Solo/Small Firms

Big Firm Bust = More Solos?

As clients demand more face time with attorneys and lower fees in a turbulent economy, there may be an opportunity for BigLaw lawyers to go solo.

Take Chicago-based lawyer Rishi Agrawal, a former staff attorney at Eimer Stahl Klevorn & Solberg. After nine years of practice under his belt, he left his firm to develop his own litigation practice in 2007. And he’s not looking back.

Agrawal predicts that more midsize and large law firm lawyers will bail on floundering firms to become solo practitioners in the wake of the financial crisis.

“In the next two to five years, as law firms continue to struggle, people will go this route,” Agrawal says in a recent ABA Journal interview.

For attorneys who don’t fear making their own rain, prior law-firm experience could yield six-figure solo salaries. “It’s a huge plus to be able to say I’ve worked on multimillion-dollar cases,” Agrawal says.

Lower overhead and staff costs mean a larger take-home percentage of legal fees, offsetting fewer billable hours. Plus, given the higher income to work-hour ratio he now enjoys, Agrawal says he doesn’t mind filing his own motions and other administrative duties.

“That kind of infrastructure is useful and a benefit, but you can do pretty well” without it, Agrawal adds. “I’m surprised more attorneys don’t consider [going solo].”

While Agrawal didn’t bring a book of clients to his new practice, he did benefit from business relationships formed through professional associations, such as the Asian American Bar Association and Indian Bar Association. Agrawal also receives medical insurance through his wife’s employer.

As law firms fold and business disappears or shift, the ABA Journal wants to know if you’ve considered taking the solo plunge. See the Question of the Week to share your answer.

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