Specialists, General Practitioners, and the Holistic Practice of Law

A recent article by the American Bar Association asked the question, “are lawyers getting too specialized?”.  The author’s theory was that as attorneys continue to become hyperspecialized, they lose the ability to solve more complex legal problems because they have lost the 10,000 foot view, or as he called it, the “legal sixth sense”. In other words, lawyers who are specialists lack the ability to fully solve problems because they are unable to see the interconnectivity of multiple legal problems; their method of solving one problem may lead to collateral legal issues in the near or distant future. The author continues:

The point of this article is not that I do not recognize that legal specialization is unavoidable or that I think it is a bad thing. In an increasingly complex world, clients turn to lawyers because they are the specialists, have the experience and know best market practice. The point is that increasingly the specialists lack the general understanding of the law. With each new generation of new specialists being trained by specialists, this will get worse. It’s a trend we need to stop. This however might prove to be more complicated than it seems.


The author goes on to discuss the problems with law firm silos, the practice of large firms dividing into different practice areas under one roof but failing to connect them. The author argues that the problem with this approach is that there is poor communication between the silos, or practice areas, mostly due to the size and structure of the firm. He called it, “Professional Tunnel Vision.”


Here at Patton | Pittman we take a different, holistic approach. While each of our partners have specific focus areas, they each have backgrounds in the general practice of law. Each of our associate attorneys are cross trained in many practice areas before developing a particular focus area. This type of development is something that our size and structure allows us to do well. It also allows us to meet and discuss cases from multiple vantage points.

So what does this mean for the client? It means that when your attorneys have a team meeting to discuss your case, it is not a team of attorneys from one silo, or specialty area, sitting at a table discussing only one aspect of your situation (professional tunnel vision). When the situation calls for it, our team approach brings attorneys from different disciplines to the same table. Because each has a multifaceted background, the problem can first be approached from the 10,000 foot view. Because each has been highly trained in specific areas, they are then able to narrow down the view and attack specific problems before finally analyzing any collateral consequences to their decisions.

For example, a common problem we see is a person facing a divorce, an order of protection, and a criminal case all at the same time. Our holistic approach allows us to have multiple attorneys simultaneously attacking each case while collaborating with the client to manage multiple cases as one situation. Actions taken in one case should strive for success in all cases, not just one.

Our holistic approach is the best of both worlds: specialization where needed without loosing the overall view from above.

If you are or someone you know has a legal issue, contact our law firm at (931) 361-4477 to request your free initial case evaluation.

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