Wow. I go away for a vacation and all hell breaks loose! (only kidding) But during my vacation week when my big and little guys were asleep after an exhausting day at the beach I learned of Carolyn Elefant’s post on MyShingle.com letting loose on the ABA as an ‘organization’ (not it’s volunteers or staff). While we chatted via e-mail privately, it might have struck you oddly that I was quiet on the subject. Well, I was quiet because I was on vacation, not because I don’t have an opinion. My professional life’s mission is based upon a very defined opinion about lack of support for solos in the legal profession, the greatest offender historically being the ABA
Out of the corner of my eye, I’ve watched the ABA decide the solo was its new favored child, especially when they saw their coffers dwindle after Big Law’s implosion. I wrote about that here. (And DO read the comments. They are very interesting). I then read Carolyn’s post going head-to-head with every supposedly new ABA initiative for the solo.
I totally agree with her. It’s simply repackaging with a slightly lower price tag. As before, some of their efforts are good, but the majority is not…at least for the solo.
But I have to acknowledge I am more amused then offended by the ABA’s blatant repackaging of their existing CLE programs (which are nothing like Solo Practice University ) and newsletters yet calling it the SmartSolo School as if somehow by imitating the name they will convince others it is like Solo Practice University. What made me smile even more broadly (actually, I laughed out loud) was they even ‘copied’ Solo Practice University’s color scheme. Of all the colors on the color wheel….
But I thank Carolyn for calling it like she sees it:
–Smart Soloing School, a series of free web-based CLE programs for solo practitioners (The ABA claims that this 3 day virtual program has a sticker price of $1620, but it’s free to solos who are ABA members.) But what’s worse about this program than the inflated cost is the concept of soloing school , which is a shameless and unattributed knock-off of Solo Practice University. Considering that SPU’s founder, Susan Cartier Liebel was in fact, an ABA Legal Rebel, she deserves better.;
I fully appreciate Carolyn’s upset because there are a number of professionals outside the ABA umbrella who have championed the solos when it wasn’t fashionable or profitable or even appreciated. She and I just happen to be most visible at this particular time. And the lack of generosity in acknowledging those who have been doing so and doing so in a way which resonates with solos, is sadly typical. There can be more than one resource for solos. Each compliments the other and in the collective provides a vast resource for solos. And FYI, Solo Practice University offers more than 400 classes online and nearly 300 more Free CLE approved classes through Lawline.com and at half the cost of SmartSolo School!
I’ve also had a series of more outraged e-mails and Twitter DM’s from those who’ve expressed their feelings less ‘kindly’ than she, but the sentiment is the same.
The ABA can bite me. They offer so little for solos it’s insulting to charge for membership.
Another blog post which went off on the ABA (which I also spotted while on vacation) was from this new solo:
Smart Soloing School. The ABA is so tired and out of ideas, that they have decided to blatantly rip-off one of their own nominated Legal Rebels, Susan Cartier Liebel, who runs Solo Practice University. The ABA claims their “school” is a $1600 value. Well, guess what? SPU costs a fraction of that, and provides excellent, on-going content and community. Why does the ABA need to re-invent the wheel? So they can focus even more on content I don’t need from them because it’s already being provided by someone else who is doing it well?
If there are lawyers who find value in the ABA, they don’t need to defend their decision to belong. It’s a free country full of choice thanks to the energies of a lot of people wanting to help solos. If the ABA is providing value and continues to do so, this will be evidenced by an upswing in membership. If the upswing comes from solos, then the ABA is providing the value these solos seek for the money they are charging. It’s a numbers game. Period. Very easy to measure.
My recommendation, however, remains this. You alone have to determine how you are going to spend your resources which includes both your time and money. Ask yourself what real help you are getting to build your practice for each and every hard-earned dollar you spend.
From those I’ve talked to, the best dollars spent have been on relevant education, community and hyperlocalized professional associations.
We all know much of the basic practice-building information is free on the internet. Numerous quality sites provide great information. Others pick it up, recycle and regurgitate and then it gets picked up by another source and the cycle continues. All this is done in the form of free blog posts, ‘exclusive’ newsletters (sarcasm), magazine articles. Sort through everything. Look for what is truly different, proven and recommended. Be judicious with each dollar. You just have to follow those who ‘speak’ to you in the voice and language which resonates with you. If I were building my practice today, that’s exactly what I would be doing. Oh, and for those who think my opinion holds some weight for them… my hard-earned solo dollars wouldn’t be spent on a membership to the ABA, even at a discount, not at this time. The value just isn’t there for me.