As a former solo practitioner in both a small town (North Carolina) and a large city (DC where there is a lawyer on every street corner), I was interested John Starkweather’s post on LegalMatch Marketing where he challenges the conventional wisdom that a solo, general practitioner cannot survive in a large city.
Apparently he is doing quite well in the Chicago market. I agree that conventional wisdom can be wrong. However, for years, I have advised solos to develop a niche if they hope to do well in a large city. There simply is too much competition from all sizes of firms, and a solo (unless specialized) is going to find it difficult to stand out among the crowd. On the other hand, I suggested that solos in small towns likely need more of a general practice because the marketplace may not be large enough to handle a narrow niche – depending on the niche, of course.
But John’s post has got me thinking that my “personal, conventional” wisdom may need to be examined in light of his experience with technology and the Internet. It sounds like John’s experience with his web site, blog and wikipedia has proven successful, and such may change the dynamics. Apparently, because of the Web, and the success of other blogs, it may be possible to rise above the crowd and obtain business from inside (and outside) of a large marketplace even as a solo in general practice.
So, what is my advice today? I’m not quite ready to give up on my earlier advice (Yeah, some call me hardheaded). My reason is that John’s Internet presence may be his niche, at least in terms of standing above the crowd in (and outside) his rather large marketplace. Maybe he has displaced the need for a practice area niche with his marketing niche.
Accordingly, my advice today is that unless you have a strong Internet presence, I guess I’m sticking with my “conventional wisdom” on how you should approach a big city vs. small town practice if you are a solo, general practitioner.