Stumbling around in the blogosphere, I came across an interesting post from the How to Make It Rain blog, about how to achieve your own solo practice within the giant firms of the country. According to RJon Robins the best way to achieve liberty within the practice of law without dealing with all of the chaos that comes from a solo-firm is through the use of your own success. I agree with Mr. Robins' basic premise, because when you control a large batch of clients, you do wield some power over the partners; however, there is so much more that can be achieved when you don't have to use your clients as collateral to manhandle your bosses.
Yes, the solo practice may not be right for every new graduate. As Robins says, there are so many aspects of your own firm that are not necessarily what you covered in law school. From "ordering your own office supplies... negotiating with your own landlord and managing your staff all by yourself", it can be very stressful when you realize the different aspects of the job that must be covered to achieve what you envisioned when you opened your doors.
But there is a benefit to having to order those office supplies and directly manage your staff in the early stages, as it forces you to know the legal operation from the bottom up. With this experience in the early stages, when you do have a staff that operates by itself, a steady stream of clients, and a background with your landlord, you are in an immensely better position to direct your firm; a position that cannot be achieved by the attorney who works under a board.
In the end, the difference between the solo-practitioners and those in the corporate firms is how far they want to go. As a member of a big conglomerate, you may achieve a partnership and become one of many who made collective decisions that move the firm this way and that; but as a solo-practitioner, after years of hard work, you will be able to step back and see a fine-tuned machine that provides quality service to clients with whom you have a real relationship.