The "Law Offices" Of...

Why do so many criminal defense lawyers, who are solo practitioners mostly, insist on getting a DBA or incorporating as “The Law Offices of [John Smith]” plural? Instead of “The Law Office of [John Smith]” singular?

Actually it’s not just those in the criminal defense bar I notice doing this; it’s solos of all kinds.  I suspect they want to project an image of a big law firm where tons of attorneys are running around doing all sorts of busy criminal defense work all day. That’s what will attract clients (the theory goes).


In fact, the reason most of us are solos is that you need one attorney, not many, to handle all important aspects of your case. 


I office with two other Austin defense lawyers, Lance Stott and Dax Garvin, but we’re not partners, we are criminal defense lawyers who share some office space a few blocks from the jail. Well, we’re friends to, but from a business standpoint, we are all solos.


And we occasionally “handle” a court setting for each other if necessary, but it’s almost always the type of setting where nothing really happens. The case just gets reset. Most of those times it’s when the client’s appearance is not even required.


Or it might be that the resolution to a case has already been determined (plea of no contest for probation or backtime, or turn in a counseling certificate to get a dismissal, etc.) and one of us is wrapping up the case for the other because we have to be somewhere else.


But we all work substantively on our own cases. We don’t share the work load of a criminal defense case. (The exception to that is sometimes it’s helpful to run a PC affidavit or an indictment past a colleague to bounce ideas off of them. “Hey, so you see anything wrong with this charging instrument?”)


Another exception of course is in “big” cases. Big big cases sometimes require multiple lawyers. And it’s always helpful to have someone around to second chair a jury trial, even if it’s “just” a misdemeanor.


But none of these are reasons to call yourself “The Law Offices” of So-and-So, when really it’s just you, the one attorney, and your staff.


And when you explain to a potential client that you, the human being sitting in front of them, will be the one “handling” all of the important settings in their case, you’ll find out that most people appreciate that. So there’s no need to project the image of the multiple busy lawyer law firm with hundreds of attorneys, spread out over several law offices, possible several states plural.


It’s perfectly OK to be the “Law Office of”… Just you, one lawyer, who knows every aspect of each client’s case.

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steve - March 1, 2009 11:41 PM

I hate that too. It makes me think of when i was in legal writing in law school, and we had to draft demand letters, and my classmates would craft these goofy letter heads with offices in NYC and Tokyo and LA. And the demand would be for a cow that was struck by a car or something. The fact remains unless you are charged with a war crime or some paper intensive embezzlement, then you only need one lawyer. I have hated every jury trial i have ever done where i have had two lawyers. No matter how much you like each other, or work well together, you are never on the same page.

ericz - April 28, 2009 2:32 PM

I have a question about the difference between dba/copyright/trademark. If I pay for a copyright would that alleviate the need for a dba?
I am in CA.

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