Good and Bad News for Solo Lawyers

I’ve recently returned from the 2023 Clio Cloud Conference. This was the 11th conference and I started attending in year 3 – so it’s my 9th event. I am a raving fan of this conference and would encourage solo and small firm folks to attend whether you are a Clio user or not. 

A highlight of the event is the opening keynote where Clio founder Jack Newton releases and dissects the Legal Trends Report. You’ll find a link to a video of Jack’s presentation in Camille’s Picks.

For the first time, Clio released a legal trends report identifying trends particular to solo lawyers. This report was introduced in the spring of 2023. Legal journalist Bob Ambrogi summarized the findings of the report in his blog, Law Sites.

Bob summarizes the contrasts revealed in the report:

The goodSolos are on their own, which means they have more freedom to run their practices and their lives as they see fit, including being more innovative in implementing new forms of legal technology.

The badSolos are on their own, which means they bear sole responsibility for every detail of their practice.

The good: Solos are able to choose where and when to work and how much work to take on.

The bad: Solos are constrained by the fact that there are only so many hours in a day and one lawyer can only do so much.

The good: Solos are well situated to prioritize work-life balance.

The bad: They are much more likely than non-solo lawyers to work nights and weekends.

The goodSolos have maintained a stable level of business over the last two years and business overall is up from 2019.

The badSolos struggle to bring in clients to their firms.

The goodThe market for solos is strong relative to before the pandemic.

The bad: Solos are seeing only a small fraction of the growth in collected revenues compared to larger firms.

The goodSolos have lower overall costs of operation than non-solos.

The bad: Solos hourly rates are 20% lower than those of non-solo lawyers ($269 vs. $324) and their rates are not keeping pace with inflation.

The good: Solos hourly rates are rising.

The badEven though solos work as many hours a day as non-solos, they bill far fewer, with utilization rates 11% lower than non-solos (25% vs. 36%). On average, solos bill just two hours a day.

The goodSolos are 24% more likely to report having positive relationships with clients, in part because of the type of hands-on, personal nature of the services that many solos pride themselves on.

The bad: Solos struggle to find the time to put towards their clients.

The goodSolos are more likely to be happy with their professional lives (8% more) and their mental and emotional wellness (13% more).

The bad: Many solos are at risk of poor mental health — and solos who work irregular hours are least likely to report mental and emotional wellness.

The goodLawyers can potentially earn higher pay as solos. Because solos do not have to pay into a larger firm’s overhead and partner shares, they can potentially be more profitable.

The bad: Most solos aren’t satisfied with their earnings. Lawyers at larger firms are happier with where they are financially, with 23% happier with their personal income.

The good: Solos are ahead of the curve in cloud technology adoption, with 85% using cloud-based legal practice management software, compared to 55% of non-solos. Solos also are more likely to use online solutions for video conferencing, electronic payments, website design, e-signatures, and data storage.

The bad: As cloud technologies become more pervasive among solos, they are also becoming the norm among larger firms. That means that, to remain competitive, solos must find new efficiencies and automations to help them maintain their edge in legal innovation.

You can download the Clio 2023 reports and compare the results to your firm –  Legal Trends Report , the Legal Trends for Solo and Legal Trends for Mid-Sized Firms.

If you’d like to discuss the findings and how to move your firm forward, schedule a FREE consult today.

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About The Author

Camille Stell

Camille Stell is the President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services and the co-author of Designing A Succession Plan for Your Law Practice: A Step-by-Step Guide for Preparing and Packaging Your Firm for Maximum Value. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at or 800.662.8843.

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