About a dozen years ago, I spoke to 3L’s at a prestigious Midwest law school who were planning to go solo when they graduated. I offered some advice, based on my experience as a solo, on setting up their practice. Additionally, I gave them advice on how to start marketing their practice, since unlike their classmates who were going to larger firms, the work was not going to magically appear on their desks.
That experience got me thinking about how inadequate law school training is in preparing solos and small firm attorneys for the business side of law. Over the years I have argued that law schools have done a horrible job for the approximately 40%-44% of solos (the figure for the class I spoke to) in preparing them for the real world of running and marketing a law practice. In fact, I would proffer they have an obligation to do so. Moreover, it’s as if law schools are saying, “thanks for your $100k, good luck, go get ’em.”
I know a few schools have made small attempts to help by holding clinical skills-type classes or seminars occasionally. That has hardly made a dent in the problem.
This all came back to me when I saw the article by Susan Cartier-Liebel entitled “Law School Learning Leaves Solos in Cold” which appeared in Small Firm Business yesterday. Susan, who teaches such a course at Quinnipiac University School of Law, asks the question “if more than half of all lawyers in private practice are solos (Susan cites 51%, and 72% in firms of 4 or fewer people), why don’t law schools teach how to hang a shingle?”
Why not? indeed! And professors, why not throw in a little effective, tasteful, ethical marketing training while you are at it, so those lawyers can keep the doors open long enough to pay back their loans.