming months, and we will need our membership’s input. As we go through this process I am reminded of a hot, summer day back in college at UT Austin when my boyfriend and I had a flat tire. I have never forgotten something he said as he looked up from laying down in the gravel on the side of the road, struggling to get the jack on the tire:

“Melanie, don’t be a part of the problem, be part of the solution.”

This was 1977 and his statement impacted me profoundly. At that time I was completely unaware of my actions. I must have been complaining and inadvertently making things harder for him. We were in it together and we should have been working collaboratively on solutions.

That statement woke me up! My awareness snapped into place and I have never forgotten the amazing favor he did me that day. (I am sure I have been guilty of the same actions since then. I cringe when I recall some of them.) But as time goes on and I become more aware and practice mindfulness, the instances grow ever so infrequent. See my chapter in the second edition of our GP Solo How to Capture and Keep Clients book called “The Conscious Lawyer: How the Practice of Mindfulness Will Increase Your Bottom Line” and my “First Focus” upcoming article in the December issue of YourABA.

I am reminded of this mandate to be a part of the solution as we work side by side in the ABA to provide services to the members of our profession and to the public. Everything that lawyers do in their lives and their practices has an effect on our culture and the clients we serve. All aspects of our society are affected by the ways lawyers operate in the legal system.

Think of how things go in a law office. Lately, we have had problems with one of our computers and the connection has been spotty and slow. Yesterday I noticed that the router we were using was not even plugged in. There was a mass of cords looking like they were going somewhere, but now I know why the computer was not working to its maximum potential. It was operating wirelessly. There was a solution, but someone needed to notice that the power was not plugged in!

We need to be plugged in to the right power sources in order to be effective!

As we train our staff to be efficient and handle the office in the most productive way, we need to be mindful of how we react, how we lead, how we hold members accountable.

Can we still laugh at ourselves? Can we overcome problems easily?

When we are off course, can we get back on course quickly? Knowing that life is a series of temporary situations and that rather than being a part of the problem, we are part of the solution?

Think of situations in your life when you were part of the problem, rather than part of the solution? Think about when you considered jumping ship instead of emptying pails of water out of the bottom of the hull? How could an increased effort in the area of your mindfulness (conscious attention and connection) improve the solutions to the daily issues we encounter? Problems are an inevitable part of our lives, and finding solutions sparks our creativity and ingenuity if we keep our eyes on the larger goals.

Please share your ideas about what GP Solo stands for and how we can remain relevant. And I would like to hear about your solutions! Please email me at Melanie@bragglawpc.com.

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Melanie Bragg

Melanie Bragg has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Houston’s fiercest attorneys in her representation of children, the elderly, and mentally disadvantaged people. Her firm, Bragg Law PC, is a general civil firm in Houston, Texas. She also writes and produces legal education programs through Legal Insight, Inc. (founded by Bragg in 1993). Her writing credits include Crosstown Park, an Alex Stockton legal thriller, HIPAA for the General Practitioner, chapters in How to Capture and Keep Clients, 2nd Edition; Effortless Marketing: Putting Your Unique Qualities to Work, 2nd Edition; and The Conscious Lawyer: How the Practice of Mindfulness Will Increase Your Bottom Line, as well as the upcoming book, Defining Moments: Insights into The Lawyer’s Soul, to be published by the American Bar Association (ABA) Flagship Division. When she is not writing, Melanie devotes her time to her work as Secretary of the Solo, Small Firm & General Practice (GP Solo) Division and to sharing ideas with fellow authors. She is interested in your feedback and ideas about how solos, small firms, military, and government lawyers can lead richer, happier lives and thereby improve the delivery of legal services to the public. Melanie can be reached at melanie@bragglawpc.com.