Deciding to start a solo practice is a difficult decision, especially for a new attorney with little practical experience. And it's difficult for law firm veterans as they have to let go of the "golden handcuffs" and steady paycheck of firm life.
Before going out and hanging your own shingle, you may want to ask yourself the following questions to determine if solo life is right for you:
- Do you like people? You're going to have to roll up your sleeves, network, and talk to everybody and anybody to get a steady stream of clients. You can be the smartest attorney in the state, but if you don't have any clients, your knowledge is wasted. You won't have to be a total extrovert, but you should plan on attending bar events, public functions, and other social sites.
- Can you work alone? Once you get clients, you should be prepared to do a lot of the work yourself. You won't have the luxury of colleagues, partners, paralegals, or even secretaries when you are just starting off. You'll need to know how to get things done yourself.
- Do you like risk? Being an entrepreneur and starting your own business is risky. Whether you have money to keep the lights on, or even eat, can fluctuate from a month-to-month basis. You must realize that there is no steady paycheck when you don't have an employer.
- How much money do you have? Ideally, you have a sizable rainy day fund before starting your own practice. As mentioned above, you never know when money is coming in. And the reality is that the first few months (if not years) of your solo practice may generate sporadic income. Having savings will get you through the dry periods.
- Do you have a mentor? If you're a young attorney, a mentor can be invaluable. You can spend hours looking up a court rule yourself, or your mentor can help you out in an instant. Along with the details of law practice, a mentor can also offer tips on how to deal with the loneliness, infrequent pay, and other concerns of solo practice.
Consider these five questions before starting any solo practice. You may not know if solo practice is completely right until you've tried it, but the answers to these questions can provide a head start.
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