To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
How do you do it?
That is the question I have been asked more than any other since becoming the president of the Boston Bar Association in September. Well-meaning colleagues want to know how I am keeping up with my practice in a small firm. The common perception is that an attorney in a small firm does not have the "bench strength" an attorney in a large firm has available; therefore, I must be working around the clock to meet all of my commitments to my clients and the BBA.
The truth is, an attorney who practices in a small firm can be the president of the BBA without sacrificing her practice.Here's how. First, my law partner, Christine Roach, has been tremendously supportive. I could not have done this without her encouragement and willingness to pitch in when I have needed her help. The wonderful BBA staff has also gone the extra mile, making arrangements for my meetings and making sure I'm prepared for all of my official (and sometimes unofficial) events. I have also been able to meet my obligations because of technology.With a laptop, e-mail and voice mail, I am able to stay in touch with my office and clients even when I'm spending the day at 16 Beacon Street.
I am not alone. Thousands of our members are solo practitioners or practice in small firms. The BBA has redoubled its efforts to meet the needs of our members who practice in those settings, primarily by selecting dedicated, energetic and hard-working attorneys as co-chairs of the Solo and Small Firm Section. Under the leadership of Bill Mandel, Nina Kimball and Kathleen Stone, the Solo and Small Firm Section has experienced a renaissance.
The Section has sponsored or co-sponsored programs on various substantive law topics, as well as technology updates, ethical concerns and networking. The Section's newsletter is a model of what our newsletters should be - full of helpful advice and information. The Section has also reached out to potential new members, by sponsoring panel discussions at three area law schools to educate law students on what practice is really like in those settings. If you practice on your own or in a small firm, I encourage you to go to the BBA's website - www.bostonbar.org - and take a look for yourself at all the Section has to offer.I'm sure you'll find many programs of interest.
In this, my last letter, I want to thank so many people who helped prove that a small firm lawyer can do the job. All of them made this year so memorable - and so much fun! The BBA is fortunate to have remarkable volunteer leaders - from the officers, to the Council, to the Section and Committee chairs, to the members of the Search Committee, to the co-chairs and members of the Financial Literacy Task Force - who devote hundreds of hours to trying to make our profession and our community better.I have enjoyed working with and learning from all of them.President-Elect Ned Leibensperger is a valued advisor and a dear friend, and I know he is going to lead the BBA with strength and integrity. I wish him only the best in his "year," although I am threatening not to give up the job!
The BBA staff, starting with Executive Director Richard Page, has simply been incredible under sometimes trying circumstances. The BBA is one of the pre-eminent bar associations in this country because we have a topnotch staff. They are truly devoted to the BBA's mission, and they gently guide the volunteers in the right direction.
I have also had behind the scenes support from all of the past-presidents who cheered me on and offered words of encouragement at every turn. I'm particularly indebted to Joan Lukey, who took a chance on me several years ago. I'll be forever grateful to her.
And, I'll end where I started, by thanking Chris Roach for insisting that we start our firm so we could both pursue our dreams.
I am tremendously honored to be the first attorney who practices in a small firm to lead this Association since Gene Dahmen was elected president in 1987. I know it won't be 18 more years before the BBA has another small firm attorney or a solo practitioner at the helm.
M. Ellen Carpenter