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Solos Are the Future? Not News To Us But Good News Nonetheless

by Carolyn Elefant on March 27, 2014 · 3 comments

in Encouragement, Legal Profession Trends, Reasons to Solo

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I’ve long believed that solo and small firm practice is the best kept secret of the legal profession. For thirteen years, I’ve blogged about all of the benefits that solo and small firm practice has to offer, particularly in these transformative times.  Yet even as big law fell from grace, the legal profession continued to focus on saving big law  rather than exploring the viability of solo and small firm business models as a path to the future.

But now, after all this time, solo and small firm practice is receiving the recognition and respect that it deserves. The Legal Pioneer blog recently featured an interview with legal futurist Jordan Furlong  who had this to say about solo practice:

I actually think the future lies with niched, networked, entrepreneurial solos: lawyers who may have their own clients, but who primarily are called in to work on several overlapping projects with an always-revolving set of colleagues, like skilled trades on a building project. We still tend to interpret “solo” as “general practitioner,” which is a problem, because what we think of as general law practice is on its way to extinction: much consumer law will eventually be conquered by non-lawyers and algorithms, with lawyers on the fringe. Future solos will be specialized and agile, online and accessible, using technology to dispense basic documents and transactions and adding value through skilled counsel and strategy.

Equally encouraging, solos and smalls (also known as independent lawyers) are thriving in the UK, succeeding even against non-lawyer owned and well-capitalized alternative business structures. As Legal Futures reports,  LEXISNEXIS’s Business of Law blog recently commissioned a survey on solo and small firms in the UK, which found that in spite of a recession, 82 percent of participants reported that their practices were stable or had grown during that period. The report also observed a “successful new breed of entrepreneur” among solos and smalls, with practices were experiencing faster growth than the average.

Of course, none of this comes as news to those of us who have been working independently all along. Still, it’s great to see that others are now recognizing, albeit belatedly, the value and opportunity that starting a firm can offer.

  • Josh

    Great post! I could not agree more. Building my practice as a niche attorney with the ability to work with and connect my clients to others on an as needed basis. I routinely get clients that call me and say, “I know you don’t work in this area……but I know you will have a good referral for me…” Part trusted advisor, part strategist, part entrepreneur……..that is certainly the recipe I am trying to make……

  • http://www.seo-for-lawyers.com/ Luke Ciciliano

    Good point on the distinction between “solo” and “general practitioner.” I ran a small shop but practiced almost exclusively in family law. There was nothing “general” about my firm. It will be interesting to see how the shift to smaller/niche practices impacts state bar policies on calling one’s self a “specialist.”

  • Bill

    I couldn’t agree more with the overarching theme. I also practice in a specialty (government contracts), and find no hesitation from large companies in using a solo. At first I wasn’t sure if it was because I had existing relationships from my large firm days, but my “post-going solo new clients” fit the same profile of the clients that moved with me: mostly very large and mid market, and a few (funded) smaller firms. My only quibble with the quoted piece (and a different experience from Josh): it is very rare for any of my clients to ask me for a referral to a lawyer in another specialty. They tend to have multiple law firms, and a very large professional network.
    Bill

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