What’s a Solo Practitioner?

I’ve been thinking about this question for years. Today, I’m asking for help finding an answer.

Why does it matter? Maybe it doesn’t. It just vexes me that we don’t have common vocabulary on this topic. I hear different lawyers use the term differently. Since we use the term to categorize and organize ourselves, I’d like to know what it means.

  • Are you a solo if you practice all by yourself with no help from others?
  • What if you add an answering service like Ruby Receptionist?
  • What if you add a virtual assistant?
  • What if you get some help from the person at the front desk at Regus?
  • What if you hire a part-time assistant? Would a full-time assistant make a difference?
  • What if you hire a paralegal?
  • What if you hire an attorney?
  • What if you share space with another attorney?
  • What if you bring in a non-equity partner?
  • What if you bring in a traditional partner?

Where do you draw the line?

Who cares? Maybe no one except me. I’d like some clarification.

The American Bar Association has a Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division. Is a sole owner with 10 associates and 20 other employees still a small firm? Does it belong in the Division?

Carolyn Elefant, at My Shingle, says she “she celebrates the joys of solo practice.” So what is a solo?

Solo Practice University educates solos with a broad range of offerings. What exactly is a solo?

Jordan Furlong at Law21 sometimes writes about solos (which he sometimes refers to as “sole” practitioners) and provides excellent advice. What does he think solo means?

There are a bunch of other experts who talk about life as a solo. Please help me understand what it means.

Usually, I’m trying to be provocative, contrary, and difficult. This time, I’m just curious. I hope some of the voices in the solo community will respond on their sites so we might learn how this term is defined.

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