Killing Solo Softly: How Ethics Regulations Threaten Solo and Small Law Firms

Today, many solo and small firm lawyers struggle financially in the face of competition from do-it-yourself websites and attorney-matching platforms. But according to Carolyn Elefant, it’s hardly a fair fight. Onerous ethical rules that are unnecessary to safeguard clients in a digital age place solo and small firm lawyers at a disadvantage when competing against non-lawyer sites. In fact, these ethics rules threaten the very survival of solo and small law firms.

The solution? Instead of resorting to protectionist tactics, Elefant said the legal profession must break the surly bonds of ethics regulation that constrain solo and small firm lawyers. Elefant proposed that many regulations, including the prohibition against lawyers sharing fees with other professionals and the requirement of establishing IOLTA trust accounts, should be amended or eliminated. In addition, she said that law firms need to elevate more women into leadership roles, as the industry must reflect the communities it serves.

The key takeaway? Regulatory protections uniformly applied can help even the playing field and address the unfair advantages that legal professionals who aren’t lawyers enjoy.