Small Law Firms, Solo Practitioners, Technology

The Practice: Understanding Solo Practice Advice From Non-Full-Time Lawyers

An article came out this week musing on solo practice from resident tech tweeter Niki Black. I felt bad there were no comments, so I thought I would write one.

From Black’s article: “Nowadays, however, it’s much easier to launch a solo practice with a minimal up front investment. All that’s really needed is a small amount of savings, a laptop, a smart phone, and an Internet connection.”

There you have it. We’re done here. All you basement-dwelling “my law school screwed me over by lying to me” bitter and broke lawyers now have the golden ticket: a few bucks in the bank, a quick trip to Best Buy, and voila — a solo practice is born. You heard it here — “[a]ll that’s really needed” is… tech!

And let’s not get into other necessities, like opening an operating and trust account, incorporating, learning the proper way to pay yourself and the IRS, securing appropriate insurances (life, health, disability), maybe having an address to receive mail that isn’t your parents’ house, figuring out how to properly organize and store client files that aren’t in the precious “cloud,” and understanding your state bar’s advertising rules.

I’m sure there are a few dozen other things I’ve missed, but hey, you can only handle so much, right?

Laptop, phone, and internet connection. That says “you” all day.

Now of course the tech cheerleaders always have to be wary that some long-term practicing lawyer may read the article, so the caveat is thrown in:

Whether a thriving solo practice can be maintained long term using that set up is a different debate for a different day.

Wait. This may not work long term? What? No, no, no, people, stay focused on the tech — because whether it will work is a “different debate for a different day.” Like day three when you have no clients and no money to pay the $10 minimum on the Best Buy card.

I actually think it’s a debate for right now. Apparently though, we’re not going to talk about that in an article that helps you believe that picking up some tech makes you a solo practitioner.

And you soak it up, and take notes, and think, “Wow, that’s amazing.” I know, it doesn’t matter who’s giving the advice, as long as it sounds good. It’s advice, and if it indicates it can help you “make money as a lawyer,” you think it’s wonderful.

The tech cheerleaders claim to know about running a business while practicing law. They can sell you on the toys and what they can do, but not how they can make your practice a success:

Using just a computer, a smartphone, the Internet, and cloud computing, lawyers can run their law practices using cloud-based law practice management systems. Web-based services and smartphone apps can be used in lieu of fax, copy, and answering machine systems. And instead of hiring full-time office staff, lawyers can rely on virtual assistants and/or receptionists.

All that is true, but what’s missing is the practice, the clients, the ethics, the ability to interview a client, take a retainer, write a retainer agreement, draft a pleading, understand finances. Sitting at home with a laptop, and a phone, even if connected to the internet (where you can read garbage advice all day) doesn’t make you a solo practitioner, it makes you a lonely lawyer wondering what’s next. Sorry to hurt your feelings.

And so the question remains, why are we telling lawyers they can start a practice with a couple electronic devices? Is this what the public wants? Morons with toys? Is this the way we better our profession, by telling lawyers they can just buy and download tech and apps, and that is the practice of law?


That’s the beauty of 21st Century lawyering: increased flexibility and choices create opportunities never before seen.

Twenty-first century lawyering.

Opportunities never before seen.

Welcome to the future. I hope the power doesn’t go out.

What’s the Point of “Going Solo”? [MyCase Blog]

Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at

(hidden for your protection)

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