In some ways, we solos have been the victims of our own success. Solos and smalls have long been leaders in adapting new technology – from the Internet to the web, to the cloud and social media. Yet as tech grows more sophisticated with artificial intelligence and big data, will the benefits trickle down to solos , ponders Jared Correia.
A quick glance at Bob Ambrogi’s important tech developments for 2016 confirms Jared’s fears: most of the opportunities – like AI or establishment of “internet of things” practice specializations or legal tech start-ups don’t involve solos, while those developments that have an impact – like an additional tech competence CLE requirements in Florida or lawsuits for security breaches – make life tougher and riskier for solos and smalls – while Avvo’s latest flat fee offerings arguably put downward pressure on solos’ fees at a time when solo lawyers’ earnings are on the decline, with many barely able to eek out two billable hours of work per day .
And yet, every time I’m ready to throw in the towel, and admit that solo law practice is down for the count and that maybe it’s time to succumb to outside funding to build law factories staffed by robots that can deliver assembly-line access to justice – this happens.
- I stumble across a story about young solo lawyer, Charles Breault – a high school dropout who graduated last in his class – winning a $7 million jury verdict in the second trial of his career.
- I watch the Superbowl ad lineup for 2016, and among them, notice the over-the-top but legally accurate You Tube ads by solo criminal defense attorney Bryan Wilson, aka the Texas Law Hawk.
- I learn about former Big Law attorney and Harvard Law alum Lawrence Exner with over forty years of practice under his belt who’s reinventing himself as a solo appellate lawyer at his own shop, Capital Appellate Advocacy.
- The Internet celebrates as copyright trolls John Steele and Paul Hansmeier are arrested for fraud, perjury and money laundering committed through their shell law firm, Prenda, the Pretenda – a journey that started years ago when then-solo lawyer Morgan Pietz fought for his client by looking behind the curtain instead of taking a quick and easy settlement – which at the time, was the economically rational thing to do.
- The New Yorker profiles Carrie Goldberg , a former solo with a now thriving practice defending clients in Internet abuse, revenge porn and harassment cases – a field that didn’t exist back when Goldberg herself needed representation on these matters a few short years ago.
- An Iranian immigrant arrives in the United States as an immigrant, and in her 40’s finally realizes her dream of going to law school and starting a successful immigration practice .
Call it the Miracle of the Solo or the triumph of the Davids over the Goliath-like forces of venture capital and stupid ethics decisions that threaten the continued sustainability of solo and small firm practice. Or chalk it up to good old fashioned grit and unbridled imagination. But at a time when the shadow of death looms over the future of law, solos shine brighter than ever, inspiring by example, defying the odds, sparking hope for the future of solo. Shine on solos!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all. I’ll be taking a break the next week – but I’ll see you all back here in 2017.