Microbreweries have been around for thirty years or so. The rise of the “virtual lawyer” may be considered microlawfirms, which are experiencing their own heyday. There is, in short, a trend throughout the country of shrinking large firms and an increasing number of smaller practices and solo practices. (See, here, here, here, here, here, or here for examples.)
This trend may be based on a similar shift in taste — for a more refined, robust, hoppy, distinct flavor in legal counsel and a willingness to pay a lot more for a more custom-crafted legal output made from the finest ingredients. Or perhaps there are other explanations for the trend (e.g., the information technology revolution and the ability to function extremely well and more cheaply with a very different business model and infrastructure).
Whatever the cause, the times, they are a-changing.
But solos, smaller firms, and, perhaps in particular, large firm ex-patriots need take serious note of many aspects of the business of law that are invisibly handled by others in large law firms. The solo or small practices short-change or ignore these business aspects of the practice of law (not taught in law school and not a concern for those at large firms who have entire departments to do this work) at their peril.
Here is a recent useful cautionary tale regarding the importance of careful tracking of various financial accounts that all lawyers in private civil practice need to be using regarding a Duluth lawyer (Louis Andrew Stockman). (Duluth News Tribune coverage is here.)