Law Firm Suites’ very own Megan Hunt shares challenges that face solo attorneys based on her observations from reception.
Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to observe countless small and solo attorneys come through Law Firm Suites’ doors. I’ve noticed that one thing every solo attorney has in common is that they all have met different challenges throughout their career.
Below I compiled a list of challenges based on my observations over the years:
1. Finances – Trying to Grow too Fast
While ambitious venturing out on your own, whether you just emerged from law school or you are branching off from a larger firm, it is imperative to have a large nest egg to hold you over in emergencies.
A lot of people strive to have enough in your savings to cover at least two months, but I’ve noticed that that is simply not enough. Based on the type of law you practice you need to set realistic expectations for your firm. You should have at least three months saved plus additional money to cover added fees like networking events, taxes, and emergencies.
2. Clients – Maintaining a Pipeline
I think the biggest challenge for small and solo law firms I’ve observed over the years is generating and maintaining a client pipeline. It’s hard starting off on your own as opposed to being a part of a large firm that already has an established client base. You also have to invest in yourself. This means that you have to be intentional and persistent in your search for new clients. Attending networking events and joining a community of attorneys can help you build your clientele. It makes sense to use advertising and marketing efforts to build a referral network first, then begin advertising directly to potential clients.
3. Help – Hiring a Support Staff
Hiring a reliable support staff that meshes well with your company aesthetic is key to being a successful attorney. A reliable support staff will free up so much time in your day to day and will allow you to focus on the tasks that move the needle and produce revenue. Utilizing job sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and college school boards are an easy and efficient way to get good and affordable help. There is no harm in hiring staff once you can afford it but you have to make sure that you aren’t exceeding the budget you previously set for yourself. If you’re on a really small budget then you might want to look into hiring a virtual assistant or contractors that you only have to pay based on the work they do instead of a consistent salary. It’s also important to use this interviewing and hiring process as a good lesson for the future because let’s be honest the first person you pick might not be your forever staff, nor the second or third. But being able to adapt and roll with the punches is important in this step.
4. Time Management – Set Realistic Goals
Solo attorneys and small law firms do not always follow a typical 40-hour workweek. In order to be truly successful in this field, you’ll have to push the limit and work the odd hours. Now keep in mind that most solo attorneys do not work 80 hours a week on active cases but that doesn’t mean that the work still isn’t stressful or strenuous. You must find a way to balance to schedule. It’s key to implement proper time management practices early in your career and stick to them. If it makes sense to work on the weekend then do so but make sure still leave at least one day for rest|, where you can spend time with your family and friends. Fortunately, there is no shortage of tools, apps, and software services that can help you manage all of your different tasks and improve your time management.
Every business needs a solid foundation in order to be successful. One thing to remember is that you will always face challenges when starting a solo law firm but if you tackle these challenges first then you will already be off to a good start.