Ten Rules for New Solos

As our economy sours and the legal job market dries up, there are lots of lawyers looking at solo practice for the first time.  As a former solo myself, I’m sharing these ten “rules” for new solos.  There are more to follow, and please share yours in the comments.

1.  The good news:  As a solo, you are your own boss, can do whatever you want and answer only to yourself. That’s also the bad news.

2.  Your solo practice is far more likely to fail because you’re a bad business person than because you’re a bad lawyer. 

3.  If you are a bad procrastinator, you’ll be a terrible solo.  Nothing will impact your ability to succeed as much as your inability to manage your time.  It is unimportant how great you are at lawyering when you don’t send your bills out on time.

4.  Never underestimate the value of the water cooler.  You can find many “co-workers” online in Solosez, Blogs, Twitter, etc.  Just don’t spend all your time there.

5.  Would you let your plumber appear in court for you?  Remember your answer next time you’re fiddling with your phone system, computer network, etc…  You can’t expect someone to appreciate your expertise if you fail to appreciate theirs.

6.  If you’re looking for a guru, you can have Foonberg.  I’ll take Elefant.

7.  If you’re thinking of opening a “general” practice, remember this: Your clients don’t have “general” legal problems, they have specific ones.  They’ll hire you because you’re able to help them, not everyone else.

8.  Your friends, family and business contacts may hire you eventually, but they’ll rarely do so right away.  They have to need to hire you, not just want to.

9.  Never tell prospective clients that being a solo makes you cheaper to them.  Show them that being a solo makes you better for them. If your clients hire you because your rates are low, they will fire you as soon as your rates are no longer low enough.

10.  There is no shame in going solo.  Your clients don’t care that the legal market tanked, that you got laid off from BIGLAW or that you “wanted more time to spend with your family.”  They have their own problems, and are looking to you solve them.  When you do, you’ll both profit.

If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series: Ten Rules of Legal InnovationTen Rules of Legal Technology, Ten Rules of Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Also, if you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

4 Responses to Ten Rules for New Solos
  1. Rubin
    December 2, 2008 | 10:21 am

    Excellent post. I’m actually in the process of going solo myself, and I can’t tell you how much I value this kind of advice. Thanks!

  2. Brian Herrington
    December 2, 2008 | 5:07 pm

    Wow. You must have come up with #3 after studying me. Great list; it’s good to see these things in black and white.

  3. J. Elkin
    December 3, 2008 | 12:54 pm

    “Never tell prospective clients that being a solo makes you cheaper to them. Show them that being a solo makes you better for them. If your clients hire you because your rates are low, they will fire you as soon as your rates are no longer low enough.”

    Any specific suggestions as to “how” to show this to clients and “what” to tell them about going solo? Thanks.

  4. My Shingle
    December 4, 2008 | 9:09 pm

    Homann’s Top Ten For Solos

    Once a cutting edge solo lawyer before moving on to new ventures, Matt Homann hasn’t forgotten what it takes to succeed. And he’s boiled them down here with Confuscious-like insight, precision and brevity. Though I like every point, I think…

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