This week in Things I Wish I Knew… Joleena Louis lets you in on secrets and strategies to create a culture of success in a solo law practice.
On May 1, 2014, I became the proud parent of a six month old solo law practice. From what I hear from parents with actual children, our 6-month old’s act very similar. They both need constant attention, and require you to sometimes drop everything you are doing to pacify a problem. Neither allow for very much sleep.
This being said, I would not change it for the world.
In honor of my practice’s anniversary, I have taken time this month to reflect on how far I have come and on how far I still want to go with this.
Six months in, I realize that being a solo attorney, as opposed to working for a firm, is not at all what I imagined it to be. Not better or worse than I imagined, just different.
Tip: Your fear about being in the RED is unfounded.
One of my biggest fears about starting a solo law practice was whether I would be able to retain clients. In fact, this is the most common fear I hear from attorneys who are vacillating with the decision making process to leave a steady paycheck and pursue self-employment.
My biggest surprise to me is the amount of work I have. I had assumed the first few months would be really tough and that I would only have a few clients. This assumption, like many assumptions I made before I went solo, proved to be untrue. While the first few weeks were a tough adjustment, I can tell you that you get used to it really quickly.
Part of the delay in starting my practice was that I expected to make no profit for the first six months. I feared that I would be in the red for a really long time. And as we all know, money is one of the biggest stressors common to every person.
That has not been the case.
Tip: Blogging for clients is more circuitous than you think.
One myth I would like to dispel is that blogging gets you clients. I came into solo practice with the assumption that regular blogging and social media publishing would bring me lots of clients. While this may be true for some attorneys, like my colleague Vivian Sobers, it does not represent the whole truth for Joleena Louis Law.
Now that I have been practicing and posting for 6 months, I realize that blogging and social media bolster my credibility and relevancy to potential clients who come to my sites from other sources. In that way, cultivating an Internet presence has not been a loss at all. It has just provided a more circuitous route to client retention than I thought. Not good or bad, just different.
Tip: Solo practice lends itself to a feast or famine mentality… change that.
For example, I will get no new prospects one month, then get several retainers the next. I quickly learned that during the good times I need to budget and prepare for the slow times.
Even further, I wish I would have known that practicing during the feast is much harder than practicing during the famine. For solo attorneys like us, paying clients take precedent. They move to the front of your time management. The problem with this fact of practice is that you inevitably neglect the other two heads of the three headed monster of small firm practice management: marketing and firm administration.
In order to keep the client pipeline full and prevent times of famine, you have to continue networking and marketing. Practically, this means budgeting time for events you may not think you have to go to, or want to go to. This is the biggest secret to solo success…
Tip: Don’t give yourself a way out! It prevents success.
When I started my practice, I went all in. I never really had created a time deadline for myself in case things didn’t work out. I had no plans of looking for an associate position somewhere else. If you are considering solo practice, a fail-safe is not an option. It will sabotage your success.
Personally, I just knew things were going to work out and I was meant to start my own firm. As I reflect on these past six months my feelings have not changed. I still feel confident about my decision and have no desire to ever work for anyone else.
Finally, when I was thinking of starting my own practice, I wish I would have known that I would be the best boss I have ever had.
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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.