Common Myths About Starting a Solo Law Firm

by Melanie Fischer on October 19, 2015

unicornIf you are thinking about opening a solo law firm, you probably have some preconceived ideas about how the process is going to work. When it comes to starting your own law practice, there are absolutely certain tasks that you must accomplish before you can open your door to clients. But starting a solo law firm is not necessarily a cookie-cutter undertaking. You will undoubtedly go through trials and errors before you determine what works and what doesn’t.

If you are nervous or apprehensive about hanging your shingle, it’s important to understand that you are in charge the process – and ultimately your success depends on you. Don’t delay opening your solo law firm because you’ve heard stories about difficulties or struggles that other solo attorneys may have experienced. In reality, the stories you’ve heard may not be accurate.

Following are some common myths often associated with starting a solo law firm:

Myth: It will take a year or more before you build a client base. While it’s true that it might take a considerable amount of time to build a steady client base, you yourself might not experience a slow start. The amount of time it will take you to build your business depends on a number of factors including: the area of law in which you practice, your level of experience, the location of your office, your networking circle, and more. In certain circumstances, a new solo law practice can gain a substantial client base in a matter of a few months.

Myth: Opening a solo law firm is too expensive. Opening a new solo law firm does require a certain level of investment, but in some cases it can turn out to be a relatively inexpensive undertaking. The amount you spend depends on the amount allocated to your budget. There are absolutely ways to save money on your start-up costs. For example, you might opt for working from a home office or a public location instead of committing to a year-long lease in an expensive office building. Certain expenses are unavoidable, such the purchase of professional liability insurance and memberships in various professional organizations. But many expenses are optional (such as new furniture for your office) and can be delayed until your solo law firm is profitable.

Myth: It’s impossible to make a decent salary as a solo attorney. As a solo attorney, you will not receive a bi-weekly paycheck from an employer that is automatically deposited into your bank account, but it is entirely possible to earn a good living as the owner of a solo law practice. One of the greatest advantages of working as a solo attorney is that you have quite a bit of control over your success and your income. Many solo attorneys choose to work fewer than 40 hours per week. However, if you want to work more than 40 hours a week, you will undoubtedly earn more income. The choice is up to you.

Myth: Working as a solo attorney is easy. If there’s one thing that’s true about opening a solo law firm it’s that it is NOT an easy task. As the attorney in charge, you must run your business like a well-oiled machine. This includes constantly networking, always being on the lookout for new clients, effectively and efficiently serving your current clients, and more. It’s definitely not an easy job.

{ 1 comment }

Harry Steinmetz November 2, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Very good article. I took the plunge for lack of better options about 10 years ago and have never seriously looked back.

However, the most difficult thing that I have found about a solo, or very small, practice is the inconsistent take home pay. You will have good months, very good months and bad month and “wtf just happened” months. This will put a strain on your marriage, credit and your own mental health. Make sure everyone affected by has an understanding of that.

Your bank will offer you a line of credit to “help out” on those poor months. Be ware! Credit is a hole you can easily find yourself trapped in and be unable to get out. Don’t even consider this in your first year until you are pretty sure you can pay it off immediately. If you haven’t read A Civil Matter” you should. Its a good book and an object lesson.

The last piece of advice. Take a third of any income and put it in the bank for taxes. Build up your reserves as quickly as you can. It will relieve your stress, martial or otherwise.

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