Today, Clio, the world’s leading provider of cloud-based legal technology, released the 2023 Legal Trends for Solo Law Firms report, revealing unique insights into the strong and vital contingent of solo lawyers in the legal services market. Running a solo practice is becoming an increasingly popular route for lawyers. As outlined in the report, 31% of lawyers who quit their firms in 2022 started their own solo practice.
Key highlights from the report indicate that solo lawyers are more capable of deeper client relationships than lawyers working at larger firms. While the majority of solo lawyers have embraced remote work and flexible work schedules, many also risk overextending themselves by working late and on weekends. The adoption of cloud-based technology helps solos manage workloads, and new advances in legaltech give them many opportunities to innovate their capabilities, creating more efficiencies and better experiences for clients.
“Solo lawyers remain at the forefront of innovation in providing legal services, with high legal technology adoption rates and built-in agency to shift their services to meet the needs of the public,” said Joshua Lenon, Clio’s Lawyer-in-Residence. “This report provides the perspective required to help solo and small law firms grow to the next level, and stay competitive as larger firms accelerate. Mapping these trends gives us a clear picture of where solos are thriving, and how to navigate the challenges specific to this segment.”
The 2023 Legal Trends for Solo Law Firms report uses a range of methodological approaches and data sources to deliver insights about the state of legal practice and strategies for future improvement. Based on data from Clio’s 2022 Legal Trends Report, it features unique analyses specific to solo lawyers, providing updated data to benchmark business performance against other solos, as well as larger firms.
Smaller operations are less focused on revenue
When compared to larger firms, solo lawyers have seen slower business growth, lower performance across key business metrics, and lower hourly rates. Much of this likely has to do with the limited amount of time and resources that solo lawyers have to put toward their business. Simultaneously, running a leaner operation with lower hourly rates can help position themselves competitively within the broader market for legal services.
- Solos have seen only about half of the revenue growth that larger firms have achieved since 2019
- Lawyers working at larger firms bill almost an additional hour every day
- Lawyers working at larger firms charge 20% more per hour
- Solo lawyers are 24% more likely to report having positive relationships with clients
Workplace flexibility is important to solo lawyers
While solos are generally less satisfied with the revenue they bring into the firm, and what they take home in personal income, being a solo gives them more freedom to work when and where they want. Overall, more solos prefer to work at home and half prefer to work with clients virtually. Most also want to choose which hours of the day to work.
- 62% of solos want to work at home
- 50% of solos want to meet clients virtually
- 98% of solos want to choose what hours they work
- 88% of solos want to work outside of the traditional 8-5 workday
- Solos work from 5 different locations every month
Irregular and extended work patterns may take a toll on mental health
More solos work on days and at hours they’d prefer to not be working. This work often involves communicating with clients. Unfortunately, those who consistently work irregular hours are more likely to have poorer mental and emotional well-being.
- Many solos work at more hours than they would prefer
- More than half (54%) of solos report working Saturdays and 40% say they work Sundays
- Of solos working regular business hours, most reported having positive mental and emotional wellness. Of those working irregular schedules, only half reported positive mental and emotional wellness.
Tech adoption remains high among solos
Most solos surveyed for the report say they use cloud-based practice management software. To improve their practices, solos can find ways to set boundaries on their time while maintaining responsiveness to clients, expand capabilities to cover more essential workflows, and upgrade their practice management systems.
- 85% of solo lawyers use cloud-based legal practice management (LPM) software compared to 55% of non-solos
Solo lawyers can learn more about the latest technologies and industry trends at the 2023 Clio Cloud Conference, taking place in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 9–10. The conference offers a fantastic opportunity for solo practitioners to connect, grow, and learn how to amplify their impact.
The 2023 Legal Trends for Solo Law Firms report is now available.