In this week’s edition of Young, Hungry & Committed, Maryland solo lawyer Liz Johnson shares how one book not only helped her to start her practice but encouraged and reminded her of the joys of being self-employed.
I started reading this book by Jay G. Foonberg, How to Start & Build a Law Practice. I couldn’t have articulated it better myself.
This book covered several different topics about starting and maintaining your own practice. While a majority of the information was beneficial, the most helpful aspect of the book was its ability to remind me why I am so happy and glad that I went the solo route.
Being My Own Boss
Page 11 states some pros and cons of solo practice, but I find the pros have infinitely outweighed the cons. My personality is better off as my own employer. Despite having one really amazing boss, I was still walking around on eggshells hoping that I didn’t do something to sound stupid or to make any mistakes. Because we’re all perfect and no one ever makes those right?
Well, I was scared to death of making ANY, and that really doesn’t make for a good working environment. I’m fairly meticulous, so any mistakes being made won’t have occurred because I didn’t do my due diligence. I’m working on four deeds at the moment, and I wanted to do a bunch of research before touching them. So two weeks later, I’m still working on them. My client is fine with that, and so is my employer, because, hey, that’s me!
I’m just taking baby steps to make sure everything is being done correctly.
Working With Clients
Another aspect touched upon was working with the clients.
I know it sounds stupid, but I’d rather not talk to clients. I want to get their work, know what they want from me, and get it done. But what I loathe more than that, is getting information second hand, obtaining the client’s wishes through someone else who may have missed something, or who may have heard their desires or needs a different way.
In my couple of months practicing, which includes some mediation training, I can’t believe how little people listen to each other. SO in this respect, I WOULD rather talk to the client myself. This way I can parrot back to them what I heard right then and there, to ensure we’re both on the same page and they know exactly what to expect.
The Sky’s the Limit
Ah, practical training. Jay couldn’t have said it any better. No one wants to train new attorneys. Sad but true. So we are no better off going to a firm than we are hanging out a shingle.
My initial trepidation in opening up shop was that I wouldn’t have anyone around to help answer questions or to help point me in the right direction. I was lucky enough to find a great support system, and that was the reason I opened up my own practice so quickly, despite not being ready.
Some people think that you won’t have as much money as that friend of yours who was hired by this big firm. Money is money is money, it comes from the same source, people. If you have the right connections (and this is where marketing comes into play), then you could potentially make just as much as anyone else.
You’re really only limited by yourself, and I think that’s one of the things I like most. Many times in the past, I’ve felt like I was held back. The sky’s the limit now, and it feels great. People need to just learn my name, and I need to get out there. I’m currently reading a book on how to better market myself, too.
Choosing my Own Clients & Job Security
One of the things I like most, I can decide if I want to take a client or not. If there’s something that doesn’t feel right, there are a number of other attorneys all who would be happy to take this case. I’ll refer them! But I don’t have to feel obligated to take everyone’s case who comes walking through my door. And that’s a dream come true.
What about job security in this economy and this day and age? This is something else that Jay covers, and the truth of it is you’re not safe anywhere, whether it’s a big firm, medium firm, small, or anywhere. Layoffs can occur. Things happen, but it’s not unique to a solo practice, so there’s little to worry about in that respect. I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was a concern initially, but it didn’t seem to be too big of a deal. I figured as I got things in place, I would figure it out along the way.
Work from Wherever I Want
But you know what I love most of all? I can work wherever I want.
Now I do have an office, and that’s awesome because there’s some place that I can meet with clients, a place to keep my files safe and what not, but I have a hard time staying in one place. Or I like to put my work down, not worry about getting a ticket because I didn’t move my car in time, and go for a walk.
So guess what. If I wake up late one morning because I was working all night and have a migraine, then I’m going to work from home that day. And my employer’s good with that! Because it’s me!
A word of warning though. I’m very meticulous with my schedule book and take detailed notes of whom I need to meet with, when, and where. Not everyone is like me and others might get carried away with this new found freedom. I would say if you’re one of those people, maintaining a schedule of going into the office at specific times may be better.
I may or may not be saying anything that people haven’t already heard, just reiterating the joys of being self-employed, and providing a glowing testimonial to this book. But If I can leave you with any advice, if you’re considering going solo, you need to read this book before opening up shop.