Launching Your Solo/Small Law Career: 6 Things (And 1 Forward-Looking Tip) That Are Critical

Posted on 07-26-2017 by
Tags: solo , law firm , small law

open sign business

Solo and small law lawyers: If you’re launching your career, here’s a plan to help you reach your goals.

 

 By Sara Shore

Twitter / LinkedIn

If you want to reach your solo/small law goals, you need to plan for the must-haves. Here are 6 things (and 1 forward-looking tip) that you need to start your solo/small law career.

#1 Business Plan: Entrepreneur 1st, Lawyer 2nd

What is your 5 year plan? Think big picture, now and in the future.

You don’t need to plan beyond 5 years. Take the leap, and then, as time goes on, your business will grow/evolve. Inevitably, this will push you to re-write a brand new business plan.

Entrepanuer.com lists 6 categories for your business plan

  • Business Description
  • Market Strategies
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Design & Development
  • Operations And Management
  • Financial Factors.

As part of your planning, integrate your legal focuses:

  • What practice area(s) will your focus your firm on?
  • What will your advertise and what will you do based on client needs?
  • What is your competition like around you? Other solos, large firms?
  • How you will you differentiate yourself?
  • What kind of work are you going to do to ensure you have a steady flow of income

#2 Internet Presence: Your Digital Footprint Is Critical

Launching your online presence doesn’t need to be wildly expensive.  Later, you can invest more in your digital marketing and strategy. To be most effective, invest in a nice website with your own domain. Yes, social media is important, but if you don’t have your own domain, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Free tools that’ll help you build your internet presence include:

#3 Virtual Office Space—Why not?

Many people mistake office space for a need, when really it’s a want. When starting your business, consider keeping overhead low.  If you have a huge clientele or a pressing need for space, then a physical office might be for you. However, this isn’t the case for everyone.


If you choose to start virtually, don’t fret. Office space is something you can look forward to. Your first home probably won’t be your forever home—so there’s no reason to think your virtual office is going to be your forever office. When business picks up and space becomes necessary, then take the office-space plunge.             

#4 Anti-Virus Software: Protect Yourself / Protect Your Clients 

Whether they know it or not, lawyers are high-value targets for cybercriminals. Time-strapped attorneys have habits that make it easy for hackers to breach their systems. Experts say lawyers need to cultivate data security awareness or risk exposing confidential client information. – From Law360’s 5 Ways Lawyers Get Their Firms Hacked.

Hackers can mimic email addresses. They can pose as vendors, other counsel, real estate agents, and other professionals. They can blend into the everyday flow of your Inbox. You open an email, take it for face value, and a breach happens under your nose. 

As law-firm cyber attack’s increase; educate yourself on what constitutes as breach of duty—you don’t want to be held liable. As the ABA’s Formal Opinion 477 states:

A lawyer has a variety of options to safeguard communications including, for example, using secure internet access methods to communicate, access and store client information (such as through secure Wi-Fi, the use of a Virtual Private Network, or another secure internet portal), using unique complex passwords, changed periodically, implementing firewalls and anti-Malware / AntiSpyWare / Antivirus software on all devices upon which client confidential information is transmitted or stored, and applying all necessary security patches and updates to operational and communications software.

For cost-effective virus protection, try one of these software services:

#5 Technology: From Billing to Efficiency

Time is money, which is why you need time-saving technology to manage your:

  • Practice
  • Workflow
  • Resources

A few software options:

And what about technology that’ll help you learn? Can you leverage technology to broaden your area of practice? Perhaps you’ve never done transactional work before, but you’d like to capitalize on the value. It’s short-cycle money, much different than your litigation-focused practice.

So where does your learning start?

A good place to start is Lexis Practice Advisor. Lexis Practice Advisor is your one-stop for forms, practical guidance, news, cases, and topical legislation, among other things. Its vast library incorporates multiple practice area modules, including: 

  • Bankruptcy
  • California Business & Commercial
  • Capital Markets & Corporate Governance
  • Commercial Transactions
  • Corporate and M&A
  • Corporate Counsel
  • Finance
  • Florida Business & Commercial
  • General Practice
  • Intellectual Property & Technology
  • Labor & Employment
  • New York Business & Commercial
  • Real Estate
  • Texas Business & Commercial

#6 The 3 R’s: Reputation, Retention, Referrals

Reputation—Most professionals hold their reputation near and dear to their hearts because this leads to referrals. Inevitably if you do a good job for one client, they will refer you to their friends and family.

So how do you manage your reputation?

The most important rule: don’t take short cuts. Utilize credible and reputable resources like Lexis Advance and Shepard’s to ensure that you are relying on good case law. Do your due diligence, leveraging technology and information to get the best possible outcome for your client.


Retention—Be conscious of who might come through your door. Before you send someone to another attorney, ask yourself: Is this something I could do if I had the right resources? When considering resources, pay attention to trends to determine what is popular for your location and demographic. This will help you gage what resource are worth investing in.

Referrals—Good Service + Online Presence = New Clients

Do good work, and your clients will refer you to their friends, family and associates. Don’t make the mistake of slacking in the online department as discussed in #2. Here, you want to insure that when a referral searches your name, you’re easily found online.

For tips on how to increase your word of mouth referral rates, read Attorney At Work’s Powerful Lawyer Marketing: “Word-of-Mouth, Plus”

(and lastly, one forward-looking tip)

External Hard Drive & Cloud-Based Storage: You’ll Thank Yourself Later

This sub-title from Bench & Bar of Minnesota recently caught my eye:

A retiring lawyer’s open letter to younger lawyers on lessons learned the hard way

In his article On Closing a Law Practice, author Scott Richardson, explains the things he didn’t prepare for when thinking about his retirement….like shredding documents and retaining client files. With the benefit of hindsight, Richardson says:

If I had to do it over, I would have gone paperless long ago, with a scanner at my desk and at my assistant’s desk. Everything would get scanned and no paper would be retained.

This is a great read at ANY point in your career. It’ll get your mind thinking proactively instead of reactively.

You might be starting your journey.  

But even so, it’s not too early to start thinking about your retirement. 

 You can connect with Sara via Twitter or LinkedIn. Or, if you’re interested in learning about solo/small law legal solutions, you can email Sara at sara.clark@lexisnexis.com

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