Why Solo Practitioners Should Have the Option of Living on Venus OR Mars

A couple of years ago, I watched Avvo founder Mark Britton give a great presentation titled Lawyers are from Mars, Businesspeople are from Venus at the Clio Cloud Conference. It was a primer for lawyers on how to be good business people and get from Mars (where lawyers live) to Venus (where businesspeople live). I found everything he said to be spot on, but the presentation assumed that teaching lawyers how to be better business people and moving them from Mars to Venus was the best approach, or maybe even the only approach.

Many (most?) lawyers want to stay on Mars

I have helped administer one of the largest legal incubator programs in the country for four years now and my experience has been that most solo and small firm attorneys don’t really enjoy running a business. What they enjoy doing is practicing law, and they chose to go the solo route because they want autonomy, work-life balance, and the opportunity to serve everyday people – all things that are hard to find at traditional law firms. They want to stay on Mars but choose Venus because it’s better than the alternative.

Introducing branded networks

What we need is another option, one that allows attorneys to focus on practicing law while retaining their autonomy. The legal profession needs a branded network like Aspen Dental. According to Aspen Dental’s website, “each Aspen Dental branded practice is owned and operated by a licensed dentist. Aspen Dental Management, Inc. (“ADMI”) provides administrative and business support services to Aspen Dental branded dental practices. ADMI licenses the “Aspen Dental” brand name to the independently owned and operated dental practices that use its business support services. ADMI does not own or operate the dental practices, employ or in any way supervise the dentists providing dental care, and control over the care provided is the sole responsibility of the independent practice and the dentists they employ.”

If the legal profession had a branded network like Aspen Dental, attorneys could outsource all the administrative, marketing, and other business tasks that lawyers don’t want to do. In exchange for a monthly fee, lawyers could focus on practicing law in a way that aligns with their professional goals and well-being.

Sound too good to be true? That’s because right now it is. Why? Because of our archaic ethics rules. In most states, the act of a branded network collecting a fee for services on behalf of a lawyer and then passing it on to the lawyer is considered a fee split by a “non-lawyer,” which is prohibited unless the branded network is 100% owned by lawyers. Why is it prohibited? At this point, we honestly don’t know. No good argument has been offered.

Feedback wanted

If you are a solo attorney, we would love to hear your feedback on branded networks. If branded networks like Aspen Dental existed within the legal profession, would you consider joining one? Please share your thoughts with us below!