These last four points are shorter so I’ve combined them into a final post. Select the links to read points numbered 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6. And away we go with the final four points I share with new attorneys considering a solo practice.
- Know your financial targets and metrics. What does it take annually to make it, to thrive, and to prosper? Write that down. Then break it down to monthly figures. How much per month? Take it further and now how much a week? Based on your hourly rate, how many hours must you bill in a year, month, week, and day (5 days a week) to meet your numbers. How many clients does it take to generate those numbers of hours of work, or how many flat-fee clients meet your monthly figures?
Do these on paper every year. Run a profit/loss spreadsheet or statement and keep track. HAVE A BUDGET. Also, know where your money is going because it might not be where you intended. The practice of law is only a part of being a solo practicing attorney.
- Connect to your alumni networks and your local Bar Association. My best referrals come from other attorneys so get to know them. Not only will you find clients, you’ll find resources, mentors, and furniture from attorneys retiring or expanding (remember how resourceful I am?). Also, your college alumni association likely has a chapter in your city. If not, maybe you can work with the alumni office to start one. Your fellow alum already share a connection with you, which makes it easier to develop a relationship that can lead to referrals.
- Volunteer for Legal Aid programs. You’ll get excellent experience, you’ll expand your horizons, and you will help people in a very meaningful and powerful way. If you are doing courtroom work, the judges notice who is there on pro bono assignments and they remember. Austin, Texas has a fantastic program called Volunteer Legal Services. I try to keep an active client from them all the time and choose a new client shortly after concluding work for the previous.
- Don’t compare yourself to your peers. However if you see a peer doing well, buy him lunch and ask what he’s doing. Take notes and incorporate strategies that fit your style. No one is forcing you to be a solo attorney and there is no shame in deciding to join a firm or change jobs. You haven’t failed if you find another path that fits your needs better. I have doubts all the time, but each time I’ve been ready to “find a job,” I’ve been overcome with a deep sense that I’m in the right place, doing the right thing, and so I persevere. Despite the challenges of the last 3 years, I am happy and that is the best indicator that I am exactly where I need to be.