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.
Carolyn Elefant owns the Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant, a national practice that represents energy entrepreneurs at the intersection of regulation and innovation, and defends communities and landowners across the county impacted by pipeline infrastructure and eminent domain. Carolyn is also founder of the blog MyShingle.com, the longest-running blog on solo and small law firm practice.
Known as the patron saint of solo and small firms, Carolyn writes and speaks on topics including starting a modern law firm in the digital age, how small firms can leverage technology to compete with large firms, the need for regulatory and ethics reform to ensure the sustainability of small law firm practice, and the role of woman-owned law firms in achieving gender equality in the legal profession.
Carolyn authored “Solo by Choice: How to Start a Firm and Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted To Be” and “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier,” as well as the online publication, “41 Practice Areas That Did Not Exist 15 Years Ago.” Carolyn has been listed as an Energy and Environmental Super Lawyer since 2012 (the only small firm lawyer on a list of AmLaw 200 firms), was named an ABA Legal Rebel (2010), a Fastcase 50 Innovator (2011) and an ABA Woman of Legal Tech (2014).