New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

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State Bar Association to hold first Solo and Small-Firm Conference Seminars Wednesday focus on ethics, marketing, technology

ATLANTIC CITY -- Increasingly, attorneys – either driven by their own entrepreneurial bent or a slumping economy – are hanging out their own shingle.

Wednesday, the New Jersey State Bar Association will host its first Solo and Small-Firm Conference in Atlantic City. At the daylong event, attendees will have a chance to learn more about business planning strategies, social networking, how to bring in clients, ethics and ways to recession-proof their practice. The day begins with an 8 a.m. boot camp, offering a rapid-fire look at all the critical issues solo and small-firm attorneys must keep in mind.

The May 19 conference runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City. Reporters and photographers are welcome.

It is especially important to reach out to solo and small-firm lawyers during these difficult economic times, said Miles S. Winder III, a Bernardsville solo attorney and conference organizer. There are too many young lawyers who went to law school expecting they would join a well-respected profession and be able to pay their expenses, only to find themselves struggling, he said.

“We need to make sure they understand the dos and don’ts in a very practical sense,” said Winder. “It is absolutely the most important thing the bar association can do is act as a safety net … to take on the things that lawyers are most focused on, which is making sure you can feed yourself and your family.”

The conference is part of the bar association’s larger efforts to help solo and small-firm attorneys.

For many, the enthusiasm of starting a practice is soon rivaled by the anxiety of figuring out how to juggle being a business owner and a practicing lawyer. After working in a small firm for years, Nina Remson opened her own law practice last summer and joined the vast majority of attorneys in New Jersey.

“Working as a solo or at a small-firm means we don’t often have the opportunity to have a big roundtable discussion, like some big firms have, to go over things and discuss marketing and rain making and ethical considerations. It’s important to have a forum to be able to meet with a group of like-minded people,” said Remson.

How firms stack up

Nearly 60 percent of New Jersey’s 34,000 private practice attorneys work alone or in small-firms. Here is a breakdown of private firm size:

Solo: 11,068 or 32.4 percent

Two-person: 3,439 or 10.1 percent

Three to five attorneys: 5,245 or 15.4 percent

Six to 49 attorneys: 9,363 or 27.4 percent

50 or more: 5,039 or 14.8 percent

Source: Office of Attorney Ethics 2008 Annual Report