Are you really qualified to work alone as a legal practitioner?
While most recent law school graduates join larger firms, a 2005 American Bar Association survey indicated that about 62 percent of attorneys later enter on their own or in small firms. . The reasons are many and vary widely, from high levels of stress to feeling overworked and unappreciated to wanting independence and control.
Also, as the economy has gone downhill over the past two years, more and more firms have divested themselves of more lawyers and secretarial staff. This creates an unsafe environment for those left behind, as well as solo practitioners. The market is flooded with lawyers who are likely to be competition. Also, in tough economic times, prospects are less likely to want to spend a lot of money on attorney’s fees, but you can’t cut them to a low level because of your expenses.
Those who leave alone have to be very independent risk takers because they are entering a bleak land with unforeseen problems that they must be prepared to handle. Overhead, including rent, secretarial assistants, website, and other utilities, can be extraordinarily high. This is usually especially true with regard to the telephone, which is the lifeblood of their practice.
Like Deborah Cohen’s article, “So you want to go alone? Are you sure?” in the Journal of the American Bar Association in November 2009, he points out, one of the big problems is capitalizing on his practice. If you come with resources, such as former clients of the company or previous financial accumulation, you may be able to make the transition smoothly.
However, if you don’t, you can spend all your time trying to support yourself, keep the wolf out of the door, and try to get customers. Stress and loneliness can be your constant companion and you like to work alone.
If you are thinking of going alone, you should consider whether your personality and work values are consistent with being alone:
1 Where do you feel most comfortable? In a large place with many people or in a small place with few or just you?
2. Do you want to set your own hours or do you want to set it yourself?
3. Would you prefer a guaranteed check every month, or would you go to great lengths to create financial security?
4. Would you rather have someone else take care of your secondary concerns or take care of them yourself?
5. Do you want to act as a boss, whether it’s real staff or virtual assistants?
6. Do you want to have to monitor what they do to make sure it fits what you want?
7. How important is it to have people who provide feedback, experience, and advice for problem solving?
8. Would you prefer someone else to handle financial affairs while you focus on the law?
9. Would you rather do your own marketing or have an expert hired by someone else do it for you?
10. Are you willing to keep learning to create a narrower niche or fill in the gaps when necessary as the economy changes?
If you are already a solo practitioner or with a small company and you are not satisfied with it, you should also ask yourself what factors would make your work more meaningful.