When I started contributing to The Sociable Lawyer earlier this year I declared that 2012 would be the Year of the Solo Attorney and Small Firm. But that doesn’t mean that I think going solo is going to be easy. Last week we discussed some of the important factors to consider when deciding whether to make the leap into solo practice. Of course some of us (myself included) have already taken that leap. If you too have already decided to make the jump, or are seriously considering it, here are five tips that will hep you make your new practice a success.
1) Constantly network and market your new firm
The odds are high that in addition to being a solo practitioner you are also your firm’s office manager, paralegal, and receptionist. Nonetheless, while you are getting your practice off the ground you’ll likely have some free time in between cases. Maybe even a LOT of free time. You should spend that time either marketing your firm or networking with colleagues.
You should attend networking events and conferences. You should join professional organizations. But in addition to these traditional marketing routes, I highly recommend starting a blog (or contributing to one) to promote your skills and knowledge online. I recommend creating a Twitter account and engaging with people in the industry you want to represent. In fact you should use any and all avenues of social media available to you including Linked In, Facebook, Google+, and anything that helps you establish your reputation and spread your name.
2) Be patient
The odds are high that success won’t come over night. In fact, if you don’t have some nights where you find yourself worrying about when the next client is going to knock on your door (virtual or otherwise), then you are exceptionally lucky. Constantly remind yourself that success won’t happen over night. It is going to take both hard work and lots of time.
3) Be committed
Closely related to being patient is remaining committed to the success of your firm. Like starting and running any new business, starting your own practice requires a lot of time and hard work. You’ll need to be committed to the reality that you have to work hard to make this a success.
4) Never stop learning
Keep yourself informed in changes in the law, changes in social media and developments in legal marketing. Learn about ways you can use new technology to make your practice more efficient and cost effective. Keep learning about the industries you represent and the changes that affect those industries. If you do have down time between cases you can use it as an opportunity to research issues that affect your industry. If you are writing a blog, you can kill two birds with one stone by researching a topic and later writing a blog post demonstrating what you’ve learned. Staying up-to-date on industry changes will not only keep you engaged, but it will also be apparent in your conversations with potential clients. Staying up-to-date on changes in technology will allow you to stay competitive and efficient in your practice.
5) Cut corners where you can
Finances can be tight when you first start your practice so it helps to minimize your expenses. There are numerous ways you can do that without jeopardizing your time management and efficiency. For example, at first you might want to consider working from a home office while you develop your practice. Your clients don’t need to know. After all, you’ll frequently communicate with your clients via email and telephone. If face to face meetings are required you may be able to offer to meet with clients in their office (for their convenience of course). If that isn’t practical for reasons specific to your practice you might still be able to consider a shared office space.
You can also cut corners on your legal research by using websites such as Google Scholar Legal (free), Fastcase (free via iPad/iPhone App and through many state bar associations), and Jenkins Law Library ($155 a year); or by hitting the books by visiting a local law library. I regularly recommend using Evernote for case management, not only because it is free for a basic membership, but because it is all the best tool I’ve encountered for organizing case files: paid or otherwise. Meanwhile, Google Docs offers free document and spreadsheet production as an alternative to the costlier Microsoft Word or .