Checklists New Lawyers Practice of Law Starting a Law Practice

Do You Have What It Takes to Go Solo?

ThinkstockPhotos-135544881Not every attorney is suited to solo practice. But if you are, it can be a very fulfilling and profitable way to practice law. Do you have the personal attributes needed to open your own practice?

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:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

3 replies on “Do You Have What It Takes to Go Solo?”

Starting a solo practice is starting a business, which is something that law school didn’t teach about when I attended. The skill I’d add to your checklist is, how comfortable are you with delegating?

As a solo, you can’t afford to do everything, nor can you do it all well. It’s essential to know when and how to get effective help in your law business, especially as it comes to marketing and social marketing.

I recommend to my clients that they look to micro-job sites like Elance and Fiverr to lift some of the administrative and marketing burden off your shoulders.

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