ABA President's Message

No Reason to Go It Alone

ABA membership offers abundant resources to assist solo and small-firm lawyers

Posted Jul 1, 2010 5:00 AM CDT
By Carolyn B. Lamm

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Carolyn B. Lamm
Photo by Ak Vogel

Of the almost 700,000 U.S. lawyers in private practice, approximately half are solo practitioners, and about 20 percent are in firms with two to 10 lawyers. Even if you are not currently a solo or small-firm lawyer, you are likely to know someone who is or who may someday transition from a larger practice setting.

Solo and small-firm lawyers are an important part of our profession. The ABA wants them to join and stay as members because it provides them value. We recently committed to recruiting and retaining solos by establishing lower membership-dues rates for them as well as for judges and lawyers with government and legal services agencies. We also are implementing quarterly installment billing.

The General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division, known as GPSolo, is the ABA’s flagship for solo and small-firm lawyers. Its website, abanet.org/genpractice, is a gateway to the ABA’s variety of products, programs and services for this important practice demographic. Also useful is a comprehensive membership guide for solo practitioners, at abanet.org/members/solo. Lawyers in many other practice settings also can benefit from the solo guide and related ABA services.

Other ABA groups offer significant programs and value to solo and small-firm lawyers, including the sections of Business Law; Criminal Justice; Dispute Resolution; Family Law; Law Practice Management; Litigation; Real Property, Trust & Estate Law; Taxation; and Tort Trial and Insurance Practice.

A testimonial from Stamford, Conn., lawyer Stephen Curley succinctly expresses the ABA’s value: “Attorneys who do not make use of the ABA’s resources put their clients, practices and futures at a disadvantage. [ABA membership] has provided me the professional contacts to turn my solo law office into a truly national practice.”

Whether you practice on Wall Street or Main Street, you and your clients can benefit from the ABA’s offerings for solo and small-firm lawyers. Here are highlights:

• Easy-to-access CLE. An excellent example of a valuable and free online program is Solotions: Overcoming the Obstacles of Going and Being Solo in a Down Economy. Seasoned solo practitioners explain fundamentals of solo practice such as engagement letters, billing, insurance, technology and office logistics. They also offer strategies for building a client base and collecting fees in a down economy. This program and others are available at abanet.org/cle/recoveryseries. In addition, the ABA is offering 18 credit hours of Web-based CLE during the Smart Soloing School event from Sept. 28 to 30. This $2,000 value, available at abacle.org/smartsoloing, is free and exclusive to our solo members.

• SoloSez. With more than 3,000 subscribers, SoloSez is the most active of the ABA’s online discussion forums. At abanet.org/soloseznet, you can ask questions of solo and small-firm lawyers in the U.S. and around the world. Whether sharing substantive information about the law or day-to-day practice advice, members of SoloSez find this unique support network particularly valuable.

• Print and electronic publications. ABA members save on popular ABA publications like How to Start and Build a Law Practice and The Lawyer’s Toolkit—a compilation of books on the business of law, template letters and marketing strategies. Solo members enjoy a complimentary e-book, Smart Soloing: How to Build Your Practice, and a subscription to the ABA’s Smart Soloing newsletter.

• Ethics advice. With ETHICSearch, ABA members can get help resolving questions about professional conduct. Available at abanet.org/cpr/ethicsearch, the service is of value particularly to solo and small-firm lawyers. ETHICSearch helps lawyers locate citations to relevant ABA rules, ethics opinions and other ethics resources that relate to the inquiry. There’s no charge for an initial consultation and preliminary research. In most cases the ETHICSearch lawyer can answer a question immediately. Additional research is also available at nominal rates.

• Affordable insurance. A frequent challenge for solo and small-firm lawyers is the lack of good insurance options. Affordable insurance plans for a variety of needs are available exclusively to ABA members, and proceeds support ABA public service projects. Further details are at abendowment.org.

• Product discounts. The ABA Member Advantage Program, at abanet.org/advantage, provides discounts on computer equipment, office supplies and other products and services. Member Advantage offerings are reviewed by lawyers for use by lawyers. They are continually monitored for usage, member satisfaction and overall value.

Regardless of your practice, being a member of the ABA means you never need to practice alone. We are dedicated to serving the needs of all lawyers, including the considerable numbers of solo and small-firm lawyers. We look forward to providing and expanding our resources to help our members become better lawyers and build successful practices, and serve their clients, their communities and the profession.

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