Writing in Above the Law, Jordan Rothman argues from personal experience that solo lawyers would be better off partnering in a law firm with one or more other attorneys. As someone who has operated partner-less for almost 10 years now, after Big Law partner experience (where one literally doesn’t know many of one’s partners because there are so many of them), I’ve seen different arrangements and have some thoughts on these issues. While there are some clear advantages to having partners, much of Rothman’s argument is based on an unduly restrictive assumption about how solo firms must operate.
In some ways, my law firm, Andrew Abramowitz, PLLC, is at the forefront of recent changes in the delivery of legal services. For example, the firm operates virtually, with the staff attorneys toiling away at home (or wherever – they could be doing it while hang-gliding as long as they do the job well and promptly, as far as I’m concerned). The ability to get the work done without housing everyone in an expensive Manhattan leased space gives the firm flexibility to offer more competitive rates than traditional firms.
When I am having initial discussions with potential startup clients, they often say they’re looking for a firm that understands the particular challenges of running a startup. Perhaps this can be a reference to the substantive transactional matters that startups deal with – like negotiating an agreement among founders or raising capital using methods particular to early-stage companies – that attorneys who’ve been trained by representing Fortune 500 companies may not understand. But often the subtext of the question is that startups are frequently short of cash and may not be in a position to pay legal bills on a regular basis. The challenge for the attorney is to secure these sorts of clients and still manage to make a living after doing so.
When I am estimating costs for a project for prospective clients, particularly those new to the formation of business entities and deal-doing, a common source of confusion is why there needs to be a fee paid to my law firm as well as to a corporate service company like CT Corporation or CSC. So, I thought it would be useful to briefly outline the different roles that each of us plays in the creation and maintenance of entities.
So, the good news for the law firm of Andrew Abramowitz, PLLC is that business has increased steadily over the past few years. The bad news is that there has been somewhat of a greater tendency among clients to be slow in paying invoices. There is a hassle factor associated with this, as it requires frequent follow-up, but the real issue, as anyone who runs a small business will know, is that lumpy income creates financial challenges. My firm has regular expenses that can’t be contingent on the timing of my clients’ payments, and the owner of the firm (yours truly) has personal expenses that are equally not capable of being deferred while I wait for payment. (All of this sounds very self-pitying, but I’ll get to the point soon. I’ve been very fortunate in life and cannot complain.)