Friday, August 05, 2005

The Stigma of Solo


Small/Solo practitioners are often regarded as the red-headed step-children of the medium/big firm legal establishment. Large, international firms work diligently to promote the image that firms, where the only attorney is the one on the letterhead are incapable of handling complex litigation and making a substantial impression in court.

Is the image unwarranted, or are small/solo practitioners also to blame for the "solo stigma"?

In 2004, the ABA Journal featured an article in which several successful solo practitioners related their experiences in dealing with medium/large firm colleagues and their own clients. Initially, they all shared the same stigma of being attorneys not competent enough to be employed by larger firms. However, they each overcame the stigma in the end through a combination of competent professionalism and effective marketing, in essence reassuring clients that they chose to pursue a solo career path rather than being reconciled to it.

In my opinion, the "solo stigma" can be both a handicap and a tool: Let's face it - there are a lot of small/solo attorneys out there who are practicing by themselves for reasons such as professional incompetence; or inability to play nicely with others. But for those who pursue a small/solo route because they would rather enjoy the fruits of their talents themselves, could the relative ineptitude of their less-competent colleagues provide an effective marketing device? In essence, can small/solo practitioners through marketing (read: branding); use of technology and past professional sophistication capitalize on the relative shortcomings of their other small/solo colleagues to their own benefit?

Have you suffered from "solo stigma"? If so, how did/do you remedy it?

Do you address "solo stigma" in your marketing plan? How?

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