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Solo & Small Law Firms

Don’t Just Step Off the Partnership Track; Bypass It Entirely

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I’m not sure whether any of you remember the TV show LA Law . Sometime in the second or third season, the firm’s young associate, Abby, was told that she wasn’t partnership material so she left to start her own criminal defense practice. A year or so later, Abby had established her reputation as a trial lawyer, and the firm that had once spurned her lured her back (though I don’t remember if she became a partner or merely collected a higher salary). Though I watched those episodes before I ever started my own practice, the concept of leaving a firm to build your skills and credentials and then return later, on your own terms struck me as eminently smart.

Back here, I posted on how Supreme Court solo specialist Tom Goldstein brought his practice to biglaw firm Akin Gump – after he’d been on his own for five years and argued more than a dozen cases at the Court. And today, I saw this Press Release about Ely Goldin, a former solo specializing in issues related to the business needs of the Russian immigrant community, who was named partner at Fox Rothschild.

When you start a firm, you may dream of staying small…or building your own empire. But solo practice isn’t just an end in itself, it can also be viewed as a phase of your career during which you build skills and increase your value. Making partner after toiling as an associate at a large firm is always a risk. Is it really any more risky to try to make partner after building your own practice?

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