The General Practice Section of the State Bar of Michigan began the year with an excellent program devised by the committee at the Annual Meeting. The section presented a bench/bar type conference to discuss pressing practice issues between sole practitioners and the bench. The General Practice Section provided attorneys specializing in criminal, bankruptcy, family law, and probate represented by Elizabeth Silverman, William Cataldo, Maury Klein, and Clark Davis. The bench was represented by several district court judges from around the state including Dennis Powers and Michael Batchik of Novi; two circuit court judges from the west side of the state; Federal-elect judge Helene White of the Michigan Court of Appeals; and a Wayne County Probate judge.
The resulting discussion was summarized in an article published in the General Practitioner that outlined the court's concerns on issues of filing, attorney preparation, attorney presentations, and the timeliness of attorney appearances. The Bar voiced concerns over unnecessary fines and delays by the courts; rude and intemperate behavior of certain judges; the inability of the general practitioner to have an avenue to complain about inappropriate judicial behavior; streamlining filing; and the general perception of the public concerning our profession. It was a good way to open the year with a dialogue that gave both sides an opportunity to air complaints.
The section has also been involved in a series of activities to update, inform, and present information to the general public and other attorneys on the benefits of sole practice. Vice-chair (President-elect) Clark Davis attended the Bar Leaders event in January of 2002 and presented his findings in an article published in our General Practitioner newsletter. Clark Davis also attended the bench/bar conference for annual State Bar leaders held at the Soaring Eagle Casino on May 3-4, 2002, in Mt. Pleasant. He also reported the results to the council and to our membership via an article.
The General Practice Section was recently invited to participate and did present a booth at a comprehensive seminar and conference at the Thomas Cooley Law School for current students and alumni focusing on sole practice. The section rented a booth and member Richard White was present for the conference to discuss the benefits of sole practice to students considering going into our field and to lawyers from corporate firms who were considering starting their own practice.
Editor Maury Klein continues to produce an excellent newsletter on behalf of the General Practice Section. This year's newsletters have covered a variety of topics including specific issues on criminal practice, topical events in family law, information on the General Practice Section's listserv, and other information directly relating to sole practice.
Chair William L. Cataldo and council member David Perkins attended the ABA Spring Meeting in Banff, Canada. Besides the articles published by the council concerning the interaction and impact of a General Practice Section member considering becoming a member of the ABA, valuable relationships were established between Michigan's General Practice Section and the ABA concerning the reproduction of important articles that provide valuable information on starting, successfully operating, and thriving as a sole practitioner.
Vice-Chair Clark Davis was also instrumental in working with the State Bar to organize and set up the General Practice Section listserv. It is now up and running for the benefit of all General Practice Section members. It is used as a forum where our members can post questions in a variety of areas concerning the practice of law and have other experienced attorneys respond to them with information helpful to the resolution of their problem.
David Perkins spent time working with the Consumer Law Committee and other State Bar organizations to put together a program combining the resources, talents, and interests of the sections for the Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids in September. After speaking to the other committees, considering the dismal attendance of attorneys at the annual meetings that are not conducted in Detroit, and the cost and expense of putting on a program that is rarely attended by General Practice Section or State Bar members, the General Practice Section decided against conducting a program at the State Bar Annual Meeting. This apparently coincides with the current thoughts of the State Bar leadership who are considering canceling the annual State Bar meeting and saving money spent on an event that serves little or no purpose. Over the years it appears State Bar members are more concerned with making money than attending an annual meeting. The Annual Meeting appears not to satisfy most CLE requirements or provide a spark to interest members' attendance. In reviewing the poor attendance at most of the General Practice Section's recent programs, it was decided to follow the trend recognized by the State Bar and defer this year's program until other opportunities are investigated.
State Bar President Bruce Neckers met with the General Practice Section on March 21, 2002. At that time, the section questioned him concerning the issues of multidisciplinary practice and other issues of concern to the sole practitioner. President Neckers was open, honest, and candid in his responses and provided the General Practice Section with information that was again presented in an article to its members through the newsletter.
The General Practice Section has also recently met with Michael Buckles of the Creditor's Bar Group to discuss creditor's actions, judgment collections, and other issues concerning issuance and enforcement of debt matters. The section was very impressed and endorsed a motion presented by Michael Buckles to the State Legislature concerning these issues. The General Practice Section continues to work with the Creditor's Bar discussing issues of collection of judgments by attorneys in small claims court and other matters that directly concern General Practice members.
Clark Davis is the upcoming chair of the General Practice Section. The council looks forward to working with him to continue to investigate new issues of value to our membership and continuing the programs that have been created in the administrations prior to his.
William L. Cataldo