Macolm Gladwell’s tipping point phenomenon is probably way over-referenced, and yet I can’t help but wonder whether the idea of solo practice is reaching a tipping point in the legal profession. Indicators abound everywhere. Consider:
- the proliferation of solo and small firm blogs (by solos or bar law practice management folks) on small firm practice in the past year, including Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips, Reid My Blog, Steve Terrell’s Hoosier Lawyer, The Practice, Home Office Lawyer, Greatest American Lawyer, Brandy Karl’s bk! and Innovative Legal Solutions (have I missed anyone?)
- The recent inclusion of MyShingle as a resource (along with biglaw venerables like The Vault) at Westlaw’s Five Hot Tips for Your Job Search, aimed at Westlaw’s law school audience. Back in my days at Cornell Law School (1985-88), solo practice wasn’t an option that anyone talked about.
- The seemingly unrelated reaction of underwhelment to former biglaw attorney and bar honcho, Harriet Miers; her large firm credentials really didn’t impress anyone. In short, biglaw’s not the prestige ticket it was back in the late 1980’s when I graduated from law school.
The rise of biglaw mergers hasn’t quelled the growing interest in solo practice; if anything, it’s heightened it. And that’s because even as firms grow and grow and salaries grow along with them, even young lawyers are relegated to less inspiring work, the yearning for self-determination and autonomy can’t be extinguished. You don’t see many biglaw bloggers dispensing advice on how associates can succeed at big firm practice, partly because biglaw attorneys may not be so benevolent, but partly because frankly, there’s no audience for that topic: no one is particularly interested in learning how to speak partner-ese. By contrast, look at how many independent solos are dishing out advice on starting a firm, not because it will help us gain clients or referrals in our “real” jobs but in the hopes of helping others discover what what will soon no longer be the legal profession’s best kept career secret. And it looks as if we are succeeding.