Flirting Solo: How I Flirted With The Idea of Going Solo – Rachel Rodgers

Adventures of a Gen Y Solo Practitioner

Flirting Solo: How I Flirted With The Idea of Going Solo


Rachel Rodgers, Esq.

Confession: I record every single episode of Oprah. Who doesn’t love Oprah?! My husband, that’s who. So during my year of clerking for a judge, I would watch Oprah as soon as I walked in the door because my husband was not home during that time. It became a great way to unwind from my crazy work day. (I clerked for a family law judge- need I say more?)

Anywho, I once watched an episode where Oprah was interviewing Alicia Silverstone about her new book, The Kind Diet. It was all about Alicia’s decision to become a vegetarian and then a vegan. I did not decide to become a vegetarian or a vegan as a result of this episode. In fact, I didn’t even decide to read Alicia’s book. But I did love what she said about making the decision to become a vegan. She said that she “flirted” with the idea for some time and that her book was all about getting people to “flirt” with the idea of changing the way they eat.

Well, I am writing this article to get you to “flirt” with the idea of going solo. Making the decision to start your own practice is huge and even more so if you want to do it straight out of law school. Maybe you’re not quite ready to make such a big decision. So don’t. At least, not yet. Instead, spend some time “flirting” with the idea of building your own practice.

To help you get flirting, here is how I did it:

  1. I read How to Start and Build a Law Practice by Jay Foonberg. Okay, so I didn’t just read it; I kept it on my nightstand and re-read different chapters every night for a year. I also acted like a proper groupie by traveling to two different states to attend bar events that Mr. Foonberg spoke at so I could ask him questions that were not addressed in the book. (I now have an autographed copy of the book with an inscription that reads: “To Rachel Rodgers, Lots of $u¢¢e$$! JAY G Foonberg.” Jay will teach you how to make the dollars!)
  2. I started following the blogs of attorneys who wrote about solo practice. Namely, the blogs of Susan Cartier Liebel and Carolyn Elefant. I searched these blogs for inspirational soloing articles daily. What was especially helpful was the series Passed the Bar – Hung a Shingle on Susan’s blog. I got to see what it looked like practically to start a practice from the perspective of a young attorney.
  3. I started following solo attorneys on Twitter. There are various benefits to joining Twitter. This enabled me to see a day in the life of solo lawyers and gave me the opportunity to interact with them as well. (They really do respond to your tweets and direct messages). People exchange lots of information on Twitter. By following solos, you’ll get to see what topics are hot among lawyers and links to relevant articles. The added bonus is that they will get to know you as well.
  4. I began talking to the solo attorneys I knew personally. I was a law clerk, which gave me access to lots of solo and small firm attorneys who had cases before my judge. I would ask them questions about how they got started and how they ran their practices. Even if you are not a law clerk, you probably know some solo attorneys by now. If you don’t, see if your law school’s career office will direct you to solo alumni you can contact.
  5. My job interviews doubled as fact finding expeditions. During this time, I was still interviewing for post-clerkship jobs because I was only “flirting” with the idea of going solo. I would often find myself in front of attorneys who were once solo but were now running small firms with several lawyers. I would use the opportunity to gather as much information as possible about managing a law practice. It was very informative for determining both whether I wanted to work for the firm or whether I wanted to go solo.
  6. I drafted a “hypothetical” business plan. After you do your research, the next step is to write a research paper, right? I had gathered so much information about solo life and managing a law practice, that I decided it was time to start putting together a simple, “hypothetical” business plan. This allowed me to start thinking through the practical aspects of what my practice would look like, how I would get clients and how I would support myself for the first year. Doing this task really helped me to see that going solo was entirely possible.
  7. I joined Solo Practice University. I know it seems like a bit of a plug, but it really isn’t. At this point, I knew a lot but I still had many unanswered questions about marketing my practice, choosing a practice area and the technical quirks of practicing certain areas of law. At about this time, my best friend sent me a cash gift that was exactly the amount of SPU’s quarterly tuition. It seemed like it was the right way to invest that money in my future. There is a reason why this was the last step in my journey of “flirting.” With the resources that I had available to me through SPU, I knew that I could handle having my own practice.

Maybe you just graduated from law school and can’t find a job. Or maybe you look at older attorneys at your firm and realize you don’t want that to be you in 20 years. Maybe you aren’t even an attorney but came across this article and it resonated with you because you don’t want to keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing. To people in all of those positions, I encourage you to flirt!

So, are you currently flirting with solo practice?  Let me know!

You can connect with Rachel here:

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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11 comments on “Flirting Solo: How I Flirted With The Idea of Going Solo – Rachel Rodgers

  • This may sound weird but I’ve set a goal to read books that have absolutely nothing to do with law. I read lot of business books (Linchpin, Start With Why, Never Eat Alone, etc). I also read books about education and leadership (Thomas Jefferson Education, Churchill’s autobiography, etc). And cookbooks. I guess my point is that staying curious outside law is so important to being an interesting person, something crucial to building relationships. Especially because, given that I’ll be starting a practice in an Austin suburb with no lawyer, my most important relationships will be with non-lawyers.

  • Hi Mike! I think its a great idea to read books about business because having a law practice is running a business and, unfortunately, law school does not prepare you for that. I currently have an obsession with entrepreneurship and so have been reading many books and studies on the topic.

    However, I do think that Jay Foonberg’s book is an invaluable resource for a new solo. For example, he talks about how you really have to cultivate your relationships with other lawyers because they will refer cases to you and you will be able to contact them when you run into an issue on a case. I utilize my “lawyer rolodex” almost daily. I think a new solo’s relationship with other lawyers is at least as important, if not more, than a solo’s relationships with non-lawyers.

  • Agree 100%. Best thing I have done in law school was to start a club for future solo and small firm attorneys. That kind of initiative doesn’t get overwhelming support at Texas where every kid thinks there’s a $160k job just waiting for him, but the lawyers love it. I tell these lawyers they’re really smart and should come talk to my group. They think, “Hey, he realizes I’m smart. He must also be smart.” So then we’re friends and they take an interest in my success. We’ll see in a year or so if that turns into referrals, but at least it will turn into people who can answer some questions, right?

    • Starting a club for future solos and small firm lawyers is a great idea! I am sure the attorneys you have connected with will be wonderful resources for you both for your questions and referrals.

  • Rachel, congratulations on your “flirtation.” You may want to listen to some of my commentaries in SPU and also review one or more of my books on starting and operating a successful law practice … see on my web site also hundreds of free articles. And join the conversations at http://www.lawbizforum.com, a free entree into a community of lawyers.

  • Thank you for sharing these resources, Ed! The Law Biz Forum will be particularly useful for “flirters” that don’t know many solo and small firm lawyers or for those who want to expand their network of attorneys.

  • I slightly disagree with your post about advertising. I agree that one shouldn’t do it without significant research. However, I have been in practice with my wife for less than two years and I can vouch for smart advertisement. Advertisement has helped propel my practice to new heights.

    • Hi Carnell,

      Thank you for your comment! I believe that you are responding to my most recent post located here: http://solopracticeuniversity.com/2011/09/01/what-ive-learned-my-first-year-flying-solo.

      I don’t doubt that advertising can be beneficial to a solo or small firm, particularly in certain practice areas. However, my article is really geared towards new solos who don’t have large sums of money to invest in advertising. And therefore, need to market their practices without spending large sums of money.

      I have also seen large sums of advertising dollars go down the drain for many solos. Whereas, I have yet to see an investment of time made in blogging, guest blogging and using social media online fail to provide some benefits to the lawyer.

      If you care to share, maybe you can tell us what type of practice you have and what type of advertising has worked for you?

  • Invaluable information, both for fledgling attorneys and experienced ones alike. “Advertising” in the traditional sense for me is a waste of time–networking, both social and face-to-face is a far better investment. Rotary, BNI, church groups, etc. are the greatest resources in terms of clients. Like Foonberg says, however, it’s important to be involved because of your own interest in them, not for the payoff in terms of clients.

  • This post troubles me—I read all the way through to the end, and I couldn’t find any advice about the most important point of all—learning how to be a lawyer. Until now, I had assumed you had practiced law for some period of time before going solo. Did you take the SPU courses and go from there?

    • Besty, thanks for your comment. Rachel clearly lays out her thought process while she was working as a law clerk and how she decided to take the plunge. All her steps involve mentorship which I think answers your question as once you are out of law school you learn the law from continuing your education in a variety of ways and she shows how she did so.

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