There are several myths and difference between solo practitioners and their big law peers, this article breaks a few down.
For many newly graduated lawyers, the dream of being an associate with a big firm is what carries them through three years of school. They would have access to a plethora of resources, help from clerks and paralegals not to mention, a nice salary.
The idea of being assigned a case and working alongside some of the best lawyers in their field is super exciting. Not to mention the added perk of easy access to tons of experience that comes naturally when working with those more experienced than themselves. But what if your personal values and those of that big law firm’s clients don’t line up? Or you required to work on cases or in a practice area that is not as desirable to you. Trying to navigate those differences can be challenging. Different paths work for different people, here are some of the key differences between solo lawyers and their big law counterparts.
Then there are those newly graduated lawyers who choose to follow their dream of running their own practice. There may be a stigma that solo attorneys only choose this route because they couldn’t make it in a big firm. But with any entrepreneur, starting your own business comes from the desire to create your own way, to be your own boss, to have the flexibility to do anything, not necessarily from the inability to find another job.
Choosing this path of being a solo lawyer is not something to take lightly and requires a ton of research and a whole lot of work. The idea that solo lawyers don’t want to work hard as their peers in big law is ridiculous. Starting and managing your own business is a mammoth task!
Creating the business, building a book of business, organizing and setting up an office, networking, marketing… These are just a few of the hundreds of tasks that solo lawyers have to tackle all on their own! A few may have a bit of support staff thanks to where their office is, but even with that little bit of help solo lawyers have to work incredibly hard even before they accept a single client.
Salary and Hours Worked
Another myth is that solos make less money than their big law counterparts. According to Randall Ryder, the Director of Appellate Advocacy & Lecturer in Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, A successful solo firm will most likely generate six-figures (or close to six-figures) in gross income each year. As long as they know how to manage and organize their budget successfully, they should still have a decent salary to pay themselves after coving expenses.
Is that less amount going to be less than their big firm counterpart? Yes. But at the same time, that also means that the solo attorney probably works fewer hours. This then becomes a big reason why many lawyers take the solo route, trading that massive salary for a lower one, but in return getting more time to spend how they want instead of in the office.
You can’t really be a solo attorney without some basic business skills. Adding another item to a solo’s the evergrowing todo list for solos since most did not go to business school.
That means things masting things like finances, designing a website (and updating it), writing marketing content, perfecting sales skills, client intake (aka customer interactions), marketing/networking, etc.
Another business skill that solo’s have to learn to master is finding help. Just like you didn’t go to business school, you also are not a graphic designer, web developer or social media guru. There is value in having others help you so that your time can be spent where it is needed most, with your clients.