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3 Basic Musts When Starting a Solo Practice

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 06, 2016 6:59 AM

It's really true what they say: the hardest part is getting started. So many firms once started out as single person or maybe two-person practices before becoming the storied BigLaw firms they are today. Obviously, things were different back then than they are now.

But how much so? If you're starting out your own firm or have even already done so, take heart in the fact that others have been there to suffer before you. Here are tips we've collected that will (hopefully) help you along the way.

Appearances Matter, So Feign Confidence If You Have To

We've harped on this point again and again: looks matter. But this time we'll tweak the message a bit. Clients often complain about their attorney not listening to their problems or not being empathetic enough. Let us suggest that you be empathetic, but don't be overly friendly with your client. Friendliness can sometimes come across as meekness.

Few clients will admit it, but many would rather have a not-so-cuddly attorney who instills confidence than an attorney who's very nice but looks like he can't win cases. This sounds unfair, but appearances do matter -- even in personality types. In fact, I personally know an attorney who started his firm in his kitchen, but managed to grow based on his commanding presence alone. He's not considered a teddy bear but he wins cases. And that's what matters.

Be professional, be effective, be assertive, take command of the conversation. Above all, be competent. Referrals will start trickling in.

Upgrade Your Stationary

Even though we're quickly moving to online commerce and e-advertising, there's still a time and place for paper advertisements. You'd better get used to carrying business cards -- good business cards.

Some attorneys can get away with poor or middling business cards because they're already established and have their reputations to speak for them. If you're green, you card will have to speak for you. If your letterhead and stationary are poor, clients will regard you differently. Place your best foot forward and remember that you can only make a first impression once.

Don't Skimp on Quality Work

Quality work is a must. I can honestly say I don't know any attorney who was ever happy that he ever did shoddy work on a client's file. Either they complained (rightfully) or the attorney had to spend three times as much work to get it done correctly -- not to mention the hassle and worry. Your work speaks for itself. Fight against poor quality work.

And don't let your work be tarnished by careless errors -- especially spelling errors. It's true, some lawyers can get away with this, but it gets harder and harder to do so when you're a solo. If you're lucky, in time you'll grow and your staff can deal with the hum-drum hassle of paperwork. But not yet.

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