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Solo & Small Law Firms

Memo to SmallLaw: You Don’t Own Small Law!

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This morning, I learned that through biglaw bully firm, Fish & Richardson, is demanding that the Lawyerist blog take down a recent post using the term small law, charging that this usage creates confusion with Technolawyer’s trademarked term SmallLaw.  Though as a courtesy, I’ve attempted to make contact with Neil Squillante of Technolawyer prior to this post (no easy feat considering that the site doesn’t include any direct emails), this post is too important to wait because Technolawyer’s notice has a chilling effect on my blog, and small law everywhere.  Here’s a paraphrased excerpt from my email to Technolawyer:

Perhaps Technolawyer has a trademark on the term SmallLaw – but the phrase “small law” is purely descriptive.  I have used it many times myself at my blog, MyShingle, long, long before your newsletter ever began covering these issues.  My blog also has enormous visibility on all matters related to solo and small law, and frankly, the takedown letter has a chilling effect on anything that I might ever write at my blog.  Will I too be subject to a take-down notice if I use the term “small law” in a header?

More importantly, I’m disturbed by Technolawyer’s takedown notice for another reason as well:  it represents the misguided belief that a single entity  can actually “own” the small law market.  I thought that our profession was past this.  As every solo and small law attorney knows, for nearly thirty years, the venerable Jay Foonberg had a monopoly on everything solo.  And while Jay’s book served as roadmap for solo practice and thousands of other solo and small law firms, one of the reasons that I chose to write Solo by Choice is because Jay didn’t fully speak to my experience in starting a practice — just as I do not speak universally for every solo and small law firm today.  The beauty of solo and small law practice is that there are just as many ways to start a solo or small law practice as there are solos and small law firms.   Even better, today’s blogosphere is rich with resources on starting a firm and commentary on solo and small firm practice.  In addition to Lawyerist, there’s Susan Cartier Liebel’s Solo Practice University, Peter Olson’s Solo in Chicago,  Chuck Newton’s Third Wave, Bruce Cameron’s Rural Lawyer, Jay Fleischman’s Inspired Solo and now Above the Law’s new small law column.  Of course, my blog,, launched in December 2002, was the very first blog on solo and small law practice but even so, I don’t own the solo and small law blogging or media market.

Nor do I care to.  Rather, I celebrate the variety and abundance of small law resources and applaud the generosity of the solo and small law attorneys who are share their experiences and make resources available every day to help those lawyers who dream of starting a practice.  And if Technolawyer really believed in Small Law, it would revel in the explosion of this genre of media resources, rather than trying to quash or dominate a sphere that quite frankly, can never be confined.

And so, my fellow solo and small law bloggers and lawyer-colleagues everywhere,  let it be known that small law belongs to us!  Let’s hear it for Small Law, Small Law, Small Law!!!

Hypocrisy update:  Is Technolawyer going after the WSJ for its use of Small Law?

  • Aaron @ Lawyerist

    If you have an opinion. We would love you to vote in our Lawyerist take-down poll:

  • Thanks for the support, Carolyn!

  • I can understand Technolawyer needing to take action to enforce their trademark, but this is too much. I want to see them tangle with the WSJ too. I’d love to see how that one ends.

  • Susan Cartier Liebel

    Carolyn, the take down notice is ridiculous. I’ve never seen any protective symbols next to the term SmallLaw. The context of use in a headline which compels capital letters, does not warrant any intent to take their term SmallLaw as a branding vehicle even if there was an attempt to protect the term. I’d be more outraged but it’s such a non-starter. Ironically, after all these years I’ve never seen anyone look to trademark BigLaw which has legs and immediate recognition. I not only don’t think their actions have a chilling effective on this small law (don’t like that term) market…but it’s tepid. Had you not written about it I wouldn’t have have noticed

  • How could Technolawyer possibly come to the conclusion that they “own” small law, smalllaw, or whatever version you want to use? The phrase was being used by many, as you note, long before Technolawyer created their column on small law. If anything, the demand should have a chilling effect on the segment of their readership that stands on principal. To me, it is a reflection of the motivation behind the enterprise, not exactly a collaborative approach to advocating for solos and small law practitioners.

  • Not very tech-know of “techno” lawyer. Perhaps more publicity than protection…

  • Anonymous

    You must edit this post immediately. Solo cup demands you stop infringing their mark.

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