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One can almost see Connecticut Bar Association President Fred Ury’s brain working as he took a phone call from Middlebury attorney Anthony Minchella, who wanted to know why the Connecticut Bar Association (CBA) had no special section or committee to address the needs of solo attorneys like himself. One of the hardest things for volunteer organizations is to actually get committed volunteers to do the necessary work. “Aha,” Ury must have thought, “This guy’s worked up, he cares enough about this issue to call. I think I’ve just found someone to lead a small firm initiative.” Apparently, he did. Minchella agreed to head up a new CBA committee to look at solo and small firm issues. That’s good, because the voice of solos needs to be heard strongly at the bar association. The CBA used to have an entire section devoted to solos and small firms. It created the section in 1998, following several years of discussion and a thorough study of the need for such a group by Peter Costas, a former CBA president and long-time advocate of solo issues. The effort was well-intended, but its execution didn’t work out so well. Solos do have problems and issues. One of those is the lack of time to spend on anything but their practice: It became difficult for the section to attract members and attendees. Another problem solos face is cash: In order to join the section, members had to pay additional section dues. They weren’t inclined to pay extra money to join a section that they didn’t have the time to participate in. That’s not a criticism of the CBA, but an observation of the facts of life for solos. If the CBA wasn’t sensitive enough to those facts before it created the section, it certainly became so. Three years ago it dissolved the section for lack of interest. Minchella’s view is that it’s not that solos and small firms lack interest, but that they lack time and a compelling reason to participate. He thinks that he can address those problems, and can come up with a working group within the CBA for solo lawyers. For the CBA’s part, this latest initiative is formally a committee, not a section. That means that it’s a group designed to look at issues and suggest programs and services, not a division of the bar that needs its own dues stream to exist. That’s a smart approach from a financial standpoint. And it’s encouraging that the CBA was quick to endorse the idea of doing something for solos and small firms. Solos don’t have the administrative support of larger firms, they don’t have the marketing backup to help drive clients to their door, they don’t have the research staffs to handle the tedious aspects of the job. Solos need to be their own IT professional, bookkeeper, secretary, business development officer and, sometimes, janitor. This on top their primary purpose: to provide quality legal services to clients. This is a group that barely has time to ask for help. But that doesn’t mean help isn’t welcome. Minchella has a big job ahead of him, but it’s good to see that the CBA is trying to give him — and solos like him — the support they need.

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