Lots of feet expected to move at SBM annual meeting

If you’re attending the annual State Bar of Michigan meeting today and tomorrow, let’s hope you brought comfortable shoes. Because you may be part of standing-room-only crowds at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn.

That’s because about 1,200 SBM members pre-registered for it, which was noted to be a higher than normal number of attendees compared with recent years, and around 100 were estimated to have registered at the door.

Besides section meetings, recognition luncheons and banquets, the meeting is coupled with the ICLE Solo & Small Firm Institute, offering two days of roughly hourlong seminars on everything from smartphones and tablets to effective deposition procedures and handling minor-in-possession cases.

And with the legal profession becoming more competitive than ever, solo attorneys and small partnerships in Michigan are looking to learn as much as they can to expand their repertoire in as quickly a period as possible.

SBM Executive Director Janet K. Welch let that be known in her annual welcome and report.

“Solo and small firm practitioners are the heart and soul of the State Bar of Michigan,” she said. “Over the last year, we have learned more about you than we have ever known as a result of the Economics of Law and our members survey. … What we know is that many of you are working a lot harder to stay where you are. As well, larger-firm practice is more and more difficult and competitive.”

To that end, Welch introduced incoming SBM President Julie I. Fershtman, who wasted no time in making her 2011-12 mission known.

“The State Bar’s strategic plan has noted that the interests of the solo and small firm practitioners in this state is an area that deserves strong attention,” she said.

“We are listening. … We are sensitive to the concerns of solo and small firm practitioners,” she added, noting that such attorneys are the “innovative practitioners here in the state of Michigan” who don’t have the constraints of larger law firm members, but also don’t have the resources to make their practice niche ideas work while juggling the running of a business.

So, she announced that the content of the Practice Management Resource Center ­– the SBM’s online resource for better firm management – will be expanding, and a committee she will be appointing people to in order to look at the content offered. The group will meet within the next few weeks, and will include professors, IT gurus, practice management specialists, “and even the average practitioner, who is thinking of expanding his practice and what he wants to see.”

One thing’s for certain: attendees today and tomorrow will be seeing a lot of their colleagues and brethren over the next two days. They just might not be sitting down while they do it.

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