In February 2006, a Commission To Examine Solo and Small Firm Practice issued a report on how New York's court system could be improved to level the playing field for solo and small firm practitioners. The report may be found http://www.nycourts.gov/reports/ssfreport.pdf
The report opens:The vast majority of attorneys practicing law in the State of New York work in solo and small firms. More than 83.5% of attorneys in New York are solo practitioners, 14.7% work in offices of between two and nine attorneys, and only 1.8% of attorneys work in "large" firms, defined as firms having 10 or more attorneys.
This information will probably shock not only attorneys around the world who know only New York's megafirms, but also New York practitioners. We lack a certain self-awareness and are certainly not well-organized.
The report is chockablock with interesting information about the needs and interests of small firm practitioners and how the costs of litigation could be driven down by a more efficient court system. Technology plays a big role. The report comes out against mandatory electronic filing being instituted. Glenn Reynold's
message that "Small is the new Big" hasn't hit us here.
Some great suggestions: abolish individual court rules, have courts serve orders by fax instead of requiring personal appearances by attorneys, promulgate forms on court websites to avoid the need to purchase expensive formbooks, permit preliminary conferences to be eliminated where parties agree on discovery issues, stagger court appearances to avoid "cattle call" motion calendars.
While this report is highly specific to New York State, it would probably be a good tool for small firm practitioners nationwide concerned about improving quality of life to take a look at. Your state may be way ahead or way behind, it's always interesting to know. The report really takes into account the life differences between urban and rural practitioners.
I did a google search and the report does not seem to have sparked much discussion on the 'net. I hope that some of the other bloggers looking at solo practice, such as Ben Cowgill's Soloblawg
or Carolyn Elefant's MyShingle
will dig into this rich feast. Will Arnie Herz find Legal Sanity
in the report?
Or will the report, as so many other sensible and learned initiatives, die a quiet and unremarkable death? The report was commissioned by Judith Kaye, our highly-respected Chief Judge and was written by thirty solo and small firm practitioners. Bravo! In our maverick tradition, the report didn't pull any punches and may have been a more daring vision than the court anticipated.
If you care about the practice of law and the admistration of justice to real people, this report is critical. It's 95 pages, it's free - read it, talk about it and let's hope it sparks some positive change.