The path toward a solo practice is an arduous one, and it can be made all the worse if you stumble upon these 10 common mistakes. As you start thinking about going solo, protect yourself against these potential pitfalls by reading about them early on and taking steps to prevent them:
#1 Burning bridges
It was once said the problem with burning bridges is that the world is round. Always leave your existing firm on good terms and keep in touch. Your network will make or break your future solo practice. As such exit gracefully; you never know when you might need help from a former colleague or supervisor.
#2 Only working from home
Virtual office spaces might save you money short-term, but in-person interactions are typically what bring about new business for attorneys in particular. Working exclusively from home is harmful to both parties involved. Attorneys risk feeling isolated, something that is the number one complaint from people who do work at home. Moreover, clients are less likely to utilize those who work from home which means attorneys won’t get as much business as they need.
#3 Expecting a big law model
Attorneys previously worked at big law firms had endless streams of clients and never a dull moment. Things won’t be moving at that same pace during a mid-career transition to a solo practice. There will be lulls in caseloads during which time attorneys need to focus their efforts on marketing and other business building activities.
#4 Too much ambition
On that note, as a new solo attorney, you don’t have associates to help with the workload. Choose clients selectively to provide high-quality service to each. More clients does mean more money, but one case of bad service can quickly kill a new business. Remember, each high-quality service that you provide can beget referrals and new clients which eventually will allow for staff growth.
#5 Not specializing
Along the same lines, failing to specialize in one practice area is an invitation for malpractice. As a solo practitioner, it is easy to want to accept any client who comes waltzing through the door under the auspices that a paying client is tantamount to a good client. But this type of mindset hurts long-term chances of success.
When you aren’t well versed in the kind of law you are practicing, you’re prone to make mistakes that could damage your clients’ chances of success and hurt your reputation. You are much better off long-term developing a niche practice.
#6 Failing to put efficient infrastructure into practice
Solo practitioners need to use legal billing software to keep track of their time accurately. Temple University Beasley School of Law cited this as the most common mistake for solo attorneys. Malpractice claims can be avoided with proper billing practices.
New solos will need to consider billing, case management, and other functions creatively to produce a more efficient smaller firm business model.
#7 Not seeking help when it’s needed
Simple tasks can be subcontracted to part-time employees or outside services, a step you should consider once your non-billable tasks start consuming more time than your billable tasks. Growing your new firm will take time and effort, neither of which you can provide if you are busy handling clerical or paralegal work.
For a busy solo attorney, an outside service, like One Legal’s Concierge, can handle court filing, service of process, and other administrative tasks so that you don’t have to. This can also work as a stepping stone when you’re not quite ready to hire full-time help.
#8 Setting unrealistic goals
Many lawyers have dreams of growing a large practice very quickly which can lead to unrealistic expectations. Pace yourself and set realistic goals. Don’t expect a dozen new referral sources during your first month of practice while simultaneously planning to attend half a dozen networking events, plus posting on your new law firm blog. All of this will take time.
#9 Unethical marketing
There is intense pressure to bring new clients, but all lawyers still must abide by strict rules about what can and cannot happen with marketing material. Even something as seemingly harmless as referring to yourself as “super lawyer” can be a recipe for malpractice lawsuits. Do your research and tap into your legal knowledge to consider how your marketing statements could be taken
#10 Ignoring your most important asset
As a solo practitioner, never forget that your reputation is your most important asset. Long-term success means cultivating a reputation within your local community, your professional network, and among your clients. Doing things like pro bono work can help build your reputation faster. Never underestimate the power of a positive reputation.
Moving from a large firm to build a solo practice can be a massive project, and these are a few of the major pitfalls that can most often afflict new solo attorneys. Be aware of these potential issues and strategize to solve for them before they affect your growing business.
Facing the uphill climb of growing your business while doing everything yourself? If you’re interested in getting help with critical legal support tasks in your business, contact us to discuss working with our Concierge team so you can grow your practice.