Amid predictions that "the percentage of lawyers
practicing in solo and small firm settings will continue to increase for the
foreseeable future," the Boston Bar Association Task Force on the Future of the
Profession today released a report
calling on the BBA to expand its programming for this rapidly growing
population. The 15 person task force was co-chaired by Christine Netski, a
partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen and Maureen O'Rourke, Dean of
Boston University School of Law, and was convened more than one year ago by then
BBA President Donald R. Frederico.
"Don Frederico was really prescient in identifying the need for the BBA
to see whether the changes we began seeing in the profession in 2008 were merely
cyclical or whether those changes signified a need for us to respond to deeper
shifts within the profession," said BBA President Lisa C. Goodheart. "The report
will provide us with essential guidance going forward."
Frederico charged the task force with studying the challenges facing new
lawyers in the current economic climate and exploring how the BBA might support
new grads without jobs, as well as those laid off soon after graduating.
Among the trends the task force observed are that law schools are finding it
extremely difficult to place their students, law firm clients are refusing to
pay for the services of newly-minted J.D.'s and young associates, and
fundamental changes in the purchase and delivery of legal work.
"The difficult market facing new law graduates appears unlikely to
improve in the near term, particularly in the 'big law' sector where many people
entering law school had hoped to land," said Netski. "But the BBA is
well-positioned to assist new grads and lawyers in transition in developing the
entrepreneurial skills that are essential to building a sustainable and
fulfilling career as a solo or small firm practitioner."
The report's most salient point is that the BBA can help foster the
development of innovative ways to serve clients in the rapidly changing
marketplace and continue to deliver the message that there are many routes
toward a successful career in the private sector.
to the report, Boston, with its six law schools and a substantial share of
Massachusetts' 55,000 lawyers, faces challenges of unemployment and
underemployment among both newer and more seasoned attorneys. In its report, the
task force proposes that the BBA take the following measures:
Develop and offer an intensive educational series targeted to new lawyers
who have started or are interested in starting their own practices, focusing on
the basics of law firm practice management, how to develop a business plan, and
how to identify unmet legal needs that translate into business opportunities.
Explore a pilot startup program that will offer a select group of lawyer
entrepreneurs an opportunity to receive assistance from the BBA in setting up
and succeeding in their own firms.
Continue expanding the BBA's mentoring program. The mentoring program run by
the BBA Diversity and Inclusion Section already has a group dedicated to lawyers
establishing solo practices, and could provide a useful model.
"One thing is certain," said Dean O'Rourke. "For the foreseeable future, more
and more new law graduates and lawyers leaving careers at large firms are likely
to enter solo or small firm practice. Although the profession at all
stages has tended to focus on 'big law,' ABA figures show that nearly 50 per
cent of all private lawyers in the U.S. are solo