Carolyn Elefant of MyShingle web log fame (devoted to encouraging practitioners to abandon partnerships in favor of what has traditionally been referred to as solo practice) posted about what should we call practitioners who are not in partnership-based law firm.
Her response to my post yesterday goes to show how far ahead of me she is on this journey into a non-partnership-based practice. She offers this insight from her personal experience:
As I posted in GAL's comments, when I started my firm, I referred to myself as an independent practitioner. These days, when asked what I do, I typically say that I have my own law firm - though I might say that I work for myself.
What can I say. I love it. An independent practitioner sends all the right connotations and provides a nice contrast to "partnerships." One of the benefits of being a solo is that you truly are independent of the influences which inevitably interfere with the duty to the client. Partnerships end up being about the partners far more than the clients. The partnership business model becomes and end in and of itself. As importantly, the word "independent" does not suggest "alone."
Solos exercises independent judgment, independent thinking and are in a much better position to offer independent advice to clients. In fact, the disciplinary rules and ethical considerations which speak to the issue of duties to the client govern conflicts of interest and seek to ensure that lawyers exercise their best judgment on behalf of each client, free from all competing or conflicting influences.
The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (2004) note that a Lawyer's duty to their client includes that of advisor. A lawyer's duty as an advisor is defined as follows:
In representing a client, a lawyer shall exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice. In rendering advice, a lawyer may refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral, economic, social and political factors, that may be relevant to the client's situation.