Jill Willis, Solo Practitioner (Attorney)

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Working as a solo practitioner has both pros and cons, just like any other attorney. Some of the pros include complete freedom over what cases they work on and making their own destiny. Some of the cons include a lower average salary compared to private practice attorneys and less support staff to help you in than you would have in private practice.

Solo practitioners enjoy various benefits that larger firm practitioners may lack, such as complete freedom over the cases they choose and the nature of their practice. That being said, there are some downsides to becoming a solo practitioner, including reduced staffing and a lower average salary as compared to larger firm practitioners. All in all, you should weigh your options and consider becoming a solo practitioner if it is the right fit for you.

1. Why did you decide to become a solo practitioner?

I chose to start my own firm in order to have greater control over my law career trajectory. I've experienced working in both the major law firm and large corporate environments. They were great teaching arenas, but I felt like more of a tool than a person in these settings. The goals of the firm and the corporation were rarely in alignment with my personal, professional goals. I felt that I was being frequently evaluated by individuals who weren't committed to facilitating my professional development. I also disliked the politics inherent in those environments, not to mention the often negative attitudes about women, minorities and older workers.

2. What is the best part of being a solo practitioner?

The best part of being a solo practitioner is being my own boss and charting my own course. It's not having to deal with the issues of the law firm and corporate practice. It's the confidence and peace of mind in knowing that I can practice law as long as I choose without the threat of a layoff hanging over my head. It's knowing that there is a more direct correlation between what I do and my outcomes.

3. What is the worst part of being a solo practitioner?

The best and worst part of being a solo practitioner is the awesome responsibility. You know that "the buck stops here"! Unlike the corporate practice where your clients are there whenever you show up at work but you have no job security or the law firm where you are expected to "make rain" and also have no job security, in a solo practice there is the on-going search for new clients and work to maintain current clients.

4. What advice would you give to others looking to become a solo practitioner?

The advice I'd give to an attorney considering this avenue is to decide whether they have the ambition, stamina and drive to start thei8r own business. You will be an entrepreneur and all that entails, including the risks. Explore community and internet resources to facilitate the transition to law entrepreneur. Speak to other solo practitioners about their experiences.

5. What is a typical day like for you as a solo practitioner?

A typical day has me up around 7:00 a.m. for a half hour of exercise, followed by checking my calendar, email and voice mail. If there are no morning meetings the time may be spent drafting documents, returning calls or responding to emails and scheduling appointments. I make time to be active in community programs that are of interest and participate in periodic pro bono activities. I am constantly cognizant of ways to make my presence and the availability of my legal skills known to my community.

6. Is there anything else that is important to know about you and your practice, or that you would like to add?

I think that if you enjoy the area(s) in which you practice and continue to work on keeping your skills up to speed, you've won half the battle. Great marketing and customer service complete the puzzle. Throughout my career I've prided myself on providing the best customer experience that I can. As a solo practitioner, it's paid off with loyal customers who also make referrals to me.

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Jill Willis      Job Security      Larger Firm Practitioners      Law Career Trajectory      Professional Development      Solo Practitioner      Teaching Arenas     

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