Adventures of a Gen Y Solo Practitioner
Flirting Solo: How I Flirted With The Idea of Going Solo
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:
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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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®.