Why Don't More New Lawyers Go Solo?

This is the age old question and my friend, Chuck Newton, addresses it in his new post, “Why Do Not More Young Lawyers Start Their Own Law Practices.”

Yes, coming from me this may sound like a promotion for Solo Practice University.  But it’s not.  Chuck has no skin in the game.  He has no product or service to sell.  He does, however, have years of experience building a legal empire complete with massive overhead, numerous partners and associates and support staff, then by choice deconstructing the empire and reconstructing it as a home-based solo practice.  He also has a very talented daughter graduating from law school in a year (and another one wanting to go to law school) and is actually encouraging her to go solo even though she already has suitors in this depressed market.  How’s that for being sincere about what he writes!

Chuck tackles the usual, unnecessary overhead, etc.  But he hits the bullseye when it comes to facing the hurdle called ‘lack of experience.’

As for the lack of experience argument, that is more daunting. Just understand that business knowledge and practice knowledge are not learned in law school. They are learned by doing. Another way of saying it is that the only way a lawyer is going to learn is to just dive into the practice and practice area and start doing. I understand that thought is not overly enjoyable, but my point is that it is not any more enjoyable working for someone else. All most law firms do anyway is to throw a young attorney into the pool and command them to swim.  It is not as if they first put them through some private course of study on swimming. Sure, there are more experienced hands around should a new attorney need them, but those hands are available whether or not the attorney is with an existing firm. In fact, a lawyer probably has more access to such knowledge and experience if not associated with one firm, and if the lawyer is just willing to ask.

Asking is the key.  Associating with those who will offer assistance to you as a peer in the professional food chain is important. I’ve written often about the subject of finding good mentors, good programs, networking and coming to the party fully engaged and understanding you are not a beggar.  Networking as a peer is far superior then networking as someone ‘unemployed’ or underemployed or not even working in the professional field at all while waiting for the market to change.

In this market, lawyers are being forced to actually be entrepreneurs from the getgo or foresake their degrees while  drowning in student loans. You still have choices.  And one of those choices is taking a very hard, objective look at what solo practice really entails in today’s environment and what tools you already have available or can get a low-to-no cost.  It’s also asking yourself how hard you are willing to work and how much you trust yourself to make the right decisions when it comes to asking for help. Ignore the negative and positive hype. Disregard the myths. Look at the actual work and true costs for you personally to be a solo today.  Do NOT compare yourself to others and their unique situations. Strip away the fear and fantasy, really strip it away to bare bones. Now when you create your list of pros and cons what does your list look like?  Is Chuck right?

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4 comments on “Why Don't More New Lawyers Go Solo?

  • Asking has really worked for me. Following experienced lawyers and solo practice gurus on Twitter and emailing lawyers who are practicing in areas I am interested in (I obtain their email addresses from their websites) has been a really great way to acquire information about going solo and virtual law practice, which is what I want to do. Out of all of the many attorneys that I have emailed with specific questions, I can only think of one that did not respond.

    Thank you for the motivational kick in the pants! And for believing in us newbies.

    • @Rachel – sometimes that’s all it takes, an inspirational kick in the pants to get you going where you’ve already decided you want to be anyway. No one can make you do something you don’t already want to do and anyone who discusses the solo option is never trying to do that. We just discuss it for those who have the desire, just need to find the way that’s most effective to accomplish the goal.

  • As a student at UTexas who planned to go solo before I came to school, I can say don’t wait for law school to teach you what you need in order to be a successful solo attorney. In my opinion, they don’t teach you to be a practicing attorney of any kind, but that is another story. I follow the words of my torts professor: “Being a lawyer is no excuse for not knowing things.” I spend a lot of time at the Half Price Books discount section. In the last year I have read Never Eat Alone, Good to Great, Ari Kaplan’s Opportunity Maker, Trust Agents, Foonberg’s book, The World is Curved, Trump and Kiyosaki’s Why We Want you to be Rich, a book on import/export business… and I subscribe to a LOT of law practice blogs on my Google reader, including this one. All of that has taught me far more than law school could. And with 4 kids already and a ton of debt, few people have more reason to be scared than me – but I’m not. Information is the ultimate cure for fear, and you’d be surprised how doable this solo-out-of-school thing is. My thought is that if anyone can do it, I can, and I have surrounded myself with so many positive lawyers who have done it that I am utterly optimistic. Again, thank the stars for resources like this one. Keep it coming.

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