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The Small-Firm Adventure

Message from the 2016-2017 Chair

A Salute to Solos and Small Firm Practitioners

 

I have been practicing law for 25 years. When I began my legal career, I worked for a firm with eight attorneys.  Subsequently, I was an in-house staff attorney to major insurance companies.  Each of these in-house staff attorney’s offices was made up of approximately 15 to 25 attorneys, but nationwide there were as many as 500+ attorneys.  To be sure, there is nothing wrong with big firms or practicing law within a big firm. Indeed, I cut my teeth as a trial attorney at large in-house staff counsel offices. While there, I had the advantage of having a dedicated secretary and paralegal.  I was privileged to attend several prestigious trial advocacy training sessions throughout the United States.  Now, I am a solo practioner and teach at Stetson University College of Law as an adjunct professor.

 

Over the past 25 years the legal profession has undergone many changes. One area of change has been the growth and geographic reach of law firms. Today, there are many law firms that have in excess of 1,000 lawyers and offices in each of the major cities of the United States, and in many countries of the world. Legal articles in general and trade press focus frequently on the large law firms, persons within those large firms, their law practices and the clients they represent.

 

Yet, with so much focus today on the large or mega-firms, it causes one to ask whether solo practitioners or small firm lawyers have disappeared from the legal landscape.  At least within The Florida Bar, they have not. The Florida Bar has in excess of 100,000 members.  Members come from all walks of the legal profession: big firms, small firms, in-house lawyers with corporations, lawyers who handle civil matters, family law matters, employment law matters, business matters, criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors and government attorneys. In this age of specialization, I am unable to list the numerous areas of law-some of which where not even thought of when I was in law school, so no slight to any particular group is intended.  Notably, however, is the large increase in the number of solo and small firm practitioners in Florida.  Currently, fully 67 percent of The Florida Bar is made-up of solo and small firm practitioners.

 

Solo practitioners and small firm lawyers serve The Florida Bar in many capacities. They serve on our Board of Governors; they constitute the leadership of many of our sections; they are featured speakers at our continuing legal education programs; and they chair many of organizations that serve the community in which we live. Additionally, given their numbers, solos and small firm lawyers could have a profound influence on the outcome of The Florida Bar elections, if they chose to act collectively and participate.

 

More importantly, from a professional standpoint, many of these solo practitioners and small firm attorneys provide vital legal representation to individuals and businesses in our community in almost every substantive area of the law. The importance of the solo practitioner and small firm lawyer to our profession and society cannot be over-estimated.  Take, for example, the criminal defense lawyer. Most criminal defense lawyers tend to be solos or practice in small firms. They are the backbone of our criminal justice system. Our criminal defense attorneys are responsible for safeguarding the rights and liberties of the accused and, more often than not, are the only persons standing between the client and a jail cell or other criminal penalty. Without them, our adversarial criminal justice system would not work.

 

There are a multitude of other examples I could give concerning the value and importance of the solo practitioner and small firm lawyer to our profession and society; personal injury and family lawyers are two that come quickly to mind. Suffice it to say that without the contributions of solo and small firm practitioners, our profession, community and society would suffer.

 

At the end of the day, all of us, whether we practice at big firms, small firms or as solos, whether we represent large or small businesses, individuals or the government, have the same objectives: zealous protection of our client’s interests, providing quality work for reasonable fees, and promoting integrity, diversity and honesty within the profession. The Florida Bar has an outstanding record of promoting the achievement of these objectives. Those among our membership who are solo practitioners or small firm lawyers have played, and will continue to play, an important role within our profession and The Florida Bar. As Chair of the Solo & Small Firm Section of The Florida Bar, I am honored to be among the membership of Florida’s solo and small firm practitioners. The legal profession would not be where we are today without them.

 

Solo & Small Firm Section members become part of active professional communities and gain access to an array of exclusive section member benefits. For example. Section members receive substantial member-only discounts for CLEs.  Join us for the Section’s Annual Ethics Update Seminar, Annual Law Update Seminar, Bi-Annual Agricultural Law Update Seminar, Going Solo Seminar, as well as the popular Technology Conference held in conjunction with the Winter Meeting of The Florida Bar.

 

We also invite you to join us on the Section’s Out-of-Country trip.  In May 2017, we will travel the Danube River from Prague, to Vienna, and then to Budapest, with other gorgeous ports of call along the way.  The CLE for the Danube River Cruise will focus on The Ethical Dangers of Technology in the Legal Practice.  Please save the date for each of the Section’s seminars, its Technology Conference and the Out-of-Country trip.

 

On behalf of the Solo & Small Firm Section of The Florida Bar, I ask that you take the time to enjoy the fellowship of other attorneys at the Solo & Small Firm Section’s cocktail receptions, which are held in various cities throughout the state.  Section members receive QuickLink, which is a bi-monthly electronic newsletter containing information important to a solo or small firm practitioner.  Section members receive The Link, a more expansive newsletter covering real-life topics dedicated to solo and small firm practitioners.  The Link is a quarterly online newsletter informing Section members of resources, including feature articles and Section news.

 

Additionally, Section members also have access to a variety of benefits including list serves, free and discounted CLEs, an informative website, and the opportunity to author highly-visible articles for publication in The Link.  The Section provides members with opportunities for personal and professional growth regardless of involvement level.  For example, Section members are invited to serve on Section committees, present on panels and participate in Section initiatives.  Section committees are vital to the structure of the Section and members are encouraged to join these committees, which include Membership and Benefits Committee, Law Schools Committee, Technology Conference Committee, CLE Programs Committee, Publications Committee, Social Committee and Technology Committee.

 

With all the Solo & Small Firm Section has to offer, we believe you will learn, network, earn CLE credits, and most of all, enjoy the camaraderie of other solos and small firm practitioners. We hope you will get involved with the Section, which will boost your career.

 

Connect with the Solo & Small Firm Section on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to interact with colleagues, receive Section news, and develop new contacts.  If you would like to author an article, present on a panel, or join a committee, please contact Jennifer A. Dietz at jdietz@JenniferDietz.com, or call me at 813-789-8029.

 

Your membership provides you the resources to grow your law firm and to accomplish your goals by providing what you want most: networking, education, and practice and skills development.

 

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