By Julie Brook, Esq.
Reprinted with permission from CEB
Not every attorney is suited to solo practice. If you are, it can be a very fulfilling and profitable way to practice law. Do you have the personal attributes needed to open your own practice?
Establishing a successful law practice is a complex and demanding undertaking that necessarily requires practitioners to have or to acquire and maintain a compendium of skill sets including, for example, risk management strategies, entrepreneurial drive (putting in 60-hour weeks 50 weeks a year), management and marketing skills, as well as a practical knowledge of what, when, and why a particular operational method works. And, of course, knowledge of the practice area.
If you’re considering whether to open your own law practice, run through this checklist of some of the most important things a solo practitioner needs to determine if you have what it takes:
- Professional skills and people skills;
- A strategy to develop a networking structure that will supply a stream of cases;
- Financial and organizational discipline to budget for lean months and set aside cash reserves in flush months;
- Legal training in the practice area you’ve chosen to work in so that clients can have confidence in your judgment;
- Integrity that’s recognized in the community and by the bench;
- A sufficient level of legal expertise to identify which tasks you can handle and which tasks you should refer to specialists; and
- The patience and ability to apply the community standard of legal knowledge to practical situations.
Carefully (and honestly!) assess your abilities and goals in light of these important attributes before deciding whether to go solo.
For anyone getting started in a law practice, turn to CEB’s California Basic Practice Handbook, chapter 1 on opening a law practice. Also check out CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms to help you establish and maintain effective communications with your clients.