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The Newly Solo Attorney: Balancing The New Firm Against Other Sources of Income

If you’ve been reading The Sociable Lawyer for awhile now then you probably already know that I decided to leave the comfort of a steady paycheck to start my own solo practice at the beginning of this year. In part, that experience has inspired many of my posts on this site. For example, when I started discussing cases with potential clients, I had to sit down and write a retainer agreement. That experience inspired me to write a post about creating a great retainer agreement to share on this site. After all, I’ve always welcomed the opportunity to share my experiences with others, especially if it that information can be used to help others when they are in similar situations.

Indeed, some of the things I’ve learned since entering solo practice have made for good single topic posts. A few other examples include my post on “how to create a simple and cost-effective website for your new practice” and my post on “how to pick a name for your new law firm.” Yet, it’s occurred to me that it also might be beneficial to share my more generalized experiences with you too. Both the good and the bad; as well as the topics that I’m not far enough removed from to offer meaningful advice. After all, it just might help other attorneys who choose to go solo and also provides a great opportunity for you to share your experiences with me and the rest of the community. For those reasons, I intend to post about my personal experiences from time to time as we go forward. I’d really like to hear your comments and about your experience on these issues.

One great example of an issue I’ve had to wrestle with since going solo, is the degree to which it’s good for your practice to rely on other sources of income. There are some attorneys who would urge new solos to avoid all other potential sources of income. The rationale is that starting a new practice is a lot of work and requires your complete attention. Additionally, they reason that the eagerness for work will encourage you to market, network and seek out new business.

Other attorneys will tell you that it is OK to supplement the income from your new practice with income from other sources. Indeed, from the discussions I’ve had and the blog posts I’ve read, it would appear that many attorneys keep their new practice afloat by accepting document review work, contract positions, and other odd jobs.

Going into my fourth month of solo practice, it’s become easy to understand both positions. I’ve personally relied on two additional part-time sources of income aside from my law practice since hanging my shingle. One hugely important benefit is that I’ve been able to enjoy a significant degree of financial stability while developing my solo practice. It’s comforting to know that if one (and maybe even two) of my income sources were to dry up, I’d still have that third income source to help cover student loans and bills. I’ve also not had to consider accepting cases or clients that don’t fit into my vision for my practice. Additionally, I’ve also been lucky in that my early leads for paid work came quick because I’d already been involved in the industry I wanted to represent. Finally, I’m also blessed in that I enjoy the work I perform for all three of the jobs I currently hold.

The downside, however, is that I’ve not been able to devote nearly as much time to marketing and growing my firm as I’d like. As any solo practitioner can tell you, a new firm requires a lot of work to get off the ground. Staying on top of the business of running a firm while continuing to offer excellent client service to my clients, in addition to my two other jobs, has thankfully proven to be something I can manage. Still, it definitely keeps me very busy. It certainly hasn’t left me with as much time as I’d like to grow my practice. This isn’t an insignificant concern either. A healthy book of business is essential to any law firm, and it is nearly impossible to maintain an active book of business if you aren’t actively promoting your practice.

If you are an attorney currently grappling with these issues too, or if you’ve already confronted these challenges, I’d really love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment and let me know how you’ve handled the balance between building a new practice and keeping yourself financially stable at the same time.

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One Comment

  1. Asger Lauritsen says:

    I am now working as a temporary legal staffing in New York, but even though I am not a solo attorney, I make sure that I am balancing my work and other income sources.