I’ve been seriously considering quitting my six figure job to start my own law practice. I’m obviously terrified and uncertain when is the best time to give notice (I feel like need to have a solid plan before doing so). Any tips, comments, recommendations, feedback you can give if you’re a solo practitioner, worked for one, or also thinking about opening your own firm? Is opening a general practice firm a good idea to bring in as much business as I can? Is it a bad time to do this during covid?

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Don’t give notice unless you are ready to be walked out the door the same day. Some firms will let you stay the two weeks and some will push you out immediately. There is a solo/small firm bowl where you can mine past posts for good information. Research malpractice insurance before you leave as you want to prevent any gap in coverage if possible. You can get a website ready before you leave and keep it offline until you are out. You will need to determine what case management software and billing software you will use, whether you will process credit cards or take checks only, and what supplies you will need right away. Some practice areas are cheaper to start then others. General practice will allow you to take anything, but you should consider what you want to do and what you know how to do. You may not want to have all sorts of matters going at once. Transaction and litigation matters can get in the way of each other, for instance. It’s also very important to do something you love because there will be days when you will not want to work and if you hate what you are doing that will make it really hard to keep going and be self-accountable. It is also harder to market as a general firm when you are small because you aren’t focused on one target client or referral group. Even if you market yourself as a certain focused practice area, you will likely get referrals for other types of work and you can decide if you want to take those or not. You will likely need to take most of what comes in the door at first. Your connections will be more important than ever. Look at joining your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, BNI, and other groups that can help you get the word out on what you do. So much of your first year will be spent networking. Also, reach out to other attorneys that do what you want to do. Sometimes you can find mentors in unexpected places. You are more likely to find a mentor doing the same type of work as you if you look far away from your location within the same State because you will be less likely to be seen as a competitor. But, small firms and solos will also remember what it was like when they started out. I was surprised at how helpful the legal community was for me. Also, look at whether your State or local bar association has free or low cost case search software available to members. It won’t be Lexis or Westlaw, but there are other good programs out there. Save as much money as you can before you go out on your own. You will have start up costs and may find it takes quite awhile to become profitable. You want to be able to pay your personal and business bills for at least six months, but ideally a year if possible. That being said, I started my own firm with very little saved up and it has worked. But, it was intense sometimes and I relied on my husbands’s income at some points to pay the household bills. I know other attorneys who opened their firms with credit cards, but that seems very risky. Read up on taxes as well and determine what type of tax entity your firm will be. It’s easier to start out with what you want than to change later. Since we are in a pandemic, decide if you want/need and brick and mortar store front at first or if you can have a virtual office. Some clients may be ok with you meeting them at their homes or offices. Some will expect to meet you at your office. Some focus areas are more conducive to going to clients’ homes than others. Not having a storefront significantly reduces your overhead costs, which makes it much easier to pay the bills as you are starting out. But, some practice areas rely on walk-ins more than others. Consider purchasing some books on how to start a business and how to start a law firm, specifically. You will need self-discipline. But, the freedom and flexibility can be very rewarding. You will, however, struggle at times when you need a vacation if you don’t have staff to keep things going while you are out.

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Thank you so much!!! I appreciate your insights. I took notes on all this to include in my “plan” outline. I thought about the type of corporation I’m thinking about opening and have an accountant family friend who I plan to hire to assist to maximize tax benefits. I definitely need to think about logistics like management system and a good malpractice insurer. If you have any recommendations, please respond 🙏🏼

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Do it!!

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Assuming you weigh risk and rewards!!

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There are wonderful groups out there supporting new solo practitioners like yourself and great books. The ABA for example has a guide for those thinking of striking out on their own. There are also great groups on Facebook for solo female practitioners. I belong to one made up of brilliant, fierce, diverse. successful female solo practitioners The advice is spot on and they offer boot camps for those just starting out. Also the stories they share about their experiences as female attorneys and their clients and opposing counsel and the courts is eye opening and helpful and reminds one that we have a “ways to go.” And talk to as many solos as you can about the challenges and rewards of hanging out your shingle. Good luck!!

helpful

Thank you! Great points. I appreciate the feedback.

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