Volume 19, Number 3
From the Editor
The Flavor of Solo
By jennifer j. rose
I wanted to be a solo practitioner right out of law school, purely because I wanted my name in lights. (And I knew it was highly unlikely that I'd ever be a name partner if I joined Baker & McKenzie.) Oh, there were other considerations, too, like having my own corner office with a window, wearing whatever I wanted to the office, and selecting my letterhead. Well, there was another reason: I didn't want to share what I earned with anyone else, even if I only earned peanuts my first year in practice.
Nixon was still in office when I started law school, and just about the only classmates openly headed toward small firm practices were those scions whose fathers and grandfathers were expecting them back at the old home firm in places like Storm Lake, Iowa; or the wild, errant, and independent souls who never had played well with others in the sandbox. Setting up shop solo while the ink on the diploma was still fresh was considered the mark of more guts than brains. "Not a team player" was a common scoff pitched at solos. You know the look-a blend of incredulity, pity, and envy.
Today solo and small firm practitioners still are a lot like Baskin-Robbins, featuring all those different flavors-from those practicing probate in a home office to securities lawyers in New York City skyscrapers. Some truly do practice all alone, and some have extensive support staff. And the reasons for practicing in a solo or small firm setting are just as varied as the practitioners themselves.
Some enjoy the hands-on approach of all aspects of the practice, handling marketing to billing and combining the entrepreneurial aspects of running a business with the nuts and bolts of practicing law. Others find the flexibility, intimacy, and lack of hierarchy the true drawing card of solo and small firm practice. More lawyers than ever are establishing solo practices straight out of law school, as well as during transitions from larger firms and public employment. But they all share one common denominator: They're the managing partner, the name partner, the rainmaker, and the one who performs the work. One-dimensional they're not.
The ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division evolved from the generic General Practice Section, which had sort of lurked under the unspoken code of "general practice or solo and small firm or something in between" for a long time before coming out of the closet in 1994. Long before that, sometime in the early '80s (the exact date of which remains beyond the recall of those of us with short memories), the Section presented a three-hour program during the Annual Meeting specifically addressing the needs of solo and small firm practitioners. By 1989, Solo Day grew into a half-day program resembling a town hall meeting; it became a longer and more demonstrative program, segmented from the Annual Meeting, in 1997, showcasing the most relevant, important, and cutting-edge issues facing solo and small firm practitioners. Solo Day 2002 will prove that it's possible to improve upon perfection. More information about Solo Day 2002 is headed your way-check the ad on page 1 and Section News on page 10 for specifics.
This issue of GPSolo brings to you the best of Solo Day programs-a road map and tool kit for all readers, whether they're brand new, seasoned, transitional, or not even in solo practice. I simply love to hear readers who aren't part of the target audience-large firm practitioners or spouses of Section members-report on the benefits they reap from GPSolo.
Judy Toyer, the editor of this issue, was a solo in Rochester, New York, when the work began on this issue, and now she's Counsel, Employment Law and Personnel Relations Legal Staff, at Eastman Kodak. All of the credit for organizing this stellar issue of GPSolo belongs to her.
jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of GPSolo, is a lawyer and writer, living in Morelia, Michaocan, Mexico, after two decades practicing as a solo in Iowa. She can be reached at email@example.com.