For those who are more of a general practice (solo/small firm) - how do you know what type of cases you’ll enjoy doing and actually know what needs to be done? Example: from probate, to civil ligation, to real estate/property, to family law, to criminal, etc.; they are similar in some senses but vary tremendously as well. How do you juggle cases that you aren’t too familiar with or that you don’t know much about the area of law? Do you just wing it? Look to mentors for help?

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We started as a general practice but took on only civil, criminal is it’s own beast. We also took cases that we knew we either had experience or that we could easily educate ourselves in. We already had litigation background so regardless of the topic such as breach of contract or fraud we knew civil procedure so that already is very helpful. Definitely get Westlaw or Lexis, it’s worth it as a general practitioner. It also helps if you know people in a certain practice areas so you can talk things through with them or co-counsel. After a certain point it’s much more difficult to withdraw so you have to make that decision early on. You should always assume things are going to get difficult or adversarial. I’ve never experienced a “routine” anything, there’s always issues that arise. I would start with the areas you know or have experience in and once you do a good job in that, your clients will then ask do you also practice XYZ and you can decide then if you want to take it, co-counsel refer it out completely.

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My firm does all domestic relations. So not as general as you’re speaking, but it will run the gamut from pre decree divorces and custody, to modifications, to dependency and neglect (child welfare in my jurisdiction). We try to stick to that so if we encounter new issues/developments/situations, it’s at least in the field of what we tell people we do.

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Do you withdraw representation at the point of uncertainty? Example: what if your routine probate becomes adversary or more complex than you initially realized and are familiar with - do you stay and figure it out or withdraw? Same goes for criminal cases, divorces, etc.
I am trying to figure out what areas of law I want my (solo) firm to offer: I don’t want to restrict myself to just a few areas of law, but also don’t want to be this “general counsel” type firm that takes anything. Would it be worthwhile to advertise for a few varying areas of law and take them on a case by case basis depending on how consultation goes?

Thank you for your feedback!

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