April 6, 2007
The Iowa Supreme Court recently decided a disciplinary case that serves as a cautionary tale for young lawyers who enter solo practice without adequate preparation or a safety net of mentors. The attorney, who had enjoyed great personal success prior to launching his legal career, was ill equipped to manage his law practice. His inexperience led to instances of neglect, escrow violations and misrepresentations (for example, he forged client signatures to a bankruptcy petition after travelling to a court to file the document without noticing it was not already signed). There were also indications of mental health issues. The court was not entirely unsympathetic and ordered an indefinite suspension of not less than twelve months.
Here's a link to an article about the lack of training provided by law schools to students interested in striking out on their own.(Mike Frisch)
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I have a problem with this being a 'cautionary tale for sole practitioners. This is the story of one individual who showed serious evidence of mental health problems and it would appear these issues manifested themselves in a certain amount of chaos in his practice and some poor choices. This is not the story of the majority of solos and should not be construed as such. Solos are not little Red Riding Hoods in a forest full of hungry wolves. They are for the most part industrious, responsible business people who seek out the best mentors on their own, build loyal client bases and profitable practices and are responsible for the majority of technological innovation in the practice of law. I resist,and encourage others to resist, sweeping generalizations that feed into already unproductive bias.
Posted by: Susan Cartier Liebel | Apr 6, 2007 7:47:29 PM
I actually think Susan and Mike are more on the same page than it seems. I did not read the post as pejorative of solos or making generalizations about the majority. I think he was encouraging mentoring just as you recommend in your reply. I certainly know that Mike respects solo practice and rails on LPB against any bar discipline favoritism toward firm practice (such as the obsession against advertising).
I guess I am saying you are both right: solos are not by definition prone to abuse or naivete, yet this case IS a cautionary tale for the ones who are (and he did not present that number as large or representative).
In any event, the comment is much appreciated, and readers should know that Susan has an important and respected blog on solo practice, just as we had already noted that Carolyn Elefant writes on the joys of solo practice on her MyShingle.
Posted by: Childress | Apr 6, 2007 8:16:43 PM
Thanks for the comments. As a former solo practice lawyer myself, I most certainly did not intend to engage in "sweeping generalizations that feed into already unproductive bias." I have posted cautionary tales in the past for big firm lawyers, law students and clients and have not thought that the cases condemned any of the categories.
Posted by: Mike Frisch | Apr 7, 2007 5:34:16 AM