October 05, 2011

Written Comments of Karen Mathis

Denver, CO

Karen Mathis of Denver, Colorado presented a statement as a member of the audience. Ms. Mathis, a member of a two person firm, is a state delegate from Colorado, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and Vice-Chair of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section. She clarified that her comments were her own and don’t reflect those of either the State Bar of Colorado, the Commission on Women, or the Section. She thanked Sherwin and members of the Commission for the immense amount of time they have expended on this issue and thanked Sherwin as the Chair for coming to Cleveland to conduct a hearing that she considers a prototype for an ABA section or entity in reaching out to constituencies to see what member and nonmember lawyers in the U.S. think about the important issues of multidisciplinary practice. She hopes that in continuing its hearings the Commission seeks information and input from the American public who ultimately will be affected by whatever decisions are made. She also hopes that the ABA looks to other learned professions and asks the highest quality members of those professions what they believe will happen with MDPs. She believes her comments are about process and are not substantive in nature. Comparable in importance to those issues faced by the legal profession in the 1980s at the time of the Kutak Report, MDPs is one of the most important issues with which lawyers will grapple in their professional lives. Thus, it is exceptionally important to the profession and to the American public that there be a wide range of input and thoughtful and careful review. She hoped that the Commission would advocate within the ABA to publicize its efforts.

The issue presents an opportunity for the American Bar Association once again to prove that it is the national voice of the American legal profession; there is no state, local or specialty bar that can grapple with these issues and try to structure a solution with which the American public, the legal profession and other professions can live and perhaps even be happy. Secondly, she asks that in the course of its work the Commission consider the impact of MDPs, either negative or positive, upon women and minorities. Recognizing the ABA’s efforts over the last 13 years to advocate and to improve the conditions which affect minority and women lawyers’ equal access and participation in the legal profession, the ABA and the justice system, she urged that whatever happens with this issue the profession not move backwards in those efforts. Finally, she hopes the Commission will concentrate some serious time on the impact of MDPs on solo, small firm and general practitioners in this country who represent the largest lawyer demographic. Quoting a friend who had said "Corporations hire law firms. Individuals hire lawyers[.]", she said the American public looks to his or her individual lawyer, largely a small firm or solo practitioner, for any needs in the legal arena. Consequently she hopes the Commission will spend a considerable amount of time looking at the issues that may affect that particular demographic and not just how MDPs might affect the large firms, that is, international law firms and the Big Five accounting firms.