Young lawyers often dream of breaking free and going solo. Working for a large firm has its benefits, but it’s easy to get disillusioned with the process if you’re doing all the work and getting little of the credit. Going solo is one option, but it isn’t something for the light hearted. You need to be head strong and confident in your ability. At a networking event recently, I spoke to three lawyers who told me all about the mistakes they wish they could have avoided along the way.
Meredith Rech – “When you break free of the large firm, it can feel liberating for a short while, like you’re finally in charge of your destiny. It doesn’t take long for you to miss the structure. It’s never happened to me, but I have known people face lawsuits because they failed to keep up with all the bureaucratic processes. It’s not uncommon for people to get sued for malpractice because they failed to put a timestamp on their filings. It’s crazy the amount of things that just happen in a large firm that you then have to think about when you’re solo. Having good professional indemnity insurance is essential to protect yourself.”
Emma Schroth – “My biggest mistake was not getting the legal billing right from the start. You need to have a streamlined process from the beginning or you’ll end up losing money, or worse, clients! If a client receives a bill they didn’t expect, or if they end up paying less one month, then it just sets you off on the wrong course. Managing expectations from the start is the best way to ensure clients give you a glowing recommendation to their friends and colleagues.”
Kerry Easton – “When you have those first couple of clients, you can often feel like that’s enough, but you always need to be marketing your services, even when you feel like you’re at capacity. We then made the mistake of hiring an external company to do our marketing that didn’t really understand how legal marketing works. They made a wacky claim in a tweet and it could’ve landed us in a lot of hot water. Make sure you are marketing yourself, but make sure you also keep an eye on it.”
It seems that the fear of malpractice lawsuits is the number one reason that people avoid starting their own practice. The good news is that there are steps you can take to make sure this doesn’t become an issue for your company. What advice would you give to someone starting out?