My Shingle

The Solo Majority

by Carolyn Elefant on April 6, 2006 · 12 comments

in Articles, Solo Practice Trends

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In her article Small Shops Do the Heavy Lifting, Lovely Dhillon quotes a statistic that I’ve known for a long time, that in fact was my impetus for starting this site:  a majority of firms in the U.S. are solo and small practices, a whopping 89 percent in fact.
Even though solo practitioners and small law firms constitute such a significant part of the legal profession, there traditionally has not been as much training and support as one would expect for solo and small-firm practitioners.  The article goes through the obstacles and also points out the important role that we solo and small firm practitioners play in the judicial system – expanding access to justice.

  • Jay Gatsby

    I think there needs to be more encouragement for people to go solo. As you’ve pointed out many times, going solo teaches you to stand on your own two feet. Likewise, the organized bar should be more supportive of solos, rather than cater mostly to larger firms whose lawyers are simply looking to continue padding their resumes.

  • Jay Gatsby

    I think there needs to be more encouragement for people to go solo. As you’ve pointed out many times, going solo teaches you to stand on your own two feet. Likewise, the organized bar should be more supportive of solos, rather than cater mostly to larger firms whose lawyers are simply looking to continue padding their resumes.

  • http://www.HowToMakeItRain.com RJON@HowToMakeItRain.com

    I think I speak with some measure of authority when I say that in my experience, about 60% of lawyers, in Florida at least, are actually solo practitioners. By the way, for anyone who’s counting, Florida is the 4th largest Bar in the country with over 70,000 lawyers which means based on my experience, we have OVER 42,000 solos in this State. But it’s a mistake to think that the rest must be in big firms. About 10% work for the government or non-profits; a little less than 10% are not actively practicing law, which leaves around 20% spread-out amongst big & bigger firms. With all respect to Ms. Dhillon, it’s too broad a brush you paint with; Comparing the daily experience of being in a 5-10 lawyer firm with being a Solo, or even a Solo with an associate on your payroll, is like comparing cats to dogs (you thought I was going to say apples to oranges, didn’t you?;-)
    MY CREDENTIALS
    I began my career in the legal industry as a Solo Practitioner shortly out of law school before being recruited to serve as a Practice Management Advisor with The Florida Bar’ Law Office Management Assistance Service. In the 3+ years I spent with The Florida Bar I had the unique opportunity to work with more thousands of lawyers than I can count, fielding around a dozen calls-a-day from lawyers and their staff concerning just about every law office management and marketing issue anyone could imagine; conducting many on-site marketing & management consultations each month; and speaking before groups of anywhere from 10-20 for some of the smaller local bar associations, to as many as 500 lawyers for some of the larger groups, every single month. Month-in & month-out for more than three years before going private.
    ROOMMATES NOT PARTNERS
    In Florida, and I suspect it’s the same elsewhere about 35% of the lawyers identify themselves as solos & about another 35% identify themselves as working in firms with 2-5 lawyers. From my experiences however, I’d say at least half of those 2-5 lawyer “law firms” are, in reality functioning as little more than roommates. That is, they lack some of the basic hallmarks of a true multi-professional law firm.
    10 BASIC HALLMARKS OF A TRUE LAW FIRM (off the top of my head…there are plenty more.)
    1. Shared centralized calendar system;
    2. Shared conflict checking system;
    3. Centralized “Firm” not lawyer files;
    4. Shared, centralized docketing & case management system;
    5. One set of rules for all staff members to live-by, preferably documented;
    6. Shared new client intake procedures with agreed standards for new client acceptance;
    7. One budget;
    8 One billing system;
    9. Shared a/r;
    10 One master marketing & strategic plan for firm growth & stability.

  • http://www.HowToMakeItRain.com RJON@HowToMakeItRain.com

    I think I speak with some measure of authority when I say that in my experience, about 60% of lawyers, in Florida at least, are actually solo practitioners. By the way, for anyone who’s counting, Florida is the 4th largest Bar in the country with over 70,000 lawyers which means based on my experience, we have OVER 42,000 solos in this State. But it’s a mistake to think that the rest must be in big firms. About 10% work for the government or non-profits; a little less than 10% are not actively practicing law, which leaves around 20% spread-out amongst big & bigger firms. With all respect to Ms. Dhillon, it’s too broad a brush you paint with; Comparing the daily experience of being in a 5-10 lawyer firm with being a Solo, or even a Solo with an associate on your payroll, is like comparing cats to dogs (you thought I was going to say apples to oranges, didn’t you?;-)
    MY CREDENTIALS
    I began my career in the legal industry as a Solo Practitioner shortly out of law school before being recruited to serve as a Practice Management Advisor with The Florida Bar’ Law Office Management Assistance Service. In the 3+ years I spent with The Florida Bar I had the unique opportunity to work with more thousands of lawyers than I can count, fielding around a dozen calls-a-day from lawyers and their staff concerning just about every law office management and marketing issue anyone could imagine; conducting many on-site marketing & management consultations each month; and speaking before groups of anywhere from 10-20 for some of the smaller local bar associations, to as many as 500 lawyers for some of the larger groups, every single month. Month-in & month-out for more than three years before going private.
    ROOMMATES NOT PARTNERS
    In Florida, and I suspect it’s the same elsewhere about 35% of the lawyers identify themselves as solos & about another 35% identify themselves as working in firms with 2-5 lawyers. From my experiences however, I’d say at least half of those 2-5 lawyer “law firms” are, in reality functioning as little more than roommates. That is, they lack some of the basic hallmarks of a true multi-professional law firm.
    10 BASIC HALLMARKS OF A TRUE LAW FIRM (off the top of my head…there are plenty more.)
    1. Shared centralized calendar system;
    2. Shared conflict checking system;
    3. Centralized “Firm” not lawyer files;
    4. Shared, centralized docketing & case management system;
    5. One set of rules for all staff members to live-by, preferably documented;
    6. Shared new client intake procedures with agreed standards for new client acceptance;
    7. One budget;
    8 One billing system;
    9. Shared a/r;
    10 One master marketing & strategic plan for firm growth & stability.

  • http://soloinchicago.blogspot.com Peter Olson

    I think I was just brainwashed for a while as to the whole idea of the legal profession. At least in my experience starting with law school and through the bar, the legal profession is this special, isolated clique of like-minded privileged people and very much stereotypical in nature based on the book 1L and various media creations of law firm land (movies, television, ect.). But now having been in practice 3+ years and 1 year into the solo thing, I view my professional life a lot more like just good old-fashioned grind-it-out small business. And I don’t say that at all disparagingly, I just mean the emphasis on really running a quality business that happens to provide legal services.

  • http://soloinchicago.blogspot.com Peter Olson

    I think I was just brainwashed for a while as to the whole idea of the legal profession. At least in my experience starting with law school and through the bar, the legal profession is this special, isolated clique of like-minded privileged people and very much stereotypical in nature based on the book 1L and various media creations of law firm land (movies, television, ect.). But now having been in practice 3+ years and 1 year into the solo thing, I view my professional life a lot more like just good old-fashioned grind-it-out small business. And I don’t say that at all disparagingly, I just mean the emphasis on really running a quality business that happens to provide legal services.

  • Mr. Wellman

    I think law school discourages solo practice. When I went to law school, many of the professors made it seems as if getting a big firm job was the goal of law school. Many students that don’t know any better take these jobs at the firms because that’s what “successful” law students do, or so they’ve been told

  • Mr. Wellman

    I think law school discourages solo practice. When I went to law school, many of the professors made it seems as if getting a big firm job was the goal of law school. Many students that don’t know any better take these jobs at the firms because that’s what “successful” law students do, or so they’ve been told

  • http://www.thepracticeblog.com Jonathan

    I was fortunate enough to hear Ms. Dhillon speak recently. If you have any inclination of opening your own firm, about 10 minutes with Ms. Dhillon should convince you that it is the right way to go. If that doesn’t work, nothing will.

  • http://www.thepracticeblog.com Jonathan

    I was fortunate enough to hear Ms. Dhillon speak recently. If you have any inclination of opening your own firm, about 10 minutes with Ms. Dhillon should convince you that it is the right way to go. If that doesn’t work, nothing will.

  • http://www.niepaonline.org/ Alan

    Alan

    Zavier Gilbert Peyton

  • http://www.niepaonline.org/ Alan

    Alan

    Zavier Gilbert Peyton

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