My Shingle: Inspiring Solo and Small Firm Lawyers

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Solos Practice Longer...But For Love or For Money?

One of the benefits of running your own firm is that you don't have a committee forcing you to retire. Perhaps that's why some of the oldest practicing lawyers are those who work for themselves. Today, Bob Ambrogi, my co-blogger at Legal Blog Watch posted here about Reuben Landeau, a Boston lawyer who just passed away at the age of 103. According to the article, Landeau opened his firm in 1926 and last year, attended his 80th law school reunion. Perhaps it could be said that Landeau had a mandatory non-retirement policy; apparently, his 70 something son (with whom Landeau practiced) wanted to call it quits in 2004, but dad refused.

And in New Jersey, Florence Forgoton Adams, Monmouth County's first female attorney, died at the age of 99, according to this
story. Like many female lawyers of that period, Adams started her own firm after graduating from NYU Law School, because none of the all male firms would hire her. Adams practiced law in Red Bank, NJ for more than 70 years, working a few days a week at her firm up until her death.

Mandatory retirement aside, why do solos stick with law for decades? Do they need the money...or do they love the law so much that they can't part? Do you think you'll be practicing law in your '90s?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 24, 2007 at 08:34 PM in Profiles | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Solos Aren't Simpletons When It Comes to Marketing...Come to A Webinar To Learn Otherwise

It's not often that solo and small firm lawyers get a mention at Above the Law, a terrific site that focuses primarily on biglaw and celebrity lawyer gossip. So I was disappointed to see that when solos finally do get a shout out, it's to this list of marketing tips that makes us look like a bunch of simpletons and has more than one commenter chuckling about the advice.

A couple of points. First, the list of marketing tips was compiled as a quick, off the cuff collaborative effort on the ABA's solo and small firm listserve, Solosez. The list tops 2000 members and increases in size all the time, with newbies joining and asking the same advice over and over. One purpose of the list was to just throw a bunch of ideas at new members to get them started. Moreover, many of the ideas on the list do work for solos - and have been applied by large firms as well. The much maligned "nylon briefcase idea" (the tip is to pass one to clients to hold documents so they can keep track of their cases) is used by large firms in another form: think extranet. So too is offering to serve as a source for local reporters (I can't tell you how many emails that I get at Legal Blogwatch from law firms' PR agents offering attorneys for interviews on this topic or that.)

But more important, solos have always lead the way on marketing - the profession tends to forget that we have always been the innovators. Who pioneered the idea of contingency fees (that many large firms are now using for select cases)? Solos. Who fought all the way up to the Supreme Court for the right to advertise - which large firms once frowned upon, but now embrace? Solos. And with all the talk about blogging, guess which firms are actually, really and truly attracting clients from blogs? Solos.

I've been leveraging technology to market my practice for more than ten years, when I uploaded a self-coded website to the Internet. I keep up to date on trends, and on Wednesday, I'll be participating in this ALM sponsored webinar on using user generated content tools to attract clients with Kevin O'Keefe of Lexblog and Mark Britton of Avvo. And even though I'm just a solo, the ideas that I'll be discussing will help lawyers at any size firm leverage this new technology to their advantage.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 22, 2007 at 06:00 PM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Interested in Being A Legal Research and Writing Contract Attorney? Look No Further....

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of sharing the podium with national legal research and writing contract attorney expert, Lisa Solomon, where we presented a program on contract lawyering from the persepective of both the hiring attorney and the contract attorney. The hour long program, which is now available for purchase here, discusses these critical questions:

* What kinds of projects do contract lawyers typically work on?
* How can you find a contract lawyer position?
* Can you really sustain a career as a contract lawyer?
* What are the drawbacks of working as a contract lawyer?
* What ethical issues arise in the contract lawyering relationship, and how are those resolved?
* Should a contract lawyer obtain her own malpractice insurance?
* How can U.S.-based contract lawyers compete with legal offshoring services?
And while you're at the Legal Research and Writing Pro site, be sure to check out the other programs that Lisa offers for lawyers who are considering a legal research and writing practice.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 22, 2007 at 05:58 PM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

See You In Philadelphia, I Hope!

Like my friend Susan Cartier Liebel (I think that I can call her an expert on building a solo practice), I'm also headed to Philadelphia for the ABA's Second Annual National Solo and Small Firm Conference. I'm moderating a panel on using or finding work as contract lawyer with Lisa Solomon and I will also be distributing a special Prepublication Order Form for my upcoming book, Solo By Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be. There's a special rate available for conference attendees.

I won't be finding my way over to the conference until later in the day on Friday, but if you're there, please stop by and introduce yourselves.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 3, 2007 at 05:18 PM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Don't Just Step Off the Partnership Track; Bypass It Entirely

I'm not sure whether any of you remember the TV show LA Law . Sometime in the second or third season, the firm's young associate, Abby, was told that she wasn't partnership material so she left to start her own criminal defense practice. A year or so later, Abby had established her reputation as a trial lawyer, and the firm that had once spurned her lured her back (though I don't remember if she became a partner or merely collected a higher salary). Though I watched those episodes before I ever started my own practice, the concept of leaving a firm to build your skills and credentials and then return later, on your own terms struck me as eminently smart.

Back here, I posted on how Supreme Court solo specialist Tom Goldstein brought his practice to biglaw firm Akin Gump - after he'd been on his own for five years and argued more than a dozen cases at the Court. And today, I saw this Press Release about Ely Goldin, a former solo specializing in issues related to the business needs of the Russian immigrant community, who was named partner at Fox Rothschild.

When you start a firm, you may dream of staying small...or building your own empire. But solo practice isn't just an end in itself, it can also be viewed as a phase of your career during which you build skills and increase your value. Making partner after toiling as an associate at a large firm is always a risk. Is it really any more risky to try to make partner after building your own practice?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 3, 2007 at 05:10 PM in Biglaw Practice and Issues, MyShingle Solo , Solo Practice Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack