7 Solos You Meet at Bar Functions

Bar functions like seminars, happy hours, and practice-area groups are probably the most valuable services bar associations provide. They are not exclusively attended by solos, of course, but solos tend to make up about half the crowd, just as they make up about half the bar.

The solos you meet at bar functions will tend to resemble these seven archetypes.

The Just-Barely-Surviving


If you go solo and work hard, you are virtually guaranteed to make $40–65,000, before taxes — not quite enough to get by, in many zip codes. The Just-Barely-Surviving solo is the most common type of solo, and is usually glued to his phone, constantly hoping to find an email from a paying client. Conversations with a Just-Barely-Surviving solo mostly involve deadbeat clients and underpaid assistants.

To break off conversation with a Just-Barely-Surviving solo, say something like “Is that your phone ringing? I’d better let you get that.” and walk away as he scrambles to answer before the third ring.

The Firefighter


Sometimes wrongly considered a subspecies of the Just-Barely-Surviving solo, the Firefighter is actually a unique species of solo that just happens to share the same part of the salary curve and an attachment to her phone. You will most frequently encounter the Firefighter stalking the hall outside bar events, talking on the phone about something she forgot to do earlier.

Conversations with a Firefighter usually revolve around a brief that is due the next day or pulling all-nighters before hearings. Conversations with a Firefighter also have a tendency to be constantly interrupted by phone calls, emails, text messages, and anything else she must do now because she has no organizational system.

The Technophile


Luddite lawyers may be more common than Technophiles, but there is usually at least one Technophile in every group of lawyers. Technophiles come in several varieties. Apple Technophiles will usually bring their iPad to networking events, while Google Technophiles may be sporting an Android Wear smartwatch or Google Glass. Counter-intuitively, Technophiles may also be carrying a moleskine notebook and a cheap plastic fountain pen recommended by Lifehacker, which they are just as happy to talk about.

To confirm you are talking to a Technophile, just hand over your business card. A true Technophile will “scan” it with her smartphone or glasses and hand it back or leave it on a nearby cocktail table.

The Braggart


Some people mistakenly believe all lawyers are Braggarts because Braggarts are always the loudest lawyers in the room. Every story the Braggart tells makes him sound like a bigshot. He will make a single profitable case sound like a seven-figure law practice. He will throw out the names of judges he’s only met at scheduling conferences as if they meet for drinks after work every week.

When talking to a Braggart, you may find yourself wondering why your own law practice is such a failure in comparison. Stop, extricate yourself from the conversation, and look for a middle-aged lawyer engaged in meaningful conversation instead of trading war stories. The lawyers you want for mentors don’t bother bragging, because they don’t need to.

The Relentless Networker


The Relentless Networker is easy to spot at a distance, because she is usually carrying a stack of business cards in one hand and has her name badge carefully stuck to her right lapel because a marketing guru said it is more visible there. Although annoying, there is no need to avoid the Relentless Networker. She will only talk to you long enough to get your name and practice area and peel a business card off her stack — which you can immediately throw in the trash because neither of you will remember anything interesting about one another ten minutes later.

The Clueless


Somehow a moderately experienced lawyer and a n00b at the same time, the Clueless solo has somehow managed to avoid learning anything about law practice despite having one for at least a few years. The Clueless solo is actually quite charming because he is full of questions for everyone he meets. He wants to know all about how you approach early settlement discussions or how you streamlined your intake process, and will ask questions in all the right places as if he is learning something. But he won’t.

Be very careful handing your business card over to a Clueless solo. You may become his mentor without meaning to, and mentoring someone who is incapable of taking advice is an exercise in frustration.

The Potential Mentor


If you are lucky, you will meet a Potential Mentor. To find a Potential Mentor at a bar function, look for a group of two or three lawyers who are chatting together like familiar colleagues. They may be sharing war stories, but it won’t sound like a group of Braggarts striving to one-up one another. They will be sharing, not bragging (well, maybe a little), in order to learn learning from each other.

Approach a Potential Mentor carefully. Do not talk about yourself. You have little of value to offer a Potential Mentor you have just met. Instead, listen. Ask a few polite questions. The way to impress a Potential Mentor is not with war stories but with your ability to listen carefully and show that you understand what was said.

Leave the conversation before you appear to be a hanger-on, but not before you ask the Potential Mentor if it would be all right if you called or visited her office sometime to learn more about her practice.

Did I miss any solo archetypes?

Images from Shutterstock.


  1. Avatar Todd Hendrickson says:

    Damn … I’m afraid I’m the technophile. And the Apple one to boot.

  2. Avatar Randall Ryder says:

    What about the normal solo?

  3. Avatar Paul Spitz says:

    What about the Door Lawyer? That is, he takes anything and everything that comes in the door. Because it’s actually rather easy to become proficient in criminal defense, civil litigation, personal injury, social security, workers comp, employment, estate planning, business law, and immigration law.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      Good one. The Door Lawyer is the missing link between the Clueless solo and the Just-Barely Surviving solo. Easily distracted, you can gracefully exit a conversation with a Door Lawyer if you tell him you heard a lawyer on the other side of the room saying she needs a referral for an admiralty law matter.

  4. Avatar Mary-Margaret Zindren says:

    Another good signal of the potential mentor type is if and how they invite you into the conversation. The best mentor-solos I know are those who easily integrate new people into the conversation, without making them feel like they’ve simply joined their audience or, on the other extreme, making them feel too much in the spotlight.

    • Avatar Paul Spitz says:

      Not just that, but there are people who by their body language, exclude new people from joining a group conversation. Obviously they can see you standing right there, but they don’t move over even a little bit to allow you to enter the circle.

  5. Avatar Shawn says:

    You forgot the solo consumer protection lawyer, which in disguise is a door lawyer. :)

  6. Avatar Frank Strong says:

    Yes, definitely put the name tag carefully on the right lapel!

  7. Avatar J. Flanders says:

    How about the “too successful to come to a networking event because they are really a waste of time lawyer”. The “never there lawyer”?

  8. Avatar Charles says:

    You missed my personal favorite. “The Scanner.” He scans the room while chatting with you, looking for someone more important than you to speak with. And abruptly breaks away when he finds one. Two subspecies, “The Climber” and “The VERY Important Lawyer” (often a judge).

  9. Avatar Alex says:

    What about the solo that is working-extremely-hard-at-the-wrong-things. A variant of the just-barely-surviving, this solo will talk to you about the intricacies of a ten-page brief in support of an agreed motion to continue which was necessary to “protect the record.” This solo generally has one or two appointed cases and thus the work expands in proportion to the amount of time he would otherwise be staring at the wall.

    Perhaps you have met the prestige obsessed lawyer, a cousin of the braggart? This lawyer wants to know where you went to law school (and preferably whether you were on law review) within the first 5 minutes of meeting you, so that he determine whether he is smarter than you without having to do any additional thinking. The less self-aware ones even bring up their LSAT score, expecting you to reciprocate. Note, it does not matter if it is apparent that you have been in practice 20 years.

    There is also the snark-lawyer. Typically found next to the alcohol and deep in conversation with a person he met in the first 15 minutes of law school (who happens to be the only person he knows at the event). The snark lawyer will enjoying ribbing on other lawyers’ clothing choices, because that’s easier than actually meeting the other lawyers in the room and discussing the law. The snark lawyer detests “networking” but comes to these events with the hopes that something magical will happen (like a referral), without you know, actually putting himself out there.

  10. Avatar Slaw76 says:

    What is with using the feminine pronoun when referring to an individual whose sex is not specified? I’m pretty sure the rule is to use the masculine. I noticed this politically correct silliness first in law school. It makes the writing less understandable (even worse that the politically correct alternative, and clumsy bad writing, of “he or she”).

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      There is no rule on which gender to use for pronouns. Most writers now recognize that treating any gender as the default is problematic. I generally alternate between he and she when I can do it without causing confusion. This is a pretty common way to avoid a default pronoun, and you will find it in plenty of legal writing.

      I agree that he or she can be clunky, and they (adopted by some social networks) just doesn’t look or sound right. So I try to give both genders roughly equal representation and use he or she sparingly, when it doesn’t get in the way.

      • Avatar Slaw76 says:

        Actually, there is such a rule. Although the politically correct types have been trying to undermine its use with their new contrivances. E.g., Fowler, H.W. (2009) [1926]. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Original 1926 edition with an introduction and notes by David Crystal. Oxford University Press. pp. 648–649.

        In addition, there is nothing “problematic” about using the masculine pronoun to refer to an individual of unspecified sex. Its a simple rule that’s easy to follow. What could be the problem? Clarity and ease of use?

        There is also a collateral rule that exists, i.e., referring to vessels that carry people with the feminine pronoun (e.g., The US and her people; that car, she’s a beauty).

        I think the real problem is mangling the language and twisting oneself into comical pretzels to accommodate the Left-wing kooks who are hell-bent on tearing down our language to reflect their preferences (e.g., the intentionally misleading (and, in truth, meaningless) “marriage equality” being used instead of the accurate “legal redefinition of marriage.”

        Sam, I truly enjoy your site and think you do a great job writing for solos. However, I do bristle every time I see what I thought was relegated to the angry feminist profs in college and law school.

        • Avatar Matthew Salzwedel says:

          And using “individual” for “person” is ““either jocular (though
          only wearily so) or contemptuous.” Theodore
          M. Bernstein, The Careful Writer 232 (1965). Or was Bernstein wrong?

        • Eric Cooperstein Eric Cooperstein says:

          I’m sure that in 1926, when women had only been allowed to vote for 6 years, it seemed reasonable to use the pronoun “he” universally. Fortunately, many things have changed since 1926, including language usage. As Bryan Garner, one of the leading authorities on legal writing, puts it in “A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage” at 800 (2nd Ed., 1995), “For the persuasive writer –for whom credibility is all– the writer’s point of view does not matter as much as the reader’s. Thus, if one is writing for an unknown or a broad readership, the only course that does not risk damaging one’s credibility is to write around the problem [of sexist language]. For this purpose, every writer ought to have available a repertoire of methods to avoid the generic masculine pronoun.”

        • Avatar Matthew Salzwedel says:

          Sam is right. Sam, you are right.

      • Avatar Guest says:

        “Problematic” in what way?

        I do find the lazy, politically correct alternation of pronouns in a lot of (bad) writing. It’s clumsy and confusing. Moreover, I’m not a fan of officious meddling control freaks demanding that others make their writings less clear by acceding to the insane feminist types or the eunuchs on the Left.

        And, what is the problem with using the default pronoun rule that “he” is used if the sex of an individual is not specified?

  11. Avatar lisa says:

    As a female who is old enough to be almost everyone’s mother and who began practicing law in a different generation, can’t we just agree to use the male pronoun universally- as in mankind. As long as folks hire female firemen, who cares what name the species is called. The good news for me is that I get to use the masculine pronoun and I never get called a sexist.

  12. Avatar Rob says:

    the warzone lawyer.

  13. Avatar Walker says:

    Don’t forget the conservative law pedant who can turn even the most innocuous discussion (or its online variant, the fluff piece on a law blog) into a debate about “PC” because someone dares to deviate from the norms that emerged in more overtly racist and sexist times.

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