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Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 17, 200312:00 PM EST

Networking key for smaller law firms

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by Michele Newbern Gillis

Staff Writer

The Sole Practitioners/Small Firms Committee of The Jacksonville Bar Association is designed to offer support to attorneys and firms who may not have the resources of the mega-firms.

“This year what we have done is formed subcommittees dealing with continuing education issues and technology issues,” said Tonia Yazgi of The Yazgi Law Firm and chair of the committee. “We hope to create a website to offer a forum for sole practitioners and small firms to communicate respecting various ideas relative to practice, legal issues, coverage issues and a variety of issues that are pertinent to sole practitioners and small firms.”

The purpose of the committee is to encourage and promote sole practitioners and small firm attorneys (a firm with up to eight attorneys) and their practice.

“There are issues that are unique to sole practitioners and small firms,” said Yazgi. “There are essentially few people within those offices that offer an opportunity for networking, learning, promoting professionalism and other issues amongst its members.”

There are 20 members on the committee and they will be meeting every couple of months.

“We’ve had one meeting so far where we reviewed with every member what their ideas were for the purpose of the committee and where they wanted to go with it,” said Yazgi, adding they have hosted one social event for networking opportunities and are planning another.

“Networking is important,” said Yazgi. “Exchange of ideas is very important to my committee in terms of questions that might arise both in the legal and business context regarding the administration of each person’s office. There are issues that come up with respect to smaller firms as opposed to larger firms.”

A sole practitioner may often have a tight schedule that requires someone in another firm to handle depositions or hearings.

“Additionally, the smaller firm cannot afford the same level of technology or research that larger firms might be able to,” said Yazgi. “So there are questions about what is the most cost effective way to run the firm, ideas relative to legal research tools or what phone company offers the best rates.”

As chair of the committee, Yazgi is responsible for its direction.

“I take the role seriously because in the past it has been relatively dormant,” said Yazgi. “I think it is important for the members of the committee to choose a path to take the committee. I direct it, organize it and make certain we accomplish what our members wish to achieve.”

Yazgi said that having the ability to communicate with other sole practitioners and small firms was pretty much a unanimous issue among the members.

“That is not just in respect to having a question on a legal issue that someone else might answer, but also in respect to business including how to gain clientele and compete with larger firms cost effectively.”

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