Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.
I always said that I would start my own practice “some day.” The thing about “some day” is that it always comes sooner than you think.
When the economy tanked and I lost my job, I really had no idea what would happen next. I began job hunting immediately. I searched on every job Web site I could think of, got in touch with all of my attorney contacts and went to meetings and networking events. A job didn’t fall into my lap right away, and I didn’t expect one to, but the opportunity to handle some legal work on my own did. So, I took that opportunity.
A lot of attorneys have the desire to start their own practices, but they are afraid of the unknowns. What if I don’t get any clients? What if I don’t make any money? What if I drain my savings? The decision to start a practice isn’t one that should be taken lightly but, if starting a practice is something you really want to do, try not to get hung up on the what ifs. There are ways to start a practice that don’t involve breaking the bank, there are ways to make money and there are always people out there who need legal representation.
My first client came the way most do—through a referral from a friend. The client was buying a house and wondered if I could help. I thought about it, and I realized that I could, in fact, help. I had mentor attorneys who had handled dozens of residential closings, and I had ample materials on how to handle a real estate closing. I knew that I could do it, so I did.
Obviously, the first step in starting a practice is to make a choice. Starting a practice doesn’t mean that you have to stop looking for full time employment. You can have a small practice or, in some cases, a side practice. You can take cases while you are trying to get back on your feet or you can dive in and invest everything into your practice. It’s really up to you. Everyone has different circumstances and limitations so you need to do what is right for you.
If you are thinking about starting your own practice or taking cases on your own, the very first thing I would recommend doing (besides securing malpractice insurance) is contacting someone who has experience as a solo practitioner. That was the very first thing I did. The attorney I spoke with helped me believe that it was possible and rewarding to be a solo. The concept of being a solo may be very isolating, but there is a community out there of others who have been very successful at it.
In the next several blog posts, I will share the things that I feel are important to take into account when starting a practice. These are things that I have learned and experiences that I have had. In the end, starting a practice is a highly personal decision but it can be a very rewarding one.
If you are interested in starting your own practice, your challenge for the week is to talk with someone who has already done so.