In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, New York attorney Joleena Louis shares how life as a solo lawyer has taught her to never take her practice for granted.
Thanksgiving was this past week and I’ve been reflecting on all the things I’m thankful for. One such thing is my solo practice. Starting your own practice requires much more than hard work, and that hard work has had an impact on how I perceive my career.
Going solo has been such a blessing in my life and even though it’s hard sometimes, I’ve learned not to take certain things for granted.
So as the end of the year approaches, I am reflecting on the lessons my practice has taught me, and these are the things I have learned to never take for granted in my practice:
For me, one of the best parts of being solo is the ability to choose my clients.
When working for someone else, you have little control over who you work with and the wrong clients can make your job miserable. Having the ability to set standards for the type of cases I take makes my work more enjoyable.
I’m also grateful that my clients choose me. There are a lot of lawyers to choose from out there and the fact that my clients choose to hire me is something I take very seriously. I never want them to feel like they made a mistake and take every opportunity to prove they made the right choice.
A Steady Paycheck
One of the most difficult aspects of being a solo attorney is maintaining a steady stream of income. You don’t appreciate the value of knowing exactly how much you are going to get paid every week until you give that up.
So when you finally figure out a strategy to keep a steady stream of new clients coming in, you learn to appreciate and nourish that strategy. For me, that strategy included developing a strong personal brand that has helped me to differentiate my practice from the competition.
Since going solo I’ve learned to look at failure as part of success. I used to fear it, but now I realize that the best way to learn what works is to eliminate what doesn’t. That means trying new things, failing, assessing and trying again.
For example, I have attempted countless marketing techniques for my practice. Not every technique was a home run, and I have learned from those failures. Now, from those failures I developed a strong marketing campaign that has helped my practice to become what it is today.
Here is my advice: If you’re not failing often, that means you’re not taking enough risks.
A Support System
The solo life is not for everyone, and I’ve learned the importance of the right support network. I don’t think I would have become the solo lawyer that I am today without my support network.
The support of friends and family goes a long way. Despite the differences between my ex-husband and I, he was always very supportive of my decision to go solo. This was imperative when I first started since it fell on him to take on the extra financial burden of our living expenses during the early days when my income was very inconsistent.
Also, surrounding myself with like-minded people like other solos and entrepreneurs has helped tremendously. People who understand your struggle and who you can go to for advice or to vent are worth their weight in gold.
I’ve learned to really appreciate the people who support my vision and my journey, and I definitely don’t take them for granted.
Lastly, I never take for granted the freedom available to me by being a solo. I choose my clients, my schedule, who I want working with me and how hard I work.
Having the freedom to take whatever cases I want and to make any decisions I want without having to get the approval of anyone else, has been one of the best parts of going solo thus far. Also, being in total control of all business decisions has become an incredibly important benefit to me.
I could never give up that freedom and go back to working for someone else.
Becoming a solo lawyer has changed the way I not only work as a lawyer but how I operate as a person. The lessons I’ve learned from my practice will stay with me forever, and I won’t ever take them for granted again.