GPSolo Magazine - July/August 2005
Fourteen years ago, the Soviet Union broke up after President Gorbachev’s resignation, Dances with Wolves won the Academy Award, Phil Collins’s Another Day in Paradise snagged a Grammy, a first-class stamp cost 25 cents, and today’s law students were in grade school. The Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were in full slugfest during the General Practice (as it was known back then) Section’s Fall Meeting in Phoenix, and Earle Lasseter chaired the Section. Introducing myself to the chair of the Section’s Task Force on Solo and Small Firm Practitioners, I mentioned that the one good thing about being from Lorain, Ohio, was that I’d never be asked to serve on a host committee. Just the previous year at the Section’s Spring Meeting, the trolley left me behind after the Section’s social event, forcing me to beg a ride back to the hotel with an oysterman.
Little did I know back then that I’d find myself on the Section Council, serving on the host committee when the Section met in Cleveland, rising up through the ranks to lead what is now known as the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section, and writing this farewell column.
The transitions the Section has made in those years have been just as remarkable. We’ve practically doubled our membership, making us one of the premier Sections in the entire American Bar Association; expanded our book and periodicals programs; added new and exciting member benefits; and addressed the needs of an ever-expanding array of members—minorities, new lawyers, military lawyers, law students, and just plain middle-aged lawyers like me.
It’s too easy for lawyers in solo and small firm practices, lawyers practicing in small towns, and first-generation lawyers to shrug off participation in the American Bar Association as something better left to those from large firms. Some think that they have to work their way through the leadership roles in their state and local bars before coming on board with ABA activities, or that participation is beyond their means. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sole practitioners often consider themselves rugged individualists who just don’t play well in the sandbox with others, but they need and contribute to the ABA more than anyone else. There’s room for everyone in this Section—you, me, and the lawyer down the street and across the river. It’s about expanding your horizons and improving your practice, but it’s also much, much more. The constellation of friendships and alliances you’ll build through participation in the Section, as well as the new perspectives you’ll bring home, cannot be measured in dollars and cents. I can honestly say that nothing has been as professionally—or as personally—rewarding to me as my involvement with the GP|Solo Section.
The Section’s theme has transitioned from “Team GP|Solo” to “Celebrating America’s Main Street Lawyer,” and that includes you. Tulsa solo and incoming Chair Dwight L. Smith has an exciting and productive year ahead planned just for you. Dwight, too, has worked his way through the leadership track and will be a great leader for our Section.
You know the saying about how someday you’ll be driving a big car, buying Grecian Formula, contemplating life in Florida, and having dinner during the early bird special? Well, I know that I am talking to one of you who will be writing this column during the coming decade. The moral? You never know where you’ll end up.