ILNews

Annual solo and small firms conference reaches out to law students

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

When planning the Indiana State Bar Association’s 10th Solo & Small Firm Conference, Ted Waggoner wanted to bring some new faces into the fold. Waggoner, long-term development chair for the conference planning committee, said the committee got enthusiastic responses when it contacted law school deans about inviting students to the event.

Law schools tend to focus on large firm practice, Waggoner said, but at a time when hiring at large firms seems to have stalled, students may be looking for new career options.

“I think there are opportunities out there, and the students are starting to realize that, and the law schools are starting to realize that,” Waggoner said.

Last year, only 11 students registered to attend the conference. This year, about 30 students from Indiana law schools attended the conference in French Lick, June 2 through 4. Donna Bays, conference chair, said the students “brought a vibrancy that 50-year-olds just don’t have.”
 

soloHamilton Superior Court Judge William Hughes chats with law student Anahit Behjou. (Photo submitted)

Many law school graduates begin their careers as associates at mid-size or large firms. But with the number of associates outnumbering senior partners, Bays said, it’s clear that those entry-level lawyers must end up somewhere else. Solo and small firms may be a place for them to land – particularly in rural areas.

“It’s difficult to get young lawyers into rural areas of the state – it just historically has been difficult – and there are opportunities in the Rensselaers and the Salems,” Waggoner said. “I was even talking to a lawyer in Warsaw – which is, from the Indianapolis perspective, a small town – there are lawyers there who are either looking to bring new lawyers in or bring lawyers in to replace lawyers.”

As lawyers in small, rural firms retire, the need for new attorneys may increase. But Bays said that while many solo and small firms see their business beginning to pick up again after weathering the recession, at the moment, they are not confident about hiring. While she doesn’t think firms in small towns are faring any worse than those in cities, Bays said in close-knit communities it may be easier for people to detect financial woes.

Small-firm education

The adjunct staff in law schools generally comes from large firms, Waggoner explained, and students may not be learning about small firms. At least two law schools have taken steps to introduce small firms to the curriculum.

Last year, Indiana University Maurer School of Law invited Waggoner to teach a course on solo and small firm practice. Ken Turchi, assistant dean for communications and marketing, said the class will be offered again.

Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis offered a course this summer in law practice management that focuses on solo and small firms. Jonna Kane MacDougall, assistant dean for alumni affairs and external relations, said that the course is not yet a permanent part of the school’s curriculum but will be proposed to the faculty as a permanent addition. If that happens, it would be offered again in the spring semester of 2012.

Perks and drawbacks

Bays enjoys being her own boss because she is not beholden to keep particular office hours. She said she appreciates that flexibility, which has allowed her to attend family events. “When you work for someone else, they may not value that the same way you do,” she said.


solo Law students Courtney Benson-Kooy (left) and Yana Spitzer (middle) chat with Indiana State Bar Association President Jeff Lind. (Photo submitted)

She gets to choose her clients, and she passes on those that aren’t a good fit. In large firms, she said, lawyers may not have much say in which cases they handle.

A primary challenge small and solo firms face is a lack of on-site peer support. Lawyers may not have another person in the office to turn to for advice and they may feel disconnected from others like them, who are spread out across the state. Bays said the ISBA’s small firm section has a listserv that solos and small firms can use to stay connected.

“Anyone can reach out at any time,” Bays said. And the conference committee made sure to develop activities to create bonds between solo and small firm attorneys.

“We had them doing all sorts of things that would make the bonds and cause them to remember one another later on,” Bays said.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Today, I want to use this opportunity to tell everyone about Dr agbuza of agbuzaodera(at)gmail. com, on how he help me reunited with my husband after 2 months of divorce.My husband divorce me because he saw another woman in his office and he said to me that he is no longer in love with me anymore and decide to divorce me.I seek help from the Net and i saw good talk about Dr agbuza and i contact him and explain my problem to him and he cast a spell for me which i use to get my husband back within 2 days.am totally happy because there is no reparations and side-effect. If you need his help Email him at agbuzaodera(at)gmail. com

  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

ADVERTISEMENT