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March 09, 2008

Eric Turkewitz asks "What is a Solo?"

After my recent post discussing more than 80% of private practice attorneys in New York are solos (the actual number is 83% - confession...I'm actually on vacation right now and retrieved the numbers from my memory banks) it spurred Eric Turkewitz of the New York Personal Injury Lawyer to ask the question:  "What is a solo?"

Eric asks:

Does this mean one lawyer, and one lawyer only (along with support staff)?

Or does solo mean that there may be a few associates, but 100% of the equity (and responsibility and liability) of the firm sits with one person?

What definitions are used to create these stats, and what definition should be used?

I'm not going to pretend I know what the "right" answer is, though I think that the element of 100% of the risk is more important than 100% of the work. This is especially true given that many solos may outsource some work when times get busy, creating a vast gray area of per diem, "of counsel," and part-time lawyers that make precise definitions difficult. I just don't know how any of this is factored in when statistics are compiled.

First, being solo practitioner does not mean you function alone.  However, it does absolutely mean you can.

I will have to agree with Carolyn Elefant, who took on the challenge by Eric, that it is in large part an attitude of 'can do' and self-sufficiency, belief in one's self, not necessarily not getting assistance when needed.  But the purist in me also believes it is being the only practicing attorney in your firm, ergo the word 'solo.'

I'm not saying I am correct, this is just my opinion. But it is about a certain individualism, being one, being the entity you created, the pioneer in your own professional future and the only one eligible to practice law in your firm.  And if in time you grow into a firm of more than one lawyer, take on partners, the technical definition of your practice may change for the purposes of the ABA or U.S. Census, but your roots as a rugged individualist, a creator, someone who had a vision and pursued it never changes.

Your thoughts?

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