Tuesday, July 3, 2012
We had previously followed the blog of a recent law grad who, failing to find a job after graduation, decided to hang a shingle from his apartment bedroom. But after three months during which his costs exceeded revenue (though he did have some significant unpaid receivables), he decided to call it quits when he landed a paying gig with the local DA's office. Thus, our plan to follow a new solo in order to be able to pass along the lessons and wisdom he gained along the way unfortunately came to an unexpected and abrupt end.
So for all of our readers still interested in gaining a little insight about what to do, and what to avoid, when going solo, you should check out this two part series from the Lawyerist blog called Lessons Learned as a New Solo (Part 1 of 2). It's written by a former BigLaw associate who recently took the plunge by going solo and is now offering some advice after his first few months into it.
Here are his main points from Part 1:
Go With What You Know
First, decide on a practice area and focus only on that area. It’s hard to appeal to clients if you don’t know who your clients are, and it’s hard (read: impossible) to get lawyer referrals if you take any case that walks through the door. I once had a guy hand me a business card that read “Specializing in bankruptcy, criminal, family, corporate, environmental and personal injury law.” I doubt he gets many referrals, and I know he sure as heck won’t get a referral from me.
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Every Dollar You Spend is a Dollar You Don’t Have
Keep overhead low by spending only on the absolute necessities in the beginning, especially for people who only have 3-6 months of living expenses saved up. I designed my own website to save money. Some “law practice experts” snubbed their noses at this. ”Why not pay a professional and spend your time “networking” and practicing law?” they asked. “You could be billing out at $250 per hour.” Yeah, well what’s $250 multiplied by 0 hours? Exactly.
In the beginning, if you can do it yourself and do it well, don’t pay someone else to do it. All you have is time. I spent a week designing my website. I probably slept a total of 12 hours in those seven days, but the end result was $5,000 saved and the first real sense that this solo gig was actually going to work.
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Set Weekly Goals
This was probably the most important aspect of my initial success. Having a goal to work towards and successfully achieving that goal is very rewarding. I did not do this in the very beginning and soon found great success by incorporating this strategy into my life.
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Stay the Course
The first month of solo practice can be a very depressing time. You will have no clients, and the phone will not ring a single time. Stay the course. Keep meeting your weekly goals. Keep building meaningful relationships with other lawyers – in other practice areas and your own. Tell everyone what you are doing. Clients will come. Once you have your first client, the rest will follow. After three or four months, you will likely find yourself being able to pay your monthly business expenses. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to pay yourself a small wage. Even if it’s a tenth of what you were earning at a large law firm, that first month where you can actually pay yourself is unforgettable.
Click here to read the rest of the post.