Solo and Small Practice Trends in the Legal Industry: the Vogue of Teamwork

Law practitioners who go it alone, or even those who are part of a small firm, face a number of unique challenges. Attorneys in larger firms have resources at their disposal that a small practice or a solo practitioner just don’t have. Solo practitioners and small practices, unsurprisingly, make up the vast majority of the legal profession. Data gathered by the American Bar Association shows that a full 49 percent of lawyers were solo practitioners in 2016 alone. Another 26 percent were members of law firms with 20 attorneys or less. That’s about 3 out of every 4 legal professionals in the United States that don’t have access to the resources of a massive law firm.

Yet despite that, these enterprising legal professionals have found innovative ways to compete against those monster law firms that grab all the headlines. There are some well-established trends that have emerged as a result. While these trends might have initially been born out of necessity, many, such as teamwork and collaboration, have become so well-established that they have become no longer the exception but the rule.

Providing Peace of Mind to Clients

Small practices and especially solo practitioners have all had to field questions from prospective clients regarding their ability to handle complex cases. Individuals often worry that a practice won’t have enough lawyers to handle all the issues of a case or that their solo practitioner becomes debilitated and their case will fall apart. No client is going to want to put their trust in a legal firm that appears to be too small to be effective.

It’s therefore crucial to the survival of small practices and solo firms to forge closely-knit professional networks that branch out far from the confines of their offices. Lawyers in big firms can go down the hall or up a few floors to find what they need easily, but with so many legal practitioners in small-scale or solo firms, it’s become a firmly-established trend to seek out colleagues from different practices when specific expertise is needed.

All in the Same Boat But With Different Paddles

The adversarial and, frankly, highly competitive nature of practicing law can certainly seem at odds to a trend like teamwork and collaboration across law firm boundaries. It’s time, though, to put such a common misconception to bed. Professional courtesy has always encouraged such relationships in the legal field. Besides, being involved in a winning case reflects positively on every lawyer or law firm involved a rising tide lifts all boats after all.

The only true issue that could prevent this type of teamwork is a logistical one. Thankfully, fee-splitting arrangements are easy enough to negotiate when several different firms work on one case. Additionally, establishing good working relationships within a network of small-scale practices means that referrals are shared between all members of a network, ensuring that everyone gets what they need when a client needs access to specialty law practitioners.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

3 out of 4 legal professionals in the United States can’t be wrong. In fact, small-scale and solo practitioners have become so successful in adapting to this trend that many attorneys that leave their mega-firms and strike out on their own adopt these methods immediately.

Teamwork and collaboration build strong small-scale professional networks. It provides the confidence to the clients of these small firms and cachet to small firms looking to build a positive reputation for themselves. Is it any wonder how solo and small practice firms have adopted teamwork?