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February 06, 2009

Going Solo; Confessions & Inspirations - Guest Blogger - Kimberly Alderman

When I first saw this post by legal research and writing entrepreneur, Kimberly Alderman, I thought, "I want her to guest post on Build A Solo Practice because she's an absolute original:

I have been a small business owner since I was eight years old, selling ice cold sodas to the construction workers building new homes in our neighborhood.  It’s in my blood, as my entire family consists of small business owners.  I grew up ordering payroll stubs in my mother’s accounting firm, and hanging out at my grandmother’s farm stand on Long Island. I bought my first apartment when I was 20 and became a small-time landlord. I started consulting for antique importers on auction sales soon thereafter and became a cultural property devotee.  I choose my practice, my profession, and every day I am thankful for the choices I have made.

Meet Kimberly Alderman, a prolific writer and legal entrepreneur who lives (mostly) in Alaska hours from 'anything'.

Guest Blogger - Kimberly Alderman  

You Say You Want a (Solo) Revolution

In recent months, weary, disoriented lawyers have been let out of their skyscraper cages.  They’re pouring onto the streets, rubbing their eyes in the bright light of the sun, wondering where they’ve been for the past five, ten, or twenty years, and how they’re going to pay their mortgages.

1. Big Law Don’t Own Law No More

Sometimes I feel like Marla, at the end of Fight Club, as she watches the majestic display of credit unions exploding and collapsing, wiping away everyone’s debt, making people equal again.  A destruction that creates possibility, and a sharp, biting hope.

Big Law has outlived its usefulness.  Megafirms don’t pioneer jack.  They are resource-sucks, perpetuators of bureaucracy, faceless names on a long list of links to insipid bios. They’re glorified sweatshops, producing the same kind of crap we’ve come to expect from Big Box stores.

Their refusal to innovate has caught up with them.  Now, megafirms stand as unmoving, engorged heaps, useless and unable to adapt to the changing times.

I’m calling it right now.  Big Law don’t own law no more.  The little guy is taking it back, and that includes you and me.

2. The glory of the Solo Revolution is that lawyers are being invited to reinvent themselves and their profession.

No longer are you some kind of guerilla if you want to do something non-traditional.  The fact is that being a person, being multi-dimensional, makes you a better lawyer.

Solos are making the practice of law about more than just business.  We’re bringing to life the culture of connection that lawyers have been yearning for.

When I was in my first semester of law school, my class received a lecture from a professor on how we were to do our summer associate interviews.  “You will wear navy blue.  Not royal blue.  The fabric will be solid, not pin-striped or puckered.  Ladies, your skirts will hang just below your knee.  Not at your knee and not to your calves.”  This went on for about a half an hour.  It was enough to kill, butcher, and bury any interest I ever had in Big Law employment.

But times they are a-changin’, and it’s becoming more and more acceptable to just be who you are.  If you’re a lawyer-slash-developer, or a lawyer-slash-cheesemaker, or even a lawyer-slash-writer (like me), then that’s just fine.   The invitation for authenticity has been well received.

3. Technology has enabled Solos to mobilize their forces.  That’s what makes this a Revolution.

Every day it amazes me how the Solo community is now so accessible due to technology and social networking.  There isn’t nearly as much “solo” as there used to be in solo practice.  

A new Solo can set up shop, pop online, and within a month create an entire support network – people that he or she can pool resources with just for the sake of sharing.  Some Solos are on Twitter most of the day, chatting with other attorneys as time permits, creating a kind of global chat room that serves as both a social and practical resource.

Technology is also giving Solos a platform to more effectively market to potential clients.  When it comes to the web, Solos actually have an edge on Big Law because they can actually connect with people.  So while Big Law is “marketing,” Solos are just being themselves, connecting with each other and potential clients in the process.  This willingness to connect is revolutionary.  It’s creating a Solo group consciousness that any Solo in need can draw upon for support.

I’m by no means a leader in the Solo Revolution.  That torch is carried by (men and) women like Susan Cartier Liebel and Carolyn Elefant, who have been sharing their adventures in solo practice since before blogging was cool.  

Really, I’m not even a footsoldier.  I’m more like the support troops, working behind the scenes to make sure that solo attorneys have the tools necessary to effectively and efficiently run their firms.

I didn’t open a Solo legal research and writing practice because I was desperate, or because I got canned.  Freelance law has always appealed to me because, simply, I’m a freelance kind of person.  I like to come and go as I please, and the variety of assignments keeps me engaged.  

As I mentioned, I’m a bit of a lawyer-slash-writer, so when its slow on the legal front, I might be working on a novel, or a grant proposal, or even whipping something up for the local newspaper.  Then again, I might also be out riding my bike, with my adorable Golden Lab running alongside.

Viva la revolution.

Kimberly Alderman is an independent contract attorney that provides legal research and writing services to solo and small firms nationwide.  This post was premised upon her new, hopefully not too Jerry-McGuire-esque Mission Statement, which can be found on her website at http://www.lawyerbird.com.  She is the author of the Cultural Property and Archaeology Law Blog, as well as Lawyer On! The Contract Attorney’s Blog.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

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Jennifer N. Weil

Great post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Jeena Belil

Loved the post Kimberly!


Now I'm prompted to do a riff on Tyler Durden's monologue:
"You are not your law school diploma... You are not your corner office... You are not your blackberry... "
Great post!

Craig Niedenthal

Really great post. Your take on Big Law is dead on. Great inspiration.

Kimberly Alderman

Thank you all for your comments and compliments!

Amanda Finelli

I am on the verge of going solo and I really like to hear success stories!

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