Solo Practitioners

Keith Lee

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

— Aristotle

The trick is not holding other people accountable, but holding yourself accountable. It’s the central starting point of developing an appropriate professional mindset — recognizing that you are personally responsible for your actions and results (or lack thereof) delivered to clients.

You must strive to do the best you can in all situations. While it will make a difference in the quality of the work you produce, more importantly it makes a difference in you. Pushing yourself to deliver better work, better services, and better solutions will allow you to self-create new challenges and excitement in your job. It will help keep monotony and routine at bay.

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In past columns I wrote about how a lawyer and a judge use iPads as part of their daily routine. And there’s a good reason that iPads were the first tablets discussed; it’s because the vast majority of lawyers who use tablets in their practices choose the iPad. In fact, according to the 2014 ABA Legal Technology Survey, 84% of lawyers surveyed who used tablets preferred the iPad and only 10% used Android devices, with the remaining 6% using other types of tablets.

The lawyer I’ll be featuring today, Scott Bassett, is one of the 6%. Scott is a solo practitioner who lives in Florida with a practice focused on Michigan appellate work, and his tablet of choice is the Sony Digital Paper model #DPT-S1. Even though his Sony tablet costs more, he prefers it over the iPad because it’s versatile and substantially lighter: “My tablet is so thin and light you barely know you’re carrying it. At $1,100 it costs nearly twice as much as the iPad, but weighs half as much as the iPad Air. Not only is it lighter, it has a full-size, 13.5-inch screen, so documents appear on my screen full size. It’s a better screen than the iPad Kindle app because of the backlit LCD screen. It’s much easier to read and offers better reading comfort when you’ve got hundreds of pages of trial transcripts to read through. And, the batteries last nearly an entire month.”

What are some of its other advantages?

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When you are starting your solo practice from scratch with no connections, clients, or money, expect to make many sacrifices in the beginning. You must sacrifice time with friends and family to attend networking events meeting people — most of them in the same position as you. You will miss many Simpsons episodes to read legal treatises and practice guides. Money will be spent to pay for office overhead — gifts, luxuries, and even student loan payments will have to wait.

Unfortunately, for one solo attorney, her pursuit of professional success required her to sacrifice one of life’s most treasured partnerships: her marriage. Over the weekend, solo practitioner Vivian Sobers announced on her blog that she and her husband of 11 years have decided to separate and eventually divorce.

Vivian’s story is not unusual. Most of us in our line of work have either experienced rocky relationships ourselves or know someone who has. What is unusual is that she is open about it, and I commend her for that. But here’s the question: is her law practice is to blame for the divorce, or did she bring this upon herself by choosing her career over family?

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Law school can ruin your life if you are not careful. It’s very expensive and the rewards are far from guaranteed. And even if you reap those rewards, you might not like what you’ve become.

But if you do everything wrong, law school becomes just a tragicomic microcosm of poor planning and bad luck.

Forbes has an article up about a woman who is $350,000 in debt and living at the poverty line. Oh, but she has a law degree, and people who haven’t been paying attention are surprised by that…

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I’m not gonna lie, I think this is the best solo practitioner YouTube ad ever. The other ones, the ones strange or ridiculous enough to make this site or be aired during the Super Bowl, don’t impress me. They’re fun, sure. But they smell of slightly unhinged people desperate to get attention. I wouldn’t hire those people.

I would hire the Law Hawk. The Law Hawk looks hardworking. The Law Hawk looks tenacious. The Law Hawk doesn’t take himself too seriously, he takes your rights too seriously! The Law Hawk is good-looking, and I don’t generally think white people are good looking….

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* Well here’s a headline: My Solo Practice Ended My Marriage. [Law Firm Suites]

* Pennsylvania Attorney General claims officials sent and received porn via state email accounts for years, “including top state jurists and 30 current employees of the state Attorney General’s Office.” If the AG’s office is swapping porn at all hours, somehow the whole “systematic blind eye to Penn State” thing makes more sense. [Associated Press via Lehigh Valley Live]

* Interesting argument for law schools to adopt the Montessori method “in the mindset of professors, in classroom management, in physical building design, and in radical curricular reform.” Law school deans’ eyes glazed over until they heard “physical building design” and recognized the potential for more spending. [TaxProf Blog]

* Here come the litany of Supreme Court previews. Most of them will focus on stuff like gay marriage. But this one gets to the sexy stuff, like FLSA regulations. [Federal Regulations Advisor]

* Oh look, the government made a rule that will ultimately accomplish nothing! That’s so cute. [CNBC]

* Prominent lawyer marries actor. Well played. [Jezebel]

* Boalt 3L builds app to “add the features Westlaw forgot.” Westlaw didn’t forget, they were just crowdsourcing. [The Recorder]

* Another review of Supreme Ambitions (affiliate link), David Lat’s forthcoming novel. [Indiana Law Blog]

Keith Lee

There is an old story that tells the tale of three stonemasons. A stranger walks up and asks the stonemasons what they are doing. The first stonemason pauses and says, “I’m making a living.” The second stonemason replies, “I am making the best stone work in the country.” The third stonemason stands up with a distant look in his eyes and says, “I am making a cathedral.”

The first stonemason is a worker bee. He is there to collect a paycheck, nothing more. It is unlikely he will ever find success without someone else’s direction — if he ever finds it at all. A low-level associate. Or doc reviewer. A emp worker. The second stonemason is a craftsman for sure, but lacking in the big picture of what he is doing. An associate. Perhaps a partner someday. The third stonemason is the man who understands the ultimate goal of what their enterprise is all about. He is the senior partner. The one who has clients. One with the will and drive to start his own firm….

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An artist’s visualization of the recent Clio Cloud Conference.

Big used to matter in companies providing legal support, research, and services solutions to law firms.

Lots of money, broad distribution networks, seasoned executives, big conference booths, and fancy branding collateral.

Big was the safe choice. You didn’t get fired for buying from the big company from which every other law firm was buying.

No longer. Small startups are becoming the providers of choice for law firms across the country — and the world.

First, larger legal companies are struggling. They are laying off people. They’re have trouble bringing innovation to the market. Will they be around for the long haul?

Second, law firms like small, for a lot of reasons:

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Keith Lee

Last week I wrote about the times when you experience loss in your career. It is a thing that everyone will face at some point. I touched on how to set aside and move on from these losses in order to continue on with your day, serving your clients, and doing your job.

But lawyers often let themselves get wrapped up in their jobs, letting them define who they are. When you are at work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. five days a week and a few hours on the weekend, your job can come to define who you are whether you want it to or not.

You have to push back….

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Since I began my job search, I have read many books and articles on how to find a job. Most of them gave the usual tried and true advice — meet people and learn new skills — with some variation. And to prove their points, they include cool and heartwarming anecdotal stories.

But I have also been given awful job search tips. They typically revolve around a story about someone who uses a gimmick to get the attention of an employer. One thing leads to another and the applicant is hired over the many others who had better grades and work experience. The success story is passed off as advice because it worked in his particular case in very unusual conditions.

After the jump, I will discuss some of the worst job advice I have been given.

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