The impact of solo and small firm practice is far reaching, so much so that in my view, it’s helping women attorneys succeed at biglaw. Don’t believe it? Consider these two stories that ran in today’s news. The first, Deciding to Go It Alone, (San Fernando Valley Business 11/4/06) reports on how more and more, women lawyers are choosing solo practice to accomodate families and to get to the top more quickly than they might by staying at a firm. The article also notes that with technological advancements, it’s less costly to open a firm than ever. The second article, Part Timers Find Room at the Firm (Boston Globe 11/5/06) talks about how law firms’ part time programs, some which enable women to work from home, are giving women incentive to stay at firms.
So what does one article have to do with the other? Plenty! Used to be that biglaw was the only option for smart women, so large firms could call the shots, demanding that women work full time or leave. No more. As the barriers to starting a law firm decrease, more and more women are successfully starting firms (as I’ve discussed here) and don’t need to settle for the sham part time programs that some firms initially put in place.
The Globe article credits the firms as well as “visionaries” who work towards work life balance:
Effective change doesn’t happen overnight, and almost always, it’s
powered by group efforts, policies with bite, leadership support, and
visionaries, such as Williams and Henry, who keep their eyes on the
But that’s only a partial explanation. Because of solo and small firm practice (and the technology to run a practice that serves biglaw clients), women have a real alternative to biglaw and they don’t need to settle. Programs like The Project for Attorney Retention may never mention solo or small firm practice, but in truth, programs like PAR owe some of their success to the success of solo and small firm lawyers.