As rezooming attorneys, we often wonder what size law practice would make the most sense. If we have been out of the business of law for a long time we may think a smaller practice might be easier to ‘ease’ back into the law than a solo practice. In December 2014, I found a great article discussing this point in the ABA Law Practice Management magazine. It was entitled Life Beyond Big Law, by John D. Bowers.
The author interviewed four attorneys who had chosen solo or small firm practice over big law, having experienced both. One of the attorneys interviewed for the article was Heidi Barcus, a good friend and colleague of mine on the ABA Women Rainmakers committee. She is a partner at London & Amburn in Knoxville, Tennessee. Heidi started her legal career at a large law firm, moved to government, then solo and now is in a smaller law firm, with 20 members where everyone, partner and associate, has skin in the game.
In this ongoing rezooming series I often speak about how a rezooming attorney needs to choose the correct re-entry trajectory back into the practice of law. The ABA – Law Practice Management (ABA-LPM) article provides serious information which should be consider as you rezoom the practice of law. Read how these four attorneys found their new equilibrium, after experiencing big law, small law and solo. It gives insight into how to evaluate what you are looking for in your next firm. In the Solo Practice University blog section, you can read more about Big Law to Solo from our own Suzanne Meehle who also writes a great series on this topic.
Control of your time, your fees and your customer service.
When rezooming a career in the law, time is one of the most important considerations. Each attorney interviewed in Mr. Bowers’ article stated that the law they practiced and customer service were second and third on their list of priorities. Fees were fourth, closely followed by the legal technology available for their use to keep track of clients, court dates, fees and overhead. Each attorney interviewed by Mr. Bowers said they were now doing what they loved. This knowledge and choice came after several forays into what they thought was a good fit but then began not to meet their changing lifestyle. They outgrew the firm or the firm outgrew their chosen priorities.
The attorneys interviewed spoke about overcoming or adjusting to a few handicaps in support, both technologically and personally. They felt the energy they expended to overcome these handicaps allowed them to serve their clients better, more personally, creating long-term relationships.
Finally, what resonated with these attorneys, either in solo, small or medium firms, was the ability to be discretionary about fees they charge. One attorney interview said he enjoyed the ability to answer a clients question and not feel he had to bill for his time. He believed such discretion built stronger relationships with his clients. They did not feel nickeled and dimed to death.
The bottom line for each of the attorneys interviewed for the article was that they all took the time to understand their own individual needs as attorneys first. What worked for them turned out to work best for the firm of their choice as well. Finding their best niche allowed them to fully meet their needs and the needs of their clients. Each attorney felt he/she delivered 100% of value to the firm and client.
My rezooming readers, after reading the article by Mr. Bowers, remember to find the place that fits you best. It will make you happier to feel in control and be happier in the practice of law. In turn you will provide the best legal services to your clients and firm. As each attorney said, they appreciated the flexibility they had to use their time in a way they found fit their lifestyle, which wisely enabled them to have a life outside the practice of law.
As a rezoomer, don’t lose site of what you want while you interview for what you feel you need. Balance is key, self-care and client care needs to be equal. If you rezoom and want to stay in that position for a long time, take the advice given by these four warriors. Their insight may be just what you need to be a successful rezoomer. Now go and rezoom your practice, the world is waiting 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®.