The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Keeping the Cogs Turning: Resources for Solo and Small-Firm Practitioners

Featured Article

The Solo & Small Firm Section of The Florida Bar is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the more than 60 percent[1] of Bar members who identify themselves as solo or small-firm practitioners. Since the section is not tied to any substantive area of law, we are uniquely qualified to help the largest segment of The Florida Bar.

Over the years, the section absorbed committees and merged two sections into one — the Practice Management and Development Section merged into the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section. The section changed its name in 2016 to the Solo & Small Firm Section. As current chair, I am proud to offer these examples demonstrating how the section has adapted to the needs of its members and to review some of the resources available to solo and small-firm practitioners through the section.

CLE

Respondents who indicated that they prefer 24/7, on-demand CLE increased from 46 percent in the 2015 Florida Bar Membership Opinion Survey to 63 percent in the 2017 survey.[2] In response, the Solo & Small Firm Section increased its number of audio webcasts so participants can listen to the CLEs live or stream them on-demand.

The Solo & Small Firm Section started its new Wednesday Wisdom program during the 2018-19 Bar year. Each month, the section hosts a free Zoom webinar in which our members can network with other members throughout the state, ask questions, and get answers on various topics of interest. Webinars have included “How to Use a Virtual Assistant,” “Apps to Boost Productivity,” and “Perils of Judicial and Attorney Disqualifications: How to Spot Conflicts of Interest.”

To accommodate schedules, the Wednesday Wisdom series is available live on the fourth Wednesday of the month or may be viewed on-demand in our members-only Facebook group. As another example of how the section evolves to meet membership needs, Wednesday Wisdom attendees asked if they could obtain CLE credit for the programs. While that was not the initial intent, our section heard the request and answered — we are now obtaining CLE credit for the Wednesday Wisdom series, and the series will remain free to section members.

While the method of delivery of CLE has changed over the years, one cannot overlook the need to still offer in-person CLE programming. That is something the Solo & Small Firm Section delivers to our membership. Every year, the section hosts a technology/practice management CLE during the winter meeting of The Florida Bar. The section also hosts the annual ethics update every year at The Florida Bar Annual Convention. Every other year, the section hosts an agricultural law CLE.

Publications and Social Media

Communication with members is key. The section maintains traditional methods of communication through the publication of The Link magazine, which is published three times a year.[3] Articles range from substantive legal topics and practice management to marketing to anything that is pertinent for the practice of a solo or small firm practitioner. The section further communicates with members through publication of the QuickLink, which is a biweekly email publication.[4] The QuickLink is intended to convey information in a quick manner. The section member can quickly scan the publication for the headlines and then only click to read the full articles that are relevant to the individual. The QuickLink is our most effective tool in publishing upcoming events.

The section also maintains active profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to meet our goals of providing timely information and networking vehicles for our membership.

Pro Bono

The Solo & Small Firm Section also recognizes the importance in promoting pro bono work. Each year, the section awards $8,000 in grants to state legal aid societies as part of the L. Michael Roffino Pro Bono Awards program. The winner receives $4,000, and two finalists each receive $2,000.

Awards

The section annually honors outstanding members of the legal community. The Tradition of Excellence Award honors one lawyer for exceptional contributions to, or an exemplary career in general, solo, and/or small-firm practice, and is reserved for a lawyer who has practiced law in Florida for more than 10 years. The Walter S. Crumbley Award honors one lawyer who has made a significant contribution to practice management in Florida. The Mentor of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding Florida attorney who has shown remarkable achievements and professionalism in mentorship to younger attorneys and/or law students in Florida. The section also honors a Paralegal of the Year. Nominations for each category are accepted each spring.

Committees

Solo practitioner respondents in the 2017 Membership Opinion Survey also rated high stress, lack of business, and balancing family and work as the top three most significant challenges or concerns personally faced.[5] To address this, the section developed a Health and Wellness Committee during the 2018-19 Bar year. The committee strives to communicate tips to help practitioners in their daily lives, which in turn may help reduce stress and balance family and work life. The Health and Wellness Committee is also starting a book club, which may be accessed in the section’s private Facebook group available only to section members. The section’s goal is to create an environment where members may network and discuss relevant legal topics in a low-pressure setting.

The section also offers numerous other committees — from Transition to Solo to Continuing Legal Education — and annually encourages section members to get involved.

Conclusion

The challenges faced by solo and small firm members will continue to change over the years. As the 2018-19 chair, I have made it my personal goal to enhance the programming offered by the section to meet the needs of members and will continue to do so. I am proud to report that our section membership has exceeded the membership in the last five years, but there is even more room to grow. Let us help you. If you have any suggestions or requests, please contact me at [email protected]

[1] The Florida Bar, Results of the 2017 Membership Opinion Survey at 6 (Dec. 2017), available at https://www-media.floridabar.org/uploads/2018/01/2017-Membership-Opinion-Survey-Results.pdf

[2] Id. at 10.

[3] The Florida Bar Solo & Small Firm Section, The Link, https://www.flsolosmallfirm.org/publications/#the-link

[4] The Florida Bar Solo & Small Firm Section, QuickLink, https://www.flsolosmallfirm.org/quicklink/

[5] The Florida Bar, Results of the 2017 Membership Opinion Survey at 23 (Dec. 2017).

Jennifer K. GriffinJennifer Kuyrkendall Griffin is the general magistrate for the Third Judicial Circuit in North Central Florida and presides over probate, guardianship, domestic relations, and foreclosure matters. She is chair of The Florida Bar Solo & Small Firm Section, a 1,900-member, voluntary organization that provides CLE, networking opportunities, and resources to benefit solo and small firm lawyers. Her past experience includes service as president of the Third Judicial Circuit Bar Association and on various committees of The Florida Bar Family Law Section. As the past Third Judicial Circuit Young Lawyer’s Board of Governor’s representative, she oversaw the development and launch of the YLD’s “Mentoring with the Masters” video program. She also is the author of Deadly Escape, a crime thriller novel that for three semesters has been used as a course textbook for Stetson Law School’s Criminal Procedure class.

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