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December 23, 2006

Solosez - The Virtual Mega Law Firm

Connecticut Law Tribune - March, 2006

One of the biggest fears facing those who wish to go out on their own is the idea of being by themselves. Perceived Isolation from other attorneys is a great disincentive and could ultimately impact the choice we make whether to be a solo. Humans are by nature social animals. We like to discuss our ideas, share problems and successes, adventures, and chit chat around the proverbial water cooler. We want the comfort of a professional shoulder to lean on for advice and direction when we need help with a problem. Most believe that professional mentoring and collegiality can only come from being part of "the firm." Well, not surprisingly, technology, combined with a few brilliant minds, has, once, again, answered the prayers of the solo. For free, the solo or small firm lawyer can become part of a virtual law firm consisting of more than eighteen hundred lawyers from across the country and the world.

Solosez, now under the protective umbrella of the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firms Section, is the brain child of Bruce Dorner, a solo in Londonderry, New Hampshire. It was started more than 10 years ago as an e-mail discussion group between a few lawyers intended as a forum in which exchange ideas on substantive issues of law. Solosez has since evolved into a community of more than eighteen hundred "partners" willing to share their legal minds, experience and good will all for free. In addition, you get secondary expertise in that some lawyers are also policemen, firefighters, engineers, electricians, insurance agents, pilots, carpenters and so on. Even law students post asking for recommendations or guidance for when they graduate. E-mail messages between members are surpassing more than 150 per day on a variety of topics pertinent to solos and small firms. They can be received in digest form so as not to clog your in box. You simply provide your e-mail address and you can always unsubscribe.

All discussion threads are archived by month and year for research. Popular threads are made available for quick access. E-mailing of messages or responses are to the individual, the Solosez member list or both.

I have seen threads ranging from "Help, I got my first PI case and I need some guidance" to "what is the best way to attract immigration business" to "can anyone tell me the best software to use" or "should I advertise with this legal referral service?" Sometimes the questions asked of other Sezzers are more personal in nature, how to deal with their own wills, a call to anyone who has had experience with a terminal diagnosis. Other times it is shameless advertising and chest thumping pride over publication of a first fiction novel. Regardless the topic, within a day the thread will have blossomed to twenty or thirty responses giving responsible information, guidance and experience. There is no limit to the type of question but if the threads go too far afield and you’ve been asked to cease, you can have your privileges suspended for 10 days if you don’t comply. Politics is generally a Bozo No No.

By offering your expertise in an area, you are also in effect marketing to fellow lawyers which, in turn, can generate future referrals. Quite often the "Sezzers" will meet in person or have Sezzer conventions. You can establish comradery and lasting friendship but most importantly feel that at any given moment an e-mail can be sent into cyberspace and within no time a discussion will be generated providing information on any topic twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

An added feature, Solosez411, provides an e-mail listing of attorneys by state or by area of practice. For example, if you needed to refer a patent case (or just want advice on your own case) you could go to Solosez411 and look under "patent law" and see which fellow Sezzer could help. The same for a specific state referral. It is also an excellent, free marketing tool. Imagine having your law firm’s name listed in front of more than eighteen hundred potential referrers of clients every day for free.

SoloMarketing is another branch off the Solosez tree offering a discussion group which brainstorms marketing ideas for solos and small firms.

Whether through an altruistic nature or just ego it has been my experience that lawyers like to help other lawyers. Regardless of the motivation, the recipient benefits. The lawyers who participate on a regular basis take pride in their reputation and legal advice. Clearly, you accept the legal guidance and opinions on this or any other website at your own risk. However, over time you will learn to trust certain Sezzers. At the very least you will get food for thought or be launched in the right direction for your own research. As a whole, the Solosez community is top shelf. Trust seems to be the unspoken catalyst for it’s success and growth.

Imagine, being part of an eighteen hundred plus partner global mega law firm with all those resources available to you with the click of a mouse. And you don’t even need to be a member of the ABA or Section to join. Isn’t technology grand?

Susan Cartier-Liebel is solo practitioner, adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a business consultant for solo and small firms. She can be reached at [email protected]. Copyright © Susan Cartier-Liebel (2006) All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, transmitted, posted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of Susan Cartier-Liebel.


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