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January 26, 2008

Book Review - Solo By Choice - Carolyn Elefant

Students of literature are not taught how to create masterpieces. Theirs is an instruction in the art of deconstruction - how to rip their favourite authors' work to pieces and be critical. No wonder so few wonderful books are ever written. All the best potential talents are rounded up and forced through an 'educational process' which forces them to find fault with perfection. This is hardly going to inspire them to stick their own necks above the parapet."  Jonathan Cainer

And that is the lesson with Carolyn's book, Solo By Choice.  She stuck her neck out, much the same as lawyers venturing into solo practice, to bring together a much needed manual on the ins and outs of going solo and it is not for others to 'deconstruct, rip apart and be critical.'  It is for them to be inspired,

There is so much information in this book it is required reading from law student to seasoned veteran because EVERYONE will find something in this book they knew little or nothing about or were totally misguided about when it comes to practicing as a solo or seeking out resources to get them started on their mission to improve their practice.

And Carolyn is humble and humorous in turn.  She understands there are many opinions on all topics covered as well as different practical experiences so she has brought in other voices who have lived it or, in her opinion, are quite knowledgeable on a given topic.  In many ways you have panel discussions in the book which is a huge bonus. While many important topics are touched upon to get you started thinking about that which you may not have considered before, the areas I found particularly strong were Contract Lawyering, Value Billing and Blogging. 

And while this book is being marketed to solos, I believe attorney's practicing in large firms can benefit from extrapolating much of this information for their own use. I'm not going to find 'fault with perfection' even though everyone who received a complimentary copy of Carolyn's book also received a hand-written note asking them to be totally honest in their review.  And that's Carolyn. Writing a book is grueling, hard work especially when you have as much passion about the topic as Carolyn does. Probably limiting it to 300 pages was like cutting off both arms.

However, in staying true to myself, I would be remiss if I didn't say there is very little on the unique challenges facing those law students who wish to start a solo practice right out of law school.  And this is the author staying true to herself (and why the book rings true with authenticity) .  She has never made any bones about her opinion new lawyers should get some training under their belt before starting a solo practice so if you are looking for a balanced and pithy how-to on this career move, new admits wanting to open their own practice upon graduation, you may be left wanting.

In conclusion, regardless the stage in your professional career, this is a no-brainer.  You must buy this book for a myriad of reasons, but also because it is a good reference book filled with great information aggregated in one easy to read collection and a necessary tool for your solo practice.

Congratulations, Carolyn.


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D. Todd Smith

After reading so much about Carolyn's new book on various blogs and lists, I finally caved and ordered it from Amazon. Thanks for providing the link, Susan. Can't wait to read it!



While there might not be a lot of information about starting a practice straight out of law school. I believe there's at least a short chapter on that in the book.

I wrote a chapter on that at Carolyn's request and while I haven't seen the book, I believe that there is information on that in the book.


Susan Cartier Liebel

Dave, Yes, you're very good Q&A about your experiences starting a solo practice out of law school is in there. My review said it is the overall discussion I found limited and therefore will leave the reader in this particular situation wanting.

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