By Request: What’s Your Best Advice for a Lawyer Wanting to Start a Solo Practice?

With the economy looking a little shaky (or more than a little shaky) and some rumblings already about law firms considering laying off lawyers, the solo option will become a consideration for many lawyers in 2008.
The short answer to your question is to find a great mentor. However, that’s really the answer to any question about the practice of law and it’s easier said than done.
In my own case, the advice I got that really stuck with me was to be sure to be able to identify exactly where your first client from a client would come from. That simple exercise helps you move from fantasy to reality.
In my recent Blawggie awards, I singled out the solo practice blogs as being a great resource for solos and aspiring solos. You’ll want to do some reading there.
This question also gives me the chance to single out and praise Carolyn Elefant’s new book, Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be. I had the privilege of reading a pre-publication version of the book and wrote the following short blurb about it:

Carolyn Elefant’s new book continues the tradition of her MyShingle.com website, which I once called “the perfect example of a great web resource.” It’s chock-full of exactly the practical advice I was looking for when I left a big firm to go solo. Highly recommended.

It’s the most current of the books about solo practice. It’s also worth tracking down a copy of the latest edition of Flying Solo (you’ll find a few chapters in there that I wrote) and, of course, Jay Foonberg’s classic, How to Start and Build a Law Firm.
However, after having left a large firm to go out on my own almost five years ago and spent a good deal of time thinking about the solo practice and how best to prepare for it and improve how you do it, I’ve recently found a resource that I plan to recommend so much that people will get tired of hearing it from me.
The best advice I can give right now is to watch regularly and study BBC’s Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

My cable company shows it on Thursday nights on BBC America, but you can also buy a DVD. I’ve recently started watching it and it’s a revelation to me. There’s so much that I can see in the show that I wish I would have known earlier.
In the show, restaurateur, chef and absolute master of dropping the F-bomb, Gordon Ramsay, visits and tries to turn around a struggling restaurant and its struggling chef and owner. What is key for a solo practice is how he helps you walk the line between business and profession, accounting and art.
If I were thinking of starting a solo practice now, I’d watch episode after episode of this until I started to see the repeating patterns, the common issues and the common solutions. It really does start to become clear what will work and what won’t (at least in concept – implementation and execution are vital factors as well). It strikes me that in the successful situations there is a fascinating balance between being ruthless objective about what you are doing and, at the same time, being very passionate about the service and product that you provide. In addition to some valuable business lessons that you’ll see play out in a number of settings, you will also get a feel for whether the life of running a business is something that you want to have. I can’t recommend immersing yourself in this show enough, and you will also get the side benefit of learning a whole lot about good food and fantastic new ways to use swear words.
That’s my best advice these days. That, and to be willing to be ruthlessly honest with yourself about whether or not the solo life really fits you. You do not want to become a effing solo practice nightmare.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
If you enjoy this blog, remember it has its own Amazon Wishlist and appreciates your generosity. ;-)
Technorati tags:

Comments

  1. says

    Dennis,
    Thanks for the mention. I am very much looking forward to your upcoming book on collaboration as I have been using those tools with some success to get my trade association off the ground and am interested in everything else that is out there.
    I agree with you on the Kitchen Nightmare show. Another useful show is Celebrity Apprentice – seeing the different strategies that the teams have for selling products and contrasting the male and female styles is incredibly informative. Do you think that we can get CLE for watching TV?