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    Inside the Bar: Serving Solo and Small-firm Lawyers

    Since 93 percent of State Bar of Wisconsin law firms are solo practices and small firms, it is no surprise that the State Bar develops products and services with them in mind. An excellent example of such a service is the 2007 Solo & Small Firm Conference to be held in Milwaukee on Nov. 29 and 30.

    George Brown

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 80, No. 10, October 2007


    George BrownIn nature, autumn signals the beginning of the end of the yearly cycle of renewal and growth that came with spring and summer. In the bar association world, autumn is the season of reconnection and reactivation as local and specialty bar associations gather for their first meetings since spring. During this fall alone, President Basting and I will visit with a dozen local and specialty bar associations throughout Wisconsin.

    At a recent local bar meeting, a member proudly announced that there are no law firms in his county: Every lawyer is a sole practitioner. This raises a lot of interesting questions. It turns out that eight Wisconsin counties have only sole practitioners in private practice. Eighteen more counties have no firm larger than three lawyers, and 14 more have no firm larger than five lawyers. This means that more than half the counties in Wisconsin have no law firms larger than five lawyers. Of the 3,640 law firms in Wisconsin, 93 percent (3,401 firms) consist of five or fewer lawyers.

    Since solo practices and small firms make up 93 percent of State Bar of Wisconsin law firms, it should be no surprise that most of the products and services developed by the State Bar are used by them and developed with them in mind. Most attendees at CLE seminars and most purchasers of CLE books fall into this category of members. Most users of the State Bar Ethics Hotline and most users of Practice411TM, the State Bar practice management advisor service, fall into this category. Do large firm practitioners, in-house counsel, and government lawyers use these services? Of course. But by their prevalence, solo and small firm practitioners are the greatest users.

    One tremendous service for solo and small firm practitioners this autumn is the Solo & Small Firm Conference, which will be held on Nov. 29 and 30 at the Italian Conference Center in Milwaukee. Developed in partnership with the Milwaukee Bar Association, this conference began many years ago as the Milwaukee Bar Association's annual technology conference. Today, its reach is far greater. At this year's program, there will be four tracks (with nine programs in each track), focusing on substantive law, the business of practicing law, technology in the law office, and the human side of solo and small-firm practice. The plenary speaker will be attorney Michael Brandwein, a nationally noted speaker and author, who spoke to standing- room-only crowds at the 2007 State Bar annual convention.

    During this season of reactivation, enjoy the opportunities provided to you by your State Bar and your local and specialty bar associations to reconnect with your colleagues across town and across the state. Staying connected will help civilize your practice and your life.