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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?
Before I started law school, I saw myself either as a sole practitioner or a partner in a small (3-4 attorney) firm. All of the attorneys I knew before law school were either solos or in small firms. Building personal relationships and providing great client support seems to come more natural in a small-firm setting. Specifically, I left another firm and became a solo practitioner in order to be able to express myself better through my practice and to give a higher level of personal attention to my clients.
2. What is the best part of being a solo practitioner?
The best part about being a solo attorney is the flexibility and freedom.
3. What is the worst part of being a solo practitioner?
The worst part about being a solo is finding affordable back-office resources, such as phone systems, on-line research, computer software, et cetera). It seems like law firm overhead is higher than other small businesses and you need to pay attention to the overhead costs to make sure they don't eat too much of the income.
4. What is a typical day like for you as a solo practitioner?
My typical day starts well before getting into the office. I need to have my day well planned before I step foot through the doors, because as soon as I am in the office people (staff, clients, attorneys) are competing for my attention. I will often start returning calls from home, or on my way into the office. I also tend to return calls after 5 p.m. and on my way home. E-mail is a mixed blessing, but I tell my clients that I typically respond to e-mails slower than to phone calls. I tend to work 11 hours per day, but am frequently able to go to extended lunches with friends or business associates and, with some planning, am able to watch my children play sports.
5. What advice would you give to others looking to become a solo practitioner?
When attorneys tell me that they are going out on their own so that they have more control over their schedule, I let them know that I tend to put in more hours on my own than I did when working in a firm. Attorneys who are considering going opening their own firm should spend time thinking about why they want to be in their own practice and what they can offer clients that other firms cannot. I also suggest that they build a strong network of other attorneys who can provide back-up coverage when need for illness, emergencies and vacations. Also, know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with people who can help. Although an attorney might be a solo practitioner, a team still needs to be in place (bookkeeper, legal assistant/paralegal). Office sharing works well and the best arrangements are when each of the office mates understands his or her own responsibilities to the group.
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