Establishing a successful law practice is a complex and demanding undertaking that necessarily requires practitioners to have or to acquire and to maintain a compendium of skill sets including, for example, risk management strategies, standard operating procedures, entrepreneurial drive (putting in 60-hour weeks 50 weeks a year), management and marketing skills, as well as a practical knowledge of what, when, and why a particular operational method works, to say nothing of knowing the law and how to present evidence.
If you’re considering whether to open your own law practice, run through this checklist of some of the most important skill sets a solo practitioner should have to see if you have what it takes:
- ___ Professional skills and people skills;
- ___ A strategy to develop a networking structure that will supply a stream of cases;
- ___ Financial and organizational discipline to budget for lean months and set aside cash reserves in flush months;
- ___ Legal training in the practice area the practitioner has chosen to work in so that clients can have confidence in the practitioner’s judgment;
- ___ Integrity that’s recognized in the community and by the bench;
- ___ A sufficient level of legal expertise to identify which tasks the practitioner can handle and which tasks the practitioner should refer to specialists; and
- ___ The patience and ability to apply the community standard of legal knowledge to practical situations.
Carefully (and honestly!) assess your abilities and goals in light of these important attributes before deciding whether to go solo.
For anyone getting started in a law practice, turn to CEB’s California Basic Practice Handbook, with a chapter on opening a law practice and also substantive law chapters to help you handle whatever comes in the door. CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms will help you establish and maintain effective communications with your client—from initial contact and retention to the conclusion of a case.
Also check out CEB’s The Basics Conference (if you’re fresh out of law school and/or want some basic tools), or CEB’s Practice Skills Estate Planning (if you are planning on hanging your estate planning shingle soon), which will give you training, tools, and confidence to move forward with your career and reach out to your first clients.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- What Form Should Your Law Practice Take?
- The Bare Basics of Networking Events
- Opening a Law Practice? Pay Attention to Tax Issues
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