Many large firms assume, wrongly, that solo and small firm lawyers don’t handle complex issues. Truth is, many of us do. But unlike biglaw which has the luxury of researching and strategizing about these issues in a vacuum, we solo and small firm clients do all that, plus tend to our clients’ needs.
Consider the emerging litigation arising out of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. As I posted over at Legal Blog Watch, at least a half dozen large firms have created practice areas to assist clients impacted by Madoff’s fraud. However, while large firms are targeting and will likely represent the big fish – the large, institutional investors or banks who put money in Madoff funds and now face liability for failing to exercise due diligence — solos are representing Madoff’s individual victims. In representing either large banks or individual investors, lawyers will tackle incredibly complicated issues such as unraveling complex transactions or developing viable defenses to liability or theories of recovery.
But whereas biglaw’s job ends with the legal issues, as the Florida Business Journal reports, solos are also helping clients with the personal carnage of Madoff’s misdeeds. Among other things, solos are playing the role of social workers and job counselors. From the Business Journal:
Guy Fronstin, a solo practitioner quoted in the article who is helping 50 groups of investors explained: “One client has to go back to work … This guy’s money is going to run out in 30 days. I think we’ve found him some work.” Fronstin is also helping his clients deal with the psychological impacts of the Madoff fiasco. One Fronstin client, 85-year-old Adele Fox, invested $50,000 with Madoff because a relative of hers was Madoff’s accountant. Fox received distributions from Madoff every three months, and now she’s terrified that she may have to disgorge that money if Madoff is brought to justice. Another client has been forced to make a substantial life change, selling an expensive condo and moving into publicly-subsidized housing.
In many ways, biglaw is like Fred Astaire – both great at what they do. But don’t forget, in many cases, just like Ginger Rogers, we solos do everything that biglaw does, only backwards (in that we’re often on the other side of the issues), in high heels (in that, we often teeter precariously as we strive to get the most out of our clients’ more limited budgets) and with real live human beings to whom we’re accountable. Can’t get much more complex than that.
“Every day, we leave our imprint on the human heart, in a way that counts so much more than we could ever realize.” MyShingle, 9/08/08.