Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Former BigLaws Have Pinnacle Level Knowledge, Maybe

This "Solo is the new Soho" post is making it's way around the blawgosphere. Lawyers are passing it on as a "must read." I wonder if some of them read the article, or just the title. It's always nice to jump on a trend.

I guess some of those passing it on arehappy to be passive in watching the former BigLaw PR machine get to work, to the detriment of solos everywhere.

The post is written by Bob Ambrogi, a man I well respect as an author and blogger.

His "Soho" theme is described as:

"If solo practice was a neighborhood, trendy restaurants would be opening next to long-established pizza parlors and coffee shops. A small art gallery would be setting up shop next to the old corner bar. Apartment buildings would be turning into co-ops and young urban professionals would be snapping them up. As big firms slice jobs, solo is suddenly hip, it seems.

Bob goes on to say what we all knew would happen:

"The National Law Journal reports this week that starting their own firm is becoming layoff option number one for many lawyers who see pink slips coming their way."

Then I'm stopped dead in my tracks:

Technology consultant Ross Kodner has come up with a name for this new breed of large-firm refugees who start their own firms -- the BigSolo. "These folks aren't ordinary solo practitioners in the way we've come to think of the category ... BigSolos have pinnacle level substantive knowledge in their single chosen practice area," Kodner says.

What? Is this the beginning of the former BigLaw PR machine? "Hire us as solos, we're better than what's out there."

I'm all about survival, but this continuation of lawyers eating their own does nothing for our reputation in the world.

Anyone who thinks there is an advantage to hiring a former BigLaw-turned-solo-out-of-desperation, who has never even made their own coffee, put paper in the copy machine, set their own deposition, interviewed a new client, negotiated a fee, written a letter, is, well, probably a typical gullible potential client all caught up in the wonder of it all. "Ooooh, you used to work in one of those big firms?" "I want you!."

After a few hours of outrage over this asinine comment, comments to the post confirming my perception of what was said, Ross Kodner explains he was taken out of context.

And he was, kind of.

Ross explains:

".....the quote doesn't accurately present my view and definition of BigSolos, as is evidenced by some of the comments to your post. The full "SmallLaw" column from is at At a minimum, it's critical to finish the thought you posted - where I said that while a BigSolo might have "pinnacle" level substantive knowledge, most have little or no knowledge of running a law practice as a business. And to address one of the commenters, I did NOT mean to imply that ALL BigSolos have "pinnacle level knowledge." The ones I've worked with do seem to be at that level, however."

Ross, I'm still confused.

What is "pinnacle level knowledge?" How does one get that at BigLaw and not in solo practice, or is that not what you are saying either?

Are you saying that a 10 year solo practicing in a specific niche is not at the level of the 10 year former BigLaw who practiced in a specific area?

I understand your full comment was not printed in Bob's post and the important point that former BigLaws have no idea how to run a practice was left out. However, I am still wondering about this "pinnacle level knowledge."

The way I see it, this is just the beginning of the former BigLaw PR machine that is directed at trying to convince an unknowing public that now that the former BigLaws have arrived in our world, we are blessed.

Finally blessed with lawyers with "pinnacle level knowledge."

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit



Christopher G. Hill said...

As always, both provocative and insightful. The point about running a practice and marketing one is well taken. Most big firm associates are never given the chance to properly market themselves.

This trend both hampers them outside of the umbrella of the big firm and hampers the big firm by stagnating the client pool.

South Florida Lawyers said...

There's nothing new about ex-big-firmers opening up small firms and marketing their big-firm experience. I guess what's new is in the past, they formed small firms voluntarily, to escape the strictures and limitations of a big-firm environment.

Yet these are ex-big-firmers who never wanted to leave.

So the question is whether being forced into a small or solo firm will make you a better small firm lawyer, or not?