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A move to “defund” an American Bar Association committee is being hotly contested by some who argue that the group’s demise will stifle the voice of the small firm and solo contingent within the organization. The ABA’s board of governors will vote on Aug. 6 at the association’s annual meeting in Atlanta whether to defund the Standing Committee on Solo and Small Firm Practitioners-a move that, if approved, will effectively mark the end of the 12-member group created in 1995. The chair of the solo and small firm committee, Joseph Crosthwait, plans to argue to the ABA’s program and planning committee a day before the budget’s approval that the decision to pull funding will undermine the ability of small firm and solo practitioners to participate in ABA policy and rule-making. ABA senior management made the recommendation to defund the committee after it determined that the concerns of small firm and solo practitioners already were addressed by its Section of General Practice, Solo and Small Firms, said Sarina Butler, an ABA senior manager and the associate executive director for its communication group. Butler said that the standing committee initially was created because no section existed for solo and small firm practitioners at the time. She also said that ABA senior management felt that small firm and solo lawyers would be adequately represented by other practice-area sections within the ABA. ‘Extremely disappointing’ “We think that’s a mistake,” said Crosthwait, a solo practitioner in Midwest City, Okla. He noted that attorneys who want to become members of the solo and small firm section must pay a $35 fee plus annual fees that start at $275 and increase incrementally. The standing committee was particularly involved in the ABA’s adoption of the Rules of Professional Conduct related to multidisciplinary practices and the sale of practices, Crosthwait said. Bruce Dorner, a solo practitioner in Londonderry, N.H., and a former member of the standing committee, called the proposal “extremely disappointing.” He added that it is the only entity within ABA that reaches across all boundaries to serve the interests of solo and small firm attorneys.” The Standing Committee on Solo and Small Firm Practitioners had requested a budget of $139,000 this year.

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