Starting a solo law firm is very much like starting a business. So if the idea of starting on your own is appealing, here are a few questions you should ask yourself before taking the plunge.
1. Are you ready to run your solo practice?
It takes discipline to run a law practice; besides your legal skills, you also require business understanding and discipline. Having a solo practice means that you will face uncertainties, especially in the beginning when money is tight, and you may feel insecure at times. Also, you cannot expect to work from nine to five with a solo practice since the demands all fall on you as you grow your practice. You will be entirely responsible for your clients, accounting, business development, and all the other tasks required to run a legal practice.
2. What is important to you?
Starting a solo law practice means working longer hours than in other legal works, which requires lifestyle changes. You also should consider your profit goals, like where you want to be in one, two, and five years down the line. Meeting revenue goals and recovering your seed money means you must keep your overheads in check. Finally, consider your competition, and recognize that you need funds to carry you ahead in the quieter months.
3. Is it the right time to go solo?
There may never be a right or wrong time, but there are some things you should consider. These include the demands of family or the financial risk if you are married. Then again, if you are single, now may not be the right time if it affects your lifestyle. Starting a solo law practice requires excitement for the risk and challenge, so it may not yet be time if you aren’t feeling that.
4. How about an alternate law career?
If you hate practicing law in a big legal firm but are tired of the stress of working at a firm or the law, perhaps the alternative is not to be your boss but the choice of another legal path. Lawyering is excellent, and if it is what you love to do, then going solo is a great option. However, if you find lawyering tiresome, consider alternative legal paths, including becoming a legal content writer or marketing consultant.
5. What area of law will you practice?
Finding your niche is significant to a solo practice. What field of law do you choose? Do you want a boutique practice or volumes of clients? Your experience and what you are good at do not necessarily indicate what you must practice, but consider them. However, you might have something else in mind; just as long as you don’t try to bite off more than you can chew or make expensive mistakes.
6. What software tools do you need?
Legal software is expensive, and if you are reliant on some of these, you will want to continue with them at your solo practice. Find out what these tools cost and if your solo practice can afford them. On the other hand, perhaps the time has come for you to move to newer, more efficient systems if you use older software. For example, consider how cloud-based management systems can make tracking time, bill clients, and sort files easier.
7. What do you need to ensure your success?
- You need to decide where you will work. Then, after assessing your finances, calculate your monthly expenses and figure out how many billable hours you need to work to make ends meet.
- Make sure to include all the proper equipment needed to run a successful law office into your expenses, including a good computer scanner, fast internet, and software.
- Keep overhead expenditures low.
- Proper banking accounts are vital for solo law practices. Besides an operating account, you also need an IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Account), of which you understand the rules.
- You will need a website, marketing, and stationery that reflects your practice and makes a good impression.
- Take the time to consider a name for your solo practice.
- Law malpractice insurance is essential for your firm, even if your state does not require it.
- Your legal network is vital to the success of your law firm. Therefore, you will need to use your existing network and create a new one before starting your solo practice.
Rising to the challenge
As you set out to generate business and do your legal work, you will meet several challenges along the way. The idea may seem daunting, but if you are ready to forge ahead, you will undoubtedly make a success of it.