This week in Things I Wish I Knew… Joleena Louis discusses what makes a solo attorney just as good, if not better for the client than a large firm.
I recently had a conversation with a fellow solo attorney about how she felt like she had to prove to potential clients that she could compete with larger firms.
This really got me thinking about how I was instilling confidence in my clients that they will receive quality legal representation from my solo operation.
As I talk to more and more attorneys about going solo, I’m learning that there is a stigma about solo attorneys: they’re poor, desperate, cheap, and will take any case that comes their way. Basically, solo attorneys, like myself, are viewed as the street urchins of the legal community. I am here to tell you that this view point could not be farther from the truth.
While there may be some solo attorneys out there who have some of those traits, most solos are smart, ambitious, high quality attorneys who truly care about what they do. But how do you portray this to the client when you are just starting out and are doing everything yourself?
I’ve found that the best place to start is to first determine your ideal client and then figure out what’s most important to them. For my clients customer service, value, and reputation are the most important.
Since I just started a few months ago I don’t have a receptionist, paralegal or secretary. For me personally, this can be a bit of an annoyance since I have to take on all of these roles in addition to the roles of attorney and business owner, and I was concerned that clients would see this as a detrimental to the quality of service I could give.
However, I’ve found this not to be an issue by making it my practice to return all phone calls within 24 hours and encouraging clients to contact me by email or the secure client portal through my case management software.
I use the fact that I personally handle all aspects of their case as a selling point, which is very beneficial to clients who have come from bigger law firms where they rarely ever spoke to the actual attorney on their case. But, they sure paid like they did.
By not having a staff it’s easy for me to keep my overhead low, and I can pass this savings on to my client. My rent, which is generally my largest expense, includes pretty much everything I need to run an office. And, by sharing a suite with other attorneys I get a very expensive looking office for a reasonable price.
Because of these factors, I can charge for the value of my work instead of what I need to pay all of my expenses.
The most important way to instill confidence in your clients is to be professional. That means treating your clients, your adversary and any other person you come in contact with, with respect regardless of if you agree with them or not. It also means being honest with your client about your fee’s and experience.
The last thing I want to do is perpetuate a false myth about solo attorneys.
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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.