Competency of lawyers – Solo and otherwise

It has been suggested that I was a bit harsh in asserting that sole practitioners are not competent.

Far from that! Many sole practitioners are the leading experts in their practice area. In fact, most lawyers are sole practitioners, even those that find themselves in BigLaw environments. There are few law firms that are truly collegial in nature.

Nor do I think that law school graduates leaving school to start their own practice immediately are necessarily incompetent. What is true, however, is that they are less competent than they will be a few years hence … and generally they have few, if any, colleagues to guide them through the murky competency waters of law practice. That being said, however, the nature of the cases “new” lawyers take on tend to be matters where they can learn the needed skills as they grow in their practice, without prejudice to clients. And everyone is benefited, the client who may receive service at a lower price and the lawyer who learns on the job … the point being that he/she learns and is better for the following client.

Because of the financial difficulties faced by law firms in the last couple of years, with declining client demand, declining revenue and declining profitability, the nature of the profession is changing … and private apprentice programs are being developed. If these are successful … and I have every reason to believe that programs like Howrey’s will be … law schools and bar associations may be motivated to participate in developing meaningful apprenticeship programs and perhaps even change the requirements for becoming a lawyer.

Something to watch on the landscape while others such as Richard Susskind actually challenge the very foundation of today’s law firm business model.

As an aside, but on the subject of the economic impact of being a sole practitioner, I encourage you to participate in an upcoming West LegalEdcenter tele-seminar on the issue of required disclosure to clients of the lack of malpractice insurance. This is a topic that impacts, almost exclusively, about 20% of the lawyer population, almost all solos, in approximately 23 states.   These State Bars have given only lip service to helping sole practitioners while at the same time adopting mandatory malpractice insurance disclosure with significant economic consequences, among many other similar increased cost programs.

I also encourage you to join our new community for lawyers at and invite your colleagues as well to express your legitimate opinions and concerns of the profession.


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