Solo and Small Firm

The Practitioner VOLUME 29, ISSUE 1, SPRING 2023


Joshua Bonnici*

Practicing law is stressful—strict deadlines, demanding clients, the billable hour, and managing partners can make for a very full plate. Top that off with starting your own practice, and responsibilities start to stack up. You may have fewer clients to wrangle and no boss meticulously reviewing your work, but now you have to worry about everything else to simply keep your doors open and remain in compliance with the law.

Finding a good work/life balance is different for every individual. Some need structured time away while others can simply insert some a la carte "me time" when needed. However, when it comes to having your own law practice, the dynamic changes for many attorneys. Many people want to work every waking minute, as now they are really working "for themselves" and downtime is wasted time. Any free moment could be used to write a newsletter, design a blog or Facebook advert, or review tasks for the upcoming week. While this is possible, and the freedom to complete these tasks is a wonderful aspect of hanging your own shingle, the snowball effect of brain power focus can result in early burnout. Understanding the complexities of running your own practice and recognizing that the stress is real—and dangerous—is the first step in doing your best to avoid burnout.

According to a report in the ABA Journal,1 lawyers—especially ones with new offices trying to bring clients in the door to pay start-up costs—face increasing pressure to compete, which results in the "better-faster-cheaper ethic" that leads to burnout and increased stress levels. This push to not only be a meticulous attorney but also compete with others can run you into the ground.

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