A new survey of solo and small law firms examines the management challenges they face and how they are responding to those challenges. Thanks to Thomson Reuters Solo and Small Law Firm group, which conducted the survey, I’ve been given exclusive access to the survey results and will be reporting them in a series of posts over the next two weeks.

To kick off my reporting on the survey, I have a post at Above the Law in which I summarize some of the key findings. I will be following that up with posts here in which I drill down into more of the specific issues covered in the survey.

Here’s how I summed it up in the ATL post:

Overall, the survey paints a picture of a segment of the legal profession that faces substantial challenges in balancing the demands of law practice against those of managing their firms. They face competition on multiple fronts and increasing demands from clients to do more for less. Management tasks take up some 40 percent of their time. Yet, even in the face of all this, the vast majority consider their firms to be successful.

Read more of the introductory post at Above the Law and then watch here for further updates.

  • What struck me in your ATL post is this: “Here again, the measures of success varied by firm size. For solos, the greatest indicator of success is client satisfaction rankings. In every other sized firm, lawyers say overall profits is the greatest indicator of success.”

    I wonder if solos’ answers are honest, or whether a substantial percentage really do believe, deep down, that the greatest indicator of success is overall profits, but don’t want to admit that fact to themselves, because their own profits aren’t particularly high. In this regard, I believe that a lot of lawyers believe in the doctrine of sacrifice, as described at :

    Despite of his choice to pursue a secular career, More continued to observe certain ascetical practices for the rest of his life, including occasionally engaging in flagellation.

    I’ve already written extensively about the “Doctrine of Sacrifice” which has seeped into our profession and how it has lawyers (mistakenly) believing that sacrificing your happiness is an inherent and noble part of “serving” clients. This way of thinking turns you into the servant and clients into your masters – and adds insult to the injury by saying you should find happiness in the sacrifice!

    Gee, imagine that! Our Patron Saint was given to self-punishment as a form of religious obedience. And nowadays lawyers go around taking pride in how MANY hours they work for their law firms seemingly oblivious to the self-destructive nature of selling hours when our clients and our families would much prefer us to deliver results efficiently and get home in time to enjoy our lives.

    • Bob Ambrogi

      Lisa – Good points. Another possibility is that solos see a strong correlation between client satisfaction and overall profitability, perhaps because repeat business is a more critical foundation of a solo’s practice. So, in other words, profitability is important to them, but they see client satisfaction as the way there.

      • It’s not clear if you’re saying that, as a fact, repeat business is more important to solo practices than to practices of any other size. If you are, what’s the basis for that statement? If you’re saying that solos believe, at a greater rate than lawyers in other firms, that repeat business is more critical to their practices, why would that be the case?

        The data could support my hypothesis or yours. It’s my hypothesis that solos with below-average incomes for their geographic areas are more likely to say that greatest indicator of success is client satisfaction rankings. I suspect that the TR survey didn’t analyze the data in this way. By the same token, if the full dataset was made publicly available (or the relevant data points were made publicly available), the analysis could be done.

        Finally, please clarify how firm size segments were broken down, and how many respondents were in each segment.

        • Bob Ambrogi

          I’ll be drilling further down into the data in further posts.

  • Brad Rosen

    Bob- I would be interested in knowing the interplay between “Practicing Law” (61%) and “Meeting and Speaking with Clients” (12% of the lawyers time). When a lawyer is meeting and speaking with a client about facts of a case, relative legal precedents, or strategy, that to me constitutes “practicing law”. Are you able to provide some clarification on this? Thx- Brad