Thinking About Every Minute Of Every Day
The Independent Practitioner

Solo Means Alone; I am Not Alone …

As many of you already know, I have taken issue with the term ”solo” for practitioners who do not practice in a partnership setting.  Solo has the negative connotation of being alone.  When I was working in a partnership, I had no more resources than I have now.  In fact, I arguably have more resources now, since I can easily look outside the walls of my own firm for answers to important questions.  Finding the most knowledgeable person, rather than the most knowledgably person in your own firm, is liberating. 

With email list services organized by practice areas and a growing number of legal blogs providing rich vertical content, any attorney has a variety of methods to identify issues and solve legal problems.  There is no competitive disadvantage for attorneys who avoid the partnership model of legal services.

So what should we call practitioners who are not in partnership-based law firm, if not solo-practitioners?  Maybe we should simply reject the solo label and simply reject distinguishing ourselves at all.  We are lawyers.  We are law firms. This is an issue I will be thinking about over the next months. I would welcome your suggestions.

Comments

Carolyn Elefant

One law marketer, Nader Anise refers to solos as "lawyer-preneurs." I'm not sure I like that term, though.

When I started my practice in 1993, I was adament about referring to myself as an "independent practitioner" rather than a solo. These days, I often say simply that I have my own law firm. I think that you are right on to think about this issue though, because how a lawyer perceives himself or herself sends a signal to others. For example, if you introduce yourself as "just a solo practitioner," your opponents and colleagues may treat you as less than you deserve.

Mike

Why the solo-insecurity? Just say, "I'm a trial lawyer," or "I'm a criminal defense lawyer," or whatever. I hope I'm not being too harsh (I've enjoyed reading your blog since finding it two weeks ago), but you sound like a law student who is insecure about his grades.

I intend to open up my own practice, and I'm not the least insecure about it. Indeed, I don't even feel the need to agonize over it, or become part of the "solo club." It sounds like a need to join a club.

You're a lawyer, not a solo. So quit worrying about being stigmatized and start considering how to become a better lawyer. In a recent post you mentioned time-management. Well, every minute you spend worrying about soloisms, is a minute you're not spending studying books that will improve yourself.

Again, pardon me if I sound like a jerk. (Ask around, I'm really a nice guy). Rather, I just hate seeing the need for people who go solo to assert their independence while simultaneously banging the, "I'm part of the solo club" drum. Seems incongruent.

GAL

Mike: I appreciate your comments. Believe me, I have no insecurities about being solo, nor do I care what anyone else thinks about me. My practice is rolling forward so fast, I doubt I will be a one lawyer law firm for long.

But I know that other attorneys fail to even consider solo practice because of their belief that it indicates failure, or because they fail to see that it is an attractive alternative.

My goal is to inspire attorneys to seek their own way, outside the constructs of partnership-based business models. I know the task will be tough as long as perceptions about solo practice remain.

Can you imagine how much better the legal profession would be if 'going solo' was viewed the same as becoming a member of an exclusive 'club?'

We need to care what people think if we care about the system itself. We need to build up the reputation of being independent practitioners if we hope to encourage the masses to consider it as a top-drawer alternative.

Russ Krajec

Very well said. Going at it independently takes a certain person who has the proper preparation and mindset.

For the person who values the security of a big firm, this may not be the right thing.

For the right person in the right situation, solo practice is the only way to go. Keep up the good work.

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