The Times They Are a Changin’
As little as twenty years ago, starting a solo law practice was tough. Starting a solo practice in a niche area, such as intellectual property, was next to impossible. The huge number of costly resources needed to effectively compete as a solo in a market of 800 pound gorillas, put the dream of law firm ownership effectively out of reach for most lawyers. Over the past two decades, the solo practitioner’s Achilles Heel, reliance on the Internet, has translated into his/her greatest asset. Working at some of the largest and most respected law firms in the state, I was constantly amazed that the number of attorneys who did not even use a computer. Today, effective client representation and fear of computers are becoming mutually exclusive concepts. Not surprisingly it is solo practitioners finding new ways to leverage this technology to most effectively represent their clients.
Over the last decade, there has been a power shift from law firm behemoths to solo practitioners. Formerly, economies of scale placed resources in the hands of large firms which few, if any small firms could justify. These economies of scale more than made up for the inefficiencies associated with big firm bureaucracy. Solo firms, by their very nature, had to be more nimble, constantly adjusting to market demands. Today, many previously prohibitively expensive resources are available online to solo practitioners, often at little or no charge. Having been forced into using online resources from the start, many solo lawyers are, by necessity, more efficient at using them than their large firm counterparts. Additionally, the Internet has allowed solo lawyers to develop strong relationships with other solo practitioners, to a degree rarely seen in the large firm crowd. Solo practitioner now enjoy the best of both worlds. All the best parts of working in a large firm: collegiality, resources and intellectual capital, without all of the soul-sapping bureaucracy.
Bad vs. Good
The recent downturn in the economy has translated into good news and bad news for lawyers. The bad news – Experts predict a drop in law firm profits, cuts in associate bonuses, hiring freezes, layoffs and a generally grim outlook for law firms. The good news – With clients seeking more transparent relationships and more value for their legal budget, these dire predictions targeting large law firms could be a boon to solo practitioners.
Enter Solo Practice University
One of the latest online tools available to the solo practitioner is Solo Practice University™ (SPU). This brainchild of Susan Cartier Liebel of Build a Solo Practice, promises to be practical, timely, fluid, creative, interactive and fun. Unlike many live legal lectures, which all too frequently serve as nothing more than an hour long law firm infomercial, SPU materials are produced by solo practitioners, for solo practitioners. While I would like to believe the SPU faculty (while includes this humble blogger) is SPU’s biggest draw, the real benefit of SPU is its vast community of attorneys sharing insight, solutions and collegiality. If you have never experienced social networking, here is your chance to jump into “professional networking” with both feet. SPU promises to be simple, fun, educational and, if you are not careful, an unparalleled practice builder.