SOS – Solo Out of School

Make voyages! – Attempt them! – there’s nothing else… (Tennessee Williams)

So, you are thinking of going solo right of school – great! Here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • If you can pass the bar exam, you are (or at least yourState Bar thinks you are) competent to practice law. Period, end of discussion. So never doubt that you are sufficiently prepared to go out there and commit random acts of lawyerism. That nagging doubt, that fear that sneaks up in the quite hours of the night does not feed on your lack of competence, it feeds on your lack of experience. The good news is that there’s a cure for that – time.
  • If you need to gain experience try asking other lawyers for overflow work, look for  pro-bono opportunities, or seek out court-appointed work. It may not pay, but it will get you experience and provide contacts that can help you build your client base. The key here to be focused. Plan a strategy that will lead to the type of practice you want.
  • Remember, when you are solo you are running a business first and practicing law second. Your first few years are going to be 75% marketing and building your professional network, 15% managing your business, and 10% doing actual legal work.
  • Finally, be prepared for sticker-shock. Running a law practice is an expensive proposition even if you are a Web-2.0 savvy, totally virtualized, completely mobile, 100% digital, running-your-office-out-of-a-smart phone lawyer. While there are plenty of  the “$X law office” posts out there in the blog-o-sphere, the problem is that those posts seldom look at the total cost of a practice. A law practice is a bit like a Ferrari – if the purchase price doesn’t kill you, the upkeep sure can. There’s the cost of your phone service, your data plan, electricity, paper, business cards, court fee, license fees, CLE expenses, paper clips, staples, rubber bands, toner, pens, pencils … the list goes on and on; oh, and don’t forget you have to eat, pay rent, pay your household expenses, put gas in your car, etc.

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