Maybe you’ve worked for a law firm for over 20 years and desire more freedom. Or, perhaps you’re a public defender or state’s attorney looking to make more money. Whatever the reason, thousands of lawyers choose to go into private practice every year.
While practicing law on your own has its advantages, it also comes with risk. Failure to account for these risks makes it more likely you’ll struggle, especially at the beginning. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some useful tips to know before making the switch to private practice.
Line up clients first
Starting a solo law practice without a list of starter clients is a recipe for disaster. While those working at law firms must be careful when informing clients of their plans to go independent, it’s possible to generate leads through other means. Consult with finance professionals, social workers, and others who frequently come into contact with people in need of legal help. Print up business cards and start handing them out whenever and wherever it’s appropriate. Once you’ve amassed a respectable list of clients, the process of going solo becomes significantly easier and less stressful.
Put your business hat on
One of the advantages of working at a law firm is not being responsible for the business side of the legal profession. These matters are managed by the firm. Those starting a solo law practice will have to handle the business matters themselves. In some cases, outsourcing these tasks is the best solution. For example, criminal lawyer marketing can be taken over by an agency with the experience and insights needed to provide effective solutions to private practice defense attorneys. The same goes for accounting, cybersecurity, and human resources. While these and other responsibilities can be done in-house to save money, their importance often warrants outside help.
Invest in technology
A laptop might be all you need to start as a solo practice attorney. However, chances are you’ll also want a copier, printer, scanner, and even a fax machine. What’s more, you’ll want to pick tech that’s built to last. While it’s tempting to buy bargain brand computers and office equipment, the reliability of these items is essential for business success. With this in mind, allow tech purchases to be one of the more significant investments made when starting as a private practice attorney.
Know when to hire help
Many lawyers in solo practice can get by just fine without an administrative assistant, paralegal, or other employees. However, a similar number of lawyers are in denial about the need to put one or more people on the office payroll. Suppose paperwork, office management, or insufficient time management skills are getting in the way of providing clients with the best legal service possible. In that case, it’s time to compose a job posting and start reading resumes.
Many law school graduates find their first jobs in the big cities. That’s where the prestigious law firms and posh client pools tend to be located. Unfortunately, these cities are usually oversaturated with lawyers, making it difficult to start a successful solo practice. For many lawyers determined to go independent, relocating to another community is often the most sensible path forward. Their big city experience is attractive to potential clients, while the lawyer-per-person ratio is much lower.
Becoming a private practice attorney is the dream of most lawyers. However, making that dream a reality eludes the majority. To see success in solo practice, lawyers need to prepare and plan accordingly. Luckily, those skills typically come naturally to those with a law degree.