"Big Solo vs Small Solo?" No. Only 'Solo'.

Update 4/10:  Ross Kodner wrote a  post on his popular blog Ross Ipsa Loquitor after this post came out (and which stimulated (mostly) healthy debate.) The link got buried in comments on the ABA Journal Online and it is truly worth reading.  In explaining in more depth his attitude, those pricked by the ‘marketing message’ of the terms ‘BigSolo’ and ‘SmallSolo’ as I was can feel less offended. Marketing messages are powerful. We can’t always control the impressions they make or the unintended consequences.  But how we handle the subsequent fallout is just as important. And this was done with class.

Years ago I was driving through a predominantly African-American neighborhood and stopped at a  stop sign.  To my right was a parking lot and there I spotted a hand painted sign which said, ‘White’s Only ‘.  I did a double take because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I then looked at the building attached to the parking lot saw it was  a diner called ‘White’s.  I now understood why the sign was there.  It made perfect sense.  But given the neighborhood, the immediate offense I felt, even though the proprietor had an absolute right to post a parking sign designating reserved parking for his patrons,  it showed an incredible insensitivity and possibly a not so well disguised prejudice.  Clearly, he or she could have chosen different wording. But technically, one could argue, there was nothing wrong with sign because it did its job – let you know this was parking for ‘White’s Only.’  (Yes, I’m aware of the apostrophe.)

This is the same reaction I had to this article written by Ross Kodner in which he attempts to coin, in my opinion, a similarly offensive phrase or slogan, ‘BigSolo.’  My first reaction was, ‘you’ve got to be kidding.  What WAS he thinking? (And I was not alone, trust me.)

But these folks aren’t ordinary solo practitioners in the way we’ve come to think of the category. (Really?  How do you know how I think about solos?) So many solo practitioners have always practiced either on their own, or in small firm situations. They come up the hard way, fending for themselves, often with literally no staff at all, having to learn how to run a business, which most law schools never teach. Traditional solos not only have their JDs, but also a Ph.D from the University of Hard Knocks.

The lawyers emigrating from BigLaw are different. I call them “BigSolos” as opposed to the traditional “SmallSolos.”

BigSolos have pinnacle level substantive knowledge in their single chosen practice area.

I have absolutely nothing against Ross Kodner.  I’ve met him.  He’s a nice guy.  Very knowledgeable. Very good at what he does.  And he’s known for being generous with an abundance of information for the solo community. Actually, this blog post has little to do with Ross.  My issue is with the phrase.  In an effort to create a catch phrase which has soundbite potential and maybe even to position a business venture, a catch phrase is being introduced into legal jargon which can  be very destructive to the solo community, the same way a legitimate sign “White’s Only’ can be destructive and divisive for a predominantly African American neighborhood and any racial relations initiatives.  It’s not illegal.  But should it be done?

Ross is trying to coin the phrase “Big Solo” – a lawyer who has been dislocated from or choosing to leave Big Law and has a clearly defined skill set ‘at the pinnacle’ of their expertise (another phrase which really pricked at people), but lacks law practice management knowledge.  And in attempting this, he  slights all other solos by calling them ‘SmallSolos’.  Yikes. On a desert island with no other natives around this would seem catchy and descriptive of one’s journey to becoming a solo.  But it’s a really, really, really bad idea, offensive within the ranks of the solos and deceptive to  potential clients by conveying superior knowledge.

Solos have longed suffered an image of one clinging to the lowest professional tiers within a caste system first starting within law school and perpetuated with the image of  BigLaw as being the apex of professional success. Solos have been seen  as somehow lesser than, also rans and less expert.  And we know this couldn’t be further from the truth. With the implosion of Big Law there has been somewhat of a leveling of the playing field.  Solos have captured the imagination of the profession in ways not seen before.  They have an opportunity to shine now because they are much more capable of surviving then those being dislocated from their corner offices. They are accustomed to the professional roller coaster ride, more familiar with technology and social media and more.  For the first time in a very long time, those who run solo practices are actually seen as having enviable knowledge by those who are now entering their ranks from BigLaw, mavericks, wonderfully self-sufficient.  Former BigLaw lawyers and solo alike can now stand on level ground in the aftermath of the meltdown, and solos may actually be seen as having a leg up.

By inadvertently, and I do believe it is inadvertent, attempting to create a new term like ‘BigSolo’ (and ‘SmallSolo’) there is the potential to construct a new caste system within the ranks of solos, establishing another wedge between professionals. The distinction is both false and unfair. According to Ross, BigSolo is  descriptive of both the journey to solo status and the pinnacle of expertise. Is he really that insensitive (and wrong regarding expertise) considering he has spent much of his career helping solos?

The term BigLaw caught on because it defined an institution, a structure, a way of professional life separate and apart from small firms and solos.  It is a concept.  Solo is about individualism.  However, when you marry the terms Big and Solo together a very different picture is painted, the solo who seems to have superior expertise within the solo community. All of a sudden I now see ‘SmallSolos’  as an indigenous poor people who stave off attackers with rocks and sticks and whose ranks are now being infiltrated with trained legions of soldiers carrying machine guns. Who would you rather have protecting your legal rights?

That is the power of a catch phrase.

While I appreciate what Ross is trying to do in order to get his point across, it’s a meaningless and bad point and the intentions ultimately become irrelevant. In my opinion, the power of this phrase creates more harm than good. It’s no different then mixing two inert ingredients in an attempt to get cleanser and discovering you’ve accidentally created a highly flammable substance ….while arsonists with flamethrowers are standing near! The intentions no longer matter.

Whatever the motivations, I propose the phrase BigSolo die today.  Ross, if you are looking to capture a market of BigLaw lawyer who now finds themselves in the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of solos, find another term that is less offensive to those  ‘SmallSolos’ out there with incredible expertise and serving their clients admirably the same way the owner of White’s restaurant could have found a better way to designate parking if he wanted to.

In my opinion, regardless your journey, once you become a solo, you are a solo, neither big nor small. Just Solo.

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32 comments on “"Big Solo vs Small Solo?" No. Only 'Solo'.

  • Thank you, Susan. Why would anyone even want to create distinctions between solo’s? Those lawyers fleeing from BigLaw should be feel HONORED and BLESSED to become solo’s. I completely agree that the solo world is about being an individual and being who you are and not being driven like cattle.

    And on another note, “pinnacle” of knowledge???? I have seen countless law STUDENTS, including myself, eloquently battle these so called super lawyers, often winning.

    Now, there are of course tons of excellent lawyers in biglaw and even tons of nice ones. What I am saying is that “BigLaw” or “Solo” does not in anyway define the knowledge or skill of an attorney, at ALL. Those words define a lifestyle. While there are a few solo’s who are solo’s because they can’t find another job, I know that the MAJORITY of solo’s are solo’s choice. That’s right. These lawyers have actively chosen to avoid the so called “apex” of professional success in search of self-defined professional success. Chew on that.

  • Susan,

    I agree completely that we don’t need to create a hierarchy within solo practice with meaningless labels. However, your post raises a bunch of issues that deserve more extensive discussion and consideration so I’m glad that you put it out there.

    First, I think that Ross’ quote is taken out of context. True, he references the “pinnacle skills,” but in the next sentence he basically said that most “Bigsolos” don’t have any practical experience. So he’s not saying that Bigsolos are superior per se, but just that they have an advantage on one front, while other solos have an advantage on another front.

    Second, why is it that someone like Ross is taken to task for differentiating between solos, but solos are not called out for mocking and denigrating biglaw attorneys or those from top schools? There’s an implication that lawyers who went to top law schools or worked at big law are know-nothings, snobs or have a sense of entitlement and that their background doesn’t bring anything of value to law practice while those who worked through the “school of hard knocks” are scrappy and superior. I believe that no lawyer comes to solo practice with a clean slate. All of our backgrounds, whether we worked 60 hours a week to put ourselves through night school or spent 60 hours a week grinding away on document review at biglaw – brings something unique to the way we practice law and all equally deserve respect. That’s Ross’ point – a biglaw attorney might bring top training to a particular area, but a practicing solo brings first practical skills. Both matter equally.

    Third, solos are not a homogenized group. Those who practice in the “biglaw” areas face demands and challenges, and have needs different from solos who serve consumer clients – just like solos who practice criminal law have different demands and needs than those with a civil practice. I often laugh at some of the advise that I’ve seen from law firm marketers to solos who compete with biglaw – e.g., “Sell them on personal service.” Well, truth is that personal service is but a small component of why clients go to large firms. They often go for the name, for the contacts — and in this economy, they can also get deeply discounted rates. Many times, large firms can simply give away work for free, as I’ve found is common in nascent industries (happened a lot in high tech, for example) Moreover, many large firms simply will not consider hiring a true solo for fear of lack of back up and ability to ramp up – no matter how much technology they bring to the table. In addition, it is very rare for a big firm client to hire a solo unless that solo has some prior connection to that client – either through experience at a large firm or government agency or a longstanding ongoing personal relationship with that client. I think it is highly unusual for a client traditionally served by large firms to hire a solo right out of law school or with just a year or two of experience. I’m not saying that I agree with that, but based on my 20 years in the industry, that’s my perception. Finally, many solo lawyers who work in the big law realm require specialized legal research tools and costly training programs that solos in consumer areas do not (either because they can take more moderately priced CLEs or now, classes at SPU).

    Now, I’m not saying that solos who compete with biglaw should just throw up their hands and walk away – there are multiple ways around this challenge (like collaboration, creative billing alternatives, teaming up with more experienced lawyers through of counsel relationships and find ways to share training costs). But my point is that the challenges that lawyers who compete with AmLaw 100 firms are very different from those that lawyers face in the consumer realm and need to be acknowledged and addressed.

    • Carolyn,

      You bring up many points, but unfortunately I disagree with a lot of them.

      However, the point of this particular post was not about Ross, who by the way is very articulate and his statement was not taken out of context, but the ability of a phrase to divide. He is very descriptive about his view of the path of the ‘SmallSolo’ versus that of the ‘BigSolo’ and the benchmark difference is one lacks practical skills, the other lacks expertise. And, ironically, you restated the same.

      QUOTE: That’s Ross’ point – a biglaw attorney might bring top training to a particular area, but a practicing solo brings first practical skills. Both matter equally.

      That is divisive. And offensive.

      Solos are not an homogeneous group. They all are different, ergo ‘individualism’ and the ability for the consumer of legal services to select who they choose. If you don’t hire someone right out of law school and prefer a new solo w/20 years at big law, that’s not going to change.

      Again, that’s not what this post is about. It’s about marketing phraseology that is repellent when his message could be conveyed without being offensive to the solo community and have achieved the same end result, identifying a target market who needs his services.

  • How about Solos formerly known as … then you can go on to describe each particular Solo who have diverse backgrounds but now share a similar struggle.

  • You know, this reminds me of something I see all the time in my niche:

    Big bloggers and small bloggers.

    You have no idea how many “small” bloggers eat themselves alive with self-doubts, fears, worries, insecurities… because they’re facing “big” bloggers, the A-listers, the Goliaths.

    Hate it. Bloggers are bloggers, big or small, and there is no such thing as a “small” blogger.

    Likewise, while I might gravitate towards the concept of Big Solo (as in, I want to be a rockstar businessperson), I sure as hell don’t like where that puts all the “Small” Solos.

    Hierarchies suck. Only the “big” ones win. But they do say that David did win the fight with Goliath…

  • I’m the publisher of TechnoLawyer, which includes the SmallLaw newsletter discussed above. If you believe that at least one goal of publishing lies in inspiring debate, then Ross’ recent SmallLaw column on “BigSolos” succeeded. I think we can all agree (especially as lawyers) that debates are healthy.

    Carolyn Elefant argues persuasively above so I don’t have much to say except:

    1. The “BigSolo” term Ross coined to describe a large firm lawyer who starts a solo practice is clever and seems to have traction. It’s not quite as sticky as “blawg” yet but it may get there.

    2. As the person who edited Ross’ SmallLaw column, I’d like to explain what Ross really meant.

    Traditionally, solos (SmallSolos as Ross calls them) engaged in general practice. Many still do. One day they might close a real estate deal, the next day create a will, the next day take a deposition for a fender bender, etc. While you could argue that they develop a deep expertise in the legal matters of a typical small city, they do not develop a deep expertise in a substantive area of the law — takings for example.

    Ross did not state that all solos engage in general practice. Obviously, many solos specialize in narrow areas of the law. Instead, Ross contrasted BigSolos with traditional general practice solos since most BigSolos tend to specialize and do not have much management experience whereas most general practice solos have lots of management experience but no specialization.

    Does that make sense?

  • Neil, thanks for stopping by. What amazes me is how others feel the need to defend someone who is very articulate. We all understand what Ross meant. It doesn’t make the phrase any less offensive for the image it creates and the power it has to create a division amongst solos. It also assumes judgments on the solo community which in my opinion are a false premise and one many solos agree is a false premise.

    Let me use a recent example which can create a better visual. In Connecticut, a woman was mauled by a chimpanzee. The chimpanzee was subsequently killed by a police officer. This made national headlines. A day later, capitalizing on this news a New York paper used a cartoon of a police officer killing a chimpanzee but in the context of something political, I think it was Congress killing Obama’s first bill (don’t remember what it was.) The cartoonist was using recent news (the killing of a chimpanzee) because he thought everyone would relate the imagery to the recent news. Instead, everyone took great offense, especially the African American community because no one related the cartoon to the recent news. In New York, the killing of African Americans by police officers is a highly flammable and provocative discussion and the image of the chimpanzee set off tremendous anger because historically prejudice against the African American community through visualization would depict African Americans as less than human – chimpanzees. And it was used in the context of killing the first initiative of the first African American president??? It didn’t matter the intentions of the cartoonist. What mattered was the impact on the community and how it was received. Although the cartoon was protected as free speech and the newspaper defended it and tried to explain it over and over, again, it still tasted foul in everyone’s mouth.

    Something sticky doesn’t make it any less insensitive or divisive. Defending your position doesn’t change the impact. That’s my point.

    Yet, ironically, you did create a better description of what Ross was trying to achieve – the highly specialized solo versus the generalized solo. I’m not offended by that. But Big Solo vs Small Solo? I see policemen killing chimpanzees.

  • Susan, your examples of unwitting racism strike me as being over the top and have no place in this discussion as analogies. Also, I hope you’re not suggesting suppressing content that describes solos differently than you would.

    Even if the term SmallSolo disparages traditional solos, which it does not do in my opinion, it would not equate with an unwitting racist remark. After all, no politician has lost his job disparaging investment bankers as a group, many of whom had nothing to do with mortgage securitization.

    Lawyers are supposed to be tough. Not wimps. Solos especially take pride in their toughness — as Ross noted in his column. I think they can handle a couple of clever terms, especially from someone who has helped countless solos over the years.

    We stand by the column.

  • Neil, I’m using analogies to drive a point home. Please stand by your column. I stand by my position that it is a catch phrase which will create more harm than good in the solo community were it to catch on, created with one intention but with unintended results. While I believe it was done inadvertently and meant to be ‘catchy’, it has the potential to create more harm than good. You won’t find me using it nor those solos who have had a similar strong negative reaction.

  • The newly coined term will be short-lived, regardless. Soon, the trend currently causing lawyers to leave BigLaw for Solo Practice will be over one way or another. Either the migration will reverse if (and when) the economy can be temporarily jolted out of cardiac arrest or the trend will continue until BigLaw’s slice of the legal world is minimized to the point that it’s not worth writing articles about.

    With either outcome, the new phrase will be rendered meaningless. A fitting end to a phrase born too simple by half. That all said, it is certainly catchy and has inspired debate. I don’t take personal offense with it (but I can understand some teeth gnashing); the phrase simply seems to miss the mark for me. It fails to capture the real essence of the distinction being made.

  • It occurs to me, reading through these comments, that the conversation has deviated from the point of the original post. Susan’s post was not about the substance of Mr. Kodner’s article, or him as a person, but the phrases that he coined, and the underlying assumptions attached to them. And the post’s message is too important to the changing legal community for this conversation to degenerate into a “your-post-bothered-me-more” tennis match.

    I feel for Mr. Kodner, because I’m sure his article did not seem that controversial to him while he was writing it. All he did was extend an established, near-ubiquitous term (BigLaw) to the attorneys leaving those firms for independent practice.

    Susan’s point, as I understand it, is that attaching the otherwise-understandable prefix “Big” to “-Solo” runs the risk of dividing solo practitioners into factions based on an elitist or classist rubric that isn’t really there.

    The problem with this argument is not that it is mean or false; it is neither. The problem is the assumption that the original phrase “BigLaw” is acceptable in the first place. Susan, in your post, you say:

    The term BigLaw caught on because it defined an institution, a structure, a way of professional life separate and apart from small firms and solos. It is a concept…

    That’s true. But it is a concept that, at its core, distinguishes and elevates the large, corporate-style law firm and denigrates any other form of practice. The term BigLaw was never an innocuous, descriptive phrase. It was meant from its outset to illegitimately promote its subject. Bigger is, of course, better. That’s why you write:

    “All of a sudden I now see ‘SmallSolos’ as an indigenous poor people who stave off attackers with rocks and sticks and whose ranks are now being infiltrated with trained legions of soldiers carrying machine guns. Who would you rather have protecting your legal rights?”

    First off, that is a great comparison. But my understanding is that your sense of frustration and unfairness has been felt by small and mid-sized law firms since the term was first coined. And rightly so.

    As Susan said (repeatedly), the problem is not Mr. Kodner’s thought that newly-independent attorneys, used to corporate business models, need different things than those who have been practicing on their own for some time. The problem is that the catchphrases he uses do more than distinguish between disparate groups; they assign value to those groups.

    The solution, therefore, is not to lump all “solos” together, but to stop trying to find memorable sound-bite phrases with which to compartmentalize them in the first place. The problem with terms like “BigLaw” or “BigSolo” or even “Solo” itself (in certain circumstances) is that they will always be used to separate and rank one thing, one group or one idea over the other. Nothing about a law firm – big, small or solo – makes it better or worse as simply as these phrases would lead you to believe.

    It’s telling that Mr. Squillante defended Mr. Kodner by saying:

    The “BigSolo” term Ross coined to describe a large firm lawyer who starts a solo practice is clever and seems to have traction. It’s not quite as sticky as “blawg” yet but it may get there.

    That’s not a good thing. To me, that reads like an approaching stormcloud. Sure lawyers “can handle a couple of clever terms” in their own practices, but the result of these phrases, writ large, is the detrimental separation of “me” versus “you” in the legal community.

    Now is our best chance, while the profession is reinventing itself, to abandon this jargon for more thoughtful, meaningful distinctions. In the process, maybe we could start seeing other types of lawyers next to us, rather than above or below us.

  • Wow – this is an inflammatory discussion. I consider the critique of rhetoric one of the more important – sometimes disturbing – but on occasion critical functions of modern thought. From such discussion comes sanitary assessments that greatly impede our ability to communicate with alacrity and precision.

    I’ve thought carefully about the arguments presented here. My feeling is that words that contrast based on perception of refinement – big/small and the inane ‘tiers’ (of US News fame) among these – are dangerous and risk separating us one from another not based on nature but on skill perception emerging not from reality but distortion.

    I’m okay with ‘general-solo’ and ‘focused/specialized-solo’ as terms that are more exactly descriptive of exactly what Ross intended to describe. But, even then, there are those who will take offense.

    Sometimes descriptions that divide are necessary – referring to the homeless as homeless is necessary to describe the group, yes? – but, in this case less divisive rhetoric is appropriate. I haven’t even entered solo practice yet – can you wait a little while to start marginalizing me? Nothing I’ve done has ever been small (insignificant) – I live a modest life but it’s big to me. I intend to be the same kind of lawyer.

    Thanks Susan…as usual, you have our future at heart.

    P.S. If Ross prevails, won’t the ABA list serve eventually be renamed “BIGSOLOSEZ” – will I be welcome? After all, in Ross’ eyes, I’ll be small.

  • Neil,

    I think what Susan is trying to say is that we all get what the article was trying to do, but we don’t agree. The article was classifying two different types of solo practicing lawyers, and there is no reason to do so.

    I’ll give you another analogy. At my school there is an unspoken divisive element between part-time night students and full-time day students. Having started as a part-timer and switched into full-time, I have seen both sides. There are a handful of full-time day students that somehow have a sense of entitlement and look down on the part-time night students as not truly a part of the law school and even sometimes less intelligent. What good at all is it for members of my law school community to distinguish between night students and day students other than the time on the clock while they attend class? All it does is highlight falsely based stereotypes, which is only harmful to the community. I for one, CHOSE to start part time so that I could work my first semester, and because it saved me $10,000 in tuition by cutting credits out of my first semester while still graduating in 3 years.

    So to analogize, what good is it to distinguish members of the solo community that have always been solo from those who started in biglaw and are fleeing to solo practices? In my opinion, there is NONE. It highlights falsely based stereotypes that lawyers who have practiced in large law firms are in someway more knowledgable than solo’s, when they aren’t. Of course, there could be biglaw lawyers who happen to be smarter than some solo’s, but that’s just de facto, it bears know direct relationship to the fact that the person practiced in biglaw. Because as I stated in my earlier comment, I have seen LAW STUDENTS out-lawyer the big dogs on more than one occasion.

    To me, any distinction between a formerly biglaw solo and long time solo based on knowledge or skill is an extremely false one. A solo is a solo is a solo.

  • I think this debate is overblown, and now here I go to contribute to it. Susan, you don’t disagree with Ross’ analysis, yet you fear his coining of a term, essentially because it might catch on. It will only catch on if Ross’ analysis has far more gravitas than I suspect he ever imagined it might. And by stoking the flames of the debate, you give it gravitas that it might not otherwise acquire. Should you therefore be criticized for stoking the flames? To the extent that Ross has observed a phenomenon that might catch fire, he has done SmallSolos like me a favor so that we can anticipate it and be prepared to deal with it.

    Although I think your racial analogy is unintentionally inflammatory, I don’t criticize your use of it any more than I criticize Ross for coining a phrase. The blogger’s goal is communication and you have both demonstrated your ability to use your words to communicate.

    • Andy, thanks for the comment. I only want to clarify one point. I said I understood what Ross meant. I never said I agreed with his analysis. Quite to the contrary. And yes, I have a problem with the coining of this term because of all that it implies in a very negative way. If the analogies I applied offend, then I’ve done my job conveying the feelings I and others feel when we see the proposed new catch phrase.

      It’s debatable whether I given something more gravitas or hopefully nipped it in the bud before it has a chance to take off. That remains to be seen, right?

  • Frank seems to suggest that we do away with the discipline of sociology. I believe it’s important to study the differences among groups of people whether in a law school, city, country, etc. In fact, much public policy (not all of it good admittedly) stems from such analysis.

    The fact of the matter is that differences do exist between full-time and part-time students, solos from large firms and lifelong solos, College A and College B, men and women, etc. And it’s useful to study these differences.

    It’s also useful to classify groups to facilitate discussion so I also disagree with Tim. After all, no one here suggests we do away with the term “solo.” Susan has built her new company around this term. Recognizing that this term is too broad to discuss a sociological phenomenon (large firm lawyers setting up shop), Ross simply create two new classification terms to better facilitate exploration of the topic — BigSolo and SmallSolo. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Now, if you want to read an article that generated some genuine controversy, I suggest you read The Perils of Being Solo. Written by a SmallSolo (ha), this column dared to ask the question — is solo practice a good idea?

  • Neil, I can’t decide if you are deliberately not seeing the point of this discussion, looking to diffuse and redirect, or truly don’t understand it. But either way, I will let the readers decide. They’re pretty astute ;-)

    As far as Mazy’s piece, the reactions I read were not so much controversial and provocative as sympathetic for one person’s particular experiences. They didn’t own his experiences. Quite to the contrary.

  • I want to address two points. First, Tim Eavenson says above:

    That’s true. But it is a concept that, at its core, distinguishes and elevates the large, corporate-style law firm and denigrates any other form of practice. The term BigLaw was never an innocuous, descriptive phrase. It was meant from its outset to illegitimately promote its subject. Bigger is, of course, better.

    In my experience, the term “BigLaw” a derogatory term for large law firms and their excesses (crushing billable hour requirements, exhorbitant billing rates, etc.), not one that “elevates” large firms lawyers who work in big firms.

    Second, while you say “I have absolutely nothing against Ross Kodner. I’ve met him. He’s a nice guy. Very knowledgeable. Very good at what he does. And he’s known for being generous with an abundance of information for the solo community,” you also ascribe to Ross a very selfish motivation in coining “BigSolo”: “In an effort to create a catch phrase which has soundbite potential and maybe even to position a business venture . . . .” You continue to ascribe the same selfish motives to him in your response to Carolyn’s comment (“It’s about marketing phraseology that is repellent when his message could be conveyed without being offensive to the solo community and have achieved the same end result, identifying a target market who needs his services.”) as well as to Neil’s (” . . . created with one intention but with unintended results.”).

    I think that’s a very unfair attack on someone who has given hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of advice and other assistance over the years to the solo community.

    As other commenters have noted, perhaps Ross could have used a different phrase to more accurately describe the distinction between lawyers coming to solo practice with little or no management/business/administrative skills and (generally) a very tightly defined practice area and those lawyers who (sometimes) practice in more varied substantive areas (though they don’t necessarily have any better management/business/administrative skills than former BigLaw lawyers). But I don’t think Ross had any ulterior motive for using the term “BigSolo.”

  • I understand your point Susan. It seems, however, that you don’t understand mine. It’s your blog so you’ll have the last word. I’ll just conclude with the following observation:

    If SmallSolo is an offensive term, then so too is “small firm.” Yet many small firm lawyers use the term “small firm” to describe their small firm. Gertrude Stein, eat your heart out.

  • Neil, of course I’ll have the last word ;) Small firm as used by those in a small firm do so not to describe quality of representation or breadth of knowledge in the practice areas. It is used as a quantitative description – the number of lawyers. Solo also describes the number of lawyers. SmallSolo is clearly defined by the author in the article and it is not quantitative but qualitative.

  • Susan, I’m hesitant to contribute to this already overheated debate, but I must speak up in “defense” of my good friend Ross Kodner. I’ve known Ross many years. He’s been in my home. Ross has always stood with and for solo and small firm lawyers. He’s devoted half his life to helping us. He would never intentionally say anything to belittle solo practitioners, no matter their origin.

    I read his article when it originally appeared, and I knew instantly the distinction he was drawing. There is a fundamental difference, surely we can all agree, between practice in a big law firm and practice as a solo or small firm lawyer. The journey from BigLaw (which to me was always a derogatory term) to solo is quite different from the journey most of us have taken.

    This is certainly not to say that a solo coming from a big firm is a better lawyer than one who has followed a different path. But a consultant who markets to a “BigSolo” should be aware of that difference, and understand the needs of the new solo may not be the same as the needs of a solo straight from school or entering practice after running another type of business.

    I don’t care whether the new term stays, but I think it describes a valid distinction. It may be unimportant to a potential client, but it should matter to a practice management consultant.

  • How about the term “Bigfirm rejects?” It’s much more accurate, and isn’t that the point of any newly coined term?

  • Susan -

    Your comments are out of line and ridiculous. You are comparing Ross’ well thought out, insightful comments to racism. And you think that is appropriate? It is a shame that you have decided to attack someone who has given more to solos than most people. And you have decided to do it by making a comparison that is not only inappropriate, but ridiculous and complete BS.

    You should be embarrassed and ashamed. Of course, knowing you, I know that you are not because you did exactly what you set out to do: you got your free publicity out of this. Unfortunately, there is a cost associated with that and that cost is respect. I hope the financial rewards were worth losing the respect of many great, successful and influential solos.

  • It’s a shame the important point of this post is being tossed to the side even though you state very clearly it’s not a personal attack on Mr. Kodner and openly acknowledge his service to the solo community. Others would rather be distracted by what isn’t there to avoid what is – real issues you bring up which could create a division within the solo community. And I find it is in keeping with your on-going championing and defense of the solo.

    But such is the nature of commentary on a blog. It’s all about discussion, the good, the bad and the ugly. (But I do know now why people close comments)

  • Jonathon – I want to point out that you might not be familiar with the use of the word analogy. If you’ve never heard of this word, it means “A resemblance of relations; an agreement or likeness between things in some circumstances or effects, when the things are otherwise entirely different.” (Pay special attention to the last two words – ENTIRELY DIFFERENT!)

    Susan was making an analogy – she wasn’t saying that Ross was a racist BUT that the comment in the blog post in question reflects a basic prejudice, an inappropriate judgment on skill. This observation has credibility and makes sense whether Ross intended the message or not…I’m sure Ross is a nice fellow – the blog post is not nice.

    Susan makes a good argument; if you can’t answer the argument (which apparently you can’t), your only option is to resort to ad hominem. I’m not surprised but I am disappointed because your emotions carried you away. I know you have a point to make; I just can’t figure out what it is by your post. Here’s the challenge – make an actual argument; that way, you see, Susan can dispose of you without having to sink to your level of argument by insult.

  • Jeff -

    I never said Susan called Ross a racist. I said Susan was wrong for using race as an analogy. It cheapens actual racist remarks when someone uses race as an analogy. And there was no attack on Susan. I am actually impressed that she could create an issue out of a non issue and get herself publicity like this.

    Thank goodness I didn’t join SPU!

  • Jonathon – Interesting thoughts…your observation that actual racist remarks are cheapened by analogies is new – I’d like to hear why you think that. It’s worth exploring.

    Your claim that you didn’t attack Susan is disingenuous – you say she creates an issue out of a nonissue and that you’re glad you didn’t join SPU. That’s an attack in general and also an attack on Susan’s character. Making a claim that you surrender in the next sentence is a strategic error.

  • I’ve never closed nor censored comments in 2 1/2 years of blogging. But the time has come to do so on this particular post as this is degenerating beyond relevance to the original post. This is not Above the Law ;-)

    Thanks to everyone who contributed.

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