Things I Wish I Knew Before I Chose to Become a Solo Attorney

By Joleena Louis - March 5, 2014
Things I Wish I Knew Before I Chose to Become a Solo Attorney

In her new blog series, Things I Wish I Knew newly solo matrimonial attorney, Joleena Louis, provides unprecedented insight into what you can expect if you choose the path of solo law practice. She answers the questions that you didn’t know to ask.

My name is Joleena Louis. I am a newly solo, 28 year old matrimonial and family law attorney. I started my own law firm, Joleena Louis Law, on December 1, 2013 after a few years of unsatisfying work at boutique matrimonial and personal injury law firms.

I tried to consume as much info about what it was like to be a #solo attorney Click To Tweet

When I made the decision to go solo, I tried to consume as much information about what it was like to be a solo attorney as I could. To my surprise, there was very little about the actual experience of practicing law as a solo. Sure, I could find out information about bank accounts and malpractice providers, but I felt no one was telling me what I could expect.

I feel I am now in a position to answer some of these questions. I had to learn all this information for myself. Let me save you some valuable time and energy.

For example:

What’s the best way to resign from my job?

People always tell you what to do once you are going to leave your firm, they never really tell you what to do in the weeks prior to your resignation or how fast your heart races immediately before stepping across the threshold of your employer’s door to have that final “sit down.”

How your employer may react to you pursing solo practice?

Again, people always tell you to take the high road, but what happens when your former employer is dead set on taking the low road.

What your first week of self-employment is like?

Hint: you barely practice your first week. Are you emotionally prepared for busy work?

What type of office should you get?

It is difficult to decide between virtual office and shared office space. Everyone has an opinion about office space when you decide to go solo. This is especially true when it comes to how you spend your money. Should you save money with a virtual office or should you commit to a full-time physical office?

Where can I cut corners when starting a practice?

There are a lot of expenses associated with starting a practice. It is easy to find a professional liability insurance broker to give you a quote, it is much harder to find advice on what is the bare minimum you can take that will protect you while you are trying to limit your initial expenses, and what all the plan limitations mean. There were also a lot of tools, such as case management software, that I was using at my old firm but as a solo with limited funds I had to decide what was absolutely necessary.

How much will my decision to go solo affect my marriage?

My husband is extremely supportive of my decision to go solo. In fact, he was a driving force behind it. He is my rock. But, what if my decision effects my marriage in an irreparable way.

How do I get clients?

Everyone has advice for solos once they retain clients. In fact, there are tons of sample client retainers I looked at online. What if you don’t have any clients to sign them? What are some effective methods of getting new clients?

How do you feel when your phone rings, you think it is your first client, and it turns out to be a marketing company that is trying to sell you a service to get you clients?

How does a solo cut through the noise to find out what's really worth it? Click To Tweet

When you first start, you think every ringing sound and new inbox message is a potential new client. How do you deal with being bombarded with unsolicited marketing advice and new products that is offering you “the special sauce” to make your services better? How does a new solo cut through the noise and find out what (if anything) is really worth the money?

The answers to these questions, and many more,  will be answered in my blog.

My hope is that this blog series will be the resource for readers that I felt was missing when deciding to pursue my dreams.

The best piece of advice I received when considering going solo…

When I was teetering on the edge of the decision making process to go solo, I sought the advice of every solo attorney I could find. The best piece of advice I received came from a total stranger, who I met at a networking event very early in my decision-making process.

She asked me, “Are you happy making someone else’s dream come true?

Choosing to go solo is allowing me to build my own dreams. I consider all of the questions and obstacles I encounter on my journey along the path of self-employment to be building blocks that will form the foundation of my future. The learning curve will be steep, but in the end I’m confident that it will all be worth it.

About Joleena Louis

Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a firm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial firm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Financial District location. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew... explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law firm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur. Follow Joleena on Twitter.

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