An article in today’s New York Law Journal says the State’s Chief Judge has created “a commission to examine the difficulties facing solo and small firm practitioners, a contingent that totals about 80 percent of lawyers in the state.”
“[T]he 28-member panel is to provide a way for solo and small firm lawyers to have a voice in the rules and requirements established by the Office of Court Administration, [Chief] Judge Kaye said yesterday” (NYLJ, “New Commission Gives Voice to NY Solo, Small Firm Lawyers,” by Leigh Jones, 04-21-04)
This will surely be greeted with joy over at MyShingle. [see my blushing Update below] But, we’re a little skeptical over here. The “problems” leading to establishment of the Commission, as mentioned in the article, make me wonder if solo/smalls want legal standards and ethics to be dummed down, in order to meet the “special” needs of these “challenged” practitioners. For example, the small fry firms worry about:
higher expectations from clients
added pressure for judges to move cases faster
“Especially detrimental” recent limitations on fiduciary appointments, that “restrict law firms from receiving more than $50,000 in fees for fiduciary work in one calendar year and bar firms that employ political leaders from accepting appointments.”
Somehow, I think the “voice” of a mere 80% of the State’s lawyers is already loud enough (viz., just whose interests have stymied the growth of assistance to pro se litigants, self-help-law resources, and small claims court reform? and who were so successful for so long in preventing adoption of mandatory continuing education requirements? I don’t think it was BigLaw and the White Shoes dudes in NYC). SmallLaw has always been the Squeaky Wheel and always gotten plenty of grease.
June Castellano, the Rochester, NY, attorney who will chair the Commission, has a reputation as a fine, hard-working lawyer. I’m hoping June will see quality control as a big part of her job.
Update (04-23-04): I’m pleased to say that I was wrong about how Carolyn Elefant might respond to the creation of this Commission, and I apologize for using MyShingle as an e-foil. Carolyn, separately, had concerns similar to mine about lowered quality of services and explains them far better than I did. See her Comment here and her posting yesterday.here.
P.S. This is, perhaps, a good place to point our readers to a useful article from the new SmallFirm Business magazine on writing skills — Especially for Small Firms, Writing Skills Investment Pays Off (National Law Journal, by Jonathan Hershberg, 04-19-04). The author makes some important points, including:
Like it or not, each practicing lawyer is also a professional writer. Words on the page are often the only evidence of his or her character and intelligence. They convey the full weight of the author’s personality. Clumsy or inarticulate writing chips away at the reader’s trust. That trust is sacred; it is the single most important asset an attorney has, and it is well worth protecting.
Among the helpful tips:
“Make clear writing a top-level priority. Too many professionals use pretentious, inflated language to make their ideas seem more impressive or to defend them from question. It rarely fools anyone, and serves only to frustrate everyone involved. . . .
Fear plays a key role in perpetuating a long-winded and confusing style. Since clear writing is by definition easy to understand, it is also difficult to hide behind.”
Above all, respect the reader. Know your point, and get to it quickly. Respect the reader’s time, and make sure your point is easy to find and understand. . . . No one appreciates confusing, careless prose, and there’s nothing quite like it to poison a reader’s good will.”