The new Legal Small Firm track of LegalWeek New York featured a panel discussion: Challenges Identified by Small Law Firms: How They Threaten Your Success. Mary Juetten, CEO, Traklight & Co-Founder, Evolve Law; Bob Ambrogi, practicing solo attorney, ABA Journal columnist and creator of the LawSites blog; and Bill Josten, Senior Legal Industry Analyst, Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, discussed the pain points of small and solo law firms as highlighted in the recent Thomson Reuters Small Law Firms Study.

SSLF session

The panel was moderated by Brian Knudsen, vice president, Thomson Reuters small law product marketing, who pointed to some of the key findings from the study:

  • Fully 90% of small-solo firms who responded recognized that they faced at least three different challenges, such as acquiring new clients, spending too much time on administrative tasks or the increasing complexity of technology.
  • But more than 40% of firms who reported at least one significant challenge also reported they have not determined how to address these challenges

The study also pointed out some differences between successful and less successful firms.

  • Small firms that consider themselves to be “very successful” make priorities of being considered the best of the best, differentiating their firm from competitors, and providing the best client service.
  • Firms that consider themselves to be “very successful” or “successful” spend 63% of their time practicing law, while for less successful firms, the figure is only 53%.

Juetten felt the biggest surprise of the study was that people aren’t doing anything about the problems. She described advantages of small firms adopting technology that makes you feel like you have added 10 associates because of the efficiencies gained. She also emphasized the ability of small firms to be more nimble than other firms by leveraging technology.  She said that firms with 29 or fewer attorneys make decisions based on process. An over 29-attorney firm makes decisions by committee. And Big Law is very different. Being small and nimble is an advantage. She also stressed using Key Performance Indicators, as essential insight for making change.

Ambrogi was also surprised by how few firms were taking steps to respond to the challenge, with roughly two-thirds of the firms surveyed not having implemented or planning to implement technology to help them with the burdens they are facing. Also startling was how little time attorneys were actually spending practicing law.

The full report can be downloaded here .