Beyond Bay St.: Starting up a Small or Solo Practice

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This seminar is designed for upper year students, who are interested in thinking realistically or hypothetically about launching a small or solo practice.

Small and solo practitioners pursue often different goals and face different challenges to those in large law firms or in an in-house role, where significant support staff and an existing management structure often remove lawyers from the “business of law”. Small and solo practitioners must pursue the dual goals of delivering competent, high-quality legal services while at the same time operating a small, for-profit business. What are the challenges? What is the potential?

There are many reasons why lawyers choose to practice in a small or solo setting: professional autonomy, work-life harmony, client selection, practice specialization, etc. Indeed, practice in a small or solo setting can offer a rich and rewarding career. It also comes with its unique challenges in comparison to the larger firm setting. Even where challenges are the same (i.e. dealing with a contracted market for legal services; ethics enforcement; LSUC regulation, etc.), the way that such issues impact on practice will vary in relation to the size and structure of the firm.

The seminar encourages students to consider their place as professionals serving local communities. The seminar will include broad engagement with the legal community, including guest lectures and panel discussions. The seminar will guide students through the questions which need to be answered in setting up and running an ethical, professional small or solo legal practice, and the larger changes which are shaping the landscape in which these practices operate. Through readings, discussions, group work and assignments, students will consider current debates and dilemmas that inform the choices to be made in creating a legal career as a solo practitioner or within a small firm structure.