We’re thrilled to have Lee Rosen pen a guest post every now and then for our Solo Practice University blog. Whether he’s in Bulgaria, Hong Kong or the remote hinterlands, he stays fully connected, practicing law and sharing his very worthwhile no-holds-barred advice. Here’s your first dose of Rosen-isms.
When you go out on your own, you need to focus on getting clients. That’s it. A one-track mind is critical. Think of nothing else. Just go, go, go get a client.
Once clients are hiring you, then you can worry about everything else. For now, do nothing but get clients. Everything else is avoidance behavior. We work on other stuff because getting clients is hard, it’s scary, and it makes us feel vulnerable.
New solos spend all kinds of energy on things unrelated to getting clients. They’re busy doing busy work. They get distracted by unimportant issues. They run errand after errand, and they find themselves without time to chase clients. Doing anything—thinking about anything—other than getting clients, before you have clients, is dumb.
Here are my top five dumbest things new solos do:
1. Partner up.
They decide to open a practice. They have no revenue. They promptly decide to partner up with another lawyer. Now they get to divide zero by two. Plus, they get to spend hours debating practice management issues like how to divide profits and what the partnership agreement should say. It’s crazy. It’s also amazing how they rationalize the decision. They say things like “We have different practice areas and there’s a synergistic effect,” “She’s good at management and I’m good at marketing,” or “My fees come in infrequent lump sums and hers will help us meet monthly overhead.” They believe their own bullshit. Forming a partnership is something frightened people do; it’s in the “misery loves company zone.” Don’t drag someone else along with you—you’ve already got enough to worry about.
2. Rent unnecessary space.
You don’t have a client and you’re renting office space? You’re spending hours driving around in the real estate broker’s Lexus? For what? Is the space going to be your meditation room? Will you build a shrine in the corner? You’re renting space instead of getting a client because it makes you feel productive. You’re not being productive—that’s self-deceptive behavior. Worry about space later. There’s no shortage of office space. When you have a client and need some space, it’ll take a few hours to arrange. This is a very low priority concern.
3. Hire prematurely.
New solos love to hire someone. What’s that about? You’re feeling powerless and an employee gives you something to control? You don’t have enough work for yourself and you’re handing it off? Come on—this is crazy. Don’t hire anyone until you’re bringing in at least $25,000 a month. (That’s at least 28 hours a week, and that’s when you’ll start to be too busy to get it all done.) Don’t even think about hiring anyone, okay?
4. Buy malpractice insurance.
New solos usually buy insurance right after they open the business bank account (which they don’t need). Maybe it’s required in some places? Let me help you with this: if there’s no money coming in, you don’t need a bank account to put it in, so why are you comparing banks? It’s the same deal with malpractice coverage: if you have no clients, you can’t commit malpractice. Don’t worry; you can commit malpractice later. There’s plenty of time for that, and you’ll want the insurance before you do it (unless, of course, you’re judgment proof).
5. Form an entity.
This one is my favorite. We form corporations and LLCs for ourselves. Why? Why not? We know how to do it, it feels like work, and it keeps us busy. Like the rest of the dumb things on this list, it’s not important early in the game. There’s something that is important, and spending our time forming an entity is a tactic we use to avoid doing the marketing. Worry about entity formation later. When? When you have clients.
What are the smart things to do? Get busy getting clients. Get those clients to sign retainer agreements and pay a fee. Once you’ve got folks hiring you, then you can do everything mentioned above. In fact, at that point, you’ll have the resources to pay someone to do them for you.
How do you get clients? Get visible in your community.
- Do it by meeting prospective clients and referral sources and start building relationships.
- Do it by building a content-rich website or blog.
- Do it by advertising on Google AdWords.
- Do it by speaking to civic groups.
- Do it by renewing old friendships and building new connections.
Spend your time getting clients. Don’t spend your time creating the structure of your law firm. You won’t have a law firm for long if you don’t get some clients. Stay on that track and get clients. That’s the smartest thing you can do.
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®.