The 5th annual National Profile of Solicitors report has recently been released and it shows an interesting trend in the legal profession: Solo practitioners are on the rise.
According to the report, out of the 16,393 private law practices registered across Australia, sole practitioners make up 82 per cent.
One of the key drivers behind this upward trend is the increasing number of females entering the legal profession. Figures published in June this year show there are now 44,581 women in law in Australia and 39,052 men. Over the past decade, two-thirds (67 per cent) of those entering the profession have been women, while just 26 per cent of those becoming lawyers have been men.
For many women, the traditional career path in a mid-size or large law firm, has been pretty demanding, making it very difficult to balance career and family. Firms are changing their out-dated structures, but for many, rising to the top still requires long hours and heavy caseloads.
And it’s for this reason predominantly, that women are starting their own practices in droves — because working by themselves gives them much more flexibility to manage their own hours.
Regional coastal and rural areas benefit
It should be noted that regional Australia has really benefited from the rise in solo practitioners too, with talented lawyers embarking on sea-changes and tree-changes, moving out of the big cities and bringing their expertise with them.
Technology, of course, makes this all possible. Lawyers can still stay in touch with peer groups if they want to peer review cases, or simply obtain a second opinion. A lot of seminars and webinars which keep practitioners up to date with changes to the law, or other information that’s important to the profession as a whole, are also available online.
For clients seeking legal advice, there are significant advantages of this increase in solo practitioners.
Firstly, it makes access to legal advice easier. Whether clients are looking for an employment lawyer, a family lawyer, a criminal lawyer or a specialist local court lawyer to represent them in court, clients can easily search the internet and find what they need quickly and easily.
Secondly, generally speaking, the person who answers the phone when you make an initial inquiry will be the lawyer actually working on the case, which speeds up the process in many instances too (where there isn’t a reliance on other factors, such as dates set by the courts). With fewer people involved in the workflow process, clients benefit from a streamlined service.
More choices when it comes to getting the right legal advice
The final benefit for clients is financial. Because these small practices are cheaper to run than the big firms (they have lower overheads), savings can be passed onto clients via way of lower fees. Increasing competition means that service fees become standardised across practice areas.
In many cases, lawyers are beginning to offer fixed fees for straight forward legal matters, but they’re also in a better position to negotiate if they choose to and the circumstances require it.
It has to be said that although cost shouldn’t be a factor when you’re accessing specialist advice of any kind (medical, technical, legal) most lawyers are aware that it is a consideration for many who find themselves inadvertently in trouble with the law or suddenly needing legal advice.
While it is possible to represent yourself in local court, and there is a proliferation of resources available for free on the internet including template contracts and agreements, the right legal advice for your personal circumstances should never be under-rated.
There are plenty of people who have tried to go it alone, only to end up realising they did need legal advice after all.
The law, no matter what area: commercial, criminal, copyright etc – is incredibly complex – to turn your back on professional knowledge and expertise can be to do so at your peril.
This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.
If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us. We service the area from Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay, Ballina and Tweed Heads regions on the Far North NSW Coast. We also represent children and juveniles in the Children’s Court as well.