Should I partner with another attorney when starting my practice?
This is a question often asked by young lawyers who want to go solo. And the answer often given by seasoned solos is either ‘no’ or the more emphatic ‘hell no.’ This response is usually accompanied by a horrifying story of a partnership gone bad that wrecked the credit, reputation, sanity, etc. of one or both of the partners. Hence, the response, don’t partner up.
Why Young Lawyers Really Want a Partner
Few of the young lawyers seeking a response to this oft-asked question are really looking for a partner. I think what these young lawyers are really looking for (as I was when I was in their shoes not long ago) is confidence.
These young solos are scared. For many of them, every lawyer that they share their solo plans with has negative things to say. Having a partner gives them someone to share their struggles with, someone to review their work and someone else with the seemingly-crazy idea of going solo. It also means instead of just having a solo practice that rests squarely on their shoulders, they have a “real” firm with more than one attorney. This gives young lawyers starting out a sense of legitimacy.
While some young lawyers will greatly benefit from partnering with the right person, having a partner in their solo venture will not solve the ‘lack of confidence’ problem. Additionally, the loneliness, responsibility and work review can be dealt with in a much simpler way.
What Young Solos Should Do Instead
As many a seasoned solo has told a young solo, taking on a business partner is like getting married. Therefore, finding the elusive “right” partner is like finding a spouse - often requiring years of searching. And, of course, maintaining the relationship is just as much work as maintaining a good marriage.
As any married person will tell you, being single is much simpler than being married. And the last thing a young solo needs is to further complicate the process of starting and running a law practice.
The fears that come up when considering the solo life can be resolved with one bold action:
Put yourself out there.
Announce your freaking firm to the world! Tell every lawyer, law student, recent grad, law professor, judge you know that you’re going solo. Attend conferences and other networking opportunities and tell the lawyers you meet that your a new lawyer and you’re going solo. And don’t say you’re thinking about it when you’ve really already decided it. Don’t downplay what you’re doing. Talk about it. Don’t sheepishly hide in your office. Put yourself out there.
Do this, even though you may run into negabots who will not be supportive of your solo plans. In my experience and the experience of many other young solos I know who have done this, you will make connections with colleagues who remember the fear (and exhilaration) they experienced when they went solo. They will support you. They will respond to your emails and send you resources. They will become mentors and friends.
That’s how you obtain mentors who can give you guidance and a boost of confidence when fear comes up. That’s how you obtain solo peers you can commiserate with when things are tough and celebrate with when things are going great. Its also how you get advice and referrals, find out about relevant events and develop a community of cheerleaders and friends in fellow lawyers. Coincidentally, its also how you will find the right business partner, if that is the right path for you.
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®.