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Solo & Small Law Firms

Open Your Own Academy

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Though it’s usually the other way around, every so often, solos and smalls can take a lesson from big law initiatives. Two months ago, I blogged about Holland and Knight’s security lab, where the firm tests its clients’ systems for security flaws and recommends fixes for vulnerabilities – and now, I’ve just come across The Appellate Academy, a recently launched venture by Michigan-based  Warner, Norcross and Judd. According to the firm’s press release, the Appellate Academy will run moot courts so that attorneys “can practice arguments and receive feedback as they prepare to present cases to the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and other appellate courts.”  The academy’s “bench” is compressed of former judges and firm attorneys – and it has already mooted, or scheduled moots for 20 percent of the arguments before the Michigan Supreme Court. Presumably, there’s a fee for this service, though it’s not discussed on the website.

My guess is that most solo and small firms (or more accurately, their clients, who presumably would foot the bill) couldn’t afford this type of service. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a demand for these kinds of “knowledge based services” in the solo/small community; indeed, probably more of a demand since most solos don’t have partners or associates who can act as a sounding board.  But I’m sure that lots of lawyers would be willing to pay for an hour or two of an expert lawyer’s time in exchange for feedback.

An academy needn’t be limited to appellate practice; it could sell knowledge on many specialized practice areas – from review of sentencing memos in criminal defense practice to offering feedback on trial skills. I know that some lawyers frequently share this kind of feedback as professional courtesy to colleagues – but for those lawyers, particularly newbies with less experience who don’t have mentors, this kind of service enables them to find the help they need without feeling like a parasite.

Do you, or any lawyers in your community run academies or offer “legal tutoring?” Is it a service that you would use yourself? Share your comments below.

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