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Quid Pro Quo

The Reasons to (And Not To) Start Your Own Law Practice

Posted on May 10, 2018 by Quid Pro Quo | Candidate Resources
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Many attorneys have pondered the idea of hanging a shingle and starting their own firm. Perhaps they crave autonomy. Maybe a new attorney can’t get a nibble on his resume. Some more experienced attorneys often think about their own practice after getting pushed out of a firm or corporate legal department. The reasons for considering the idea indeed vary.

Nevertheless, the idea of opening a new practice must go with intense and pragmatic consideration. While some attorneys may find several great causes to go out on their own, other rationales probably will suggest another path. The issue is one deserving of time and lawyers must look at the topic from every possible angle.

Reasons to Start

The following are five excellent signs that starting your own firm is a definite possibility. The five include:

  1. Clients will follow you. This is a huge positive because clients mean you’ll have work, which means you’ll have billable hours, which means income. When considering whether clients will go with you in starting your own firm, ask if you can trust these clients. Some clients may give the impression they’ll have your back, but they may not actually follow you when the time comes.

  1. You’re special. While we’re all special in our own way, what we mean here is that if an attorney practices in a highly specialized area of the law, he’ll be in a better position to start on his own. This is for two reasons. First, clients are more apt to follow you (because other attorneys in the same firm can’t complete the work). Second, it means less competition from other firms. 

  1. You’re a business person. Lawyers working at a firm or corporation practice law. However, attorneys operating their own firms are both attorneys, as well as, business people. Hanging a shingle means you’ll have to run and operate your own business. If your business acumen is razor sharp, then starting a practice might be a good fit.

  1. You’re facing a potential blank on your resume. Some lawyers will have difficulty in landing a job. If this lasts for a considerable time, one result is a large gap in an attorney’s resume – which is often not a good thing. If it makes financial sense, and you have a few clients to help, starting your own practice might be a smart thing to help explain resume blanks.

  1. You like a challenge. Starting your own practice is hard. Know this now. You’ll face many new decisions. The action is time consuming. You’ll have to hustle to find clients. If you’re not up for challenges, then don’t waste your time on going out on your own.

Reasons Not to Start

If you’ve read the above and you’re already thinking about your firm’s name, stop for a moment and take a deep breath.  Let’s first see if there are reasons on why not to start a firm that apply to you. Five such reasons might include:

  1. Your job hunt is lacking firepower. Yes, we mentioned above that starting a firm might be smart to prevent a resume gap. But, you must seriously consider whether starting your own firm is in line with your ultimate career goals. If not, then keep on job hunting – and contact us for help.

  1. You’re not interested in marketing. Running your own business means you’re going to have to market – e.g., building and maintaining a website and blog, advertising, networking, operating social media channels, etc. It’s essential for the business to survive and grow. If “marketer” is not in one of your envisioned job titles, then don’t start a firm.

  1. You want to make a bundle of money. Please note that you very well may make a high income by starting your own practice. But, odds are that this will not happen within the firm’s first couple of years. It takes time to establish a solo shop. Clients want a lawyer that has a proven reputation. This is not built overnight; and, profits are likely to remain low as the building takes place.

  1. You crave a better work-life balance. This is like number three. Starting your own practice may eventually shine a bright light on balancing your personal and professional life. However, this will not happen immediately. Hanging a shingle requires hard work and many long nights.

  1. Your current firm/company is miserable. An unfavorable work environment doesn’t necessarily mean you have to run off and do your own thing. Maybe you just need something new. It’s okay to change jobs, find new practice areas, and to even consider different professions. The main take away is for you to know that starting your own practice is not a panacea.

If you’re thinking about going solo, please think through this matter with care. It’s a huge decision and one difficult undertaking. Take the above into consideration, and always contact us with specific questions. QUID PRO QUO enjoys making your professional lives better; and, we’re always here to help.  

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