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Searching For Work And Not Found It. Is Starting Your Own Practice The Answer

published March 01, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 20 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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If you want the opportunity to be your own boss and to control your own destiny, solo practice may be for you. However, it is not recommended that you hang out your shingle immediately upon graduation from law school. Instead, you should get some much-needed experience in a law firm before you take that plunge into the vast unknown. You might even want to ease into your own practice gradually, slowly separating yourself from the firm while developing your own separate existence. That way you won't have to worry about your next meal while you're trying to get your new practice off and running.

Searching For Work And Not Found It. Is Starting Your Own Practice The Answer

An important factor in making the correct decision to engage in solo practice depends significantly on your personality. Since you will literally be flying solo, are you going to be able to deal with the greater risks involved in opening a law practice alone? There will not be someone immediately available to help answer questions or to deal with a crisis; you will have to fend for yourself.

Are you self-motivated and organized? In your practice alone there will be no one but yourself to keep you moving and working. And unless you possess good organizational skills, no matter how hard you work, you will never get very much done.

Do you interrelate well with others? There is no public relations specialist in your firm if you do not hold that position. It is not sufficient to enjoy the paper work and be proficient at it. You must be able to communicate and work well with clients, not just for them. Presenting a positive image to clients and gaining their trust rests largely on the self-confidence of the individual attorney. Do you have a well-developed sense of your own capabilities, and can you convey this to your clients? Part of the strength of your self-image will be tested in the marketplace as you will have to sell your services and be able to distinguish your skills from those of the competition.

Additional questions that will need to be answered once you decide on a solo practice involve the location of your office, the contents of your law library, the hiring of support staff, filing systems, and thousands of other issues that wait to be resolved.

With the opportunities that a solo practice offers come responsibilities. You will be responsible for attracting your own clients through such active marketing techniques as joining various business and civic organizations, conducting an open house to advertise the opening of your practice, presenting seminars, printing and mailing client newsletters, candidating for political office, writing books and articles in your area of expertise, possibly even teaching part-time at the local university or college.

The best, and most complementary, advertising of all comes from referrals of satisfied clients. However, not only must you attract clients, you must keep them by delivering quality service at competitive rates. In addition, some clients may leave the area, or cease operations, so you will have to drum up a constant influx of new business. Neither is it a good idea to have one large client for many reasons. There may be possible conflicts of interest in trying to keep your major client happy. Also, you do not want to depend on one main source for a majority of your income. If your client ever becomes dissatisfied for whatever reason, you may be left wondering how you are going to pay your bills-both business and personal.

In addition to generating your own revenues, you will be responsible for paying your own costs and expenses. Depending on whether or not you decide to share office space, initial costs will be incurred for office furniture and equipment, including a computer system that contains word-processing, accounting, and billing software, a fax machine, copier, file cabinets, library materials, office supplies, and security deposits.

Expenses that you will incur on a continuing basis include rent, utilities, office supplies, salaries for support staff, malpractice insurance, health and life insurance, telecommunications expenses for fax machines, modems, and computerized legal research services, continuing education costs, and other operating expenses to cover court costs, and postage. In addition, you must consider your living expenses.

Other duties you must undertake include managing your practice by preparing realistic budgets and then comparing actual performance with budgeted performance to determine if corrective measures need to be taken, maintaining various bank accounts, managing and directing your support staff in performing their duties, preparing and collecting on client billings, keeping current in your area of expertise, and most important of all, rendering legal services. In addition, you must make time for family and friends.

Solo practice can be both exciting and frightening simultaneously, and there will never be enough time in a day to do all you planned to do. However, if you like the idea of controlling your own destiny, determining what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and when, you may be a perfect candidate for solo practice.

Other Considerations:

Although actual practice may differ significantly from your law school experience, your first concern should be developing your professional skills, including your communication skills. Good communication skills are a must in dealing with partners and clients. You may feel overwhelmed and frustrated as you begin your legal career, but these feelings should subside as you develop more confidence in your abilities.

Live in the present, but look to the future as it relates to new legal issues and, therefore, new specialties in which you can develop expertise. Keep current through continuing legal education courses, which are offered on a regular basis throughout the nation. If you are planning to become a partner, your work is cut out for you; you will have to compete more aggressively for clients, recruit and evaluate associates, prepare client billings, attend partnership meetings, and plan and manage for the firm's future needs and goals.

You will also need to consider the impact of firm practice on your personal life. Are the demands and pressures such that you cannot leave your work at the office, but will take it home with you mentally every evening? Is the pressure going to be so intense that it will make the whole experience not worth the cost? With a lot of deadlines to be met, will the firm's attention always be centered on keeping clients happy to the exclusion of everything or everyone else?

Before entering private practice, you need to assess your own personality, deter-mine how much time you wish to devote to your job and how much to your personal life, the standard of living you wish to maintain, and any other relevant factors; then on the basis of this analysis, determine whether private firm practice is the correct career choice for you.

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Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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