Solo practitioners forming support networks
October 5th, 2012 by Briana Cummings
There has been, beginning quite recently, a growing movement to create training and support systems for new lawyers who want to pursue the small or solo practice route, including more real-world practice-oriented training for law students and incubator and residency programs for recent graduates. This week, I spoke to leaders of two organizations that represent another support model for solo and community lawyers: virtual networks.
The Community Legal Resource Network (CRLN) a New York group affiliated with CUNY’s law school, and Starting Out Solo (SOS), a Massachusetts group. Both are new creations: CRLN was established in 1998, Starting Out Solo in 2008. Both were bottom-up responses to the perceived lack of support for solo practitioners and both, independently of one another, developed — in some respects at least — similar models.
CRLN’s 300 member lawyers, from the five boroughs of New York City, have varied experience and expertise. They can ask a variety of substantive, practice-related, and business-related questions of one another on CRLN’s listserv. CRLN has a small staff to raise funds to deliver community services and, on an informal, limited basis, provide referrals for legal services. One of CRLN’s flagship projects is the incubator program for new CUNY grads opening a small or solo practice.
SOS was launched by a handful of new solo practitioners in Massachusetts as a resource for solos who needed someone to ask all the “stupid questions” new lawyers have when they first start out. Like CRLN, SOS runs a listserv for this purpose. It also organizes a shadowing program, for new lawyers to shadow those with more experience on certain matters; offers discounts on Solo Practice University, which offers online training for solos on the practice of law; and, at meetings held every six weeks, provides trainings on everything from malpractice insurance to marketing to technology. Membership has fluctuated between 70 and 150 members. SOS has no full-time staff; it is run by different lawyers working on the side to contribute various facets of the organization depending on their expertise and interest. (E.g., one member with a tech background engineered the listserv, another took care of incorporating the group.) It is funded by members’ small annual membership fee.
Do you know of other networks like this out there?