f/k/a . . . the archives

April 21, 2004

Special Rules for Solos?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 7:29 pm

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)


phone old   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.”

Most “ordinary” consumers of legal services, as well as the clients of assigned counsel, are served by small and solo firms.   What they do not need are lawyers who want special protection from the “higher expectations” of clients, judges or ethics counsel.   Bar associations do enough protecting of lawyers rather than clients.  The judicial system doesn’t need to jump on the bandwagon. 


oil can 

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.”

6 Comments

  1. David:

    I’m not sure how I missed this post yesterday; I commented on the article independently and linked to it
    here. But I just wanted to say that you pegged me wrong on this one. I see no reason to treat solo and small firm lawyers differently or more leniently because of our size. One of the goals at MyShingle is to help solos and small law firms improve the quality of our work so that we are perceived on par with biglaw firms which are supposedly the barometer of quality in the legal profession. Many of us meet that goal and surpass it. To be honest (and as discussed further in my post at my site, I found some of the proposals — like allowing unlimited fees for fiduciary appointments or slowing down speedy case resolution — to be downright offensive.

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — April 23, 2004 @ 9:34 am

  2. David:

    I’m not sure how I missed this post yesterday; I commented on the article independently and linked to it
    here. But I just wanted to say that you pegged me wrong on this one. I see no reason to treat solo and small firm lawyers differently or more leniently because of our size. One of the goals at MyShingle is to help solos and small law firms improve the quality of our work so that we are perceived on par with biglaw firms which are supposedly the barometer of quality in the legal profession. Many of us meet that goal and surpass it. To be honest (and as discussed further in my post at my site, I found some of the proposals — like allowing unlimited fees for fiduciary appointments or slowing down speedy case resolution — to be downright offensive.

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — April 23, 2004 @ 9:34 am

  3. Thank you for straightening me out on this one, Carolyn.  This is one time that I’m pleased to have been wrong — and it proves that when one “assumes” he only makes an ass of himself and not of the subject of the assumption.  I just corrected the mis-impression and linked over to your post.  This Comment made my day.

    Comment by David Giacalone — April 23, 2004 @ 10:22 am

  4. Thank you for straightening me out on this one, Carolyn.  This is one time that I’m pleased to have been wrong — and it proves that when one “assumes” he only makes an ass of himself and not of the subject of the assumption.  I just corrected the mis-impression and linked over to your post.  This Comment made my day.

    Comment by David Giacalone — April 23, 2004 @ 10:22 am

  5. David – Certainly no need for any apologies. I didn’t take offense – and you were right in that I was excited to see a committee formed to explore the needs of solos and small firms. So it’s not the committee idea per se that I didn’t like – just some of the topics up for discussion. Carolyn

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — April 25, 2004 @ 4:19 pm

  6. David – Certainly no need for any apologies. I didn’t take offense – and you were right in that I was excited to see a committee formed to explore the needs of solos and small firms. So it’s not the committee idea per se that I didn’t like – just some of the topics up for discussion. Carolyn

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — April 25, 2004 @ 4:19 pm

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