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. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

ADVERTISEMENT