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Seth Marcus, a Manhattan solo who practices commercial litigation, was preparing for his first jury trial and needed advice. His solution: “I took someone out to dinner who had experience doing trials.” The trick, he said, was “to get in all my questions before we had too much to drink.” Many solo practitioners agree that one of the toughest aspects of the solo life is the lack of feedback. An extra set of eyes. “As a lawyer, you are paid to be correct,” Marcus noted. It can be a blow to an attorney’s sense of the terra firma when there is not an associate or partner to help resolve the issues, he said. Nevertheless, solo does not always mean solitude. June Jacobson, a Manhattan solo who handles divorce mediation, said there are two types of loneliness facing a solo. There is physical isolation from not having an office full of warm bodies, and the sense of professional isolation, from not having colleagues around to talk things over with. Jacobson has some solutions for dealing with the solitude. She is active in several professional organizations, which helps to develop a network of fellow professionals. She also is a member of two peer groups that meet once a month to discuss management and other practical issues. One is formal, and attendance is mandatory. In the other, attorneys go when they can. Jacobson is also president of the Family & Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New York and is a member of the board of directors of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation. Finally, she participates in a listserv with other attorneys in her field in for discussion of the issues. AMASSING A COLLECTION As with many solos, general practitioner Sanford H. Greenberg has developed “a collection of other lawyers [to] bounce ideas off of.” This is by far the most common method solos use for brainstorming, said Louis J. Russo III, a Manhattan solo who handles a variety of civil and criminal law. “You might be imposing, but that is why you have friends,” Russo adds. But there is a limit to the depth and level of advice non-affiliated counsel can provide. “How in-depth can the advice get in 15 or 20 minutes?” Marcus asks. To get past this problem, Greenberg sometimes composes a team of solo and small firm attorneys with various specialties for his larger or more complex cases. Philip L. Kamara, a Manhattan solo who practices primarily matrimonial law, finds it convenient to compartmentalize his lawyer contacts by their areas of specialty. If he has a real estate or collections issue, he will seek out an attorney he knows is well-versed in the area. BAR ASSOCIATIONS ALSO HELP Another resource solos turn to is the local bar association. For instance, to help prepare for his trial, Marcus took a 2 1/2 day continuing legal education class on trial practice conducted by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Moreover, many bar-related CLE classes furnish handouts and case law updates, Kamara noted. Some special sections of the local bar also offer periodicals, which solos in certain practice areas might find useful, he said. The American Bar Association Standing Committee on General Practice, Solo, & Small Firm Practitioners publishes a magazine called GPSolo and even has a chat room for its members. The New York County Lawyers’ Association’s Solo and Small Firm Practice Section provides a mentor program, advises Ronald J. Katter, a personal injury lawyer and co-chair of the committee. Mentors provide free evening informational seminars, and younger lawyers are also assigned a mentor to whom they have continued access when they need advice. The section is one of the largest in the association, Katter said, making it an excellent networking tool. The committee also sponsors lectures by outside professionals from different fields to help practitioners. This has included experts in marketing, computer technology, ethics and even tax advice for solo practitioners. Finally, some local bar associations have libraries and computer labs, a luxury few solos can afford. The solo or small firm life does have its unique challenges, but with a little effort, isolation need not be one of them. Zachary L. Berman, an attorney and free-lance writer, was a summer intern.

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