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Questions About Going Solo By A New Attorney – A Solo Quickstart Guide

Over on Reddit at the private, lawyers-only subreddit r/lawyers, a new lawyer with some experience under his belt had some questions about starting a solo practice. This was my response:

I’d second myshingle.com as a good resource if you’re thinking about going solo.

Since there is a lot of information there and it can be overwhelming, I’d suggest just buying Carolyn’s book, Solo By Choice. I’d also suggest picking up Foonberg’s How To Start & Build A Law Practice.

That being said, here is some bare bones advice.

Solo Quick-Start Guide

  • Form a business LLC/PLLC/whatever you bar rules allow
  • Get an EIN
  • Get business/county/whatever license needed
  • Name your practice (as allowed per your bar rules)
  • Purchase malpractice insurance. Do this, it can be had for very little when you are starting out as a new attorney.
  • Setup financial accounts:
    • Biz checking
    • Biz Savings
    • IOLTA
  • Get office location
    • Geography matters for many practices!
    • Home office = NO
    • Virtual office space (EG Regus, etc.) = maybe
    • Shared space/sub-leasing from established firm = yes
    • Commercial lease of own space = yes
  • Get web presence & domain – this does not have to be expensive or fancy. There are a number of guides for this. Here is one on Lawyerist. Take a weekend, do the research & work, and you’ll be good to go.
  • GET BUSINESS CARDS – nice ones & a lot of them. Be ready to hand them out freely.
  • Announce opening of firm. Send out letters to all family/friends/etc. and let them know you are open for business. Blast emails/do social media announcements if you’re into that. Or not. It’s not a deal-breaker.

Extra steps:

  • NETWORK. LIKE. HELL.
  • Legal research
    • Free – local law library
    • Free – Google Scholar
    • Low cost/maybe free – whatever deal your state bar has worked out with someone like FastCase or Casemaker.
  • Look into doing contract work for other firms who are swamped. You can pick up some overflow work this way. Drafting discovery/coverage for attorneys with multiple court appearance scheduled, etc.
  • Does your bar have a referral service? It might be worth trying. Some people have success with it, others don’t.
  • Volunteer lawyer programs. Many bars have these. People need pro bono help. You need experience. Treat them like they are paying clients. Do good work for them. They will become referral sources later down the road.
  • Become an active volunteer in local communities. Don’t just join and never participate. Try and assume leadership positions. Treat you volunteer work with the same dedication and respect you do with your job. You will be putting your work ethic on display for everyone involved. Bottom line: invest in your community and your community will invest in you.
  • Shameless plug: You could also buy my book: The Marble and The Sculptor: From Law School To Law Practice.

Going solo is hard and the success rate is likely less than 50%. But it can be done if you work hard and believe in yourself.

Good luck!

 

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About Keith Lee

I'm the founder and editor of Associate's Mind. I like to write, talk, and think about law, professional development, technology, and whatever else floats my boat. I practice law in Birmingham, AL.

2 comments

  1. I would add additional volunteer programs beyond the ones offered by the bar. When I started my firm I volunteered time at our Family Court’s weekly “ask a lawyer” program. It was a good way to get my name out and many people who came to the program, planning to handle their own family law matter, later retained me when they realized they were in over their head.

    Good list Keith.

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