Sometimes, the Right Answer for a Solo Attorney is “I Don’t Know”

By Law Firm Suites - April 16, 2014
Sometimes, the Right Answer for a Solo Attorney is “I Don’t Know”

This week in Things I Wish I Knew… Joleena Louis talks about the value of NOT knowing as a solo attorney and the trust such honesty inspires in her clients.


Solo Attorney: The Value Of NOT KnowingThe hard choice leads to better returns.

Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to many solos and we have all come to one conclusion: there are a lot of things that we just don’t know.

But is this acceptable to say to your client or even *gasp!* the Court?

My response: Absolutely!

I am a recovering people pleaser. There was a time in my life (mainly, my high school and college years) when I would naturally want to give people the answer I knew they wanted to hear.

This went against my better judgment.

It always ended badly for both me and the recipient. I leaned the hard way that people prefer the truth, even if its not what they want to hear.

As a solo attorney and a new business owner, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuring your client that you can get them everything they want and that you know everything about every legal problem they could possibly have. You need the business and you fear that if you don’t know they might go to someone who does. However, if you lie and pretend you know when you really have no idea, you are putting your client, your license and your reputation at risk.


Solo Attorney: The Value Of NOT KnowingHonesty really IS the best policy.

By saying that you don’t know, you are showing the client that honesty is a priority for you, and in most cases they will respect you more for such integrity. So far I have never lost a potential client by saying I don’t know. I let them know I will find out and get back to them as soon as possible with the answer.

While covering a case per diem, I had an instance where the judge asked me a question about the facts of the case that I (nor the client) knew the answer to. While the judge was not happy about it, he accepted my response and we moved on.

As a solo your reputation is your firm’s reputation. Your clients have to be able to rely on you to give them truthful information.

Most people are willing to wait a little longer for accurate information than to get a quick inaccurate response.


Want to learn more about how integrity can make your solo practice more profitable?

Get our eBook: “Referral Etiquette”

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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’ start-up program in Downtown, New York.  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.


About Law Firm Suites

Law Firm Suites is the leading NYC shared office space for solo attorneys and small law firms. At Law Firm Suites, attorneys get headache free sublet office space, virtual office rentals and litigation hotel services. Law Firm Suites has two locations in Manhattan, one in White Plains NY, and one in Annapolis MD. Law Firm Suites' community of self-employed lawyers are eager to help colleagues succeed, and routinely exchange over $2.5 million in legal business every year in each LFS business center. Connect with Law Firm Suites on Twitter and .

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