November 06, 2007

Will Lawyers As We Know Them Exist in 100 Years?

Hat tip to Stephanie West Allen at Idealawg for presenting this Times Online Article, " Legal Profession is on the Brink of Fundamental Change." the introduction to this new book. This is not a tabloid piece but a provocative and serious examination of the legal industry from Richard Susskind, Emeritus Professor of Law at Gresham College, IT advisor to the Lord Chief Justice and consultant to leading law firms. This first article is one in a series of six excerpts to be presented by Times Online.

This is neither a lawyer-bashing polemic nor a gratuitous assault on the legal profession. Instead, it is a collection of predictions and observations about a generally honourable profession that is, I argue, on the brink of fundamental transformation.

That said, I do admit, if I may give away the ending, that these articles will point to a future in which conventional legal advisers will be much less prominent in society than today and, in some walks of life, will have no visibility at all. This, I believe, is where we will be taken by two forces: by a market pull towards commoditisation and by pervasive development and uptake of information technology. Commoditisation and IT will shape and characterise 21st century legal service.

Against this backdrop, I should be honest about one issue from the outset. I do not believe lawyers are self-evidently entitled to profit from the law. As I have said before, the law is not there to provide a livelihood for lawyers any more than ill-health exists to offer a living for doctors. Successful legal business may be a bi-product of law in society, but it is not the purpose of law. And, just as numerous other industries and sectors are having to adapt to broader change, so too should lawyers.

This series calls for the growth and the development of a legal profession not by ring-fencing certain categories of work as the exclusive preserve of lawyers; nor by encouraging cartel-like activity which discourages all but lawyers from engaging. Rather, it calls for lawyers, their professional bodies, their policy-makers, and their clients, to think more creatively, imaginatively, and entrepreneurially about the way in which lawyers can and should contribute to our rapidly changing economy and society.

This pressure to change has never been more evident then with solo practitioners, always, in my opinion, the first to see the subtle shifts in the mood of clients and capable of responding before others with creativity and innovation.  There are heated debates about breaking free from the billable hour, a market pressure from clients to have both value and limits built into the fee structure.  Solos respond by capitalizing on information technologies to streamline their businesses, reduce overhead to meet this changing demand.  Sometimes this is camouflaged in an argument for work/life balance because in making these changes we are freeing ourselves, too, from being captive to the standard trappings of a second wave law firm and mentality.  We further recognize the shift by responding to an increased workload by outsourcing or using non-lawyers to fulfill the needs.   

The legal community as a whole, however, does seek to circle the wagons, protecting against perceived attacks to their livelihood, doing exactly what Susskind says, "ring-fencing certain categories as the exclusive preserve of lawyers; ....encouraging cartel-like activity which discourages all but lawyers from engaging."   This can be seen in the push for specialization certification, an act to protect some lawyers from other lawyers as more and more lawyers enter the legal market or, as in the case of real estate law, requiring all closings to have a lawyer for each side. 

Professionals will do whatever they can to keep the collective dollars they believe they are entitled to by virtue of their education or status and the rebellion by the 'consumer' is underfoot.  And sometimes this does significant harm to the very public they are sworn to serve.

One example comes to mind within my own family and it has to do with the medical profession.  My father has suffered for years with heart ailments.  Years of surgeries, the newest technologies and so on has prolonged his life, thankfully.  However, in his more advanced years there are no more surgeries which can be done.  He visited his lifelong highly regarded cardiologist who flat out told him there is nothing left to do to address the frequency of his angina attacks.  He subsequently went to a younger cardiologist who says there is a new and promising treatment which is basically a physical therapy, a machine which massages the legs in rhythm with the pumping of the heart pushing more blood through at timed intervals.  After six weeks of treatments five days a week it has been shown to actually create the growth of new blood vessels, the effects lasting up to three years, the angina attacks minimized if not gone.  My father asked why his renowned cardiologist didn't tell him about this treatment?  The younger cardiologist said, "He probably didn't even learn about it. It's not profitable for his business model.  He didn't go to medical school and become an elite cardiologist to recommend physical therapy to be performed by a lower paying professional.  My business model is different.  It incorporates alternative therapies....and my patients are demanding alternative treatments."

In my opinion this is analagus to changes Susskind envisions.  In protecting your turf and the right to profit, you end up not serving your client or yourself in the long run.  By embracing changes, outsourcing to better the experience of your client you will build your business and reputation.  The law is not there to preserve our perceived entitlement to $1,000.00 per hour. And clinging to the notion that it is will be the undoing of many.  New solos and prescient current solos will not have that problem.  They already are in the forefront of the change revamping their fee structures, changing their office procedures, downsizing, outsourcing, creating collaboratives and living better lives for it.  It is exhausting holding onto a framework of operation which has you swimming upstream, the majority destined to perish. 

Does this mean the lawyer will cease to exist?  No.  There will always be a need for intelligent counsel and expertise in matters that are beyond the abilities of the average consumer especially in areas of the law which are highly complex.  Will we be highly paid and revered for this expertise?  I don't know. Do you?  The tide has shifted against many other types of professionals when it was perceived profit was the main motivation; the market couldn't and wouldn't sustain their outdated business model any longer.

Excerpt #2 - A Decade On: Much Changed, Much Still To Unfold

Excerpt #3 - How the Traditional Role of Lawyers Will Change

Related Links of Interest:

November 02, 2007

Outsourcing Document Review to India Going Mainstream? Why Not Outsource to Qualified Law Students?

Over at Cal Law Legal Pad is an article discussing, once again, outsourcing to India.  This time the work is document review.  The going rate:  $25.00 -  $35.00 per hour.  Well, it seems to me if Big Law is starting to consider this a viable option an enterprising new solo or law student can capitalize on Big Law's remaining fears - the quality of work and shipping the work overseas while still having to sell the benefits to their clients. Of course, I don't know if they are under any obligation to inform their clients where the work is being performed or if the client has any say in it.  One presumes it is the bottom line which dictates the client's interest..."How much is this going to cost me?"

In my opinion, solos, especially new lawyers and law students, have the same ability to market their services at this reasonable rate while they are building up their practices or waiting for their bar results because they can build in the necessary flexibility functioning as an independent contractor to a Big Law firm; flexibility which allows them to cultivate their own clients and work those legal matters or earn cash while waiting for their bar results. Afterall documents can be reviewed at anytime of the day or night.  It brings income and it keeps the work in the U.S. of A, outsourcing beyond the borders something which still irks many.  Why not capitalize on this?

One of my clients is doing just this.  She doesn't have the resources to start from scratch without the scratch.  This option gives her tremendous flexibility.  She doesn't mind the work and appreciates the pay.  It is not the final stop in her professional career, it's just the beginning. She's grateful for the opportunity while she works out the logistics of her business and marketing plans to launch her solo practice.

If more Big Law firms aren't doing so, they should be heading to the law schools offering these opportunities to eager, qualified 2 and 3Ls.  And eager 2 and 3Ls should be knocking on the doors of these firms offering their services.

October 30, 2007

First Year Associate Leaves Big Law and Gets Former Firm as Client

Yes, the truth is stranger than fiction but this is a great story and I got it right from the first year associate's mouth.

A former student of mine (and we will keep names, etc. out of this) called me yesterday to tell me a terrific true story of their past year. This student went solo right after passing the bar (May 2006) but while waiting for the bar results indulged another passion, advanced website design and optimization. While in law school they became proficient at blogging, too.  This student then paired with another lawyer and upon getting the bar results hung a shingle.  Just as they started bringing in clients through their site, the partner was offered a job with Big Law.  This young attorney declined the job because they were relocating out of the country but suggested the law firm talk to the partner, my student.  The offer was too good to pass up.  But interestingly enough the Big Law Firm additionally wanted this person's expertise in web design to bring them into the 21st century. This lawyer left their own site up and it continued to generate clients to the Big Law firm. This attorney also happened to be a terrific lawyer who was able to work the internet to get information for the firm that others were not capable of doing. Big Law admitted they would not have hired this person right out of law school just on paper.  They did, however, appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit and extra skill set of this lawyer when they saw how effective this lawyer's web presence was in generating business and were thrilled to get them once my student interviewed. 

Well, this lawyer did a terrific job, not just as a lawyer making an outstanding impression on clients, but on building the firm's internet presence.  Word gets out in the Big Law circles.  My student realizes their passion lies more with the internet then with lawyering.  Plus, they love the idea of being their own boss and not being married to the billable hour.

Five months after being brought on board, this student voluntarily leaves a six figure salary....but not before Big Law signs a Big contract with my student to build and maintain their web presences including multiple blogs with content.  And before he ever left the firm, other firms were contacting him to do the same...all out in the open, all positive with good will all around.  In those five months working at Big Law my student made many friends in the partnership stratosphere and was very well-liked.  This young attorney capitalized on the 'know you, like you, trust you" currency earned in their short stint at Big Law to get their coveted big business.

So, employer becomes client in five months. Isn't that a twist? We talked about the irony of not practicing law anymore.  They said, "the law degree gives me opportunities.  I choose what opportunities I take."

Links of Interest:  "You Ask...I Answer" - "If I Unshingle Am I More or Less Employable?" (This was the original e-mail from the student discussed above.)

October 24, 2007

Another Big Law Defector Goes Solo - Lizz Patrick

Another Big Law defection for all the right reasons:  Lizz Patrick of Georgia goes solo.  These excerpts are borrowed liberally from the New York Law Journal On Line (free subscription) but you will get the gist of why this talented lawyer went solo....entrepreneurial spirit, freedom, working on her own terms (at home) and her clients appreciate it.

After almost a decade as a partner at Troutman Sanders and then Kilpatrick Stockton, Lizz Patrick started her own firm a year ago, the Patrick Law Group.

“I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I’d had the bug for a long time,”

Patrick runs her firm out of her house, which she said works fine since most of her communication with clients is by phone or e-mail. For face-to-face meetings, she goes to them.

She said her clients don’t mind that she doesn’t have a Peachtree Street address or the resources of a big firm behind her. “One client said, ‘No offense to your firm but that was your mailing address,’” she told me. In-house counsel hire the lawyer, not the firm, she believes.

Freed of the overhead of a big firm, Patrick said she’s been able to drop her rate by about $150 an hour, declining to name a figure. She’s able to charge a flat task-based fee instead of billing by the hour if she chooses — or to perform a service at no charge on occasion as a form of lagniappe (I didn't know what this word was either!)for clients.

“You’d have to jump through a lot of hoops at a big firm to do that,” she said.

“My clients want personal, efficient and targeted service focused on their needs. I felt like I’d maxed out my ability to do that at a big firm.

“There are scores of people—accountants, associates, human resources staff—as well as equipment that a firm must have. … I could not push more value through the machine,” she said, stressing that this is endemic to big firms and not to any one firm in particular.

At the Patrick Law Group, she said, “I don’t have to cover raising associate salaries or opening an office in Dubai. My clients don’t care if I have a Washington office. They care if I’m available to do the work on their terms when it needs to get done.”

She said she can adapt more quickly to her client’s needs without the “large infrastructure and sunk costs” of a big firm. “If I see software or technology that I think will add value, I can add it. I have a meeting with myself and talk to my clients.”

Patrick spent about six months planning her business, working nights and weekends, before she launched it. “I did what I did in law school and in life: prepare, prepare, prepare,” she said.

She wrote up a business plan, researched costs, posited who her clients would be and projected her revenue for the first year—including a “death star” scenario if everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Once she launched her firm, she said, she was so focused on setting up her shop and transitioning her clients smoothly that she didn’t have time for doubts. “The biggest challenge is taking the plunge. Action cures fear.”

October 08, 2007

The Billable Hour "Cockroach" is Being Exterminated....One Law Firm At a Time

(UPDATE:  10/9/07 Meet Jay Shepherd, who authors the Gruntled Employee and read his post on how since he abandoned the billable hour his revenues have doubled!)

A Boston based law firm has taken the unusual step of banning the billable hour...if their clients want billable hours, they tell them to find another firm.

And this is by their choice, not because their clients are pressuring them into it.  The lawyers don't want to sell time for services anymore, don't want the restraints of the clock. 

Shepherd, a five-lawyer firm that specializes in employment law, charges its clients a flat annual fee or flat price per task. Clients can call the firm as often as they want to discuss legal issues, although some services, such as training and litigation, cost extra. The new approach helps clients determine legal costs in advance and often prevents legal problems from escalating because clients are no longer reluctant to seek advice out of fear of incurring a hefty bill, said Jay Shepherd, the firm's founder.

"Hourly billing is wrong and it's anti-client," Shepherd said. "There's a disincentive to be efficient since you get paid more if you take longer to finish a matter - even though the client wants it to be finished as fast and efficiently as possible."

The American Bar Association concluded in a 2002 report that hourly billing is at the root of much that is wrong with legal practice: brutal hours, lack of collegiality (since time spent chatting with colleagues is time not spent billing), fraudulent billing, lawyers who intentionally stretch the time it should take to finish a matter, unpredictable costs for clients, little time for friends and family, little time for community service, and a system that rewards lawyers for quantity over quality.

I salute them.  While they are not the first, they are one of the many saying, 'no more.'  And as more and more law firms, big and small, say 'adios,' eventually the tide will shift, the consumer will become more educated as to the benefits of not paying a lawyer by the hour and client/attorney relationships will improve, lawyer career satisfaction will improve and maybe, just maybe, the image of the profession will improve in a noticeable way.

Because quite frankly, I'm tired of seeing our profession being reduced to almost tabloid-esque style headlines proclaiming the birth of the $1,000.00 per hour rates, associates committing suicide unable to meet their billables, people leaving the profession in droves as they are asked to sacrifice their entire personal lives to the almighty clock.  It's a profession-created cockroach and as such it can be exterminated, one lawyer, one law firm, one educated client at a time.

And to new solos, try to not get started on this path.  Learn alternative fee arrangements from the beginning.  Seek out those knowledgeable on value based billing.  Start your practice with the right habits.  If you are in an area of law that requires hourly rates, time to put pressure on the courts to see the light.  It's hard work  But nothing worth having is ever easy.

Links to other posts of interest:

The Cockroach of the Legal Profession - 8/13/07

September 23, 2007

Law School Not A Ticket To Printing Money

Here is a very sobering article from the Wall Street Journal's Emir Efrati which finally exposes through real numbers that law school graduates are not getting the promised jobs, the six-figure incomes or the professional prestige once associated with law school.  Law school is a low cost, high-return money maker for universities and they are luring students in with promises and not delivering the goods..except for the top few at the top tier schools. 

On the supply end, more lawyers are entering the work force, thanks in part to the accreditation of new law schools and an influx of applicants after the dot-com implosion earlier this decade. In the 2005-06 academic year, 43,883 Juris Doctor degrees were awarded, up from 37,909 for 2001-02, according to the American Bar Association. Universities are starting up more law schools in part for prestige but also because they are money makers. Costs are low compared with other graduate schools and classrooms can be large. Since 1995, the number of ABA-accredited schools increased by 11%, to 196.

Evidence of a squeezed market among the majority of private lawyers in the U.S., who work as sole practitioners or at small firms, is growing. A survey of about 650 Chicago lawyers published in the 2005 book "Urban Lawyers" found that between 1975 and 1995 the inflation-adjusted average income of the top 25% of earners, generally big-firm lawyers, grew by 22% -- while income for the other 75% actually dropped.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the inflation-adjusted average income of sole practitioners has been flat since the mid-1980s. A recent survey showed that out of nearly 600 lawyers at firms of 10 lawyers or fewer in Indiana, wages for the majority only kept pace with inflation or dropped in real terms over the past five years.

So, the reality not mentioned is the schools are not offering the necessary business training required to utilize the degree earned for entrepreneurship as a realistic alternative to unfulfilled promises of BigLaw jobs.  Yet they are opening their doors to more students looking to better themselves, their lives and who are willing to take on astronomical debt because they believe opportunities exist.

Yet economic data suggest that prospects have grown bleaker for all but the top students, and now a number of law-school professors are calling for the distribution of more-accurate employment information. Incoming students are "mesmerized by what's happening in big firms, but clueless about what's going on in the bottom half of the profession," says Richard Sander, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles who has studied the legal job market.

"Prospective students need solid comparative data on employment outcomes, [but] very few law schools provide such data," adds Andrew Morriss, a law professor at the University of Illinois who has studied the market for new lawyers.

Students entering law school have little way of knowing how tight a job market they might face. The only employment data that many prospective students see comes from school-promoted surveys that provide a far-from-complete portrait of graduate experiences.

There is always the argument students should be doing their own homework but as I've argued before they are relying on the integrity of the law schools to provide information that is accurate. Is including a job at Starbucks fair information for law schools to include in 'employment numbers.'  Is it any wonder the information isn't accurate?  Doesn't look too good for the law schools now, does it?

And the NALP concedes it cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information it collects:

Academics who have studied new-lawyer salaries say that the graduate surveys of many law schools are skewed by higher response rates from the most successful students. The National Association for Law Placement, which aggregates and publishes national data based on those surveys, concedes that it can't vouch for their accuracy. "We can't validate the figures; we have to rely on schools to report to us accurately," says Judy Collins, NALP's director of research.

But solos, as indicated in this article, are keeping up with inflation for the most part.  Imagine if their law schools gave them the information they needed to be entrepreneurs right from the start?  They could start marketing this very real option to their students and not be deceptive in the slightest.

Additional Reading:

Can We Turn Law School Education on It's Ear? The Randazza Manifesto

Law Students Being Fed Sunshine and Lollipops

September 17, 2007

Big Law Defectors Enjoy The "New" Lawyer's Life

I'm a broken record when I say, "You don't need to be an exhausted hamster in a cage at Big Law in order to enjoy a quality professional life.  And, once again, thanks to James Perrin of Atlanta, Georgia, who says, "I'm always looking for great articles for you," we get this terrific testimonial to jumping ship in from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called "Laid Back Law Firm - BILLABLE HOURS AREN'T EVERYTHING"

These Big Law Defectors graduated from the likes of Harvard and Duke and decided they couldn't take 'Sunday stomach' anymore, that sickening feeling of the sun rising on another Monday, time to get back in the cage and bill hours for The Man.

Weekends, when they weren't working, were a brief respite from the endless chase of billable hours. But Sunday evening rolled around with a pending dread. "We called it 'Sunday stomach,' " said Kevin Broyles as his friend, James Fisher, laughed in agreement. "It was that feeling of 'Aww, I have to go back to work tomorrow.' "

It was back to the treadmill, back to churning out 2,000-plus billable hours a year and 60-hour workweeks.

Their stomachs are just fine now. In 2002, they left the big firms and started out on their own, eventually building FSB Corporate Counsel, a firm made up of 10 young lawyers who say there's more to life than billing clients. It's a business model one client calls "the wave of the future" as more attorneys leave the prestige firms for more flexibility.

These very talented lawyers, in pursuit of more life balance, take a full 85% of each dollar they earn home, unlike the paltry 33.3% of their billables as associates.  How? Intelligent use of technology, very low overhead...no hungry middleman partner's compensation package to feed.

But, in lawyer parlance, they can "eat more of what they kill" —- they keep a larger percentage of their billable hours, letting them equal or better what they earned as associates. FSB attorneys retain about 85 percent of what they bill, Broyles said. Associates at big firms —- about a third.

They say low overhead lets them do it: No high-paid rookie lawyers, no expensive office artwork, mahogany walls or teams of support staff and no top layer of partners sopping up revenue.

The attorneys practice general commercial law and technology law. They work at clients' offices or at home. They rent out conference rooms and share the costs of technology systems that let them pool their resources and act like independent contractors, working as much, or as little, as they choose.

"Technology allows us to do this —- laptops, voice-over IP, video conferencing," said Broyles. "You couldn't do this 20 years ago."

And they charge considerably less per hour then Big Law.  The one big difference, they go home at 5 - 6 o'clock each night taking on only those cases they want to work on.

Each one originally thought Big Law was the only way to go; partnership the brass ring.  No longer.

Quite often those who have not experienced traditional law firms or those who gave up much and survived the grueling soul-sacrificing hazing to partner will label those who leave for 'work/life balance' issues as slackers, lawyers who couldn't cut it, and feel the sting of all manner of insult to their work ethic or commitment to the practice of law. 

I find the insults and comparisons and the pointlessness of it right up there with the media originated wars between working mothers and stay at home mothers, breast milk or formula, Coke or Pepsi.  It's just plain stupid.

Professional and personal life choices are just those...choices.  It doesn't reflect on talent or commitment.  If you choose to go solo, find those who support your goals, will teach you how to achieve your goals and let your motivations be nobody else's business.  Let your professional life blend in the exact proportion you want with your personal life and, quite frankly, the hell with everyone else. Last time I looked we still had the illusion of freedom and your legal degree gives you even more of an edge if you have the guts to use it.

No one said it is was easy (although it's just not as hard as you think) but more than half a million lawyers are soloists.  What do they know that others don't?

Continue reading "Big Law Defectors Enjoy The "New" Lawyer's Life" »

August 19, 2007

Ding Dong. The Billable Hour is Dead. At Least For First Year Associates...in Atlanta

Could it be?  Talk amongst yourselves.

Ford & Harrison, a 190-attorney labor and employment firm, has tossed out billable-hour requirements for first-year associates. The program aims to close the practical-skills gap of law school education and increase value to clients. The firm also hopes it will enable associates to handle meatier matters more quickly.

See the Law.com article here.

August 15, 2007

A Very Sobering Article(s) on Life At Big Law

Stephanie West Allen of Idealawg brings us excerpts of a newly published article (and numerous links of valuable commentary) by Alec Scott called Exile on Bay Street which documents one attorney's experience at Big Law in Canada and beyond.  It is truly worth reading. 

But I would like to preface the introduction to the article with the following.

This blog, Build A Solo Practice, is all about going solo for those who truly want to go solo or believe they have no other options.  It is a full road map for the solo option and information to help you determine if going solo is the best or only option for you.

There are countless numbers of law students who expressly desire the experience of BigLaw and do remarkably well, profit from it in bankable and psychological ways the truly solo-minded would not.  The truly solo-minded would feel caged in BigLaw and not appreciate their environment.  Conversely, someone who goes solo when they really want BigLaw will always feel isolated and third rate.  The proverbial square peg in a round hole.  We never appreciate what we have if what we really yearn for is something else.

It is this blog's passionate purpose to bust the myth that getting a legal job in Big Law or Small immediately upon gradaution from law school is a mandatory right of passage in order to practice law. It emphatically is not!

This blog is about having options.  I rant against law schools not publicizing and supporting other options and the professional landscape is littered with the overly-educated bodies of those who never believed the solo option was really viable.  Life is about finding those true choices.  And true choices come from honest information.  This is the goal for this blog, to provide a realistic perspective of the solo option from myself, all the guest bloggers and great commenters, the valuable tools and how to use those tools to make the most of your choice, and responsible economic and demographic trends to help shape your personal and business future as an entrepreneur in the legal profession.  I hope I am achieving my goal for you.

August 13, 2007

Oh, I Wish I Could Have Sat On This Panel! - Why Solos Get Picked On By the State Bar Associations.

Jennifer Moline is sitting in at Legal Blogs and points us to this post by Legal Pad called " The Reason Bar Groups Pick on the Little Guy."  This post is the result of a Bar Panel Discussion at the San Francisco ABA Meeting.  Here are some of the key points made:

Solos and small-firm attorneys make up 70 percent or more of all lawyers in America and, therefore, by sheer numbers alone rack up more discipline cases. They also tend to represent unsophisticated clients who don’t understand the legal system and file more complaints.

Corporate clients sue for malpractice if dissatisfied by a lawyer’s performance.....whereas clients of solos and small firms turn to the State Bar for relief.

Almost all of them agreed that one big problem is that law schools aren’t doing a good enough job at teaching students how to manage a law practice.

“I have this radical idea that training is important,” Butler said, noting that when he got out of law school, he was a bit lost. “So I had to take it upon myself to learn how to practice law.”

He and others noted that solos and small-firm lawyers have no mentors, unlike attorneys who go to work for big firms.

That was backed up by Rosenfeld, who said K&L Gates — with more than 1,000 attorneys — holds a weeklong “rookie school” for its new lawyers. They’re taught ethics, practice management, legal writing and effective communication, among other skills. Rosenfeld said state bar associations should try doing the same for solos and small-firm lawyers.

Where do I begin?

First, let me say I do not know any of these lawyers.  I also understand many of these quotes were probably part of a larger conversation so when taken out of context they may make a different statement then what was intended or what was understood by their audience.  Nor do I know the inflections. In addition, I don't know the intentions of each participant so I will respond accordingly.

Yes, more than 70% (actually, 74%) of all private practice attorneys in this country are in firms of 1 - 4 "employees" according to the U.S. Census.  Therefore, it makes sense a proportionate amount of bar complaints would be lodged against solos and small firms.  However, to say the majority of practitioners in this country represent unsophisticated clients smacks of snobbery and insults clients and the majority of talented and gifted solo lawyers.  To further indicate a sophisticated client would simply sue you for malpractice versus grieving you makes it sound like a desirable alternative.  I'd rather dispatch with a grievance quickly then face litigation.

They all agreed law schools fail the lawyer.  By not recognizing the practice of law is also a business, the law student is ill-prepared.  Where we part company is stating the solution lies with the Bar Associations.  The solution is for law schools to recognize the practice of law cannot be separated from the business of law; the learning process should carefully weave a tapestry of academics and training in order to benefit it's students and the profession as a whole.

And for those who did not get the law school training they needed, the professional world is full of mentors and smart solos can create a safety net of mentors to further their post-graduation education.  Whether Solosez (2400 mentors), listservs, voluntary CLE, bar associations or others, mentors abound.  The difference is you are seen and treated as a peer versus a subordinate while you build your future.  And it is a cruel fairy tale, like Santa Claus, perpetuating the myth a firm will provide formal training and mentors so 'get a job.' 

Of the 40,000 law students graduating each year, how many land positions at K & L Gates?  And is a one week boot camp the answer?  No.  If it were every law school would offer some version of this and call it a day.  No, it has to be 'absorbed' over the three year law school educational experience and then refreshed on a daily basis during the actual practice of law...not state mandated mentoring before you can practice law or mandatory CLE. It all starts with the foundations of the education.

But I do agree without complaints the Statewide Grievance Committee ceases to exist. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  Maybe grievances that shouldn't be prosecuted get pushed forward anyway to justify the Committees existence? That solos and small firms get hit hardest because they don't have the time or the stamina or clout to get them dismissed?  Just typing out loud.